TORONTO (NFTF.org) -- It has been a long struggle. Gaining independence from Belgium in 1960 did little to improve the lives of those living in what is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A brief civil war followed by a transitional government gave way in 1965 to Joseph Mobuto's United States-backed leadership and he ruled for the next 32 years in a display of corruption at its worst. His departure in 1997 lead to another U.S.-backed leader, Laurent Kabila, who quickly fell out of favor with the U.S. and in trying to go it alone, soon found himself in the midst of a civil war in 1998. It raged for almost five years and now has the dubious distinction as the deadliest conflict since World War II.
Several abortive peace initiatives since 1998 always failed, for a variety of reasons, but on two points in particular: the continuous presence of foreign armies stirring the pot inside DRC and fighting their own proxy wars on DRC territory; and the absence of at least some of the rebel organizations from the peace process. This time is different.
The foreign soldiers have all departed and a peace accord reached in April this year provides for all the main rebel groups to be active participants in a transitional government whose job is to rebuild the country and to guide it through to 2005 when democratic elections will be held for the first time in more than 40 years. That new government was sworn in July 17 amid pomp and high expectations. Former president Joseph Kabila (son of Laurent, who was assassinated in 2001) will head the new government along with four vice-presidents: two from the largest rebel organizations, one each from the former government and main opposition party.
While the people of DRC seem happy with this outcome, they are cynical enough to note that the president and his four vice-presidents will have to accomplish a lot of hitherto unseen cooperation to be successful. They also note that all sides still have guns and soldiers and there is not yet a plan in place for the merging of the various military and militia forces. Most observers are still calling for a massive United Nations peacekeeping force to help propel this nation forward but the U.N. has so far been reluctant to get involved in more than just a small way, perhaps remembering a Congo crisis that nearly capsized the U.N. in 1960. The small contingent of peacekeepers on the ground in DRC's most troubled regions are largely due to the efforts of France and the European Union.
YellowTimes.org correspondent Paul Harris drafted this report.