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A strange peace deal: The PSCF at two

I was on Radio Okapi yesterday, discussing the failures and successes of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework, which turned two years old a few weeks ago. It was a sobering hour––and a terrible phone line––that gave me occasion for some broad reflections about the PSCF.

      Here are some positive aspects of the PSCF:

  • The PSCF provided what we hadn’t had for many years: the semblance of a peace process, with outside monitors and clear benchmarks and goals. This addressed one of the sad paradoxes of the Congo: The official Lusaka Peace Process (1999-2006) ended in 2006 with national elections, but conflict in the Congo escalated thereafter, with no commensurate peace process.
  • It correctly identified two key drivers of the conflict: foreign meddling in the Congo, and the dysfunction of Congolese state institutions.
  • Much was done: The M23 was defeated, a national demobilization set up (on paper), progress on supply chain due diligence in the mining sector, and a slew of laws passed on elections and SSR.

      And the negative:

  • But the PSCF was a bizarre peace process, and probably more a framework (indeed, as its name says) than a real process:
    • It was extremely cumbersome, with eleven state signatories and four guarantors;
    • Usually peace processes involve the belligerents in a conflict. This one didn’t really––neither the M23 nor any other of the fifty-some armed groups in the eastern Congo was a party to the process. While Rwanda and Uganda––both erstwhile backers of the M23––were signatories, they never recognized their involvement, which made any progress in official meetings difficult. At the national level, it was even more idiosyncratic: the Congolese government was the only official member of the oversight mechanism, although it received support from donors and the UN, and was supposed to consult with civil society;
  • The progress (listed above) was mostly on paper, and arguably could have––and should have––been done without the PSCF.
    • The defeat of the M23 was largely to result of bilateral pressure on Rwanda that happened outside the PSCF, and increased FARDC/MONUSCO military pressure;
    • The demobilization program was set up in December 2013, but has yet to be financed by the Congolese government or donors;
    • Laws on elections and SSR have indeed been passed, but (a) those laws could have very well be passed without the PSCF, and (b) both the SSR and the electoral process have been tarnished by a lack of inclusion and transparency.
  • The PSCF created a very cumbersome bureaucracy that appeared more preoccupied with establishing long lists of metrics and objectives than in getting the job done. That’s a bit cynical: Some things were indeed accomplished, and the benchmarks did perhaps serve to focus minds and to muster momentum. But at times it seemed that some of the signatories wanted to mire the PSCF in bureaucracy to slow it down on purpose.
  • There has been little progress on key objectives:
    • Despite some arrests of high-ranking officers, it is fair to say that there has been little systematic action on holding security forces accountable for their actions, either by the courts or through parliamentary oversight;
    • There is a lack of real dialogue among Congolese political forces over key aspects of the reform agenda––in particular, elections and security sector reform;
    • High-profile political prisoners are still being locked up, while others have benefited from amnesty;
    • Lack of progress on decentralization of political power.

So was it all worth it? Yes, the PSCF has helped focus attention on a core set of issues, and create a set of common benchmarks for progress. But it has also demonstrated its limitations, with a lack of ownership by many of the stakeholders, and a lack of leverage and oversight by civil society, the international community, and other forces.

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