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Document Abstract
Published: 2016

War and peace in the Great Lakes Region

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The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), Cape Town, South Africa, hosted a two-day policy research seminar in Cape Town, from 19 to 20 March 2016, on the theme “War and Peace in the Great Lakes Region”. The meeting brought together about 30 prominent African and Western policymakers, scholars, and civil society activists to assess the major obstacles to peace and security in the Great Lakes, and considered seven broad themes: Security and Governance in the Great Lakes Region; the cases of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); Burundi; Rwanda; and Uganda; as well as the role of the United Nations; and that of the European Union, in the Great Lakes.
 
The following 10 key policy recommendations emerged from the policy research seminar:
  • since post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts in the Great Lakes have become stalled due to the unresolved issues in the region’s political economy, it is imperative that governments urgently address the major issue of youth unemployment – more than 30 percent of the region’s population are aged between 10 and 24
  • the international community must adopt a less selective approach to responding to the governance deficiencies of the countries in the region, acting swiftly to criticise the government in Burundi but being reluctant to condemn governments in Uganda and Rwanda due to strategic interests in both countries
  • addressing sexual violence in the DRC must become a key priority. Making progress in security sector reform which has been largely uncoordinated by external actors amid a lack of political will on the part of the government of Joseph Kabila, would also be critical to efforts to tackling gender-based violence
  • Burundi needs effective leadership and a government that is accountable to its own people. A mass movement must therefore be fostered to promote an inclusive negotiation process. Beyond Burundi, mass advocacy movements should also be built among the 127 million citizens of the Great Lakes
  • carefully targeted international sanctions against the Rwandan government for its actions in the DRC have had some effect in changing its behaviour. Such sanctions should also be applied to Rwanda’s domestic human rights situation
  • there is an urgent need for governments in the Great Lakes region to recommit to peace accords and tackling regional insecurity related to issues of identity and citizenship
  • there is also an urgent need for political parties and conflict actors in the Great Lakes to revisit peace accords that were signed more than a decade and a half ago with a view to adapting as well as implementing principles of constitutionalism and multi-party democracy which were enshrined in these accords
  • though some have suggested that UN peacekeepers should withdraw from the DRC to create room for endogenous solutions to the country’s long-running conflict, other voices have cautioned against a premature withdrawal of the UN, citing the example of Burundi in 2006 where such a withdrawal removed the international community’s capacity for tackling instability
  • it is time to rethink the role of the UN in the DRC in the areas of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Its bureaucracy has become dysfunctional which has negatively affected the efficiency of UN peacekeeping missions. The UN Security Council must therefore do more to align mandates, roles, and resources closer to the realities onthe ground
  • the EU and other international actors need to undertake more outreach to Tanzania, South Africa, the EAC and other regional actors in their peacebuilding efforts in the Great Lakes
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