Things to look forward to

A quick check on key upcoming events related to the DRC:

1. The upcoming meeting of the Paris Club, a group of creditor counties, is likely to approve a major debt cancellation package for the Congo in the summit starting on 18 November. The debt cancellation could be as high as $5-7 billion, with the possibility that it could as high as $9 billion if it meet macroeconomic benchmarks in the three following years. The government currently spends around $400 million a year (about 10% of its budget) in servicing its debt, so this would provide a boost to a cash-strapped government. Many civil society activists, however, are have urged donors to use debt relief as leverage on political reforms in the Congo, for example improvements in the judiciary and the security sector. The Congolese government has chafed at such suggestions, as they consider much of the debt to be odious, i.e. incurred by Mobutu for his own personal reasons. The IMF, World Bank and Paris Club are usually loathe to attach any such political conditionalities to their financial engagements.

2. The release of the UN Group of Experts report. The group of experts has been working since early this year on investigations into violations of the arms embargo. Concretely, they have been trying to find out who is supporting armed group in the eastern DRC. This report, which was submitted to the UN Security Council a few days ago and will be public in the next couple of weeks, focuses on the FDLR (to a lesser degree on the ex-CNDP units in the FARDC) and their links to minerals trade. According to everything I’ve heard, it will be an eye-opener.

3. The mapping report. This report, which was commissioned by the UN Secretary-General, carried out a general mapping of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Congo in the 1993-2003 period. Human rights investigators spent 6-9 months in the field, gathering information from eye-witnesses and other sources, and submitted their report to the UN High Commission For Human Rights in June/July this year. Again, this will be a bombshell – for the first time, we will have an authoritative report on the massacres in the refugee camps in 1996/7, the 1993 ethnic violence in Masisi/Walikale and many of the massacres during the wars. The idea behind the report was to jump-start the transitional justice process in the Congo – nothing has been done to hold anybody accountable for anything that happened during that period. I’ve talked to many who worked on the report, both in the Congo and Geneva, and it has great promise. Hopefully it will be released before the end of the year, although it could drag into the New Year.