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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

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The Lusaka Peace Agreement - The Conceptual Crisis in Understanding Peace in the DRC
Horace Campbell

Nairobi Peace Initiative - Africa, 2002
71pp, ISBN: 9966-9905-1-8



'French soldiers begin patrols in wartorn Congo' reads the headline of a recent article about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (The Guardian, 7th June '03). The article reports that 100 soldiers have arrived in Bunia, and quotes someone from the International Crisis Group who says 'This intervention is a very promising start, but much more must still be done'. The underlying assumptions here would appal but not surprise Horace Campbell because they illustrate one of the central points of his paper: peace is commonly regarded as a commodity that can be imported into Africa by the international community and the UN. Following the signing of the Lusaka Peace Agreement in July '99, the main focus of interest, especially in the press, was the size of MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission. If the number of peace-keepers was reduced from 5000 to 3000, commentators appeared to believe that the chances for lasting peace had declined equally dramatically. Yet, as Campbell points out, the DRC is the size of Western Europe. How can even 5000 troops represent a credible peace-keeping force?

In this paper, Campbell argues that true peace is home-grown, not imported. Moreover, sustainable peace 'must be rooted in an alternative socio-economic paradigm which substitutes the conditions of peace [for] those that sustain war, violence and economic plunder' (p. 33). Campbell begins by considering three cases – Namibia, Rwanda and Angola – in order to show that a peace process will only succeed when it has broad-based support in society. He goes on to critique the realist and 'masculinist' conception of peace, and to draw attention to the racism inherent in the notion that 'tribal conflict' is at the root of Africa's problems. Campbell believes that the realist premise 'might is right' leads to a militarist approach to peace which brings more violence in its train and reinforces patterns of economic exploitation. At its bluntest, his position is that 'Western concepts of peace have generated war in the DRC' (p. 32). The US and France, in particular, pressed for a limited Inter-Congolese Dialogue which excluded non-military parties, and discouraged the sort of genuinely democratic dialogue that took place during the Sovereign National Conference of '91-'92. By favouring the strong- the Kabila Government, military forces – Western powers encouraged the sort of jockeying for power and position that militates against sustainable peace. Campbell also suggests that the international community has vested economic interests in war as well as in peace.

Campbell's style – his scholarly short-hand - can be confusing. Also, he often uses his conclusions to add new twists to the plot, throwing ideas at the reader without explanation and without articulating their relationship to what has gone before. 'Bio-piracy', 'humanitarian missionaries' and certain mysterious 'issues' appear out of nowhere in one conclusion, for example. These are minor imperfections, however, and they are frustrating only because they reduce the impact of an argument that has great moral force and should be taken to heart by everyone who is engaged in working for peace in Africa.


Rose Hankey



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