|When President Joaquim Chissano took
advantage of a short break in the summit held in Maputo on 15 October 2000 to inaugurate
an art exhibition somewhere in the M zambican capital, he came out of the conference
whistling a soft melody to himself. I will go and come back in a minute, he
assured media corps who were anxious to know whether the sum-mit was over.
For a president to emerge whistling after lengthy hours of
discussions could have many interpretations. It could be taken as an indication that
either issues were going smoothly in the conference hall of the sumptuous Rovuma Carlton
Hotel in downtown Maputo, or the pres-ident
was trying to cool off the tension built up over more than six hours of diplomatic
horse-trading with a simple
Requested by Zimbabwe, the summit was convened and chaired
by South Africa with Mozambique playing host. Judged by the commitment made by the main
countries with troops assisting different sides in the Congolese conflict, the Maputo
summit achieved more than could realistically be expected.
The first sign of the commitment of the parties to the
conflict to make progress was the level of attendance. The summit brought to Maputo the
presidents of DRC, Laurent Kabila; Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; Thabo Mbeki of South Africa;
Sam Nujoma of Namibia who is also chairperson of SADC; Paul Kagame of Rwanda and; Yoweri
Museveni of Uganda who were joined by the host.
There were many ministers accompanying the presidents
but most must have been left wondering why they took the trouble to travel
|to Maputo as they spent their time mingling with journalists.
The meeting was held behind tightly closed doors and ministers were not even accorded the
traditional formality of preparing a communiqué in a separate room as the summit
proceeded. Notable absentees at the summit were the
official SADC mediator in the DRC conflict, President Fredrick Chiluba of
Zambia, and President José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola. The absence of the Angolan
delegation at the summit was
initially attributed to logistical problems. But when the Angolan foreign
minister, João Miranda, visited Maputo
two days after the summit to convey a special message from President dos Santos to his
Mozambican counterpart, it t rned out that, from the Luanda governments perspective,
the summit was convened in a haste and did not give enough time for the Angolans to
prepare for it.
The summit itself was carefully crafted to avoid any
unnecessary hitches. Hence, no representative of the rebels fighting the government of
President Kabila were invited. In the past, President Chissanos propensity to listen
to the warring sides had led to the boycott of the summit by the Kinshasa government. T is
time around President Chissano explained their absence saying that the meeting was
convened specifically to deal with matters that can be solved by the states in the
The summit agenda was meant to deal with the external
element in the conflict, namely a return to the positions the Ugandan and Rwandan forces
held inside Congo when the ceasefire was signed in 1999 and a pull back of a further 15
At the summit, President Kagame pledged to voluntarily
withdraw to 200 km from
|Rwandas current position, which is an indication of how
deep the Rwandan troops have penetrated Congolese territory.
This was not the first time that the parties to the
conflict in the DRC had agreed on a pull back. At a summit in Kampala, they had agreed to
pull back by 15 km but the agreement was violated several times.
This time round, it is hoped it will be different. The
group pledged to seek the support of the United Nations to monitor the compliance with the
Maputo agreement, including the areas held by the government which has been a major bone
of contention in the past.
The initial indication was that the parties to the
agreement were complying with the commitment to troop withdrawal. Nevertheless, if one
takes a historical perspective on agreements signed and violated in the Congo and the fact
that one key recommendation of the Maputo summit, the commitment to hold another summit
two weeks later, was not complied with, it becomes obvious that bringing peace to the DRC
will require additional diplomatic efforts by the region. The Maputo summit was in that
sense another step in the right direction.
Another summit on efforts to end the DRC conflict was also
held in Tripoli, Libya. The summit was attended by Presidents Mugabe of Zimbabwe,
Ugandas Museveni, Kagame of Rwanda and the president of Mali, as well as host Col
Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Angola, DRC, Namibia and South Africa were represented at
The Tripoli summit called for the deployment of a
neutral African force to fulfil the Lusaka and Sirte agreements both of which
seek to bring lasting peace to the DRC.