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USIS Washington 
File

10 June 1999

RICE DOES NOT RULE OUT U.S. ROLE IN CONGO PEACEKEEPING PHASE

(Briefs Senate Africa Subcommittee on Congo-Kinshasa conflict) (1060)
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
USIA Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan
Rice has not ruled out the possibility of U.S. involvement in a
peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC) once a
diplomatic settlement is reached in the civil war that has embroiled
nine African nations in the region.
In testimony June 8 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's
Subcommittee on African Affairs, Rice said, "Any sustainable
resolution of the DROC conflict will require successful
implementation" of several processes, including a cease-fire among all
parties, a security pact among regional states, and "an open and
inclusive internal political process" within Congo.
In addition, she said, "a settlement may require the insertion of an
international peacekeeping presence to monitor the cease-fire,
eventual withdrawal of foreign troops, and the exchange of prisoners,
as well as [to] lend confidence to the Congolese during the
transition."
In the question-and-answer period following her testimony, Rice
emphasized that it is critical that the United States remain engaged
in helping Africans reach a settlement over the Congo crisis because
"it has the potential to infect other regions" on the continent.
She added that "there is a great deal we can and must do that can be
effective far short of military intervention in a number of African
conflicts, and we will continue to do so."
Africa Subcommittee Chairman Bill Frist (Republican - Tennessee) set
the tone for the hearing when he said: "The continent of Africa has
great importance to the United States, and the changes we see on the
continent should be viewed as opportunities. For many reasons, the
complex, confounding, and rapid developments in Central Africa are
critically important in appraising those opportunities and in defining
our national interests and policy goals."
The civil war that broke out last August has at one time or another
involved both Congos, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola,
Sudan, and Namibia, as well as the rebel movement in Congo and the
National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). UNITA is
fighting in Angola and has also aided the Congolese rebels in their
war against the government of President Laurent Kabila.
Striking an optimistic note, Rice told the lawmakers that there has
been a "shift in thinking" among the players in the conflict "in favor
of political and diplomatic action, versus overwhelming reliance on
armed force." The result was a recent agreement signed by Libya,
Congo, Uganda, and Chad "calling for a cessation of hostilities, the
deployment of an African peacekeeping force, and the withdrawal of
Rwandan and Ugandan troops" and a unilateral decision by Rwanda to
cease military action.
Rice added that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has
become "the accepted vehicle for ending the conflict, with Zambian
President [Frederick] Chiluba assuming the leading role."
Asked by subcommittee member Russ Feingold (Democrat - Wisconsin)
whether a U.S. role in peacekeeping was being requested by the
Africans involved, Rice said: "It is a point that comes up.... But
when one delves a little deeper into the question...beneath the
rhetoric...and asks, 'Well, what precisely do you want the United
States to do?' the answer is rarely different from the sorts of
assistance we [already] are providing: humanitarian assistance,
diplomatic engagement, and support of regional peacekeeping efforts,
as we're trying to do in the case of ECOMOG (Economic Community of
West African States Monitoring Group) and the African Crisis Response
Initiative [ACRI]."
Senator Feingold asked to what extent the Defense Department would
provide "logistical support" to a possible peacekeeping force in the
Congo.
First, said Rice, "whether or not a peacekeeping force is requested or
required will soon be a subject for the negotiating parties themselves
to determine in the context of the cease-fire agreement. They have
signaled that they are likely to ask for international support for the
peacekeeping presence. That presence may begin as an OAU [Organization
of African Unity]-sponsored effort in the short term because it may be
more feasible to launch such an effort in the short term. It is
conceivable that the parties to the conflict would then ask the United
Nations to play a follow-on peacekeeping role."
The United States "has not taken a position formally on support for
such a peacekeeping operation because at this stage it is a
hypothetical," she explained. "We would need important answers to
questions about its mandate, its scope, duration, and cost before we
could make an informed decision on that.
"Nevertheless," said Rice, President Clinton "has indicated, in his
own words, in public remarks that he recognizes that this [support for
peacekeeping] is a possibility and in the right circumstances we would
want to give careful consideration to support for such a peacekeeping
entity."
Asked by Feingold, "So our involvement has not been ruled out in
advance?" Rice repeated: "No decisions have been made on that and,
frankly, only one person can make that decision and I am not he
[President Clinton]."
Feingold, who said he has been interested in ACRI since its inception
more than two years ago, asked Rice if it has been successful and
wondered, "Can we expect it to be able to function in a meaningful
situation at some point in the future?"
Noting that the "initiative is progressing well," Rice reminded the
senators that the objective of ACRI is to train a substantial number
of African peacekeeping troops -- 10,000 to 12,000 -- for peacekeeping
and humanitarian operations "so that they can come together with
common communications, be interoperable, rapidly deployable, and
effective in the field with a command and control structure that will
allow them to be viable.
"It is a building-block process," she said, and "so far, the United
States has trained some 5,500 to 6,000 such peacekeepers from six
countries."
In addition to the initial ACRI training program offered to the
Africans, Rice explained that "we are now working to take training up
to a higher level, from the battalion to brigade levels and possibly
beyond. At the same time, we will continue to welcome the
participation of other [African] countries that meet a standard of
capability and respect for human rights and democratic norms that have
been the basis of our training to date."



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