IRIN interview with RCD-ML rebel faction leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba at the inter-Congolese dialogue.
Wamba was president of the Congolese rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), based in Goma, from September 1998 to mid-1999, when he was deposed and replaced by Emile Ilunga. Wamba moved to the northeastern town of Kisangani, and subsequently to Bunia, where he formed the splinter RCD-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-ML). He is currently representing RCD-ML, one of four RCD factions at the inter-Congolese dialogue, in Sun City, South Africa.
QUESTION: What hope is there that the dialogue will restart in the next few days?
ANSWER: The hope is that the forces that are for the success of the dialogue will prevail. Those forces include the Congolese population and the international community.
Q: Have there been signs of a consensus emerging on any of the issues being discussed?
A: The facilitation [organisers of the dialogue] should have produced draft resolutions in advance. The discussions could have been based around these and then we would know if we were moving in favour of consensus or away from it. At the moment, some parties are not really negotiating but just sticking to their old positions, and others are just looking for posts in a transitional government, so there is no way of knowing whether we are moving towards consensus or not.
Q: Has your party put forward resolutions in the committees in which it is participating?
A: Well, we give our positions on the issues that the committees are dealing with, and hopefully at the end there will be resolutions. That is going to take longer than if there were drafts of resolutions proposed by experts around the facilitator.
Q. Do you think some parties at the dialogue are deliberately wasting time?
A: Very possibly, because of the imbalance of forces between those with military forces on the ground and the rest. The belligerents feel they don't have to budge on their positions.
Q: There are now only three weeks left for the ICD. What pressure can be put on the delegates to work seriously towards setting up institutions which will ensure free and fair elections?
A: I really don't know what pressure could work. But our emphasis should be on consensus and on the necessity of stable institutions during the transition. It should not be on power-sharing.
Q: Might the time period [45 days] allotted for the talks be lengthened?
A: I think that would be a mistake.
Q: The most recent headquarters of your movement is in Bunia, in Ituri district [north-eastern DRC], where a conflict between the Hema and Lendu tribes has reportedly cost the lives of several thousand people in the past two and a half years. What is at the root of this conflict?
A: The underlying problem has been an economic, educational and cultural disequilibrium. Economically, if we take the case of Djugu territory [a sub-zone of Ituri], where most of the fighting has happened, you have about 77 concessions [ranches] and 75 are owned by one ethnic group, the Hema.
Q: Has this been the case for long?
A: When the Belgian settlers left, these concessions were put in the hands of [ex-president] Mobutu's government, which gradually gave ownership to some of the people in Djugu. The new owners were mostly Hema - firstly, because they were more educated than the Lendu, and also because the livestock farming which they mainly practised was more profitable.
A Hema commercial class developed while the Lendu are still predominantly peasants, and they are losing their land with the expansion of the Hema ranches.