Another Peace Pipe Dream in the Congo

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They got everybody to the Congo peace table except the ones who really matter. After six weeks of haranguing over which rebel groups got to sign where, the document that is solemnly being called the "Lusaka Accord" bears all the big names: Congolese president Laurent Kabila and his backers in Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, plus two rebel groups (and one splinter group) with their backers, Rwanda and Uganda, witnessing. But TIME chief of correspondents Marguerite Michaels doesn’t give peace much of a chance until all the soldiers lay their guns down. "I’m not optimistic," she says, "because there are too many cooks in this stew, and none of them have answered the question of how to disarm the Interahamwe."

Just tuning in? The Interahamwe are the Hutu militants behind the 1994 massacre of more than half a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. They make their camps in the wilds of eastern Congo — formerly known as Zaire — wreaking havoc there or across the border in Rwanda, and current Congolese president Laurent Kabila has shown little inclination to control them. (Rwanda, the region’s military heavyweight, once backed Kabila’s rebellion against Mobutu Sese Seko because Mobutu would not control the militias; now it is backing the new Congo rebels against Kabila for the same reason.) So what happened in Zambia on Tuesday was that everybody signed except the people who kicked off the bloody back-and-forth of the last five years, and who are doing just fine in the bush, killing and looting for a living. "While they are still out there, there’s no chance for peace in the region," says Michaels. Ah, but peace agreements -– and the attendant political cover they afford when the bloodshed fails to abate –- are never in short supply.