1 / 7

Case Studies


Historical Background

Case Studies - DRC - Timeline

Case Studies - Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - Timeline

For years, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been plagued by a succession of wars and flagrant violations of human rights on a tragic scale. Ethnic tensions combined with fierce competition over natural resources have complicated stabilization and peacekeeping efforts. Peace and ceasefire agreements negotiated between various warring parties are in constant state of collapse.

The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement was signed in August 1999 in Zambia by leaders of the DRC and five regional states. In accordance with the ceasefire agreement, a UN Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) was set up in November of that year. Yet, the following month, peace talks were brought to a halt as fighting broke out once more.

President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated in January 2001. His son and successor, Joseph Kabila, called for the nation to resume peace talks.


2 / 7

Case Studies


Historical Background


The first round of dialogue was generally considered a failure that did not see any substantive progress. However, by December 16, 2002, with the guidance of United Nations Special Envoy Moustapha Niasse, a partial agreement known as the Global and Inclusive Agreement on Transition in the DRC was signed. It established an interim framework for the cessation of hostilities.

This agreement was followed by a series of resolutions in April 2003. The agreement and subsequent resolutions are collectively known as the Sun City Accord.

The accord, which stresses that national peace and reconciliation requires accountability, serves as the initial mandate of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The accord sanctioned the Truth and Reconciliation Commission only for the period of the transition and stipulated that it should end with the election of a president. In 2004, Law No.4/2004 was passed by the national Assembly and Senate to formally create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


3 / 7

The Truth Commission:

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission













The Sun City Accord (2003) did not give the truth commission a specific mandate. The portion of the accord relating to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission lacked key substantive language and guidance, merely establishing it along with other temporary institutions as an instrument to “support the transition.”

To examine the extensive legacy of human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2004 mandate covered a broad scope of human rights violations and crimes. According to the Reconciliation Commission Resolution, the commission was to investigate all related political crimes and gross violations of human rights. It was also meant to establish the truth on relevant political and socioeconomic events that happened and to collect victims’ stories.

A representative of civil society was to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and membership would be allocated according to constituency and groups participating in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.


4 / 7


Limited Time

Because the Sun City Accord confined the Truth and Reconciliation Committee so strictly within the period of transition, the commission faced severe time constraints, including a limited window in which to become functional. The commission was also forced to compete for resources and personnel with concurrent transitional mechanisms.

Ambiguous Mandate

The process was further complicated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's provisions in the Sun City Accord, which lacked key substantive language and guidance. Although the Sun City Accord was followed by a series of comprehensive laws and bylaws, these failed to steer the commission in a promising direction.

Although the Sun City Accord was followed by a series of comprehensive laws and bylaws, these failed to steer the commission in an auspicious direction. For example, the legislative guidelines for the selection of commissioners provided minimal detail and circular logic.

Commissioner Conflicts of Interest

The presence of the belligerents in the structures of the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and the lack of public engagement in the institution’s creation fundamentally undermined it from the start.Laura Davis, Policy Analyst and Democratic Republic of Congo Specialist

The majority of commissioners were politically appointed. Members were selected with little overall consensus or regard to standards of competency. Rather than prioritizing the full functioning of the commission, they were preoccupied with power sharing among parties and the allocation of key offices in the interim government that was to oversee the truth commission and other transitional mechanisms. This atmosphere ultimately influenced even civil society leaders involved with the commission’s development.

Many felt that the commission lost its legitimacy from the outset because of the inclusion of representatives from warring factions, some implicated in human rights abuses themselves.

5 / 7


Persistent Violence

[Continuous] political agitations… put the normal course of the electoral process at risk… [and] did not leave the Truth and Reconciliation Commission indifferent. Conscious of its mission to work toward peace, cohesion and national reconciliation, it decided to focus on activities to calm people’s spirits, as well as on mediation and negotiation as between political actors.Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report

The Global and Inclusive Agreement of 2002 established only partial peace in the DRC. Some powerful contributors to the conflict had been excluded from peace talks and did not honor the ceasefire. Even as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began operations, conflict occurred sporadically throughout the nation and consistently in the east.

The lack of security posed both physical and psychological obstacles for commission staff, victims, and witnesses. Further, the violence jeopardized the multiparty elections occurring in tandem with the commission. The elections were posited as a priority for the DRC, and responsibility fell to the commission to quell violence so that the election process could continue smoothly.

As a result, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave up on truth-seeking and instead focused on conflict prevention and mediation activities. Complaint-based investigatory functions were abandoned.

6 / 7


Small Success

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission did manage to carry out some preparatory activities in relation to truth seeking, such as improving techniques of registering complaints and managing information.


Although there were some small successes, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission failed to meet the core objectives of a truth commission: pursuing accountability through fact-finding, acknowledgment of victims, and identifying root causes of violence to prevent its recurrence. After approximately four years, the scant 84-page final report included no findings and only made generic recommendations. The commission did not make any recommendations on rehabilitation, suggest reforms, or issue proposals on amnesties. Because of ongoing conflict, the commission did not conduct investigations or take statements from victims. No hearings were held and perpetrators did not acknowledge or disclose the specifics of their wrongdoing. Accountability was sorely lacking: combatants continued to commit human rights violations with impunity.


7 / 7

Lesssons Learned


Lack of Independence

A power-sharing logic resulted in representatives of various warring factions who had committed heinous acts during the conflict holding positions within the commission.

Inadequate Timeline

The question of the commission’s timing (creating a truth commission while conflict and insecurity persist) and scope of investigations (creating an ambitious mandate, particularly one with an uncertain end date due to persistent violence), if not considered appropriately, can prevent a truth commission from fulfilling its mandate.

Persistent Violence

The commission’s operations were pegged to the period of the transitional and upcoming elections. Subsequently, the electoral process and ongoing violence changed the focus of the TRC’s activities from truth seeking and reconciliation to outreach, electoral support, and conflict mediation.

Lack of Assessment of Local Conditions

This truth commission’s experience also underscores the importance of the meticulous assessment of local conditions—in particular, competing interests among peace negotiators, the capacity of civil society to effectively insert human rights concerns into a transitional process, and potentially disruptive security situations.