January 2009

The historical Rwandan genocide perpetuates
Great Lakes Region’s instability

After reading the article of John Rukumbura about the Kivu crisis, it is relevant to bring some more insightful reflection on where the crisis gets its root. (See:

Historically speaking, the Great Lakes Region of Africa has lost its stability since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. There was a massive flow of Rwandan refugees in the Eastern part of D R Congo whom the international community hosted through its different organizations such as UNHCR. The massive Rwandan refugees were a mix of civilians, military and militia. In 1996, Rwanda and Uganda accompanied Laurent Kabila by invading D R Congo. One of the reasons was to push as far as possible the perpetrators of the genocide.

The pursuit led the spreading out of these refugees: some returned to Rwanda, others got spread in the forests of Eastern Congo where they have continuously caused desolation among the local population. Rwanda troops occupied the Eastern part of the country till late 2003 when the Congolese transitional government was formed. In reality, they were unable to disintegrate the FDLR and the militia during those years of occupation. Since then, the Great Lakes Region has never known any more “stability”, in particular the two Kivus of Eastern Congo.

If there is a way to get in-depth about this current conflict, one has to understand the dynamism of the renegade general Nkundabatware. Nkunda is the one who first had rejected to integrate the army from the start of the Transition period; he is the one who marched on Bukavu in 2004; he is the one who claims to protect the Congolese Tutsi community; he is the one who wants now to renegotiate the DRC-China contracts. Nkunda is the one whose movement participated actively in January 2008 in the local “PROGRAMME AMANI” – which included each and every representation of social group of the two Kivus, the government and the international community to bring peace and reconciliation among the Congolese of the Eastern part – and later he is the one who rejected this program accusing it of being forged by the government. Nkunda is the one who has now insisted to have direct negotiations with the government through the facilitation of the UN envoy and got approved to do so. In any case, there are serious issues underpinning the perpetuation of the desolation of Eastern Congo.

The first great weakness of the government is the army. The latter is not very disciplined and it is not yet capable to stand against any organized army of neighbor countries which can easily trigger confusion. There are amount of testimonies about the direct involvement of Rwanda and the interest of mineral as some of the key root causes of the desolation of the population of Eastern Congo: the recent UN experts’ report, the different reportages of Lydia Polgreen and Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times, the subsequent aid cut to the Rwandan 2009 budget by the Netherlands and Sweden.

The second great weakness that perpetuates instability is the Rwandan government’s categorical denial for any negotiation with the Rwandan refugees spread in the Congolese forest. The negotiation among all Rwandans could allow them to seat on the same table to reconcile one another, and this would go beyond the Gacaca justice system. It will be a very difficult task to come across for a long term resolution of conflict, but at the end it will be useful and important for the whole region.

Rwanda and D R Congo have both advantages to gain if they start working together as they have been doing through CEPGL (Economic Community of Great Lakes Region) before the genocide. A common market for business people and some regulations for natural resources would not only benefit the two countries but also the entire East Africa because the other countries are among the transit countries for the Congolese minerals to go elsewhere in the world. Sincerity and profound sense of reconciliation among the different ethnic groups remain extremely crucial for real stability and security of all the population of the Great Lakes Region of Africa. It is through this genuine effort of bringing together all parts involved in the complexity of the conflict that a true development pattern will occur in this part of the African continent.

David Suze Manda, MA in Peace, Conflict and Development