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Congo: Step forward or back to the past?

January 20, 2009

Rwanda sent hundreds of its soldiers into eastern Congo on Tuesday in what the neighbours have described as a joint operation against Hutu rebels who have been at the heart of 15 years of conflict. Details are still somewhat sketchy, with Rwanda saying its soldiers are under Congolese command but Kinshasa saying Kigali’s men have come as observers.

Evidence on the ground suggests something more serious. United Nations peacekeepers and diplomats have said up to 2,000 Rwandan soldiers crossed into Congo. A Reuters reporter saw hundreds of heavily armed troops wearing Rwandan flag patches moving into Congo north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. The world’s largest U.N. peacekeeping mission is, for now, being kept out of the loop.

Foreign soldiers in Congo are nothing new. Rwanda first invaded in 1996. A 1998-2003 war in Congo sucked in six neighbouring armies. But after years of diplomacy and billions of dollars spent on peacekeeping and Congo’s 2006 elections, analysts are frantically trying to work out what is going on.

The current joint operation stems from an agreement signed in December between Rwanda and Congo to cooperate more closely after weeks of heavy fighting in North Kivu province. Although the fighting was officially between Congolese government forces and Tutsi rebels, most analysts saw it as an escalation of a proxy war between Rwanda and Congo that has continued despite 2003 peace deals.

U.N. experts have accused Rwanda of supporting the Tutsi CNDP rebels, formed in 2004 out of previous Rwandan-backed movements that fought against the government in Kinshasa. As on many occasions in the past, Congo was, in turn, accused of arming and using Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels to boost the effectiveness of its fragile and chaotic army.

The fighting underlined the weakness of President Joseph Kabila’s army, which looted and raped civilians as they fled the CNDP. But it also refocused attention on the Hutu rebels, many of whom crossed into Congo when they were routed after taking part in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and have long since been used by both Rwandan and Congolese Tutsi forces as justification for military operations in the mineral-rich east.

Rwanda and Congo have frequently agreed to resolve the FDLR problem. With talk of normalising relations, does Tuesday’s intervention by the Rwandan army mark the first concrete step in new a new relationship between the two countries?

How will Kabila sell a Rwandan military intervention in Congo that is likely to be unpopular amongst many ordinary Congolese, who have long-accused Rwanda of entering their country to loot resources rather than remove rebel threats? How will a handful of Rwandans help Congo’s notoriously weak forces disarm the FDLR in 10-15 days after Kigali’s army failed to do the job during several years of occupation?

What is the international community’s role in all this? The U.N. has some 17,000 peacekeepers on the ground but they have largely been kept at a distance. What about the threat of reprisals on civilians? Over 600 people have been killed in recent weeks after another of Congo’s neighbours, Uganda, led an assault on its rebels in a another remote corner of the country.

Previous foreign occupations of Congo’s mineral-rich east have been justified by hunts for rebels. Is there a danger of history repeating itself?


Finally some encouraging news out of this region. Western “experts” need to take a step back and give this new initiative led by the most concerned a chance to work. MONUC has been in the area for years, and spent billions with no results. Everyone knows that FDLR was created by genocide fugitives who have been wreaking havoc in the Congo – but all we ever hear about is “FDLR is a pretext for expolitation of minerals” – here’s a real chance for removing this “pretext” so can know-it-all western journalists and impotent MONUC just shut up for once and support this process?

Posted by yasmine | Report as abusive

Whilst it is good that Rwanda and Congo are cooperating to solve the FDLR problem, its simplistic to expect military solutions to end the Great lakes problems. Democratic inclusion and decentralisation of power and resources will be needed for the long term. defeating the Hutu extremists does not parcify the Hutu-Tutsi conflict.A genuine representation of Hutus in Kigali government is a must.
Re organisation of our states and dismantling failed ones like DR Congo is another step. What about the neo colonial exploitation of resources?

Posted by Muganwa G. | Report as abusive

This is the right time for the so called experts on the Great Lakes Region and the know-it all wsetern journalists to keep quiet and give a chance to the Rwanda-DR Congo joint military iperation to bear fruit…other than pre-emptying it that President Kabila might me condemned politically by Congolese for having allowed Rwandan troops in, whom they hold hatred against! By the way does it mean that Congolese hate Rwandan troops more that FDLR militia who have killed Congolese and raped Congolese women and gilrs! If its the case this would be a mis-guided hatred anyway.

Posted by willy | Report as abusive

hi,i’m a congolese leaving in south africa,In my opinion i think it’s good move for both goverment at least now there are working together on this probleme. since those people come to congo in 1994 the eastern congo never been in peace and no one ever tried to desarm them, from mobutu to kabila and they took that oportunity to exploit illegaly and terrorise our people DRC is a big country with over 480 different ethnics and most are minority so it’s normal that congolese tutsi and others arround fill insecure with the presence of those people look at what they did in rwanda 15 years ago those people are a danger to the entire great lake region and since there era refusing to lay down their weapon and surrender in peace something need to be donne.It’s not only the congolese government task to desarm them but the rwandan as well because those people are rwandans. we need to support this operation it’s the only way for peace in eastern congo,if those gays stays they will always be another nkunda and it’s a good signe to see congo and rwanda working together i hope they will take it up to economic and social level not only militarly for the developpement of the great lacs region.


The joint operation isn’t a backwards move as long as the tracking of FDLR does not overshadow other crucial political problems such as a) the politics of exclusion that the congolese tutsi suffer in DRC under the pretext that they are rwandans, b)the centralization of power that has never benefited to the provinces in the country, c) the bold option of federalizing the DRC which will keep it as one nation while safeguarding the specificities of each province, d) a bold acknowledgement that the so called democratization process bought by EU money in favor of Joseph Kabila was a total mistake and a total failure, etc…


It is not a secret. Every one knows that President Kabila lacks the ability to organize his army and other security services for the protection of congolese people. In other words, Democratic Republic of Congo lacks currently the leadership. For instance, we know that Nkundabwatare ( Nkunda ) is a rwandan soldier who is killing thousand of civilian congolese. This murder rwandan soldier and his criminal group should be arrested by International Court. But for the dictator Kagame currently benefits the support from Western, this criminal Nkundabwatare is still killing civilian congolese citizens. Remember this: We know that these rwandan soldiers who enter into Congo yesterday, will stay for ever in Congo, and the next few months the international community ( Western countries ) will call them congolese rebels who are fighting for the right of ” minority “. This it is a dangerous game orchestrated by European Union and others in order to maintain and entretain chaotic conditions in Congo. Congo cannot know peace and socio-economic progress if Western leaders use double standard: they provide weapons to rwandan soldiers who constantly occupy congo and kill children and women living in Congo, and on the other hand western leaders do not care about congolese people killed or murdered by rwandan soldiers wrongly called ” congolese rebels ” by European Union. We really condemn these ambivalent behaviors.

Posted by Pay | Report as abusive

We must condemn the presence of rwandan soldiers in Congo even if it is in the name of so called peaceful military operations. For rwandan soldiers not only kill congolese children and women, but they will stay in Congo for ever. Who will ask them to leave Congo? Nobody. Because Congo has not its own army able to protect congolese people. Everybody knows that President Kabila is a WEAK leader without his own army. He is Yesman who only listens to European Union and others to tell him what to do. It is shame for congolese population. We ask the new group of rwandan soldiers and the other rwandan criminal armed groups represented by rwandan soldier Nkundabwatare ( alias Nkunda ) to leave Congo. We can say that some rwandan citizen such as Nkundabwatare and others suffer from Complex of inferiority. They want to be called congolese. For what??? You are what you are and be proud of yourself. Rwandan soldiers in Congo are criminal and killer of congolese children and women. How many children have been raped and molested by rwandan soldiers so called congolese rebels? The answer is: more than 7 million…

Posted by Chong | Report as abusive

If all goes according to plan that the operation will last between 10 to 15 days, and afterward all the Rwandan troops vacate the Congo, this will be hailed as a successful.
Rwanda is currently sharp politically, economically and militarily than Congo and whatever political cover that Congolese are trying to provide to avoid humiliation, it is Rwandans soldiers that will carry out the operation. It has alwys been Rwandan government desire to keep the statu quo in until the threat from the majority Hutu is eradicated, which is a legitimate case for its own security. But it has to be highlighted that giving this contract to Rwanda is not human as these are two ennemies brothers who can kill each other without remorse. The International Community has failed, for years, to consider the humanitarian side of this repatriation that will ultimately end in loss of some innoncent lives. It is, however, shameful for President Kabila who leading a corrupt government that deprived its own soldiers of basic rights of decent wages and equipment and will end up in paying the contractor Rwandan government the invoice for the job. Unfortunately, the internal crisis in Congo will not end by the eradication of Hutu in the east; Mr. Kabila will have to come up with answers about the Chinese wonders that would have transformed Congo in to Paradise if he has to win the second mandate.


It’s a fantastic move. The president of Congo is so corrupted and powerless that Rwanda disciplined and effective army has to bail him out. Once the extremist Hutu are neutralized Congo has to recognize that Congolese Tutsi are part of Congo ethnic group. If not, the Tutsi will wage war all over Congo to the doors of Kinshasa. It’s up to the Congo government to respect and reconize the Congolese Tutsi ethnic group.

Posted by Billy Youngless | Report as abusive

Hi, I am an humanitarian writing from Goma.
Kinshasa has taken this step under big international pressure. But it is also a bet. If it works out, this could be the beggining of the end. However, many Congolese consider that the price to pay (Rwandan presence accepted and mineral resource sharing) is too high, even if it works out.
We fear that the military operations will cause havoc. FDLRs live within the population. How can you separate them? The military goals of the mission are not realistic.

http://stopthewarinnorthkivu.wordpress.c om/


Lasting peace in the Great Lakes region is very much dependant on the return to democracy and national cohesion in these countries. Here is the truth: Talks between Tutsi’s and Hutu’s in Rwanda (as is the case in Burundi) and talks between Uganda and the LRA. And necessary guarantees by Rwanda and Uganda must be issued respectively to Hutus and the LRA.
This should be the focus

Posted by Olen | Report as abusive

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