The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a silent war to the Western world. Though it has engulfed several nations in the Great Lakes region of Africa and claimed 3.5 million lives, the international community has done little to stop the violence. Perhaps the most significant party in the war is Rwanda, who has invaded the DRC twice and without a sustainable peace agreement, is slated to invade the DRC again. Creating working relationships between Rwanda and the DRC is imperative to ending the war and bringing stability to the region.
History of the Conflict
Like so many ethnic conflicts in Africa, the story of this conflict begins with colonialism. The arbitrary carving-up of land in Africa that was carried out by European colonial powers divided long-standing ethnic groups into separate territories. Such was the fate of the Tutsi and Hutu people who were forced to live together in the country known today as Rwanda.
Rwanda became a colony of Germany in 1895. After Germany’s defeat in WWI the colony was turned over to Belgium who imposed a much harsher reign. During that time, governing power, though limited, was given to the Tutsi minority. However, when the Rwanda gained independence in 1962, the Belgians left control to the Hutu majority who overthrew the last Tutsi king in 1959. After years of oppression from a government seemingly headed by the Tutsi, ethnic tensions flared among extremist Hutus. In the next three decades thousands of Rwandans were killed and 150,000 fled the country. War broke out in 1990 and continued for four years, culminating in a three month period of genocide in 1994 that took 800,000 Rwandan lives. Most were Tutsi.
The conflict between the DRC and Rwanda began primarily in response to the aftermath of the genocide. Seizing the opportunity to take control of Rwanda, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and its political counterpart the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of the government when over 1.2 million Hutus, many of which constituted the former government, fled over the border into the DRC, then called Zaire.
Zaire was already in the throws of an internal conflict and the arrival of Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis served to fan the flames. Ethnic conflicts were occurring in many regions of eastern Zaire. In addition, the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR), also called the Interahamwe, used eastern Zaire as a base of operations to launch attacks against across the Rwandan border and recruit fighters from Zaire’s large Hutu population. The Interahamwe enlisted 50,000 combatants by early 1995.
Sparked by current leader of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko’s unwillingness to segregate Interahamwe forces from other Hutu refugees in camps along the border and Interahamwe ethnic cleansing campaigns in 1996, the RPF planned its invasion of Zaire. To combat Mobutu’s Zairian Armed Forces (FAZ), Rwanda and Uganda orchestrated the creation of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (ADFL). From this group, Laurent Kabila came forth as the party’s leader. The ADFL joined forces with the RPA, Tutsi led militias, other opposition groups, and dissenters in the FAZ to overthrow Mobutu’s corrupt regime.
In the fall of 1996, Tutsi led militias supported by the RPA assaulted refugee camps, forcing hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus to flee back to Rwanda. During this time, the ADFL killed Hutu refugees and those suspected of being involved with the Interahamwe on their push towards the capital, Kinshasa. On May 17, 1997 coalition forces reached the capital. Mobutu had already fled the country and Kabila was appointed the leader of the new Democratic Republic of Congo.
Despite a lack of democracy in Rwanda, the RPF had stressed the importance of a democratic government in the newly formed DRC. However, Kabila restricted political freedoms to ADFL activity and neglected to create governing institutions in provincial capitals to control rebel groups. Civil unrest led to another uprising in 1998. Though they denied the claim at first, Rwanda and Uganda were supporting the rebel group the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) to oust Kabila. Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan, and Namibia supported Kabila by sending troops to fight rebel factions.
The RPA began an invasion of the DRC in August of 1998 days after a rebellion of Rwandan Tutsis in Kabila’s Congolese Armed Forces (FAC). With the support of ex-FAZ soldiers who had been imprisoned by Kabila, Burundi, and Uganda, the RPA believed that their prospects for victory were good. As the RCD and RPA moved west they seized gold and diamond mines in Katanga and Orientale. This strategy served to not only finance the RPA, but also keep the FAC from resources that could finance their side of the conflict. However, as the RPA moved towards Kinshasa they were met by Angolan forces defending Kabila. Along with Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops, the FAC forced the RPA to retreat.
In mid-1999 the RCD split over growing tensions between Rwandan Tutsis and Congolese members who were not Tutsi. Allegiance was split between Rwandan and Ugandan factions of the RCD into the Rwandan backed RCD-Liberation Movement (RCD-ML) and the Ugandan backed Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), reflecting the deterioration of the Rwanda-Uganda relationship. At the same time, the conflict reached a stalemate.
Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda, decided to meet Kabila in Libya to discuss a peace agreement. Without representation from any rebel groups, Museveni and Kabila signed an accord in the Zambian capital Lusaka on July 10, 1999. The MLC later signed the agreement; however the RCD did not.
Shortly after the signing of the Lusaka peace agreement, the Interahamwe regrouped and adopted the name Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in 2000. To uphold the peace agreement in the face of continued hostility, the United Nations (UN) Security Council authorized the deployment of 90 UN military liaison personnel in Resolution 1258 on August 6, 1999 under the title of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). After numerous Security Council resolutions and fluctuation in fighting, today the UN has 18,497 uniformed personnel in the DRC including troops, military observers, police, international civilian personnel, local civilian staff, and UN volunteers. UN forces are currently authorized to stay in the DRC until February 15, 2007.
Kabila also signed a pact with Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe that entrusted the signers to consider an act of aggression against one signatory an affront to all. In an effort to dampen civil unrest, Kabila also disbanded the ADFL and declared that there would be a multi-party system though suppression of political challengers continued. Kabila was assassinated on January 16, 2001 by one of his bodyguards and replaced by his thirty year-old son Joseph Kabila who urged peace.
Seeing no prospect for victory, the RPF signed the Pretoria Agreement on July 31, 2002. Three months later the RPF withdrew almost all of its troops from the DRC. As a term of the agreement Kabila would allow for multi-party elections. He also agreed to “continue with the process of tracking down and disarming the Interahamwe and ex-FAR within [his] territory.” Though the RPA made progress in eliminating the Interahamwe threat during its second invasion, the RPF estimates that there are approximately 8,000 to 10,000 members left in the DRC.
Peace was maintained for nearly two years until June 2004. General Nkunda of the Rwandan backed RCD captured the town of Bukavu. He justified his actions with the suspicion that Congolese Tutsis may fall victims of genocide. Nkunda withdrew his troops after mounting pressure. Still, fighting between RPA forces are rumored to be crossing the border into the DRC and fighting with the FAC, however there is no proof. The RPF has threatened another invasion of the DRC if Kabila does not adhere to the Pretoria Agreement and eliminate the Interahamwe from the eastern regions of the DRC though the FDLR pledge to “refrain from any offensive operation against Rwanda” on March 31, 2005.Rwanda – Round I
The people of Rwanda have endured over a decade of terror at the hands of the Interahamwe. First, the Interahamwe murdered 800,000 Tutsi and Hutu Rwandans. Then, the Interahamwe fled prosecution by escaping to the DRC. They continued to terrorize and murder Rwandans, using the eastern region of the DRC as a base of operations. Now, the Interahamwe enjoy the protection of the Kabila regime. Rwandans fear the Interahamwe will gain power once again and genocide more innocent Rwandans and Congolese Tutsis.
The RPF has led two interventions in the DRC in hopes of stopping this enemy from preying on Rwandans and our Tutsi brothers and sisters in the DRC, who are now the victims of the Interahamwe. In light of the international community’s lack of intervention in Rwanda’s genocide, we feel that the RPA must protect Congolese Tutsis to prevent another genocide from occurring. Many Rwandans feel indebted to Congolese Tutsis whom they have lived with in refugee camps and fought along side by in the RPA which many Congolese joined to fight in Rwanda’s 1990-1994 war.
Though we no longer have troops in the DRC, we continue to fear for the safety of Tutsis as there are still 8,000 to 10,000 members of the Interahamwe in the eastern region of the DRC. According to the 2002 Pretoria Agreement the Congolese government is required to eliminate this threat by disarming and arresting Interahamwe members so they can be tried for committing genocide. However, the Congolese government has neglected to fully pursue this term of the agreement despite the fact that they have had four years since the peace agreement to do so. If the Congolese government refuses to act on the agreed upon terms, the RPF will have no choice but to secure Rwandans’ safety by invading the DRC once again. This scenario is a last resort that we hope will not need to be used.
Though the FDLR has pledged to end its attacks on Rwandans, we are skeptical of their motives and intentions. There has been no change in the situation that would warrant such a declaration of peace at this point. The FDLR has also requested the RPF to recognize it as a legitimate political party in Rwanda. They have also asked us to recognize that there was a second genocide committed against Hutus by the RPA. Furthermore, the members of the Interahamwe have requested amnesty for the acts of genocide they committed during the 1990-1994 war.
We believe such claims are audacious and ludicrous. The RPA has never committed genocide against Hutus. They have merely defended Rwandans from the Interahamwe. Moreover, the Rwandan people will never forgive the Interahamwe for its acts of genocide. We will make no concessions even if the Interahamwe do disarm.
Unfortunately, the people of Rwanda have little faith that the Interahamwe will be disarmed per the Pretoria Agreement of 2002. The Congolese government has long shown its distain for Tutsis. Laurent Kabila supported attacks against Tutsis, formed an alliance with Hutu rebels, and rid his government of Tutsis in powerful positions in 1997; only three years after Tutsis helped him gain his position. Though Joseph Kabila is a seemingly more tolerant and less corrupt leader, only time will tell whether he follows in his father’s footsteps.
Still, we congratulate Joseph Kabila for winning the recent by democratic means. It has always been the goal of the RPF to liberate the DRC from oppressive regimes such as Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila. We also commend Kabila for adopting a multi-party system and signing the country’s new constitution into law in February 2006. The DRC now has a constitution that requires term limits and elections, allowing the country to move towards democracy. We look forward to working towards peace with Kabila in the future and call on him to fully implement all the terms of the Pretoria Agreement that he signed over four years ago.
Though the Pretoria Agreement was agreed to by a majority of the parties involved, excluding the RCD, the RPF believes that in order to move forward with the peace process a new peace agreement must be established. A more comprehensive and detailed plan must be created to deal with both the roots of this conflict and the aftermath. We are ready to bring peace to a conflict that has resulted in much death and destruction for both Rwandans and Congolese who have been victims of the Interahamwe.
The first term of this agreement would be to reaffirm the Congolese government’s commitment to disarming the Interahamwe. Unfortunately, the main term of the Pretoria Agreement, the Congolese government’s demilitarization of the Interahamwe, has not yet been fully implemented. To ensure that the terms of this new agreement are met, we urge Security Council to extend MONUC’s mandate until the end of 2007 in order to continue its efforts to disarm the Interahamwe with the Congolese government. This would also include an effort to stop the flow of arms to the Interahamwe. We also ask the Security Council to monitor the progress of the Congolese government in disarming the Interahamwe. At the end of 2007, if the Congolese government has not made a concerted effort to disarm the Interahamwe, we urge the Security Council to extend the mandate of MONUC for another six months and pressure the Congolese government to accelerate their demilitarization efforts with sanctions.
Following the capture of Interahamwe forces, the RPF insists that they be sent back to Rwanda to stand trial in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for the genocide they committed in 1994. The Interahamwe cannot be allowed back into regular society since there is no guarantee that they will not rearm, regroup, and continue to launch attacks into Rwanda from the DRC. Moreover, in the interest of justice they must be tried for their crimes against humanity.
Rwandans look forward to living in peace with their Congolese neighbors. We hope that the Congolese government will realize that it is time to implement the terms of the Pretoria Agreement and bring an end to this conflict. We must work together to eliminate violence against Tutsis and bring those who commit genocide to justice. The Democratic Republic of Congo – Round I
The DRC recognizes the hardships endured by Rwandans at the hands of the Interahamwe. We also thank the RPA for their assistance in overthrowing Mobutu’s tyrannical regime. However, the second invasion launched by the RPA into the DRC has resulted in the loss of many Congolese lives. In order to prevent the death of more innocent Congolese, we are willing to negotiate with the RPF so that peace may be restored to our region.
First and foremost, in no way do we support violence against Tutsis. Though they comprise a small portion of our population, approximately 1%, they are an important part of our society and hold positions in our government. In fact, we fear that much of the violence against Congolese Tutsis is a result of Rwandan intervention. For many years, Congolese Hutus and Tutsis lived in relative peace before the Rwandan conflict spilled over into the DRC. The RPA’s intervention put Tutsis at a greater risk for violence due to their minority status. The idea that the dominant group in the area, Hutus, were now at risk, caused them to lash out at Tutsis who Hutus saw as encouraging the RPA to invade the DRC.
Innocent Hutus have also died in this conflict. During Rwanda’s invasions of the DRC, RPA forces have indiscriminately killed unarmed Hutus. This practice must end immediately. It only increases the perception that Hutus are at risk and Tutsis are again the scapegoats for such violence. It also leads to widespread support for the Interahamwe and more Hutus joining the Interahamwe to exact revenge. This makes the job of disarming the Interahamwe much harder.
We believe the Interahamwe are just as much a threat to our national security as they are to Rwanda’s. Unfortunately, we have found it difficult to implement the terms of the Pretoria Agreement. The DRC simply does not have the resources to take on such a daunting task as disarming the whole of Interahamwe forces. Therefore, we too call upon the UN Security Council to assist us both monetarily and with MONUC forces to rid the eastern DRC from the Interahamwe. However, the time period of a year is far too short to disarm the entire Interahamwe force. This will be a long process with no definitive end.
Since Congolese Hutus now constitute a considerable portion of Interahamwe forces in the eastern DRC, we are skeptical of returning all Interahamwe forces to Rwanda. The RPF has a history of accusing and jailing Hutus for genocide based on mere suspicion. To increase troop numbers in the RPA, the RPF has recruited these prisoners to fight in the conflict and sent them to “solidarity camps” where they are indoctrinated with pro-RPF ideology.
We propose a reintegration program for Interahamwe forces. All disarmed Interahamwe who chose to return to Rwanda would be able to do so at the discretion of the RPF. However, any disarmed Interahamwe forces who desire to stay in the DRC would be able to do so. We would assist these people with job and tolerance training. To do so we will need the assistance of the Rwandan government. Since the costs of such training would cost far less than imprisonment, we request that Rwanda jointly financially support this program along with us.
In addition, sanctions would only exacerbate the current situation. The majority of the deaths in this war have been a result of starvation and disease. If peace is ever to be seen in our region, we must fight a root cause of the fatalities of this war. We vehemently oppose sanctions and instead urge the international community to send humanitarian aid to the DRC.
Much of the poverty of our nation has been caused by the plundering of our rich natural resources. The main perpetrator of this has been the RPF. In 2002, Rwanda was said to be exporting $20 million of coltan per month. Moreover, diamond exports soared from 166 carats in 1998 to a staggering 30,500 in mid-1999. Given Rwanda’s lack of natural resources, this increase can only be explained by Rwanda stealing the DRC’s large deposits of both coltan and diamonds. As one scholar, Timothy Longman, explained “Economic activity in Rwanda today goes far beyond what either the Rwandan economy alone or the current level of international investment could support.”
We call for an immediate end to Rwanda’s pillaging of our natural resources. An independent investigation will determine the total value of resources taken by the RPF from the DRC. Seeing as their gain of our resources is our loss of money to feed our people and disarm the Interahamwe, we request that the RPF reimburse the DRC for the profits it has stolen.
In addition, we ask Rwanda to sign a non-aggression pact. We believe that another invasion by Rwanda would not only deteriorate diplomatic relations between our two countries beyond the point of repair, but it would also result in countless more needless deaths. This would include a commitment that Rwanda will no longer financially or militarily support the RCD. In the future, we would welcome a collective security agreement between our two nations to combat the threat of the Interahamwe against Rwanda and other nations that may threaten the DRC.
The people of the DRC await the day when violence, starvation, and disease do not plague their lives. We believe the first step in bringing peace to our people’s lives is to work with the RPF towards a mutual agreement between our two nations. We look forward to working with the RPF towards peace for the Great Lakes region.
Rwanda – Round II
The RPF thanks the DRC for its acknowledgement of the need to end this conflict in the pursuit of peace. We also commend the Congolese government for addressing our concerns. However, there are still discrepancies between the Congolese perspective on the conflict and our own.
The RPF is no longer supporting the RCD and has cut its ties to the organization. Moreover, we are astounded at the claim that the RPF is stealing natural resources from the DRC. Perhaps these are the actions of rogue RPA forces. Seeing the DRC’s distress over this matter, we are launching an investigation into whether certain RPA troops are illegally pillaging the DRC’s resources.
Furthermore, we still believe that a timetable is imperative to solving this conflict and disarming Interahamwe forces. As a compromise, we would ask MONUC forces to stay in the region and allow the DRC a maximum of three years to complete the job of disarming the Interahamwe with evaluations of their progress every six months. We too call upon the Security Council to assist the DRC financially in this undertaking. Also, we retract our request for the Security Council to impose sanctions on the DRC in light of their financial crisis.
As for the proposed reintegration program, we sternly disapprove of this idea. It challenges justice and does nothing to eliminate the threat of the Interahamwe against Rwanda. There is no guarantee that such people will not rearm and begin attacking Rwanda once again. We insist that all Interahamwe forces be sent back to Rwanda to stand genocide for the genocide in 1994 and the violent acts they have commited since then. Even if some of these people are Congolese and did not participate in the 1994 genocide, they have all murdered innocent Rwandans if they are members of the Interahamwe. If the Congolese government commits to sending all Interahamwe back, we will give money to the cause of disarmament.
If a compromise is met and the Interahamwe are disarmed, then we will sign a non-aggression pact. However, the prospect of a collective security pact is too far off in the future for the RPF to consider it at this time. Hopefully, a non-aggression pact in the future will put an end to the long standing conflict, but it will require a great amount of effort on the part of the Congolese government before we will be in the position to sign such a treaty.
Since these terms are a compromise between both of our points of view, we hope that the Congolese government will accept them. We do not expect the Congolese government to disarm the Interahamwe overnight; however we expect them to understand our concerns. As they said, we must work together for peace.
The Democratic Republic of Congo – Round II
The DRC appreciates Rwanda’s recognition that this agreement must be compromise. The original terms that Rwanda laid for a new agreement we extremely difficult if not impossible for us to execute in their timeframe. Nevertheless, there are still compromises to be made.
Inevitably, there will be some things that we will never agree upon. The RPF is exploiting our natural resources. These are the acts of the RPA under the authority of the RPF, not rogue RPA troops. We will not back down from this point.
In terms of disarming the Interahamwe, we agree to evaluations by MONUC every six months. However, if at the end of the three year mandate we have not disarmed all Interahamwe forces but progress has been made, we ask that the mandate of MONUC to supervise disarmament be extended in six month intervals. We also agree to Rwanda’s proposal to sign the nonaggression pact per progress on disarmament.
We still believe that reintegration is important to disarming and pacifying the Interahamwe forces. Nonetheless, we recognize the RPF’s need to bring those who committed genocide in 1994 to justice. We will agree to send all Interahamwe forces who can be proven to be Rwandan back to Rwanda so that the RPF can investigate their involvement in genocide. We would ask the ICJ to use discretion when trying these cases.
We are please to see that our countries have been able to come to an agreement after over a decade of fighting. We hope that the RPF will pursue its responsibilities as vigorously as we intend to follow our duties. We thank the RPF for working with us towards sustainable peace between our two countries.
The resolution of the conflict in the Great Lakes region is imperative to improving the lives of millions of Africans. The first step in this process is to create a working relationship between the DRC and Rwanda. If the two countries were to create a peace agreement that was a compromise including both countries’ interests, the agreement would be far easier to adhere to for both countries. The above negotiations would serve as a step towards ending the conflict and creating sustainable peace.
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