The Kivus: Congo’s New Shame, Rwanda’s Old Game

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Kinshasa/Brussels | 4 Oct 2012

The Kivus region of eastern Congo again faces escalating violence, including by a rebel force acting as a proxy of neighbouring Rwanda. To stop the repetitive cycle of rebellion and avoid large-scale killing, donors and African mediators need to move from crisis management to conflict resolution with the right set of pressures on Kigali and Kinshasa.

Eastern Congo: Why Stabilisation Failed, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the conflict since Bosco Ntaganda’s mutiny in April 2012 and the creation of the 23 March rebel movement (M23). Though a new situation, today’s problems closely resemble yesterday’s, which is hardly surprising because past peace deals were never implemented. To resolve the two-decades-old war, donors should learn from earlier failings.

“The Kivus do not need a new strategic approach – previous peace agreements and stabilisation plans would be enough if they were treated as more than empty promises”, says Marc-André Lagrange, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Senior Analyst. “But this requires coordinated and unequivocal pressure from the donors on the Rwandan and Congolese regimes”.

After the 23 March 2009 agreement between the government and the rebel CNDP (National Council for the Defence of the People), which was also supported by Rwanda, the Congolese authorities pretended to integrate the CNDP into political institutions, while the rebel group pretended to integrate into the Congolese army. Then, the make-believe broke down. In the absence of army reform, military pressure on armed groups had only a temporary effect. Post-conflict reconstruction was not accompanied by essential governance reforms and political dialogue. Violence returned.

Now the M23 is behaving in a similar fashion to previous rebel movements by creating its own administration and financing system in parts of North Kivu. Meanwhile, Mai-Mai groups are expanding in rural areas, where they commit atrocities that exacerbate inter-ethnic tensions.

The immediate situation demands a ceasefire, which should be monitored by the UN. Then the 2009 agreement must be jointly evaluated in the framework of the international follow-up committee it established, and this assessment should be the basis for resumption of dialogue between the government and CNDP.

Aid should be withheld from Rwanda until it stops meddling in Congolese affairs. Donors should also make clear to the Congolese authorities that they will not provide funding for stabilisation and institutional support as long as the government fails to improve political dialogue, its governance and the army.

“It’s high time to prosecute war criminals, implement governance reforms, open political space for legitimate players and stop foreign meddling in Congolese affairs”, says Thierry Vircoulon, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director. “That requires political will on the part of those who pay the bills of the Congolese and Rwandan regimes”.

International Crisis Group

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