DRC VERSUS RWANDA: FROM PROXY WAR TO DIRECT CONFRONTATION?

After years of mutual provocations, hostile declarations and a real proxy conflict, will the war between the DRC and Rwanda take place? This is a question that many analysts are asking after the declarations of President Félix Tshisekedi during his electoral campaign in which he promised an attack on Kigali if the M23 resumed hostilities on its territory. A question which also finds its answer in the massive promotions of the soldiers of his army which the Rwandan Head of State Paul Kagame recently carried out as a sort of encouragement to reinvigorate their bravery on the battlefield because as we know they are there deployed regularly. This is an indication of a response with the three battalions of the Rwandan army (nearly 2,000 soldiers) which were deployed in the military bases recently occupied by the forces of the Community of East African States in order to get ahead of the SADEC forces supposed to replace them there and above all prepare for the counterattack of the FARDC being already numerous on its territory. Throughout these lines, we set out to examine the different possible scenarios and the alliances that are about to be created according to the geostrategic interests at stake.

Facts

Questioned by Anadolu on the possibility of a direct war between the DRC and Rwanda as well as on the stakes of such a (possible) war, Emmanuel Dupuy, president of the Institute Foresight and Security in Europe (IPSE) affirms that “everything will be done by regional mediators, according to the Nairobi and Luanda Process (November 2022) so as to prevent such a war” given that the possibilities of a war “are real. They are being accelerated and they are for the moment the subject of a necessary diplomatic remobilization on the part of the countries bordering the Great Lakes.”

In fact, “it is a personal animosity between President Paul Kagame who wants to boost his country’s economy through a new military capacity, supported by dynamic economic growth or in any case on which he is counting to serve as a power military presence in the region and therefore directly compete with the big neighbor that is the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he continues.

It is a matter between “a small State against a continental State, with obviously behind all that the hoarding of natural resources, rare earths, Cobalt that Rwanda literally steals from the DRC and this situation that the DRC does not accept obviously not.

Also with a configuration that can be compared to what is happening in Libya, or even to what is happening in the Sahel, in Mozambique, where the two countries, Rwanda and DRC, are not directly waging war on each other but are waging war. war by diversion, through “proxy”. Rwanda has the M23 movement and the DRC has the Democratic Forces of Liberia of Rwanda (FDLR), adds the president of the Institute Foresight and Security in Europe (IPSE). Faced with tensions, the international community is seeking balance or rebalancing. According to Emmanuel Dupuy, it is a regional war in which the international community does not want to get involved except at the level of the UN and sub-regional organizations, to try to stabilize and to try to reestablish a regional order which was once again strongly disrupted by chronic instabilities between the two neighbors, with increasingly divergent aspirations.

Analysis

Conflict, minerals, rebels and foreign donors are all elements that have tormented Congo for decades. A significant part of the problem is that Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi export products they do not produce, meaning much of the smuggling takes place, successive UN investigations have found united. With each party leaning on its own interests, the warning signs of open war are emerging.

1)All the signals for war are seenable

 We must prepare for direct battles. Appointed by Kinshasa to govern North Kivu for 20 months, Lieutenant General Constant Ndima no longer doubts it: “The situation is very worrying. We must prepare for the war already declared by Rwanda. All the evidence is there. The M23 rebels supported by Rwanda have resumed hostilities since 2022 and occupy around ten towns and villages in the northeast of the DRC, including the border post of Bunagana shared with Uganda and the efforts made to drive them out remain in vain even if numerous deaths of combatants are reported on the part of the M23 that are daily deplored by their families as well as the staff of the hospitals of Rubavu; Musanze and Kanombe which continue to host serious casualties and the mortal remains which pass through them before their discrete burial. Informal military sources even report summary burials on the DRC soil when under fire, commanders do not know what to do with the number of combatants killed on the spot. On the DRC side, there is no shortage of military equipment; the FARDC are supported by young Wazalendo and Burundian soldiers; even elements of the FDLR at least for those who remain because most have returned to Rwanda. On the Rwandan side, the internal discourses are undoubtedly belligerent and in his usual arrogance Paul Kagame bluntly affirms that he has already prepared that war and that better still it will not be the first time that he conquers this vast country; recalling the first Congo war which culminated with the victory of Laurent Désiré Kabila with a Rwandan general, Kabarebe James, as chief of general army staff.

2) Diplomacy in favor of the DRC

The international community finally seems convinced that Rwanda supports the M23 both in arms and in soldiers and rear bases as well. Indeed, apart from the observers on site who note the daily crossing of the borders at Kabuhanga by Rwandan troops; the drones which circulate over the region report the same observation. Moreover, the recent rejection by Belgium of Ambassador Vincent Karega as ambassador of Rwanda is a tree hiding a forest.

3) Geostrategic alliances

The DRC knowingly got rid of East African Community forces. Even if Rwanda was not part of this community force, we cannot exclude that Uganda is also a traitor, especially since it facilitated the capture of Bunagana by serving as a rear base for the M23; the new invasions of the M23 in the DRC are the fruit of a plot hatched in Kigali by Kagame and General Muhozi, the eldest son of President Museveni, an expedition called “Operation Rudahigwa” name of the former King of Rwanda who died in 1959. It goes without saying that if the clashes resume, the Ugandan forces will not hesitate to rally their Rwandan brothers within the framework of the Hima empire project that they have been nurturing for decades. Burundi, despite the timid restoration of relations with its Rwandan neighbor, is aware that this country supports the Red Tabara rebellion which operates from the south of Rwanda and the south-east of the DRC. It goes without saying that Burundi will support the DRC.

4) Who will win; who will lose?

If the SADEC and the FARDC fight as the latter and a UN intervention brigade did in 2013, the M23 will lose and consequently Rwanda, especially since it is still the Rwandan defense forces that operate there under this label of M23. However, nothing is certain if the SADEC forces will be offensive enough as expected of them; the news reported by the Rwandan contingents deployed in Mozambique and fighting aside them is not laudatory. If the FARDC do not win, the situation of insecurity will remain as such, allowing the daily theft of the natural resources of this vast country if obviously the M23 do not intend to invade the entire country.

Conclusion

Between the DRC and Rwanda, a direct war is imminent, according to the declarations of war resonating from both sides. President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo promised to liberate his country once reappointed at the head of the state and his victory is inevitable; Rwanda responded by strengthening its military forces and infiltrating a good number of them across this vast territory. That being said, the outcome of the war is still uncertain but it is important to think about the civilian population who suffer its harmful effects; the 22 thousand victims of the Israel-Hamas war which has not yet lasted two months constitute an eloquent illustration. Who survives will see!