Lumumba suggests key themes for Kagame-Tshisekedi dialogue

By Esther Muhozi
On 19 March 2024 at 10:41

Recently, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, expressed his willingness to renew dialogue with President Kagame, his Rwandan counterpart, in an effort to dispel tensions between their two countries.

This conflictual situation was exacerbated by the resurgence of hostilities between the M23 and the FARDC in the eastern DRC. The Congolese government accuses Rwanda of providing support to the M23. However, it’s important to note that Kigali has consistently refuted these allegations, denying any involvement in supporting the M23.

In February 2024, despite previous statements closing the door to any negotiation attempts, President Tshisekedi paved the way for the resumption of talks with Rwanda, which, for its part, has always shown a willingness to dialogue with its neighbor, hoping to find a peaceful solution to this crisis.

Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, a prominent Kenyan expert specializing in the political and historical analysis of this region, plays a significant role in observing regional dynamics.

As a lawyer and director of the Kenya School of Law, he recently highlighted his expertise through a podcast, dedicated to analyzing the foundations of Congolese crises and possible solutions for their resolution.

In this episode, Lumumba attributes the roots of turmoil in the DRC to colonialism, arguing that Belgian intentions never truly included genuine autonomy for Congo, even after its proclamation of independence.

Lumumba had mentioned in a podcast that The history of Congo is marked by sadness. In the 1950s, while the country was still under Belgian tutelage, they had no intention of withdrawing.

When they granted independence to Congo, they devised all imaginable strategies to prevent this independence from fully realizing its promises," he stated in a recent podcast.

According to him, instability was orchestrated from the day after independence. Patrice Lumumba, an emblematic figure of liberation, was quickly accused of colluding with communists, arrested, and assassinated, just one year after the country’s accession to sovereignty. This strategy aimed to prevent the unity and stability of the DRC, given its immense natural resources.

He said that the very design was to ensure that the DRC could never unify or prosper, as such a configuration would not serve the interests of those who aspire to exploit its riches. The perpetual chaos in the country is thus seen as a boon to continue benefiting from its abundant resources.

On the M23, he pointed out the role of borders inherited from the Berlin Conference, leading Kinshasa to deny Congolese citizenship to certain populations.

The drawing of Congo’s borders, like those of many other African countries, results from the Berlin Conference This arbitrary delimitation placed certain ethnic groups, like the Hutus and Tutsis, straddling the current borders of Rwanda, Burundi (formerly called Rwanda-Urundi), and Congo. In Congo, Tutsis are often referred to as Banyamulenge.

Although geographically close to Rwanda and Burundi, Banyamulenge are Congolese citizens, under internationally recognized borders so he explained, citing Julius Nyerere, a former Tanzanian leader and mediator in a Congolese conflict.

The M23 are Tutsis, but Congolese. Today, their Congolese nationality is contested, labeling them as Rwandans. This explains the recurring accusations that the Rwandan government would support them, allegations that the Rwandan administration refutes, stating that it does not support them so he said

Lumumba warned that conflicts between Rwanda and the DRC could occur if these countries do not prioritize peace negotiations. He also emphasized that underestimating Rwanda’s capacity to engage in a confrontation with the DRC due to its smaller size would be a mistake.

He said they were facing a war that no one wants, but if it were to break out, it would drag several neighboring countries in its wake.

Lumumba strongly advised the Kinshasa government to take this possibility into consideration adding that Africa does not want to witness such a conflict.

Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, a prominent Kenyan expert specializing in the political and historical analysis of this region.