We just received a ‘signed’ copy of the release statement of the Angolan authorities after the mini-summit about a possible peace agreement about the ongoing war between the M23 and the Congolese army in the Kivu’s. Most of the Congo watchers we contacted for their opinion find a lot of contradictions in this paper. It is our opinion that a long-lasting peace in the Kivu’s will remain a dead letter if the following facts will not be respected:
- It is impossible to discuss peace between two protagonists of which one was not invited to the negotiation table. Kinshasa labels the M23 rebels as ‘terrorists’ and seems to forget that in 2013 promises were made to re-integrate the movement into the FARDC and to facilitate the return of the thousands of Bagogwe (Congolese Tutsi’s). But that never happened. Nobody had expected that the M23 could rise up again so quickly: every FARDC attack on their positions resulted in a defeat and a loss of weapons and ammunition that probably make the M23 one of the best equipped rebel groups in the world. The M23 underlined repeatedly that they want to negotiate but Kinshasa always refused.
- The international community and the officials in Kinshasa should understand that pushing the responsibility of what is currently going on in the Kivu’s entirely on the shoulders of the shoulders of the Rwandan government is wrong. There is a lot of sympathy for the M23 in Rwanda but the direct involvement of the RDF (Rwandan army) in North-Kivu is not a proven fact. Not this time! The outside world also fails to understand well the ongoing dynamics between the Tutsi communities in Congo, Rwanda and in Burundi; many of them share family ties, others have double nationalities or lived as refugees in the countries of their other brothers and sisters.
- The 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda forged this bond even stronger: they all understand that in order to survive they have to come up for each other. A lot of the hard core M23 served in the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) in the past and were very well trained. After their demobilization they joined the M23. Others left their refugee camps in Rwanda to join those who had been waiting in vain for years in Uganda for a more peaceful solution for their families to go back home to Congo and to reclaim their properties. Laurent Nkunda’s rebellion in 2004 failed as did Sultani Makenga’s reaction in 2012. This rebellion is different: this time there is no way back! None of the promises that were made to them in the past were respected. The fact that Kagame was not present in Luanda himself is probably already a sign that Kigali is getting fed up with the game Kinshasa is trying to play.
- The international community should also understand that the M23 struggle is just a small problem in the bigger context of a country that is falling apart on every level and in which more than 100 other rebel groups are running the show as well. Most of them operating as handy men for corrupt politicians. Others such as the FDLR were kept artificially alive to step in against the Rwandan army of the M23. Laurent Kabila started this and his son Joseph followed these practices in his footsteps. The current president in Kinshasa re-equipped the FDLR completely with new weaponry and uniforms. The FDLR is recognized internationally as a terrorist group and remains a serious tread for peace in the region.
- The outside world should understand that the most destabilizing factor is the region is probably the presence of the FARDC itself. This institution should be approached by the international community in the same way as the other armed groups. Billions of dollars have been pumped already in all kinds of UN constructions to do that but as long as those are only given the order not to leave the umbrella of the FARDC peace in the region will never be possible.
- For many observers the new East African initiative to send troops into the region is also questionable: without a very well-established command, armies that have their own agenda’s (such as the one from Burundi), the fact that some of the EA countries involved are also amongst the accused or the accusers is blowing a thick layer of fog over this construction. And how will the Kenyan troops react when the M23 will start shooting back at them when they’ll try to dislodge them from the villages they occupy? As long as the international community keeps on treating the politicians in Kinshasa like spoiled kids nothing will change. Kenya trapped itself into a position in which the local public opinion will accuse them to do nothing or the M23 who will probably not hesitate to fight them if the Kenyans attack them.
- Last but not least the outside world should understand that more racist hatred against the Tutsi community can become very counterproductive and may trigger of a reaction of which President Tshisekedi will be unable to recover. Every day killings of Tutsis in the DRC are being shown on the social media. Enough might soon become enough……
As long as those basic rules and facts will not be respected the violence in this region will never stop!