WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–October 17, 2013. Conflict resolution efforts to end the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will be unsuccessful if Rwanda’s security, economic, and political interests that play central roles in the war are not addressed within the peace process, argues a new Enough Project report released today. Contentious relations between Congo and its neighbors have been a critical factor in making Congo the deadliest war in the world over the past 19 years. The report, “Rwanda’s Stake in Congo: Understanding Interests to Achieve Peace” focuses on the Congo-Rwanda relationship and argues that U.N. and U.S. envoys to the region, Mary Robinson and Russ Feingold, should use a combination of incentives and pressures to address these interests.
“Rwanda and Congo are elephants in each other’s living rooms,” says Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast. “Until that relationship is addressed, and the interests that underlie it, there will be blood in eastern Congo.”
Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst Sasha Lezhnev said:
“The key to unlocking peace is to expand the economic pie for Congo, Rwanda, and the region by bringing in a much more robust private sector that practices responsible investment in conflict-free minerals. Right now, the fighting is over surface-level mines, but the fact is that there are billions of dollars worth of mining deposits in the ground that lie undeveloped. If the U.N. and U.S. envoys build the right incentives for cooperation in the peace process, this investment will benefit all parties. Some will benefit from financial services, others will benefit from mining revenues, and others will benefit from new roads and infrastructure. Rwanda, Congo, and the region will then be financially invested in peace instead of war.”
The aftermath of the Rwandan genocide spilled into Congo in the mid-1990s, exacerbating preexisting intercommunal tensions and conflict. These tensions, coupled with the Congolese government’s deep corruption and bad governance created conditions in which the Congolese army and a host of militias have operated with impunity and destabilized eastern Congo. Additionally, Rwanda’s direct intervention in Congo at times and its periodic support for armed groups in eastern Congo have been central drivers of continuing conflict, states the report.
Rwanda’s core concerns include what it believes to be an existential security threat posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, the Hutu extremist armed group based in eastern Congo, which has attacked Rwanda four times over the past year. Furthermore, Rwanda has economic interests in Congo in natural resources, land, and cross-border trade. Some of its interests have led to illicit activities, while it has pursued other interests through legitimate means. Rwanda has a domestic minerals sector but is also a transit point for Congolese minerals. Rwanda’s economy is reliant on the minerals trade because of the country’s significant trade deficit, and minerals are critical in filling this gap, as they are the country’s second-highest generator of foreign exchange. Illustratively, Rwanda’s tantalum exports increased by 112 percent in the first six months of 2013 over the same period in 2012. The protection of Tutsi populations in Congo’s eastern provinces and the return of over 50,000 Congolese refugees to Congo are also core interests as stated by Rwanda.
To address these core interests, the report offers recommendations to the U.N. and U.S. envoys to build on the “11+4” Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework signed in February 2013. Specifically, the envoys should work to incentivize both countries to create transparent, legitimate regional economic cooperation and to work to remove the security threats to regional governments, including the FDLR, the M23, and other armed groups. The report also emphasizes that verified state support from any government in the region to any armed group should result in targeted sanctions or other escalating repercussions. Furthermore, it recommends that the U.S. and U.N. envoys support increased efforts at accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, both through the International Criminal Court and domestic processes.
While previous international peace initiatives have largely circumvented Rwanda’s role in the continuing conflict, this report emphasizes that any solution must address Rwandan economic and security concerns and push for Congo’s institutional reforms in order to be successful. The political will for peace and cooperation will develop only when these two states begin to invest financially in regional economic integration and work together on certain security issues while critical institutional reforms take place in Congo. Combining a conflict-free mining sector and improved infrastructure in Congo with Rwanda’s attractiveness for potential investments could initiate a process of transformation, argues the report.
Read the report, “Rwanda’s Stake in Congo: Understanding Interests to Achieve Peace”