Kigali, Kampala, the ICC: it seems like everyone is meddling in Eastern Congo these days, except for the people who should be – officials in Kinshasa. The most recent bout of violence in the turbulent Kivu provinces has resulted in finger pointing, a planned invasion from Angola, and the US pulling foreign military assistance to Rwanda.
For some, the conflict that has displaced 470,000 people since April, goes back to international politics. The ICC has a standing warrant for war crimes against Bosco Ntaganda. Earlier this year, the pressure was on for President Kabila to order the arrest of the former rebel leader. Organizations like Human Rights Watch called for Kinshasa to reverse its policy and go after the warlord.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be an example of how good intentions can go awry. Yes, Ntaganda, also known as the “Terminator”, engaged in horrific crimes during the Second Congo War, including rape, child soldiering, and torture. However, in 2009, Ntaganda was the key to reaching a peace agreement that led to semi-stability in the east.
The case of Ntaganda forced President Kabila to make a choice between pursuing justice against one man or pursuing peace for his country. Up until early 2012, Kabila had chosen the fate of his country over the fate of one man. The change in policy that sent Ntaganda back into the bush and forged the M23 rebel group can largely be attributed to international meddling.
After the rebellion restarted, regional meddling has helped to fuel the destabilization of the east. Kinshasa and international groups have accused Kigali of supporting the rebel group. The accusations have not fallen on deaf ears. The US Department of State pulled its foreign military assistance to Rwanda for the fiscal year.
But all the finger pointing has to turn back on Kinshasa at some point. While meddling has helped fuel the fire in Eastern Congo, the bottom line according to some critics is that Kinshasa should be taking care of its country. According to Rwandan columnist, Joseph RWAGATARE,
Some critics complain that the root cause of the issue is xenophobia. Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese are not considered Congolese. The government in Kinshasa has always played on ethnic tensions in the east to harbor support and to gain financially from the region’s instability.
Leaders from all eleven states in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region will meet in Kampala to discuss the crisis in Eastern Congo on August 7 & 8. Most experts and leaders are skeptical that the conference will result in significant movement toward peace.