M23 rebels

The ongoing political tensions between the DR Congo and its smaller neighbour Rwanda has been condemned worldwide as DR Congo accuses President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels who are destabilizing the Kinshasa government through uncoordinated attacks that have seen civilians raped, injured, killed and properties destroyed.

On the other hand, Rwanda, a country that went through a genocide in 1994 where about a million people were killed, has denied the accusations by DR Congo and instead says rebels who want to topple the Kagame government in Kigali operate within the DR Congo, but Rwanda does not say DR Congo supports such rebels like the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Relatedly Uganda, signed an agreement with DR Congo for an ongoing military operation, “Operation Shujja” aimed at attacking the Allied Democratic Forcecs [ADF], a Ugandan outfit that has on several occasions attacked western Uganda and considered as a terrorist group, much as the rebels claim they have a political agenda to take over power in Uganda.

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In a statement Monday, Rwandan Foreign Minister Vicent Biruta encouraged its neighbor to de-escalate its rhetoric. He said collaboration could restore security and bring lasting stability to the region.

On his Twitter account, African Union (AU) chairperson Senegalese President Macky Sall said he is concerned about the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda.

Researcher and political analyst Ntanyoma Rukumbuzi said the tension between the countries and the unrest in the DRC are likely to continue.

But minister Biruta said M23 was Congo’s internal problem and should be resolved among Congolese themselves. M23 insists it is fighting ethnic Hutu groups to protect the minority Tutsi living along the border between Congo and Rwanda.

Why EAC must help DR Congo attain peace

A concerned resident of the East African Community (EAC) would refer to minister Biruta’s statement that DR Congo handles the M23 as an internal matter, as anti-EAC aspirations of having a peaceful regional area where citizens live without fear of being killed.

Only a few months ago, DR Congo joined the EAC to become the seventh member of the bloc. DR Congo, envied worldwide for its mineral wealth, joined Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda Burundi, and South Sudan, and with it, DR Congo came with many investment opportunities, but at the same time DR Congo wanted its new EAC Partners to help it address some of the political tensions back home. That means Biruta’s statement is disgusting to the peace lovers in the EAC.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, the current Chairman of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State recently tried to broker peace negotiations between the DR Congo government and the various rebels. Kenyatta must be commended, after all his country has never witnessed take over power by use of a gun, like it has happened in Rwanda and Uganda.  

As DR Congo accuses Rwanda of politically aiding M23 rebels in the latest diplomatic row, we should never remember that Rwanda and Uganda in 2001 fought in the DRC. The two countries led by military leaders, and once rebels in the bush, should be at the forefront of helping the DR Congo to enjoy peace, given that the mineral-rich country at least has had peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next. This has never happened in Uganda or Rwanda, at least in recent times.

That aside, EAC countries must come together to help DR Congo have some peace for development. The EAC must, copying from the Economic Community for West African (ECOWAS), have an army that can be sent to partner states when rebels try to distabilise a democratically elected government.

Days ago, DR Congo fully opened its borders to businesses in the EAC, Ugandan executives recently were in Kinshasa and Goma in a trade fair, aimed at connecting investors on both sides to forge partnerships that enhance business. But that can only be done when DR Congo is peaceful.

That means any country that tries to distabilise a member of EAC, is dangerous and must be told to stop and shamed. DR Congo deserves peace to develop its mineral, forests and farming potential.

DR Congo is home to some 5.6 million internally displaced people, more than any other country in Africa. Such statistics should make EAC leaders act. Instability in DR Congo is instability in the EAC. President Félix Tshisekedi is right to cry out for help.