21 September 2012

Stearns Testimony on Rwanda's Role in the DRC Insurgency

DRC expert Jason Stearns was among the people who testified at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights hearing "Examining the Role of Rwanda in the DRC Insurgency."
The current crisis, beginning with the to rise of the new M23 rebellion, is the result of the failure of the Congolese peace process to deal with the persistent causes of conflict in the region. A potent mix of ethnic tensions, state weakness, and Rwandan involvement - located at local, national and regional levels - lie at the heart of the violence. While there are no easy fixes to these deep-rooted challenges, the United States government can help avert a further escalation by helping to broker a settlement. This will require a significant change in how the US engages with Rwanda, but also for Kinshasa to provide the political vision necessary for a solution.
It seems there is little doubt that Rwanda played a role in supporting the M23 rebellion in eastern DRC. However, Stearns is careful to point out in his concluding remarks that criticizing Rwanda is not a sufficient solution to the problem.
But such criticism of Rwanda is, on its own, not a solution and will only enhance the defiant rhetoric coming out of Kigali. While pressure on Rwanda must be increased, as it continues to play a pivotal role in supporting the mutiny, it will not be effective unless it is part of a larger peace plan that includes Kigali. 
The Congolese army cannot defeat the M23 with military might alone; sooner or later, a deal will have to be struck with the mutineers. An acceptable outcome would include the arrest of the worst offenders within the M23, including Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, and the reintegration of other officers and troops in the army, but redeployed elsewhere in the country. This would achieve the dismantling of CNDP structures in the eastern DRC. At the same time, the Congolese government should reach out to reassure its rivals. 
This includes helping some refugees in neighboring Rwanda return home, and setting up an inquiry on abuses committed by all sides since the mutiny began. It should also consider allowing Rwandan troops to deploy small units in joint operations in the eastern Congo against the Rwandan FDLR rebels, albeit with significant safeguards. In the absence of effective state power, compromise of this kind is the only way forward.
The only way this kind of deal can work is if Rwanda plays a part. This means reformulating the kind of pressure put on Kigali, from asking them to stop providing support to the M23 - an outcome that is hard to measure, given the clandestine nature of the backing - to becoming an active part of the solution. It would have to allow the Congolese government or the United Nations to deploy troops along its border with M23 territory, as well as arrest key leaders of the mutiny, some of whom are based in Rwanda.
If you missed the event, be sure to read Stearns's full remarks here