"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

9.06.2007

congo watch

Well, the fight is getting closer and closer to Goma, and the United Nations has finally said what everyone in the region has known for years: the government of Rwanda is supplying rebel general Laurent Nkunda with equipment and manpower.

Which is interesting, especially given Rwanda's efforts to look like the good guys by engaging in diplomacy and offering to mediate. The Rwandan foreign minister is correct in his assessment that Kinshasa is dead-set on using military force to solve this problem. But Rwanda's fueling of the conflict hasn't helped matters. (We should note that the official Rwandan line is that Rwandan soldiers are not fighting with Nkunda's men. This article (in the government-controlled Rwandan newspaper) doesn't mention whether former Rwandan soldiers are in North Kivu, which seems quite likely to be the case.)

I think the UN's accusation is accurate, but I also agree with the analyst in this article (who is a friend) that Nkunda's participation in the mixage made him stronger. He's definitely under Kigali's influence, but I'm not convinced that he's simply a puppet. At any rate, despite the fact that their men are under attack, it's refreshing to note that Nkunda's spokesman still found time to talk to the Voice of America.

My friend A is quoted in the first story as saying that they think there are 30,000 new displaced persons as a result of the fighting this past week. A was apparently near Sake today and says that there is "a massive number of people on the road to Goma." Estimates of the total number of persons displaced in the east since January are now up to 224,000.

Here is the problem: we want peace. Average people shouldn't have to flee their homes over this. But the problem has been festering since 1994, and it's not going to go away until somebody's military controls the whole region. The diplomats can call for all the talks they want; Nkunda can ask for a truce. But until the issues of refugee return and land ownership are solved, and until the Rwandans make a firm commitment to stay out of the Congo, and until those responsible for the 1994 genocide are caught and punished in a way that satisfies the Rwandans, none of this is going to get better.

Update: The BBC reports that Nkunda's forces and the FARDC (the Congolese army) have agreed to a truce. Nkunda attempted to take Sake this morning, but his men are withdrawing into the hills above Sake. MONUC is supposed to take control of Sake.

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