Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Several opinion editorials weigh in on the question of how to help the Congo. Neil Campbell of the International Crisis Group says that EU diplomacy is unlikely to accomplish much, but that Europeans could still help by sending forces to "temporarily secure Goma and its airport, allowing the UN forces to concentrate on security in the surrounding areas of Rutshuru and Masisi." But Simon Tisdale of the Guardian argues that talk of sending British troops to the Congo is a "diplomatic fantasy." He argues that "the best hope of progress rests, as it did before this year's truce broke down in August, with persuading Rwanda's leadership to halt its support, direct or indirect, for Nkunda; and obtaining a similar change of heart by President Joseph Kabila and the Congolese army in respect of the FDLR and Mai Mai militias." How to change these particularly obdurate hearts he leaves unaddressed.

Francois Grignon and Fabienne Hara, also of the ICG, point out that dealing with the crisis in the Congo "will require a radical shift of international attitude toward Mr. Nkunda and Rwanda. . . . Mr. Nkunda knows he can still easily and efficiently manipulate Western guilt over the early 1990s genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda by flagging the fears of similar Tutsi victimization in eastern Congo, even though his troops have been among the worst human-right abusers in the province since 2004." They write:
Ending this latest chapter of the Congo war will require sustained and significant pressure by the U.S., China, France, the U.K., South Africa and Belgium, the former colonial power. Specifically, they must demand that Kigali and Kinshasa implement the Nairobi declaration; insist that Mr. Nkunda retreat to his previous deployment points; and require Mr. Kabila to remove all army commanders collaborating with the Hutu extremists.

It is worth remembering that virtually every serious scholar of the region has been arguing since 1998, if not earlier, that the international community needs to develop a more nuanced understanding of President Kagame and the role of the Rwandans in fueling the Congolese conflict. Rene Lemarchand, Alison Des Forges, Gerard Prunier--among the more senior observers--spent years futilely arguing that U.S. policy was tilted too far towards the Rwandan regime.

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