Friday, February 27, 2009

Have the Rwandan Troops Left?

So remember when this was supposed to be a big step forward? Congo and Rwanda would stop arming each other's enemy militia, Rwanda would neutralize Nkunda, and Congo would allow Rwanda into the Kivus to eliminate the FDLR threat. Then Congo would throw a big party for Rwandan troops as they marched back to Rwanda, mission accomplished. And remember how a few of us grumps (AdF, GP, and yours truly) said, WTF?, even as the UN, the US, and several media outlets draped hosannas on the arrangement? And then remember when the Congo actually held that party, and Rwandan troops actually marched back home, and Alan Doss and Joseph Kabila said, "Thanks, guys, we'll take it from here?"

Turns out, not so much. More and more evidence emerging that many of the Rwandan troops may not have left, after all. More and more allegations that Rwanda's installed a new set of Banyarwanda overlords in North Kivu. More and more proof that Congolese have finally said Ilunga! and begun to challenge Kabila's authority. We'll see how this turns out, but I get the feeling that this is one story that has only just begun.

So what happens next? Could Kabila's government fall? Could the mai-mai become the scourge of the newly adopted CNDP, now wearing Congolese army uniforms? Who will protect the real interests of the BanyaRwanda, or adjudicate between their interests and those of the autochtones? How and when will the FDLR re-establish themselves--and who will protect the Congolese from them when they do? When will unequivocal evidence emerge that Rwandan troops have remained behind? And why is Doss so eager to go along with this whole charade?

My recommendation, as it's been for a while, is to declare the Kivus a UN Protectorate, to establish military control over the entire region and operate the mines in accordance with some minimal set of labor laws (eg., you got to be 16 to work them, you get paid a decent wage regularly), to sell the minerals at an open auction, and to distribute the money earned to local social providers and/or directly to the local population. Gradually, over a period of time (say three years), to relinquish these powers to nascent indigenous military and political institutions, which in the meantime we will have been busy building up. Yes, this requires that we commit far more resources to the region than we have to date. But these are not problems we can help solve on the cheap.


  1. Emin Pasha -

    I just discovered your blog recently. I like your editorializing, the links and the news that most would not see.

    Not sure about how realistic a UN protectorate for the Kivus would be (they can barely muster enough political will to get more soldiers) or an auction for minerals.

    Keep it up.

    Jason Stearns
    (formerly w/ UN Group of Experts on DRC)

  2. Thanks for the nod! I agree, the proposals aren't realistic--in the sense that there's nowhere near the political will to enact them, and there probably wouldn't be, even if the world weren't facing a global economic meltdown. But I worry that thinking about what's feasible creates its own set of blinders, and leads to proposals that aren't commensurate with the scale of the problem.