Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Remember how Congo and Rwanda Suddenly Teamed Up to Fight the FDLR?

In an operation they called Umoja Wetu? The sudden reconciliation of the two former enemies flummoxed many observers, who were understandably relieved that the driving enmity behind Africa's first continental was finally at an end. For example, here, and here, and here. But I said: something's not right, there must be another agenda at work besides two former enemies suddenly seeing the light. At first, I speculated Kabila had given Rwanda access to the Kivus in return for Rwanda eliminating rebel leader Nkunda. But then came this story from Stop the War in North Kivu, about a major methane plant project.

Further confirmation came last week that the methane deal provoked the two nations' sudden reconciliation. Joe Bavier of Reuters writes:
Former foes Congo and Rwanda have agreed to a joint project to produce 200 megawatts of power from methane gas reservoirs in the lake on their shared border, a senior Congolese power official said on Friday.

The joint power generation deal is the latest sign of improved relations between Rwanda and the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo, who have fought wars, largely over mineral resources in Congo's east, during the last 15 years.

Lake Kivu, which straddles the border between the two Great Lakes region countries, contains large amounts of the highly combustable gas dissolved in its deep, cold waters. ...

The power deal follows joint military operations earlier this year to root out the Rwandan Hutu rebels which have been at the heart of much of the violence between the two nations. ...

The military operations marked a dramatic shift in regional politics, with Rwanda helping end a Congolese rebellion Kigali had been previously accused of backing in exchange for being allowed to send its army to fight the Rwandan rebels.

Serufuli said the deal was also part of the framework of improving relations between countries and would dispel security concerns the investors may have before they get involved in the $300 million plan.
As a legitimate effort to stamp out the FDLR, Operation Umoja Wetu was a disaster. Few FDLR were killed or taken, and the FDLR took out its wrath on the Congolese, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands. But as a signal to investors that they need not have security concerns, the operation appears to have been a success.

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