Thursday, 9 October 2008

Increasing tensions in Eastern DRC

There are reports of an increase in military and diplomatic conflict in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The tension at the moment seems to be principally opposing the government of the DRC with a single rebel group, but there are many other parties who may or may not be involved on a long-term or day-to-day basis.

At the heart of the conflict between the government and the rebels is the potential actions of a third group, who left Rwanda after the 1994 war and ethnic slaughter. The group certainly contains military from Rwanda, including but not exclusively some people who orchestrated and committed war-crimes. They probably have many civilians with them, who were not involved in the killing but fled in fear or from coercion in 1994. The rebel group is ideologically opposed to them and may be supported by the current Rwandan government; the third group is not ideologically supported by the DRC government, but state elements may have engaged commercially with it.

So there is the core problem of this part of the DRC conflict, and which may be the most important part of the whole conflict: a probably large mixed group of soldiers, mass murderers, and civilians who probably do not want to return to Rwanda and may not be safe there but are a cause of conflict in the DRC.

I hoped that one of the senior diplomats and politicians who retire in their dozens every year might find employment as a UN envoy to the region and have the skills and charisma necessary to solve the problem. It is clearly difficult, but is it insoluble on a political level? Time is passing without any real resolution, and given that military annihilation of one of the sides is most unlikely in the DRC geographical and social environment, the problem will remain. It is probable in the long term that changes in the socio-economic environment - increased wealth, for a start - will make the tensions fade, but can no-one solve the problem rather than wait for it to become less important?

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