Events

The Rwandan Perspectives of the Great Lakes Crisis

June 14, 2002 // 12:00am
Event Co-sponsors: 
Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity

A summary of the meeting with Patrick Mazimaka, Rwandan special envoy to the Great Lakes Region; Charles Muligande, Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) secretary-general; and Emmanuel Ndahiro, Rwandan presidential advisor on Security. Cosponsored by the Conflict Prevention and Africa projects of the Woodrow Wilson Center and Search for Common Ground.

The three senior officials of the Rwanda government gave an overview of their country's role in the conflict in the Democratic of the Congo (DRC) against the backdrop of the recently concluded Inter-Congolese Dialogue, the establishment by the World Bank of trust fund for the DRC, and continued violence in Eastern DRC. Mr. Mazimaka focused exclusively on steps that need to be taken both by the DRC government and the international community to break the impasse. The parameters for a settlement to the crisis, he noted, are already spelled out in the Lusaka Agreement of 1999, which provided for the withdrawal of foreign forces, the disarmament of the estimated 40,000 forces implicated in Rwanda's genocide and linked to the Kinshasa government, and a genuine national dialogue among the Congolese. Although the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in South Africa narrowed the differences among the parties on fundamental issues, it stalemated on the question of power sharing. He noted that the agreement reached at Sun City between the Kabila government and one of the rebel groups was insufficient to resolve the crisis. This partial agreement essentially marginalized most of the key actors, in particular, Rwanda's allies. It is, therefore, unworkable. On the question of the demobilization and disarmament of anti-Rwandese militias in the DRC, he dismissed the UN Security Council's recent proposal for a joint DRC-Rwanda security curtain on the border to prevent the militias from making incursions into Rwanda. Instead, he argued, there is need for a new government in Kinshasa that is inclusive of all political forces and has a national army capable of managing the security situation. Mr. Mazimaka contended that the Kabila government is incapable of disarming anti-Rwanda elements because it is too dependent on them. Mr. Ndahiro elaborated on the Rwanda's position on demobilization, stating that the UN has misunderstood the linkages between the Kabila government and perpetrators of genocide. He noted that as long as these elements continued to find succor in the DRC, Rwanda would not withdrawal its forces or support international demobilization efforts.

Mr. Muligande summarized the progress Rwanda has made in improving internal security, forging national dialogue, and stabilizing the economy over the past eight years. He claimed that there is an international fixation with Rwanda's role in the DRC to the detriment of the remarkable achievements the RPF government has accomplished such as: a broad-based government that includes eight political parties who have collaborated to normalize political life; the appointment of a constitutional commission to write a new constitution in time for presidential elections in July 2003; a record of economic growth averaging 6 per cent in the last few years; and significant increases in school enrollments. The big problem for Rwanda, however, is the slow pace of dealing with the more than 100,000 people jailed for participating in the 1994 genocide. Mr. Muligande reported that Rwanda has been carrying out about 1200 trials and a year, and to expedite the process, Kigali has developed new justice administration mechanisms, including the establishment of local traditional courts. These courts, the Gacaca, will start examining some of the cases at the end of June 2002. The progress on the internal front, he observed, has been made possible by Rwanda's involvement in the DRC because the country is now more secure than before.

Gilbert Khadiagala, director of Africa Project, 202-663-5681

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