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Ask our correspondent

Text by Arnaud ZAJTMAN , FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2008-11-12

What is the meaning of the rebellion led by Tutsi former General Laurent Nkunda? What role does Rwanda play in this conflict? France 24's correspondent Arnaud Zajtman in North-Kivu responds.

Rebel chief Laurent Nkunda spoke in favour of a ceasefire between his troops and the Congolese army on Oct. 10, 2007, three days after he officially broke a truce inaugurated in September under strong UN pressure. The government gave his forces a deadline of Oct. 15 to lay down their arms.


Special report on the conflict in Nord-Kivu



Q: What is MONUC doing? (the French acronym for the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo)  Instead of having the UN spend billions of dollars for nothing, France and the US should help the DRC send back all the Interahmawe forces to Rwanda.  Is it too much to ask?  I think the West has been ignoring the unfortunate situation in the DRC.
(Question from Lolongo, 12/10/07)

A: Obviously that is an option, but Bob Denard (the French mercenary) is dead and we're no longer in a time when foreign states can start firing away in Africa.  That's now the job of international organizations like the UN, the European Union and the African Union. And I don't think Congo's neighbours, especially Rwanda, would like to see French troops deployed in Nord-Kivu, near their border. Also, since the unfortunate experience of the US intervention in Somalia in the early 90s, the US has not shown interest in participating in peacekeeping operations in Africa.  I understand your frustration with the UN force, but its mission is to protect civilians and support the Congolese army.  But what's happening is the DRC has promised its neighbours it will disarm the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the FDLR (Rwanda Democratic Liberation Forces), and it's up to Congo and its neighbours to find a way of ending the rebels' presence in eastern Congo. As for the UN or a regional organization, they would only act in a supporting role. 

And why are western nations ignoring the misfortune in Congo?  One reason could be so they can gain leverage against Congolese President Laurent Kabila - but there's no way of proving that. Also, I must remind you of the importance of disarming the Hutu militants in order to restore peace to the region.
(Answer from France 24 correspondent Arnaud Zajtman, 16/10/07)

Q: Who supports Laurent Nkunda?
(Question from Adonis Phuati, 12/10/07)

A: Laurent Nkunda is a Congolese Tutsi from Nord-Kivu.  As with many of his community, he joined the ranks of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in the early 90s. He marched on Kigali alongside General Major Paul Kagame, who has since become president of Rwanda.  Nkunda later played an important role in the Congolese rebel movement supported by Rwanda.  But he stays outside of peace talks.  

Today, Rwandan deserters are quitting Nkunda’s ranks to join the MONUC.  He and his men are very well armed.  We can assume that they’re provisioned by Rwanda, where he has very prominently placed contacts.  This being said, Rwanda and the RDC recently reiterated their agreement not to support militant groups aimed at each other.  Since then there is no proof that Nkunda has Rwandan military backing.
(Answer from France 24 Correspondent Arnaud Zajtman, 16/10/07)

Q: What do you think will happen now that the Oct. 15 deadline has passed? I consider you an expert on the region and I'd love to know your opinion.
(Question from Tony, 12/10/07)

A: Hi Tony, thanks for the compliment. The government has given an extension to Nkunda’s men after getting more of his troops to surrender.  But Nkunda has demanded dialogue and answers regarding the return of Congolese Tutsi refugees living in Rwandan camps since the beginning of the war in Congo.  He also wants to talk about disarming the Rwandan Hutus who swarm the eastern part of Congo.

Some weeks ago, the government was supposed to organise such a dialogue, not only with Nkunda, but also with local representatives of various communities in Nord-Kivu. But this never materalised.  If this dialogue were to take place, I think that there could be a peaceful solution to the crisis.  The Congolese government also wishes to strengthen its relations with Rwanda and Uganda to give them the guarantees of peace that they expect.  It is worth noting that a tripartite commission was recently set in place between the Congo, Rwanda and the UN High Commission for Refugees.  This commission would be in charge of permitting the repatriation of refugees.

The implementation of projects regarding border issues, as well as the project of extracting oil from Lake Kivu on the Rwanda-Congo border, or from Lake Albert on the Uganda-Congo border, could lead the way to promoting tourism in the area.  There are mountain-dwelling gorillas in the region where Congo abuts Uganda and Rwanda, which could attract tourists.  At any rate, there are a number of potential revenue sources for the region – but this would depend entirely on sustaining peace in the region, and dissipating the hate and resentment that would obviously follow the years of war.
(Answer from France 24 Correspondent Arnaud Zajtman, 16/10/07)



Date created : 2007-12-06