Watch our two-part Debate: 'Going to war in the Democratic Republic of Congo?'
FRANCE 24’s coverage of the recent upsurge in violence in the restive eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has sparked a vivid debate between readers, as shown by the numerous comments posted on this website.
Some readers directly accuse rebel leader Laurent Nkunda of being no more than a Rwandan pawn, playing for the interests of President Paul Kagame, a fellow Tutsi. “Everyone knows that Tutsi general Nkunda is fighting against the elected Congolese government on behalf of the dictator Paul Kagame,” writes one anonymous contributor.
Others go even further. Louison Lesuka, writing from the British city of Manchester, claims that the conflict is “a well thought-out plan established by Rwandan President Paul Kagame to increase his country’s control over regions bordering with the DRC and seize our natural resources”.
A war over natural resources ?
The North Kivu region, where the most recent clashes between the Congolese military and Nkunda’s rebel militias have taken place, is home to some of Africa’s largest pewter and copper mine fields. Both the military and the country’s rebels are involved in the trade, which makes for plenty of tension.
Others, however, do not think that natural resources are really at the heart of the conflict. “Do I really need to remind you that Congo did not wait for Kagame to plunge into chaos?” writes an exasperated Patrick from the United States. “When did Congo’s immense resources ever benefit the Congolese people?” he asks.
“You are wrong in stating that the conflict is due to a resource battle over Congolese commodities. Indeed, fighting is taking place over these commodities (resulting in massive death and slavery), but it is not so much the source of the ongoing battle as a means of funding it,” writes Theophilus.
Both readers put forward the conflict’s historical origins. For Teophilus, “What is happening in Kivu right now is a direct result of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, after which extremist Hutu rebels went after Tutsis living in Congo.”
Operation Turquoise's hertiage
“The Congolese can thank France’s Operation Turquoise for the presence of Rwandan genocide perpetrators in Congo!” declares Patrick, referring to a French humanitarian mission in April 1994, in the last days of the Rwandan genocide. The French army is widely believed to have – deliberately or inadvertently – allowed extremist Hutu militias to escape to neighbouring Congo as civilian populations were evacuated. Some now claim that these extremists are fighting alongside the Congolese army and regularly attack the Tutsi population of the DRC.
“The disarmament [of these rebels] was at the centre of all the peace agreements signed during the DRC crisis,” writes Patrick. “Yet they are still here, armed, fed and actively collaborating with the Government! Nkunda would simply never have existed without them!”
The latest of these peace agreements was signed in Nairobi in 2007. It specifically requests the extradition of exiled Rwandan Hutu militias back to Rwanda. So far, the agreement has been widely violated, sparking Nkunda’s latest intervention. “One of Nkunda’s main purposes in fighting right now is supposedly to ensure the protection of the Tutsi population living in Congo,” explains Theophilus.
Many readers have called for direct international intervention in the conflict, giving greater powers to the 17,000-strong MONUC peacekeeping mission. “As long as the United Nations and the African Union do not get actively involved in the Great Lakes region, both politically and militarily, there can be no long-term stability in the DRC,” claims Sly, writing from the Ivory Coast.
All we can do, concludes Patrick is “wish peace for the poor people of Eastern DRC. They really don’t deserve this…”