Speaking on Monday to the Guardian’s Susan Schulman, Rwandan President Paul Kagame argued for regional governments to take the lead in working toward political solutions to the crisis in eastern Congo. However, his comments on the recent agreement between his government and the Congolese government are difficult to take at face value. In particular, Kagame’s interpretation of Rwanda’s role in removing rebel leader Laurent Nkunda defies credibility: Nkunda “handed himself…to Rwanda,” because he realized “the tide against him was too big. He knew if he fought [Rwanda] he would be defeated.” Similarly, Kagame did not address the dramatic political and military shifts taking place in North Kivu, as we’ve recently detailed.
After years of international attempts to improve Rwanda/Congo relations, the current dialogue between the two countries has taken place without external mediation and behind closed doors. Apparently both sides want to keep it that way while putting forth their own narratives about exactly what is taking place. The common refrain is each country’s opposition to the FDLR, yet it is clear that the recently completed joint military operation have not eliminated the FDLR threat to civilians. Rather, Nkunda has been removed (temporarily at least) from the Congolese political scene and Rwanda has legitimized (temporarily at least) its proxy control over the southern part of North Kivu.
Clearly, events on the ground provide much better context for the actual contours of the agreement between Congo and Rwanda than public statements by the respective leaderships.
Colin Thomas-Jensen contributed to this post.