Editor's Note: This op-ed, authored by John Prendergast and Sasha Lezhnev, originally appeared in The Daily Beast.
As the first ever U.S.-Africa summit opens in Washington today, all is not quiet on Congo’s eastern front. Just before the 4th of July when most Americans were watching fireworks, diplomatic pyrotechnics erupted in Africa that now seriously threaten to reignite the war in eastern Congo, a conflict that has left more people dead than any war since World War II. The kerfuffle concerns the rebel group that has been at the center of the war, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a dangerous militia based in Congo and led by some of the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide
Because it is at the heart of the war, ending the FDLR must be a centerpiece of the peace process. Over the past 20 years, neighboring Rwanda has invaded Congo twice and sponsored three major rebellions in eastern Congo—all in the name of countering the FDLR and its predecessors. The war escalated significantly in 1994 when the first iteration of the FDLR, the Interahamwe and members of the former Rwandan army, crossed into Congo from Rwanda after the genocide, and tens of thousands of people died when Rwanda pursued the group in Congo. The FDLR represents a unique threat to Rwanda because its leaders espoused the elimination of Tutsis from Rwanda, the twisted ideology at the heart of the mass killings there. Only people who have gone through genocide can fully comprehend such an existential threat. …
Photo: A close-up of weapons retrieved from rebels in the Congo (UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti)