(Washington, D.C.) September 12, 2007: The international community must launch a new “carrots and sticks” initiative to prevent the breakout of Congo’s third major war in the last decade, according to an ENOUGH Project strategy paper released today. Death tolls from the deadliest conflict globally since World War II will mount rapidly unless an urgent diplomatic initiative and last-resort military preparations commence immediately.
Co-authored by ENOUGH co-chair John Prendergast and ENOUGH policy advisor Colin Thomas-Jensen, the paper highlights the serious threat posed by dissident Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda, whose more than 3,000 loyal forces have carved out control of parts of North Kivu Province.
The Congolese government has responded by realigning itself with the FDLR – a militia composed of more than 6,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels, many with links to the 1994 genocide in their home country – to fight Nkunda’s more effective force. This threatens to draw Rwanda back into Congo’s conflict, which would lead to rapid escalation and potentially plunge Congo back into regional war.
In recent weeks, fighting between the two sides has intensified, with increasing numbers of troops being deployed to the front line and more being forcibly recruited. Civilians inevitably are caught in the crossfire, and the prevailing climate of impunity allows all sides – Nkunda, the FDLR, the Congolese army and local militias – to exploit the local population without fear of consequences.
“Despite a multi-faceted peace deal and successful Congolese elections,” said Prendergast, “Congo will head down the road uninterrupted to its third cataclysmic war if the international community does not take much more robust action.”
To avert the resumption of full-scale war, Prendergast and Thomas-Jensen argue, the international community must work with the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) to immediately develop and implement a “carrots and sticks” approach that addresses the intertwined challenges of Nkunda and the FDLR. Integrating Nkunda’s forces into the army and demobilizing FDLR militia first through an incentive-based reintegration strategy are the most promising approaches, but military plans must be prepared in case diplomacy, military integration, and DDR (demobilization, disarmament and reintegration) fail.
“A return to war would surely catapult the region back to the top of the charts of human suffering,” said Thomas-Jensen. “The U.S. government, given its humanitarian, moral, economic and national security imperatives in the Congo, has a responsibility to increase its engagement now.”
To read “Averting the Nightmare Scenario in Eastern Congo,” go to www.enoughproject.org.