Monday, November 17, 2008
If you've been reading/watching international media recently, you've probably seen more coverage of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) than you have in a long time. In short, General Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi, and his National Congress for People's Defence (CNDP) have been fighting the Congolese army and other militia (including some former genocidaires from the 1994 Rwandan genocide) in North Kivu, Eastern DRC, displacing thousands of Congolese in the process. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Rose Kabuye, a high ranking Rwandan official, has been arrested in Germany on arrest warrants issued by a French judge.
Most of the coverage you will find in the international press will (and has) focused on the humanitarian crisis that has ensued from the fighting, as well as the possibility of this becoming a regional conflict, not unlike the Congo war from 1998-2003. This conflict, however, is far more complex. European leaders have been jumping into the fray, in my opinion largely because they don't want to be blamed later for not taking action (a la the Rwandan genocide). Well intentioned though they may be, I have serious doubts as to the level of understanding most outsiders have of this conflict (which is not at all new and stems from fundamental issues involving state capacity and human security in the Great Lakes Region). I also wish the international coverage reflected a deeper understanding of the issues at hand -- which include the fast-eroding French-Rwandan relations, French involvement in the Rwandan genocide, the legitimacy of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his government, the scattered but ongoing Hutu-Tutsi conflicts regionally, the lack of DRC state capacity, and many more. The Economist ran a fairly good piece and I look forward to their future analyses. Mr. Izama at the Daily Monitor also wrote a good analysis of the wider implications of the conflict, including the non-coincidental arrest of Mrs. Kabuye.
Just to give you a different idea of Goma, above right is a photo I took of the would-be idyllic city, as seen from a beach in Gisenyi, Rwanda (just a few miles away from Goma on Lake Kivu).