News / Africa

Activists Urge US to Push Rwanda to Help Bring Peace to DRC

Robert Daguillard
Advocacy groups and human rights activists are expressing concern that the United States and other governments are not doing enough to hold Rwanda accountable in the wake of a United Nations report alleging Rwandan support of Tutsi rebels in eastern DR Congo.

Witnesses told members of the House of Representatives that the U.S. must press Rwanda do more to restore stability in the Great Lakes region and help bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Methodist bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda from the DRC was among the witnesses.

“Congo (DRC) government has done what it can do. This problem is Rwanda’s problem. Once Rwanda stops the war in Congo, once the Rwandese are required to maintain democracy in their own country, we will end this war,” Ntambo said.

The hearing Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Africa comes three months after a United Nations report denounced what it called Rwandan involvement in the eastern Congolese conflict.

The reported alleged that Rwanda has supported a rebel group known as M23, which has dealt government forces a series of setbacks this year, allegedly to protect the rights of the region’s ethnic Tutsis.

Rwanda has rejected the allegations.

A high-level meeting on the situation in eastern Congo is expected next week on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration, reacting to the U.N. report, suspended some military aid to Rwanda, while other Western countries reduce development assistance.

Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group testified that the international community should consider expanding sanctions if necessary.

“And that would include by adding names to the U.N. sanctions list of any individual and entities responsible for supporting the M23, including Rwandan officials, if they’re found to be supporting the M23,” Schneider said.

Jason Stearns, an American expert on Congo, testified that M23 is manipulating anti-Tutsi prejudice in the eastern Congo to justify taking control of much of the region - and controlling its economy.

Stearns said the United States should take the lead in exerting economic pressure on Kigali, especially in light of Rwanda’s sensitivity about its international reputation.

“If the Rwandan government today attracts Starbucks and Rick Warren and Tony Blair, it’s not because it’s such a great economic opportunity, it’s because people see it as a symbolic beacon of hope in Central Africa. That storyline needs to change and the U.S. government can help change that storyline as well. As I’ve said before, the Rwandan government has made enormous progress internally on development indicators, but that can’t be separated, as it has been so far, from its involvement in the eastern Congo,” Stearns said.

Rwanda's ambassador to the U.S., James Kimonyo, sat in on the hearing. Afterward, he reiterated his government’s dismissal of the allegations in the U.N. report.

“What we have said, we want peace in Rwanda, we want peace in the Congo, we want peace in the region and there is no reason why we should foment any unrest in the region because in the end, the dividends of a peaceful region are known,” Kimonyo said.

The United Nations is caring for more than a half-million people who have fled their homes since the fighting with the M23 began earlier this year.  In all, more than 2 million people have been displaced by years of instability and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Comment Sorting
by: mutamba kalonji from: kasai/drc
September 22, 2012 5:28 PM
Jason is right when he says this in an other statement at Usalama Project, Rift Valley Institute/Nairobi :"All agree that the principal source of insecurity in DRC is the Congolese state itself. Its crippling weakness reinforces the belief that the only way of protecting property and individual freedoms is through armed force. The Congolese state has neither the rule of law to guarantee property rights, nor the force of law to suppress armed rivals. This lack of faith in Congolese institutions is perhaps the most intractable part of the current conundrum." and definitely that is the truth. First implement the rule of law and everything gonna be alright. Is Kabila capable?

by: Jean Kapenda from: USA/DRC
September 20, 2012 3:24 PM
Every criminologist will agree with me on that (1) as long as there is an international market for stolen and looted goods from the Congo, that stupid and childish war will continue in the DRC; (2) as long as we've got hyper motivated offenders (those little devils coated in human skin called dictators and dictocrats in Africa and their associates), ineffective institutional and physical guardianship across the region, the thieves' party is far from ending. It's that simple!

by: Jean Jacques from: Washington
September 20, 2012 2:40 PM
Soon or later this kingship of Kagame is going to end. People are dying in the Congo yet Obama's administration still reluctant to press some hardcore restrictions to the administration of this blood sucker Kagame. The people of the world need peace and peace is needed in Congo!

by: Chelsie Frank from: Edina, MN
September 20, 2012 12:01 PM
I have lived in Eastern DRC for the last four years: in Goma and Beni. These people have been displaced and my friends have been some of the people hiding under beds as instability ravages their communities. This is NOT a fable. I am so thankful to see high level conversations taking place in the House. Jason Stearn's testimony is backed by his first hand experience interviewing rebel faction leaders.

by: ruda from: rwanda
September 20, 2012 3:20 AM
According to the Times mag, who's reporter was on location. the two millions displaced is a fable. Stearns is an active stakeholder, activist to no one accountable

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