Last year, I met Chelsea Strelser when I attended my first meeting for William & Mary’s STAND chapter. Fresh off a summer internship with the Enough Project, I was excited to begin combating mass atrocities and genocide across the globe. Read More »
U.N. Special Envoy Mary Robinson told the New York Times that she always listens to taxi drivers. The Enough Project took to the streets of Goma in eastern Congo and asked motorcycle taxi drivers, activists, and civilians for their message to her about the peace process. The success of the peace process depends on the inclusion of Congolese civil society voices such as those represented in this video.
BACKGROUND: The war in eastern Congo that began in the early 1990s and continues to this day has resulted in approximately 5.4 million deaths since 1996 (IRC). Former Irish President Mary Robinson, now UN Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region, is charged with helping push Congo's peace process forward.
A new Enough Project field report analyzes the strength levels of two key rebel groups in eastern Congo and recommends political and security strategies for U.N. and U.S. leaders to pursue with the Congolese and Rwandan governments as part of a comprehensive peace process. Read More »
New Report: UN, US should address FDLR and M23 rebel threats in Congo
A new Enough Project report argues that the United Nations and U.S. government should address regional security threats in Africa's Great Lakes region by working with Congo, Rwanda, and the U.N. Intervention Brigade to contain the rebel groups Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, and M23. “Taking Back Eastern Congo: Comprehensively Addressing the FDLR and M23 Rebel Groups” discusses Congo and Rwanda’s most prominent security concerns, blending analysis, field research, and interviews in Goma and the surrounding region.
The report also provides recommendations for regional envoys. These recommendations include promoting a sustained focus on core security issues; developing disarmament and reintegration plans for the M23 and Congolese armed groups; and improving operational intelligence, humanitarian measures as well as public outreach for the U.N. peacekeeping mission and new intervention brigade.
The report takes stock of the strength levels and recent battlefield dynamics involving two key rebel groups with different connections to Rwanda that shape security concerns for governments on both sides of the Congo-Rwanda border. The FDLR is headed by some of the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and it has attacked Rwanda in the past year. Kigali believes the FDLR poses an existential security threat. The M23 is an offshoot of several previous rebel groups, and the U.N. and other groups have linked it to the Rwandan government, but Kigali denies the link. “Taking Back Eastern Congo” argues that neutralizing a weakened FDLR through a more robust and comprehensive strategy could mitigate Rwanda’s security concerns in eastern Congo. Alleviating these Rwandan security concerns could, in turn, result in a more rapid solution to the M23.
Goma-based Enough Project field researcher and report co-author Timo Mueller says, “As the U.N. peacekeeping force and the Intervention Brigade work to improve their capabilities on the ground, it is also as important that the U.N., U.S., African Union, and European Union envoys encourage substantive talks to take place as soon as possible on the security interests of states in the region, including support for rebel groups.”
Enough Project field researcher and report co-author Fidel Bafilemba adds,“The people of eastern Congo have been bearing the brunt of the many atrocities of the FDLR rebel group. Regional leaders must finally commit to resolving this issue once and for all.”
The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change. To learn more about Enough, go to www.enoughproject.org.
The Atma Foundation, a partner organization of the Enough Project, has launched a new initiative to build relationships and connections among American and Congolese women called Atma Letters. Read More »
Report: Rwanda's Stake in Congo: Understanding Interests to Achieve Peace
WASHINGTON -- Conflict resolution efforts to end the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will be unsuccessful if Rwanda's security, economic, and political interests that play central roles in the war are not addressed within the peace process, argues a new Enough Project report released today. Contentious relations between Congo and its neighbors have been a critical factor in making Congo the deadliest war in the world over the past 19 years. The report, “Rwanda's Stake in Congo: Understanding Interests to Achieve Peace” focuses on the Congo-Rwanda relationship and argues that U.N. and U.S. envoys to the region, Mary Robinson and Russ Feingold, should use a combination of incentives and pressures to address these interests.
“Rwanda and Congo are elephants in each other's living rooms," says Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast. “Until that relationship is addressed, and the interests that underlie it, there will be blood in eastern Congo."
"The key to unlocking peace is to expand the economic pie for Congo, Rwanda, and the region by bringing in a much more robust private sector that practices responsible investment in conflict-free minerals. Right now, the fighting is over surface-level mines, but the fact is that there are billions of dollars worth of mining deposits in the ground that lie undeveloped. If the U.N. and U.S. envoys build the right incentives for cooperation in the peace process, this investment will benefit all parties. Some will benefit from financial services, others will benefit from mining revenues, and others will benefit from new roads and infrastructure. Rwanda, Congo, and the region will then be financially invested in peace instead of war.”
The aftermath of the Rwandan genocide spilled into Congo in the mid-1990s, exacerbating preexisting intercommunal tensions and conflict. These tensions, coupled with the Congolese government’s deep corruption and bad governance created conditions in which the Congolese army and a host of militias have operated with impunity and destabilized eastern Congo. Additionally, Rwanda’s direct intervention in Congo at times and its periodic support for armed groups in eastern Congo have been central drivers of continuing conflict, states the report.
Rwanda’s core concerns include what it believes to be an existential security threat posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, the Hutu extremist armed group based in eastern Congo, which has attacked Rwanda four times over the past year. Furthermore, Rwanda has economic interests in Congo in natural resources, land, and cross-border trade. Some of its interests have led to illicit activities, while it has pursued other interests through legitimate means. Rwanda has a domestic minerals sector but is also a transit point for Congolese minerals. Rwanda’s economy is reliant on the minerals trade because of the country’s significant trade deficit, and minerals are critical in filling this gap, as they are the country’s second-highest generator of foreign exchange. Illustratively, Rwanda's tantalum exports increased by 112 percent in the first six months of 2013 over the same period in 2012. The protection of Tutsi populations in Congo’s eastern provinces and the return of over 50,000 Congolese refugees to Congo are also core interests as stated by Rwanda.
To address these core interests, the report offers recommendations to the U.N. and U.S. envoys to build on the "11+4" Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework signed in February 2013. Specifically, the envoys should work to incentivize both countries to create transparent, legitimate regional economic cooperation and to work to remove the security threats to regional governments, including the FDLR, the M23, and other armed groups. The report also emphasizes that verified state support from any government in the region to any armed group should result in targeted sanctions or other escalating repercussions. Furthermore, it recommends that the U.S. and U.N. envoys support increased efforts at accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, both through the International Criminal Court and domestic processes.
While previous international peace initiatives have largely circumvented Rwanda’s role in the continuing conflict, this report emphasizes that any solution must address Rwandan economic and security concerns and push for Congo’s institutional reforms in order to be successful. The political will for peace and cooperation will develop only when these two states begin to invest financially in regional economic integration and work together on certain security issues while critical institutional reforms take place in Congo. Combining a conflict-free mining sector and improved infrastructure in Congo with Rwanda’s attractiveness for potential investments could initiate a process of transformation, argues the report.
Warped and exploitative regional relationships have been one of the most critical factors in Congo becoming the site of the deadliest war in the world over the past two decades. Several of Congo’s neighbors have been deeply involved in the war, and the Congolese government’s deep corruption and bad governance have created conditions in which the army and a host of militias have operated with impunity and destabilized eastern Congo. The Congo-Rwanda relationship, however, has been at the heart of the decade-and-ahalf-long war in Congo and is thus the focus of this report.
By Sasha Lezhnev and John Prendergast | Oct 16, 2013
United Nations has partnered with the UK to launch a powerful new political campaign to end rape in war. Already, 128 countries have publicly committed themselves to a new Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. It promotes women’s full participation in peace negotiations. In doing so, the declaration casts women as more than victims of sexual assault during conflict who require restitution. Instead, it envisions them as peacemakers and change agents for their countries' futures. Read More »