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 »
On October 7, Green Bay Packers Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers partnered with the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo for a rally attended by thousands of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the event, sponsored by the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, Rodgers was joined by actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, Congolese Packers teammate Andy Mulumba, and student leaders on stage to raise awareness about the conflict in Congo, and to tell Madison students what they could do to stop key drivers of the conflict. Read More »
New Evidence: M23 Rebels in Congo Conflict Gold Trade
The Enough Project has released a groundbreaking new report that documents the conflict gold smuggling network of the Eastern Congo-based M23 rebels. The report, “Striking Gold: How M23 and its Allies are Infiltrating Congo's Gold Trade,” reveals how M23 is involved in the lucrative gold trade in eastern Congo, which is worth approximately $500 million per year overall. Instead of controlling mines directly, M23 has built alliances with other armed groups in gold-rich areas and expanded its contacts with influential traders in Uganda, Burundi, and Congo to trade gold. The report calls on U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold, the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Envoy Mary Robinson, and jewelry retailers to take concrete measures to limit the documented paths of conflict gold to international markets.
“Striking Gold” identifies four main gold exporters whose business operations enable M23 and other armed groups to profit from the gold trade, according to UN experts reports and Enough Project research. The report also names militia leaders, including M23 commander Sultani Makenga, who play a key role in the illicit trade. Makenga has built on the networks of former M23 co-commander Bosco Ntaganda and has extended alliances that cut across otherwise hostile ethnic and political divisions.
Ruben de Koning, co-author of the report, says, “Some of the major official gold exporters in Uganda and Burundi indirectly purchase smuggled gold from M23 and allied armed groups in violation of the U.N. arms embargo, and without exercising any due diligence on the origin of their gold. Sanctions against these individual exporters, as opposed to companies, would help prevent sanctioned owners from merely reinventing themselves under a new company name in order to continue operations. U.S. and U.N. sanctions would make it harder for M23 and other armed groups to finance their struggle, and compel others to start mitigating such risk.”
Sasha Lezhnev, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, says, “M23's deadly gold may be entering our jewelry stores or banks, which make up 80 percent of the global gold market. The U.S. government and jewelers can help stem this problem at its root. U.S. envoy Russ Feingold should press Congo, Rwanda, and the Great Lakes region to finalize their certification system to weed out conflict gold. Jewelers must also step up efforts to build a clean gold trade in Congo by joining public-private alliances and tech company projects like 'Solutions for Hope.'”
M23 allies have consolidated control over mines, particularly those in Walikale and Lubero territories in North Kivu province and in Ituri district in Orientale province. The growing revenues have enriched those who perpetrate atrocities and crimes against humanity in the region. M23 and its allies have also secured cross-border transit routes for smuggling to Bujumbura, Burundi, and Kampala, Uganda, both important regional hubs for international gold markets.
De Koning adds, “The ball is in the court of the U.S. government and U.N. Security Council to sanction these known exporters. Responsibility also lies with the downstream gold industry to conduct proper due diligence and invest in a clean gold trade in Congo.”
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.