U.S. needs to push for sanctions on Rwanda to help Congo
BACK IN January, President Obama rationalized his refusal to act in Syria in part by asking, in an interview with the New Republic, “How do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” Since then, his administration has supported a vigorous campaign of diplomacy and military intervention to stop the bloodshed in . . . Congo. This worthy effort now faces its first serious test.
The ramping up of hostilities between the warring factions is of huge concern but it was predictable with deployment of the African Intervention brigade. MONUSCO should be ready for this. MONUSCO's repeated failures are also a cause of this problem.
A United Nations-sponsored conference in February produced a peace framework; in March the U.N. Security Council authorized a 3,000-strong “intervention brigade,” the first in U.N. history, to carry out offensive operations against armed groups. The force, composed of troops from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania, is due to be fully deployed by next month — and it appears that its services will soon be needed. This month fighting has erupted between the Congolese army and a rebel group called M23 after months of relative calm. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes in North Kivu province, where there are already nearly 1 million displaced civilians.
That is one way of looking at it but I think that it is a fear of the " services " that the African Intervention Brigade will provide is directly responsible for the increased hostilities by all sides. That doesn't mean that I don't support the brigades deployment, I do. The consensus seems to be that a military solution will not work in the Eastern DR Congo but a well armed African Brigade that takes no shit from any of the warring parties seems to be part of a quasi military solution. It is vital that the brigade is allowed to deploy and build its strength up, this should be the prime goal of the 20,000 plus MONUSCO peace keepers currently deployed.
The scale of recent bloodshed in Congo is in no way comparable to that in Syria, but it stems from a chronic conflict that has repeatedly convulsed Africa’s Great Lakes region. With the Congolese government in faraway Kinshasa unable to control the region, neighboring countries — beginning with Rwanda — have repeatedly intervened. Rwanda originally sought to protect itself from Hutu militias that fled its territory after carrying out a 1994 genocide, but over the years it has developed economic interests in Congo and close ties with Congolese Tutsis.
Actually the Syrian comparison seems fairly simplistic and not very helpful the situations are very different. The bottom line in the Eastern DR Congo is that Rwanda must stop its intervention both directly and indirectly through its support of M23. That said Kinshasa is playing with fire through its support of the FDLR.
According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, Rwanda is backing M23 despite its commitment at the February peace conference to stop sponsoring Congolese militias. The report says M23 has carried out scores of murders and rapes since March. It is not the only offender: Government troops are also guilty of abuses, as are smaller militias allied with one of the two sides. M23 may be trying to gain advantage ahead of the U.N. force’s deployment, which is why it’s important that the force begin to act on its mandate as soon as possible.
I will blog the Human Rights Watch report separately but it is very damming of the actions of M23.
" (Goma) – M23 rebels have summarily executed at least 44 people and raped at least 61 women and girls since March 2013 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Local residents and rebel deserters reported recent forced recruitment of men and boys by the M23 in both Rwanda and Congo. .....
The latest Human Rights Watch findings are based on more than 100 interviews since March, including with former M23 fighters who left the movement between late March and July and civilians living near the Congo-Rwanda border, some of whom were victims of abuses."
MONUSCO over riding objective over the next few weeks must be to allow the brigade to form up. If that means turning its weapons on the Congolese army ( FARDC ), M23 or the FDLR and should they be stupid enough to invade the Rwandan armed forces ( RDF ) so be it.
The Obama administration continues to focus on the problem: Secretary of State John F. Kerry is due to lead a ministerial discussion on Congo at the United Nations on Thursday. Mr. Kerry can be expected to remonstrate in private with representatives of Rwanda — which unconvincingly denies links to M23 — but he ought to speak out publicly about the violations as well. The United States and European governments, longtime supporters of Rwanda, suspended some aid last year after M23 briefly seized the city of Goma. Now they need to threaten further sanctions, while also offering Rwanda incentives, including economic carrots, that will allow it to beat a face-saving retreat from Congo once and for all.
The sanctions should be targeted at the political and military leadership of Rwanda and should be ready for immediate application. Equally the same sanctions should be made ready for application to the DR Congo leadership should they continue supporting the murderers of FDLR. Rwanda's repeated denials should be ignored it is time to make it clear to all sides that the world will not tolerate the ongoing denial of human rights and security to the people of the Eastern DR Congo.