IS THE EAC CAPABLE OF RESOLVING DRC- RWANDA CONFLICT?
The East African Community (EAC) is at a crossroads. With the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda locked in a dangerous conflict, the EAC has a choice to make. Will it maintain a lukewarm attitude and watch as its member states engage in a potentially explosive situation, or will it rise to the challenge and act as a peacemaker, bringing both sides to the negotiating table?
The recent Extra-Ordinary Summit in Bujumbura saw the EAC address the escalating tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. This is not just any ordinary spat between neighboring countries, but a complex issue that requires a delicate and nuanced approach. The EAC has a chance to play peacemaker and mediate a solution that benefits all parties involved. Will they seize this opportunity or will they watch as tensions continue to escalate? The region awaits their decision to step up and take responsibility to a high-stakes diplomatic dispute with far-reaching consequences for the stability and security of the entire region.
The escalating tensions between the DRC and Rwanda is a delicate dance between two nations, with opposing narratives - the DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the destabilizing M23 rebels, while Rwanda denies these claims and accuses the DRC of seeking to sow insecurity and violating its air space. Meanwhile, the deployment of EAC standby force to the DRC to restore peace and stability has yet to yield any tangible results.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is blessed with an abundance of minerals and precious gems, but unfortunately, years of conflict and mismanagement have prevented the majority of its 100 million inhabitants from reaping the benefits of this wealth. Despite Kinshasa's claims that Kigali is supporting the M23 rebel group, which have been backed by UN experts and various Western nations, Rwanda denies any involvement.
The Summit comes at a time when Qatar recently attempted to mediate a meeting between DRC President Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Kagame, but the plan failed when Tshisekedi declined to attend. Tensions between the two countries escalated when Rwandan forces shot down a Congolese fighter jet, claiming it had violated their airspace. Kinshasa viewed the incident as a hostile act, which they deemed "an act of war".
On the sidelines of the Summit, the leaders of Burundi and Rwanda exchanged warm greetings in Bujumbura, putting an end to years of strained relations and accusations of meddling in each other's internal affairs. In 2020, Kagame urged the newly elected President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, to improve diplomatic ties. Burundi has long accused Rwanda of harboring those responsible for a failed coup in 2015 that plunged the country into turmoil.
The Summit also happened on the heels of Pope Francis' visit to Kinshasa, where he consoled the victims of the ongoing conflict and spoke out against the "brutal atrocities" and "inhumane violence" happening in the region. The eastern DRC has been plagued by militias for decades, with many of them tracing their roots back to the regional wars that occurred in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In November 2021, the M23 rebel group made territorial gains and even approached the main commercial hub of Goma. In response, the EAC decided to establish a military force to bring stability to eastern Congo, with the first troops arriving in Goma that same month.
Kenya's President William Ruto stated that the security situation remains "fragile and regressing" as more and more civilians are affected by the conflict. He emphasized the need for action to safeguard the sovereignty of Congo's mineral resources, which have been a key factor in the country's numerous conflicts.
The conflict has the potential to spread like wildfire and engulf neighboring countries, triggering a regional security crisis that could have devastating effects. No one wants to be living next door to a war zone, and the EAC members must act swiftly to prevent this from happening. Furthermore, this conflict is also a threat to regional trade and commerce. The EAC is an economic bloc, and the continued tensions between the DRC and Rwanda could disrupt the flow of goods and people, causing a slowdown in economic growth and hindering the development of trade and investment in the region.
The conflict is also a blow to the efforts of the EAC to promote peace, stability, and security in the region. The EAC is supposed to be a beacon of cooperation and integration, and the continued hostility between the DRC and Rwanda could erode trust and cooperation between its members, undermining the very essence of the EAC.
With the Extraordinary Summit, the EAC is determined to find a solution and bring stability back to the region. Whether or not it will be successful remains to be seen, but the outcome of these discussions will have a long-lasting impact on the fate of the region. The East African Community (EAC) is facing a serious challenge, and it's time to think outside the box and come up with innovative policy solutions to resolve the simmering tensions between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda.
To begin with, there is a need to increase diplomatic efforts to promote dialogue and find common ground between the two nations. The EAC should appoint a special envoy to mediate the talks and ensure that both sides are heard and their concerns are addressed. The EAC must also provide the necessary support and resources to make the dialogue process a success.
Moreover, the EAC must encourage both DRC and Rwanda to put aside their differences and work together to tackle the root causes of the conflict in the eastern DRC. This could involve supporting initiatives to promote economic development, strengthen security institutions, and address human rights concerns. The EAC must also provide technical and financial support to these initiatives.
In addition, the EAC should take proactive measures to prevent the conflict from spreading and triggering a regional security crisis. This could involve deploying a peacekeeping force or establishing a buffer zone along the DRC-Rwanda border. The EAC should also work closely with the African Union and other international organizations to ensure a coordinated and effective response to the situation. It is clear that the EAC must seize the moment and take decisive action to resolve this simmering conflict. Whether through diplomatic dialogue or other means, the EAC has a responsibility to ensure peace and stability in its region. With the right approach, the EAC can emerge from this crisis as a stronger and more united bloc, ready to tackle the Security challenges bedeviling the region.