Congo Takes Baby Steps Toward Peace

This week saw several tentative moves toward peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are baby steps, and they have all been taken before, but at least there is movement in the right direction.

One interesting step was the demand by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) that they get a seat at the table for any peace talks. The group is made up of Hutu Interahamwe who fled Rwanda after the genocide in 1994.

In an interview with Franz Wild, Colonel Edmond Garambe, the military spokesman for the FDLR said their goal is to participate in political life in Rwanda.

“Our goal is to return home and to see a democracy in Rwanda,” Garambe said. “There needs to be a platform for everyone.”

Garambe (who uses a nom de guerre) also denied that he receives support from the Congolese army, the FARDC. He made the statements to Wild while walking through Masisi accompanied by FARDC commanders. MONUC, the UN force in the region, has confirmed collaboration between the two in the past.

In the meantime, Garambe’s forces moved into the Ishasha corridor on the border between the DRC and Uganda, an area recently vacated by renegade General Laurent Nkunda’s army. Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), is a Tutsi group supported by the government of Rwanda.

In another development with potential for positive results, the DRC government has agreed to meet in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday for direct talks with Nkunda. Joseph Kabila’s government has been resisting direct negotiations with the rebel leader, insisting instead that they return to a wider peace pact signed last January. DRC Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said they now hope to formalize a ceasefire and discuss a peace plan for eastern Congo with Nkunda.

Mwamba made the announcement following a meeting with Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Rosemary Museminali, in which agreement was reached on a joint plan to deal with the FDLR. The comprehensive operational plan against the Interahamwe had been prepared and presented by senior military personnel from both countries.

Officially, at least, the DRC and Rwanda are now allied in the effort to defeat Garambe’s forces. It remains to be seen whether the FARDC commanders respond to that development. It will also be interesting to see what role, if any, Nkunda will play in the campaign if and when it begins.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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