Comesa wades into DRC fray
Harare – Comesa has stepped up its efforts to end the stand-off pitting the DRC and Rwanda.
This week, seven officials from the bloc went to Rwanda to get that country’s side of the story.
Eastern DRC has been ravaged by an uprising by a rebel group calling itself M23 (March 23) for several months now.
A UN Group of Experts has concluded that Rwanda is arming, financing and training the rebels in addition to providing logistical support, a charge that Kigali denies.
The area is reportedly rich in heavy rare earth minerals.
The Comesa team included Sir James Manchan (The Seychelles, Former President) who is heading the mission, Ambassador Bethwell Kiplagat from Kenya, Ambassador Simbi Mubako from Zimbabwe, and High Commissioner Bandawe Chisala of Malawi.
This follows a Comesa decision at a meeting of the region's Committee on Peace last month, and comes ahead of a regional foreign ministers’ meeting to be held in Uganda.
Tension has remained high following last week’s killing of a Congolese soldier on the border with Rwanda, though the two sides are said to be unwilling to escalate hostilities.
And religious leaders in Rwanda were reported to have petitioned the UN to distance itself from the report by its group of experts expressly fingering Kigali in the crisis.
The religious leaders questioned the experts’ integrity, their methodology, and their alleged failure to consult widely enough before drawing conclusions.
But apart from the UN experts, other groups have also raised their concern about what is going on.
In October, a group calling itself ‘Action Central Africa Berlin’ issued a petition on “Recognition of massacres committed in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1994 as Crimes Against Humanity”.
The petition was directed to the AU, SADC, the UN Security Council, the German Bundestag, the European Parliament, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.
According to Reuters, relations between the two Great Lakes neighbours – never warm – have chilled considerably since UN investigators accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels.
Violence in the region has been a constant worry for decades. In 1996, Kigali invaded its much larger neighbour, allegedly in pursuit of Rwandan Hutu extremists responsible for a 1994 genocide that killed some 800 000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
A second invasion a year later sucked in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and, briefly, Chad as they battled Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebels, who also allegedly had the unstated support of France and the United States.
Rwanda's involvement in eastern Congo is said to be largely driven by economic interests – from smuggled minerals to fertile grazing lands for Rwandan cattle – and it has little interest in an open war with Congo.