On January 23, the Rwandan Air Force shot down a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) military plane in Goma, saying it had violated Rwandan airspace. This was the point of rising tensions between the two countries war foot.
Ten years after the failure of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Forced Intervention the brigade, the M23 rebel movement is reviving in eastern DRC. This shows the inability of the DRC, its neighboring countries, the United Nations (UN) Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the African Union (AU) to turn a military victory into a political success.
It is the objective of the Nairobi Process of the East African Community the link Political consultations with military action in eastern DRC. However, the latter, particularly the deployment of regional forces in the provinces of North and South Kivu, remains more advanced than the political process, which does not help to demobilize the armed groups.
The recent proliferation of peace initiatives in the Great Lakes region has not made it easier to combine political and military solutions. In part, the failure of the M23 in 2013 was due to a lack of efforts to address the roots of the conflict. Instead, the group withdrew from Goma and cantoned its troops in Rwanda and Uganda after being driven out by regional forces and torn apart by internal divisions.
Political dynamics in the DRC and international developments added to the problem. After repeating the waves In terms of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the DRC government and international partners were reluctant to integrate M23 fighters into the national army. Once the armed group was defeated, other issues dominated DRC politics, and the international community took a reactive approach to the Great Lakes issues.
The troubled region is on the agenda of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) heads of state meeting on the sidelines of this month’s AU summit. This is mostly a reaction to the fact that the M23 now occupies a significant part of North Kivu.
The regional dimension of the M23 issue has been exaggerated at the expense of local and national dynamics, which require greater political attention. This imbalance is inferred proof The UN Group of Experts presented in its December 2022 report that Rwanda and Uganda supported the M23 rebels.
Great Lakes region of Africa
Moreover, if countries support the rebels, this suggests that regional security instruments do not create enough space for dialogue, which would prevent states from using armed proxy groups. Different threat perceptions between Kigali and Kinshasa create security dilemmas in eastern DRC.
The UN Security Council was surprisingly silent on the allegations contained in the report of the Group of Experts. This will likely encourage various actors in the region to use direct or indirect violence to resolve conflicts.
Despite various regional initiatives, the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework remains central to the DRC and the Region in resolving the crisis. But the PSC has it again and again asked for a review of the framework, as requested by the DRC. Is this the best way to achieve consensus in a highly polarized region? If agreement is reached on a review, three issues must be considered: balancing national and regional commitments, managing bilateral alliances and the crucial role of guarantors.
Some Congolese decision-makers criticize the agreement as identifying national commitments only for the DRC. Observers say Solving the problem of foreign armed groups operating in eastern DRC also requires political reforms in the countries involved. The current regimes in Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda are unlikely to carry out such reforms, but the next PSC summit should consider this dimension.
A trust deficit between the DRC and some of its neighbors is at the heart of the current crisis. some the observers Note that the trigger for the escalation of tensions between Rwanda and the DRC was the latter’s rapprochement with Uganda and Burundi to fight their respective enemy rebels within the DRC.
DRC’s attempt to create a regional military order against armed groups in 2021 Rwanda, on the one hand, and Burundi and Uganda, on the other hand, hampered mistrust. The region’s political culture is dominated by short-term alliances, which align with Tshisekedi’s approach to cooperative security.
Finally, the security of the Great Lakes, as defined by the 2013 peace framework, requires the commitment of individual states and the strong involvement of guarantors. Some observers suggest that the East African Community should be a guarantor along with the UN, the AU, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and SADC. But guarantors should be added if their role in ensuring that states strictly fulfill their commitments is clear.
The competition between SADC, the East African Community and the ICGLR over peace initiatives – and through them Kenya, South Africa and Angola – is not conducive to joint monitoring of member states’ commitments. Also, the divisions in the UN Security Council and the AU’s silence on the repeated violations of the 2013 peace framework raise doubts about the will of the signatory states to respect their obligations.
The stability of the Great Lakes depends on a rigorous and shared diagnosis of threats and existing peace efforts. Countries in the region must also renew their agreement to address the challenges of insecurity and poverty. The AU should show more leadership and involvement in one of Africa’s most unstable regions.
Paul-Simon Handy, Regional Director for East Africa and African Union Representative, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Addis Ababa
(This article was first published by ISS Today, syndicate partner Premium Times. We have their permission to republish it.)
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