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In New York this week, Rwandan President Paul Kagame touted the recent thawing in relations between Rwanda and Congo as “very good progress” toward peace in a region marred by over 15 years of conflict.
During a speech at the International Peace Institute, President Kagame said, according to the Associated Press:
"The situation has now changed fundamentally because Rwanda and the DRC both now recognize that we must work together to find answers to peace for Congo.
On the political and diplomatic front, we have now exchanged ambassadors with the DRC, paving the way for further efforts in the more important realms of economic growth and development including joint projects in energy, environment, trade and investment.
(…) Rwanda does not have capacity to exploit our own mineral resources, (... so) how can we take advantage of those in the DRC?"
During some of the most intense flare-ups in eastern Congo, soldiers from many as nine countries were involved in the fighting, opportunistically seeing Congo’s instability as the chance to get their hands on some of the country’s vast mineral wealth. The war served as a pretext for exploitation, which ultimately became a driving force behind the violence.
The conflict in Congo has always been a scramble for resources and a fight to the death over land, ethnicity, and other internal factors that spill over from and to Rwanda. So rapprochement between Rwanda and Congo, while critical, is still only a step on the road to real peace. It is important to understand, regretfully, that Congo and Rwanda are now quietly cooperating in what still is a minerals trade dominated by mafia networks and violence. So even though Congo and Rwanda are getting along better, the people of the Kivus will continue to suffer in unprecedented ways as long as the illicit mineral trade and simmering land and identity issues are not addressed.
As a start, we need to see real progress towards a certification scheme for the minerals coming out of Congo, to ensure that they aren't fueling conflict. Support the bi-partisan Congo Conflict Minerals Act, Senate Bill 891 introduced by Senators Brownback, Durbin, and Feingold, as a good first step.
Check out our recent report that outlines an action plan to end the world's deadliest war in eastern Congo.
Photo: Soldiers in eastern Congo (AP)