Laurent Nkunda, the leader of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), a rebel group in eastern DRC, was arrested Thursday as he tried to flee into Rwanda. Recently Rwanda sent in a few thousand troops into eastern DRC to disarm members of the Forces démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group that still entertains dreams of invading Rwanda to topple the Kagame regime. Nkunda, sensing that the dragnet might have been wide enough to catch him, decided to flee into Rwanda to avoid confrontation with the Rwandan troops.
Although Nkunda’s arrest may not significantly change the situation in eastern DRC – there are several distinct rebel groups in this part of the country – it sends a message that the leaders of murderous groups like Nkunda’s will not go unpunished. Nkunda should be tried for war crimes and general thuggery and put in prison for the rest of his life.
And the DRC needs to get its act together. The failure of Kinshasa to control the eastern parts of the country is a sign of gross incompetence. If Kinshasa cannot effectively control the region it should be bold enough to let it go. Otherwise the war of attrition it is fighting in that part of the country will continue to generate more and more splinter rebel groups and get even more complicated. In the mean time more people continue to lose their lives – on top of the 4 million already dead since the mid-90s.
I also think that it is time the international community stopped treating the Congo war as yet another irrational African tribal conflict. IT IS NOT. Indeed, no war in Africa deserves to be labeled as such. The war in the Congo, like most conflicts in Africa and elsewhere in the world, is a resource war. Ethnicity is just a rallying call. If real peace is to be achieved in the wider great lakes region of Africa the real issues of resource allocation will have to be addressed honestly.