Nearly 4 months after the M23 was born, no concrete solution is foreseen for the end of the crisis it created.
The ICGLR conference so far proved to be, as expected, a vain attempt or way to buy time, as there still is not an agreement even on the composition of the miracle neutral force it proposes. Once this basic consideration is tackled, members will still have to debate funding, coordination, and integration with existing forces in the ground. In other words, more months…
The international community also continues to shine with inconsistency. On one hand, several countries confirmed the freezing of assistance to Rwanda, as the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders called for once again during his DRC visit yesterday. On the other, it does absolutely nothing to make this suspension somehow meaningful.
There are still no discussions on the creation of a broader observation mission, in order to evaluate the ongoing external support to M23. Not only does this raise question as to the suspensions of assistance to Rwanda – when and how will they be lifted without defined verification mechanisms? -, but also it completely disregards the consequences of the time passing as the ICGLR attempt slowly reveals its inconsistencies.
Politically speaking, opposition voices become louder and sometime more radical in DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Visible examples are the Rwandan opposition’s call to the ICC to open investigations for war crimes against Paul Kagame, the Congolese opposition groups and movements trying to rally new supporters under the banner of the failed Kinshasa response to the rebellion, and the renewed Human Rights violations history reminders on the Kampala authorities.
Militarily speaking, the situation continues to get more complicated. Several Mayi-Mayi groups from North and South Kivu have pledged alliance with the M23, which continues recruiting, getting weapons, and established administrations and political structures in the areas of North Kivu it controls.
It also gets richer, by taxing all goods crossing the border, and by taxing all vehicles using the roads they control. A minibus going from Goma to Kiwanja has to pay 150 USD to be allowed passage, a truck 300 USD, these costs of course charged on the tickets paid by the population who depends on these transports.
The internally displaced population by the events continues to grow, and humanitarians struggle to find appropriate locations for IDP camps that can bring satisfactory security, water and hygiene possibilities.
More than 50,000 mostly Congolese Tutsi refugees continue living in camps in Rwanda. These have always been seen with suspicion by extremist parts of the Congolese population, and their return is a sensitive issue, as each time some are accused to be Rwandans trying to infiltrate DRC. This has previously increased ethnical tensions, and created countless delays in the return of the refugees that had fled to Rwanda during the 1998 war. The longer the current refugees will have to remain in Rwanda, the harder and more sensitive their return to DRC will be.
It is therefore again urgent that all actors gear up in their search for concrete solutions to the crisis. The minimum, as a starter, would be the creation of an extended UN observer mission charged to monitor the ongoing support to M23 and mid to long term consequences further delays can have. This mission could also serve as instrument for donor countries to eventually resume their aid to Rwanda once its support to the rebellion will stop.
The international community should also take reigns and recognize the failure of the ICGLR initiative to bring sufficient results in reasonable time. It should organize a military response to the M23, FDLR, FNL and other cross-border rebellions, in close collaboration with the Congolese authorities and the SADC countries, which seem to show more will for a fast intervention. This will need to be closely coordinated, if not integrated, with the existing MONUSCO troops, but serve under a specific commandment as the French operation Artemis did in Ituri in 2003. There are no multiple solutions to a rebellion, the question is when.
Tic, tac… As time tics, hopes of seeing a real turning point in the 16 years old plight of Eastern DRC fade away. Will anyone care enough to move a finger, this time? Looking at how things appear, I guess not. Please, somebody prove me wrong…