There is a general rule in Africa, if not across the world: Behind any rebellion with legs is usually a meddling neighbor. And whether the rebellion in eastern Congo explodes into another full-fledged war, and drags a large chunk of central Africa with it, seems likely to depend on the involvement of Rwanda, Congo’s tiny but disproportionately mighty neighbor.There has been a Tall vs. Not-Tall struggle going on in Central East Africa for a long time, dating back well before the arrival of Europeans. It manifests itself under different tribal names, such Tutsi vs. Hutu in Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo, or Luo vs. Kikuyu in Kenya. Generally speaking, the Not-Talls have the numbers and the Talls have the brains. (Our President-Elect, by the way, is 50% Tall.)
There is a long and bloody history here, and this time around the evidence seems to be growing that Rwanda is meddling again in Congo’s troubles; at a minimum, the interference is on the part of many Rwandans. As before, Rwanda’s stake in Congo is a complex mix of strategic interest, business opportunity and the real fears of a nation that has heroically rebuilt itself after near obliteration by ethnic hatred.
The signs are ever-more obvious, if not yet entirely open. Several demobilized Rwandan soldiers, speaking in hushed tones in Kigali, Rwanda’s tightly controlled capital, described a systematic effort by Rwanda’s government-run demobilization commission to send hundreds if not thousands of fighters to the rebel front lines. ...
There seems to be a reinvigorated sense of the longstanding brotherhood between the Congolese rebels, who are mostly ethnic Tutsi, and the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda, which has supported these same rebels in the past.The brotherhood is relatively secret for now, just as it was in the late 1990s when Rwanda denied being involved in Congo, only to later admit that it was occupying a vast section of the country. Rwanda’s leaders are vigilant about not endangering their carefully crafted reputation as responsible, development-oriented friends of the West.
December 4, 2008
The New York Times has an article on the latest fighting in the Congo, complete with a picture of Congolese Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, who, I must say, has a quite distinctive fashion sense. (He claims to be a Seventh-Day Adventist priest. The Seventh-Day Adventists say they don't have priests and wouldn't take a warlord if they did).