Source: State-in-Exile: Refugees’ Involvement in Host-Country Conflicts.

By: Marieke van Buuren, Raymond Karam, Jelle Wouters, Jolien Veldwijk

An outline of the history between the Rwanda refugees and the DRC

Joseph-Desire Mobutu became president of the DRC in 1965, but when the Cold War ended, Mobutu’s regime came under increased international pressure. In his struggle to remain in power Mobutu managed to play off ethnic rivalries between his various opponents. The rising ethnic tensions caused much unrest in the Congo; this allowed Mobutu to claim that the country would go under without him leading it (Berkeley: 139-141). Another way Mobutu used his power was by manipulating the politics of neighboring states. He supported both governments and rebels, thus creating friendly governments throughout much of the cold war. When these regimes started to change at the end of the 1980’s Mobutu tried desperately to prevent his neighbors from becoming enemies. One way of doing this was by supporting the Hutu militia in Rwanda (Meredith: 524-526). Mobutu helped the Hutu militia take power. After the genocide the Hutu population fled to Zaire, among which were many of the genocidaires. The fact that Mobutu allowed the genocidaires a safe haven in Zaire had a negative influence on the relationship between Zaire and the new Tutsi government in Rwanda. Most of the refugees fled to the east of Zaire, in the province of Kivu. People with the same ethnicity as the Rwandese, Banyarwanda (both Hutu and Tutsi) lived in this area. The locals felt animosity towards this section of the population, seeing them as intruders. During Mobutu’s battle to remain in power, he encouraged the escalation of these kinds of ethnic tensions. In 1993 the locals, autochthones, launched attacks on the Banyarwanda (Meredith: 528-530).

When the Hutu population entered the country in 1994 they already came into a conflict-ridden society. Their involvement however changed the loyalties between the fighting factions. The Tutsi refugees and local Tutsi joined forces and called themselves Banyamulenge. The autochthones, together with local Hutu’s and Hutu refugees launched attacks on the Tutsi population. Mobutu and his army supported the Hutu. In October clashes occurred between Mobutu’s army and the Banyamulenge. As a result of this the deputy governor of Kivu announced to the Tutsi that they were to leave, if they stayed they were to be executed or expelled. The violence in the border area of Congo spilled over into neighbouring Rwanda. The new Tutsi government suffered under the attacks of the Hutu refugees. It became increasingly concerned with Mobutu’s support for the Hutu population. The relationship between the sending and receiving state was therefore very bad, on both sides there was a lot of mistrust (Kenyon Lischer: 16-17). With their help the Alliance des Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Congo Zaire (AFDL) gained power on 17-5-1997 (Meredith:530-537).

3. Levels of Conflict A: Rwandan Refugees in Congo

It is not so easy to define the different groups that are part of the conflict in Congo we are analyzing. Before we do, it is necessary to say that Congo will be referred to as Zaire in this section, because that was the name of the country in 1994 until 1997, the period of conflict we will be focusing on.

3.1 Parties and Issues

When the Rwanda refugees came to Zaire in 1994 after the genocide in their country, they came to an area already troubled by conflict. There were two main parties in conflict with each other in North-Kivu, which is in East-Zaire, namely the Banyarwanda and the autochthones. The Banyarwanda are also Hutu and Tutsi, but they had already left their home country Rwanda since 1911 due to economical reasons. They lived in peace together, but they did fight the autochthonic population in North-Kivu. During those battles, between five and twenty thousand people died. This is not the conflict that we are focusing on, so we will not go deeply into this particular conflict. Mobutu encouraged the ethnic tension between the Banyarwanda and the autochthones in that particular region and did not do anything to stop it. The violence in East-Zaire reached a new dimension in 1994 after the settlement of 1.5 million Rwanda Hutu refugees at the border of Rwanda and Zaire. As said before, this area was already dominated with conflict and these refugees were not only innocent civilians; among them were 15.000 ex Rwanda soldiers (ex-Far) and thousands of Interahamwe members of the militia who were responsible for the genocide in Rwanda. After their defeat they used materials and money they took from Rwanda to start a new war from the refugee camps. They infiltrated in Rwanda, but their first priority was to stir up the ethnic violence in East-Zaire with the goal to establish a Hutu-country. The Interahamwe and the ex-Far, often in cooperation with soldiers from Zaire, attacked the Banyarwanda Tutsi and part of the autochthonic people. The conflict parties that can be identified here are the refugees from Rwanda, the Banyarwanda and the autochthones, but they were not three separate conflict parties. The internal subgroups of the Rwanda refugees are the Hutu and the Tutsi, Part of the Hutu refugees in Zaire are the ex-Far and the Interahamwe. The ex-Far were Hutu soldiers in Rwanda and the Interahamwe were Hutu militia and both of these groups were the genocidaires in the Rwanda Genocide. They flew to Zaire, because Mobutu had supported them and in Zaire they got involved with the already fighting factions for their own personal reasons: they wanted to establish a Hutu-country.

The Interahamwe

The Hutu refugees (both civilian and genocidaire) joined the local Hutu (Banyarwanda-Hutu) and the autochthones and attacked the Tutsi population in north-Kivu with support of president Mobutu. The Tutsi population did not only consist of the Tutsi refugees, but also of the local Tutsi. They are the Banyamulenge, named after the Mulenge Mountains around the city Uvira.

The issues of conflict are not very clear, because all the different conflict parties and sub-parties have their own personal motivation for fighting. There is not just one conflict issue. The Banyamulenge fought because Zaire would not grant them citizenship, even though they have been living in the county since 1797, when the Tutsi from Rwanda moved to East Zaire under the reign of the Rwanda Tutsi King Yuhi IV Gahindiro. In East Zaire they were part of the Rwandan empire. When Zaire became independent in 1960, they did get the Zaire identity, but that was later taken away from them. Tutsi refugees from Rwanda, who survived the Rwanda Genocide, joined the Banyamulenge. These persecuted refugees (Kenyon Lischer: 12-13) flew from their country because of direct persecution and oppression. Their experience of persecution created political cohesion and when the Hutu in Zaire again attacked them with the support of the Mobutu-government, they needed to fight back.

In 1996 the governor of North-Kivu said that the Tutsi only had two options: to be expelled or to die. Soldiers from Zaire took the hunted Tutsi, both Banyamulenge and the Tutsi refugees, back to the Rwandan border, took their identity cards and gave those to the Hutu refugees, also to the genocidaires. The Hutu’s from the Banyarwanda were forced to choose sides and they organized their own militia group Magrivi, and also started to fight the Tutsi. Other local tribes such as the Hunde also united themselves in their militia, the Maji Maji Ingilima, and fought against the Hutu refugees and the Banyarwanda Hutu. The issues of conflict for the Hutu in North-Kivu are also very complex, because the Hutu population is very complex as well. As mentioned above, the Hutu fighting faction consists of the autochtones, the local Hutu from the Banyarwanda and the Hutu refugees. To start off with the last sub-group, the Hutu refugees are state-in-exile refugees (Kenyon Lischer: 16-17) and they brought their weapons and other materials from Rwanda to East Zaire. The groups who committed the genocide (the ex-Far and the Interahamwe) are also part of this sub-group and they have a highly organized political and military leadership. Their goal is to establish their own Hutu-country, but they need to create a space for that first.

The Banyarwanda and the autochthones of North-Kivu had already fought before about North-Kivu and the right to exist. A lot of people were killed during those battles and this is believed to be an issue for the conflict we are discussing now. The local Hutu and the Banyarwanda Hutu joined the Hutu refugees in their battle for the creation of their own country. President Mobutu, who saw their cause as an opportunity to clear his country of the Tutsi, supported the Hutu.

3.2 Context

Congo’s history has been troubled from the start. Due to its vast supply of natural resources, such as diamonds and oil, many political leaders and warlords have been eager to control the country. Before official colonization by Belgium in 1908, Congo was the personal property of King Leopold II of Belgium. He used the country as a means for personal gain, exploiting the Congolese people and not investing anything in the country. As a result of rising international attention for the atrocities committed in Congo, King Leopold was eventually forced to give it up. Belgian colonial rule was always based upon the idea that the colonial period would last indefinitely. No Congolese were therefore allowed positions of power, and no formal training or education was given to bureaucrats and soldiers.

When Ghana obtained independence from Britain in 1957, the Congolese people increasingly started to organize themselves politically, based on ethnic background. Belgium had initially planned to move towards decolonization by 1964 at the earliest. The increasing unrest in Congo made them fear for a situation similar to Algeria. The Belgians thereupon decided to move independence up to June 1960, under the leadership of Patrice Lumumba.

From the outset, Congo experienced many problems; it had no trained bureaucracy or military and was suffering under ethnic tensions. Various ethnic leaders competed with Lumumba for control over the Congo. Calling in help from the United States, Lumumba’s chief of staff, Joseph Mobutu was able to step forward as president in 1965 for an indefinite period of time.

Flag of Zaire

His reign was characterized by enormous corruption. Mobutu created a personality cult and a political system called Mobutuism. As the largest country in central Africa, Zaire was an important factor in the Cold War. One of the reasons Mobutu managed to stay in power for well over 30 years was the American support he received for resisting communism (Meredith: 93-115).

3.3 National level

When the Cold War ended, Mobutu’s regime came under increased international pressure. In his struggle to remain in power Mobutu managed to play off ethnic rivalries between his various opponents. The rising ethnic tensions caused much unrest in Zaire; this allowed Mobutu to claim that the country would go under without him leading it, and thus consolidate his power (Berkeley: 139-141). The country was however already in crisis. In 1994, inflation reached 9,800 per cent. The large diamond mines were looted and there was no more money in banks and businesses. Most of the provinces of Zaire were no longer connected to the central government. With his divide-and-rule techniques, through creating another enemy, Mobutu managed to prevent a coup. In 1994 this enemy was the Tutsi population. With Mobutu’s help and money the Hutu genocidaires were able to regroup in the province of Kivu in Zaire, thus building a state-in-exile. Here they set up camps and rebuilt their army (Meredith: 526-529).

3.4 Regional level

Because of the wars in the Great Lakes Region in Africa, there was a lot of unrest in the Congo, and its surrounding area. As a result of the various conflicts, there were also many small arms available in the region. The presence of these made it easier for the Hutu militia’s to take over the camps and launch attacks on the Tutsi populations in Rwanda and Congo (Berkeley: 135). Both the president of Uganda, Museveni, and the new Tutsi president of Rwanda, Kagame, were worried about the activities of the Hutu militias. Museveni had supported the Tutsi when they were refugees in Uganda. He feared they would return if the Hutu militias won out in Rwanda. This would mean increasing unrest in the region. Kagame was of course worried about another Hutu invasion and a repetition of the genocide in Rwanda. They thus decided to actively support the Tutsi’s, and by extension the opponents of Mobutu. The fact that there were vast diamond resources in Zaire might have also been an important factor in their considerations (Meredith: 530-532).

3.5 International level

The conflict in Zaire started with the influx of Hutu refugees in 1994, but the Hutu refugees did arrive in a country embedded in violence. At the international levels various factors had an influence on the spread of the conflict. First of all, the cold war ended in the end of the 1980s. This led the Americans to withdraw their support for Mobutu’s regime. He was no longer a necessary ally in the fight against communism. Without money and political backing from the US Mobutu was having difficulties sustaining his power. He had managed to pay off his political rivals, but now his funds were running out. Part of the conflict can be explained by Mobutu’s fight to hang onto power, now without the support of the US (Meredith: 390-391). A more direct influence on international level was the response to the genocide in Rwanda. The UN had failed to intervene in the conflict in Rwanda. After the failure in Somalia, the Security Council did not want to get involved in another large peace mission on the African continent. The few UN soldiers present in Rwanda therefore stood by and watched as thousands of Tutsi’s were murdered. When word of this came out in the media, a long time after the genocide had ended, the international community came under increased pressure to do something about it. They therefore spared no costs in aiding the refugees that came out of Rwanda after the genocide had taken place. These decisions were also very much influenced by the French government, which had supported the Hutu government in Rwanda from the start. France wanted to consolidate its power in francophone Africa. The Tutsi rebels that invaded Rwanda came from refugee populations in ‘English’ Uganda. The French thus saw the war, and resulting genocide in Rwanda as a struggle for influence in the region. In this struggle they also actively supported Mobutu’s regime, hoping Zaire would stand up to Uganda as the biggest power in the region. In July of 1994 about 2 million people fled Rwanda to neighboring countries, in one of the biggest exoduses the world had ever seen. Through increased attention from the media, people everywhere were able to see the refugees on TV. The UN and various humanitarian organizations also made sure that their presence was well represented in the media. The fact that the refugees were mainly Hutu’s fleeing from vengeful Tutsi’s was rarely communicated. Among these Hutu refugees were many of the original genocidaires. They were supported by the international community in refugee camps in Zaire (Meredith: 518-535).

4. Causes of Conflict A: Rwandan Refugees in Congo

4.1 Causes of Congo Civil War

Marieke van Buuren

Gerd Junne has described a way to look at the causes of a conflict. These causes can be divided into three categories: systemic causes, proximate causes, and immediate catalysts. Systemic causes are those factors underlying the conflict. They can be seen as pre-conditions for the conflict. Proximate causes are specific situational circumstances that can exacerbate a situation, by increasing insecurity in the region for example. Immediate catalysts then are the factors that eventually trigger the conflict. These are the immediate motivations for people to go into conflict (Junne 2007). I will try to analyze the causes for the conflict in (eastern) Zaire by using the categories described by Gerd Junne, placing them in the context of changing power relations in the region. The eruption of the conflict in eastern Congo happened in a very short time. The causes for the conflict however can be traced further back. Some of the possibilities for the conflict were already in place at the end of colonization. When the Belgians left their colonies, these were in a state of chaos (Meredith:100-101). This part of history has already been touched upon in our introduction; I will now focus on the systemic causes as they were at the end of the Cold War.

Systemic causes
The first event that can be named a systemic cause, takes place at global level. The end of the Cold War changed the faith of many African dictators, Mobutu of Zaire was no exception. He had been able to stay in power by support from western powers. When he was no longer needed as an ally against communism this was a severe blow to his power. He had been able to buy off local and regional competition to his power through money he had received from western governments. When western forces would no longer support him, his revenue was drying up. He had reigned Zaire with an iron fist, beating down opposition and civil unrest. He now had less means to do so, and Mobutu realized that his old ways of ruling were coming to an end. Forces from in and outside the country increasingly challenged his power. His unwillingness to relinquish power and his incapability to rule as he had before lead to greater unrest in the region (Berkeley: 111-113).

A second systemic cause is the economic situation in the east of Zaire. This part of the country has vast natural resources, such as diamonds and coltan (very valuable because of its use in mobile phones). Positions of power in Zaire are often linked to the possession of natural resources. Mobutu and his cronies had been plundering these for decades. At the beginning of the nineties the mines and the surrounding infrastructure were almost completely destroyed. Aside from losing western support and money, Mobutu has also lost his biggest source of income within the country (ibid.: 126-128).

Due to the insecurity in Zaire and Mobutu’s undemocratic regime, he relied heavily on force to sustain his power. The military was very important in this. However Mobutu did not spend much on his army. In the period when Mobutu’s power was waning, this created increased tensions between him and the military. This is exemplary of a broader problem (and a third systemic cause) in Mobutu’s Zaire. He did not base his power on the people, but rather on wealth and force. When he was no longer able to accumulate wealth and bind people to him the power relations in the country changed, this in turn contributed to the unrest (Meredith: 526-527).

At a lower level, politicians rested their power on ethnicity. The country has over 200 different ethnic groups. The four largest only amount to 40% of the population. There are thus a lot of small ethnic factions in the country. The size of the country makes it difficult to be controlled from one point. This leads to a further systemic cause. When Mobutu had enough money he was able to control most of the conflicts, or at least ensure that his side won, that took place among ethnic groups around the county. He discouraged local politicians from focusing on ethnicity and suppressed any ethnic tensions in the provinces of Zaire. This was no longer possible when his power and wealth began to diminish (ibid.: 94-96).

Proximate causes
Against the background of these systemic causes, several events took place that increased the opportunity for a conflict. One of these proximate causes is the approach Mobutu took when his old ways of staying in power where no longer sufficient. Before he struck down hard on the people causing trouble, who might challenge his power. Now he rather encouraged unrest, trying to prove that without him the country would be a total chaos. When there were ethnic tensions in the provinces he set local politicians against each other. This behavior led to several conflicts between ethnic groups in the Congo (Berkeley:120-126). One of these played out in the east, among the Banyamulenge and local Tutsi and the autochthones and Hutu population. The Banyamulenge were Tutsi that migrated to Zaire in the early 20th century. They were originally classified as Banyarwanda, along with the migrant Hutu and Twa population. As tensions arose in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi population there, this had its effect on the Banyarwanda. The Hutu migrants started to support the autochthones in their battle against the Tutsi. The Tutsi part of the Banyarwanda was then called Banyamulenge. They were under attack from a coalition of autochthones, native-born Hutu and Rwandan migrant Hutu. Mobutu actively supported this group of fighters (Meredith: 528-530).

A related proximate cause is the increased salience of the natural resources in the area. Now that Mobutu had lost his dominance over the resources they were once again up for grabs. Many of his rivals inside and outside the country were very interested in controlling the region. The competition over natural resources exacerbated ethnic tensions, especially in the east (Collier & Hoeffler: 322).

Immediate catalysts
In the early nineties the region was thus fraught with tensions that could lead to conflict. The immediate catalysts for the conflict were not apparent until after the Rwanda genocide. In June 1994 a massive exodus of Hutu refugees left Rwanda and settled in the border area of the Congo. They were placed in refugee camps, under the auspices of the UNHCR. Because the international community had done so little to stop the genocide, the refugees were given a lot of attention and money. Many of the refugees were however not the Tutsi or moderate Hutu victims, but rather the Hutu perpetrators of the genocide. They were not intending to give up their position of power in Rwanda without a fight and began planning attacks on the Kigali government and other Tutsi (Kenyon Lischer: 73-76).

This was possible because the humanitarian organizations were ill equipped and thus unable to stop them. Their mandate did not allow them to interfere with political matters, but to give assistance to all refugees. The Hutu genocidaires used manipulation to gain influence over the help organizations. They used force to gain influence over the people. They presented themselves to the organizations as political leaders and spokespersons for the refugee population. In actual fact they forced this population to take part in militias and made them pay taxes. They were able to acquire weapons from the revenue they received from the refugee population, and the (stolen) money and property they took with them from Rwanda. This led to a militarization of the refugee camps. Because the sources of the humanitarian organizations were becoming depleted they were for a large part unable to stop this. At the end of 1995 the Interhamwe and other Hutu militias controlled most of the camps around the Goma area of Zaire (ibid.: 82-83).

The conflict that broke out as a direct result of the Hutu building their army and taking control of the refugee camps had its effects throughout the region (and later in the rest of the country). It can be seen as a smaller conflict, leading to the civil war in Zaire. Within this greater conflict it functioned as an immediate cause. Because the Hutu army was rising in the refugee camps in Zaire, a response was needed from other parties. The Hutu refugees joined the local autochthones and Hutu in attacking the Tutsi (both in Zaire and in Rwanda). Mobutu supported them in this. The (predominantly) Tutsi government in Kigali was worried about its own safety. Mobutu did not stop the violence, they then decided they had to step in. This prompted the government to send its own army in support of the Tutsi (Meredith:530-533).

The theme of power imbalances between various groups runs through any description of the conflict in Zaire. When looking at the systemic causes, we see that Mobutu was no longer able to consolidate his power. This lead (to a certain extent) to a power vacuum in the country and in the region (as mentioned in our history section, Mobutu had a large influence on foreign policy in central Africa). Within the proximate causes we see how several parties try to gain power, now that Mobutu is weak. This leads to increased competition over natural resources. We also see how various ethnic groups compete with each other for power. Mobutu tried to support this chaos, leading to power imbalances between ethnic groups and politicians. The immediate catalysts focus on the influx of the refugee population. They ended up having more power than the locals and the humanitarian organizations. These were thus unable to stop the conflict from escalating.

4.2 The Rwanda Refugee Camps as a Regional Cause for the Civil War in Zaire

Jolien Veldwijk

The role of the Rwandan refugees in the civil war in Congo, formally known as Zaire is huge. These refugees lived in camps and they partly caused the civil war in Congo. Therefore, I will focus on this regional cause in this analysis and I will try to find answers to questions such as to what extend these refugees caused the civil war in Zaire. In order to analyze the influence of the Rwandan refugee camps on the political situation in Congo, I will investigate where exactly the refugees came from and who they were. I will describe the atmosphere in the camp and show how the refugees became such a great influence on the political instability of Zaire.

Rwandan Refugee Camp in Eastern Zaire

At the beginning of the analysis we already defined the Rwandan refugees in the camps in Zaire as state in exile refugees. We explained that they have a highly organized political and military leadership and they are most likely to get involved in civil war. As you know, this was exactly the case in Zaire.

Right from the early days of the camps, the Rwandan refugee population in Zaire was a state in exile created by the leaders of the genocide in Rwanda. They created this state in exile by moving over a million of people into Zaire. Most of them were in Goma, in the Kivu district of Zaire, but about a third also moved to Bukavu in Zaire. With these exiles were much of the political and military leadership.

According to one of the UNHCR officials in charge at the time of the camps in Goma reported that the flood of refugees was “not really forced out by the winning side” (Kenyon Lischer: 79). The refugees took almost everything of value with them to Zaire such as window frames and door handles, but also he entire state treasury was brought. Rwandan public transport buses and gold Mercedes were seen driving around the camps.

There was major chaos and violence in the camps during the first few months of the refugee crisis. 50,000 refugees were killed by a cholera epidemic between July 1994 and October of that same year. The militants used that time of confusion to battle for control of the refugee population, because they wanted to form an army to overthrow the new RPF government in Rwanda. Men were seen marching around fully armed and dressed in uniforms and there were gang battles raging.

After this period of chaos, militant Hutu leaders demonstrated a high level of political and military organization by establishing complete control over the camps in Eastern Zaire. The Commission Sociale run by refugees restructured the Goma camps into quartiers (districts), sous-quartiers (sub-districts), cellules (neighborhoods), and nyumba kumi (groups of ten houses). Also the Bukavu-camps were structured in districts and sub-districts. The camps were now geographically structured, and the refugees also started to organize themselves politically by forming a variety of groups.

By 1995 the military elements dominated the political organization of the camps, because the refugee crisis provided an excellent opportunity for the genocidaires to improve their military capability. Military camps were established and the militants also infiltrated in the ‘civilian’ camps and used those as bases from which they launched cross border attacks against Rwanda.

The refugee status of being in exile made it relatively easy for the refugees to stockpile weapons in and around the camps. It is confirmed by aid workers that weapons shipments destined for the Hutu military leaders regularly arrived at Goma Airport and it was also confirmed that weapon shipments were also often transported by the FAZ, which was the Zairian army.

The refugees did not want to leave Zaire until they had a new government in Rwanda, an international guarantee of safety, mass repatriation, and land tenure rights (Refugee International: 1). A refugee from Goma even affirmed at a UN/OAU-sponsored workshop in the region that the refugees were prepared to establish a government in exile rather than return to Rwanda.

Why did the Zairian government let it come this far? Because the origin of the Rwandan refugees as a defeated state in exile made the spread of civil war very likely and in order to prevent violence, Zaire needed to secure its borders and police the refugee camps. However, Zaire did neither and the Human Rights Watch even determined that “Zairian forces close to president Mobutu Sese Seko have played a pivotal role in facilitating the re-emergence as a powerful military force of those directly implemented in the Rwandan genocide” (Human Rights Watch: 5).

The Interahamwe, genocidaires from Rwanda

Mobutu attempted to use the refugee crisis to rebuild his international reputation and to regain is power domestically. Mobutu’s government also had long been allied with the Hutu regime in Rwanda (this regime was responsible for the genocide). These friendly ties continued after the genocide and to demonstrate its sympathy for the Hutu militants, the Zairian governments only made a halfhearted attempt to disarm the refugees. The local authorities also repeatedly refused to secure the border with Rwanda, or to move the obviously militarized camps further away from the border. These local authorities also had more power than the central government, because the Zairian state had limited capability to support military activity. The local authorities sided with the Rwandan refugees and encouraged anti-Tutsi militarism.

A permissive environment for cross-border attacks (both by the refugees and the Rwandan government) was provided by Zaire’s lack of capability. Mobutu’s government and the economy collapsed and the threat of civil war in Zaire grew. The central government became desperate and added fuel to ethnic conflict in the refugee-populated areas and led to a wider war. Mobutu’s position waned and finally his downfall came when Rwandan forces entered.

The combination of a militaristic state in exile and a sympathetic receiving state (Zaire) enabled the spread of the Rwandan civil war to Zaire. The alliance with Mobutu strengthened the refugees’ capabilities and also alarmed the Rwandan government. Zaire’s weakness encouraged the Rwandan invasion and the local anti-Mobutu rebellion. Mobutu tried to use the refugee crisis to his advantage, but his plan backfired and civil war broke out in Congo.


5.1 External solutions

The conflict in Zaire started as a local conflict among refugees and the local population. Because the refugees came into Zaire from a different country however, the conflict soon spread to an inter-state war between Rwanda and Zaire. Some time into the conflict Angola, Zimbabwe and Uganda joined the fighting in Zaire. The conflict, though fought entirely on Zairian soil, was thus very much an international war ( Meredith: 538-540). Solutions and ways to move towards reconciliation are therefore difficult to find at just a local level. Problems involving all five states need to be addressed in order for there to be a lasting solution.

Officially the conflict ended in 2002, with the signing of the Sun City Agreement. This came largely as the result of two factors. First of al the problems in Zaire came to the attention of the Security Council. Even though in practice France supported the Hutu’s and the supporters of Mobutu, France did not support them in the Security Council. The Council unanimously condemned the Zairian conflict, and the foreign troupes invading Zaire. When they sent a peacekeeping force in 1999, it turned out there was not much peace to keep. It did however put the DRC problems on the international map, and increased foreign pressure on the fighting factions to come to a solution. The second factor influencing the peacemaking process was the resolution of the problems of government in Zaire. These were partly resolved after the dead of Kabila. His son was moved forward originally as a pawn of his father’s cronies, but proved to be more independent. He led the country into peace talks with the fighting parties in South-Kivu. Part of the peace accord entailed a removal of all foreign troupes inside the DRC. Another part established an interim government that would be in place until elections in 2006. The interim government included Joseph Kabila as president and four vice-presidents, the leaders of three of the fighting parties and the leader of the unarmed opposition. One of the biggest rebel leaders Bemba however was not included in the government. Last year the country had its first democratic elections in over 40 years, electing Joseph Kabila as president. He is now moving towards stabilising the DRC’s government.

As hopeful as the pictures painted above sounds, in practice the violence at local level continues. Several parties to the conflict, mainly Rwanda and Zimbabwe, do not keep to their end of the peace agreement. Furthermore because of its vast size and diverse ethnic population the Kabila government in the DRC lacks credibility and influence at local level. Different tribes listen to local leaders first (Trefon & al.: 380-383). As an international conflict, outside influence is needed to mediate between the different parties. As an impartial international institution, the UN would be the most obvious mediator. At the moment however the international dimensions of the conflict are largely hidden from plain view. As such the UN legally cannot interfere. The most it can do is send a peacekeeping mission. In terms of mediation between the three countries the most effective way at the moment might be a foreign leader mediating. In the former two peace accords, in 1999 and in 2002, an African leader mediated the peace (Meredith: 544). There are several advantages to an African mediator; such a person is more knowledgeable on the local way of settling conflicts. On the other hand such a person would also very likely be biased in favor of one of the groups, or have interests in the continuation of the conflict.

The first step towards moving to a stable peace and further reconciliation would thus be selecting a reliable mediator that all parties agree to. An important part of the mediation process would then be to include local leaders in the talks, in order for them to accept the status quo (Woodhouse: 231). There are many different parties with many different interests, thus the solutions will not be quick and easy. However, followers of opposition leader Bemba, who was left out of the original talks, have already been responsible for violent riots all around the DRC (Trefon & al.: 387-388). Leaving rebel leaders out is thus very unwise. Furthermore local customs of peacemaking and reconciliation need to be taken into account. The conflict in Zaire involved many civilians, both as victims and as fighters. These people need to be able to live together in the future. Thinking about alternative ways of bringing people to trial is perhaps necessary. In many African countries the ‘normal’ way of peacemaking and reconciling enemies is by the various clans, tribes or families paying damages to the opposing party. Furthermore ritual usually takes an important place in dealing with loss and trauma (Nugent: 20-22). These local ways of dealing with conflict are perhaps the best ways of ensuring peaceful coexistence at a local level.

A bigger issue is of course the international dimension of the conflict. The situation in Rwanda does not yet allow the refugees to return home. Their presence in the east of the DRC thus remains a risk for escalation. Also there are several foreign governments involved in the DRC conflict. In the end local reconciliation and UN involvement can only go so far. The fact that these governments have been able to act this way is a cause for further conflict. The leaders of Rwanda, Uganda and especially Zimbabwe are authoritarian rulers. As such they depend for a large part on money, and some on use of force, to stay in power. In a situation of declining economic influence the incentives to raid the DRC remain. It is unlikely that the peace will last. The leaders of DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe should find a diplomatic way of solving the conflict, this might be possible through mediation of the African Union or the UN. Whether or not parties will actually keep to their agreements is doubtful, as long as there are these strong financial incentives for corrupt leaders to continue the war. In order for there to be a possibility of reconstituting relations between the three countries, thus preventing renewed escalation, there has to be development and a move towards democratisation in all the countries involved (Miall et al.:232).

We also have identified possible internal solutions to the conflict between Rwandan refugees in refugee camps in Congo and the Congo government (formally known as Zaire). In this part we will identify possible solutions to limit the power of the refugee camps in their host country.

5.2 Internal Solutions

According to Miall et. al., there are several steps that need to be taken in order to reach peace and justice and to break the cycle of violent outbreaks (Miall et. al.: ch. 10). In the case of the Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire, militant Hutu leaders took charge of those camps after a period of violence and chaos, with the ultimate goal to establish a Hutu country. These events partly caused the civil war in Zaire. Common steps that need to be taken in order to come to a possible solution are cessation of violence, bringing the perpetrators of atrocities to justice and establishing a culture of law and order. These common steps, as described in Contemporary Conflict Resolution can be used to address the problems in the refugee camps, but I believe they do need to be adjusted. In the following paragraphs I will describe these steps so that a possible internal solution can be reached to restrain the power the refugee camps have in their host country, in this case Zaire. The violence in the camps and of the camps in their surrounding environment could be stopped if the UNHCR and other NGO’s took over control of the camps from the Hutu leaders. This would require more manpower and therefore more money from the international community, but the Hutu leaders were the genocidaires in Rwanda ( Kenyon Lischer) and they should not be in charge of those camps in the first place, let alone still be free. There cannot be peace and justice in the Great Lake region, if people who committed such atrocities as the Hutu’s committed in Rwanda, are not being brought to justice. This brings us to another step, namely bringing the perpetrators of atrocities to trial. The international community should set up international tribunals to charge the genocidaires. This is necessary to assert international humane standards, but it also helps for the UNHCR to regain control of the refugee camps in Zaire, because these people will no longer be present in the camps. These tribunals are not conflict with the mediation processes described in chapter 5.1. They could be part of the alternative ways to bring the perpetrators to trial and several African leaders and mediators would be part of the retribution process in deciding who needs to be tried and who does not. Once international tribunals are being set up, as was done in South Africa, and people who committed atrocities in their home countries are being tried, it will be easier to establish a culture of law and order in the camps. Such a culture is necessary to stop the influence of the refugee camps on the civil war in Zaire, and it can only be established if the police force from the UNHCR guarding the implementation of this culture is bigger and always present. All these different steps should help to stop the influence of the Rwandan refugees in their host country and therefore bring us closer to peace and justice in the Great Lake region.

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