Ben Buchwalter


Congo – Interview
November 25, 2008, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs | Tags: ,

Speigel Online has published an interview with Vital Kamerhe, the president of the National Assembly for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To me, the most poignant section is when he is asked about Luarent Nkunda’s mission of protecting the Tutsis. Kamerhe responds, “Today we have Tutsi generals in the Congolese army and Tutsi workers at state enterprises. Their best source of protection are the institutions of the Republic, not a rebel army.” Kamerhe also speaks of the need for talks between the government and the rebel army. Nkunda has refused repeated requests to meet with the DRC government. 

Unfortunately, it seems to me like the rebel army’s fight is not so much with the DRC government, but more with the Hutu genocide perpetrators who fled to the rural areas of the DRC after Rwanda’s genocide. So anything short of helping Nkunda’s army round up the alleged perpetrators might not appease the rebels.

Also, Sarah pointed out this story (with video and photos) on the front page of CNN yesterday.

Interview Transcript:

 

SPIEGEL: Why hasn’t your government succeeded in bringing peace to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo? 

Vital Kamerhe: After the peace agreement of 2002 the rebel organizations were absorbed into the army. Because of this, our troops now consist of regular soldiers as well as former militia members. The army is fragile and frustrated, and it has been infiltrated. It makes it difficult to enforce peace.

SPIEGEL: The soldiers are attacking civilians, plundering, and raping.
Kamerhe: Anyone responsible for massacres belongs in front of an international court. Because of the war in the east, we have had no time to reform our security forces or justice system.

SPIEGEL: Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, your main enemy, says he needs to protect the Tutsis in the eastern part of the country from the Hutu-killers who fled to Congo after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

Kamerhe: This is just a pretext. Today we have Tutsi generals in the Congolese army and Tutsi workers at state enterprises. Their best source of protection are the institutions of the Republic, not a rebel army.

SPIEGEL: Isn’t the war really a fight over natural resources?

Kamerhe: Our country is a special case geologically. We possess valuable minerals like coltan, gold and diamonds. Our natural resources are being exhausted by the Nkunda rebels, who conduct their sales through Rwanda. Big companies in China, Russia, Europe and the US are the recipients. They share the guilt for this exploitation. We prefer that the resources be used legally.

SPIEGEL: The UN Security Council wants to strengthen its 18,000 blue helmet force with 3,000 additional men. Is that enough?

Kamerhe: We need international troops to protect the populace. There also needs to be political talks with Nkunda and diplomatic efforts to restore the relationship between Congo and Rwanda. That will take time. To begin with we hope for an EU-contingent — 850 men can help stop a humanitarian catastrophe.

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