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Conflict in Eastern Congo (DRC) and Peace Perspectives

By Dr.Claude Shema Rutagengwa

Regional Coordinator

Great Lakes Peace Initiative (GLPI)



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Conflict background 

Conflict in the Eastern region of DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) began about 2 decades ago, and has involved more than 7 nations directly:

Congo DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tchad, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and more than 3 other nations were/are involved indirectly: USA, Belgium, France. More than 3 millions of victims perished, and many others faced and still facing indirect or direct consequences of this conflict. The negative transcendence in this endless conflict was so-called peace accords with different belligerents and repeated war/fighting as the way to end the standoff.  

             ………… …...o0o......………………..

A. Diagnosis

 Actors:                             A. Banyamulenge+Allies         

            B.Congolese Central Government+Allies

            C. Colonial masters

            D. Anglo-French linguistic influence countries




1. Banyamulenge/Congolese Kinyarwanda speaking people



a) Banyamulenge identity/Citizenship recognition

b) Independence of Eastern Congo region.


Banyamulenge consider themselves "Pure Congolese", and they think that they have right to live in their motherland “Congo", while the Congolese Government and other Congolese considere Banyamulenge as "Pure Rwandese-Tutsi-Ccommunity" who must leave Congolese territory as soon as possible, and go back to Rwanda.

Banyamulenge and other Kinyarwanda speaking people became Congolese just after the Berlin Conference on 23rd February 1885, when great countries sat down and divided Africa into different nations. By putting up new borders among countries, a great part of Rwanda became Congolese land, together with people who were living on the territory belonging to DRC today, but probably Rwandese before the Berlin Conference. Thus,"indigenous" Congolese people do not accept them as Congolese. 




1. To be called Congolese as an unnegotiable interest. So that will cause no more conflict over them related to their origin.

2. To have access to political  power

3. Access and responsibility to the benefit of  natural resources.



To have a land where they belong to proudly, and have all rights and other satisfying or necessary basic needs as human beings, like Peace, stability and a pleasant social-economical situation.


2.Indigenous Congolese living in the eastern region of DRC/Central government.



The perceptions of so called indigenous Congolese people towards Banyamulenge are that Banyamulenge are foreigners who invaded DRC. Tutsi who want to create Tutsiland in the whole region of great lakes including DRC, and for that reason all Banyamulenge, must leave DRC as soon as possible and go back to their mother land, Rwanda. These perceptions also link to the deep culture taught by colonialists - Belgians and Germans (both missionaries and administrators), and then later on sustained by the French, and transferred and transfomed into structures which trnsmitted to deep behaviours on both sides.



Prosperous future without foreigners, and maximum security



Peace, stability and a pleasant social-economical situation 




Every single ally in this conflict says that "...we went into DRC Congo for security reasons." Rwanda and Uganda emphasize  securing their borders with DRC, just to go there to destroy all rebel camps backed by te DRC government. Other government allies like Zimbabwe, Namibia and others use the words "safety and security of the region".

But, is it possible to secure a such national border without getting involved in fighting/war. Just secure all countries boundaries.That is all. But, then, the issue of mineral resources comes in, and implications of many other actors, especially international countries through international aid agencies for development and trade, just to mention a few. Another aspect and involvement of international actor/parties, is the projection of the European (Anglo-French) tribal feud over linguistic, cultural, and economic influence in Africa. Uganda/ Tutsi/Banyamulenge/Kabila Anglophiles are pitted against Hutu and former dictator Mobutu’s Francophiles (at the beginning and escalation of the conflict in 1990's), with the Western media traditionally dominated by France as area specialists, according to many experts like Prof. Johan Galtung.

All the time, the conflict in Eastern Congo seems to focus on Banyamulenge issues. But there is another  hidden issue of the repeated hostilities in that region, because  after overthrowing Mobutu’s regime, Kabila’s (senior)regime did not get well long with Banyamulenge for long time, while Kabila himself was fighting for Banyamulenge rights. And then the second Banyamulenge liberation war begun two years later (1998) and again their former ally is Kabila until now. And still Rwanda and Uganda are implicated in a such a war, and many European countries and the USA are among direct or hidden antagonists.

What is really the root cause of this conflict which implies all those countries?

The transcendence look shows that many efforts have been conducted, but in vain. Then this idea comes in: What about the presence of great nations (UK/USA/France)and regional mining agencies in this region?

The answer is that the fact of enormous presence of natural resources in DRC, especially in the Eastern region, is another fundamenta.l key issue of this conflict. The rest and challenging issue is to deal with rational utilisation and sharing equaly the benefits of precious natural resources for the well being of Congolese people.


B. Prognosis


The elections held in summer 2006 in DRC wer a plier of peace, among others. But elections only cannot solve the problem. Many other peace alternatives have been taken like cease fire and peace accords, demobilization, demilitarisation, repatriation and reintegration and so forth. But all of this seems to be a flat compromise.

Despite that general elections held, hostilities are still going on. The superficial recognition of Banyamulenge as Congolese, like others, did not respond to the conflict in the Eastern region of DRC, and all so called peace process seems to be negative transcendence because the conflict is still there, and the worst is yet to come to a region in tragedy. War in this region is inevitable, and more lives of innocent civilians will be lost. Enormous war crimes and war against humanity will set new records in an environment seriously in danger of misusing its natural resources etc.


Another negative solution to the issue

Many attempts to solve this blood-shaded situation have been made, but unfortunately it was/and will be a flat compromise or negative transcendence like:

->Review of Berlin convention, and endorse the Eastern region of DRC to Rwanda and its people including Banyamulenge.

-> Independence of Eastern region of DRC.

->Forced return of Interahamwe militiamen and former Rwandese soldiers (ex-FAR) present in Eastern part of DRC.


C. Positive solution through transcendence

The conflict of Eastern DRC is complex, and it requires many experts to sit down and find a solution. But whoever who tried normally failed because no transcended solution has ever been tried, and this would respond positively to the bloodshed and endless conflict of the subregion. Probably it can take a while to come up with a sustainable solution, but the best way is to try the following solutions:


a) DRC in general.

  1. Meeting the basic needs of Banyamulenge
  2. Meeting the basic needs of other Congolese
  3. Recognition of Banyamulenge as Congolese and sensitization of this act on all levels
  4. Awareness of the 1885 Berlin Conference which guaranted Congolese citizenship for Banyamulenge
  5. Fair/sharing benefits of mineral resources available in the region
  6. Continuous peace and reconciliation process and related strategies to bring peace to DRC and the region
  7. Strengthening and improving regional and international cooperation for the benefit of all Congolese people.
  8. Emphasizing a sustainable reconciliation and mutual compensation, avoiding arbitrariness.
  9. Inclusive power sharing among all Congolese representatives
  10. Ease/peaceful return of  unaccountable foreign rebel groups 
  11. Sustaining a new Congolese fair administration
  12. Care for freedom of speech
  13. Tolerence and peacebuilding process from grassroots level and peace education on all levels of formal education 



b) Outsiders

  1. To respect sovereignty of DRC.
  2. To respect international trade and weapons proliferation conventions.
  3. To forge a new way of sustainable bi-lateral/international cooperation based on basic and mutual interest (culture exchange, linguistic and development).