Bush-Kabila meet: May we propose FDLR repatriation on the agenda?

For Rwanda at least, there is a presumed special bond between itself and the United States. The oldest modern democracy in the world—and the strongest—has been a good friend for the last 13 years to one of the world’s youngest—and optimistic—democracies, Rwanda. Particularly since former President William J. Clinton offered a public and at the time unprecedented apology to the people of Rwanda at Kigali International Airport in 1998, the sense of urgency in promoting security, reconciliation and goodwill has become a common facilitator of friendship and close cooperation between the two countries.

For Rwanda at least, there is a presumed special bond between itself and the United States. The oldest modern democracy in the world—and the strongest—has been a good friend for the last 13 years to one of the world’s youngest—and optimistic—democracies, Rwanda. Particularly since former President William J. Clinton offered a public and at the time unprecedented apology to the people of Rwanda at Kigali International Airport in 1998, the sense of urgency in promoting security, reconciliation and goodwill has become a common facilitator of friendship and close cooperation between the two countries.

Today, we ask the present Bush administration to continue this promising legacy between two countries that put domestic, regional, and global security at a premium.

As American President George W. Bush prepares to meet with Congolese counterpart President Joseph Kabila, there are sure to be many things on the agenda.

Outbreak of Ebola, infrastructure developments in the centre of the country, and last year’s pioneering elections are certain to be discussed.

So must certainly be the current violent knot involving the Congolese army, rebel General Laurent Nkunda, and the Forces Democratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR).

While the United States has offered constructive support on the matter, urging a bilateral disentanglement of arms in North Kivu, it is important that Washington bring a partisan head to the meeting. It should be partisan to history.

For long has both the Congo and the region as a whole been embroiled in fire. Many are to blame, and few are entirely innocent. There are many rebel forces active, and it is very easy, as has happened already in the past, for powerful friends far away to miss important details.

The FDLR are men of a nature that warranted Mr Clinton’s initial apology to Rwanda. Sorry is a meaningful word, but only when embraced by a pursuit of justice. Understanding the history of the region and the mistakes made—beginning with not acting soon enough to deal decisively with FDLR—must be a prerequisite for any meeting between Bush and Kabila. The FDLR are not ‘any other’ rebel group.

Foreign relations may be chessboard strategy from afar, but here in Kigali the situation and worry is very real.

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