The media this week reported on the Rwanda government’s plans to carry out joint disarmament operations with DR Congo government against Interahamwe and the Forces Démocratiques de la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) rebels.
This is highly commendable as it signals the end of accusations and counter-accusations between the two countries.
The decade-long FDLR problem - which turns out to be a regional security threat will also end.
A joint operation has been long over due: because it would be naïve to think that DR Congo would solve the FDLR problem alone. It is not that the FDLR is a strong force, but DR Congo government has not been proactive because of lack of political will.
The area is vast, and above all, she has her other internal problems to solve ,including the current fighting with General Laurent Nkunda’s forces.
The eastern DR Congo continues to live under a state of insecurity largely because of Rwandan rebels including the Interahamwe and the Forces Démocratiques de la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), since the end of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.
The genocide criminals fled to this vast isolated region where the rule of law and government control is elusive.
Inviting Rwanda’s intelligence officers to be part of the military structure, as reported, strengthens efforts geared at flushing out these rebels and other bandits in the area.
To me, the plan should include operational protocol to allow Rwanda Defence Forces operate in DR Congo- to back up the Congolese forces to disarm the rebels because the DR Congo army lacks the capacity to disarm the rebels and take charge of the security situation in the eastern part of the country.
The DR Congo needs to work with its neighbours to solve problems of rebels operating on its territory. It has to work with Rwanda to solve the issue of FDLR rebels and work with Uganda to root out Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.
FDLR and Kony rebels are not only problems for Rwanda or Uganda for that matter; they finally turn out to be regional problems.
Take for instance the Joseph Kony war, it destabilised Uganda, Southern Sudan and DR Congo.
President Joseph Kabila should be able to realise the returns he has got from his soldiers’ collaboration with FDLR rebels.
Congolese forces befriended a dangerous friend, FDLR, from whom they have learnt to rape, loot and maim civilians-thus tainting the image of government forces.
Yes, mistakes were made to blindly get in bed with those genocide fugitives, but its time to turn the page-to borrow words from this year’s American campaigns.
It is my belief that disarming the FDLR rebels would end the fighting in eastern Congo and bring the highly craved peace there.
Since General Laurent Nkunda says he is fighting to among other things prevent the extermination of his tribesmen by FDLR-a very genuine reason to justify his activities-remove the FDLR and see what other excuse Nkunda will come up with-assuming other internal problems are also sorted out.
An arrangement similar to that of joint operation has taken place before.
In 2005, the Ugandan government reached an agreement with the Khatoum government which allowed the Uganda People’s Defence Forces to operate in Southern Sudan in an attempt to stamp out Kony’s Lords’ Resistance rebels, another notorious rebel outfit known for mayhem in the region.
To a large extent, that operation would be regarded to have been successful because UPDF managed to dislodge Kony from Sudan-to DR Congo where he is currently hiding.
Coming back to DR Congo-Rwanda joint operation, however, the big challenge is whether DR Congo will walk the talk - having failed to honour similar protocols before.
This includes the two Nairobi Communiqués, all with resolutions committing neighbouring countries to work towards peace in the region.
This partly bred accusations and counteraccusations between Rwanda and DR Congo.
Failing to implement whatever is agreed upon becomes a big set back to normal relations and breeds more suspicions and confrontational approach.