Ever-since the start of this year, relations between Kinshasa and Kigali have made a complete u-turn to the surprise of many.
First, it started with that surprise agreement between Kigali and Kinshasa where DRC allowed Rwandan troops to cross into its territory and carry out a joint military operation against the remnants of the notorious rebel outfit, FDLR.
Like a good guest, Rwanda did not out overstay her invitation but abided by the time-table agreed upon by the two nations to the surprise of the usual prophets of doom keen on enunciating the routine rhetoric.
Then came the bombshell; The news that renegade rebel commander, Laurent Nkunda, a man accused of being Kigali’s stooge was arrested by the very people critics had labelled principle architects of his rebellion.
As we’re beginning to digest this piece of news, Kigali and Kinshasa announced exchange of envoys, and with swiftness, both governments approved their nominees with limited constraints.
The dessert for the full course was Presidents Kagame and Kabila shaking hands yesterday for the first time in over a decade without any third party standing by or facilitating this historic event.
If there’s anything strange in the evolution of relations between the two nations, then it is the speed at which things have turned around this year.
Agreeing to a joint military operation, designating envoys to their nations and holding a bilateral presidential meeting, all happening within a spell of seven months beats the understanding of many.
One would ask himself as to why the many initiatives such as the Lusaka Peace accord, the Pretoria agreement, the Tripartite Plus Commission, the Great Lakes Conference, the Nairobi declaration only but managed to come up with eloquently worded resolutions whose implementation remained at the door steps of these very conferences.
Some might argue that yesterday’s groundbreaking meeting was a culmination of these efforts. Yes, in some aspects this could be true.
But the ultimate solution lay within the powers of the leaders of these two nations deciding on whether to put aside their differences and speak to one another without anyone providing a written script.
In other words, it needed no facilitator or arbitrator or third party but rather the will to find a common ground for the two nations’ competing interests that mainly rotated around security concerns.
And the break through came in January during the operation “Umoja Wetu”.
Kinshasa ignored the sensitive question of sovereignty and swallowed its long held suspicions on Rwanda by allowing RDF to cross over and pursue remnants of FDLR in a joint operation.
In return Kigali leadership allowed to be baptised all sorts of names including “traitors” by taking the decision to apprehend Kinshasa’s most troublesome and sought-after rebel leader, Laurent Nkunda.
These two decisions left shockwaves furrowing the landscape of both countries. Taking these measures must have been as tough as paddling upstream because of the delicacy and sensitive of two decisions. It warranted extreme political calculations.
But now, the 13-year old deadlock seems to be unlocked.
What we, the ordinary citizens would long for is that political squabbling be substituted with honest, openness and constant dialogue between the leadership of the two nations.
The Great Lakes region has had its share of bad news for the past decade; wars, rebellions and ethnic violence form the predominant headlines from this part of the world.
As the guns go silent (and we can hope so), time has come to turn our attention to where the World in heading. As a region we need to formulate joint strategies of surviving the global recession, we need to think about climate change , we need to integrate our economies and above all we need to work on policies that uplift millions of our people from the curse of poverty.
The Great Lakes region is endowed with all sorts of natural resources. Sadly these natural riches have not translated into better lives for the people of this region.
For Rwanda and DRC, now is the moment to translate words into action. Now is the moment to walk the walk and talk the talk.
The moment is ripe for signing bilateral trade and investment opportunities that mutually benefit both nations. For the past 13 years, the so called “experts” have had a field day describing goods traded across the two nations’ common borders as “plundering.”
Time has come to render such people jobless.
Yesterday marked a new dawn and the people of both nations can only look forward to a lasting romance.