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  Rwanda and Uganda: A dangerous war of nerves

NAIROBI/BRUSSELS, 21 December 2001: The political and military rivalry between Rwanda and Uganda warrants much greater international attention. Both President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda know that a direct outbreak of fighting between their armed forces would drastically affect international aid to their countries. However both have military interests in eastern Congo which could once again become their proxy battleground. The tension between Rwanda and Uganda is a major obstacle to a wider peace deal in the Congo.

The International Crisis Group today publishes a briefing paper, Rwanda/Uganda: A Dangerous War of Nerves. The two countries were allies for most of the past decade but relations deteriorated after 1998. Since then Rwandan and Ugandan forces have fought three battles in the eastern Congo - in 1999 and 2000 - which killed more than 600 Congolese civilians and destroyed large parts of the town of Kisangani. The causes of the conflict include disputes about the management of the Congo war, regional leadership rivalries and competition over Congo resources. Both leaders have been under domestic political pressure and each has accused the other of harbouring and giving aid to opposition figures.

Britain – the core budget supporter of both governments – brought the two Presidents together on 6 November in London for a crisis meeting. They agreed to work towards better relations and proceed with a joint commission to verify claims about the training of armed opposition groups. None of the claims has so far been confirmed.

However eastern Congo – and especially North Kivu and Orientale province where Kisangani is located - is extremely volatile, with Rwandan armed forces and their RCD allies, Mai Mai groups, Hutu groups and Rwandan militias all fighting each other for resources and security. Rwanda and Uganda back opposing groups in this conflict. Monitoring by the UN observer mission in Congo (MONUC) is inadequate and disarmament programs have been extremely limited.

ICG’s Central Africa Project Director Dr Francois Grignon said: “The quarrel in some ways is like an irrational and emotional family feud. But it has the capacity to erupt into life-threatening conflict, and is undermining peace prospects in the DRC. There should, therefore, be a concerted effort to resolve it quickly, with the international community and the UK in particular, pressuring Rwanda and Uganda with the threat of aid suspension to put an end to their divide and rule tactics in the Congo and provide long overdue reparations for the victims of their three confrontations in Kisangani.”


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