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  Uganda and Rwanda: friends or enemies?

Eight months after the bloody clashes in Kisangani, which cost the lives of over six hundred troops and civilians, communication remains at a minimum between Presidents Museveni and Kagame; tension is building up again in Kisangani; and Uganda’s and Rwanda’s two rebel Congolese “proxy” factions remain more divided than ever. If early efforts are not made to ease tensions, Africa could see not only further destabilisation of the Great Lakes region, but another disastrous Ethiopia-Eritrea style war between “brothers”.

Today’s new report by the International Crisis Group traces in detail how two neighbours who had been the best of friends fell out over differences of approach to the war in the Congo. Uganda’s strategy has been to mobilise the Congolese people to fight Kabila and empower them to develop an alternative leadership. The Rwandans, more sceptical about an internal political solution, have made their first priority a secure border with the DRC.

The Lusaka Agreement – and the commitment of both countries to the new ceasefire in the DRC which came into effect on 14 April 2000 - may well be the only unifying factor between the Rwandan and Ugandan leaderships at this point. The report urges the UN Security Council to respond immediately to the current more stable situation on the ground by quickly deploying the second-phase MONUC peacekeepers, and pressing all parties to fully implement the Lusaka agreement.

The report also urges both Uganda and Rwanda to work harder at repairing their relationship. A summit meeting needs to address current problems and set new directions, but in the longer term, the most crucial need is for dialogue and co-operation channels to be strengthened and institutionalised between Uganda and Rwanda at multiple levels, including that of civil society.

If the Lusaka peace process stays on track, the military competition between Uganda and Rwanda may well be transformed into a further political struggle to determine the political approach that should prevail in the ultimate resolution of the DRC problem. Political differences carry their risks, the report notes, but they are much to be preferred to trials of military strength.


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