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Causes of Rwanda’s Involvement in the DRC

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Published: Thu, 23 Nov 2017

To what extent has Rwanda’s involvement in the DRC been of economically rather than militarily motivated?

  1. Abstract

Conflict!

That word represents the history of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in terms of their internal struggles as to who will control the destinies of these countries. The saga has encompassed over forty years, and as neighbours, has affected and impacted both countries negatively. Africa is known for its high degree of internal power struggles that have left its masses in poverty as a result of its leaders seeking political control at almost any cost. This condition has not escaped either Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This study shall seek to understand the dynamics of the national connection between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in terms of the extent that Rwanda’s involvement has been economically or militarily oriented. The preceding represents the opportunity to examine the relationship of these two neighbouring countries to uncover the extent as well as nature of the dynamics that have and are shaping their interaction.

  1. Introduction

The purpose of this examination has broad and far-reaching implications, in that it seeks to look ate the very core of the relationship of these two African nation states. As such, the objectives will entail:

  1. The formulation of an understanding of the historical nuances and overt interaction between these two countries.
  2. Taking a look at the military as well as economic involvement.
  3. Delving into the political and regional circumstances that have had and or are having a bearing on the foregoing.
  4. Equating the extent that military or economic involvement has been and or is an issue

The nature of this inquiry requires an examination of two dissimilar areas, economics and military activities, as well as how these might and or have dovetailed into each other, as the lines of separation are not always clear.

  1. Background

Key to understanding the nature of the question that asks the extent that Rwanda’s involvement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been economically rather than militarily motivated, a brief understanding of the histories of these two countries will provide a foundational underpinning to uncover the direction of their relationship and national connections. Rwanda is located in the east-central region of Africa, bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in an area that measures 26,338 square kilometres[1].

Figure 1 – Map of Rwanda[2]

Orginally inhabited by a Pygmy tribe called the Twa, the agriculuturally founded Hutus suplanted them some six centuries ago[3]. In order to plant crops the Hutus cleared forests and established permanent settlements[4]. The Twa still remian in Rwanda, although their population is estimated to number approximately 1 percent of the overall total[5]. As was the case with Africa in that period, other tribes migrated to the region, whose greenery and grasslands drew the cattle owning Tutsi[6]. Aslo known as Watutsi, they came to the region of Rwanda around the 1600s and were consisted as more elite than the Hutus even though the two groups speak the same language[7]. Part of the reason as to why the Tutsi (Watutsi) were considered elite is that they are extremely tall, averaging 2.1 metres in height, and of thin build[8]. The aristocratic leanings of the Tutsi, they held the peasant Hutu in fuedal subjugation[9].

The opinions on the differences between the cultures of the Hutu and Tutis is marginal, consisting primarly of the agricultural versus cattle tendencies of the aforementioned. Considerable intermarriage between the two groups further watered down differences, with the couple assuming the race of the fathers, and the difference in terms of tribe constructed along the lines of a caste system whereby the Tutsi are considered the higher class[10]. Prior to the arrival of the Germans, the administration system that existed in Rwanda was highly organised and presided over by what is termed as a Umwami (king) that was usually of the Nyiginya clan of a Tutsi sub-group[11]. In the administrative pecking order the Umwami had almost absolute power, and was assisted bt three chiefs[12]:

  1. A military chief that oversaw the army and saw to the maintenance of integrity of the territory and expansion.
  2. A cattle chief that supervised all matters representing cattle, grazing as well as the settlement of disputes, and
  3. A land chief that oversaw agriculture, produce and allied concerns.

The preceding is in keeping with the cultural make up of the territory that was comprised of cattle and agricultural tribes, along with their protection and securing additional lands. Within the aforementioned pecking order the Umwami and the military and cattle chiefs were Tutsi, with the agricultural chief generally being Hutu[13]. The Rwandan society represents a system that is termed as ubuhake, that is a type of caste system of the landed gentry, the less landed, and the ordinary citizens[14]. There are those who argue that in reality that the economic system of Ubuhake enables a symbitic relationship between the wealthy and priveged calsses with the less priviliged[15]. The preceding system and class relationsips enjoyed a 400 year history of peacefulness.

The German’s colonised Rwanda in 1899, ruling the country indirectly through the Mwami and the three chieftans via a protecorate arrangement as a result of the effectiveness of the Rwandan Ubuhabe system[16]. During the first World War the country became known as Ruanda-Urundi, which represented a combination of Rwanda and Burundi under a Belgian League of Nations mandate[17]. The preceding established a trust territory under the United Nations that lasted until 1946[18]. During that period the Belgium administration at first maintained Tutsi dominance in the Ubuhabe governmental system overseen by the Mwani and the three chieftans[19]. The preceding was slowly changed to a power sharing arrangement between the Tutsi and Hutu after ethnic tensions escalated into a civil war that forced a large number of Tutsi to leave the country[20]. The 1st of July 1962 saw the mandated country of Ruanda-Urundi seperated back into Rwanda and Burundi, with the more numberous Hutu’s ruling the country.

With a majority of the population represented by Hutu (85%), to just 15% for the Tutsi, the change in political structure in 1962 was inevitable[21]. It is important to note that the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi began as early as the 1950s when Tutsi forces attacked the Hutu politician Dominique Mbonyumutwa, setting off what is called “… the wind of destruction …” as the Hutu attacked the Tutsi population[22]. In 1959 the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi king, which also contributed to the preceding[23]. Some 150,000 Tutsi that flew the country as a result of Hutu control setting up guerrila goups in neighboring countries, noteably Uganda[24]. Over the ensuing years, the children of the exiles formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front, that started a civil war in 1990[25].

The preceding historical background is important in understanding the chain of events that transpired in Rwanda, bringing it to present day. That history, present day stemming from the 1990s, contains the fore runner as well as aftermath of events that represent the purpose of this study, that will be investigated in a review of literature to delve into background facets. As Rwanda represents the central country in this study, the Democratic Republic of the Congo shall be explored later. The focus of this examination is to look into the extent that the involvement of Rwanda with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been movitivated more by economics than military reasons.

  1. Methodology

The investigation as proposed by this study is a question that entails looking deeply into the status and ramifications of the relations of these two countries on a number of levels. As it is probable that there is no literature or other research information available that equates this question directly, the approach to this study will have to take on varied directions and research approaches to uncover information germane to the examination. The preceding being the general overall case, the research methodology will of course include a wide breathe of secondary research sources to secure historical as well as contemporary information.

Given that this study entails two sovereign countries, the history between these two nations represents the logical starting point, as the timeline of convergence with respect to the Rwanda and the Congo thus represents the starting point in examining the nature of their relations. The preceding represents a key to this study as the answer to the question as posed by this examination exists somewhere within the foregoing. Secondary research provides the opportunity to review the largest and broadest amount of information possible as it entails books, journals, magazine articles, newspapers and Internet sources[26]. The foregoing affords the opportunity to look at many differing facets, as the scope of economic and military interaction can take on many forms, especially in the context of the unstructured region of Africa that has a long history of intra nation conflicts and other disputes.

Secondary research represents a technique that is used extensively as it provides a broad realm of informational possibilities and inputs as well as opinions that might contain and or provide insight and or information that aids in the examination. The shortcoming of the process of utilising secondary research is that the possibility exists that one might be subject to the possible bias of the author whose work was conducted to delve into, prove, understand or make a point. However, secondary research also provides a means to minimise that potential through using and or searching for facts that reveal themselves in more than one source. The preceding duality of data provides some assurance that the information and or information direction has some validity. Powell[27] asserts that the foregoing represents a sane course of research in that secondary sources:

  1. are generally plentiful,
  2. that in using secondary sources, one needs to exercise care in looking for as well as drawing out pertinent information,
  3. that a benefit of secondary research is that large volumes of data can be correlated in a time frame that is reasonable,
  4. the expense of obtaining secondary research is extremely beneficial,
  5. the broad range of possibilities as offered by the exposure to a wide breathe of information makes secondary research more valuable in that it is easy to verify most information.

As is always the case with an upside in any endeavour that are the negative connotations as well. Powell[28] brings forth these areas by advising:

  1. In terms of word usage and meaning, the seeming direction of statements can take on a different connotation and or meaning in a specific context or series of contexts than one might be prepared to understand or acknowledge.
  2. The aforementioned bias in terms of the source can skew information as indicated. The recommended method to minimise such an occurrence is by comparative information from other sources.
  3. The dating and or ageing of information can potentially change the validity of researched data if new developments have changed the outcomes, or data is uncovered later that invalidates conceptions that existed before. Seeking historical and contemporary research to look for consistency with regard to the foregoing aids in minimising dated or information that has lost its relevance.

In keeping with the preceding need to ensure that recent information, discoveries and or findings did not or had not changed the conditions of the study, the Internet was utilised to look for potential modifications in approaches, as well as to compare source reliability. The research used quantitative research to a small degree as it helped in the understanding of question components from an historical perspective. Daymon and Holloway[29] advise that quantitative measures tend to have a large-scale approach that focuses on specific factors that are thus looked at in relationship to other data. Given the need to uncover information in a quest for the answer, which at the time of beginning the research was unknown, quantitative research was the only viable course of action.

  1. Literature Review

In conducting the examination of the historical Background of Rwanda in Section 2.0, a look into the developmental aspects of the country brought forth the progression of events that helped to shape the country up to the 1990s. In order to bring into focus the purpose of this study as represented by to what extent has Rwanda’s involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) been of economically movitated as opposed to military reasons, a brief look into the developmental path of the country from the 1990s is in order.

4.1 Rwanda

As brought forth in Section 2.0 Background, the country’s history was shaped by the administrative skills of the Tutsi who took control of the country nearly 400 years ago. That rule lasted until 1 July 1962 that saw the mandated country of Ruanda-Urundi seperated back into Rwanda and Burundi, with the more numberous Hutu’s ruling the country[30]. The civil war that gripped the country in the 1990s was, has has been the history of Africa, and the world, a struggle for power and wealth[31]. Though vastly outnumbered in terms of population, the Hutu were not as organised or bloodthrusty as the Tutsi. A large number of the exiled Tutsi served in the Uganda rebel forces and learned guerilla tactics, thus providing them with needed experience[32]. The preceding provided the foundation for the Rwandan Patriotic Front under Paul Kagame to gain recruits and thus their planned invasion of Rwanda[33]. The fierce fighting for the three year period between 1990 and 1993 prompted a cease fire that became known s the Arusha accord, which was devised to organised a power sharing government to end the civil conflict that had caused the displacement of over 1.5 million Hutus that had been massacred by the Rwandan Patriotic Front[34].

The preceding Arusha accord crumbled as a result of an assassination of the Hutu Burundi president Melchior Ndadaye by Burundian Tutsi in their army[35]. That event spurred a new era of Hutu / Tutsi hatred that caused the accord to crumble. Ensuing events saw the Rwandan Patriotic Front bomb the Rwanda capital of Kigali, as well as assassinate the Hutu president of Rwanda as well as the Hutu president of Burundi by shooting down their jet as it attempted a landing in Kigali[36]. The preceding evnts caused an intensification in the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates[37]. The Tutsi led forces continued their military campaign, capturing the capital and eventually caused over 2 million Hutus to flee the country [38]. The Tutsi dominantion again asserted itself in Rwanda as it took control of the government in 1994 at the end of the civil war and have held power since, The Rwandan Patriotic Front re-wrote the history of its genocide and placed its version of how events transpired into the consitution[39].

4.2 The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The area known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was inhabited approximately 10,000 years ago, and was settled by the Bantu people from what is now known as Nigeria between the 7th and 8th centuries[40]. The “… Portuguguese navigator Diego Cao …” discovered the Congo in 1482, and it is well known as the locale that was “… explored by English journalist Henry Morton Stanley …”[41].

Figure 2 – Democratic Republic of the Congo[42]

The Congo was originally given the name Zaire as a result of Diego Cao misspelling the Kilongo term for river[43]. At that time, the Kongo kingdom as it was spelled then[44]:

“…stretched from northern Angola to the north bank of the Congo River, in the area now known as Bas Zaire. The kingdom, with its capital at Mbanza Kongo, had a well-established centralized system of government; it was divided into six provinces, each administered by a local governor appointed by the king. Within each province Kongo district chiefs governed in their respective areas, and at the village level headmen were accountable to the district chiefs. The king was elected from the male descendants of the individual who had conquered the area. Although he was a member of the aristocracy and appeared to have absolute power, the king was in fact subject to the control of a council of elders who could depose him.”

Soon after Diego Cao’s discovery the Portuguese government established diplomatic relations with the kingdom that fostered socioeconomic exchanges[45]. The influence of that union brought Catholicism to Zaire (The Democratic Republic of the Congo), along with Portuguese customs[46]. The preceding[47].:

“… greatly facilitated development of the slave trade in the region. Slaves purchased from the Kongo provided cheap labour for plantations on nearby Portuguese islands and, subsequently, the Americas”

The slave trade escalated into an issue as it depopulated vast areas and also resulted inborder raids thus causing warefare with neighboring tribes[48]. The economics of the slave trade cause fighting within Zaire itself as rival groups fought for dominance[49]. Internal infighting over “…the slave trade undermined political authority and created social stratification in the kingdom” [50]. The history of the Congo was not as politically charged as Rwanda, yet as has been the case in all Afgrican countries, the paths to independence and after have been faught with issues. In addition to the slave trade, there was also the ivory trade that brought Arabs into the Congo fostered the slave trade as well as in ivory[51].

In the late 1950s the subject of decolonialisation was brought up by President Charles de Gaulle for the French colonies in Africa fueling the desire for the same status in the Congo[52]. The Belgians “…were given some indication of the extent of Congolese nationalist feeling when riots broke out in the capital” in 1959[53]. The change in the overall political approach to Africa fostered the offering of free elections in 1960 and resulted in installing “…Patrice Lumumba as prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as president of the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo” [54]. Lumumba’s victory was by a narrow margin, with his party gaining just 24% of the 137 seats in the Assembly, thus “…underscoring the fragmentation that existed in party affiliations” [55]. As a result of the foregoing independence did not achieve the expectations that the country dreamed of. Within two weeks of the elections the country plunged into a major crisis “…following the mutiny of the former colonial army and the secession of Katanga, its richest province”[56].

The new Democratic Republic of the Congo was suffering its first crisis that lasted for four years and resulted in the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces[57]. Patrice Lumumba was assassinated on order from then U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower as a result of his strong communist affiliations during the Cold War period[58]. That situation enabled the United States to install their hand picked selection “… Joseph Desire Mobutu, who later changed his forename to Sese Seko”, who had been a sergeant in the army …The preceding was accomplished by a coup d’etat in 1965″[59]. Mobutu established a dictatorship that was backed up by his military cronies, as well as the United States, Belgium and France in order to ensure that communist party forces could not regain control of what was now called Zaire[60]. The foregoing alliance was needed as Mobutu faced rebellion “…from armed insurgents seeking to overthrow him” [61]. The arrangement failed in 1997 when the rebels forced Mobutu to flee the country[62].

Nzongola[63] helps us to understand the linkage between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) as he advises[64]:

“The insurgency that brought about Mobutu’s demise is directly related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the defining moment of the current political situation in the Great Lakes region. Like the ethnic cleansing in the Katanga and Kivu provinces of Mobutu’s Zaire, the Rwandan genocide was partly a result of the violent backlash of authoritarian regimes against the democracy movement. In the Rwanda case, the late President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, had been in power since 1973. During 20 years of personal rule, he steadfastly refused to allow Tutsi victims of the 1959 pogrom and subsequent violence, who were in exile in neighbouring countries, to return home. Under the leadership of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), the Tutsi diaspora in Uganda launched a military campaign to overthrow the Habyarimana regime in October 1990. France, Belgium and Mobutu’s Zaire came to the dictator’s rescue and prevented an RPF victory.”

The background history on Rwanda, in terms of the Arusha Peace Agreement that was signed on 4 August 1993, brings these two countries developmental path into closer proximity [65]. The Congo shares part of its border with Rwanda, thus affording the Tutsi a location as a rallying point for raids and attacks. Nzongola tells us[66]:

“In this situation, the disintegration of the Mobutu regime provided Rwanda with an opportunity to make incursions into the Kivu provinces in order to destroy the bases of the ex-FAR and the Interahamwe, beginning in August 1996. When it appeared that the Mobutu regime was militarily incapable of challenging these incursions, Rwanda and Uganda assembled a coalition of states in Eastern and Southern Africa including Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe with the objective of getting rid of Mobutu altogether.”

4.3 Common Histories Between the Two Countries

The preceding historical summaries of the violent regimes in Rwanda and the Congo have a commonality, control of these respective countries. The series of conflicts in Rwanda has resulted in large refugee populations in its neighbouring countries, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo receiving the largest number of them since the genocide of 1994[67]. The displaced persons formed the foundation for the long series of conflicts in Rwanda that “…has had a destabilizing effect on the entire Great Lakes region, including Rwanda[68]. As set forth in Chapter 2.0 Background, the Hutus comprise approximately 85% of the Rwandan population as farmers. One of the economic problems that has and does face the country is the scarcity of land for agriculture, along with access to resources[69]. The problem has caused cultivation to encroach on wetlands as well as reserve and national park areas in order to met the demands of the poor, with the large numbers of displaced Rwandans placing stress on areas such as forests and other ecologically sensitive areas[70].

Given the 85% agriculturally based Hutu population in Rwanda, land scarcity represents an issue that has plagued the country since the 1980s, which has been further exacerbated by the Tutsi / Hutu conflicts. As one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, Rwanda’s land shortage problem has been an historical facet[71]. An example of the dwindling land space in Rwanda is evidenced by the fact that the average land held by household in the country has decreased from 2 ha in 1960, down to 1.2 ha in 1984, dropping to 0.7 ha in the beginning of the 1990s, and as of 2001 just under 60% of all Rwandan household held less than 0.5 ha [72]. The country has an overall area of 26,338 square km, and a population of approximately 8 million that translates into a population density of approximately 300 people per kilometre[73]. Of the foregoing overall land total 1.3 million hectares is estimated as arable, with 165,000 hectares of marshlands, of which an estimated 50% is suitable for agriculture. Agriculture is the cornerstone of the Rwandan economy, and occupies over 90% of the country’s rural area [74]. The preceding foundation, agriculture and the economy, is fraught with issues as represented by[75]:

  1. The country has a high density of population that puts extreme pressures on land area and usage. The average cultivation plot per household is around 0.6 ha, which is below the 0.9 ha as recommended by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
  2. The preceding conditions have led to the over utilisation of the land, made more problematic by the lack of proper crop rotation techniques and nutrient use thus leading to continued degradation. The lack of the foregoing as well as conservation methods and proper equipment has further exacerbated the problem.
  3. The genocide of 1994 is still impacting land use and agriculture in that plots left to orphans and widows by family members who are deceased has not been managed properly.
  4. The land system in Rwanda is controlled under customary law that is skewed towards the partitioning of land via a father to son inheritance system.
  5. The preceding, inheritance system, makes the land system unfavorable to women as well as female children.
  6. The poverty level of the country means that agricultural are backward, lacking proper equipment, use of nutrients and crop rotation techniques.

The preceding are known problems, which the Rwandan government has addressed through the following reform measures[76]:

  1. Institutions such as the Ministry of Lands, along with the Human Settlement as well as environmental Protection policies have been established since 1999.
  2. The country has moved to develop a National land Policy as well as Land Law that are dedicated to promote the use of good land management. The main innovations under the later are represented by a new legal framework that regulates the registration of land, along with the delivery of its title through a leasehold period of 99 years. It also includes a framework that regulates land planning.
  3. Under consideration is a proposal that utilises a centrally based and computerized National Land Information System to facilitate an accurate as well as complete land database through which effective land management can be put into place. The foregoing includes district centres to gather information through survey and documentation of titles, as well as closer liaison in terms of overseeing and delivering land management procedures and utilisation.

Limited natural resources in Rwanda, as represented by columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, and wolframite are the most important minerals, followed by small deposits of gold and sapphires[77]. Agriculture represents 43% of the country’s economy, which primarily consists of coffee and tea exports that have yet to return to the pre 1996 genocide levels[78]. The country’s agricultural system is comprised primarily of small family farms that keep approximately 80% of their output for their own consumption, thus leaving little for export[79]. Typical family farm growth crops consists of bananas – 62.5%, sweet potatoes – 17.9%, Cassava – 4.5%, Irish potatoes – 4.3%, beans and peas – 3.9%, sorghum – 2.9%, maize – 1.4% along with wheat, soya and groundnuts[80]. In total, the planted areas still represent 87% of the 1994 levels[81]. Economically the country achieved a growth rate of 6.6% in the


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