April 26, 2006

Rwanda and Congo are troubled neighbors

I will never fully understand the events that shaped the difficult relationship between Congolese and Rwandese. Some of my Congolese compatriots refuse to go to Rwanda if invited to a conference. Others are really excited to discover this country and are on their best behavior. The relationship between Congo and Rwanda is complicated at best. This stems partly from the mass influx of Rwandese trying to hide from the Genocide, and later, Rwandese getting away from revenge killings and justice proceedings following the genocide.

Another large factor in the mutual mistrust and a certain sense of jealousy. The differences between Rwanda and Congo are striking—Rwanda is easily 50 years ahead of its neighbor in infrastructure, government order, customer services, production etc. But that’s to be expected: Rwanda has been recovering from its war for the last twelve years…in Congo, civil society and inner struggles are still threatening the country today.

Congo is so much bigger than Rwanda that the logistical challenges of development and guarding its borders are enormous. People say that Rwanda steal Congo’s cobalt, Congo’s diamonds. I have even heard people say Rwandans have stolen Congolese Gorillas.

The last issue, not to be overlooked, is the complexity of the many attacks and counter attacks. Did Mobutu have a hand in putting Habyirima in power? Was Kabila the father friendly with the current president Kagame? Who knows rumors are flying and the Congolese are saddened by the 4,000,000 people dead and dying within their borders from the resulting civil wars.

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