The sad story of Kivu – where to look for a solution?

The M23 rebellion in Kivu, Eastern Congo, has shown the instability of Congo as a nation once again. Or at the very least, it has shown how far away the Kivu provinces are from the capital and how small the control is that the central government (or anybody else, for that matter) has in that region.

In the international media, M23 is portrayed as a group that is dominated by Tutsi nationals and receives support from Rwanda. Their opponents are not mainly the Congolese army troops – because they are not effective in the area – but they are, rather, the Hutu-led FDLR rebel group. Thus, it is safe to say that the M23 rebellion is, if nothing else, another expression of the bitter and tragic Hutu -Tutsi conflict that has caused so much damage in Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Congo in the past decades.

This means that a solution for the rebellion cannot be found in Kinshasa. M 23, together with the major part of the international community, are mistaken when they believe that a solution can be negotiated within the framework imposed by the current boundaries in the region.

Of course, the Hutu and the Tutsi are considered to be one ethnic group and they have lived together for centuries. Given the recent history, however, it is very hard to imagine how they can live together ever again. It is being tried: both Rwanda and Burundi are, in theory, multi-party states with no dominant ethnic group. However, most observers concede that both countries are, in fact, currently Tutsi-dominated. Thus, it seems only a matter of time before violent conflict erupts again either in Rwanda or in Burundi or in both countries.

It might be a much better solution if there would be two separate states, one in which the Hutu is clearly the dominant group, one in which the Tutsi are. Perhaps Rwanda and Burundi should consider joining forces and becoming a federation. Perhaps North and South Kivu, or large parts of it, could do the same and become an independent country.

In a way, this would be similar to Croatia and Serbia in Europe. The Croats and the Serbians think they are very different from one another – but they are the only ones who think so. They also think they speak different languages – although they understand one another perfectly.

The two-country solution has worked for the Croats and the Serbians. It could work as well for the Hutu and the Tutsi. Breaking the taboo on this subject is the only way forward and the quickest way of avoiding another decade of turmoil and misery in the region.

The other question then is – what would such a split mean for Congo as a country? That might be a suitable topic for a next post…