July 11, 2019

Will Angola’s President Mediate Rwanda-Uganda Conflict At Quadripartite Summit?

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Clockwise: Powerless DR Cong President Félix Tshisekedi; Host Angola President João Lourenço
In a fight: President Paul Kagame of Rwanda Accused: Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

Angola’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced late Wednesday on social media that the country’s President João Lourenço will this Friday host the Presidents of DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda for a “Quadrupartite Summit” in Luanda.

There has yet to be confirmation from the three capitals whether they will attend the summit.

This new summit follows the one that was, to the surprise of regional observers held in Kinshasa on May 31 this year involving Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, DRC’s Félix Tshisekedi and Lourenço. It was branded the “Congo-Angola-Rwanda Axis” – in which the three leaders pledged to fight and defeat rebel groups based in the DRC.

As exclusively reported by The Chronicles, the three leaders also agreed to “revitalize” the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the 12-member grouping formed in 2008 to deal with regional instability.

READ: New “Rwanda-DRC-Angola Axis” Born In Kinshasa

When this three-country axis was announced, some interpreted it as Rwanda’s pitch to deal with rebel groups based in the DRC, and bent on fighting the government of Rwanda.

These rebel groups include the FDLR, FLN and a new one called “P5” that the UN Group of Expert report released on December 31, 2018 said is led by Rwanda’s former army chief Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa.

The Report said these rebel groups are recruiting and rearming with assistance from some regional powers and that they have global recruiting network extending from South Africa to Tanzania to Uganda to Burundi and Rwanda.

Rwanda accuses Uganda of supporting Nyamwasa’s RNC and its activities; a major factor in the current fallout between the two countries.

On the economic front, the leaders in the “axis” settled on increased cooperation and the rehabilitation of the 422 km Kolwezi-Dololo railway line to link up to western Angola region of Benguela.

There is no detailed agenda for the Angola summit apart from what was announced on Twitter by the Foreign Ministry that “security and regional matters will be at the center of the summit”.

Following the surprise announcement, social media has had its own take. Some express optimism that the summit could help diffuse the ongoing fight between Rwanda and Uganda.

Some speculated that President Museveni is likely not to attend because it is clearly a “trap”, as the other three have already met and probably agreed on an agenda. One observer called it “a tripartite against one”.

Will this new initiative bring peace in the region and between Rwanda and Uganda specifically?

Considering similar previous platforms, which also arose at times of major crisis as eastern DRC was burning, pessimists might say this new attempt at settling regional fights is ‘dead on arrival’ – especially that the existing peacemaking mechanisms don’t seem to favour it.

When the ICGLR was born, with Angola at the fore, there was intense shuttle diplomacy. The other members were Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, DR Congo, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The other so called ‘Co-opted members’ are Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The European Union, United States and China were the sponsors.

The involvement of these UN Security Council veto-wielding powers led to the creation of the office of UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region. The current office holder is Amb. Huang Xia, a Chinese diplomat. The office has been held by Algerian Said Djinnit and former Irish President Mary Robinson – both pushed by Americans and Europeans.

Over the past 5 years, President Kagame has left Rwanda’s representation at ICGLR Summits to the Foreign and Defense Ministers, at one time saying at a press conference: “I have left that to others to handle.”

President Kagame has openly expressed his frustration that despite deadline after deadline vowing military action on Rwandan FDLR militia based in the DR Congo, nothing has happened.

Since 2017, two more armed groups vowing to fight Rwanda have emerged. These are FLN based in north Kivu and “P5” of Kayumba Nyamwasa, based in south Kivu.

There are various other issues that have left the ICGLR toothless.

At the Luanda summit, Burundi will not be there. Yet, it is also embroiled in its own “small” battle with its northern neighbor, Rwanda.

The third element which might work against the Luanda summit is the alleged “superiority complex” of President Yoweri Museveni. He has not spoken about it, but President Kagame was publicly raised it. Observers, both in Uganda and elsewhere have also written about it widely.

Some might say that while Angola’s President Lourenço was a key figure during his predecessor’s presidency for a long time, he is perceived as a junior partner to Kagame and Museveni and can’t therefore mediate them.

Besides, there is no known precedent where regional leaders have come into the Kagame-Museveni perennial fights.

The other element why the Luanda summit might have less to offer is the absence of South Africa. The current Kigali-Kampala fallout is largely due to the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) operating from South Africa. To make a worse situation more complicated, now there is the armed “P5” group.

The other dimension that might undermine the Luanda summit is the reported “powerlessness” of DR Congo’s President Tshisekedi. More than six months after taking office, Tshisekedi is yet to institute a cabinet because they cannot agree with Kabila, his predecessor, whom many regard as more powerful.

French magazine ‘Jeune Afrique’ reported on July 8 that Togo’s Faure Gnassingbé is working behind the scenes to mediate.

President Kagame recently seemed to suggest that Kabila was a major stumbling bloc to the improving Rwanda-Congo relations. As example, he reportedly said Kabila had refused to allow Rwanda’s carrier RwandAir to fly to Congo. Under Tshisekedi, the airspace was opened in days.

Last week, The Chronicles in a special report for the 25th anniversary of Liberation reported about the more than 244,000 Rwandan “asylum seekers”. Apart from DR Congo where more than 80% of them are based, majority of the remaining percentage are based in Southern African countries.

READ: 25 Years After Liberation: No “Refugees”, But 244,786 Rwandan “Asylum Seekers”

RNC has been actively mobilizing in that region, linking them with those in Uganda – which eventually, according to Kigali, provides safe passage to eastern Congo. In addition, Burundi is also playing the same role.

Under these circumstances, it remains to be seen whether the Luanda “Quadripartite Summit” will deliver the peace the region badly needs.

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