Rwanda and DR Congo leaders are formulating a regional economic development plan that will eventually pacify the eastern Congo, according to Vital Kamerhe, the all-powerful chief of staff to DRC President Felix Tshisekedi.
His revelation follows appearance in the news last month attending the wedding of the son of Gen James Kabarebe, Rwanda’s former defence minister. Kabarebe is also personally a key architect of the current order in DRC.
As Tshisekedi’s chief of staff, yet his boss was unknown until he was parachuted to power in rare deal with former DRC leader Joseph Kabila, Kamerhe moves tables in Congo’s political landscape.
January 24 marked one year since the Tshisekedi-Kamerhe alliance took power from contested election. In encounter with select Congolese journalists, Kamerhe defended their seemingly floundering attempts to bring peace to the east. It remains chaotic as it has been for past 20 years.
Instead, the situation is becoming more dangerous. Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi are engaged in geopolitical battle playing out in eastern Congo – which has prompted allegations by the Catholic Church that there is a “balkanization project” to break off a that region from DRC.
Noisy Congolese opposition groups, the most powerful speaking from inside the country, accuse Tshisekedi and Kamerhe of being the facilitators of this project. Tshisekedi, speaking in London to Congolese diaspora last week, said no centimeter of DRC will ever be lost under his watch.
His partner Kamerhe has taken their defence to another level. Kamerhe said in his encounter with media yesterday that Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s Kagame have a plan to end war in eastern Congo.
“Today, there is a rapprochement with concrete steps which show that we want to have common interests at the regional level, a win-win, so that our populations will benefit,” said Kamerhe, a former speaker of parliament under Kabila.
Kamerhe said as part of the regional economic plan, Rwanda’s national carrier RwandAir is flying to Kinshasa.
He added: “Today we are in discussion with President Kagame that the best way to avoid war in the east is also to have an economic plan for the development of the Great Lakes region.”
“We cannot continue to have a situation where minerals are clandestinely taken out, which is still the case, since the wound cannot be cured in a single day.”
Kamerhe says President Tshisekedi has taken it upon himself to “sell a new peace plan” for this region to his peers in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
It is not by coincidence that Tshisekedi has partnered with Angola’s President Joao Lourenço to mediate the Rwanda-Uganda conflict, said Kamerhe.
He is referring to meetings held in Kinshasa and Luanda which resulted in the MoU signed between Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni in August last year. However, little has been done on the points in the deal so far.
It is not the first time some sort of regional Marshall plan is spoken about. In May 2013, former World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim unveiled a $1billion fund to finance regional projects. The hope was that regional neighbors would go for more cooperation, than confrontation.
The cash included $100 million for internally displaced people and refugees in the region; $340 million to support the 80 megawatt Rusumo Falls hydroelectric project for Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania; $150 million for the rehabilitation of the Ruzizi I and II hydroelectric projects and financing for Ruzizi III, supplying electricity for Rwanda, Burundi, and DRC; $165 million toward building roads in DRC’s North and South Kivu and Province Orientale; $180 million for improving infrastructure and border management along the Rwanda-DRC border; and additional millions of dollars for public health laboratories, fisheries, and trade facilitation programs among others.
All these projects are on the ground being implemented, but that has not prevented a bitter fallout between Rwanda and Burundi, as well as Rwanda against Uganda.
According to the International Crisis Group (ICG) in its report released this week, the fight between Rwanda and its neighbors is playing out in form of “proxy” rebel groups operating in DRC’s north and south Kivu.
President Tshisekedi is powerless and has to seek help from the US, EU and UN to help him deal with the deteriorating situation in his country, said ICG.