Tanzania, Rwanda tension may worsen

2013-08-28 08:53
Jakaya Kikwete. (AFP, File)

Jakaya Kikwete. (AFP, File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - A war of words between Rwanda and Tanzania is enflaming tensions in Africa's resource-rich Great Lakes region, adding a new, potentially dangerous dimension to one of the continent's longest-running conflicts.

On the one side is Tanzania, exasperated by a flood of refugees fleeing fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern Kivu region - the scene of years of back-to-back wars involving regional powers.

Tanzania has joined a new United Nations brigade fighting alongside the Congolese army against the myriad rebel and militia forces that keep the region in anarchy.

The intervention force, given an unprecedented offensive mandate by the UN Security Council, is being heralded as a bid to bring an end to the Kivu conflict once and for all.

But this has put Tanzania on a collision course with Rwanda, seen as a key backer of one of the main rebel groups in North Kivu, and opposed to negotiations with another militia made up of Hutu extremists it accuses of responsibility in the Rwandan genocide nearly 20 years ago.

"The Tanzanians are fed up" with the chronic instability in the Great Lakes region, explained Andre Guichaoua, a professor at France's Sorbonne University.

Guichaoua said Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is convinced his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame is "stoking up the conflict".

Despite official denials, Rwanda is widely seen as the primary backer of the M23 rebels, a Congolese faction that has emerged as one of the most formidable forces operating in the east and threatening Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

War of words

The outcome has been a war of words between the two leaders and something approaching a proxy war on the ground.

Tensions worsened at an African Union meeting in May, when the Tanzanian leader urged Kagame -- as well as Congo's Joseph Kabila and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni - to hold talks with the rebels fighting them.

For Kagame, a savvy former guerrilla commander who took power in Rwanda after his then rebel force ended the brutal 1994 genocide by driving out Hutu fighters, that would mean talking to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The FDLR originated among Hutu extremists who murdered some 800 000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus in three months before being routed by Kagame's mainly Tutsi army and fleeing across the border.

Kagame maintained a stony silence when peace talks were suggested. His Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the very idea was an "aberration".

The two presidents then engaged in a vitriolic war of words.

On 30 June, Kagame repeated that he would not respond to those who advised him to negotiate with the FDLR, but also warned that in the right place and when the right time came "I will hit them" for "there are lines one cannot cross".

A few days later, still without naming Tanzania or Kikwete, he said he was ready "for war".

Kikwete, for his part, without naming Kagame or Rwanda, warned that anyone who attacked his country would face "dire consequences".

Difficult patch

He went on to recall the fate of Ugandan former dictator Idi Amin Dada, who was overthrown when Tanzania's leader Julius Nyerere launched a counteroffensive after a Ugandan army incursion into Tanzania.

But since then, Kikwete has said he never intended to threaten Kagame, saying he wanted "good relations with Rwanda". He admitted the two countries were "going through a difficult patch".

While both leaders appear to have eased off in their war of words, there is still potential for proxy warfare to escalate in the DRC.

Analyst Guichaoua said Rwanda could potentially help the M23 rebels to move into Goma, the hub of rich mining territory and a city of one million, and "neutralise the UN brigade", which is led by a Tanzanian general.

Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group acknowledges a "rather surprising war of words" but doesn't see the situation spiralling out of control into armed conflict "unless a Tanzanian soldier gets killed tomorrow".

While Tanzania would rather focus on building its economy than regional conflict, it too has added fuel to the fire by expelling thousands of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

The deportations were condemned by the East Africa Law Society, which also warned that tensions between Rwanda and Tanzania would "likely slow down the integration process" for the East African Community (EAC) bloc.

But EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera, himself a Rwandan, said that while the "disagreement is not good", he did not think "there is a risk of a breakup of the community".

Read more on:    un  |  east african community  |  jakaya kikwete  |  joseph kabila  |  paul kagame  |  yoweri museveni  |  tanzania  |  uganda  |  rwanda  |  drc  |  central africa  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
SPONSORED CONTENT
When is a mountain more than just a mountain? 2014-12-18 07:26

When it’s an adventure! A group of Old Mutual employees found out how much is enough courage, endurance and camaraderie to take on Africa's highest peak.

/News
 

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!

Find out who and what South Africans were most curious about in 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.