Over the last couple of months the Rwandan government has been aggressively pursuing alleged perpetuators of the brutal genocide that occurred in the 1990s. In this regard the Rwandan government has actively supported the assassination of political activists in exile in South Africa. The former intelligence Chief Patrick Karegeya was found murdered in a hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg at the beginning of the year. While the Rwandan government has denied any active involvement they have not hidden the fact that they support they supported the assassination. In response to these actions in recent days the South African government has expelled key Rwanda diplomats and Rwanda has responded in similar fashion. It is fair to say that the reasons for this tit-for-tat reside in a political battle for influence in the Congo. It is the Congolese Cold War.
Since the defeat of the M23 militia group in the eastern Congo the Rwandan government has been silent on the issue. The Rwandan government has neither hailed the breakthrough nor offered any points of action for moving the region forward in the wake of the end of the M23. For the Rwandan government political and economic security would be achieved through a sympathetic satellite state in the Eastern Congo. The military defeat of the M23 aided by the international community and in particular South Africa was created political tension in Kigali. The support of the assassination of key political dissidents in countries such as South Africa are signs that the Rwandan government is seeking to shore up internal political support. For Rwanda the key challenges to political power is the internal competition between members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
For South Africa the Congo is an important source of economic development. South Africa wants access to the mineral market and its vast resources of water. In order to effectively maximise these resources the country needs a cessation of political conflict and a stable political process in Kinshasa. Thus the hosting of senior political dissidents by South Africa is being seen as an existential threat to the ruling elite in Kigali. The thought of senior dissidents being financed by the South African is a very real big fear both considering the defeat of the M23 and the country’s geo-political interests in the Congo. For this writer what is emerging between the two states is a de-facto cold war over the right to exert political influence over the Congo.
This is a political battle that Rwanda will not win. The country finds itself isolated politically on the issue of the Congo. South Africa is exerting its economic and political influence on this issue and this writer expects tensions between the two countries to persist. Rwanda will more than likely begin to rally support for anti-South Africa grouping at the AU. We will have to wait and see about the long term implications of this conflict on the politics and economy of the continent.