Rwanda and neighboring countries in Africa’s Great Lakes region are at risk of worsening violence if the different countries back rival rebel forces to destabilize each other, according to a report by the International Crisis Group.
Dozens of people have died in the past year in cross-border
attacks involving the four neighbors including Burundi, Uganda
and Democratic Republic of Congo, in which the leaders have
blamed each other for backing proxy rebels, the Brussels-based
group said Thursday.
“There is a real risk that growing tension will fuel a wider regional security crisis,” the policy group said in the report. It called for more dialogue and diplomacy to stem the drift toward conflict.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has alleged that Uganda and
Burundi are supporting rebels opposed to his government and has
increased military presence along his country’s borders after
recent armed incursions from eastern Congo and Burundi. Burundi
in turn accuses Rwanda of backing insurgents in its territory,
while Uganda beefed up military presence along its Congo border
to check fighters it says are backed by Rwanda, according to the
ICG warned that a proposal by Congolese President Felix
Tshisekedi to let the three nations join his country’s army to
fight the militias could backfire.
“Were Burundian, Rwandan and Ugandan forces given a green
light for operations in the DRC, the danger would be all the
graver, raising the specter of an interlocking proxy war wherein
each Great Lakes country is backing its rivals’ enemies,” the
The four countries have participated in conflicts in
eastern Congo in various configurations since the mid-1990s.
More than 100 armed groups still operate in the region, which is
home to one of the world’s largest United Nations peacekeeping
missions and is rich in natural resources including gold,
coltan, and tin ore.