The conflict in eastern Congo can be largely be considered a proxy war between the Congolese and Rwandan governments, fought over access to minerals and other precious resources found in eastern DRC. Former assistant secretary of state for Africa Herman Cohen has an idea on how the United States might bring peace to the region.
After his inauguration, Barack Obama should appoint a special negotiator who would propose a framework for an economic common market encompassing Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This agreement would allow the free movement of people and trade. It would give Rwandan businesses continued access to Congolese minerals and forests. The products made from those raw materials would continue to be exported through Rwanda. The big change would be the payment of royalties and taxes to the Congolese government. For most Rwandan businesses, those payments would be offset by increased revenues.
In addition, the free movement of people would empty the refugee camps and would allow the densely populated countries of Rwanda and Burundi to supply needed labor to Congo and Tanzania.
If such a common market could be negotiated, Rwanda and Congo would no longer need to finance and arm militias to wage war over the natural resources in Congo’s eastern provinces. Without government backing, the fighting groups would either dissolve on their own or be integrated into legitimate armed forces.