07 March 2009

A jungle alliance that may just endure

Mar 5th 2009 | GOMA AND KIGALI
From The Economist print edition

Two rival countries have joined forces to hammer the militias that have devastated eastern Congo for so long

SCRUFFY but happy, Timothy is keen to talk about his new life in Rwanda. A former captain in a guerrilla army across the nearby border in the dense jungles of eastern Congo, he has spent most of his life fighting against the present government of Rwanda. Now, however, he has turned himself in and gone back to the land of his birth, where he is on a two-month course run by his former adversaries to reintegrate him into Rwandan society.

He starts early every morning, packing in six hours of “discussion” on such topics as patriotism, the history of Rwanda, and “the role of youth in national development”, before breaking for football. Timothy realises that he must “forget everything about guns” and “learn to co-operate with civilians”. He is learning a lot of other useful stuff too. “Men used to beat women,” he says, but apparently you cannot do that any more. “When she is wrong, you have to talk to her, not treat her like a goat.”

Timothy’s re-education at the Mutobo demobilisation centre near Ruhengeri in north-west Rwanda is the best hope in years that the long, devastating conflict between Rwanda and Congo may be abating. He and hundreds like him are being persuaded to give up their arms by the force of a new alliance between the two old foes. If this new alignment of military and political power eventually leads to peace in the region, the Rwandan genocide of 1994 may at last cease to cast its long shadow over the Great Lakes region (see map).

Read the full article at The Economist. This is the kind of news we keep an eye on, since it's all happening so close to us and it involves the same ethnic groups as the war in the 1990s here.

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