This morning, January 23, CNDP rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was arrested by Rwandan troops after fleeing North Kivu. The arrest, coupled with the recent ceasefire between the government and a rival CNDP faction under top commander Bosco Ntaganda, may help make progress in the peace process in eastern Congo.
Reports indicate that over the past few weeks, Nkunda’s commanders increasingly viewed him as corrupt and power-crazed. There is also speculation that Nkunda was becoming increasingly embarrassing for Rwanda, which may have prompted a deal between the Rwandan and Congolese governments, resulting in Nkunda’s arrest in exchange for Rwanda being able to pursue Hutu extremists (the FDLR) in the Congo. Nkunda is currently being held in Rwanda, but the DRC government is seeking to extradite him.
Thousands of Rwandan troops crossed the border into DRC on Tuesday, part of a joint operation with the DRC government with the stated purpose of pursuing the FDLR. Earlier in the week, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUC), and several humanitarian organizations expressed concern about potential consequences for the civilian population. MONUC was reportedly blocked from areas where Congolese and Rwandan troops were operating, but noted that the troops were headed for CNDP-controlled areas.
Nkunda’s arrest comes days after senior members of the CNDP under Bosco Ntaganda announced a ceasefire with the government and indicated that they would begin to work with the Congolese army to eliminate FLDR militia members.
These developments are positive signs for peace in the Kivus, but should not be seen as the sole guarantors of peace in the region. Eastern DR Congo remains quite unstable due to the continued presence of the FDLR, the lack of a political process to address deep-seated ethnic tensions and the rise in attacks on civilians committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony. The arrest of Nkunda is good news in North Kivu, but much still needs to be done to bring peace to this troubled area of the world.