Frédéric Boyenga-Bofala
The End Of The Great Lakes Crisis

The problem of refugees and the fate of rebel groups

The refugee problem is, together with the question of the fate of the rebel groups that roam eastern Congo and, in particular, the FDLR and the M23, the main stumbling block to any attempt to reach an agreement.

In principle, as a way of solving this problem, we must apply to all the refugees the doctrine known as the double right of return: i.e. that of Congolese refugees to the DRC and that of Rwandan refugees to Rwanda.

Regarding the FDLR, the difficulty lies in the refusal of the Rwandan authorities to grant a right of return to members of a rebel group considered as persons who have committed genocide or else the descendants of such persons. Some have suggested that members of the FDLR should be settled permanently in the DRC. But how could it be that Rwanda would succeed in achieving national reconciliation and remake its social cohesion in the wake of this conflict, if it were to allow its citizens to settle en masse in the territory of a neighbouring state with which it was in a state of war? How is it that the Rwandan leadership would not regard it as a terrible failure, if the refugees from the FDLR were to opt en masse for Congolese citizenship? Why would the Rwandan government not make desperate efforts to convince all Rwandans scattered throughout Africa to abandon the "bitter delights" of exile and to return as citizens of their own state once again? By what logic would Rwanda not furnish itself with its own "law of return"?

But as regards the success of this plan, my solution to the problem of the FDLR Rwandan refugees is simple, insofar as I propose in the second part of this plan the establishment of a single citizenship for any person having the nationality and / or originally from a member state of the Great Lakes organisation that will be set up.

It follows that, in its territorial aspect, the FDLR refugee problem will be resolved either by immigration to Rwanda or by the integration of the refugees into the DRC, their home country and, finally, by emigration to third countries. The choice of solution would be left to the refugees themselves. For those who opt for integration into the DRC, a rehabilitation programme will be developed and implemented for their integration under good conditions. Those who wish to obtain Congolese nationality through naturalization will have to make individual efforts in this regard.

With regard to the financial aspect, I propose the establishment of an international fund designed to provide compensation on both a personal and a collective basis to refugees and their descendants, as well as to host countries.

In all other cases involving difficulties or frustrating obstructions that may be encountered in attempts to bring the chaos still present in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to a close, further to the crisis pitting the DRC against Rwanda, essential question arises of the combination of nationality and territoriality of what has been referred to as the Congolese Tutsi minority, which in turn has for some time be embodied by the M23 rebels. I place this issue squarely within the context of the crisis in the Great Lakes and not the Congolese crisis, because in the DRC it no longer arises. At the present time, there is no longer a Congo crisis regarding this issue, because it was resolved by the Global and Inclusive Agreement signed in Pretoria on 16 December 2002.

Indeed, just as in 2002 and in order to complete the process of national reconciliation, an amnesty will be granted to the M23 rebels in the same way as to all other rebel groups regarding acts of war, political and opinion-related offences, although this will not include war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity. To this end, the National Assembly will adopt an amnesty law in accordance with both universal principles and international law. And this will be the last time that an amnesty will be considered in the Congo for those who try to start or undertake such adventures involving people's lives.

Regarding the situation of the ethnic Tutsi Congolese or the "Banyamulenge", I start from the premise that the so-called "Banyamulenge" are Congolese in full, as the provisions of Congolese nationality legislation would seem to show. However, I do have reservations about the recursive claims of this section of the Congolese population, i.e. the "Banyamulenge", to special treatment compared to the rest of the Congolese population. To this end, I would like to point out that the new state to be built in the Congo after the crisis in the Great Lakes crisis will meet the requirements of the rule of constitutional law; i.e. it will be a state that respects the principles of liberty , respect for the law and human rights, as well as the rule of law and universal principles, all of which have become essential these days for any society that wants to call itself democratic. To achieve such a result, I recommend building a coherent legal system that allows everyone within the jurisdiction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to enjoy effective court jurisdiction guarantees, including in particular easier access to justice.

I consider, therefore, that recognising only that the "Banyamulenge" have the right to special legal treatment is tantamount to implicitly admitting the existence of an ethnic minority within the territory of the Republic. Now the ethnic physiognomy of Congo shows that our country his home to many tribes and / or races, all of whom are minorities in relation to each other.

For this reason, I reject any claim by the "Banyamulenge" in relation to differential treatment, since it is obvious that they are not by fact and / or law manifestly different from the rest of the Congolese population. Indeed, after the crisis in the Great Lakes, the new Republic of the Congo will be a State based on the principle of equality of all citizens before the law. Any recipient of Congolese nationality should logically be able to enjoy the same treatment and the same legal guarantees with regard to identity and / or similarity of situations. I therefore propose to resolve this thorny issue of the "Banyamulenge" by requiring the national authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to apply the principle of non-discrimination effectively, something which is also advocated in various texts involving the protection of the fundamental rights of every individual, as a principle that determines the exercise of other fundamental rights and freedoms of man.

After this crisis, national reconciliation between all peoples, ethnic groups and tribes of the Congo should be undertaken as a precondition for building the foundations of a clear and accountable political process. Hence the great importance of a campaign of civil concord, to be conducted wisely by the men and women who function as political leaders. It follows that in order to preserve the unity of the Congo, restore national cohesion, it is imperative that we remove from the Congolese collective memory the suspicion of being Rwandan-orientated, which still weighs negatively on the entire Banyamulenge population. We will work with determination and consistency and will also deploy the psychological campaign designed to promote the membership of the Banyamulenge in the Congolese nation.