There are many images that convey the complexity of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and this crisis-torn region of Africa. The sight of 280 fully armed Rwandan special forces dressed in Congolese army fatigues, striding purposefully across the border back into their homeland from the DRC in early September 2012, is but one.
The withdrawal is the latest phase in the efforts of regional and international actors to resolve the immediate damage caused by the revolt of the M-23 militia (see "DR Congo: the politics of suffering", 5 September 2012). But a longer-term settlement requires much more: ending the violence and restarting the political process, thereby giving the population of the North and South Kivu regions - who are almost forgotten amid all the high-profile accusations - a chance to live securely and peacefully. This in turn raises the pressing need to ditch the blame-game. For too long, making short-term political capital from the crisis has become the default position for all sides - states, NGOs, the United Nations, extreme nationalist groups, and the international media. The appalling consequences have been felt by civilians in the region and in diaspora communities in Europe.
The M-23 and Kinshasa
In the view from the DR Congo's capital Kinshasa, the M-23 revolt was caused by the international community's insistence that the militia leader Bosco Ntaganda should be arrested and transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for trial over alleged war crimes.
The Ntaganda issue was ostensibly dealt with under the Nairobi peace agreement of 2009 with the DRC president, Joseph Kabila. This provided for Ntaganda's full integration - along with other former members of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) militia - into the Congolese army (the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo [FARDC]). Rwanda was also party to the agreement and assisted the integration progress, but the latter was in essence a Congolese government issue.
In February-March 2012, after the request came to arrest Ntaganda, DRC officials met their Rwandan counterparts to gain support for his detention and to help facilitate the movement of ex-CNDP soldiers now serving with FARDC into other areas of the DRC. It is noteworthy here that the UN force in the region - the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco) - was deployed next to Ntaganda and could itself easily have made the arrest on behalf of the international community and the ICC. Instead, on 7 April, Ntaganda - after hearing rumours that he would be held - disappeared with 200 men.