Peace in the Great Lakes Region: Time for a Regional Approach
The countries of the Great Lakes region face the possibility of rising regional tensions which could lead to renewed violence. Relations between Uganda and Rwanda are at a historical low, and the heightened tensions between Rwanda and Burundi are entering a sixth year. At the same time, the change in leadership in the DRC, and an apparent commitment by President Félix Tshisekedi to address chronic instability and violence in the eastern DRC provide an opportunity to reinvigorate regional relations in a positive manner. Although still too early to tell, the recent leadership change in Burundi may also provide an opening to re-engage with the government to bring an end to the political crisis and years of isolation. In order to effectively address instability in the DRC and rising political tensions in the wider Great Lakes region, a strong, regionally rooted political process is necessary to address violence, instability and the business of illegal resource exploitation in the region. This paper looks at the status quo, particularly the interests that have driven and sustained instability in the region and the eastern DRC in particular. It argues that a new high-level regional political process is necessary in order to end decades of violence and prevent an escalation arising from growing tensions between key countries. A key element of such a peace process must be a reframing of the conflict narrative of the past 30 years, which has persistently placed governance failures in the DRC at the centre of the conversation, without recognising and addressing the reality that governance failures in other countries are equally significant drivers of instability and violence.