President Joseph Kabila is well known for his dislike of attending large diplomatic gatherings. He did not attend the AU summit in Kampala or the France-Africa summit in Nice, both held this summer. He also did not attend the inauguration ceremony of his Burundian counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza a few weeks ago.
All the more remarkable that he did attend the inauguration of Rwandan President Paul Kagame yesterday. It was the first time Joseph Kabila has been to Rwanda as president, and probably the first time since 1998, when the war between the Congo and Rwanda first kicked off. It just goes to show how important the recent co-operation between the two countries is for Kabila.
It is also a bit amusing (or foreboding?) to see the pro-Kabila Kinshasa newspapers sympathize with Kagame’s suppression of the opposition. L’Avenir tells the story of Laurent Kabila who hung up on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1997 when she ordered him to open political space. “It was as if she had asked him to open the dyke to make way for the flood,” the newspaper quipped. And to think that the same newspaper just a few years ago was lamenting the annexation of the eastern Congo by “the Tutsi.”
There are also persistent rumors that a second Umoja Wetu operation (i.e. a new Rwandan troop deployment into the Kivus) might be in the offing, but more on that soon.