Hopes for peace in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were boosted on Friday. In a surprising shift in policy, the government of Rwanda arrested Laurent Nkunda, the leader of rebel forces in the North Kivu region. Nkunda’s forces, believed to be supported by the government of Rwanda, had been engaged in a guerrilla war against both the government of the DRC and Hutu militants who fled into the Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. According to the New York Times, the government of Rwanda had come under increasing pressure to move against Nkunda, who has been accused of crimes against humanity for his role in the war in the Congo. The government of the DRC has requested Nkunda be extradited to the Congo to face trial there, but the Rwandan government has not yet confirmed whether or not they will hand their former ally over to stand trial.
The extent to which this may represent a real shift in the Congo remains unclear. The government of the Congo is still fragile, and its ability to effectively govern is weak, particularly in the eastern Congo near the Rwandan border. The arrest of Nkunda nevertheless represents an important—and hopeful—development in the region. Perhaps the long period of instability in the Great Lakes region is finally drawing to a close.