Tanzania and Sri Lanka
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was held in Sri Lanka from 12 to 17 November. British Prime Minister David Cameron seemed primarily interested in criticising the Sri Lankan government for serious breaches of human rights in the final days of a vicious 26-year-long civil war that caused thousands of deaths, extreme violence, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances. The Prime Ministers of Canada and India boycotted the meeting for the same reason.
However, Tanzania and many other participants praised the Sri Lankan government for its remarkable post-civil war transformation since 2009. President Kikwete took a powerful delegation to Colombo, including several cabinet ministers and vowed to strengthen bilateral cooperation. Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa had paid a state visit to Tanzania in June 2013.
Tanzania, the DRC and Rwanda
The disorderly state of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has defied all efforts by a large UN peace-keeping force to re-establish control by its elected central government in the distant capital Kinshasa. The UN troops seemed to be in a quagmire and unable to solve the problem. The rebel force had had considerable success and a year earlier had captured the major eastern city of Goma.
The long controversy also badly damaged relations between Tanzania and Rwanda; Tanzania accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel army, an allegation consistently denied by the Rwandan government.
In recent months, however, things have changed. Tanzanian President Kikwete took over the principal role in the UN intervention, sending 1,200 troops to make up to 3,000 the ‘Force Intervention Brigade’, which includes contingents from South Africa and Malawi. Under a new UN policy, these troops were given extra powers, allowing them to undertake offensive operations with the Congolese army against the ‘M23’ rebels and other dissidents in order to finally restore peace. The new force has long range artillery (its Tanzanian commander is an artillery expert) and it also has South African snipers.
In a remarkably short space of time the new Tanzanian-led Force was successful. It is believed that Rwanda withdrew any support it had been giving the “M23” rebels, who admitted that they had been defeated and dispersed. A Tanzanian officer and two soldiers were killed in the fighting.
The three month tiff between President Kikwete and Rwandan President Kagame [TA No 106] seems to be over following a cordial meeting in Kampala in September.