By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: March 3, 2009
BUKIMA, Congo — Jean-Marie Serundori's eyes light up when he sees his old hulk of a friend Kabirizi.
War, displacement and bloodthirsty rebels had gotten between them.
But for the first time in years, this section of a venerated Congolese national park is rebel-free. Government wildlife rangers, like Mr. Serundori, are firmly in control — for the moment. And Kabirizi, a 500-pound silverback gorilla with a head as big as an engine block, seems to be flourishing in his kingdom of leaves.
Mr. Vlassenroot and other Congo hands are warning that all the years of cross-border meddling and intrigue as thick as the Congolese jungle make it extremely difficult to tell whether the new Rwanda-Congo relationship is a genuine and lasting change, or simply more maneuvering.
The joint military operation has been somewhat successful, at least by eastern Congo's depressingly low standards. The two former enemy armies fought side by side without massacring each other. They killed dozens of rebels, including some commanders, and exerted pressure on several hundred to leave the bush. They arrested Laurent Nkunda, the Congolese rebel leader and former general whose brutal tactics and Congo-size ambitions had threatened to plunge this entire region back into war.
But at least 100 villagers were killed, too, either in the cross-fire or by fleeing rebels bent on revenge. And there may be more bloodletting to come.