Tag Archives: Congo

is UN in Congo beyond redemption?

23 Jul

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article suggesting that DR Congo was the unlikely source of redemption for the United Nations whose reputation has suffered greatly in that country (see The New Times 12/5/2013).

I posed the question whether the world body could redeem itself, at least in this region. The answer was yes – provided it was prepared to admit that it had done mistakes in the past and was now ready to correct them.

As you may recall, this was the beginning of the M23 rebellion in DR Congo.  The UN, because of its heavy presence on the ground, was bound to get involved.  And because of its historical blunders in the country, this was an opportunity to put things right.

Getting involved it did – by putting out dubious reports that placed blame in the wrong place and glossed over the real problems, doing nothing as atrocities were committed against civilians, or shielding the authors of such evil.

This was not the expected level and type of involvement.

The opportunity for redemption also presented itself. The UN could become the neutral arbiter, and with the amount of force and money at its disposal, force the DRC government and rebels to end hostilities.

Better still, the UN could use its organisational and financial clout to help the Congolese government reform and rebuild its institutions and extend control over the whole country.

The United Nations failed to seize the opportunity to redeem itself. It seems the organisation has not learnt any lessons from its earlier involvement in the Congo.

Today, the UN is again mired in the DR Congo, propping up an inefficient and incompetent government, standing by as untold horrors are committed against civilians they are supposed to protect and as has been reported recently, facilitating the cooperation of some of those rebel groups with the government army to commit more atrocities. Its reputation is again in tatters.

In almost every instance where the UN’s reputation has suffered, the reason has invariably been because it has gone against its core mandate and instead did the bidding of some of its more powerful members.

Successive UN Secretaries General since Dag Hammarskjold have learnt and perfected the art of self-preservation. The tenets of this art are very simple.

If you want to keep your job and life, don’t stick out your neck. Better still, be the willing errand boy (there is no girl yet) of the big boys. Inaction seems to be the unspoken rule within UN circles in DRC. It is not surprising that chances for salvation come and go and are not taken up.

But this region is generous and offers endless opportunities for redemption. The latest was the February 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for DRC brokered by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and signed by the eleven countries that make up International Conference for the Great Lakes Region.

Among other things, the Framework for peace and security recognised that the “recent crisis has created a window of opportunity to address the root causes of conflict and put an end to recurring cycles of violence”. It also recognised that “the current path is untenable”.

The Framework for peace urged the DRC government to make necessary reforms, extend its authority to all regions and to embark on reconciliation and democratisation and exercise tolerance.

Countries in the region were urged to not interfere in Congo’s problems, respect the territorial integrity of neighbours and their legitimate concerns of interest.

The international community was supposed to facilitate the realisation of these goals.

Everyone thought the framework for peace was the right way to go. Ban and his special envoy to the region, Mary Robinson, former president of the Republic of Ireland, were very enthusiastic about it. Finally here was an opportunity for redemption not to miss – for the DRC, the UN and the many meddlers from outside the region.

But that, too, has been spurned. The agreement was signed and shelved and business went on as usual.

The “untenable path” of war has been resumed. Indeed sabre-rattling has reached a new high with talk of the arrival and deployment of the UN Intervention Brigade. Peace talks have, for all practical purposes, collapsed.

MONUSCO seems to have finally abandoned any pretence to neutrality or playing the role of honest broker. It is in cahoots with various rebel groups, including the genocidal Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Last week Rwanda complained about shelling of its territory from areas in DRC under MONUSCO and Congolese army control.

Rwanda has also reported to the UN Security Council that commanders of the much-touted Intervention Brigade that is under MONUSCO Command have met and planned military strategy against M23 rebels with commanders of the FDLR. The force has actually gone ahead to deploy its troops with FDLR fighters as the capture of a Tanzanian soldier belonging to the brigade demonstrates.

It looks like the UN in DRC is not penitent enough to earn salvation. Still, one hopes it can yet be saved – it is not beyond redemption. But for that to happen, it has to change its ways.

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Congolese protesters without cause

20 May

Last week some Kenyans demonstrated against demands by their Members of Parliament for a pay rise even before they settle into their new job. They even enlisted the support of animals to make their case. And boy, did they make their point most pointedly – snout, ears, grunts and all!

The humans made a lot of noise, denouncing their representatives for showing such unbridled greed.  They even had time for a scuffle with other, uniformed, armed, silent but more menacing humans.

The pigs (who said they are stupid?) seemed unperturbed by the unfamiliar surroundings and whole human fracas around them. They rather seemed to enjoy the bloody meal liberally splashed on the tarmac. They went about their grunting licking of the stuff on the road unaware of the bloody letters on their backs, or if they did, they did not show any concern. The writing could have been beauty marks for all they cared.

However, the humans, as is their wont, saw in the whole drama evidence of their wanton spirit and condemned the hastily (and forced) arranged solidarity between pig and man against greed as cruelty to one of the parties and insult to the other.

The religious, especially among politicians (difficult to see how the twain happily lie together) could not stand being likened to haram. Question: Is clamouring for a pay hike before you do any work any less haram?

The self-righteous politicians saw in the symbolism an insult to their dignity. I don’t know how they reconcile such noble concern with an instinct for the self-awarding of pay and other perks. But of course politicians have this singular ability of seeing vice as virtue and vice versa when it suits them. No qualms about the flip flop or contradiction.

By far the loudest condemnation of the unsolicited support of the pigs in the protest came from animal rights groups. They saw in the protesters’ action cruelty and a blatant violation of the animals’ rights. Pigs rarely receive attention, let alone backing, except when is served. But this time people were prepared to die defending their animal dignity. They were lucky. They had someone to stand up for them.

Not so some humans in Oxford a few days later. Last Saturday, a bunch of Congolese were bussed to Oxford to protest President Paul Kagame’s visit to the ancient and famous university. They stood there, hungry, waiting to do their masters’ bidding.

Unlike the Nairobi pigs, however, no one protested that it was immoral to use hungry people this way. No one raised a voice that they had been cruelly uprooted from their land by the sponsors of the plunder of their country. None condemned the abuse of their rights – to food, employment, enjoyment of the bounty of their land and the right tom protest in their own homeland. Not a soul said a thing about their right to prevent their country from sliding into total ruin. Above all no one had told them anything about human dignity.

The sad irony of the sorry sight of the Congolese in Oxford was that their protest was misplaced. They aimed their anger at the wrong person while they actually acted for the continued plunder of their homeland. Without knowing it, they were aiding and abetting the confirmation of their country into failed statehood.

Again, unlike the pigs in Nairobi which had a sumptuous meal to make participation in the protest worth their while, the Oxford bunch had nothing except perhaps misplaced hatred and a free bus ride to the spot.

This is part of Africa’s tragedy. When pigs elicit more sympathy and when their rights seem to be more important than those of human beings, something is sadly wrong.

It is unfortunate that Africans have to leave their home, live in abject conditions in Europe or America only to be herded into demonstrations about things they know little about.

It is a tragedy when they live off crumbs when their country, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, is reportedly awash with all the world’s most precious stones that you can mine by only scratching the surface of the earth. Would it not be more worthwhile for the protesting lot to go back home and pick diamonds and gold by merely straying into the bush than be herded into buses in much the same way other Africans were led to ships off Africa’s west coast to go and enrich other lands, yet remain forbidden from enjoying the fruits of their labour?

Is it not a shame that the DRC, the wealthiest country in Africa in natural resources has the largest number of Africans living in the slums of Europe? The country’s minerals continue to be shipped out by the same people that are all too eager to get the poor Congolese out on the streets to protest against the wrong person.

No one – not even the most vocal of human rights groups – has raised any concern about their rights or plunder of their nation by the sponsors of protests.

In Nairobi, pigs will be protected against abuse. In other places human beings do not matter. That’s sad and shocking, and shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

Congo government is its own enemy

20 Nov

 

Last week fighting broke out again in eastern DR Congo and all indications are that the government army (FARDC) has got a real bloody nose. As has now become customary, the FARDC has fled in some disarray. All the talk we have been hearing from Mr Julien Paluku, Governor of North Kivu Province and Mr Lambert Mende, minister of information in the Kinshasa government, about crushing the M23 rebels has evaporated.

It is not the first time such talk has been heard. Saddam Hussein threatened the mother of all battles when President George Bush Senior attacked Iraq. He was beaten back to the gates of Baghdad. The younger George Bush eventually finished him off. The mother of all battles gained popular currency, but that was all.

Only two years ago, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi threatened to crush the rats of Benghazi when that city rose up against his four-decade rule. His ignominious ending was as bad as he had vowed against his own people.

Then there was Saddam Hussein’s colourful, clownish minister of information giving out all those stories about giving the invaders a lesson they would not forget even as they were metres away.

Some things never change, and some people never learn.

Predictably, Rwanda has been dragged into the recent fighting in the DR Congo, even when it has been shown it has no hand in it. And in an attempt to create a link between the two, there have been curious coincidences that are not accidental, but point to a pattern, nay, a plot against Rwanda.

Let us illustrate with a few of these contrived coincidences that continue to appear even when they become obvious to most keen observers that they are just that.

The latest fighting in eastern D R Congo broke out just when the United Nations Security Council was discussing the report of the so-called Group of Experts alleging Rwanda’s support for M23. Indeed it was reported that the “experts” were pushing for UN sanctions against some senior Rwandan officials. If their recommendations had been adopted, that would have paved the way for sanctions against Rwanda.

The outbreak of the current fighting was therefore probably meant to influence the decisions of the Security Council.

Predictable, too, have been the actions of some of the permanent members of the Security Council. France was quick to call for a meeting of the council apparently to authorise MONUSCO to get more directly involved in the fighting on the government side. The diplomatic cover for taking sides in the fighting is the much-abused protection of civilians. Note: the meeting was not called to find ways to end the fighting, but actually to escalate it.

This also has happened before in this region. Some members of the Security Council blocked the UN force in Rwanda in 1994 getting the capacity it needed to prevent the Genocide. France actually went ahead to press for an exclusively French force that not only abetted the genocide, but also shepherded the genocidaires into D R Congo (then Zaire) where they were able to regroup and rearm.

Part of what is happening in DRC originates from those actions.

The other arranged coincidence was the leaking of the Group of Experts report to the media at the time Rwanda was in the running for election to the Security Council. The intention was clear – to influence the vote against Rwanda. In the event, accusations in the report had little impact. Rwanda won the vote handsomely.

In 2010 another UN Report, the so-called Mapping Report on DRC in which Rwanda was painted as the very devil, was released to coincide with the presidential election. Again, the intention was unmistakable – discredit President Paul Kagame and the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), influence the result of the election and erode Rwanda’s international standing.

What is not a coincidence is the similarity of the reports and other accusations against Rwanda. They use the same methodology and have similar flaws. – not surprising since they are done by the same people and based on information from the same sources.

It is obvious, however, that it is not the government of the DRC alone doing all this. They are so inept they cannot even tell a simple lie. So who is doing it?

There is a convergence of interests here. The D R Congo government wants to divert attention from its inability to establish effective authority over its territory and denial of its citizens’ rights.

 A small, former colonial power which built itself on the plunder of  Congo’s wealth, but whose fortunes have been steadily declining and now risks becoming completely irrelevant, sees in the crisis an opportunity to resurrect them and make it a significant global player again. 

Then there is the evil alliance between NGOs still smarting from their inability to establish a presence and relevance in Rwanda, a media that feeds off tales of destruction and contempt for truth where Africa is concerned, and a motley collection of genocide apologists and remnants of an imperialist-bashing ideology of yore. Imagine a combination of Lambert Mende, Steve Hege, Jason Stearns and some editors at international news agencies and media. They will cook up something utterly unpalatable.  That is what they have succeeded in doing in D R Congo.

 

Congo offers the UN redemption

6 Nov

 

Can the United Nations redeem itself, at least in this region? Yes, it can, provided some of its officials are humble enough to admit their mistakes and correct them.

The United Nations does many good things. So it is not beyond redemption. In this region of the Great Lakes, however, the good things are hardly remembered. They have been swamped by a lot of bad ones over the last fifty years.

The UN had its reputation severely damaged in the 1960s when it first got involved in efforts to bring peace to a newly independent but fractious Congo. Its Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, was caught up and killed in what have since become the country’s intractable conflicts.

Nationalist leaders were killed before a powerless UN. The organisation stood by as reactionary elements in Congo took control of the country and plunged it into a mess it has never recovered from.

More than fifty years later, the UN has not learnt any lessons from its earlier involvement in Congo. Today, the UN is mired in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), propping up an inefficient and incompetent government, standing by as untold horrors are committed against civilians they are supposed to protect and as various armed groups take control of huge chumks of territory. Its reputation is again in tatters.

In neighbouring Rwanda, the story is similar. In the run-up to independence, the majority of Rwandans put much faith in the UN as a guarantor of their quest for freedom from Belgian rule. The UN betrayed this faith. It did nothing as the first massacres of what became periodic pogroms were committed and hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were driven into exile.

The UN was again present in 1994 and did nothing when the genocide against the Tutsi was carried out.

In all instances, the UN has lost its reputation when going against its core mandate and doing the bidding of some of its more powerful members.

 In 1960s’ Congo, the UN was essentially being used as an arm of the United States of America and other Western countries. In today’s DRC, it is being used to serve the narrow interests of some countries.

Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold had foreseen this and sought to assert the organisation’s independence against narrow national interests of member states. It is not surprising that he died at the hands of such interests.

It seems successive Secretaries General learnt the lesson: If you want to keep your job and life, don’t stick out your neck. Better still, be the willing errand boy (there is no girl yet) of the big boys. And that’s how it has been since then. We have had pliant UN Secretaries General.

That was the case in Rwanda in 1994. Then Secretary General Boutros Ghali obeyed the orders of the French – from sending a toothless peace keeping force, the bulk of which was withdrawn at the height of the genocide, to authorising a French-only protection force for genocidaires fleeing the scene of crime and allowing them to continue the genocide (the so-called Zone Turquoise).

Now both the UN and the West have an opportunity to redeem themselves. The rebellion in eastern DRC offers them this unique chance.

This is how it can be done. First, they must treat DRC as a country with citizens and not a free-for-all huge mine with no owner. Considering that greed for Congo’s natural wealth has been at the heart of its problems for more than a century, this might be a tough ask. But then redemption never comes easy.

Second, the UN and countries that use it for their own ends should be able to carry out real analysis of situations they get involved in. Its bureaucrats are the best paid people in the world. They must get down to work and earn their money. This means that they must stop sub-contracting their work to so-called experts, who it turns out are not disinterested specialists, but actually biased activists.

Third, they should also stop relying almost exclusively on the testimony of civil society organisations. The fact is that civil society organisations in Africa are not independent and cannot be objective. They get their agenda and are financed from outside – usually by the same international NGOs and foreign governments who come to them for information. As the saying goes, ‘who pays the piper calls the tune”.

It does not come as a surprise that DRC has one of the largest numbers of civil society groups – itself both a sign of a failed state and the cause for failure.

Once all this is done, it will be found that the real problem in the DRC is not Rwanda, Uganda or even M23, but the country itself and its backers.

Finally, with this realisation, the UN and the West should lift pressure and blame from Rwanda and place it where it belongs – on DRC. It must be pressured (and perhaps helped) to establish effective government over all its territory, treat all its citizens the same way and respect agreements. Doing otherwise is counterproductive.

So, the UN and the West are not beyond redemption. But first, they must be penitent. They don’t even have to confess their sins. It is enough that they recognise them and commit to change their ways. Absolution will then surely be given.

Congo could benefit from Rwanda’s agaciro

2 Oct

In the past ten years, certain words have gained currency among Rwandans. It’s not that they are new or rare. They are actually in common use. But they have gained more significance because they now define who Rwandans are, their attitudes and collective outlook.

The words are ownership (kugira ibintu ibyawe) and dignity (agaciro). The two have become synonymous with the search for practical solutions to challenges and a source of national pride.

Now, Rwandans have always owned everything. They own the whole world because as they say Rwanda is the world and the world is Rwanda. This is not a question of physical ownership. It is more the expression of a concept of a world view where Rwandanness is not defined by physical boundaries but by their citizenship of the world.

This view must have been behind the attitude of those of us who lived in other countries as refugees when we took over ownership of the places where we lived – at least conceptually. Rwandans referred to the nationals of those countries as foreigners (abanyamahanga). They were not being arrogant or ungrateful. It is simply the way they saw the world.

This view of the universe from a Rwanda-centric viewpoint extends to religious matters as well. Rwandans even own God. To my knowledge, they are one of only two people who have appropriated God as their own. He is even domiciled in Rwanda.

I don’t intend to wade into Rwandan metaphysics or theology. I only want to relate how the idea of ownership lies behind Rwanda’s current state of development.

In today’s sense, ownership means taking possession of one’s circumstances wherever one is and turning them to advantage. It means taking responsibility for oneself and doing everything to make them work best for you. Ownership means that you alone are responsible for yourself and what you become. You don’t owe it to anyone else. Nor can you expect anyone to pick up that responsibility for you.

In simple terms, ownership of anything is at the root of a “fix it” mentality.

That’s why Rwandans even own their problems and challenges. It is the beginning of solving them.

The other word is agaciro. It draws wild cheers when it is uttered. The word has become the answer and explanation to practically everything Rwandans face. If a Rwandan does something extra-ordinary, it is because of agaciro. If anything is done to demean Rwandans, you are warned not to play with their agaciro. Rwanda’s economic growth is both cause and effect of agaciro, as well as its expression. The frequency with which agaciro is used, even in conversation in English; I would not be surprised if it becomes part of English vocabulary before long.

Like the concept of ownership, the idea of agaciro is part of how Rwandans define themselves.. It is part of their world view. Because they own the universe, they also feel responsible for its well-being, and can only ensure that if they are dignified – wherever in the world they may be.

More significantly, the word is at the centre of what they want to become, how they want to get there and the means of surmounting challenges.

Rwandans know they could not have fixed their political problems – from liberation to ending the genocide and dealing with its aftermath – if they did not own them or felt that their dignity was sufficiently affronted to warrant action.

Looking at ongoing problems in our region, one wishes other people shared Rwandans’ worldview, especially the determination to solve them. Rwanda’s Congolese neighbours particularly need to make ownership part of their everyday vocabulary, and more importantly, part of a problem-solving kit. That way they would not have to run around the world pleading for help to put their own house in order. They would not put their faith in the hands of foreigners with questionable interests. They would not surrender responsibility over their country, and worse, their sovereignty as they have now done.

That they have done all this betrays a lack of agaciro. Yet they only have to look across the border to see the impact of that short word.  They can even borrow it and it will be given to them gratis. I am sure there is a high price for the foreign support they are so eager to get.

Unfortunately, these particular neighbours of Rwanda do not seem to have a world view in which they have an active part to play. And what’s worse, they won’t permit some among their own people with a “fix it” mentality to help. And that’s a pity.

Rwandan opposition in treasonable acts

21 Aug

It is an indisputable fact that Africa remains the most backward continent. This situation is largely our fault. Africa has the world’s largest deposits of natural resources, most of which are absolutely essential for the comforts of modern life. But those countries that have them in plenty give them away for next to nothing. As a result their people live in untold poverty in some indefinable age – certainly not modern. In a country not far from here, where reportedly precious minerals can be picked from every village path and cranny in the ground, citizens still hunt birds, monkeys, other hairy crawling insects and slithering reptiles for sustenance.

The continent is divided along multiple small, inconsequential things. We are also largely to blame for this. We get divided over such stupid things as which European languages we use or preference for tomato ketchup or mayonnaise. Sometimes these silly things determine how serious matters concerning our continent are determined.

Not surprisingly, Africa is weak as individual countries and collectively. We do not have a single voice and our disparate voices are so discordant they do not command attention, or so frail they can’t be heard.

One needs only to look at what happened in Libya and Ivory Coast last year to appreciate this point. The African Union was essentially absent in Libya, and when it woke up to the reality in country, it was ignored like it did not exist. NATO went on to bomb Libya and drive Gaddafi into a drainage pipe where he was eventually ferreted out and killed in the gruesome manner not even he deserved.

In Ivory Coast, as the AU talked and dithered, French troops walked into President Laurent Gbagbo’s bedroom and marched him out in the most undignified fashion. Most people can remember the pathetic bewildered look on Gbagbo’s face as he was led out of his bedroom.

Today, in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo the loudest noises are being made by foreigners – the media, UN, NGOs and foreign governments. The voice of the Congolese, particularly that of those directly affected by the conflict have been drowned by external noise. The rest of the Congolese, including the government and the military, are actually happy to surrender responsibility for their nation’s wellbeing to strangers.

That’s how pathetic things can be – when nationals gleefully participate in the emasculation of their countries. It is actually criminal.

It is not in the DRC that this is happening. Even here in Rwanda there are people willing to subject their country to shame and pain.

In the past several weeks different groups of Rwandans have been jumping for joy because donors have cut aid to Rwanda.  They have been celebrating the supposed difficulty their country is bound to face.

Now, it is only traitors or the insane who wish pestilence visited on their country or revel in the destruction of their home. But the so-called opposition political groups are doing just that. In the process, they have shown themselves to have no programme except greed and a readiness to surrender the right to decide the national interest to foreigners.

Yet in the countries where they live and from where they commit such treason, sometimes with the active backing of elements from those countries, such things never happen. Whenever the countries are attacked or threatened, all differences are set aside; they close ranks and defend the common interest.

Our neighbours in DRC are also happy that Rwanda is getting the stick, especially from the UN and some Western countries. They can’t stop applauding the countries that have supposedly cut aid to Rwanda. Yet an economically strong Rwanda is in the best interests of Congo – except, of course, if they are driven by spite and want to drag everyone to their level of incompetence and dysfunction.

Congolese experts in sounding the alarm (that seems their only expertise) have convinced SADC to join the bandwagon of those brandishing the stick against Rwanda.

Even some African academics and scholars and all manner of activists have taken up bashing of African countries supposedly in the name of higher ideals in a vain attempt to gain acceptability in the West. In effect what they achieve is support to burn their own house.

It does not require super intelligence to notice that such attitudes cannot serve Congo’s or Africa’s interests. Instead they play into the hands of foreigners who have a different agenda.

Of course, such divisions and lack of common purpose are not new in African history. The continent was colonised because of that. African response to colonialism was divided between resisters who sought to defend their independence and national interests, collaborators driven by greed and guarantees of personal positions, and those who had no clue about what to do.

This is happening again. We have people prepared to collaborate with forces bent on arresting our progress. That should not be allowed to happen.

Congo: a conversation with the deaf

14 Aug

In the past few months diplomatic activity in our region, mainly linked to the violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been very intense. As with other fields, diplomacy has its peculiar vocabulary. Dialogue is one of them – frequently used, but as often misused.

In the language of diplomacy, dialogue means a discussion between two groups, countries, organisations and so on aimed at reaching common ground. In ordinary language it means a conversation. Whether you use dialogue or conversation, the essential thing is that more than one person or group, presumed to be equal, is involved.

Dialogue or conversation becomes necessary because people have different viewpoints about an issue which must be appreciated. Appreciation of alternative points of view – some of which may be disagreeable or outright wrong, others right or may turn out to be right seen in a different light, and many more that range between the two extremes – requires that one listens to them. That’s the essence of conversation and what makes it worthwhile.

Incidentally, the above is also an important element in the definition of democracy. Ultimately democracy is the ability to make a choice from different alternatives based on available information. This, too, requires listening to other views.

I have gone to some length to define dialogue or conversation because it seems to me that its chief ingredients are missing from some of the discussions on Congo (and Rwanda, which is always blamed for whatever goes wrong in its western neighbour).

Conversation on Congo is one-sided – which means no conversation at all. One side, the one with the wealth and power, does the talking; others must listen but not respond. This one-sided conversation, also known as monologue, comes to us from governments of powerful countries, international organisations, foreign media and NGOs – all of which have appointed themselves custodians and defenders of international morality, even when the very word is unknown to them.

For instance, an ideologically biased UN Group of Experts comes up with a shoddy report by any standard blaming Rwanda for the latest outbreak of fighting in Congo, and all the above groups pick it and compel the whole world that to believe it. Voices on the ground in Congo and in the region say it is not, but cannot be heard. The government of Rwanda makes a detailed, systematic rebuttal that cuts the report to shreds, but that, too, cannot be heard.

None of these become part of the conversation. It is like they were never said. All the groups that were shrill about the Group of Experts’ report are suddenly silent about evidence to the contrary and the rebuttal like someone had put a heavy hand on their mouths.

So, the monologue continues in what amounts to: “You have to listen to what we tell you, but do not expect us to listen to you – not because you have nothing of value to say, but because we choose not to”. Another word for this attitude is arrogance.

Inevitably, in this sort of conversation, there are casualties, the main one being truth. Truth becomes what those doing the talking decree it to be. Forget it being that which is an objective fact. In other words, those who arrogate to themselves the right to speak but deny others the right of response, create their own truth, or select what elements constitute truth and trash what does not fit into their one-sided conversation.

And so, the Group of Experts, foreign NGOs, media and Western governments can clearly see M23 rebels, but find FDLR genocidaires invisible. They create and therefore can see Rwanda’s hand behind M23, but are totally blind to a Congo government that cannot keep its word, or protect its people, or their own historical role and continuing interest in keeping Congo impoverished, disunited and its government incompetent.

They choose the lie of recruitment, training and arming of rebel soldiers by Rwanda over the truth of rebel ranks being swelled by deserting government soldiers and large quantities of weapons left behind by the fleeing Congolese army that has no will or cause to fight. They elect to see crimes allegedly committed by M23 rebels, such as rape, abduction and murder of civilians and plunder of minerals. Never mind that it does not make sense for M23 to commit such crimes against their own people and in an area it seeks to raise support.

Instead, they refuse to see the same crimes actually committed by Congo government troops, FDLR and a host of other criminal outfits, even its own UN force. And as President Paul Kagame has consistently pointed out, they find the supposed recruitment of child soldiers a worse crime than the murder of those children and their families.

If you reject the terms of the one-sided conversation, or refuse to be party to it, you will be whipped. Now, the horrors of the kiboko (whip made from hippo hide) are well-known in Belgian-run Congo and Rwanda and Burundi. In Congo, when the kiboko was not persuasive enough, Belgian colonial and commercial interests made sure their will was obeyed by chopping off  limbs, lips and ears, or burying their Congolese victims alive. The Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony obviously learnt that lesson very well.

In modern times, you will be whipped with the aid stick and threat of prosecution in the International Criminal Court.

The only speakers permitted to be heard in this non-conversation (if they were from Africa, they would be called dictators) will do everything to make sure that only what they have decreed to be truth is heard. They will create such a cacophony as to drown all other voices. The media will bombard us with inaccuracies and outright lies; spokespeople and all manner of experts will issue reports of dubious quality and questionable intentions. 

And all this from the preachers of democracy and champions of various rights and freedoms. The one-sided conversation imposed on some of our countries sounds like an argument with the deaf. You can’t get far.