Tag Archives: UN

US gets it wrong on Rwanda

8 Oct

 

In this region, some things never change regardless of the facts on the ground. For instance, when it comes to issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda inevitably gets drawn into the mess even when it is evident that it has nothing to do with it.

And so predictably, last week the State Department announced that the United States government was suspending military aid to Rwanda. Rwanda’s crime? Aiding and abetting the recruitment and training of child soldiers for the M23 rebels in Eastern DRC.

When this was announced, there was a collective sense of shock and disbelief. What? Child soldiers in Rwanda? Impossible. Not in a million years!

I believe some in the State Department were equally flabbergasted by the utterly wrong and illogical accusation.

But in the Congolese jungle, now also inhabited by the United Nations and the big powers, logic is an alien concept; truth doesn’t matter; shock and puzzlement don’t count. What matters is to advance the plot of a narrative that has been created about Rwanda.

The accusation against Rwanda raises an important question. Who actually shapes the Obama Administration’s policy on the Great Lakes Region? Is it crafted by the State Department as indeed it should be? Or is it fashioned elsewhere and then brought to bear on the State Department?

Apparently, Obama’s Great Lakes policy is made elsewhere, not at State Department. This is why.

The United States embassy in Kigali, the US Army’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the US military in general know and understand the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) very well. They all know its composition and reputation. They are aware it is a highly respected, disciplined, professional and an efficient fighting force. It therefore has no need or place for child soldiers.

The US military has cooperated with the RDF in training and peace-keeping missions. So has the United Nations.

All top AFRICOM Commanders, almost as a rule, call on the Rwandan ministry of defence and RDF at the start and end of their tour of duty, and many times between.

On the basis of all the information gathered by the different agencies, the US Departments of State and Defence have the correct picture of Rwanda and the region.

So where does this obviously misinformed policy come from?

For one, it has the unmistakable imprint of Human Rights Watch, the UN Department of Peace –keeping Operations (DPKO) and their media allies like Reuters, For some inexplicable reason, Human Rights Watch has President Obama’s ear and is able to influence his policy towards the Great Lakes Region.

For long Human Rights Watch has set itself in opposition to Rwanda. It has carried out a hate campaign against this country and attempted to implicate it in the anarchy, numerous rebellions and human rights abuses in the ungoverned Eastern DRC. This crusading rights group has done so through misinformation, lies and fabrication which are then spread as truth by their partners in the media.

None of this has stuck. Which is why they keep on rehashing it or looking for fresh accusations like the new crime called the recruitment of child soldiers. If everything else fails, surely thi will work. Apparently it is a worse crime than extensive massacres, mass rape, pillage, extortion and wanton destruction of property, and even genocide.

How else can one explain the complete lack of condemnation of the FDLR and the Congolese army’s adoption of the genocidal group as their comrades in arms? Or the total absolution of the DRC government from all blame by MONUSCO’s chief of child protection, Ms Dee Brillenburg Wurth with her laughable assertion that DRC has zero tolerance to the use of child soldiers? She has effectively become DRC’s spokesperson. A certain Mr Lambert Mende had better watch out.

There is another sinister motive behind the present accusation against Rwanda. It follows a familiar line peddled by MONUSCO and its parent body, the UN’s DPKO, Human Rights Watch and associated media, and the DRC government. They have always insisted that M23 is not a Congolese rebellion but rather a Rwandan creation.

Denying that the rebellion is a Congolese problem removes the responsibility for its solution from the DRC government and from the huge UN peace-keeping operation in the country. On the other hand, making it appear like external aggression gives the enemies of Rwanda, especially the foreign backers of the FDLR and remnants of the genocidal regime that created it the pretext to continue supporting them so as to destabilise the country.

Equally dangerous, the denial of M23 as a genuine Congolese rebellion with legitimate grievances is also denial of the right of thousands of Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese to Congolese nationality. This is at the root of M23 grievances. It is hardly surprising that the so-called international community refuses to discuss the plight of Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese refugees in neighbouring countries. 

In seeking to punish Rwanda for crimes it has not committed, the Obama Administration is placing itself into a trap. First, it is ceding American leadership in the region to non-state actors and special interest groups as well as certain countries with a vested interest in the continuation of instability in the region.

Second, it risks becoming complicit in ethnic cleansing and probably genocide.  Neither of which does anything to advance peace and security in the region or globally, not to speak of Obama’s legacy in Africa.

Advertisements

Peace in DRC distant

6 Aug

Is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) anywhere near achieving peace? Hardly, even with the massive deployment of troops, huge expenditure and frantic diplomatic efforts. And this is why.

Firstly, there is growing evidence that the various organs of the United Nations are pulling in different directions in the search for an end to the conflict in DRC.

On the one hand, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appears to favour a peaceful solution to the conflict. He put a lot of effort in formulating the Framework Agreement for peace in the DRC and having it signed by the heads of state of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. He also seems to support regional initiatives. The appointment of Ms Mary Robinson as his special envoy to the Great Lakes Region would also indicate his intentions for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On the other hand, the UN peace-keeping department under Frenchman Herve Ladsous seems to pull in another direction. It supports military action and ignores, even undermines regional efforts to end the conflict. For instance MONUSCO issued an ultimatum to all armed rebels to disarm just an ICGLR Summit was meeting in Nairobi, Kenya to seek a more workable solution within the Framework Agreement.

MONUSCO was set up precisely to disarm armed rebels in DRC, but there is very little to show in this regard. Instead, it has partnered with some of them.

MONUSCO’s partisanship and the ultimatum it issued a few weeks ago are eerily reminiscent of what happened in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994. The French supported a regime that was clearly planning and later committed genocide. When the regime was facing certain defeat, its leaders, armed forces and armed militia were shepherded to safety in DRC (then Zaire) by the French who continued to arm them.

Apparently Ladsous’s MONUSCO wants to shepherd them back into Rwanda – arms, genocide ideology and all.

Pulling in different directions at the UN obviously complicates matters and leads to the question. Who actually runs the United Nations? It seems the Secretary General does not. A cartel of powerful nations and interests does.

Ban Ki-moon will trot to the different trouble spots across the globe and try to persuade groups facing off against each to come to the negotiating table and talk peace. He will smile to emphasise his peaceful intentions. Occasionally he will threaten and frown to signal the gravity of his mission. But that’s about all he can do because most of the time he will be ignored.

Ladsous will sit in New York and bully his way to achieve what his masters want.

All the powerful nations and groupings such as the United States and the European Union also have special envoys in the DRC to further their own interests which more often than not do not correspond to those of the UN.

Not surprisingly, President Uhuru Kenyatta was prompted to point out at the ICGLR Summit in Nairobi on July 31st that the UN in eastern DRC should “strengthen rather than complicate and overlap” peace efforts already initiated in that country.

Secondly, the money and effort are spent on finding the wrong answer to the problem in the Congo. The military solution that is now the preferred option in dealing with an essentially political and governance issue will not work. Insecurity in the east of the DRC and other parts of that huge, wealthy but ill-governed country is a consequence of bad governance, not inherent criminality. The proliferation of armed groups (as we have argued many times before) is a result of the absence of an effective state in the area.

No amount of money, no number of troops however well-supplied with sophisticated weapons, including drones, will fix the security and political problems in DRC.  The United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) set up in 1999 and its successor, the UN Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) and now the Intervention Brigade only add to the insecurity; they don’t end it.

Until all the money and effort are put to the right cause –  to strengthen the state and address the denationalisation of some Congolese, which is the root cause of the conflict, all attempts at pacifying eastern DRC will remain futile.

Thirdly, the deep involvement of the United Nations is itself a problem. I do not know of any troubled place where the United Nations has actually brought peace. On the contrary, wherever the UN has been involved, it has only succeeded in exacerbating the existing situation, often making a temporary territorial split permanent or helping fragment a country.

Examples abound. Two years ago NATO, with UN backing, attacked Libya to remove Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. The country has since been fragmented.

Congo itself is a classic example of UN failure from the 1960s to the present.

The lowest point of the UN getting it wrong was in Rwanda and the Balkans. In the former, genocide was committed while its peacekeeping force, weakened by the very organisation that had set it up, looked on. The genocide only ended when the Rwandese Patriotic Army resumed its offensive and drove the genocidal regime out of the country. In the latter, ethnic cleansing on a massive scale was systematically carried out as the UN watched. It took action by the United States and NATO to put an end to it.

Today, ethnic cleansing is happening in the DRC as the UN again watches, and if not checked it will turn into genocide. Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese and even Rwanda nationals doing legitimate business in the DRC have recently been arrested, taken to unknown places and tortured. The UN, whose mission is to protect civilians, has said or done nothing about it.

This time it even gets worse because the UN is complicit in the crime. Through MONUSCO, it has knowingly or through inexcusable negligence allowed the genocidal Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to fight in the Congolese army’s ranks which it backs or as part of its own Intervention Brigade. This is bound to destabilise not only DRC but the whole region, and for this reason, peace remains distant.

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.

Lull before the storm in DRC?

22 Apr

It has been unusually quiet in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of late. Is this a sign that things are getting better there? Don’t fool yourself. They haven’t for the last fifty years and won’t now unless several things happen.

First, the Congolese government must take responsibility for what has gone wrong in the region and correct it. It cannot continue blaming outsiders for its own failures. In the same way, it cannot rely on outsiders for solutions to its own weaknesses.

Second, the United Nations and others in the international community should stop treating Congo like a country more sinned against than sinning. They must show it its sins and pressure it to put its house in order. In any case they share the blame for the mess in Congo and have an obligation to put the situation right. That requires that they own up and see the situation as it actually is, not what they would like it to be. It requires respecting the lives of millions of Congolese and not putting narrow and selfish economic and political interests above them.

The silence is not about improvement in the Congolese situation. It is perhaps because the international media and their rights kin, those creatures who seem to enjoy beating war drums and then gleefully cheer as people tear each other apart and then pretend to be horrified,  have their attention turned to other areas that feed their lust for violence. Or it may be the proverbial lull before the storm. It is probably both.

While there hasn’t been much fighting on the ground lately, there is still an atmosphere of belligerence. There has been a great deal of sabre-rattling from all sides involved in the conflict in eastern DRC apparently caused by the imminent arrival of a military intervention force in the region.

The Congolese government has high hopes in the force and has felt so emboldened as to order the M23 rebels to disarm and disband. They give the impression that the intervention brigade has come to help the government fight M23.

Notice they do not mention other rebel groups like the FDLR. Is it because it has ceased to exist or is no longer a threat to its citizens and neighbouring countries? More likely, it is because the Congolese government and FDLR are now allies and the latter’s fighters have agreed to fight alongside  the government troops.

As usual in Congo, the government and the international community are living under self-delusion. Even if the M23 were the major problem and even if they were to disappear, it is doubtful that peace would return to eastern DRC. M23 is not the cause of the conflict. it is merely a response to an existing situation.

In their excitement about the intervention brigade, the government in Kinshasa has ignored the peace talks with M23 in Kampala, which shows they were never committed to them in the first place.

On its part, the M23 has been warning both the government and the countries that will contribute to the force against attacking its positions and has promised them a bloody nose if they do. They have reminded them that they have a cause to fight and even die for while the intervention brigade does not.

The M23 rebels insist that there are ongoing peace talks in Kampala which should be given a chance. They have therefore put the UN on the spot for its apparent preference for a military solution to eastern Congo’s problems, when its mandate should be working towards a political resolution of the conflict.

Countries contributing troops to the intervention brigade have also been flexing their muscle. For instance South Africa has said it is not afraid of a fight with the rebels. They obviously want to prove a point – that they are a capable force despite suffering heavy casualties inflicted by the Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic. There are, of course, other reasons for South Africa’s involvement, among them, protecting South African individual and corporate business interests in DRC.

Tanzania has been spoiling for a fight for different reasons.

Ever since Mrs Joyce Banda became president, Malawi has been cosying up to the west, and contributing troops is part of the effort to ingratiate itself to them. Besides, Malawi has a large Rwandan refugee population that includes Interahamwe, and it would not be beyond them to want to use the opportunity to infiltrate into Congo and join their FDLR confreres.

These are all the ingredients of a major conflict in Eastern DRC if good sense does not prevail and restraint exercised.

Amidst all this, the UN and the international community are making the same mistakes they made in Rwanda in 1994.

In Rwanda, they withdrew UN peacekeeping troops and looked on as the genocide was committed.

In DRC they are reinforcing an already huge force with a brigade that has been given a shoot to kill mandate. However, its role is not to protect vulnerable civilians, but to prop up an inefficient government and protect business interests of outsiders. It has nothing to do with getting rid of armed groups in, or return peace to, the region.

Atale of two rebel groups: M23 and Seleka

26 Mar

The Seleka rebels marched into Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic on Sunday, 24th March and effectively ended the rule of President Francois Bozize. The president is reported to have fled his palace and the country as the rebels advanced.

The swift capture of Bangui and the flight of Bozize occurred as four African presidents were in neighbouring Congo Brazzaville discussing peace and security issues in another neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Presidents Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joseph Kabila of the DRC were meeting in the northern Congolese town of Oyo.

The talks were about the situation in the east of DRC resulting from the rebellion of M23 against the Kinshasa government. For most of the 52 years of independence of the DRC, the east of the country has been in a state of armed rebellion of one sort or another.

There are interesting similarities between the two rebel movements (Seleka and M23) as well as glaring differences especially in the way the international community has responded to them.

The Seleka rebels say they marched on the capital because President Bozize had broken a peace agreement reached between them on January 11 this year by which rebel forces were to be integrated into the national army.

The rebellion had been going on for a while – in two phases. The first started in 2004 shortly after Bozize seized power and ended in 2007 when the rebels led by their present leader, Michel Djotodia, signed a power-sharing agreement with Bozize’s government. The second was launched in December 2012 when the rebels accused the government of going back on the terms of the peace agreement.

The rebels made swift advances across the country in fighting that broke out in December. Regional leaders then brokered a peace deal in January this year in which power would be shared between the government, the opposition and rebels.

A week ago, the rebels moved on the capital, alleging that the Bozize government had once again reneged on the deal it had struck with them.

The rest as we now know is that the rebels have taken over power and Bozize is in full flight.

The story of M23 is similar up to a point. Nearly a year ago, the M23 was formed by soldiers in the Congolese army who accused the government of not honouring an agreement reached with a previous rebel group, the CNDP, on March 23 2009 after many years of fighting.

Like Seleka, M23 moved swiftly across the east of DRC and captured the provincial capital, Goma, in November 2012. They were soon pressured to leave the town.

That is where the similarities end. The rest of the story is about inexplicable differences, hypocrisy, double standards, falsification and utter disregard of evidence on the ground.

The M23 rebels were roundly condemned in the western media and in foreign capitals. They were accused of all manner of crimes against humanity even when such accusations flew in the face of the logic of rebellion. Rebels usually do not harm the people among whom they operate, especially if they are the ones they have vowed to protect. In fact, evidence showed that people enjoyed greater security in the areas the rebels controlled.

No such condemnation has been heard of the Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic. The French, with a military presence in the country, stood by as the rebels marched into town, only saying they would send in troops to protect their citizens.

There has been no word from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or the other members of the rights’ brigade.

The foreign media only reports the towns that have fallen and, inevitably, the looting in Bangui because it suits their constructed image of Africa.

True, there has been some protest from the UN Secretary General. But that has been feeble and more formality than heartfelt concern.

When in November the M23 took over Goma, it was like that single event would bring the world crumbling down. The international community mobilised massively to push the rebels back. Immense pressure was brought to bear on M23 and their alleged supporters to pull out of the town immediately.

The Seleka rebels marched into Bangui without as much as a finger being raised to stop them. Instead of warnings about dire consequences if they stepped into the capital, they have only been asked to be good boys, behave themselves and it will be business as usual.

From the moment M23 was born, fingers began pointing at foreign sponsors. The argument was that they could not have such weaponry, organisation and tactics, and skilled fighters without external backing. Allegation of foreign involvement were loudest when Goma fell. The chorus was: the rebels could not do it because they did not have the capacity in equipment, men and expertise.

Seleka have made more spectacular gains. But we have not heard mention of a foreign backer. No effort has been made to identify and punish them.

So, what are we to make of these glaringly different reactions to similar situations? Is it perhaps because in the Seleka case the sponsors are the ones who usually make the accusations? Or is it because the Central Africans have not earned the ire of some powerful people with talk about the right to make their own choices in matters affecting them, or about agaciro?

ICTR acquittala shocking but expected

13 Feb

 

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has been in existence for eighteen years and has cost billions of dollars. In all that time, it has indicted only 92 genocide suspects, tried just over fifty, convicted a little over 30 and acquitted more than a dozen. Needless to say, the ICTR does not earn much praise in Rwanda.

Now the tribunal has caused even more anguish and shock among Rwandans by acquitting two former ministers in the government that oversaw the genocide in Rwanda. The role of Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza in the genocide in 1994 is well-known.

But should we really be shocked and dismayed at this decision knowing what the ICTR is like?

Ask anybody today, not just Rwandans, to describe the ICTR and you are likely to get this: incompetent, a mockery of justice, an insult to the memory of the victims of genocide, the very epitome of insensitivity, an obscenely expensive operation, and many more.

Or something like this. It is just another United Nations body – bloated, unwieldy, home to crazies, activists, obscure jurists, people on the fringe, and so on.

The ICTR has done anything but what it was set up for – to try genocide and crimes against humanity and hopefully set up legal standards that would contribute to jurisprudence in international criminal law.

Rwandans have known the incompetence of the court since it was established. Still, they had some hope that it could somehow live up to their expectation and bring to justice the perpetrators of genocide. That is why there is so much anger and dismay at the acquittal of the two ex-ministers whose culpability is obvious and proven, except to the learned judges at the tribunal.

The shock comes from concerns that the acquittals may be the beginning of a trend to absolve the actual authors of the genocide of any responsibility In effect this would mean that the genocide was never planned and directives given for its execution. No one was responsible for it. Therefore it did not happen. Obviously this sort of absolution for the top authority that directed the genocide is an insidious way of denying that it ever happened.

This – denial of genocide – has been at the heart of proceedings at the ICTR since its establishment.  And although the case is presented in legal arguments, its basis and intention are political. In this sense, the ICTR has provided a platform for various groups with a political agenda of their own and against Rwanda.

Most of the arguments denying the genocide that have been presented by various groups both at the ICTR and elsewhere can be summarised in three propositions.

First, there was a double genocide. In effect, one genocide cancels the other. So, there was no genocide and no one can be guilty of something that did not happen.

Second, the massacres were a result of a civil war and therefore were not genocide, and responsibilities for this lies with the two sides in the war.

Third, the massacres, on a scale unknown in human history until then, were a result of spontaneous anger caused by the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana. No one planned, organised and directed them. There was no genocide therefore.

These propositions are clearly flawed.

The ICTR has also been a platform for settling political scores against the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF). It has been manipulated or thwarted by powers unhappy with the RPF for a variety of reasons – the defeat of a client regime, humiliation on the battlefield and loss of influence due to perceived geopolitical realignments.

Its second prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, was a crusader against the RPF. Instead of investigating and hunting down the perpetrators of genocide, she spent much energy and time trying to prove that the RPF was equally guilty of crimes against humanity and its leaders must also be made to answer.

The idea behind Del Ponte’s action was simple. It was to equate the genocide with deaths resulting from war, spread the responsibility and thereby diminish or remove culpability from perpetrators of the crime. A more dangerous political reason was to implicate the RPF in war crimes, deny it the moral right to govern, divert its attention and energy from development to defending its record and generally make it fail.

The defence of the accused has been hijacked by lawyers, like Peter Erlinder, and activists with an ideological bias – a misplaced and residual anti-imperialist streak from the 1960s. Naturally, their defence of genocide suspects has been more an attempt to expose an imperialist conspiracy led by the United States with the Government of Rwanda as its agent than a concern for justice.

We have seen similar ideological and activist bias in the so-called UN Group of Experts reports.

The ICTR was probably never meant to see justice done but to ease the conscience of those who had vowed that never again should genocide happen, and yet it had and they had nothing to stop it.

The attitude of some countries to the ICTR indicates the little value attached to the life of Africans. If a Western national is killed by terrorists, for instance, everything will be done to catch and punish the killers. Not so with Rwandans.

So, what should we expect from the ICTR? Certainly not justice. Nor compassion for the victims of genocide. It is just another lucrative UN body serving the interests of those in the international community who are more equal than others.

Brotherly advice to Joseph Kabila

27 Nov

 

The easy capture of the Congolese town of Goma by the M23 rebels a week ago must have made brought home some truths to President Joseph Kabila and his advisors – local and foreign.

First, he must have realised that sabre-rattling, evasion of the truth, name-calling and blame games are clearly not helpful. Also, opting for a military solution to an essentially political problem does not produce the desired results. All of these cannot deter a determined group, driven by a keen sense of injustice and a very real existential threat from fighting for their survival. 

The only alternative is to settle the issue through political and diplomatic means – a point the rebels and other people genuinely interested in ending the conflict in eastern D R Congo have been making, and the Congolese government has rejected, since hostilities broke out in April this year.

It is telling that dialogue and negotiations between the government of Joseph Kabila and M23 rebels were part of the resolutions of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Summit in Kampala0on Saturday, November 24. President Kabila was told that he must listen to and evaluate the rebels’ genuine grievances. Hopefully, he will do so, although one must remain sceptical given his record of going back on his word, especially when he gets back to Kinshasa where he seems to be hostage to forces hostile to a peaceful settlement of Congo’s myriad problems.

The rather weak phrasing of the call for addressing the grievances of the rebels leaves room for doubts about whether he will actually do it. The wording does not commit Kabila to a definite timetable or even categorically ask him to redress those grievances.

Secondly, President Kabila should by now have realised that more genuine help will come from neighbouring countries. They understand the issues and underlying causes of the conflict in eastern D R Congo better than United Nations bureaucrats in New York or politicians and diplomats in various Western Capitals.

In addition, they have vested interests in the stability of the vast country. A stable Congo offers huge commercial and investment opportunities to its neighbours.

Refugees who continue to pour in large numbers into these countries are an immense strain on their resources and services. They would be happy to see them return home so that these resources are freed to benefit their nationals.

The desire to resolve the Congolese conflict showed in the Kampala summit of the ICGLR. The summit offered the best solution to date (of the current fighting); although it must be said the leaders asked the M23 to make more concessions and left some of the recommendations rather vague. Still, they offered a good deal – better for President Kabila. And if he is really interested in peace, he should grab it with both hands.

Thirdly, although not directly, the summit appeared to recognise that at the root of the conflict in eastern D R Congo lies the question of nationality. Successive Congolese governments have denied that their Kinyarwanda-speaking compatriots are actually Congolese. Indeed when Goma fell to M23 last Tuesday, screams for killing and expelling them from politicians and ordinary people in Kinshasa grew alarmingly loud. By calling for the repatriation of refugees, most of them Kinyarwanda-speaking, from neighbouring countries whom the DRC government seeks to keep out, the ICGLR leaders affirmed their right to Congolese nationality.

This is advice Kabila should take seriously because eastern DRC will not stabilise until this issue is definitively addressed.

Finally, Kabila must have realised that the state is not only dysfunctional; it has no army to defend it as well. The weaknesses and character of the Congolese army are historical and systemic. The armed forces in the Congo were created to punish the natives for not doing what the colonial authorities demanded.  They pillaged and plundered on behalf of their employers and also made their own exactions on the people. Since independence, the army has carried out in the same fashion. It has never been a national army sworn to defend the People of DRC.

President Kabila should have seen all these things. But in case he has not, here is some brotherly advice.

Even if you do not like what your ICGLR brothers asked you to do, please do not abdicate your responsibility as the elected leader of the Congolese people. You and your ministers seem to have surrendered your duty to others. You have been asking the United Nations and other Western governments to sort out your problems, and even blaming them for not doing so. This blame game must be a character thing. Please remember that national sovereignty and responsibility can never be delegated.

Also, do not sub-let the state to the NGOs. First of all, they do not pay rent. They actually make you pay for their upkeep. Then they turn your people into dependants and beggars. Ironically, they don’t tire from reminding everyone how naturally endowed your country is. Don’t you find it odd that citizens of such a fabulously rich country depend on alms from the people who plunder it?

Stop listening to the so-called Africa experts. Their expertise is built on your sorry state and they will keep like that so as to remain relevant.

There are some, even within Africa, who profess friendship and offer support to help you kill your own people. Beware of these. The friendship is not for free. The support comes at a price – in the form of lucrative mining concessions on terms not different from those of Cecil Rhodes.

Finally, please listen to your own people and your neighbours. They have only brotherly advice for you. And that has no price.