The Congolese army has been flexing its muscles in killing hundreds of Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers in eastern Congo. Demonstrations by the Congolese masses have taken place as well as a new cooperation agreement among some countries in the Great Lakes region
The above headline of mine is surprisingly very civilized compared to ‘Umurabyo’ newspaper’s independent journalist Saidati Mukakibibi’s. She is now languishing in jail in Rwanda for having quite rightly compared President Paul Kagame with the Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler. She was arrested for defamation, inciting public disorder and ethnic ‘divisionism’ (Reuters, 13 July 2010) following the 1994 genocide, a trump card Kagame uses well both at home and abroad as a milking cow to keep and win new friends and to silence his critics. But for how long?
Mukakibibi is not the only one. Pascal Manirakiza, a Rwandan refugee who went missing in Uganda has been found tortured and unconscious and ‘dumped’ at a cemetery near the capital, Kampala, according to the Ugandan government which is supposed to provide him protection on the basis of the Geneva Convention. On the contrary, Manirakiza had earlier been arrested by Ugandan police on a warrant issued by Rwanda (the UN hypocritically protested the arrest). Manirakiza’s crime? He was one of four Rwandans who told the BBC last month that they were seeking asylum in Uganda. They accused the Rwandan army of forcibly recruiting them to fight in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (BBC News Africa, 27 August 2013). The BBC reminded us that in 2010, Rwanda’s ex-army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa fled to South Africa. He accused Rwanda of a failed attempt to assassinate him later that year, after he was shot and wounded in Johannesburg. Rwanda denied any involvement. The shooting strained diplomatic relations between South Africa and Rwanda.
COVERING UP CRIMES
The question we ask now is: For how long the UN system, Britain and America are going to provide Museveni and Kagame cover or help cover-up crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide they are committing in the DRC? Not for too long! Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, reporting for ‘Le Soir’ from Rwanda confirmed that ‘it is clear that there is a growing concern among the Rwandan people’ (Le Carnet de Colette Braeckman, 26 August 2013). Kagame’s leadership is now widely put into question despite recent visits by his die-hard friends such as former US president Bill Clinton who questioned the line of thinking of ‘some people in the human rights community who believe that every good thing that has happened in Rwanda should be negated by what they allege that they have done in the eastern Congo’ (BBC News Africa, 12 August 2013).
However, the fact that Rwanda and Uganda are still stubbornly committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in the DRC is not helping their powerful mentors in the West save faces.
Kagame remains the real commander-in-chief of the M23 insurgents. On 15 July 2013, the Congolese army, the Forces Armées de la RDC (FARDC) repulsed an attack by M23 ‘rebels’ backed by Rwandan special units in Mutaho, North Kivu Province.
120 attackers were killed and a dozen captured, including two seriously wounded. 10 Congolese soldiers also lost their lives (AFP, 15 July 2013). The Mutaho, Mujiga, Kibati, Buvira sectors and the strategic hill of Bukanda fell under the total control of the FARDC. Two Ugandan officers were also captured among them and transferred to Kinshasa (L’Avenir, 15 July 2013). Following this debacle, Rwanda accused the UN Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) of colluding with the FDLR said to be responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda! We have heard that a million times! Yet Rwanda currently assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council where it manages to block almost all the resolutions against M23. Isn’t that absurd?
On 18 July 2013, the FARDC repulsed yet another attack by the M23 insurgents and their Rwandan backers in the north of Kanyaruchinya, 15 km from the city of Goma, North Kivu’s provincial capital. 51 elements of the M23 were killed and a top-ranking M23 officer was captured. Among the 51 bodies, 15 were found wearing the uniform of the Rwandan army and were identified as Rwandan soldiers. Five Congolese government soldiers fell on the battlefield (Xinhua, 18 July 2013).
On 24 July 2013, the FARDC bombed the strategic military base of Rumangabo which served as a rear base for the M23 insurgents and their Rwandan backers and which set the warehouse of weapons and ammunition on fire. The base fell under the control of the FARDC (Digitalcongo.net, 24 July 2013). After this debacle, the M23 rounded up 210 Congolese youth in Kiwanja city, Rutsuru terrirory and locked them up in Nyongera prison. Up to now nobody has heard about them (Radio Kivu One, 28 July 2013).
On 13 August 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that 40 M23 insurgents who had infiltrated Goma were arrested by the UN Intervention Brigade and scores of firearms recovered during a crackdown operation aimed at enforcing a security zone around the city of Goma. But later the UN failed to protect civilians from rockets fired from the Rwandan territory.
THE RECENT FIGHTING
Rwanda and Uganda are recidivists. On 17 August 2013, M23 insurgents backed by Rwandan troops yet again attacked the Congolese army in Kibumba, 30 km from Goma. According to the Congolese government spokesman, Lambert Mende, the Congolese army, supported by the UN Intervention Brigade, killed 17 Rwandan insurgents (M23） including 2 Rwandan colonels by the names of Hama and Tambwe and captured 12 others. Mende said that ‘the FARDC were also able to destroy a depot of ammunition belonging to M23 in Kibumba, which burned throughout the day on 22 August 2013, which gives an idea of the volume of ammunition sent from Rwanda as supplies to this negative force’ (Xinhua, 24 August 2013).
M23 maintains link with another armed group called Force de Résistance Patriotique de l’Ituri (FRPI) led by Cobra Matata. On 23 August 2013, the Congolese army inflicted heavy casualties on FRPI supported by Al-Shabab elements from Somalia and ADF-NALU, a ‘Uganda rebel movement’, killing 30 FRPI insurgents in Nombe, 40 km south of Bunia, Ituri (Eastern Province), recapturing many villages they had occupied. Three Congolese soldiers lost their lives and seven others were wounded (Radio Okapi, 25 August 2013).
A brief lull in days of fighting followed but on 23 August 2013, M23 insurgents backed by Rwandan troops yet again attacked the Congolese army in Kibati at night. The Congolese army supported by the UN Intervention Brigade riposted, killing 100 M23 insurgents, according to Congolese military spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli ( Associated Press, 28 August 2013).
‘There are at least 100 dead on the rebel side. At least! I can’t be sure, because this is just the bodies we saw. There are forests all around where we are finding more,’ Hamuli told The Associated Press news agency. In contrast, Bertrand Bisimwa, the president of the M23 rebels, said only a dozen of the dead were from the M23 rebel movement.
Then Rwanda did the crazy thing you would not expect from a country that has been a victim of genocide! It fired nearly a dozen mortar shells that hit different parts of Goma on 22 August 2013, killing a family of four and nearly wounding a dozen others, including two Tanzanian U.N. soldiers and one from South Africa, causing significant damage to St. Paul’s Anglican Church and destroying three classrooms in the adjacent school (Reuters, 24 August 2013). This is committing blatant war crimes and crimes against humanity, in fact acts of terrorism!
What was more shocking was the fact that the UK government, without a word of condemnation against Rwanda, simply ordered its staff to withdraw from the city of Goma. But UK mining companies stay put (…). Why don’t they also leave?! Anyway, even if the UK condemned Rwanda, it would have simply paid a leap service without coercive measures. What difference would it make? After all, the UK was the first to resume its financial aid to Rwanda following revelations by a panel of UN Security Council experts according to which ‘Rwanda was interfering directly in Congo’s internal affairs.’
The United States of America was even more cynical! The US State Department, in well calculated wordings issued a statement read by spokeswoman Marie Harf, saying that ‘evidence of increased ethnic tensions in Goma’, thus reducing Rwanda’s mortar attack to a simple ‘inter-ethnic conflict’, and in fact called on ‘both sides to keep calm’ No culprit! In fact six senators from the US Congress travelled to Goma just to deliver that message.
As shells fell on Goma, causing deaths of men, women and children, the United States only saw an ethnic conflict that would degenerate. So do the Tutsi have the license to kill Congolese? This is a sign of bad faith, not an error of judgement, in fact an odious, undiplomatic, criminal stance on the part the USA, a nation that has the reputation of being ‘a great democracy and a precursor in the defense and protection of human rights, and a frontrunner in the fight against terrorism!’ (Le Potentiel, 27 August 2013).
This is how the first Rwandan aggression against Congo started. Kabarebe, the current Rwandan minister of defense and Rwandan special forces hijacked a civilian plane, and from Goma, they flew all the way to the West of Congo, attacked the Kitona military base, cut off electricity from the Inga dam, depriving Kinshasa of power for days – imagine the consequences, including many babies who died in the incubators! The US never condemned such terrorist acts! But when the people of Kinshasa bear handedly tracked down the Tutsi invaders in the capital and burning them alive, the then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright telephoned President Laurent Kabila and accused him of ‘killing the Tutsi!’ How unjust this world can be!
However, on 12 August 2013, the Rwandan government categorically rejected the Congolese government’s request to have Congolese Tutsi rebel leaders ‘who have asked political asylum in Rwanda,’ including Laurent Nkunda, extradited to their country the DRC to face justice as stipulated in the new ‘Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Great Lakes Region’, signed on 24 February 2013, in Addis-Ababa, by 11 African leaders - including the leaders of Rwanda, Uganda (Museveni sent his vice-president) and the DRC - under the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations. Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that ‘Rwanda would not extradite Congolese Tutsi rebel leaders to Congo, a country which has not yet abolished capital punishment’ (L’Avenir, 12 August 2013). The US, Rwandan’s staunchest ally has also not abolished capital punishment. If Nkunda and other ‘Congolese Tutsi’ are Congolese, why should Rwanda pre-empt the judicial process in this way?
What conclusion might one draw then? According Mushikiwabo, Kigali will not extradite Laurent Kunda and other leaders of the M23 to Congo. But Laurent Nkunda and the leaders of M23 have committed genocide in Congo. Therefore Mushikiwabo is a negationist of the Congolese genocide. But she and her boss Paul Kagame can easily get away with it because they enjoy the protections of the United States of America and Great Britain.
One can even go further and conclude that the fact that Museveni and Kagame commit acts of genocide in Congo casts doubt on the official version of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, signed Paul Kagame.
TOWARDS BREAKING UP THE DRC
At the same time, on 21 August 2013, a ‘Congolese Tutsi’ Colonel Richard Bisamaza, acting commander of the first sector of the FARDC in Beni, defected from the Congolese army in Beni to M23 ‘rebel movement’ with sixty ‘Congolese Tutsi’ foot soldiers, a few ‘Congolese Tutsi’ high-ranking officers and a cargo of ammunition. His aim was to join the M23 in Rutsuru. The Congolese army followed in hot pursuit of him and had him and some of his men killed during an exchange of fire, recaptured some but the majority fled (Kongo Times, 21 August 2013). What more can we do to accommodate ‘Congolese Tutsi’? Some Western powers say that Congo must share its natural and mineral resources with Rwanda and Uganda (as if it was their right and as a war trophy) to have peace. This argument is laughable! Congo should then also share its mineral wealth not only with Rwanda and Uganda but also with all its other seven neighbors, isn’t it? Why only with Rwanda and Uganda? No! Congo’s neighbours can purchase these resources for the benefit of the public treasury of Congo (right now Congo Brazzaville import electricity from the DRC’s Inga dam and pays the bill, no problem!). Even after 20 years of plundering its riches, the Congo does not expressly refuse to sell its wealth to Rwanda and Uganda!.
Equally shocking was the fact that Martin Kobler the head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) and Special Representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in Congo said on Radio France Internationale (RFI) that “MONUSCO is not responsible for everything that is happening in eastern Congo. These are Congolese problems and it is up to Congolese people to find solutions to them. We are here only to support the Congolese government”. Yet right under Kobler’s nose, the city of Goma was hit by new shelling from Rwanda, killing and injuring people, which triggered the people of Goma’s anger against the UN mission, inactive against “the rebellion of M23” and incapable of enforcing a security zone around the city of Goma as promised instead of where the M23 are, and asked them to leave. Kobler did not say a word of condemnation of Rwanda. Uruguayan Blue Helmets opened fire on protesters killing two.
Kobler said that MONUSCO is not a magic solution to all the problems in eastern Congo. ‘We cannot defend all the people here! We're doing everything we can! But the first line, the Congolese government is responsible, to protect the population.’
Even if this were true, MONUSCO should have at least one magical solution to the problem of war in the East. Otherwise of what good is the resolutions of the Security Council which recommends the use of force against negative forces, the signing of the Framework Agreement in Addis Ababa and the establishment of the Special Brigade ? (L’Avenir, 27 August 2013).
Now it’s crystal clear. The United States and its NATO allies are hell bent on breaking up Congo using the UN and the Tutsi regimes of Rwanda and Uganda to achieve that objective. But, they will never succeed to control Congo, recolonise it or break it up in order to suck its resources, however superior or powerful they imagine themselves to be and whatever filthy lucre they flaunt to unfortunately a still good section of still mentally colonized Congolese people, to paraphrase President Robert Mugabe as he put it in his inauguration speech. The DRC will never be a colony again!
The era of white colonial ‘whispers behind the African throne’ passed on and got buried together with Lord Lugard the author of this anti-African, neo-colonial notion. Having struggled for our independence our fate has irrevocably orbited out of colonial relations, indeed can no longer subsist in curtsying and bowing to any foreign government, however powerful it feigns itself to be and whatever filthy lucre it flaunts,” President Mugabe rightly said.
China’s position is also very comforting. On the occasion of the 86th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army of China, Colonel Superior Ju Hongbin, Defence Attaché at the Chinese embassy in Kinshasa, solemnly declared that China firmly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo (La Prosperité, 26 July 2013).
In addition, on the 4 March 2013, 27 Congolese officers left Kinshasa for Belarus where they will be trained as pilots and technician of Congo’s Air Force for a period of three years (Agence Congolaise de Presse, ACP, 4 March 2013).
COMPRADOR REGIMES ARE CHALLENGED BY CONGOLESE ARMY
The Congolese army is flexing its muscles and as we have just described above, it has managed to kill hundreds of Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers, inflicting a heavy toll on Kagame’s and Museveni’s armies posing as M23 rebels in eastern Congo in the last few weeks. The Rwandan and Ugandan comprador regimes still create more ‘armed groups’ in eastern Congo but the Congolese army always wipes them out. Should Kagame dare to fire more rockets against innocent Congolese civilians who have done nothing to Rwanda and Uganda and who are not responsible for the inter-ethnic killing in Rwanda in 1994, the Congolese army might march right into Rwanda to stop the rockets from being fired right at the source.
Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa have deployed troops which have constituted the UN Intervention Brigade tasked to use force to neutralize M23 and other Rwanda and Uganda-backed negative forces in eastern Congo. However, that Brigade could have been more effective if its command was independent of MONUSCO. African solutions to African problems! However, we believe that African soldiers within MONUSCO will not accept to be smothered and will accomplish their task and eastern Congo will be pacified. Moreover, on 23 August 2013, Angola, DRC and South Africa signed a cooperation agreement in the fields of training DRC soldiers and police officers. The accord also covers economic matters meant to reinforce regional cooperation and intra-Africa trade and concerns the ports of Lobito in Angola, Durban in South Africa and the Inga hydroelectric dam in the DRC. On the occasion, Congolese President Joseph Kabila said the accord seeks two purposes: one of them the assistance to the DRC in various domains, with highlight to the sectors of defence and security. The second purpose, according to president Kabila, has to do with reinforcement of cooperation among the three countries of the Southern Africa Development Community or SADC (Agencia Angola Presse, ANGOP, 23 August 2013).
After 32 years of Mobutu’s oppressive and corrupt regime, ours is a rotten political class. The house is burning, yet Kerngo wa Dondo, three times Mobutu's prime minister and now surprisingly the president of the Congolese senate is still jockeying for positions! Without Congolese collaborators, this war would not have lasted this long. Although the Congolese people have been subjected to looting, massacres, rape, this has made them even more politically mature and it is no longer easy to take them for granted as demonstrations after demonstrations are being organized by the Congolese masses in the troubled eastern Congo. The people even collect goods and money for the soldiers and feed them. They also transport heavy weapons for the army up to the frontline. This proves that they have overcome their fear. The political initiative taken by President Joseph Kabila to hold a national consultation is meant to further cement national cohesion, national unity, national consciousness to bring Congolese of all cultural, political, religious, or ideological backgrounds to look in the same direction in order to safeguard what they all have in common: Congo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to prevent more of Museveni and Kagame’s adventures in Congo for which the Ugandan and Rwandan people are now weary of picking up the pieces later.
*Antoine Roger Lokongo
* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.