It is regrettable that in the past decade, the so-called international community appears to have made a sport of blaming Rwanda, a tiny country of less than twelve million people, for every unrest experienced in Africa’s largest country - in terms of land mass - the Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation of over 70 million inhabitants.
Historically, parts of the kingdom of Rwanda were carved out during the 1884 Berlin conference and merged with DR Congo. Ethnic Rwandans forced into DR Congo, like their contemporaries elsewhere across Africa, have completely adopted that country as home. Although ethnic Rwandans in DR Congo consider themselves marginalized by successive Congolese governments, they have never rejected or challenged the sovereignty of the Congolese government over their territory. Never have the Congolese of Pre-Berlin Rwandan origin ever mooted the idea of seceding from DR Congo and returning themselves to their pre-colonial place of origin.
For good measure, it should be noted that the Rwandan government, on its part, is not at present interested in reversing the Berlin Conference decision by seeking to return the territory presently occupied by the ‘Banyamurenge’, as the Congolese Rwandans are known, back to the Rwandan map. Like other African governments, the government of Rwanda has accepted the colonial injustice of the past with philosophical calmness and is more interested in building the piece of land handed over by the Belgian authorities upon their departure in 1962.
It has become necessary to lay this foundation, for the benefit of those who may not know the genesis of the most recent attacks on Rwanda, or the long historical ties that bind the DR Congo and Rwanda. Unfortunately, much of available information ignores this crucial piece of history in presenting the current security challenge of DR Congo. The result is the inclination to unreasonably trade blames and input regional complexity in an otherwise DR Congo internal national crisis.
The latest UN Report, purportedly written by a group of experts, is one of the sources that recently made the headlines about the DR Congo security crisis. In the report, the so-called group of experts posits that the Rwandan government has been assisting renegade soldiers in the recent rebel uprising in Eastern Congo through the provision of material and financial support. The report claims that intensive research was conducted before arriving at this conclusion.
It is important to commence the analysis of the UN report by looking at the so-called group of experts and their sources of information. Mr. Steve Hege, is the head of the ‘group of experts.’ Mr. Hege has earned himself the ignoble title of a staunch supporter of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the group that committed the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. These were Hutu rebels who fled to the DR Congo to avoid the long arms of the law. From their base, they have sought to topple the government of Rwanda and resume their halted genocide agenda. Through several articles, such as “Understanding the FDLR in DR Congo” Mr. Hege has consistently and unapologetically downplayed the role of the FDLR in the genocide, opting instead to present the group as victims.
Prior to his appointment to head the group of ‘experts,’ Mr. Hege’s bias against the duly elected government in Rwanda was clearly known; why the United Nations, a body that prides itself as the champion of objectivity and fairness, would allow a clearly antagonistic person to conduct research in such a delicate matter defies logic.
Not surprisingly, Steve Hege and his team focused their ‘research’ on sources sympathetic with the FDLR in Congo. The report cites the Congolese army (the FARDC), Congolese intelligence and politicians as the chief sources of information. The implication of this is ominous; DR Congo is now legally presented as the accuser and witness all at once. If DR Congo has brought a charge against Rwanda of sponsoring rebels, why then should the bulk of evidence be generated from within its territory?
The UN is an intergovernmental organization, which means that it is an organization of all member states. This fact had to be restated since Rwanda, a member-state of the UN, was not accorded, according to the UN Charter, the opportunity to present her own side of the story prior to the publication of the report. The role of the UN is, first and foremost, to ensure international security by helping to safeguard the sovereignty of its member-states, not to violate it; to respect its member-states, not to minimize them.
Apart from the Western ‘group of experts’ and their Congolese allies, not one single member of the Rwandan government, nor a respected member of the Rwanda academic community, civil society or intelligentsia was contacted. It is unacceptable to conduct an investigation of such magnitude on a UN member state behind its back, except there is an espionage arm of the UN of which the world is unaware of.
Having established the subjectivity and therefore, invalidity of the UN report, it will do well to determine what Rwanda stands to gain by sponsoring armed rebels in the DR Congo. That is a vital question - and answer - clearly missing in the report. Why, for example, would Rwanda contradict herself, taking into consideration the joint operations of the Rwandan and Congolese forces that has been on since 2009, and aimed at bringing a much elusive stability to the region? All evidence point to the fact that the joint security policies of the two countries are mutually beneficial and enjoying active support of both governments. Why then would Rwanda involve itself with any armed movement against a government that has been working with it to maintain peace in the sub-region? Of what benefit will that action be to the government of Rwanda and the citizens of the country? Being landlocked, Rwanda has invested much in ensuring a stable and secure neighbourhood outside its shores. The country cannot suddenly decide to truncate the numerous achievements for which it has won accolades regionally and globally, for the sake of some faceless renegade soldiers.
Conclusively, we think the ‘international community’ has a lot to learn from this grave error of appointing questionable individuals and ‘experts’ to prepare ill-understood, hastily formulated and one-sided reports. It is very important that rather than fly in ‘experts’ whose major knowledge of the sub-region is culled from internet sources, hearsay, and brief stays at luxury hotels in capital cities, that the UN and international community support regional mechanisms and institutions for resolving regional challenges. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) has initiated a way forward to tackle the DR Congo security challenge, this roadmap should be given the priority, regard and attention it deserves. Publishing of reports aimed at divisiveness rather than unity will only succeed in further inflaming the relative stability being experienced in the Great Lakes region.
- DR Congo should work closely with the ICGLR in seeking an internal comprehensive and lasting solution to the crisis in the Eastern part of the country.
- DR Congo should look into accusations of discrimination levelled against it by the Banyamurenge citizens residing in the Eastern part of the country.
- DR Congo should continue with the joint effort with Rwanda aimed at halting the bloody genocide militia Interahamwe, and the FDLR
- Sub-regional and regional conflict management institutions in Africa must source for alternative funding aside from the West. The need for independence, and African solution to Africa’s crisis is critical for the continent.
- United Nations should work equally for all member-states, regardless of economic or military might or the repository of mineral resources underground.
- Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany who suspended aid to Rwanda based on the biased reports should re-consider their decisions, in the interest of fairness and justice.
- Prof. Paul Rutayisire, Historian, Group Chairperson and Director of the Centre For Conflict Management (CCM), National University of Rwanda (NUR), email address: [email][email protected]
- Prof Herman Musahara, Professor of Development and Economics, NUR
- Dr. Karambizi Venuste, Senior Lecturer, International Relations, Kigali Independent University, ULK
- Dr. Nkurayija Jean de la Croix, Senior Lecturer and Dean of Faculty of Arts, Media, and Social Sciences, NUR
- Dr. Ugirashebuja Emmanuel, Lawyer and Dean of Faculty of Law, NUR
- Dr. AGGEE SHYAKA Mugabe, Senior Lecturer at NUR
- Dr. Kabwete Mulinda Charles, Historian, Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of Political Science, NUR
- Dr. Rose Gasibirege, NUR Kigali Campus Representative
- Mr. Elly Musafiri, Researcher and Lecturer, CCM-NUR
- Mr. Omar Khalfan, Group Secretary and lecturer, Department of International Politics, NUR. Email address: [email][email protected]