The current US-Taliban talks now remove any pretexts Kagame and Museveni might have not to talk to the FDLR and to the LRA, respectively. Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete’s proposal for talks involving all parties in the Great Lakes region to find a permanent political solution to the problems of the region must be urgently heeded
What was inconceivable just a few days ago is now becoming a reality. At last, the US has agreed to open direct peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar to find a political solution to the crisis in Afghanistan (BBC report, 18 June 2013), notwithstanding the fact that the Taliban are a well-known ‘terrorist group’ affiliated to, in fact the main backer of Al Qaida.
Similarly, at last, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete has come up with a solution that can transform the Great Lakes Region, root and branch, from a state of insecurity to a state of peace which can lead to sustainable development for the region. Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will definitely deal with justice issues related to the crimes against humanity and genocide committed by Congo’s two neighbours in Congo since 1998, but right now this process must begin with the ‘Inter-Rwandan Dialogue’ and ‘Inter-Ugandan Dialogue.’ In this regard, the DRC has already shown the way by accepting to dialogue with rebels beginning with the Lusaka peace accord, the Sun City peace accord and now the Kampala peace dialogue with the M23 rebels, chaired by Uganda; notwithstanding the fact that several UN Security Council reports have clearly proven, as a matter of fact, that the M23 is just a creature of Rwandan and Uganda. Just this week, 16 Rwandan youth escaped to Uganda and demanded political asylum there after refusing to be forcefully recruited to fight for the M23, according to a South Africa-based Times Live report on 17 June 2013.
WHISPERING FOR TOO LONG
The Tanzanian leader recently summoned his courage to say out loud what others have only been whispering for too long now and called on Rwandan President Paul Kagame to talk to the Allied Democratic Forces and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (FDLR) rebels - accused of having committed genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and who still continue to represent a security threat to Rwanda according to the government in Kigali - since the military option seems not to be working. President Kikwete also urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to talk to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and others such as the Allied Democratic Forces and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF.NALU) believed to be holed in eastern Congo. He also asked Congolese President Joseph Kabila to talk to the M23 rebels and other Congolese armed groups operating in eastern Congo. The Tanzanian leader made those remarks at a meeting of Heads of State from the Great Lakes Region in Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of last month’s African Union Summit in Ethiopia, as The East African reported on 10 June 2013.
Whereas President Kikwete’s remarks seems to have knocked some sense into President Museveni – he actually said in reaction that ‘we talk to those who want to talk and we isolate some’ – President Kagame for his part hit the roof, describing Kikwete’s proposals as ‘utter nonsense’; and resorting to his usual tactic of fishing for sympathy by suggesting that president Kiwete’s remarks were made out of ‘ignorance’ and represented an ‘ideological problem,’ as The East African reported on 10 June 2013. In fact, Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo and Defense Minister, James Kabarebe, went as far as publicly cursing the Tanzanian President and called him a sympathizer of ‘genocidist’, a ‘genocide denier’, and other names, as AfroAmerica Network reported on 1 June 2013; and demanded an official apology from the Tanzanian leader. The Rwandan request was swiftly rejected.
On 2 June 2013, Uganda’s Redpepper newspaper, quoted Bernard Membe, Tanzanian Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, as saying: ‘President Jakaya Kikwete will not apologise to Rwanda or change his stand that the Rwandan government should negotiate with rebels. There is no way the Head of State could apologise for saying the truth and stating a fact.’
Mr. Membe reiterated Tanzania’s position that Rwanda had no option but to get into peace talks with rebels most of whom are fighting President Paul Kagame’s regime from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) forests. He said fighting the rebels unsuccessfully for 17 years necessitated the need to negotiate with them. According to Mr Membe, Tanzania sees the presence of such rebels in the DRC forests as a setback in the region’s peace process.
AGAINST ODDS, PATH OPENS UP FOR US-TALIBAN TALKS
That was an eye-catching New York Times’ headline a year ago. The two parties have now reached the end of the path since they have announced a concrete date when those talks are going to take place. Washington is going to dialogue with the ‘terrorists’ it has been fighting since 2001. History has proven it again and again, that this is the road no country is exempt from, not even the tiny Rwanda; taking into consideration the fact that Japan which bombed America (Pearl Harbour) during the WWII has become the most staunch ally of America in modern times, the Northern Ireland experience whereby London negotiated with ‘terrorists’ IRA, the South African experience whereby Nelson Mandela negotiated with the stakeholders of the apartheid system, the Kenyan experience recently, the Congolese experience whereby Kinshasa negotiated with its own rebels, and so on.
What is odd with the Rwandan case is the fact that Britain and America which overtly support Rwanda and Uganda’s predatory war and murdering adventure in Congo, have all dialogued with the people they have for years considered and fought against as ‘terrorists.’ But now Britain, America and Belgium instead of doing justice to or applying their own experience in the case of Rwanda, have all fiercely criticized Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete’s saving solution for the Great Lakes Region instead; thus unashamedly promoting a kind of ‘Rwandan exceptionalism’ that even goes against their own experience and (moral) principles because Rwanda and Uganda have been made into a cover of their own strategic interests in the region. This justifies the continuation of an unjust war imposed on the Congolese people for almost 20 years now; during which over 5 million people have been killed, women systematically raped (rape used a weapon of war) and Congo’s natural and mineral resources systematically looted, especially the mineral coltan highly needed by the world high-tech industry for the manufacturing of computers, mobile phones, wind turbines, drones, satellites and so on). Now we understand what ‘American values’ are all about. But are surprised? No!
President Obama’s new national security adviser, Susan Rice, has not been averse to supporting autocratic regimes in Africa, recently suppressing a UN report criticizing the government of Rwanda, a US ally, for supporting the M-23 rebels in eastern Congo. The rebels, led by a notorious warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court, have wreaked havoc in the troubled province of North Kivu. Rice dismissed the report, saying, ‘It's eastern Congo. If it were not the M23 killing people, it would be some other armed groups.’ (Stephen Zunes, Truthout, 17 June 2013).
If Americans believe in democracy, why don’t they convince Paul Kagame to release opposition leader Victoire Ingabire from prison or to give her a fair trial at least? Is it because she is not the kind of opposition leader America expects her to be?
Recently, the Obama administration which has repeatedly accused China of hacking and waging cyber attacks on America, lost an incredible amount of face when American CIA agent and whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed massive phone and Internet spying and hacking attacks which America has been conducting on China for years. That is what you call ‘double standards’ which is not far from moral bankruptcy.
WHY THE ‘INTER-RWANDAN DIALOGUE’ MAKES SENSE
President Kagame has to come off his high horse (provided by Britain and America and powerful lobbies in Europe and America. This applies to President Museveni as well). It really, really beggars belief why, the Rwandan President thinks ‘the problems related to the situation in Congo are mainly political and need political solutions, not military ones [meaning the UN-SADC intervention brigade will solve nothing in eastern Congo">’ (BBC interview, 20 May 2013), but when President Kikwete suggests that the solution to Rwanda’s problems are political since the military option seems not to be working, he hits the roof! The Rwandan story has been distorted by Western governments, media and powerful lobbies’assumptions, so much so that, anybody who wants to apply ‘Ockham's razor’ to it, is immediately accused of being a ‘genocide denier’ or harbouring ‘genocide ideology’!
The following facts, recently highlighted by Julien Paluku, the Congolese governor of the North Kivu Province (parts of which are now occupied by Rwanda and Uganda backed M23) tend to be swept under the carpet for reasons that beggar belief:
- To affirm that Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda from Uganda and from Virunga Park, is a fact. Equally, to affirm that from Uganda and from the Virunga Park, to the periphery of Kigali (before actually the main atrocities took place following the shooting down of Hutu President Habyarimana’s plane about which light still needs to be shed), the RPF killed nobody at all in this war scenario beggars belief!
- Should all Hutu Rwandans who live outside the country be considered as ‘genocidists’? No! In fact there are three categories of Hutu Rwandans living outside the country:
a. There are those most sought after by the Rwandan and the international justice systems because they are the real criminals who perpetrated heinous atrocities in Rwanda in 1994. These individuals must answer for the crimes they committed against their fellow Rwandans, they should have a much harsher treatment from the Rwandan government and the international justice system. However, they no longer represent a security threat to Rwanda because their numbers have significantly been reduced, according to Rwandan Defence Minister General James Kabarebe himself.
‘Years of a combination of political, social and military engagements have left the militia group in dismal numbers. That is why [their"> strength has diminished from 150,000 to a dismal 2000!’ he said (News of Rwanda, 3 June 2013).
b. Then there are those Rwandans who are political refugees, having fled the authoritarian, mono-ethnic and monolithic regime of terror now in place in Kigali for the last 19 years. That regime abhors any slightest possibility of power sharing among all sons and daughters of Rwanda. The illustration is the conviction of an internationally-known opposition leader, Ms.Victoire Ingabire. She was sentenced to eight years in prison, a sentence which will run until 2018. All this is aimed at preventing her from standing for the 2017 presidential election. Her only sin is to have dared to present herself as a candidate for the office of president in the 2010 presidential election.
In line with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete’s plan, this is the category of Rwandans President Paul Kagame should engage and dialogue with since they have nothing to do with the genocide but they have been unfairly and indiscriminately labeled as ‘genocidists’ or people harbouring a ‘genocidal ideology’, simply in order to silence them.
c. Finally, there is this other category of totally innocent Rwandans who have nothing to do with the genocide because when the atrocities occurred in 1994, they were either teenagers (under 18 years old in 1994) or those who have been born after 1994. They are fortuitously accused of having participated in the genocide while they were neither closely nor far away involved in the atrocities of 1994. This category includes all those who have been born outside Rwanda, that is to say, during this time of refuge. To date, their age varies between 19 and nearly 35-year-old. The ideology of genocide must not be imputed on or attributed to them because they did not reach the age of reason at the time of the crime, nor have they been present on Rwandan soil during those days because they were born outside the country.
So, President Jakaya Kikwete’s plan concerns these last two categories of Rwandans who are completely excluded from the political management of their country, Rwanda. Those who call upon Kagame to dialogue with them are in no way ‘bearer of the genocide ideology,’ nor ‘FDLR’s mouthpieces.’
WHY THE ‘INTER-UGANDAN DIALOGUE’ MAKES SENSE
President Museveni’s position according to which ‘he talks to those who want to talk and he isolates some’, is dodging the problems because there are conditionalities attached. If the political space is not open to all Ugandans without any conditionalities, this is recipe for disaster. The ultimate solution to the Ugandan situation has been proposed by Professor Mahmood Mamdani. His article about the Kony 2012 Video shenanigan remains an eye opener for the situation in Uganda as well as in Rwanda (Pambazuka, 15 March 2012, Issue 576).
He wrote: ‘The solution is not to eliminate the LRA (or ADF/NALU for that matter) physically…At its core the LRA remains a Ugandan problem calling for a Ugandan political solution.’ That says it all.
By analogy, the solution in Rwanda is not to eliminate the Hutu physically. At its core the Hutu problem remains a Rwandan problem calling for a Rwandan political solution. We Congolese have had enough to bear the brunt of the Ugandan and Rwandan internal problems which they export into our country. The US-Taliban talks now remove any pretexts Kagame and Museveni might have NOT to talk to the FDLR and to the LRA, respectively. Despite the voice of ‘double standards’ and ‘Rwandan exceptionalism’ coming out of Europe and America, Kigali may not escape this route for too long now. Right now, the voice of reason comes from Tanzania and it is going to prove to be irresistible for humanity’s sake. The genie is already out of the bottle and the total liberation of Patrice Lumumba and Laurent Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s Congo is nigh!
* Antoine Roger Lokongo is a journalist and Beijing University PhD candidate from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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