The agreement signed in Addis Ababa last month enjoining states in the region in the search for lasting peace in DRC is a welcome move. But there are powerful external players who want the instability to continue.
With 8 million people killed, thousands of women raped, strategic minerals looted, land occupied by an implanted population from Rwanda and hundreds of people forced out of their land into internally displaced people’s camps or fleeing to neighbouring countries in the last 15 years - as a result of successive wars of invasion sometimes directly launched by Rwanda and Uganda, backed by Britain and America, sometimes by proxy armed groups (including local militia) created by Rwanda and Uganda - the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the greatest tragedy the world has ever known since World War II, as Ignace Gata Mavinga, Congolese ambassador to the UN put it recently.
It is generally believed that 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 will put an end to the 15 years of wars. But those who have ‘created hotbeds of tension in order to generate chaos and thus justify the balkanization of the DRC’, as President Joseph Kabila put it, are not ready to disarm. They are found in the national, regional and international realms.
This time, the latest ‘Peace and Security Framework for the DRC and the Great Lakes Region’ especially addressed the external root causes of the tragedy in eastern Congo, namely Rwandan and Uganda, and called on them ‘not to condone or assist or support any form of armed groups’ in the DRC. It is worth mentioning that it also called on the DRC government ‘to continue to implement certain internal reforms, including in the security sector, promote national reconciliation, tolerance and democracy’.
INTERVENTION BRIGADE NOT NEUTRAL
The deal also paved the way for the deployment of an ‘intervention brigade’ approved by member countries of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGR) and those of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). The 2,500-strong force will be led by SADC but will rely on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) for logistics. Angola, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho, Mauritius, Zimbabwe and South Africa will commit troops to the force, which was initially expected to be 4,000-strong.
The intervention brigade is meant to eliminate all armed groups in the eastern Congo including the Ugandan and Rwandan created M23 group whose advance and capture of Goma, the provincial capital of Congo’s North Kivu Province, in September last year, surprisingly could not be stopped by 17,000 UN peacekeepers already present in the country. As a consequence, hundreds of people have been killed, children conscripted by force, 900,000 people have already been displaced in North Kivu and 2.6 million have now fled their homes across eastern Congo.
UGANDA, RWANDA AND THEIR WESTERN BACKERS TRAPPED
However, truth has now caught up with the UN, Britain, America… and Rwanda and Uganda have been trapped. Unlike previous bilateral agreements signed just between the DRC and Rwanda or the DRC and Uganda respectively, this time it is a multilateral agreement involving the UN and regional organizations, and Rwanda and Uganda have to cooperate; including by handing over criminals such as Nkunda and Mutebusi who committed crimes against humanity in Congo and who are enjoying themselves either in Rwanda or in Uganda.
But these forces, which, we in the DRC, call ‘the international coalition for the distabilisation of Congo’, obviously still have many cards to play on the table. This explains why they are already trying to hold the latest ‘Peace and Security Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and The Great Lakes Region’ hostage. Various national, regional and international vested interests are already at work to torpedo the peace process, as usual! As usual because every moment there is a turning point on the horizon in the history of the DRC, it is at this moment that the enemies of the people of Congo realize the weakness of their methods and attempt to strengthen or change them. This time again, they will not let the situation escape them. This nebula of vested interests, in which you find powerful nations, international figures, multinationals, secret societies and services, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations and the media, is involved in the fight against peace, stability, reconstruction and socio-economic development of the DRC. It operates at national, regional and international levels.
President Joseph Kabila’s statement at the signing ceremony therefore was pregnant with meaning. ‘We commit ourselves to respect our obligations of this agreement we signed today, and we wish that all the signatories do the same,’ he said.
ON THE NATIONAL FRONT
There is a need to circumvent the actions of Congolese elements in the pay of foreign interests. The M23 contacted leading opposition figures to join them in order to overthrow President Joseph Kabila. In fact, according to Etienne Tshisekedi, Congo’s main opposition leader, Joseph Kabila stole his victory following the 2011 presidential election, subsequently even proclaimed himself president of the DRC and is still claiming that ‘the truth of the polls’ must be upheld. And so, Roger Lumbala, a former rebel leader close to Tshisekedi and a Member of Parliament, was the first to join the Movement the M23 group (both South Africa and Angola have arrested groups of Congolese suspected to have links with Roger Lumbala and the M23 group in their territories).
‘I believe that Joseph Kabila did not win the presidential election of 28 November 2011. Since the M23 endorsed the claims of the Congolese political opposition on the results of this fraudulent election, I feel close to the M23,’ he said when interviewed by Jeune Afrique on 2 January 2013. He even said that ‘he had not seen a single Rwandan troop among the M23’. Who can believe this treachery? The ease with which some Congolese let themselves be used by Rwanda and Uganda is astonishing!
President Joseph Kabila has now launched the process of ‘national consultation’, open to all social and political forces of the country, in order for Congolese to forget their differences, strengthen national unity and national cohesion to withstand the ‘Congo balkanization agenda’ dear to Rwanda, Uganda and their Anglo-Saxon superpower backers. ‘Faced with the challenge of an unjust war, national unity has been and remains the condition of our survival, the safest shield against any attempt to balkanize and destroy our country’, he said.
Militarily, 89 high-ranking officers recently graduated from the DRC’s top Military Academy of Kananga. The Congolese army has reinforced troops in the east and some young Congolese soldiers born in Congo but of Rwandan ancestry still loyal to the government have been transferred to other parts of the country other than North Kivu.
ON THE REGIONAL LEVEL
In August last year, Angola, a staunch ally of the DRC, is said to have prepared (or even deployed) an elite force to flush out the M23 from North Kivu Province, at which point Museveni, then holding the rotating presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGR), rushed to Luanda on a two-day state visit and convinced Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos that the Great Lakes Region forthcoming meeting in Kampala would find an amicable solution to the North Kivu conflict, which would be acceptable to his ally Joseph Kabila, according to a report by the Ugandan Daily, The Observer, on 10 August 2012. Museveni and Kagame were then accused in UN report of sponsoring the M23 group. Dos Santos agreed and sent one of his ministers to represent him at the Kampala summit. Museveni was just buying time because the fact that the deal which was expected to be signed on 29 January 2013 on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa was delayed indefinitely showed that Rwanda and Uganda were not going to sign it in good faith. This is because they did not want to become losers in eastern Congo, a territory they already consider as their backyard.
The deal would have meant that MONUSCO’s mandate would have been beefed up and states in the region would commit not to support, fund or harbour any group helping to destabilise eastern Congo. Rwanda and Uganda, which have been the launch-pads of all rebellions which the DRC has been the victim of in the last 15 years, could not accept a rope around their neck, to commit themselves in this way. For them, eastern Congo should remain a soft underbelly, a lawless zone, where they would still continue the plunder of natural resources. They would never accept a solution that would aim to achieve peace, security in this part of the DRC. They wanted the intervention brigade to remain neutral.
Enjoying strong support from the UN Security Council, Rwanda will take the presidency of the UN Security Council in April 2013 for two consecutive years - and the United States of America, Rwanda and Uganda whose lobbies are very strong at the UN and the USA continue to hinder any initiative that establishes their responsibility in the current instability in eastern Congo. As long as they say ‘Tutsi are discriminated against in eastern Congo’, everybody chooses to look the other way and not point out the crimes against humanity the Tutsi are committing in eastern Congo.
AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS
Another sticking point as to why the deal was off was that the UN Security Council where Rwanda now has a seat, using a top-down approach, had prepared a text without consulting either the DRC or the SADC, confirming that MONUSCO would control and command an international military force, which would come from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). The UN looked down on SADC because it was sure SADC would not be able to raise an estimated $100 million for the deployment. However, at the Maputo SADC Summit, the DRC, being the concerned party, advanced $20 million on the spot and SADC countries pledged to raise the rest. This was when the UN took SADC countries seriously and the ‘Peace and Security Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and The Great Lakes Region’ was finally signed. African solutions to African problems is the wisdom received here. The intervention brigade will be integrated into the MONUSCO but it will operate and make decisions independently on the basis of the situation on the ground.
CHANGE OF STRATEGY
After that, Kampala and Kigali changed their strategy. The M23 group they created split into many factions to make the implementation of the peace accord difficult. On 28 February 2013, Sultani Makenga deposed Jean-Marie Runiga as M23’s political coordinator and appointed Bertrand Bisimwa in his place. Sultani Makenga, the current military chief, accused Jean-Marie Runiga not only of allying himself with the Bosco Ntaganda faction, but also of corruption, mismanagement and above all, ethnic hatred. Unbelievable! The M23 took up arms because they reckon ‘Congolese Tutsi’ are ‘victims of ethnic hatred’ in Congo. Now Makenga dismisses Runiga whom he accuses of stirring up ‘ethnic hatred’! Dozens of civilians have already been killed in those clashes. Now it is not clear which faction the Kabila government has to deal with or sign a peace deal being negotiated in Kampala with and ‘re-integrate’ which into the Congolese army (It remains to be seen whether or not M23 fighters will be ‘integrated’ into the Congolese army given the fact that they have all been recruited from Rwanda and Uganda!) Maybe Kinshasa will sign the deal with one of these factions. According to a non-official document circulating in Kinshasa, this will involve amnesty for members of M23 that are not the subject of national and international prosecutions, return of refugees living in neighboring countries; the rebels will have to disarm before the deployment of the intervention brigade and both parties will proceed to release all prisoners of war. But then there will be no Tutsi armed group left to be eliminated. Only the Hutu and Congolese local militia will be left to be ‘neutralized’.
ON THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
Despite the fact that Museveni and Kagame really deserve an indictment for ‘mucking up the Congo’, as Tony Blair put in an article he co-authored with American billionaire Howard G. Buffett and published in Foreign Policy on 21 February 2013, the same Tony Blair argued that slashing aid to Rwanda will do more harm than good because this will risk undoing ‘one of Africa’s great success stories’. After the publication of that article, Germany and Great Britain immediately unfroze their budgetary aid to Rwanda they suspended after a group of experts commissioned by the U.N. Security Council in September 2012 released a report that accused Rwanda and Uganda of sponsoring the M23 armed group in eastern Congo. Museveni and Kagame can afford to get away with it because they have ‘friends in high places’.
It also appears as if UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is under pressure from the US government over the Congo peace deal. Having been tough with Rwanda for destabilising the DRC through the M23, Ban Ki-moon made a sort of a U-turn, toned down his criticism of Kigali. Ban Ki-moon initially wrote in his report that ‘the measures taken by some bilateral donors to suspend aid and funding for countries backing armed groups in eastern Congo, the M23 in particular, send a strong message that these practices must stop immediately’. However, in his final report, submitted to the 15 members of Security Council, that statement was removed, according to a Reuters report on 27 February 2013.
The big question now is whether or not a rapid deployment of the intervention brigade will take place before Rwanda takes over the presidency of the Security Council in April 2013. Russia, China, Pakistan and Guatemala have expressed doubt that their peacekeepers on the ground may be targeted by armed groups in case the intervention brigade proves to be ineffective. So how effective has MONUSCO been then? MONUSCO should be at ease because MONUSCO maintains good relations with the M23 and the M23 is sponsored by Rwanda which is taking the presidency of the Security Council in April 2013. Rwanda is therefore not expected to turn the guns against the UN forces, is it?
‘THE CURE OF THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA AND THE FORMER SUDAN TO SAVE DRC’
Another factor weighing on the Congo peace deal is that US Ambassador Susan Rice, a staunch supporter of Paul Kagame, who is said to be the front-runner as President Obama’s national security adviser, a job which would place her at the nexus of foreign-policy decisions at the White House, according to a Washington Post report on 9 March 2013. The US has already expressed doubt that the intervention force will not be able to do away with a plethora of armed groups in eastern Congo.
In fact, speaking at Brookings Institution, on 11 February 2013, the outgoing U.S. Assistant Secretary of State in charge of African Affairs, Johnnie Carson reiterated recently that ‘the treatment to be applied to the resolution of the Congo crisis, must be those already experimented in the former Yugoslavia and the former Sudan’. As we know, those two countries have finally broken up in two or more states, and so one can guess how disastrous this policy can be (…).
After the signing of the ‘Peace and Security Framework’ and the establishment of a special force to neutralize all armed groups that are a danger to peace in the eastern part of the DRC, divergences and differences of positions have emerged within the Security Council that risk to torpedo the peace process. There are active lobbies in favour of the continuation of the war in order to continue the plunder of mineral resources on the one hand, and to forge the balkanization of the country, on the other hand. These lobbies have gained weight in the corridors of the Security Council, as the Kinshasa-based daily La République noted in its editorial on 13 March 2013.
In this situation, the deployment of a special intervention force under the guise of MONUSCO is becoming chimerical. The only way forward now is the SADC generated project which consists of deploying a special force in order to restore or to impose peace in the eastern part of the DRC.
On 12 March 2013, Congolese President Joseph Kabila was in Luanda, Angola, where he discussed the implementation of the Framework Agreement with his Angolan counterpart Eduardo dos Santos and South African president Jacob Zuma. It is quite possible that, after this Luanda Tripartite head of states summit, the SADC will retake charge, full control and command of its special force, which is to be supported by men from Angola, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho, Mauritius, Zimbabwe and logistics from South Africa. African solutions to African problems!
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