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'President Paul Kagame is to Blame for the Humanitarian Crisis in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo'Salem-News.com
Open memo to the UN Secretary General, G8 Members, UN General Assembly, EU, AU, and all Representatives to the UN Security Council.
(WASHINGTON DC) - The following is an Open Memo to the UN Secretary General, G8 Presidents and Prime Ministers, President of the UN General Assembly, EU President, AU Chairman and President, and all Representatives to the UN Security Council.
MAY 11, 2012
PRESIDENT PAUL KAGAME IS TO BLAME FOR THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN EASTERN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO(DRC)
On behalf of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), let me take this opportunity to bring to your kind attention concerns regarding the deepening humanitarian and security crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It has been reported by the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs that there have more than 300,000 internally displaced people in North and South Kivu in the first quarter of this year alone. In the last few days, escalation of fighting has led to more internally displaced people, and refugees fleeing to Rwanda and Uganda. Many millions, including women and children have died, displaced and raped in eastern DRC since 1994.
In the May 3, 2012, statement the U.N. Security Council expressed concerns over recent attacks by armed groups in eastern DRC, in particular the former elements of CNDP under General Bosco Ntaganda, against the Congolese armed forces and called for immediate cessation of the rebellion. The U.N. Security Council statement further called for “ all crimes, including crimes against women and children, to be expeditiously investigated and the need for all the perpetrators of those crimes, in particular Ntaganda, to be brought to justice.”
You might recall that the 1990- 1994 war and genocide in Rwanda resulted in millions of Rwandan refugees in the region, mostly in DRC, including thousands of Rwanda government military forces (FAR) and militia (interahamwe). The Government of Rwanda attacked the refugee camps in Congo in October, 1996 under the pretext of a ‘Abanyamurenge rebellion’. The war culminated in the overthrow of President Mobutu in May, 1997.
Thereafter, Laurent Desire Kabila succeeded Mobutu as President with the help of the Rwandan Armed forces. The alliance between Paul Kagame and Laurent Desire Kabila could not last more than two years and both countries were again involved in war in August 1998.
First, then Vice President Paul Kagame expected to control the new government of DRC and believed President Kabila would always solicit political direction from Rwanda. To ensure this, Rwanda deployed LTC James Kabarebe (now General) as Chief of Staff of the Congolese Army to keep President Kabila on the leash. This was detested by Kabila and his followers which resulted in friction and conflict in the Congolese Army.
Second, then Vice President Kagame demanded mineral concessions to be granted to Rwanda as compensation for expenses of the war and as a personal reward for installing President Kabila in power. This did not happen and Paul Kagame hatched a plan to remove President Kabila through a coup d’etat, which failed. President Kabila retaliated by expelling LTC James Kabarebe together with all Rwandan troops in DRC, precipitating the all-out war into which several African countries, notably Zimbabwe and Angola, were sucked. President Laurent Kabila was assassinated, and succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila.
Third, a reason had to be found to begin a war and the EX-FAR was a perfect excuse, although at the same time the war was waged under the pretext of a mutiny by the Congolese army, with President Kabila being accused of allying himself with the EX-FAR. At first, Rwanda concealed its involvement. As the conflict intensified and drew many African countries, Rwanda’s deceptions had reached a limit and had to create a proxy politico-military organization. Thus was RCD born. The war ended in a stalemate, and a negotiated political settlement led to the establishment of a broad-based government that included all fighting forces. However, against all advice, Paul Kagame dissuaded some political and military elements of the RCD from joining the new broad-based government in Kinshasa. Out of these former RCD elements, a new proxy force, CNDP, was established under the leadership of General Laurent Nkunda.
CNDP, GENERAL LAURENT NKUNDA AND GENERAL BOSCO NTAGANDA
The justification for creation of the CNDP was to fight the FDLR and “protect the Tutsi community in Kivu.” However, the true objective was to keep the government of DRC weak through endless war. Like many millions of Congolose who have died due to the unending conflict and its consenquences, the Congolese Tutsi have been both tools and victims of President Kagame’s policies and actions in DRC. Furthermore, the proxy forces facilitated resource plunder by President Kagame’s ruling RPF companies and associates. At a personal level, President Paul Kagame became the focal diplomatic contact about the security situation in DRC. While he precipitated this horrendous humanitarian situation and should have been held to account, he has on the contrary been viewed in many capitals as the solution and indispensable interlocutor for the realization of security in DRC and the Great Lakes region.
In 2009, Gen Laurent Nkunda was “arrested” (President Kagame said on BBC that he is his guest) and was replaced by Gen Bosco Ntaganda by the government of Rwanda. Gen Bosco Ntaganda was integrated in CNDP after the war in Ituri in DRC and was helped by the government of Rwanda to depose Gen Nkunda.
It is well known that Gen Bosco Ntaganda is a Rwandese from Masisi, and should have had no interest in the “Ituri wars” between the Balendu and Bahema in Kivu. The Ugandan rebels of ADF were allegedly operating among the Ituri tribes and Rwanda sought to exploit the situation by arming Thomas Lubanga and seconded Bosco Ntaganda as his military Commander. Thomas Lubanga has been convicted by the ICC and Bosco Ntaganda is being hunted by the ICC. It is only fair that President Paul Kagame on whose behest these two individuals committed war crimes should be part of the indictment.
After the conviction of Thomas Lubanga in the ICC, international pressure has mounted on President Kabila to arrest Gen Ntaganda. For President Kabila, it is a perfect opportunity to dispense with an officer in his Army who takes orders from another country, Rwanda in this case. The problem however, is that President Kabila does not control the CNDP because, as Rwanda’s proxy force, they have never been fully integrated in the Congolese Army and he cannot transfer any of them from Kivu. The government of Rwanda would do whatever it takes to make sure that Gen Ntaganda is not arrested because of the information that implicates President Kagame he would divulge at the ICC.
Some of the likely scenarios include the following:
1. The government of Rwanda will arm and help Gen Ntaganda fight the Congolese government forces until President Kabila realizes that he will have to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
2. If international pressure continues for the arrest of Gen Ntaganda, the government of Rwanda will offer to assist ( already doing so), by sending its Special Forces or use elements within CNDP to kill Gen. Ntaganda to make sure he is not taken to the ICC.
3. As the war rages on and the international community needs assistance, President Kagame will, as usual, reposition himself as the regional leader and savior for resolving this stalemate, in the “interest of regional stability.” As political crisis looms large in Rwanda and the Kivus, he will use the opportunity to conceal and deny his own misdemeanors while dictating his own terms of any new arrangements.
4. Like in 2009, under the ‘Amani Leo’, this situation may provide a perfect opportunity for another deployment of Rwanda government forces into the DRC.
5. A wild card triggers a worst-case scenario, in which full-fledged civil wars erupt in Rwanda ( as mounting domestic pressures lead to implosion) and DRC, with grave consequences for the whole fragile region, thus perpetuating the cycle of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Due to President Paul Kagame’s policies in Rwanda and the DRC, the Tutsi community of DRC are frequently singled out and blamed to a larger extent by other tribes for atrocities in DRC since 1996. The Rwandan community in DRC (Hutu and Tutsi) in general has been drawn into a conflict among themselves and against all other tribes who view them as proxies of a foreign government. Since 1996, the proxy wars in DRC especially in both North and South Kivu have resulted in millions of deaths, displacement and refugees, which occasionally President Kagame deceptively justifies as “collateral damage” for hunting down FDLR, whose numbers have in any case diminished over the years.
The endless conflicts in DRC have resulted in uncontrolled proliferation of arms from the governments to militias over whom they have a lose control. Some of these militias have been involved in massive rape of women and deaths of children.
Most importantly, as we all have witnessed during the last two decades, crisis in any one country poses great risk to the whole Great Lakes region. Crisis in the Great Lakes region has before escalated to a “continental” war when several African countries intervened in the 1998-2002 Congo war. Already there are several millions who have died in this region due to genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, other gross abuses of human rights, and the consequences of humanitarian catastrophe. Clearly, the current escalating situation in the Great Lakes region has serious implications for international peace and security.
At the center of endless conflict and humanitarian crisis in DRC and the Great Lakes is lack of accountability and the impunity it fosters. For example, In the United Nations Human Rights Commission Mapping Report on DRC of October, 2010, the Government of Rwanda under President Kagame is implicated in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even “possible acts of genocide.” The crimes have been investigated but the perpetrators are yet to be brought to account. Why would the U.N. Security Council seek accountability from Thomas Lubanga General Bosco Ntaganda alone, and fall silent on President Paul Kagame and his other accomplices, who have created the conditions and organization that sustain the crimes?
Furthermore, President Kagame seeks to draw attention away from his human rights abuses in Rwanda by diverting the international community and media to focus on DRC. Since 1994, the Rwandan armed forces have been kept at war both in DRC and recently in peace keeping missions. This facilitates President Kagame to blackmail and manipulate domestic and international opinion that the country is at war. Depicting himself as indispensable to Rwanda’s and regional security, he uses the pretext of war to close avenues for peaceful reform and to brand his critics as accomplices, terrorists or sympathizers of rebels.
The events unfolding in eastern DRC have the potential to trigger massive violence and humanitarian tragedy of catastrophic proportions.
The greatest danger, recent history shows, is that the international community may be silent, indifferent, act in an unfair or timid fashion, or rather too late.
The international community must engage President Paul Kagame and other stakeholders candidly and forcefully to halt the current escalation and work towards sustainable peace and security.
Since President Paul Kagame’s policies and actions in DRC are conditioned by his domestic requirements in Rwanda, the international community should insist that the government in Rwanda immediately and unconditional release all political prisoners, end persecution (including arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, involuntary disappearances and extra-judicial killings) of government opponents and critics and their relatives, engage in comprehensive and unconditional dialogue with the opposition to resolve the political and security impasse engulfing Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, and stop proxy wars in eastern DRC.
The international community should be even and act fairly by using international mechanisms to ensure that all those who have committed crimes, including President Kagame himself, are held accountable and brought to justice.
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