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By EMMANUEL RUTAYISIRE Special Correspondent
President Paul Kagame has launched a process that could finally end the debate on a third term for him, by tasking three senior members of his Rwandan Patriotic Front to come up with a “transition formula.”
The president used the platform of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) on February 8 to task Tito Rutaremara, Joseph Karemera and Antoine Mugesera to come up with a formula that would deliver “change, continuity and stability” after 2017, when his constitutional term as president expires.
A senior RPF member, who spoke on condition of anonymity said President Kagame informed them that he was in a “dilemma” over the third term question.
Mr Rutaremara would not discuss if the options included proposing a third term for President Kagame, simply stating: “Those saying Kagame should go just because his term is finished are being lazy. We are responsible people we have to study everything. We must get a formula that shall give us maximum of change, continuity and stability.”
At the meeting, the source said, Kagame briefly talked about the Congo issue, which has damaged relations between his government and development partners, and dedicated the better part of the discussion to the third term question.
Mr Rutaremara said, “The president has said he is not interested in the third term… but he also does not want to look like he is running away from responsibility — and by the way, he is not the one to decide.”
Traditionally, RPF’s NEC meetings are held very much in secret, and observers say the fact that selected journalists were invited along with party members who are now willing to share what transpired, means something bigger.
Opinion is divided among political commentators and observers in Kigali.
Some say if these discussions were primarily meant to trigger an internal search for Kagame’s successor, they depict a party that has matured politically.
Some observers say that by opening up the debate, President Kagame may be testing the waters to ascertain the feasibility of his presidential ambitions beyond 2017, if indeed he harbours any.
“If he has thrown open the debate so his departure is discussed well in time and a search instituted for a suitable candidate to lead the change, it will be good for him and for internal democracy of the party,” said Dr Christopher Kayumba, a lecturer at the National University of Rwanda’s School of Journalism.
However, Mr Rutaremara said that looking at removal of term limits was insufficient because the “formula” may lie in having internal changes within RPF.
Although he did not divulge the likely changes, observers point to some scenarios:
The party could change the way its leaders are selected, retaining Kagame as its chairman and thus ensuring he remains powerful and influential even when he is not president.
President Kagame is deeply conflicted about the possibility of serving another term beyond 2017, even after a cross section of Rwandese Patriotic Front leaders and ordinary party members, one after another, called upon
him to consider it.
It was inevitable that this debate would hit a big stage at some point, and that occasion presented itself at the RPF’s extended National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the Amahoro “Petit Stade”, a meeting that began late Friday afternoon last week and went on almost into the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Kagame, addressing the auditorium containing a multitude estimated at 2000 strong, began his speech with a subject that exasperates him like few others can – the DR Congo and its proneness to dragging Rwanda into its problems. It was when the President introduced the next item in his speech that everyone began cocking heads into several stances of the highly attentive. He brought up the term limit issue.
Kagame said, “Now this is the most sensitive topic of the evening and I want to give you some serious homework”, but did not immediately delve into what that homework would entail. He instead introduced a topic within the topic – “change and continuity”, and what Rwandans are going to do about it come 2017.
“I have noticed that people, whether in the villages, whether in the media, are very exercised about what I will do come 2017,” Kagame said. “Foreigners have been asking, ‘will you step down?’ When I said ‘yes’, they did not seem satisfied. “When they kept insisting, I realized whatever I said would never satisfy them, so when recently (CNN’s Christiane) Amanpour asked me whether come 2017 I would step down, I said ‘come that time, what will happen will happen!’”
Now Kagame was throwing the question out to the gathered Rwandans – big RPF party honchos, members of the cabinet, members of parliament, senior civil servants, members of the business community, young professionals, university student leaders and others.”What is the best course of action for our country come that time?”
Now at this point the skeptical would be going, aha! See what we told you? Kagame has become another typical African leader; he will stay on! And in fact that impression would be strengthened by what several people would proceed to say the moment the floor was ceded to them to give their views on this question and its serious implications for the future of the country.
The first man (not someone in any leadership position) immediately called for a scrapping of the articles limiting the head of state to two terms. These articles cannot serve Rwandans very well if they limit our ability to decide who leads us, and President Kagame has done the best job anyone could have done in steering this country to progress, said the man who appeared to be a lawyer and who was speaking in Kinyarwanda. “We want you Mr. Chairman of the RPF and President of the Republic to carry on even after 2017!” Kagame listed intently, neither smiling, nor offering him any form of encouragement in his line of thought.
The second speaker, a woman, said it is people who make laws, and that laws are not written in stone. “If the articles limiting presidential term limits impede us in choosing the best leader we have, then these laws can be re-written and changed!
“Mr. President and Chairman of the RPF, we beseech you, you have been such a good leader, we ask it of you with utmost sincerity, when the time comes please present your candidature and we will give you another mandate!”
But the skeptical would be wrong in immediately assuming that with this kind of discussion a presidential term extension is a done deal. Kagame said a number of things that illustrate, at best, the level of ambiguity with which he confronts the issue.
“To me, the usual arguments by some leaders that no one is capable of taking over after them, that would be enough in itself to make me leave! If all that time you have led a system incapable of identifying or grooming another leader, then you have failed and can leave.”
But on the other hand, “We can’t let the values of foreigners be imposed upon us, and how we conduct our affairs,” said Kagame who was speaking alternately in Kinyarwanda and English.
He offered examples of African countries that followed the dictates of Western nations and followed their models of “democratic” government and asked, “Where are they now? Where is Mali now? It is said they democratically elected a new government, but now what is happening to the country? What is happening to the Central African Republic?”
The compelling argument for the president to even be listening to proponents of a term extension is crystallized in a letter an ordinary resident of Rusizi District wrote the President a few lines of which were quoted. “Nyakubawha Perezida (Honorable President”), the letter said, “Before you took over leadership, we were nothing. We had nothing. Now thanks to you we have built good lives. We have property. If you were to leave we don’t know where we would go, now even Bukavu is not an alternative!”
These are the ordinary villagers, the multitudes of people interested only in the stability and certainty they have ever known only under the RPF administration. The audience applauded long and loud upon hearing the contents of the letter. Many of them shared the sentiments of the Rusizi man.
The debate wasn’t entirely about people urging the President to stand for another term however. Someone stood up and said Rwanda could copy from the Chinese model, and have leaders in waiting whom everyone knew. Another person said the RPF as a party was strong and indeed among its ranks were individuals who could make good replacements for the President.
A woman who was among the last speakers however articulated some views that everyone seemed to nod in agreement to.
The RPF as an institution is very good, she said, but it has not yet gained the same level of confidence in the population as that which the baturage have in President Kagame.
She concluded, “In the future if the RPF gains the same levels of confidence the baturage have for the President, then we will be confident in any alternative candidate it presents.”
As the speeches wound down, the President finally said the homework was obvious to everyone present: find the answers – what is the formula we should use, going forward, as we determine the future of our country?
Amiel Nkuliza, Sweden
The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt has exposed a detailed report which shows how the Rwandan government, Military Senior Officers in collaboration with its Embassy in Sweden planned to assassinate Rwandan refugees living in Sweden.
For all along the Swedish intelligence services have been very closely monitoring the activities of some Rwandans who claim to be refugees when in fact are used by the Kagame regime as spy agents to track genuine refugees in Sweden. It was in this regard that the Swedish government apprehended one of the Kagame spies and brought him to justice as a precautionary measure of eradicating the culture of impunity which would have resulted in loss of life by the genuine refugees living in Sweden and beyond had it not been checked.
Apart from factual and overwhelming evidence that was revealed by the Swedish intelligence services against Rubagenga who has been repeatedly used by the Kagame’s intelligence against Rwandan refugees , the Swedish Foreign affairs Ministry also revealed how the Kagame spy network and his own military Generals have been for long clandestinely spying on the Rwandan refugees living in Sweden since 2010. This report has also exposed how the Rwandan Embassy in Stockholm had an upper hand in all these murderous plots against Rwandan Refugees living in Sweden.
Rwandan support for rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo may be more widespread than previously believed, the BBC has found.
Kigali has already rejected UN accusations that it is backing the M23 rebel group which recently captured the strategic eastern city of Goma.
More than 500,000 people have fled seven months of fighting in the east.
Rwanda has previously backed armed groups in eastern DR Congo as a way of fighting Hutu militias who fled there after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people died.
The M23, who like Rwanda’s leaders are mostly ethnic Tutsis, has also denied it is funded by Rwanda.
BBC East Africa correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse spoke to two former rebel fighters in Bukavu, which lies on the southern tip of Lake Kivu, some 200km (125 miles) from Goma.
They were from DR Congo’s minority Tutsi ethnic group and said they had joined the rebel Congolese Movement for Change in July to fight for a better life for the people of the east.
They had spent several months in the bush fighting the army, thinking they were part of a home-grown movement.
“Then our chairman of this movement came with a delegation of the government of Rwanda, saying that the movement has been changed, we have to follow the instructions of the Rwanda government,” Capt Okra Rudahirwa told the BBC.
He said he and his men were given monthly supplies of cash – sometimes as much as $20,000 (£12,500) dollars, with which they bought food, uniforms and medicines.
His commander, Col Besftriend Ndozi, told the BBC they were also put in contact with a senior M23 commander, a Col Manzi, who urged them to co-ordinate their efforts.
The men said they decided to abandon the fight once they realised the scale of Rwandan involvement.
The Rwandan government has declined to comment on the allegations.
But many of the details of this account, including dates and names of intermediaries, tally with separate research carried out by the UN, our correspondent says.
A recent report by UN experts said the M23′s de facto chain of command culminated with Rwanda’s defence minister.
M23 rebels are due to withdraw from recently captured towns
It also accused neighbouring Uganda of aiding the rebels.
Kampala has denied the allegations and has been mediating over the last week following the M23′s capture of Goma.
Its military commander, Sultani Makenga, has said he will withdraw his forces to a 20km buffer zone around Goma in the coming days.
The group mutinied from the army in April, saying it was because a 2009 deal to end a previous uprising by a Tutsi militia had not been fulfilled.
By Editorial Board, Friday, November 23, 5:43 PM
ONE OF THE globe’s worst killing fields is once again aflame. The eastern region of Congo was the epicenter of two wars in the past 15 years that laid waste to an estimated 5 million lives — many lost to hunger and disease that followed in the footsteps of armed conflict.
On Tuesday, a rebel group, M23, seized the provincial capital of Goma as Congolese army forces and U.N. peacekeepers fell back. The fighting has intensified an already dire humanitarian crisis. Since the beginning of this year, more than 650,000 people have been uprootedin the regions of North and South Kivu. A series of fragile peace agreements reached in recent years are in tatters.
The M23 was formed out of a mutiny from the Congolese army in April by several hundred soldiers from a former rebel army that had signed a peace deal with the government on March 23, 2009. They are led by Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, a former high-ranking army officer who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on seven counts of crimes against humanity. The rebels have used and recruited child soldiers by the hundreds, according to theUnited Nations. By taking Goma, the rebels have raised the prospect of a destabilizing return to a regional war.
In the broadest sense, what’s unfolding is a result of the vacuum created by Congo’s weakness as a state. As the author and Congo analyst Jason Stearns has pointed out, the government in Kinshasa under President Joseph Kabila can’t impose rule of law or its military writ in the region, leading armed groups to fill the space. The International Crisis Group described the latest rebellion as, in part, the result of failure to implement earlier accords, failure to reform the army and failure to start a serious political dialogue. The presence of a 19,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force has done little to halt the conflict.
Rwanda, which borders Congo to the east, sees this mineral-rich swath of Congo as a sphere of influence. Rwanda’s role in supplying arms and support to the M23 rebels cannot be underestimated, despite denials. A U.N. report just published concludes that Rwanda has provided “direct military support” to the rebels, including “arms, ammunition, intelligence and political advice.” Uganda is also believed to be aiding the rebels.
Rwanda and Uganda should stop their meddling, and the United States and Britain must turn up the pressure on Rwanda to halt support for the rebels. That will take more than quiet diplomacy. A U.N. Security Council resolution approved Tuesday called for sanctions against the rebel leaders but stopped short of naming Rwanda. All sides need to recognize they are sliding once again toward the killing fields and to come to their senses before the bloody wars of the past are repeated.
Sat, Nov 24, 2012
Rebels in eastern Congo pushed south along Lake Kivu yesterday after repelling a counterattack by government forces near the new rebel stronghold in the city of Goma on the Rwandan border.
Others moved north from the strategic road junction at Sake.
The rebels were in control of Sake after a battle on Thursday that was the first sign of a government fightback. The army had abandoned Goma on Tuesday to the M23 movement, widely thought to be backed by Rwanda.
Local people and fighters said Congolese troops and allied militia had pulled back from Sake – which lies 20km west from Goma along the lake – to Minova, 15km farther south along the main highway in the direction of M23’s stated next objective, the city of Bukavu at the southern tip of the lake.
The rebel group said after taking Goma it would march on the capital, Kinshasa, 1,600km away, to defeat President Joseph Kabila. The fighters met no resistance as they probed several miles south from Sake yesterday.
Thousands of refugees fled the fighting, heading for Goma, where aid agencies have a significant presence. United Nations peacekeepers stood back when the rebels moved in. Another town, Mushaki, in the hills 20km to the northwest of Sake, also fell to the rebels after overnight fighting, according to officials in Goma who were in touch with people in the area.
Previous uprisings in Democratic Republic of Congo, among them one led by Mr Kabila’s father, have been launched from the area, where a mix of colonial-era borders, rich mineral deposits and ethnic rivalries has caused two decades of turmoil, dating from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, that have cost millions of deaths.
On the outskirts of Sake, taken by the rebels on Wednesday, three bodies in the uniform of Mr Kabila’s national army lay by the roadside. Cartridges cases littered the area.
“There was heavy fighting,” said pastor Jean Kambale, who dismissed a government claim that it had retaken Sake on Thursday. “It’s M23 who control the town,” he said. “They never lost it.”
The rebels received a mixed welcome in areas taken this week. Fearing more fighting, thousands of people clutching children and belongings were on the move around the lake yesterday, trudging along the road towards Goma from Sake.
M23 was formed in April by army mutineers who accused Mr Kabila of reneging on a peace deal from an earlier conflict. It says it plans to “liberate” the country and has rejected a call from regional states to withdraw from Goma.
The conflict has raised tensions between Congo and its tiny but militarily powerful neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa, backed by UN experts, accuses of secretly backing rebels.
Rwanda’s history of meddling
Rwanda has a history of meddling in Congo’s conflicts, which have resulted in the death of some five million people since 1998. Rwandan president Paul Kagame has denied the charge repeatedly and blames Congo and world powers of seeking a scapegoat for their failure.
Minova was the Congolese army’s rallying point after its retreat from Goma, according to the rebels. Having fended off the counterattack on Sake, they would take a step towards fulfilling their stated ambition of taking Bukavu by seizing Minova.
The capital of South Kivu province, Minova lies at the opposite end of Lake Kivu, 100km from Goma, the capital of North Kivu. Mr Kabila’s forces are on the back foot as the M23 fighters press south. Analysts remain sceptical, however, that the rebels can make good on their threat to march on Kinshasa in the west without significant and overt support from foreign backers. In pushing north from Sake, the insurgents moved closer to Kichanga, home of Bosco Ntaganda, a Rwandan-born warlord wanted for war crimes by the international court at The Hague. According to many observers, Ntaganda is controlling the insurgency.
Competition for resources
Regional and international leaders are scrambling to halt the latest bout of violence in a Great Lakes region long been plagued by ethnic and political conflict fuelled by competition for reserves of gold, tin and coltan, an ore of rare metals used in electronics and other high-value products. The rebels have so far ignored international calls to withdraw from occupied areas. They doubt Mr Kabila’s stated readiness to look into their complaints, saying they have already waited months for talks.
Regional leaders are due to hold crisis talks today in Kampala, capital of neighbouring Uganda.
A Congolese government spokesman confirmed Mr Kabila was back in Kinshasa following inconclusive talks with Mr Kagame this week. The spokesman said Mr Kabila would return to Uganda today. – (Reuters)
M23 mutineers gain ground as president holds talks with Rwandan leader
Rebels in Eastern Congo have repelled a counter attack by government forces and pushed further into the vast central African nation following their capture of the strategic city of Goma.
The chaos in the Congolese army was underlined when its chief of staff was suspended today in response to a UN report that accused him of running a criminal network selling arms to many of the same rebel groups now fighting the government.
The M23 group, which began as an army munity seven months ago, has vowed to march on the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, half a continent away in Kinshasa, if its demands for direct talks are not met.
Meanwhile hopes that the mutineers, who are thought to number fewer than 2,000 troops could be contained were dashed as they moved further into North Kivu province.
The presidents of DR Congo and Rwanda – which is accused in the same UN report of running the M23 through its defence ministry – are due to meet today (Saturday) for fresh talks to try and resolve the crisis.
Congo’s Joseph Kabila and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame met several times in the last week in the Ugandan capital, Kampala as the rebels have continued to capture more territory around Goma.
After days of disorderly retreat the Congolese army, the FARDC, put up a fight over the town of Sake, 40 kilometres beyond Goma, briefly claiming it had retaken it from the rebels of M23. However, the handful of residents that remained in Sake said that despite heavy fighting the rebels had never relinquished control. As many as 10,000 civilians were reported to be on the road out of Sake in a bid to escape the fighting.
The Associated Press spoke to a lone father who returned today to his empty house in the town. He was separated from his four children – the youngest of whom is just 2 years old – when the shooting started. “We heard shots from the hills,” said Timothe Mashamba. “We fled, but now I have returned. I lost my four children when we fled and haven’t found them. I am waiting for them here. I can’t leave. They won’t know where to find me.”
Aid groups estimate that as many as 365,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes or refugee camps since fighting began earlier this year.
General Gabriel Amisi has been suspended from his post as army chief after a report by the UN panel of experts accused him of selling arms and ammunition to rebel groups, who are accused of a litany of war crimes from mass rape to the recruitment of child soldiers. The report alleges that the general ran a smuggling network that delivered assault rifles and ammunition to several groups, at least two of which have been occasional allies of M23.
The restive east of Congo is blighted by armed groups including three foreign militias; four domestic rebel forces and a host of Mai Mai local self defence forces. Many of the groups survive by preying on the local populations and profiting from conflict minerals. Attempts to use the national army, the FARDC, to impose order on North and South Kivu have been totally undermined by endemic corruption in its ranks. The FARDC reportedly looted areas of Goma as it fled the rebel advance last week.
Both Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of backing M23 – whose leaders hail from the same ethnic group as Rwanda’s President Kagame – in an extensive dossier delivered to the UN Security Council. Rwanda’s foreign allies, including the UK which is a major donor have changed tack in recent days, directly criticising the donor darling for its role in the rebellion.
HRRF’s Paul Rusesabagina Calls for More International Involvement to Stop Slaughter in the Congo
Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundaiton
PRLog (Press Release) – Nov 21, 2012 -
Contact: Kitty Kurth Phone: 312-617-7288
Over the weekend, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session to call for the Rwanda backed M23 rebels to stop their advance further in to the Congo. Last night they adopted Resolution 2076 to demand immediate withdrawal of M23 rebels from Goma, the Congolese city seized days ago. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Rwandan President Paul Kagame over the weekend to ask him to intervene and stop the M23 offensive, according to a statement issued at U.N headquarters in New York.
Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF) applauds the actions of Secretary General and the Security Council.
HRRF President Paul Rusesabagina also calls upon the international community to intervene and stop the killing in the Congo. Rusesabagina said, “During the dark days of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, I tried every means to get the international community to pay attention to what was happening. Today, I am pleading with them again. Do not let Kagame’s dictatorial regime and his M23 henchmen continue to kill and maim people, and then fill their pockets with conflict minerals on the way back home to Rwanda. It is estimated that more than 7 million people have already died in the Congo. How many more millions will the international community allow to die while we sit watching on the sidelines? The Security Council has demanded the immediate withdrawal of M23 from Goma and we need to make sure that happens before more slaughter ensues.”
Rusesabagina added, “For years I have warned about the Great Lakes Region of Africa being like a dormant volcano. I am afraid that the Rwandan backed M23 rebels are causing the region to begin to erupt.”
Here is the link to the UN Security Council press release which is excerpted below. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2012/sc10823.doc.htm
Justine Greening and William Hague: Response to the UN’s DR Congo report
22 November 2012
Joint statement on the United Nations’ Group of Experts report on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), by Foreign Secretary William Hague and International Development Secretary Justine Greening.
“The Security Council discussed on 21 November the new UN Group of Experts report, which presented evidence of the Government of Rwanda and individuals within Uganda supporting the rebel group M23. All such support is unacceptable, damaging to the security of the region, and in direct contravention of UN Security Council 2076, which demands that any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately.
“We judge the overall body of evidence of Rwandan involvement with M23 in the DRC to be credible and compelling. We will be studying the implications of this report in full, but these allegations will necessarily be a key factor in future aid decisions to the Government of Rwanda.
“We note that alleged Ugandan involvement is assessed to be of a lower intensity and less systemic than Rwanda’s. We call on both countries to respond in full to the report’s findings, and to engage openly and constructively with the UN process.
“The UK is greatly concerned about the escalating situation in eastern DRC and the plight of its civilian population. We repeat our calls for the immediate withdrawal of the M23 from Goma, the restoration of State authority of the Government of the DRC in Goma and in North-Kivu, and the end to attacks on the civilian population.
“We welcome the efforts of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) chaired by the Government of Uganda in bringing together regional countries in an attempt to find a way forward. We welcome the meeting yesterday of the ICGLR Foreign Ministers and urge them to continue to take every opportunity to find a swift and sustainable solution. Mr Simmonds, FCO Minister for Africa, arrived in the region yesterday to ensure the UK is doing everything it can to support a solution.”
* Rwanda genocide sowed seeds of recurring ethnic strife
* For years, Congo has paid price in blood for its riches
* Tiny Rwanda has not flinched from invading giant neighbour
* Questions hang over how far M23 rebellion can spread
By Pascal Fletcher
Nov 22 (Reuters) – History seems to repeat itself in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Once again, armed rebels are on the move in the vast central African country’s eastern borderlands with Rwanda and Uganda.
This Great Lakes area, where colonial era borders cut at random through ethnic groups, has in the last 20 years been a crucible of conflict and ethnic rivalry that has launched multiple uprisings and invasions, at least one even reaching the Congolese capital Kinshasa 1,000 miles to the west.
The latest Tutsi insurgents, calling themselves M23 and mirroring a previous 2004-2009 revolt, this week easily seized the North Kivu provincial capital of Goma and say they too want to “liberate” Congo and march to Kinshasa.
Whether they can remains to be seen, and Congo government troops were fighting back on Thursday.
The M23 revolt once again focuses the attention of an uncomprehending world on a territory in the heart of Africa the size of Western Europe that has dazzled explorers and invaders for years with its treasure trove of resources: rubber, timber, gold, diamonds, copper, as well as cobalt, uranium and coltan.
Congo has paid in blood and suffering for these natural riches. Abuses under colonial rule in the late 1880s and early 1900s during a rubber boom saw agents and soldiers of Belgian King Leopold II sever human hands, feet and heads to force natives to extract the white latex from the luxuriant forest.
Independence from Belgium in 1960 turned Congo into a Cold War battleground fought over by rebels and mercenaries, CIA agents and Cuban guerrillas and also led to the long crippling kleptocracy of U.S.-backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seku.
The last two decades have only worsened Congo’s “Heart of Darkness” image – propagated by Joseph Conrad’s brooding 1902 novel – with conflicts that at one stage sucked in the armies of six African countries, spawned a plethora of armed groups and created a deadly maelstrom of war, hunger and disease.
Estimates from humanitarian agencies say over five million people have died in this destructive vortex since 1998 alone.
“The Congo is a story of … a country where the state has been eroded over centuries and where once the fighting began, each community seemed to have its own militia, fighting brutal insurgencies and counterinsurgencies with each other,” wrote analyst and author Jason Stearns in his 2011 book on the Congolese war, “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters”.
He compared Congo’s recent turmoil to “seventeenth-century Europe and the Thirty Years’ War”, a religious and political conflict in which foraging armies devastated entire regions.
The roots of eastern Congo’s most recent cycle of violence can be found in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, when the world largely stood by as soldiers and militia of the Hutu ethnic group killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in a bloodletting that ripped apart the country’s tribal faultlines.
This brought on the coming years of chaos, as Tutsi rebels led by Paul Kagame, now Rwanda’s president, toppled the Hutu government and sent the perpetrators of the genocide fleeing into eastern Congo along with two million Hutu refugees.
Since then, the presence of Hutu ‘genocidaires’ in eastern Congo, grouped in the enduring Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), has given Kinshasa’s small but militarily powerful neighbour an excuse to interfere and invade.
One such Rwandan intervention ended Mobutu’s corrupt reign in 1997, replacing him with longtime eastern rebel Laurent Kabila. Kabila’s falling out with his former Rwandan and Ugandan backers in 1998 led to another eastern rebellion, by Congolese Tutsis supported by Rwandan and Ugandan forces.
Troops from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe backed Kabila in a multinational conflict lasting until 2003. Dubbed Africa’s first “World War”, it included widespread plunder of Congo’s minerals. Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and succeeded by his son, Joseph, the current Congolese president re-elected last year.
In 2004, a Congolese Tutsi warlord, General Laurent Nkunda began a fresh rebellion among the ethnic Rwandan Tutsis in eastern Congo, to counter what he said was their persecution by Kabila’s army working with the FDLR.
Once again, Congo’s government accused neighbouring Rwanda of being behind the Nkunda insurgency, which ended in a 2009 peace accord with Kabila. But Tutsi rebellion has resurfaced again in the M23, whose leaders say the agreement was not honoured by Kinshasa.
MINERALS AND PEACEKEEPERS
Rwanda denied backing Nkunda – it later arrested him – and has even more vehemently rejected charges this year by Congo and a panel of United Nations experts that it is supporting, supplying and directing the current M23 insurgency.
However, few abroad believe the public Rwandan denials, especially since Kagame has been on the record for years as saying that Rwanda will defend itself from any neighbouring threat. In this, he includes the FDLR in eastern Congo, still active though depleted in numbers from previous years.
“We will never shy away from crossing our borders to prevent a repeat of what happened in 1994 (the Rwandan genocide),” he told Reuters in a 2000 interview.
Congo says Rwanda also benefits from minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold mined in its east and smuggled out over the border, and U.N. experts have accused at least one M23 leader, Bosco Ntaganda, of being involved in such trafficking.
For more than a decade, the United Nations has kept one of its largest peacekeeping forces in the world – 17,000 strong – in the Congo, and this MONUSCO force faces criticism for failing to stop the M23 rebels taking Goma this week.
But despite the historical precedents, some analysts do not see the M23 with either the capacity or intention to march on Kinshasa, although Goma’s fall was an embarrassment for Kabila and could encourage other opposition challenges to his rule.
“We do not expect a major escalation by M23 (and backer Rwanda) beyond its provincial stronghold of North Kivu,” Eurasia Group’s Africa Director Philippe de Pontet said.
He described the territory’s significance for Rwanda as “a security buffer for Tutsis on both sides of the border and as a revenue source, largely from so-called conflict minerals.”
With uncertainty surrounding the future course of the M23 rebellion, the words of “Mad Mike” Hoare, who fought in the Congo in the 1960s and became the epitome of the white mercenary in Africa seem appropriate to the case: “Anything can happen in the Congo and frequently does”.