Rwanda: From victim to perpetrator of genocide
Antoine Roger Lokongo
It is true that the DRC is hundreds of times bigger and richer in natural and mineral resources than Rwanda. Rwanda may one day discover its own minerals. But for the time being, feeling cheated by nature and coveting land and minerals in Congo, the regime in power in Kigali has convinced its backers, some of the most powerful superpowers this world boasts, that it can militarily, not through regional cooperation, eliminate that inequality, proving Timothy M. Shaw and Malcolm J. Grieve (1978) right when they described the roots causes of African conflicts as follows:
(1) Ecological coincidence: what resources are located in the country in terms of economic riches, oil, and mineral reserves?
(2) External demand: given the prevailing level of technology and consumption, what goods are sought by foreign interests?
(3) Response to dependence: given external demand for the state’s resources, is the dominant reaction collaboration or confrontation?
(4) National ideology: does the state in general advocate ‘socialism’ or ‘capitalism’ as a reflection of its economic strategy and structure?
(5) Economic strategy: does the state have its function determined by the prevailing international division of labour, or does it attempt to follow its own plan for industrialization and diversification?
(6) Sub-imperial potential: does the state dominate a ‘sub-region’ and so provide the services of centre within the periphery? And finally,
(7) Class formation: to what extent does economic growth, especially if it involves semi-industrialisation, generate its own contradiction of intensified class consciousness and conflict?
This mixture of problems applies in the case of Congo-Rwanda border dispute.
2. MUSEVENI AND KAGAME, THE NEW ‘BISMARCKS OF AFRICA’: IMPLEMENTING AMERICA’S NEW POLICY?
In a previous article published by Pambazuka on 16 November 2011, we argued that, as the only superpower left, the United States of America – which did not participate in the Berlin Conference – is claiming the lion’s share of Africa ’s resources. In fact, the US ’s desire to devour Africa was best explained by the late American Under-Secretary of State for Commerce, Ron Brown, while visiting Uganda. He told a dinner party audience that, ‘For many years African business has been dominated by Europeans while America gets only 17 percent of the market. We are now determined to reverse that and take the lion’s share.’ (Kintu 1997:1). We then raised the following questions which remain valid: why should democratically elected African governments give or let the US take the lion’s share instead of giving the lion’s share to the people who elected them? Which should come first – American interests or African people’s interests? What means would the US use to take the lion’s share? Is it possible to respect democratically established governments in Africa and take the lion’s share at the same time?
The invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi in1998 with the backing of well-known superpowers, trampled the African Union principles of non-interference of foreign forces in African affairs and the sanctity of pre-independence colonial frontiers as the basis of the statehood of its members, taking a leaf from the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia by which several European polities agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty and boundaries. What explains the way Rwanda has gone about colonizing eastern Congo is the fact that from the very beginning, Rwandan President Paul Kagame indicated that what was at issue in the DRC was ‘another Berlin’ division. Rwanda fought not just for security concerns, not for coltan and other strategic minerals, but more importantly for the widening of Rwanda’s borders and Rwandans’ living space to accord with the myth of the so-called Chezi dynasty which encompassed the Congolese provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu (Nabudere 2004:95).
Rwanda has got no grounds for such claim because the case of the border between Rwanda and Congo was settled with the Belgians, the Germans and the British at the Kivu- Mfumbiro Conference convened by the Belgian Foreign Ministry in February 1910, to settle the claims of three European countries over the disputed territory, as Roger Louis (1963) had demonstrated.
The matter was settled when the Belgians successfully proved that there was no ethnographic connection whatsoever between the Africans on the Congolese side and those in Ruanda (after all, it was an Anglo-American explorer, Henri Morton Stanley who collected local chiefs’ signatures of allegiance to King Leopold II which the latter used at the Berlin Conference as the basis for his claim of that territory, so the Belgians should have known better); and that the presence of German missionaries on the Congolese side could not prejudice Belgian Congo’s territorial rights (Louis 1963: 79-91).
Separate protocols between Germany and Belgium , Germany and Britain, and Britain and Belgium were signed on 14 May 1910. Boundary commissions were appointed; after the frontiers were demarcated, the protocol was signed by the boundary commissioners, formally ending the Kivu-Mfumbiro controversy (Louis 1963: 79-91). It is needless to repeat that Germany lost her colonies (what is today Rwanda , Burundi and Tanzania ) in compensation to Belgium and Britain after loosing the First World War (fought over colonies in Africa ). Ironically, Belgium ‘got back’ all the territories west of the true 30th meridian and Britain got Ndorwa (part of Tanzania which today blocks Rwanda’s access to Lake Victoria) initially promised as part of the compensation of the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty. So, is Rwanda going to wage war against Tanzania as well to gain access to Lake Victoria? If not, which ‘colonial injustice of the past’ is Rwanda talking about?
After this Belgian-German-British settlement, the Belgian colonial administration brought Tutsi’s and Hutu’s much needed labour in Congolese mines and plantations. In addition, any time Hutu and Tutsi killed each other in Rwanda and Burundi, this has always had a spill over into Congo which had always welcomed refugees.
3. HISTORICALLY THERE ARE NO CONGOLESE BANYAMULENGE
In Congo, every tribe’s name is also the name of that tribe’s language. Congolese are Bangala, Baluba, Bakongo, Mongo, Batelela, Bongando because they speak, respectively, Lingala, Tshiluba, Kikongo, Lomongo, Tetela, Longando and so on. Mulenge is just a hilly area in South Kivu Province, eastern Congo, where Rwandan Tutsi refugees settled in Congo after the post-independence Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda. So, since there is no language in Congo called Banyamulenge there is no Banyamulenge tribe either in Congo or in Rwanda originally before the refugee emigration to Congo. That is a historical fact. The Belgian colonial administration never identified any ethnic group called Banyamulenge among the 250 ethnic groups that Congo boasts. We challenge anybody to prove the contrary.
However, the current constitution has solved the problem. Any Tutsi or Hutu whose parents were in Congo at the time of independence, that is, 30 June 1960, is Congolese and must serve the interest of the Congolese nation first and foremost. So what discrimination against the Banyamulenge does Rwanda talk about? There has been a Munyamulenge vice-president in Congo by the name of Ruberwa. Tutsi have a bigger share of positions in national institutions than most of the other ethnic groups in Congo especially in the army, but they strictly refuse to go and serve in other areas of Congo except near the Rwandan border. For a purpose! They have attempted many times to annex eastern Congo to Rwanda through many so-called rebellions! Aren’t they very hard to accommodate Congolese? Was it not thanks to the March 2009 accords that Bosco Ntanganda became a general? Lie, lie, there will always be something left to lie about! But for the Congolese people, enough is enough!
Recently Cpongolese President Joseph Kabila made a deal with Kagame to allow Rwandan troops to remain stationed in eastern in order to hunt down the Hutu militia, known as the genocidists FDLR. Rwanda has been militarily present in Congo since 1997. Who can believe Rwanda’s pretext to intervene in Congo because of the FDLR threat?
In fact, already in 2010, Peter Swarbrick and Michael Soussan of the UNHCR published an article in the The Huffington Post stressing that ‘the UN and donors should insist that the FDLR, though also blamed for countless other atrocities against Congolese civilians, no longer constitutes a significant military threat to Rwanda. Insofar as it portrays itself as representing the 85 percent of the Rwandan population that is Hutu, FDLR may constitute a political threat to Tutsi control of the Rwandan government – but one that should be dealt with by political means. Rwanda is the only country in its sub-region that refuses to talk to its political opponents, on the grounds that they are associated with the genocide. The accusations now leveled against Rwanda itself render that claim rather hollow’ (Soussan and Swarbrick 2010).
Instead, Kagame has been accused of being responsible for the extermination of Hutus. Nick Gordon, a BBC reporter, investigated and reported that the Kigali regime has built crematoriums at Bugasira, Ruhengeri, Byumba, Kibungo, Inyungwe and other locations where thousands of Hutus and Congolese deportees (80 Congolese youth were deported from Uvira, South Kivu, into Rwanda in January 2001 and are unaccounted for today, according to the Missionary News Agency MISNA), are killed daily and their bodies incinerated under the program called ‘Manpower Duties’ while US officials are looking the other way (Snow 2007). The aim is to reduce the Hutu majority. It is also known that Kagame releases Hutus from prison and sends them to Congo to loot minerals, rape and kill (Barouski 2006).
4. IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF LEOPOLD II: KAGAME IN CONGO
Kagame is rather following in the footsteps of ‘the royalty of Europe and the colonial powers who decimated the Congolese people and stole their vast underground wealth for a century’, as he put it sarcastically recently in an interview he gave US-based Havard International Review (Kagame 2012). ‘You know, the violent history of Congo began long before I was born,’ said Kagame. ‘It is a matter of public record that the royalty of Europe and the colonial powers decimated the people and stole their vast underground wealth for a century.’
Well, first of all, as an African Kagame knows well that no African country escaped the hell of slave trade, imperialism, colonialism, apartheid and neo-colonialism today. Which one?
Even some Chinese were brought to Congo by the British under the request of King Leopold II of Belgium in 1898 to work as slave labourers to build the first railway in Congo from Kinshasa to Matadi. The Chinese, Congolese and some West Africans and Carribeans had to break the rocks with their bear hands to make the way for the placement of the rails. Many of them died (Hochschild, 2000:170-172).
A pictorial painting in Kinshasa’s Central Railway Station still commemorates their lives. In fact, the Chinese high tech company Huawei has just built nearby its biggest centre in Africa, making history come alive again in a spectacular way.
The point is Congolese people are not an exception and do not deserve Kagame’s ‘talk down’.
We all know that Rwanda has had a long history of its citizens living outside as refugees. The country’s refugees are among the oldest refugee population in the continent; in fact the return to and integration of the various generations of refugees into their original communities and country as a whole present daunting challenges (Msangi 2009).
Second, here we see Rwanda under Paul Kagame claiming to be another power in Congo in equal footing with the US and China in the words of the president himself. No wonder feeling the heat but instead of seizing this opportunity to clear Rwanda’s name, Kagame, undiplomatically, arrogantly, anti-socially, insensitively, disgracefully and disrespectfully, walked out of a meeting on the situation in eastern Congo organised on the fringe of the 67th UN General Assembly, showing contempt not only to more than 14 world leaders who attended the meeting, including President Joseph Kabila, but also to the UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon who chaired the meeting (Umurungi 2012). The meeting was called to break a stalemate over the Congo conflict after he was reportedly challenged by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium Didier Reynders over Rwandan support to the rebel group M23. The question is: how are we going to find durable solutions if Kagame can use blackmail to hold the whole international community hostage?’.
Kagame, the American-like strongman in Congo, recently told PRWEB in an interview: ‘When the Chinese or Americans have companies in DR Congo making deals that is fine for the world to live with. Similarly, can’t Rwandan individuals and companies have the right to take part without Rwanda being accused? What right do other companies from China, America and wherever have to be in Congo that companies from Rwanda do not have? There are companies there from all over the world,’ wondered Kagame. http://goo.gl/t989G
Paul Kagame changes his story just like the weather. First it as the Hutu militia threat to Rwanda’s security; then the protection of ethnic Tutsi in Congo; now the right to do business just like China and the US in Congo.
The DRC is open to regional, continental and international cooperation but it is opposed to the looting of its natural and mineral resources through aggressions, occupations, massacres and rapes.
According to Filip Reytjens, professor of African Law and Politics and Chair of the Institute of Development Policy and Management at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, the Rwandan government established a ‘Congo Desk’ of the ESO (External Security Organisation) which included a section called ‘Production’ which was in charge of the exploitation and trade of Congolese resources. Ugandan military and businessmen were engaged in similar activities. Rwanda’s and Uganda’s invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to what Reyntjens calls the ‘satellisation’ of large parts of Congo’s territory, owing to the extreme weakness of the Congolese state. This has in turn led to the privatisation and criminalisation of public space, to the advantage of both neighbouring countries and local, regional and international ‘entrepreneurs of insecurity’.” (Reyntjens 2004).
That is what Prunier (2008:336) calls ‘actions of looting supervised by the states’ just like it was during the European Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), in which looting was one of the fundamental activities of the contending armies. If that is the case, one may conclude that the war of invasion of Congo is financed out of Congolese natural and mineral resources.
5. RWANDA RESPONSIBLE FOR WAR CRIMES, CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY EVEN GENOCIDE IN CONGO
In our previous article titled ‘Complicit neighbours: Rwanda, Uganda and East DRC’, published by Pambazuka on 14 June 2012, we explained the genesis of the most recent attacks on the DRC was Rwanda, which has managed to get away with destabilizing the east of the DRC since 1998, this time through a group of Tutsi insurgents named M23, led by Bosco Ntangada who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the international justice system. The M23 is already responsible for untold crimes against humanity, massacres, rapes and looting, as the latest UN Report written by a group of experts indicates. This is just one in a series of reports, including ‘DRC: Mapping human rights violations 1993-2003’, published in 2010, which have castigated Rwanda for war crimes, crimes against humanity, even crime of genocide in Congo .
Again, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights under the leadership of Navanethem Pillay was responsible for producing the report. According to Friends of the Congo, it mapped and documented ‘the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003.’ The report generated widespread press coverage. The claim that the victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda may be culpable of committing a genocide in the Congo has generated a great deal of interest. In fact the report was leaked because the authors indicated that they were concerned that the language of ‘genocide’ may be watered down before the official publishing of the document; therefore they felt it necessary to leak the report to safeguard its integrity.
Although the report did not actually charge Rwanda with committing genocide in the Congo, it said that ‘it will be for a competent court to make a decision on the issue.’ Although a lot of the focus has been on Rwanda, the report also focused on other countries. It looked at the commission of human rights violations by numerous external players such as Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe and others. Also, it documented some of the internal human rights violations that have taken place. It is true that core elements of the mapping report were established in other UN reports as early as 1997. In the late 1990s, the United Nations charged Roberto Garreton to investigate human rights violations in the Congo. Garreton’s report documented gross human rights violations, crimes against humanity and possible genocide.
What initiated the launch of Garreton’s report? The discovery of three mass graves in North Kivu in 2005 was a stark reminder to the United Nations that the past human rights violations in the Congo had remained largely uninvestigated. This prompted the UN to reactivate earlier investigative efforts but on a much larger scale. The ultimate purpose of the study as outlined by its authors was ‘to provide Congolese authorities with the elements they need to help them decide on the best approach to adopt to achieve justice for the many victims and fight widespread impunity for these crimes.” The full report is available here: http://goo.gl/EHcO6
The fundamental question now is: Seeing that the report has referenced charges of genocide, does the International Criminal Court (ICC) have a role to play in bringing perpetrators to justice? When a state is either unwilling or unable to carry out investigations and prosecute, the ICC is brought in. However, the ICC’s jurisdiction is limited only to crimes under international law committed in the DRC since July 1, 2002 and most of the crimes addressed in the mapping report occurred before 2002.
How can Kagame who branded the Congolese as ‘the Ibicucu’ in his native Kinyarwanda language, which means, the ‘nobodies’ or ‘good for nothing’ (Braeckman 2003, p. 235), get away with it? Did he not say that the Hutu also branded the Tutsi as ‘cockroaches’ before killing them? Is he not more or less calling the Congolese the same, which therefore justifies the genocide he is committing in Congo? Who cannot make that comparison?
6. THE WAY FORWARD
The way forward for the very much troubled Great Lakes Region of Africa is an inter-Rwandan dialogue for Hutu and Tutsi to look at all the aspects of their problems in Rwanda, pave the way for reconciliation and the sharing of power. Rwanda must learn lessons from Northern Ireland, South Africa and Kenya recently. The Tutsi regime in Rwanda remains a problem, as Reyntjens suggests. Eighteen years after the 1994 genocide, Rwanda is experiencing not democracy and reconciliation but dictatorship and exclusion under the leadership of the Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), according to Reytjens.
Reyntjens argues that although the government led by the RPF has achieved rapid institutional reconstruction and relatively good bureaucratic governance, it has also concentrated power and wealth, looted in eastern Congo, in the hands of a very small Tutsi minority, practiced ethnic discrimination, eliminated every form of dissent, destroyed civil society, conducted a fundamentally flawed ‘democratisation process’ and massively violated human rights at home and abroad in Congo.
The Belgian professor has as factual evidence the fact that the Rwandan army has several times invaded neighbouring Congo, where its initial security concerns gave way to a logic of plunder, rape and massacres of more than five million Congolese, as well as Hutu refugees, thus necessitating a special tribunal for Congo pending the political will on the part of the international community. Even the former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, when presenting his mémoires, entitled Point of Departure, at City University, London, said in response to a question this writer had asked him, that ‘although Rwanda’s security concerns can be understood after the 1994 genocide, the current regime in Kigali bore a great responsibility in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.’
However, listening to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair praising Rwanda as ‘an inspiration to the world’ while on a visit there on 8 May 2009 and after talks with President Paul Kagame, despite Rwanda’s overlooked and shadier actions (invasion, economic pillage under the pretext of counter-genocide) in Congo, beggars belief. After his term in office, Blair accepted an unpaid ‘special adviser’ role to the Rwandan government to help it attract private investment as it seeks to build its economy (Wintour, 2008).
Rwanda, writes Reyntjens, has succeeded in avoiding condemnation by astutely exploiting the ‘genocide credit’ and skilful information management. Reyntjens concludes that the international community has been complicit in the rebuilding of a dictatorship under the guise of democracy. He warns that it assumes a grave responsibility in allowing structural violence to develop once again, just as before 1994, and that in years to come this may well lead to renewed acute violence (Reyntjens, 2004: 180 -182).
Interestingly, Reyntjens confirms that those killed by the extremists of the old regime in 1994 were their opponents, Hutu and Tutsi alike, and that during the same period, the advancing RPF committed widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity, mostly against the Hutu and the clergy. Even Bosco Rutagengwa, the founder of the genocide survivors’ organisation Ibuka has now found asylum in the United States because he said that the Tutsi who were living inside Rwanda were the victims of a genocide, not the RPF Tutsi insurgents who came from Uganda and led by Fred Rugiema (who was killed in mysterious circumstances) and then by Paul Kagame! Former Hutu president under RPF Pasteur Bizimungu founded another party other than the RPF to challenge RPF’s mono-ethnic policy in politics and the organisation of the army. He was not only stripped of all his privileges as former head of state but was also thrown into jail (Reyntjens, 2004: 180 -182).
There will be no lasting peace in the Great Lakes Region unless Rwanda genuinely democratises. Anybody who opposes the regime is immediately accused of harbouring a ‘genocidal ideology’. However the genocide credit enjoyed by the regime in Kigali is wearing off because it is committing similar sorts of crimes in Congo. As of now, the Congolese people are the ones paying a price for their hospitality and for Kagame’s intransigence while his powerful backers are patting him in the back; as long as minerals still flow for him and for them. However, there is a Chinese proverb which says: ‘An army burning with righteous indignation is bound to win’. This applies to the people of Congo .
About the writer
Antoine Roger Lokongo is a journalist and Beijing University PhD candidate from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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