By: Professor Charles Kambanda
Edited by: Jennifer Fierberg
The Addis Ababa Peace Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo signed in February of this year highlighted that the UN intervention brigade meant to take on all armed groups in DRC must be backed by a politically sustainable strategy. At the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity, celebrated in Addis Ababa, the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete underscored the necessity of talks between the governments of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo with the armed groups fighting these governments from Congolese territory. In particular, the Tanzanian president suggested that President Paul Kagame of Rwanda ought to hold direct talks with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda [FDLR], the Rwandan armed rebel movement operating from the Congolese provinces of North Kivus. President Kagame has adamantly rejected President Kikwete’s proposal.
The comical response from the Government of Rwanda (GoR)
Rwanda’s foreign minister and the GoR spokesperson’s response was that her government does not envisage talks with FDLR, a group her government refers to as genocidaire (a group responsible for genocide). The survivors of the Tutsi genocide associations, which are sponsored by Kagame’s government, have condemned the Tanzanian president’s proposal citing the same reason. Some of the Tutsi genocide survivors’ organizations have termed President Kikwete a ‘genocide denier’. It should be recalled that the traditional unresolved ethnic conflict (between the Hutu and Tutsi) in Rwanda is the direct cause of the 1994 crimes of international concern including genocide against the Tutsi and the 1996/99 crimes of international concern including genocide against the Hutu in Congo as documented by the UN Mapping Rapport.
Counter “genocide” accusation between the Hutu and Tutsi
The Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) is a predominately Tutsi political and military group. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is a predominately Hutu political and military group. In 1990, RPF/A attacked the then Hutu-led government of Rwanda. The civil war between the predominately Tutsi rebels and predominately Hutu government was characterized by horrific crimes of international concern including genocide. Both sides used international crimes, including genocide, as a military and political tool; to weaken, demoralize and humiliate the ‘enemy’ as well as demonizing the ‘enemy’ for political triumph and international sympathy for ‘our’ group. Whichever side would win the war, it was clear during the Rwandan ethnic civil war that the victor would demonize the vanquished ‘enemy’. The Tutsi victors, led by Kagame, did exactly that.
The Tutsi won the civil war
RPF wasted no time; they sought and received a UN resolution condemning the “Rwandan genocide”. The UN set up an international tribunal, the ICTR in Arusha Tanzania, to hold perpetrators of Rwandan genocide accountable. For political reasons, the ICTR did not try any Tutsi perpetrator. RPF then set to ‘market’ their narrative of the “Rwandan genocide”. The Hutu, the vanquished, were labeled evil, perpetrators of the Tutsi genocide. The Tutsi were innocent victims. RPF/A made it a taboo and illegal to mention the international crimes, including genocide, RPF/A had committed against the Hutu in Rwanda and Congo. The vanquished Hutu did not give up either. They created their force, FDLR. In essence, until 2005 when Kagame divide FDLR and “repatriated” some FDLR top commanders, FDLR was to the Hutu what RPF/A was to the Tutsi. Either ethnic group needed an armed group to protect their group against extermination.
Each ethnic group (Tutsi and Hutu) has perpetrators and victims of international crimes, including genocide
No country in contemporary history has politicized and legitimized horrific crimes, including genocide, like Rwanda. Both Tutsi and Hutu have extremists who are ordinarily considered heroes for perpetrating horrendous crimes against the ‘enemy’ ethnic group on behalf of ‘our’ ethnic group. The insane ethnic ‘common consciousness’ among ordinary Hutu and Tutsi legitimizes horrible crimes, including genocide, against ‘our’ enemy. Each ethnic group has its “ethnic crusaders”. The Rwandan “ethnic crusaders”, Tutsi or Hutu, can do or say anything to sustain and market their ethnic narrative no matter how ridiculous and false their narrative might be. Rwanda’s political culture operates on the axis that the victor takes it all and their narrative becomes the oppressive law and biased story/history. Today it is the Tutsi in power and their narrative prevails. For over thirty years prior to 1994, it was the Hutu in power, their narrative prevailed.
Propaganda aside, each side has stinking criminals (devils) and innocent people (good guys). If Kagame cannot negotiate with the Hutu rebels because the Hutu rebels are accused of genocide … because the ICC indicted the leader of the Hutu rebels (FDLR) … then Kagame puts his own alleged crimes in issue.
First, Kagame and his RPF/A top commanders have been indicted by both Spanish and French courts, for crimes of international concern including terrorism and genocide against the Hutu. Second, the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) prosecutor concluded investigations into a significant number of the Tutsi RPF/A top commanders’ international crimes. Kagame himself was investigated for international crimes. The ICTR prosecutor was prepared to prosecute Kagame and some of his RPF/A top commanders for international crimes and ‘possibly genocide’ against the Hutu. President Bush, then Kagame’s buddy, ordered the ICC not to prosecute Kagame because that would create a diplomatic crisis between USA and Rwanda (Kagame), a “strategic” US ally in the region. Third, the United Nations Mapping Report has detailed international crimes, including, possible genocide, against the Hutu that Kagame and his troops allegedly committed in Congo against Rwandan Hutu refugees. Kagame himself is a suspect of the same international crimes. Apparently, Kagame has no moral authority to condemn the same crimes he allegedly committed and are well documented. Kagame is praised for having stopped the Tutsi genocide. However, he allegedly perpetrated genocide against the Hutu.
Demonizing the “other” ethnic group for political survival
An ordinary Hutu or Tutsi does not recognize the ‘other’ ethnic group (Hutu or Tutsi) as legitimate and equal holder of rights and freedoms. The ethnic group leaders in power always use State apparatus to oppress and exclude the “other’ ethnic group. Kagame’s ruling ethnic clique feels insecure about the “other” ethnic group. Demonizing the oppressed ethnic group is a psychological catalyst to justify elimination and exclusion of the “wrong” ethnic group’s access to the country’s limited resources, as equal stakeholders. Kagame has successfully demonized the Hutu, the vanquished, with the “genocide” brand name. Proposing direct talks with FDLR is like “robbing” Kagame of his political survival tool. Kagame would stop at nothing to resist any call for him to talk peace with his political and ethnic foes; Hutu, Tutsi and/or Twa.
The argument that FDLR is a group of people that committed genocide is probably false
All FDLR founders and first top commanders, until around 2005, “renounced” the Hutu rebellion. They all serve in Kagame’s government now. These commanders were never prosecuted or given amnesty. Kagame insists the FDLR founders who accepted to join his government are innocent. It follows, therefore, that Kagame’s concern with FDLR is not genocide. Kagame is scared of the military capacity of FDLR which remains one of the few serious threat to his dictatorship. If the founders of FDLR and its top commanders are not guilty of genocide, how does Kagame explain that FDLR is a group of ‘genocidaires’? There is no known criminal law theory to justify the” FDLR genocidaire” theory as Kagame claims. In Kagame’s social-political paradigm, FDLR signifies a Hutu armed rebellion which threatens his monopoly of power and authority. The ICC has indicted the top FDLR commander, Gen. Mudacumura. However, Gen. Mudacumura was not indicted for genocide. If FDLR has committed genocide, as Kagame insists, why didn’t the Rwandan government hand over evidence for genocide to the ICC for Mudacumura to be indicted for genocide?
It is evident that Kagame’s “hypersensitivity” to the Tanzanian leader’s proposal is a defense mechanism, motivated by his fear for what would happen to his Tutsi clique if he is forced to share power with his political and ethnic foes.
President Kikwete’s proposal is the only meticulous way to go for sustainable peace in Congo. Kagame ought to accept direct talks with all his political opponents including the Hutu rebels (FDLR). The government of Rwanda’s hilarious response to president Kikwete’s proposal is regrettable but not surprising. Kagame’s political survival is pegged on demonizing, assassinating and imprisoning his political opponents. Genocide, an unfortunate crime Rwandans have been subjected to, has been Kagame’s major tool for oppressing and terrorizing Rwandans in general and political opponents in particular. Although some people in FDLR could have committed genocide against the Tutsi, there is no clear evidence to prove that FDLR as a group committed genocide.
In any case, Gen. Kagame is not a court of law. Kagame himself, and a significant number of people in his Tutsi clique-controlled government, are accused of horrible crimes, including genocide, against the Hutu refugees in Congo. The Tanzanian government should use its political and economic capacities to pressure Gen. Kagame into a dialogue with his political opponents including FDLR.