By: Jennifer Fierberg, MSW
On August 3, 2012 the US government sent a strongly worded message to the Government of Rwanda regarding their continued support of the M23 rebel group in the eastern part of the DR Congo. The letter specifically states in part that:
“We are writing as a bipartisan group of legislators to express our deep concern about the recent
and growing conflict in eastern Congo. The violence in eastern Congo has severe consequences
on the local populations, puts the gains Rwanda has made in stability and living standards over
the last 18 years at risk, destabilizes the DRC, and sets back all of Central Africa from the
progress it so badly needs to make.”
This strong warning clearly denotes that the published Rwandan rebuttal argument to the UN Group of Experts report is not credible. Therefore, they have taken it a step further in order to send a clear message to President Kagame that he must stop his support of this destabilizing rebel group.
The U.S. Congress further states that:
“Even more dismaying is Rwanda’s role in the latest surge in violence in eastern Congo.
Rwanda’s support for the rebellion in eastern Congo has been well documented by the United
Nations. This evidence has been supported by substantial accounts from other sources, including
reports by impartial eyewitnesses. All of this leads us to be absolutely convinced that Rwanda is
involved in supporting the unrest in the Kivus. However, your government continues to insist
that these extensive accounts are false. The pretense that Rwanda is not facilitating rebels in
eastern Congo must end, all support for armed groups must stop immediately, and a productive
path forward must be taken. No constructive dialogue can take place between the Rwandan and
Congolese governments as long as support continues for proxy militias.”
The directives address some solutions to the ongoing instability with in the eastern DR Congo by suggesting meetings being held between leaders would be a step in the right direction in coming to a local solution to a local problem:
“We believe a productive path forward includes several steps, and leadership from Rwanda and
Congo is essential in this endeavor. First, the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Congo
must be respected and supported. Second, the legitimate concerns for the safety of all ethnic
groups in eastern Congo must be accommodated, with an emphasis on non-military initiatives.
ITiird, the legitimate economic ties that Rwandans and other countries have in eastern Congo
need to be facilitated. Lastly, illegal economic activity—including smuggling—in the DRC that
violates Congolese law and international agreements must end. Enhancing transparency and
regulation of the minerals sector, land reform and ensuring property rights would be beneficial to
The regional members met in Kampala, Uganda on August 8th to discuss possible solutions to the ever increasing humanitarian crisis but no solution could be agreed upon. What they did agree on is to meet again in four weeks to further discuss the issues. Yet, in four weeks one has to wonder how many more Congolese civilians will die, be raped or displaced while these men continue to reap the benefits of their inaction. This delay could also be read that President Kagame and President Museveni did not achieve their goals in the meeting therefore they convened it and will meet again in four weeks. There was a photograph taken of the heads of state in this meeting where they are all smiling and laughing that President Paul Kagame had posted on his Facebook page. One has to wonder, what could they possibly be laughing and smiling about in this situation?
The letter from the US Congress further states that:
“The conflict in eastern Congo and Rwanda’s role in it deeply troubles many Members of
Congress. We believe the continuing unrealized potential of the peoples and countries of Central
Africa is a loss for the whole international community. Actions that violate international law,
foment violence, and thwart progress are not only unacceptable, but self-defeating.”
The most important message to the leaders of Central Africa comes in the final few paragraphs:
“Given the evidence before us, we will have to take a hard look at continued bilateral assistance.
Furthermore, the complete lack of transparency by the Rwandan government, regarding the DRC
as well as more broadly, would lead us to register our concerns in international forums including
the United Nations and the World Bank. We support the actions the U.S. State Department has
taken so far, including the suspension of Foreign Military Assistance to Rwanda and calling for a
dialogue between Rwanda and the DRC.
Rwanda has been a great partner of the U.S. on security matters throughout the region and in
development. We do not want the growing conflict in the DRC to jeopardize this partnership. We
believe it is time for an open dialogue and for a roadmap to stability to be created, led by
President Kabila, you, and Central Africa’s other elected leaders, with the involvement of local
communities in the Kivus. As supporters of democratic reform and the peaceful self
determination of the people of Central Africa, we will support you in these endeavors and
continue to closely watch developments between Rwanda and the DRC.”
Rwanda has lost millions in foreign aid over the last two months and their rebuttal statement to the UN GoE has done nothing to change that situation. Rwanda has set up a number of fiscal changes in order to regain some of the monies lost through the decisions of the foreign investors such as implementing higher contributions from the citizens of Rwanda to the government, a program that was already active but has now increased as well as a seeking donations from Rwandans in the diaspora to assist in this financial venture.
Another very troubling decision made by the Rwandan Government is how they are now treating new graduates. Normally, first year university students have always attended army training in order to educate them in state-defense and other military skills, this started just after the 1994 genocide. Now the government of Rwanda has added on an extra mile to this program. After the training the students will participate in national service for one year, surprisingly Minister Rucagu Boniface reported that these students will not be paid and will be receiving pocket money or have to be fed by their families. This is a way of educating the young generation to believe in RPF and Kagame until he endorses another member of his family. Cutting these funds to the youth is a way of continuing to make up for the monies lost from the international community. Ironically, the Members of Parliament voted this week on giving themselves increased benefits (http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/index.php?i=15077&a=56815). This seems maddening to the outside observer that the rich get richer on the back of those who strive each day to feed their families.
Obviously the Government of Rwanda is not taking seriously the threats of the International community and their involvement in the continued brutality of the Eastern DR Congo. One has to wonder how far the Kigali regime will go to continue to deny the accusations that are obvious to the world.
To read the entire letter from the U.S. Congress it can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/102303367/US-Congress-Letter-to-Pres-Kagame-on-Sit-in-DRC-3-Aug-2012# along with its signatories.