In the Foreign Policy issue of February 21, 2013, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and American billionaire Howard Buffet pleaded with the international community to “stand with Rwanda, and that now is no time to cut aid to Kigali”. Blair and Buffet recognise the shocking consequences of DRC’s Second Congo War, which has claimed more than 5.4 million lives, as “the most deadly conflict since World II”. Since the eruption of the M23 insurgency, Blair and Buffet admit, 900,000 people have been displaced and serious human rights abuses have been committed.
Like the Government of Rwanda’s denials and deception regarding the U.N. Security Council group of experts report on Rwanda’s involvement with the M23 rebellion, the thrust of Blair’s repeated absurd and scandalous campaign is to question the integrity of the report, and condemn the international effort to hold President Paul Kagame accountable for his actions in DRC.
FDU-Inkingi and Rwanda National Congress (RNC) would like to state the following regarding the Blair-Buffet position:
It is either sheer ignorance or outright selective amnesia to remember the scourge of the Second Congo War, without mentioning the authors of the same war. For those who may not be familiar with the recent history of the Great Lakes region of central Africa, it was President Kagame of Rwanda, later supported by President Museveni of Uganda, who started the First Congo War as well as the Second Congo War. President Laurent Kabila responded to Rwanda’s and Uganda’s attack by requesting the help of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia as the conflict escalated into a regional war. A stalemate followed and ultimately Rwanda and Uganda withdrew, and have since maintained their presence through proxy forces. M23, like CNDP before it, is Rwanda’s creation.
The pretense that everyone is wrong about Rwanda’s involvement with M23 except President Kagame, Tony Blair and Howard Buffet is in itself a symptom of the corrupting power of money and unchallenged political influence. The United Nations Group of Experts’ Report has been confirmed as credible and compelling by the whole international community, including U.S, British, French and many African governments. Human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have diligently shown the extent of human rights abuses that Rwanda and its proxies have committed in DRC.
Having dismissed the whole world, except the trio, as liars, Blair and Buffet re-iterated and echoed Rwanda’s often repeated defense that cutting or suspending aid is the “wrong approach”. One would ask them, “what is the right approach” to a regime that without provocation abuses the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another state? More aid? There is no dispute that President Kagame’s regime has been a recipient of tremendous amounts of resources from the West’s bilateral and multilateral finance institutions. While there are some positive outcomes of this guilt-driven largesse from the international community, the unquestioning attitude towards Rwanda has fueled President Kagame’s impunity in Rwanda and war-making in DRC.
It is true that DRC’s internal problems have a long history. It is true that problems of the Great Lakes region are complex, dangerous and inter-related. DRC’s population and geographical size may be seen by Blair and Buffet as a problem, but they are assets that are yet to be harnessed by Congolese people for their own benefits. An ineffectual UN Peacekeeping operation in DRC is ridiculous, but it is no reason for Rwanda to always be the spoiler who acts with arrogance and impunity. FDLR may be the convenient culprit, but it is no longer the leading rationale for President Kagame’s policies and actions in DRC. What is beyond any shade of doubt is that President Kagame’s regime has become a major part of DRC’s problems. Rwanda’s presence in DRC, direct or through proxies, has nothing to do with protecting Tutsi there or in Rwanda. The main reasons are domestic and financial. A dictatorial, brutal, and minority regime in Rwanda is simultaneously belligerent and exploitative with neighbors. To perpetually weaken and compound DRC’s problems is President Kagame’s unstated, yet unequivocal, goal.
Asking the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda to find solutions for problems that Rwanda (and to a lesser extent, Uganda) causes to DRC is an absurd proposition that is designed to preserve the status quo. If Blair and Buffet were not blindly or intentionally pro-Kagame, they would have highlighted and supported the current initiative to deploy troops from the SADC region (spearheaded by South Africa, Tanzania and Angola). Only such African force, logistically and financially supported by the international community, stands the chance of getting DRC to reclaim its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Tony Blair’s quest to sell President Kagame to an increasingly skeptical and questioning public opinion is seen by many as suspect on grounds of greed and racial considerations. Has this former British Prime Minister turned into a hired disciple who must sell a soiled and spoiled product to anyone who cares to listen? Is Tony Blair a closet racist who does not care for the plight of millions of Rwandese and Congolese who have perished due to President Kagame’s policies and actions in Rwanda and DRC simply because the victims are Africans and black?
If he is not greedy and/or racist, Tony Blair should assist Rwandans and the Congolese by joining Africans and the rest of the international community in putting pressure on President Kagame to release all political prisoners, open political space to allow political parties to establish themselves and function, allow independent media and civil society to function, stop human rights abuses, stop his DRC adventures and account for his policies and actions related to M23 and the UN Mapping report, and promote dialogue between President Kagame and Rwanda’s opposition, unarmed or armed ( including FDLR).
We call upon Tony Blair and Howard Buffet to make a choice: stand with the Rwandans, Congolese people and the international community or with President Kagame’s minority military clique as it accelerates to its own demise. The former path requires that they become students willing to learn the true context and consequences of the status quo which they are promoting. Being a rich dictator’s friend and promoter may be tempting, but it is temporary and dangerous, as history has repeatedly demonstrated; all the reason why Blair and Buffet should listen to their conscience.
Dr. Nkiko Nsengimana
Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
Rwanda National Congress (RNC)
23rd February, 2013