Human Rights Watch has no legal teeth, its only a flat track bully

201271012205914864_8I read Frank Kagabo’s article in this week’s issue of The East African ‘Why Human Rights Watch reports, opinion matters in Rwanda’ with a lot of interest. Not only because I found the topic rather thought-provoking but also because he’s someone I worked with for a few years at this very publication. I know I promised not to react to any more foreign reports, but something he said in his article raised my hackles.

He states that “HRW reports have the institutional credibility to influence court decisions in international jurisdictions, especially in the West’”. He goes on to say that that credibility was displayed during a recent US State Department press briefing where Jen Psaki referred to a Human Rights Watch report alleging continued Rwandan support for the M23 rebels in war torn East DRC.

While I will not argue with his point that HRW has a certain credibility in western capitals, rightly or wrongly, there must be an acknowledgment that this credibility is strictly political and not legal. Currently, whenever HRW or any advocacy group publishes a report, very often the majority of western media and political elite take it as the truth. Voices challenging the findings are either ignored or called bias.

Kagabo writes that HRW focuses on a need that is largely unmet. That is true and I respect the fact that they try to do their job. The late Alison Des Forges, who passed away in a 2009 air crash, was one of the first people to document and warn the international community about the MRND government’s plan to exterminate the Tutsi.

However, just because they are doing a thankless task doesn’t mean that they have ironclad credibility that cannot be questioned and challenged. The recent report quotes a witness, allegedly a former RDF soldier, stating that Rwandan troops operated as peacekeepers in Somalia. But as anyone with a slight interest in Rwanda peacekeeping affairs know, Rwanda doesn’t have any peacekeepers in that east African nation. While HRW said that that was a simple mistake, and that the organisation stood behind the rest of the report, it certainly put in question their fact checking and editorial control.

HRW’s credibility is strictly political, not legal. The difference between political corridors of power (where weak nations and individuals are excluded from discussions) and courts of law is that defendants are not only allowed to examine the entirety of the evidence against them, but they are allowed to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.

  In December 13, 2009, HRW published a report titled “You will be punished’ which highlighted FDLR abuses and its chain of command. This report became the basis of ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s prosecution of FDLR’s Executive Secretary Callixte Mbarushimana in 2010. The FDLR bigwig was allegedly criminally responsible for five counts of crimes against humanity including murder and rape, and eight counts of war crimes. Sadly, on 16 December 2011 the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Hague-based court in a majority decision declined to confirm the charges against him. Mbarushimana’s attorney poked so many holes in the prosecution’s evidence (evidence that HRW helped gather) that the judges had no choice but to throw out he case before it even got to trial phase. HRW evidence could not stand up in a courtroom, rendering it legally ‘no-credible’. Perhaps if Mr Ocampo had done the legal grunt work himself, this criminal would have faced justice. Sadly the FDLR leader is now untouchable in France and able to wage war in comfort.

As Mr. Kagabo states, HRW reports have been used by captured genocidaires in court to fight extradition to Rwanda. But as Leon Mugesera and others have learnt, Western courts have repeatedly pooh-poohed HRW reports alleging unfair court systems and deadly prison conditions.

Western courts have repeatedly ignored HRW reports. Sadly however, politicians don’t always hold themselves to the same standards of hard evidence and facts. And that is why HRW is still able to throw its weight around. Let’s not think any different.

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I say “enough” to Congolese bombs and external cues

Rwanda is once again being called 'home’ by the hundreds of Congolese civilians who are fleeing the renewed fighting between the Congolese army, FARDC, and the M23 rebels

Rwanda is once again being called ‘home’ by the hundreds of Congolese civilians who are fleeing the renewed fighting between the Congolese army, FARDC, and the M23 rebels

As I had feared, Rwanda is once again being called ‘home’ by the hundreds of Congolese civilians who are fleeing the renewed fighting between the Congolese army, FARDC, and the M23 rebels. I will not put my head on the block and choose sides. However, I find it extremely unfortunate that the nascent peace talks that were taking place in Kampala, Uganda, and mediated by the Ugandan government, weren’t allowed to yield fruit. It seems that the aggressors, whoever they are, have chosen to fight it out. However, in my humble opinion, the issues that made the M23 rebel in the first place will still exist. To think any different is naïve.

Will the Rwandaphone population in North Kivu feel protected? Will the question of who is and who isn’t a Congolese citizen disappear in the gun smoke? What about the Mai-Mai? What the FDLR? Will they stop robbing, raping and killing? I’m not too hopeful. And, I know that I’m about to spout an opinion that might be unpopular to some, if any more FARDC bombs fall on our territory and, god forbid, kill our nationals, I hope that our armed forces swiftly act.

I know that if we did we’d be lambasted by all and sundry, but what are we supposed to ask our

In my humble opinion, the issues that made the M23 rebel in the first place will still exist. To think any different is naïve.  Will the Rwandaphone population in North Kivu feel protected? Will the question of who is and who isn’t a Congolese citizen disappear in the gun smoke? What about the Mai-Mai? What the FDLR? Will they stop robbing, raping and killing?

The issues that made the M23 rebel in the first place will still exist. To think any different is naïve. Will the Rwandaphone population in North Kivu feel protected? Will the question of who is and who isn’t a Congolese citizen disappear in the gun smoke? What about the Mai-Mai? What the FDLR? Will they stop robbing, raping and killing?

army to do? To become Christian and turn the other cheek? If that is so, what’s the point of even having one if it can’t take offensive action? Under international law, we’d have every right t do so. But, I hope that Rwanda’s protests are heeded because, at the end of the day, the nations of the Great Lakes region should do all they can to reduce tensions, not increase them. I will continue to follow the events across the border with interest. I only hope that the FARDC aims its mortars better next time.

A few weeks ago, I wrote ‘Overrated and in a critical state? May Rwanda always remain thus’ in which I lampooned the FP 2013 Failed State Index. After dissecting the magazine’s research methodology, I came to the conclusion that it was based on faulty information. It wasn’t the first time I had found fault with foreign reports, either made by human rights groups or publications. I’ve waited with bated breath every year, preparing myself to counter their allegations with some homegrown ‘truths’. And on the other hand, I’ve waited for ‘positive’ reports from the World Bank, IMF and others, which I’ve then used to justify just how well we were doing.

Well, after giving it some thought, I came to the realization that by taking my cues from foreigners I was ceding my independence to them. Wittingly or not. I could not, in all honesty, say that I was ‘proud’ of my country when I cared about what others thought about of it. And not what I, and other Rwandans, thought.

For example, I was pleased that the Rwanda Governance Board took it upon itself to carry out a survey among Rwandans to find out how they perceived media freedoms in the country. According to the Rwanda Media Barometer, 89.5 percent believed that the environment was conducive to freedom of expression and media freedom.  This survey will be rubbished by those who’ve made it their life’s work to see fault in everything (I call them professional finger-pointing judges). However, the Barometer gives voice to those who actually live in the country. And those are the people who are important.

I’ve been following the third-term debate closely. One of the reasons some people give to oppose it is because it will ‘look bad’ internationally. I think that that way of thinking is wrong. We shouldn’t be worried about how people, who will never walk in our shoes, will feel. At the end of the day, they will have to deal with whomever Rwandans want them to deal with.

As the President said in the middle of the aid-cut saga, “we are a small country, but not a small people”. I feel that he was asking us to be more self-confident and self-sufficient. We should stop being affected by either those who laud or demean us. Lets take our cues from Rwandans.  I will start today by promising you, dear readers, that I will never again spend precious time (and valuable newsprint) on foreign reports. Let us ‘play’ our own ‘game’. And ignore those who want to ‘play’ theirs.

The Oxford protestors made me ashamed of being African

President Kagame (at front right) holds the ‘Distinction of Honor for African Growth Award’ at the audience rose in a standing ovation (Photo by Albert Rudatsimburwa via Twitter)

President Kagame (at front right) holds the ‘Distinction of Honor for African Growth Award’ at the audience rose in a standing ovation (Photo by Albert Rudatsimburwa via Twitter)

I love living and working in the warm Rwandan sun. And honestly, I don’t see anywhere in the world I would rather be than here at home. But every year, I suffer huge pangs of jealousy whenever there is a Rwanda Day celebration, either in the US or Europe. It seems so fun and so informative.  As I watch the celebratory scenes on YouTube and Rwanda Television on Sunday, I was reminded of the October 1st festivals I used to attend with my parents as a child. When I saw the dancing and singing at the Rwanda Day celebrations, I remember the same in Toronto back in the early nineties. I remember those celebrations as some of the most glorious times during our exile because those were the times the entire Rwandan community came together to celebrate our culture, our tradition and our common patrimony. That was when we proclaimed to the world that we were ‘Rwandan and proud’.

london-protest3-300x200Prior to Rwanda Day, I watched with interest as a bunch of misguided busybodies worked themselves into a tizzy, railing against the Rwandan leadership, and sometimes against Rwandans themselves. Using the might of social media, they tried to throw a spanner in the works of the Oxford University business school event celebrating President Kagame’s achievements in pulling Rwandans out of poverty. When the online campaign failed, instead of admitting defeat gracefully and moving on with their lives, they decided to go native.

On Twitter I saw a bunch of haters go on and on about their triumphant ‘protest’. It was only after I came across a YouTube video by ‘The Voice of Congo’ that I saw what their protest was really like. I had assumed that the protestors would stand on the side of the road, spew their nonsense and lift a few placards. I assumed wrong. Wild looking men and women wearing military fatigues calling themselves ‘freedom fighters’ (with names like James Bond Never Die) ran around, throwing themselves in front of the President’s car and pelting his motorcade with eggs. All the while screaming obscenities in Lingala, hoisting posters of Etienne Tshisekedi (the self-styled ‘People’s President’) and acting like buffoons.

While I was merely disgusted by the antics with the President’s motorcade, I felt the blood drain from my face when I saw the animals (I am loath to call them protestors. Martin Luther King Jr was a protestor, these people where animals) surround the business school, and threaten the students with death and sexual assault if they dared walk out of the building.

Watching the scenes, I was shocked by the vitriol. Not from the tiny group of Rwandan protestors mind you (they stood on the sidewalk and acted civilized. Misguided in my opinion but civilized nevertheless) but from the numerous Congolese. The video left wondering why in the world these people had so much hatred for a president of another country that they would risk being trampled on by police horses?

I came to the conclusion that they had been so confused and lied to, that they actually believed that their country’s political, economic and social problems was Rwanda’s fault.

Watching them call our president a “killer”, I wished I could ask them about Kofi Annan’s london-protest1recent report which details the manner in which international mineral companies and members of the state apparatus are conniving to strip Congo’s mineral wealth. I would ask about the Minova rapes, in which Congolese troops are accused of sexually assaulting scores of women. I would ask them about the legacy of Mobutu Sese Seko. I would challenge them about the fact that they were hiding in European capitals, living on welfare and menial employment, instead of going back to their country and actually doing their part to develop it.

I’ve noticed a tendency among some of us to blame outsiders for our woes. This must end if we are to actually move forward. Refusing to acknowledge the systemic issues that we have will only keep us in the dark longer than needs be. I am proud to live in a nation that is tackling its issues head on. Now if only the citizens of our dear neighbor could do the same…

Post- Ntaganda, DRC is still in the same old mess as before

Last week, The Guardian’s correspondent Pete Jones, interviewed a Congolese soldier who recounted the hell that he and his colleagues unleashed onto the womenfolk of Minova, a small centre 30 miles north of scenic Goma, the biggest city in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Congolese troops are guilty of hideous war crimes.

Congolese troops are guilty of hideous war crimes.

“Twenty-five of us gathered together and said we should rape 10 women each, and we did it,” he said. “I’ve raped 53 women. And children of five or six years old.

“I didn’t rape because I am angry, but because it gave us a lot of pleasure,” the 22-year-old told the British journalist. “When we arrived here we met a lot of women. We could do whatever we wanted.”

According to UN figures, 126 women were raped during the Congolese army’s retreat from Goma after being crushed by an M23 offensive.

The simplistic narrative that one hears from the Congo is that the bad guys are the rebel and the good guys the government troops. However, the truth is that both sides are the bad guys. The angels are few and far between.

Only after pressure from MONUSCO, the UN mission in Congo, did the government deem it fit to attempt to prosecute the errant soldiers and their commanders. UN special envoy to Congo, Roger Meece, warned the Congolese authorities in a March 25 letter they had seven days to take action on the rapes or MOSUSCO would suspend support.

Mind you, not one solider has actually been prosecuted despite the fact that the crime took place in broad daylight and the suspects easily identified. Mind you, there is some progress. 12 officers have been suspended while a probe begins. But to be truthful I doubt that the women will get any justice. Only time will tell.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I feel that many people think that with the arrest of the ‘Terminator’, General Bosco Ntaganda, peace will

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda (R) looks on beside a security guard during his first appearance before judges at the International Criminal Court in the Hague March 26, 2013.

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda (R) looks on beside a security guard during his first appearance before judges at the International Criminal Court in the Hague March 26, 2013.

descend on the lush rolling hills of North Kivu Province and people will hand hands singing ‘Kumbaya’. Sure, taking him out of the equation is certainly a positive move, but the Congo is still not a place for the faint hearted. Days after his March 18 surrender to the US embassy in Kigali, the Mai-Mai, a rag tag militia, had the temerity to attack a UN compound in Lumumbashi, the capital of mineral-rich Katanga Province in Southern Congo. Actually, the attack, in which 35 people died, occurred a day after ICC authorities took Ntaganda into custody and flew him out of Kigali International Airport.

So, how are things in Goma and its environs? Well, peace talks are still taking place in Kampala between the Joseph Kabila’s government and the M23. But as usual, foreign meddling will most likely cause the renewal of the armed conflict. Ever since the UN Security Council authorized a new ‘Intervention Brigade’ with the unprecedented mandate to take offensive action against rebel groups in the East, the Congolese delegation has turned quite belligerent.

126 women were raped by the very troops who were supposed to protect them

126 women were raped by the very troops who were supposed to protect them

In a March 1 press conference, Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raymond Tshibanda, called on the M23 to disband.  “The M23 may become agitated as they want. We were willing to reach a political agreement with them… The only future for the M23 is to cease to exist as a politico-military movement. If this is not the case, the brigade will look to end their life”, he said.

Of course the M23 isn’t taking those threats lightly.  It recently wrote an open letter to the South African parliament asking it to reconsider its deployment of 1,000 troops under the auspices of the Intervention Brigade. The M23 political leader Bertrand Bisimwa tweeted “if SA Special Forces attack us it will catastrophic and apocalyptic”.

So, as Ntaganda faces the ICC judges for the next few years, the people of Eastern Congo will probably face more hardship, not less.

 

Bosco Ntaganda: A monkey off our back

From Goma to The Hague...via US Embassy, Kigali

From Goma to The Hague…via US Embassy, Kigali

Let me be as honest as I can possibly be. Monday’s thunderbolt that the ‘Terminator’ himself, General Bosco Ntaganda, had handed himself over to the Americans means a whole lot of NOTHING. Why do I say this? Simply because taking him out of the DRC morass won’t change an iota, where the systemic failures of the DRC state is concerned. But I am getting ahead of myself.

For too long it seems that every single tragedy occurring in the DRC was Rwanda’s fault. Rapes? Rwanda. Civil war? Rwanda. Bad roads? Rwanda. Mobutu? King Leopold? The rubber trade? Slavery? Mosquitoes? Cholera? All Rwanda’s fault. When some disgruntled Congolese soliders, who were ill treated and unpaid for months decided to take to the Masisi hills and challenge the Joseph Kabila government, Rwanda was the villain. This despite the fact, which was revealed later by Minister James Kabarebe, that Rwanda was playing the role of mediator.

As a result of this move by Congolese citizens (a fact that many, many people who should know better refused to acknowledge), Rwanda was vilified and aid was cut. Despite our protestations, the truth was ignored as an alternative ‘Gospel’ was put forward by ‘experts’.

In this Gospel there were certain ‘concrete’ facts.  First of all, Rwanda was the hidden power behind the M23, the evil puppet masters. Secondly, the M23 was full of rapists, child soldiers and miners (instead of the FDLR).  Thirdly, despite Col. Makenga’s leadership role in the M23, the ‘real’ leader was Bosco Ntaganda. Fourthly, because Bosco Ntaganda fought in the RPA during Rwanda’s Liberation War, he was Rwanda’s lackey (and if one is to believe Max Fisher, a foreign affairs blogger at the Washington Post, a Rwandan citizen). Well, the General’s actions preceding his visit to the US Embassy, Kigali put paid to many of these assumptions.

As the fighting last week has proved, Ntaganda and Makenga are not the best of friends, never mind M23 allies. In fact if Bosco had had his way, he’d have scuppered the Kampala talks and taken his chances in the field of battle against the Congolese army and whatever the international community threw at him. Alas, that would not be the case. Makenga gave him and his faction a hiding, leaving him no option but to flee.

If he was supported by Rwandan troops (as reports continued to insinuate during the battle against Makenga) would he have been defeated so

He doesnt joke. Colonel Makenga, center, commander of the M23 rebel movement, stands on a hill overlooking the border town of Bunagana, Congo, Sunday, July 8, 2012.

He doesnt joke. Colonel Makenga, center, commander of the M23 rebel movement, stands on a hill overlooking the border town of Bunagana, Congo, Sunday, July 8, 2012.

thoroughly? The RDF is renown for punching a lot above its weight. In fact, it has gained quite a mystical aura in the minds of those who see the boogeyman in every dark corner. If the RDF is truly as good as they say it is, it goes without saying that Makenga would have been trounced by all the ‘Rwandan’ firepower. But that wasn’t the case. So, either Rwanda, ‘The All-Powerful’, actually didn’t support Ntaganda in the first place hence his defeat…or the RDF isn’t as mystical as some want to believe (and that wouldn’t fit into the popular narrative where instead of mutinous Congolese units beating the DRC troops, it was actually Rwandan troops doing the fighting).

So, after his defeat, does Ntaganda, a Rwandan ‘lackey’, seek safety in the arms of his ‘godfathers’? No. He sneaks into the country. Drives past the Ministry of Defence, the President’s Office and Intelligence Services building and hands himself over to the Americans.

Honestly, the only reason that I care that Ntaganda handed himself in is because it’s left a lot of eggs on peoples face. Those who have made it their career to link everything wrong with the Congo were, for a few moments, left speechless with confusion.  Rwanda’s reputation, which they had dragged through the mud, is being restored. No longer do we have to be lumped along an alleged war criminal. We have our own problems to solve.

But what about the poor Congolese? I cannot see how Ntaganda’s departure will improve their lives.  I hope events prove me wrong. But I doubt it.

Steve Hege and his lies will be thrown into the dustbin of history

steve-hege-en-contradiction-avec-les-principes-de-lonuJesus of Nazareth is known for a few things. I mean, he was a man who defied gravity, the Machiavellian attempts to murder him by King Herod as an infant and fed thousands with a few fishes and loaves of bread. But in this instance, I’m not going to discuss any of these miracles. What I will talk about is his ‘house built on sand’ parable. According to him, and I paraphrase,  ‘if one builds a house on sand, it will crumble at the first hint of bad weather.’

Well, when I look across the border to our unstable neighbor, and reflect on the various actors, I cannot resist the temptation to say, “what goes up, must come down”.

Remember Steve Hege? The head of the utterly dismal DRC Group of Experts (GoE)? Well, as of the present moment, he’s a layman like the rest of us, pushed off his soapbox, kicking and screaming. We in Rwanda knew what he stood for. We knew that he had revisionist tendencies and was biased against the present Rwandan government.

However, this did not stop him from getting the delicate job and it didn’t stop him publishing nonsense; convincing the international community that General Jack Nziza was commanding the day to day operations of the M23 in Rubavu District (despite the fact that he was in his Kimihurura office the entire time, and has evidence to prove it), that there were sightings of Rwandan troops crossing the border speaking English (come on now, when did they start speaking the Queens tongue?) and that the M23 had arms that weren’t in the inventory of the DRC army, therefore proving that they were receiving external backing(despite the fact that there was an earlier UN report stating the EXACT opposite!).

The lies worked. The leaked GoE document, published in tandem with a Human Rights Watch pile of rubbish, gave ammunition to those who either had a bone to pick with their own governments (such as the British press against the former International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell) or with the Rwandan one. The ‘errant’ politicians got kicked to the curb, and Rwanda’s good name got smeared, important aid got withheld and  Rwanda’s nomination to the Security Council was jeopardised .

Of course, Rwanda pushed back, winning a seat on the UN Security Council and unleashing a barrage of withering critiques to the GoE report. And while it seemed to me that our voices weren’t being heard, I can see that slowly by slowly, the lies are starting unraveling.

I felt the tide turn when, to my surprise, and despite pressure from its own Security Council partnersSusan+Rice+Hillary+Clinton+Attends+UN+Security+wk5IPqcpMQrl (especially the French, quelle surprise) the US REFUSED to name Rwanda as the backer of the M23.  In the fevered environment, I expected Susan Rice to get swayed, but the fact that she stood firm gave the truth a chance to be heard. And it has begun to.

The first victim of the truth is Mr. Hege himself. He quietly left the GoE (or was pushed, as I believe he was) late last month. In my opinion, the unbearable pressure emanating from Rwanda, friends of Rwanda, made his position untenable and so he has fallen on his sword.  His pro-FDLR writings and his inaccurate reports are all chickens that have finally come home to roost. So, good riddance Mr. Hege, the people of the Great Lakes Region will not miss you. May you and your dastardly report become a mere smidgen in the minds of future generations.

 On another note, I find it extremely hilarious that the head of the DRC delegation in the ongoing Kampala peace talks is the Foreign Minister, Raymond Tshibanda. I mean, doesn’t it make more sense to send perhaps the Interior Minister, or barring that, the Defence Minister, to negotiate with the M23? Why send a foreign minister to negotiate with domestic opponents? Is the Congolese government trying to portray the mutineers as foreigners?

Congo: Forget who started the fire, who will put it out?

As I’ve done before, I have a guest writer on my blog, Rama Isibo. His views are not necessarily my own. 

Congolese refugees displaced within their own homeland by militias and armies, fighting with foreign weapons for foreign purposes, face extremely rough conditions in makeshift Camp de Kahe in Kitchanga in the Masisi district of Congo’s North Kivu Province, near the Rwandan border. – Photo: S. Schulman, UNHCR

Congolese refugees displaced within their own homeland by militias and armies, fighting with foreign weapons for foreign purposes, face extremely rough conditions in makeshift Camp de Kahe in Kitchanga in the Masisi district of Congo’s North Kivu Province, near the Rwandan border. – Photo: S. Schulman, UNHCR

The recent crisis precipitated by the M23 rebellion is the latest in a long saga dating back to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Since the Genocide, we have seen an escalation of the conflict to the extent that there are now 23 armed groups fighting to fill the vacuum left by the state. The governance model of DRC going back to the days of Mobutu was to have a weak central government, weak army, a corrupt civil service which was hardly ever paid on time, and hope for the best. Instead of disarming or fighting these groups, the government has accommodated, used one to fight the other, and therefore not helped the situation. We all know the history, but history will not solve the crisis, Rwanda has been blamed but didn’t understand this blame was a cry for help. The blame was a call for Rwanda to solve the crisis, the fact that we are going to suffer as a nation means that we are compelled to drive home a solution. We cannot afford to go through the five stages of grief over aid cuts; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We must sort this out before it derails our development and makes it Vision2025.

 The birth of a nation

The New York Times ran an article called “To save Congo, we have to let it fall apart.” The piece called for what the Congolese fear the most “Balkanisation” or fragmentation, but this in itself is not viable in the short-term. There is little support for the Republic of Kivu among most Kivutians, yes they are fed up with the Kinshasa government but know that all areas of Congo are let down by Kinshasa, just that they suffer the most. They are patchwork-quilt of tribes that have rarely gotten along, but to ask for statehood in an era where states are coming together under Superstates is hard. Even the recent example of Southern Sudan needed a referendum even though it was obvious that nearly all Southerners wanted to secede. To start a state is one day of happiness, then years of work, a Kivu state would need billions of dollars of aid to start. Even with billions of dollars under its soil in the form of minerals, Kivu would start at the bottom, with the highest infant mortality, highest number of rape victims, 90% of the people exhibiting trauma, and every other negative. The dynamics are pulling Kivu away from Congo but not just yet, the solution is better governance.

The Katumbi effect

There is an accepted myth that Congolese are inherently stupid and ungovernable, it is shared by people in the

Moïse Katumbi Katebe Chapwe, a multimillionaire, is the powerful governor of the Province of Katanga. He is also a member of President Joseph Kabila’s ruling party PPRD.

Moïse Katumbi Katebe Chapwe, a multimillionaire, is the powerful governor of the Province of Katanga. He is also a member of President Joseph Kabila’s ruling party PPRD.

Kinshasa government, NGO’s, the international community and even many Congolese themselves. This they say, is a result of two men whose shadows loom over Congo; King Leopold and Mobutu Sese Seko, it is true that with a broken down society the Congolese revert to their most disagreeable nature but exceptions exist. Moise Katumbi, the Governor of Katanga is undoubtedly a future president of Congo, he rules Katanga, the richest province with a vision that is rarely seen in Africa. Born to a Jewish father and Congolese mother, he changed his name from Moise Soriano to Katumbi Chapwe, this gave him authenticity among Congolese. It was his works that have earned him respect all over Congo, he hardly asks the Kinshasa government for anything, he builds roads, schools, hospitals, public works with royalties taxed direct to mining companies and sends taxes to Kinshasa. It also helps that he has the most popular football team in Congo, TP Mazembe. If he chose to run then Kabila wouldn’t stand a chance as Katumbi would take his powerbase among the Luba in Lumumbashi with him. Governance can start with one man, under Katumbi all the uniquely Congolese traits have been calmed, Kivu needs a Katumbi, a man who governs for the best interests of his people like they are a separate state.

A uniquely Rwandan solution

congo-war-2012Rwanda is going through a spin at the moment, several months of political pressure from donors and western media have left it reeling. We have vehemently denied, got angry, tried to bargain but to no effect. It was amazing to see ministers saying “we don’t need aid” as if it is a fait accompli, the aid is not off the table it is merely suspended, we can and will get it back if we can find a permanent solution to this Congo crisis. In that way we can kill two birds with one stone, but first we need honesty on both sides. Rwanda has been in a covert proxy war with DRC and Zaire since 1994, we should openly admit that, just as Congo has been supporting FDLR against Rwanda. There has to be a peace and security treaty between the two nations with a genuine cause for mutual security. There is no solution without Rwanda, Rwanda has a genuine security threat but some individuals in Rwanda have benefited from the chaos in Congo. The FDLR has to be disarmed, as well as other groups, the Wild, Wild West that is Kivu must be tamed, the UN must leave and Africans must solve this problem. We as Rwanda must move past the GoE report, and present viable solutions to end this crisis as we are suffering from its effects, we need to be honest about our involvement citing our genuine security concerns and draw a line under it.

Hope for Kivu

Kivu can have peace, the people are exhausted by war, exhausted by running for refuge, it is not an interminable problem, there are drivers to this crisis. The breakdown of the Congo state; foreign rebel armies, the greed for minerals, the inactive UN, and lack of investment and infrastructure must all be solved. One critic, Gerald Prunier said “M23 is a pimple, but there is a deeper cancer in Congo” and this is true indeed. Kabila might fear a strong army in Kinshasa but he needs a strong army in Kivu, not strong in numbers but as ideological motivated and disciplined as the M23. Not all Banyamulenge have supported M23, others have stayed loyal like Patrick Masunzu, if he could appoint a loyal local general who is acceptable to all sides, as a governor of North Kivu, then M23 would not have a reason to exist. The current Governor Julien Paluku is a joke to say the least, spat upon in the streets for his comical blunders, he was hounded by mobs out of Kisangani. If he had a Patrick Masunzu or a similar figure, who can start to disarm these groups, rule the area like a sovereign state but still remain loyal to Kinshasa, to follow the Katumbi model. The West will also have to pump some clean money into Kivu because most of the money there is derived from illegal means, they need clean money in Kivu. They also need investment in roads, just like the railroad pacified the Wild Wild West, a highway would open up Kivu.

Rwanda cannot afford to look back and continue the denial game, it is what the West wants, someone to blamecongo-war and buy time while the war continues. That is what the GoE UN report was, a litany of blame, blame the wrong guy and force him to fix it. I saw this personally in UK, when the police would arrest a wrong guy for murder just so people could name the real murderer and exonerate him. This is the situation Rwanda is in, they have prior involvement in Congo so they must be the ones, other than deny, deny, deny, we should come up with an equitable solution that keeps Congo together, brings peace to Kivu, guarantees our security, and helps develop the region. We can take hope from a previously “interminable” conflict in Northern Ireland, though they are not the same the dynamics are similar. A divided community, a part wants to be part of one country, a part wants to be part of another, and they are living street by street. We also had UK and Ireland fighting proxy wars, funding militia and terrorists, international crime meets ideological warriors. Devolution saw all sides reaching an equitable solution, it needed Britain and Ireland first to agree to solve the situation, then it was a complex negotiation between various groups for power-sharing. We all know the solution for Kivu but no one has the guts to utter the solution. We must just accept the West’s ignorance as just that, but help fix it not because the West told us, fix it because you cannot live next door to a burning house without the burning embers reaching yours. While we argue about who started the fire, the fire is just burning out of control. Rwanda needs to be talked off the ledge, it is not all over, this can be resolved, and the sooner the better.