Rwanda Defends Participation in DR Congo

The Congolese Government has repeatedly stated that Rwandese troops have been responsible for committing atrocities in Congo. In one such instance, Jean Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwanza the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ambassador in Nairobi, Kenya, accused Rwanda of human rights violations against refugees in Bandaka, eastern Congo in 1996 and 1997.

Rwanda took part in the military operations which overthrew late former President Mobutu Sese Seko after failing to secure border security guarantees against hundreds of thousands of Rwandese refugees, many of whom were ex FAR or Interahamwe militia, hostile to both the Government of National Unity in Kigali and change in Congo (then Zaire).

There was also participation of the Congolese troops in the overthrow of Mobutu. Some troops were ex-FAZ (Mobutu’s army), others were hastily trained youth with no military experience. These forces were under the command of the AFDL alliance, and were loyal to Kabila.

The Government of Rwanda finds Mr. Kyungu wa Kumwanza’s allegations both pathetic and absurd, especially coming as they do from a man who has himself been implicated in some of the most heinous crimes against humanity in the Kasai region during the campaign to overthrow Mobutu. These crimes have been documented in reports by independent observers. Rwanda finds it difficult to take seriously baseless allegations of human rights violations from a criminal.

Rwanda finds it also absurd that only now, 20 months after the alleged crimes were committed, the Congolese authorities are showing interest in them. This sudden new-found concern for crimes against humanity is highly suspect, especially since, by issuing inflammatory statements, Mr. Kabila and other Congolese authorities have triggered massacres against Rwandese nationals in Congo and Congolese Tutsi’s in all major towns of Congo. Mr. Kabila is on record as having called on the Congolese people to take weapons, machetes, arrows, anything, to kill Tutsi’s and their allies. One of Kabila’s senior ministers is on record as having said “Tutsi’s are microbes that had to be exterminated, a statement that was understood by Congolese people to mean mass killings of Congolese Tutsi’s and Rwandan nationals.

Evidence of these massacres are plentiful as they are gruesome- mass graves in Kisangani, mass killings which claimed 101 lives in Kalemie and 81 in Vyura, killings in Kinshasa and elsewhere – all this evidence has been seen by international relief workers, Human Rights Watch, western diplomats, and some have been shown on television. There have also been mass arrests and detentions without trial of thousands of Rwandese nationals and Congolese Tutsi’s in Lubumbashi, Kokolo and elsewhere. Some of these detainees are now feared dead as Kabila’s rhetoric and persecution has intensified.

Rwanda cannot reconcile these despicable acts of genocide perpetrated by the Congolese Government with this new-found interest in the killing of refugees in Eastern Congo 20 months ago. Rwanda believes that this is merely an attempt by Kabila to hide the crimes of his own Government by side-tracking the international community into focussing into past incidents not those presently being committed as part of Congolese government policy.

Finally, the international community will recall that Mr. Kabila and his government deliberately and repeatedly frustrated a UN team which was sent by Secretary General Kofi Annan to investigate the killing, in Eastern Congo, of the refugees Ambassador Kyungu wa Kumwanza is referring to. Kabila denied them access to many parts of Congo and to his officials for questioning. It was widely agreed at the time that this was because the Congolese Government and army had something to hide, and had been responsible for the killings of the refugees who had been supporting their enemy Mobutu. What Mr. Kyungu wa Kumwanza is attempting to do now is shift the blame to Rwanda in the vain hope that this will win Mr. Kabila friends in the international community and the UN.

The Congolese Government has committed heinous crimes against its own people and Rwandese nationals, and stubbornly refuses to talk to rebels or address the security concerns of its neighbours. On October 6th 1998, Vice-President Paul KAGAME offered and olive branch to Congo, by acknowledging Rwanda’s presence in Congo, a point which had previously been a precondition for talks. The overture has been snubbed by Kabila and his allies who now seem determined to solve the conflict militarily.

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