Kagame reiterates international community’s weakness as the U.S suspends military aid to Kigali
Two weeks after President Paul Kagame and President Joseph Kabila met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia little has changed, despite the two leaders agreeing to allow in a joint, neutral international force to monitor the porous borders of the two countries.
Kinshasa continues to peddle allegations against Kigali. Kigali on the other hand continues to falter the international community on the on-going crisis in the vast central African country.
Before the camera’s, it is all smiles but behind the scenes, the finger-pointing, particularly on the side of Kinshasa has not relented.
In fact to put it right, one has to refer to the remarks of Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo while appearing on a recent TV show, pointing out that DRC plays right into the double standards of the international community.
“The same officials we hold talks and sign pacts with, are the same, who after a few hours of our meetings and agreements, will go back home and start screaming on TVs and radios that Rwanda is fomenting the crisis in DRC. It puzzles me,” Minister Mushikiwabo said.
Such is the dilemma that Kigali has found herself in.
Even after seemingly agreeing on issues, once they are back in the comfort of their abodes in Kinshasa, Congolese officials, right from President Kabila to foreign affairs Minister Raymond Tshimbanda and government spokesperson Lambert Mende, maintain the accusations on Kigali.
It is reported that a few days after agreeing with his Rwandan counterpart in the Ethiopian capital, on the side lines of the African Union (AU), President Kabila penned a ‘strong-worded’ letter to the international community asking it to take stern action against Rwanda.
So according to Mushikiwabo, Kinshasa has ‘reneged’ on every effort made between the two countries seeking to find a lasting solution to the conflict in Eastern DRC, which is ‘a bit confusing’, and instead choosing to be ‘bed fellows’ with the international community.
“They seem to find comfort in being part of the accusations levelled against Rwanda and it appears nothing will change that position, even when the facts are there to see,” the eloquent Mushikiwabo says in reference to Congolese officials, adding that Kinshasa is becoming part of the ‘band wagon’.
Just when it was thought that the recent meeting in Addis Ababa initiated by AU and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) yield something and plotted a possible path towards peace, Congolese officials last week were full of praise for the United States.
It has been assumed that the countries had agreed on a peace path that would limit accusations and finger pointing but tell that to Kinshasa. Instead Lambert Mende and colleagues saw it an opportune moment to thank the government of US for withholding the $200, 000 in military support to Rwanda.
Kigali was not impressed by the decision of the State Department in Washington DC, with Mushikiwabo saying that the United States or any other donor nation is entitled to dispense or withhold support and will do so according to its own political and policy imperatives.
The tough talking Minister said that the US decision to proceed against the $200,000 in military aid to the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) in light of recent accusations of the country’s involvement in the eastern DRC was based on ‘misinformation’.
“While we respect the rights of any development partner, at the same time we must make clear to our friends in Washington and elsewhere that this decision is based on bad information, and is wrong on the facts. As we have made clear from the outset, Rwanda is neither the cause nor the enabler of instability in the eastern DRC.”
The US has been Rwanda greatest ally and supporter amidst all these accusations, with Rwanda having a cushion for a ‘hard landing’ but with the recent decision, political analysts believe that it is time for Rwanda to boldly sail the ‘dangerous waters’ on its own without the backing of its ‘mentor’.
At least that is the belief of foreign based activists for Congo including the likes of Kambale Musavule, a vocal online critic of Kigali, who now believes that without the backing of the US, Rwanda is now on its own.
However, Kigali has not relented, and according to President Kagame, the $200, 000 ‘is nothing’ and Rwanda can do without it. He instead said that the move is aimed at soiling the good image of Rwanda Defence Force (RDF).
Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate the Rwanda Defence Force Senior Command and Staff College in Nyakinama, Musaze District, north of Rwanda, last week, the Rwandan leader took time off to react on the accusations levelled against his country, instead accusing the international community of derailing the peace process.
Since the conflict broke out in Eastern DRC after the mutiny of a group of former government soldiers, calling themselves M23, President Kagame has been the one appearing in the media while his Congolese counterpart seems to be ‘in a siesta’, instead letting his ministers do the talking.
Kagame said that he will not tire reminding the international community of its role in the crisis in DRC, pointing out that just when the two countries were progressing towards finding a peaceful solution to longstanding issues in Eastern DRC, the west thought it wise to add a ‘twist’.
The Rwandan leader says that despite his country playing a major role in pacifying Congo, it turned out that Rwanda is the scapegoat of problems the international community should be responsible of.
“This problem has not been caused by Rwanda, has not been abated by Rwanda and in the contrary in the last three to four years, nobody in this region, in this continent and beyond has worked very hard to see peace come to our country and the peace to our neighbouring country than Rwanda.”
“Actually the problem came from outside but if you have a look at the long history, even the most recent history, this recent problem, was created by the international community, our partners and because they don’t listen,” Mr Kagame further said.
“They are so arrogant they don’t listen. In the end they don’t provide even solution they just keep creating problems. They are so arrogant that they don’t listen,” President Kagame pointed out.
Diverting from his written speech, President Kagame spoke for close to an hour, highlighting that Rwanda knows better its problems and knows better the problems of the region.
“We are genuine about wanting to find a solution. They will come, run over everything like other people don’t matter, then when things explode, they’ll come around and blame you for it even if they are the ones who cause the problem,” he said
The president also said that for the last 18 years, Rwanda has worked with DRC to try and solve security issues, including dealing with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) while the international community played the role of a ‘spectator’.
To emphasise the point of Rwanda being used as a scapegoat in the crisis in DRC, Kagame jokingly added that even the event to open the Senior Officers Training College in Nyakinama, where he was speaking, will turn out to be a meeting to do ‘something in Congo’.
“I’m sure maybe by the end of the day, we are going to be accused of holding a meeting in Nyakinama plotting to do something in the Congo. But fortunately not, we are with some of their representatives here,” the Head of state jokingly said in reference to the diplomats at the event.
Revealing hitherto unknown secrets, President Kagame shifted focus towards Kinshasa for failing to address the root causes of the conflict from day one, when officials from either side met in Rubavu, a meeting in which M23 representatives were invited to air out their grievances.
It is here Mr. Kagame says DRC failed to address the issue at hand, instead opting to arrest the same people they had held talks with and agreed to sort of the differences and when the men revolted, Congo instead accused Rwanda of backing them.
“When things continued getting out of control, the only thing that came out is that the whole world came alive and Congo went accusing Rwanda of helping the rebels.”
“Helping them with what? ---and for what reasons? They were being vague and talking about supplies, what supplies? Guns? These people are picking guns from their own armouries. They are using guns of their own country,” Kagame further noted.
“We are not supplying even one bullet, we have not. And if we had done so, I would be here telling you that we have, because we would have done so for a reason,” a tough speaking Kagame said.
“We have not had a reason to have this conflict going, on the contrary we have been trying to prevent it and we advised both the Congolese Government and the International Community that never listens. We advised them,” he added
Come in Kampala
Amidst all these accusations, a meeting is scheduled in Kampala on August 7 which will see Uganda mediate in the process to return peace in the volatile Eastern DRC.
Next month’s summit of the ICGLR is a follow up of the meeting in Addis Ababa and it will seek to arrive at permanent ways to end the simmering crisis. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni will, in his power as the current chair of ICGLR, mediate the talks between Presidents Kagame and Kabila.
It is expected that all the 11 leaders of the countries under ICGLR will meet in the Ugandan capital between August 7 and 8 to pave a path to peace and discuss the threat posed by the M23 rebels.
According to Mushikiwabo, the meeting in Kampala will be preceded by another meeting of Ministers of Defence and Army Commanders from all ICGLR members in Khartoum, Sudan to pave way for the international force agreed on to monitor borders.
“From what the two leaders agreed in Addis Ababa, the Ministers of Defence and Army Chiefs will be looking at the modalities of setting up the monitoring force, what is involved, the logistics and the mandate, among other things,” she said.
“They will then report the outcomes of the Khartoum meeting to the summit of Heads of State later in Kampala,” Minister Mushikiwabo noted.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon; AU chairperson, who is also the President of Republic of Benin, Yayi Boni as well as Ministers of Foreign affairs and Defence from the region are expected to attend the meeting.
Former presidents Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and Olegum Obasanjo of Nigeria are also expected to attend as mediators appointed by ICGLR. The ICGLR is made of Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
Uganda has also on several occasions, like Rwanda, been caught in the conflict in DRC but it appears this time round Kampala will play the peacemaker.
According to Mushikiwabo, also Rwandan officials are meeting with the UN Group of Experts in Kigali to discuss the Group’s interim findings on the current eastern DRC conflict as outlined in a recent report to the UN Security Council.
“We will go through each allegation contained in the interim report and debunk them line by line. We will present our rebuttal to our development partners, including the United States,” she said.