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Bilateral relations hinge on reciprocity

By Silver Bugingo

It’s ironical that instead of paying attention to ICGLR peace negotiations with M23, ,  Kinshasa looks to SADC

All laws governing bilateral relations among sovereign states are premised on the standard principle of reciprocity, which states that: “Favours, benefits, or penalties that are granted by one state to the citizens or legal entities of another, should be returned in kind”.

In other words, putting it to a layman’s understanding, it’s a “give and take” principle; you scratch my back and I will scratch yours- return the favours or negligence so to speak.


Thus, this renowned international relations benchmark has for centuries been used in the reduction of tariffs, the grant of copyrights to foreign authors, the mutual recognition and enforcement of foreign courts’ judgments, and the relaxation of travel restrictions as well as visa requirements to travelers from each country.

However, for purposes of clarity and precision, I will restrict this column to the volatile bilateral relations between the Kigali and Kinshasa governments from the time of Marshal Mubutu Sese Seko’s Zaire, the reason de entrée for his toppling and what Presidents Laurent Desire Kabila and son Joseph Kabila did or haven’t done to improve the relations.

And why now?  Because it has been prompted by none, other than the latest controversial indictment/ extradition warrants for ex-M23 commanders Jean-Marie Runiga, Baudouin Ngaruye, Eric Badege and Innocent Zimurinda from DR. Congo as reported by the Associated Press. But I will come to this later.

Way back in 1990, when the Rwandese Patriotic Army launched an armed struggle against Juvenal Habyarimana’s regime to end decades of statelessness and refugee plights to hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, Zaire (now DRC) is the only African country that aided the Kigali regime with troops and ammunitions to repulse the rebellion.

Owing to the military deployments from Zaire, Belgium and France, the RPA met stiff resistance. Nevertheless, as the iconic black-American clergy and civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr. said: “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than triumphant evil”. The huge challenges notwithstanding, victory for RPA was inevitable albeit after genocide claimed a million unarmed Tutsi citizens.

Thus, the defeated Rwandan army (Ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militia fled to Eastern parts- then Zaire with all the arms and ammunitions and Mubutu’s regime gave them a safe haven and required patronage to fight back and topple the new Rwandan government of unity and reconciliation.

Although they had planned and committed genocide and other crimes against humanity and the Kinshasa government-under obligation to indict them, it became an accomplice.

But the regime had its own internal military rebellion headed by Laurent Desire Kabila. Meanwhile, the Ex-FAR and interahamwe continued executing genocide and crimes against humanity on Tutsi Congolese citizens.

This diplomatic notoriety combined with internal governance weaknesses made Kabila’s rebellion a genuine cause and gained support from Rwanda and Uganda to fight and dethrone the Mubutu regime.

The Kigali Government hoped against hope that the new Kabila regimes would have an efficient and effective territorial control of the vast nation, arrest armed Rwandan genocide perpetrators and hand them over to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, extradite them to Rwanda or prosecute them locally.

Up to today none is on record to have been repri Instead the Kinshasa government has repeatedly used the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) terrorist outfit to fight various Congolese rebel groups including the strong M23 forces who control a big part of the Eastern part of the country and are a huge threat to government.

The current crisis in the large African state has its roots both in the use of the country’s eastern juggles as a base by various insurgency groups attacking neighboring countries and in the aiding abetting military insurgencies to nieghbouring Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

The Kabila government has often refuted alliance with the FDLR forces but the latest impeccable revelations have pinned the DRC government for hosting and sponsoring the founding congress of the terrorist group.

Appearing before the provincial court in the German City of Stuttgart recently, Straton Musoni, the detained FDLR Vice-President told court that Kinshasa government played a major role in the organisation of the group’s first meeting that was convened in Lumumbashi, the second largest city on May 2000. He further told court that he and Ignace Murwanashyaka were among the three-member delegation from Europe that attended the FDLR founding conference.

Musoni, alongside his co-accused and FDLR president, Ignace Murwanashyaka stand accused of various charges of planning and committing genocide and other crimes against humanity in 1994.

Besides this stunning disclosure in the German court, two terrorist suspects, Jean de Dieu Ntakirutimana alias Rafiki, and Jean de Dieu Mugaboniki have pleaded guilty for the July 26 grenade attack that claimed three lives and left 31 others injured in Rwanda on the instruction of a top FDLR commander and are being held at Kicukiro Police Station in Kigali.

Ironically, instead of paying due attention to the ongoing International Conference on Great Lakes (ICGLR) peace negotiations to resolve the standoff with M23 fighters, the Kinshasa government thinks the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC), a regional bloc to which she is a member will solve all its problems.

Having said this, I strongly believe that  darkness cannot drive away darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only brilliance can do that and this is why the vulnerable Congolese displaced by the chronic armed rebellions in their huge country are given due respect in Rwanda.

The Ex-commanders current indicted by the Kinshasa regime were first disarmed before being offered refuge and are presumed innocent until credible evidence is availed by the accusers.

However, the Kabila government is well aware that Rwanda is among the very few African countries that have abolished the death penalty and DRC have not done so.

Therefore, it is an international custom that a country without death sentence cannot extradite the accused to countries with death punishments on their laws. The only option providing pinning evidence to Rwanda Justice system.

As I have said before, people do not know where they are going unless they know exactly where they have been and exactly how they arrived at such destinations. And to quote Martin Luther King again: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. The Kabila regime timeline hinges on the above citation.

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