By Silver Bugingo
Disguised xenophobia against presumed Rwandans has put their alliance under the spotlight
When Joseph Kabila, (apparently, upon advice from Jakaya Kiwete and Jocob Zuma) convinced the UN Security Council to establish a “Special Intervention Brigade” to the DRC Eastern Juggles, it was like a soccer hat-trick score into Paul Kagame’s net.
It’s a ‘hat-trick’ because not only does it look inevitable to Rwanda that is currently among the 15UN Security Council team but the blue-helmet forces were mandated for the first time in the world organ’s history to be on battlefield for an offensive rather than the usual peace-keeping- defensive operations.
In a broader perspective, the three most democratic African states gained an international clout for the first time like tiny Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria who have sent contingent army and police troops to Darfur, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Haiti and Mali under UN-AU peace-keeping missions. This paints an enviable political image and monetary gain in terms of the juicy wages.
It’s nevertheless, more of a challenge that an opportunity for Tanzanian, South African and Malawians to replicate professional ethics, competence and superiority against combat-hardened rebels on a harsh scene that has been more or less a home to the rebel for decades. So it’s litmus to the credibility of the UN chief and the three African countries.
On the surface, the UN body were boosting its peacekeeping force with a 3000-strong special combat force aimed at disarming rebel groups, including the anti-Rwanda group; the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), the Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain (APCLS) and the main anti-Uganda forces; the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu.
But late August, the strong African highbred forces literary launched a zealous ground and air offensive against rebel M23 positions in the Kibati hills, 20km from Goma as part of a weeklong operations.
Surprisingly, the intimidating blue-helmet forces are reported to have sustained the first casualties in the crossfire; 3 deaths including one Senior Tanzanian officer Maj. Hatim Shabaan Mushindo and 9 injured. Well, for the moment the contingent from Malawi is yet to arrive.
Be it as it may, the new deployment raises a lot of queries such as: Is it the best option? Can troops from SADC to which DR Congo is a member impartially execute the mandate? Doesn’t it undermine the ongoing the ICGLR peace negotiations between Kinshasa regime and rebel M23? Lastly but most important: is it not treating symptoms instead of uprooting the origins of the chronic conflicts?
Ordinarily, what the new UN battle-prone troops ought to prioritise on should be disarming the foreign rebel groups on DR Congo soil like terrorists FDLR outfits from Rwanda and indict its key leaders and Allied Democratic Forces from Uganda. By so doing, the world organ would have put to an end the volatile bilateral relation between Kigali and Kinshasa governments.
In the same vein, the DRC government and the M23 rebels: what could possibly be better for the long suffering of south and North Kivu communities, especially residents of Goma, its hinterland and other contested areas, than amicable settlement of grievances? Wouldn’t such a peace deal strengthen their national army, effectively control the vast territory and seal off the vacuum?
Readers should be reminded that the logical part of the justification M23 give for taking up arms is to defend their community of Congolese Rwandophones, especially Tutsis against the FDLR, whom they accuse of ‘importing’ their genocidal agenda from Rwanda into the Congo and other serious omissions on the side of Kabila regime.
In fact what the international community ignores is that during the colonial border demarcations, huge chucks of land inhabited by Rwandese became neighbouring Zaire, Ugandan and Tanzania territories. At the moment, an estimated 75,000 Congolese Tutsi are in displaced people’s camps in Rwanda, fearful of returning home as long as the FDLR remains armed and able to roam motherland freely.
An estimated 6 million Congolese citizens have Rwandan ancestry and mother tongue while millions of Ugandan from entire Kisoro district and part of Ntungamo district are the same story, but the ethnic skirmishes are only in DRC because of the genocidal remnants- FDLR.
Well, the vulnerable Congolese citizens are optimistic the resumed ICGLR moderated peace negotiation between the Kinshasa government and M23 rebels may resolve the standoff but your columnist doubts, because on the eve of that summit in Kampala, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe, made outrageous comments regarding the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
During the interview broadcasted on BBC’s Focus on Africa programme, Minister Membe unequivocally accused Rwanda of “exporting” a civil war to the DRC. According to Membe: “What is happening in DRC is that you have two Rwandan protagonists fighting in the DRC”.
If a senior minister in charge of international diplomacy cannot make a distinction between an unwanted foreign armed criminal on DRC territory-FDLR and Congolese rebel force M23, do you expect his country’s troops to be unbiased?
This is not surprising- after all Membe’s boss, President Kikwete has done the same on an international stage calling on Kagame’s government to initiate peace negotiations with the terrorists outfits FDLR. It on record Kikwete and Jocob Zuma are allies to renegade Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, and Col. Patrick Karegeya who are part and strategists for FDLR.
However, what put Kikwete in the spotlight of notoriety was the so-called “illegal migrants” campaign- a disguised xenophobia against presumed Rwandans on their territory victimising bona fide citizens with Rwanda ancestry, including Rwandese females legally married to Tanzanian spouses and hundreds with immigration permits being confiscated by local officials.
The world over, it’s an international custom and norm that foreign females legally married to citizens in a given country automatically acquire the spouses’ nationalities. So why were poor mothers separated from dear husbands and children- wasn’t it inhuman?
Paradoxically, it’s on record the incumbent First lady, Jakaya Kikwete’s wife is a Rwandese and first cousin to former Rwandan President late Juvenal Habyarimana- shouldn’t she have been shown exit first?