The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has blamed fake news and manipulation of facts as the main cause of protests that rocked the eastern town of Goma, bordering Rwanda, which claimed 4 people and left scores injured.
Thousands of Congolese nationals, led by civil society groups, took to the streets of Goma on Monday, to protest against what they described as a planned deployment of Rwanda National Police in DRC, as part of the cooperation agreement signed between the police forces of the two countries.
The protest stemmed from a memorandum of understanding signed on December 13, between the RNP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dan Munyuza and his visiting counterpart from DRC, Commissioner General Dieudonné Amuli Bahigwa, detailing cooperation between the two forces.
Among other issues, the demonstrators were against the ‘planned deployment’ of Rwandan, chanting slogans in favour of DRC police and demanding to know more about the agreement.
The protest went on despite Gen. Bahigwa emphasizing that among the areas of cooperation in the MoU, there is no planned deployment by Rwanda.
Following the chaotic events, Patrick Muyaya, the DRC Minister of Communication and Media, who is also the Government Spokesperson, blamed the chaos on fake new and manipulation of facts.
“The events in Goma are proof of the dangerousness of fake news. There is no image and no proof of any Rwandan police presence. What we are seeing is just a lot of manipulation,” Muyaya said during a briefing on the issue on Monday evening.
Muyaya, who was flanked by the Army and Police Spokespersons, said the protests in the Eastern part of the country were a result of wild imagination and manipulation of the truth, disregarding the facts behind the MoU.
The Government Spokesperson explained that as Gen. Bihigwa previously mentioned, the MoU signed in Kigali earlier this month is part of regional cooperation to fight against cross-border crimes and terrorism, which DRC, which is soon joining the East African Community (EAC), is bound to sign.
“The MoU is part of the regional framework of countries in Eastern African coming together to fight trans-national crimes including human trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrimes and many other crimes that affect us as a region,”
“DRC, which is aspiring to become the 7th member of the EAC also has to adhere to these frameworks and to do so, it is imperative to sign cooperation agreements at a bilateral level, with countries with which we share a common border, including Rwanda. This has nothing to do with deployment,” Muyaya said.
The government officials emphasized that cross-border cooperation between police forces, mostly involving interpol, to nip in the bud the said crimes, is very important and should not be interpreted as Rwanda and DRC agreeing to deploy forces.
The DRC National Police of Congo (PNC), Colonel Pierrot Mwanamputu, said that at least a dozen individuals behind fuelling the bloody protests have been arrested and will be arraigned in courts of law.
Col. Mwanamputu also said that a police commissioner was shot dead at his workstation while 3 guns were stolen from the Police. At least 17 people were injured, including 5 police officers, in the protests mainly fuelled by two NGOs namely Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA) and the Comité Laïc de Coordination (CLC).
The Spokesperson of the military in North Kivu, Gen. Sylvain Ekenge, blamed peddlers of falsehoods on the chaos, saying that the deployment of Rwandan police in DRC is just an imagination.
“This Rwandan police presence in Goma exists only in the imagination of the salesmen of illusions and the manipulators, as well as people of bad faith, who are ready to jump on any rumour to cause disorder,” said Gen. Ekenge.
What does the Cooperation pact between Rwanda and DRC say?
The MoU signed between RNP and CNP) during CG Bihigwa’s 3-day visit focussed on cross-border bilateral cooperation between the two countries in various pressing matters of policing.
The MoU binds the two Police institutions to join efforts against transnational organized crime and terrorism; smuggling and trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances as well as their precursors; currency counterfeiting and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Other areas of partnership include expertise and intelligence sharing, conducting joint or simultaneous operations, fighting against cyber criminality, human trafficking, organ trafficking and document fraud.
After the signing on December 13, IGP Munyuza, said that the MoU would not only enhance security cooperation between Rwanda and DRC but also help combat cross-border crimes.
“Our two countries are not only neighbours, but also brothers. Our region continues to experience a number of security challenges including Islamic jihadists, terrorism, drug trafficking, and smuggling among others, which requires us to establish strong cooperation and join efforts to combat organized, cross-border and transnational crimes threatening our region,” IGP Munyuza said, mentioning nothing about deployment.
CG Bihigwa also emphasized combating cross-border crimes faced by the two countries during the signing ceremony.
“The memorandum of understanding will create impact to the successful cooperation of our two Police institutions in fighting cross-border and transnational crimes,”
“Nowadays, it is essential that Police institutions work closely to be able to confront emerging security threats collectively and effectively,” CG Bahigwa said.
At no point did the two Police chiefs discuss a possible deployment on either side.