The United States Treasury department’s inclusion of a senior member of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), on its list of sanctioned individuals, over the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is one more in a long list of ill coceived decisions that would not be out of place, were the intention to pour fuel on raging fires.
We have yet to hear a response from the Rwanda government, about the sanctions imposed on Brigadier-General, Andrew Nyamvumba. One may however guess that the reaction is likely a mixture of bemusement, exasperation, followed by a resigned profound disappointment.
The United States has often issued the usual platitudes about friendship and support for Rwanda. If Rwanda was not already asking whether with friends like that, they might not need any enemies, they may well be considering it now.
What could be described by any other name, as betrayal, began in 1994, as the genocidal establishment in Rwanda, planned and prepared the murders that would claim over a million men, women and children. Whether through intelligence reports, or through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where they are of course, the main player, the United States of America (USA), knew exactly what was being planned, and what was taking place.
To avoid their obligations under the 1948 United Nations (UN) Convention on genocide, the USA refused to call the crime then being committed in Rwanda, by its proper name of genocide. It is often suggested that the administration of then President, Bill Clinton, was too wary of any further intervention in Africa, after the USA debacle in Somalia, during which eighteen American soldiers were lost.
And so, the doctrine of ‘Never Again,’ which commits the nations of the world, to intervene if genocide is threatened anywhere in the world, became, never again, except when it is politically inconvenient for the Western powers, and the victims are in an African nation, thousands of miles away.
At times, the USA’s determination to look the other way, as Rwandans were being condemned to unimaginably horrifying deaths, verged on the petty and even spiteful.
Asked by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) leadership, which was fighting to stop the genocide, if they would please, at least, simply flick a switch to jam the hate radio RTLM (Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines), which exhorted the Interahamwe militias to murder people with greater speed and efficiency, the Americans’ reponse was first that at $200,000, the cost of doing so would simply be too high, then that it would contravene free speech.
To put this in language with which Western audiences can more easily sympathise, it would be as if any of the allied powers, had objected to spending what in relative terms, is a paltry sum, to block Goebbels or Hitler’s speeches calling for the murder of the Jewish people, on the grounds that it was too expensive or that it interfered with the Nazi leaders’ exercise of free speech.
But that was then, you might say, and President Clinton did after all express a personal apology.
But, even if such an apology were to be deemed to have been enough, it does not seem to have led to any discernable change in the USA’s behaviour towards Rwanda, in particular, the Great Lakes region in general, or indeed towards genocide or the threat of it. Perhaps because the apology was personal, and not on behalf of the USA.
America styles itself the ‘leader of the free world’, and has never been shy in preaching to others, what it considers the highest benchmark in values. With such a claim, you might think, to use an American expression, that it would be a slam dunk, for America to unequivocally condemn the stance of the government of the DRC, under its President, Felix Tshisekedi on almost every aspect of what is happening in his country.
For there are few crises in the world today, or indeed at anytime in living memory, that are more tragic than the DRC crisis. Equally however, it would be well nigh impossible to think of a crisis whose causes and solution are more obvious, and the suffering of people more needless.
The prevailing narrative, trumpeted by the government in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, is that the cause of all the miseries that have ever been visited upon the DRC, is none other than Rwanda, and what Kinshasa claims is Rwanda’s proxy, the March 23rd Movement, better known as M23. This narrative is amplified by the USA, much to the delight of the Congolese, who for as long as they can hide behind America’s voluminous skirts, need never take any responsibility for their actions.
In sanctioning Brigadier-General Nyamvumba, America once again signals to the DRC, that they can abdicate reponsibility for a crisis that is home grown, and which has dragged in the entire region.
“Today’s sanctions reflect the United States’ commitment to advancing efforts toward resolution of the crisis, promoting accountability for human rights abuses including conflict-related sexual violence, and addressing the dire humanitarian situation” claims the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in a statement.
“The United States is committed to promoting a peaceful resolution to the escalation of conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Treasury will not hesitate to hold accountable actors committing human rights abuses and exacerbating this already dire humanitarian situation.”
Were that statement to be taken at face value, Mr Brian E. Nelson, would look in the mirror and not hesitate to hold himself and his government accountable. America has had almost thirty years to demonstrate that commitment, but they have always contrived to achieve the exact opposite of what they claim.
During all that time, unspeakable crimes have been, and continue to be committed in the DRC. Were responsibility for Congo’s immiseration to be laid where it truly belongs, standing shoulder to shoulder in the dock, would be France, successive governments of the DRC, and the USA.
The 4th of July, a date with which Americans are well acquainted, is celebrated annually in Rwanda, as Liberation Day. It is a day that marks the defeat of the genocidal forces, by the RPF.
In defeat however, these forces were allowed to remain intact, thanks to France, which, having stood by them during the Genocide against Tutsi, continued to support them in defeat, a defeat both they and the planners and perpetrators of the genocide, imagined could be short lived.
In partnership with then President of what was then called Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, the French provided safe conduct for the genocidal forces, still armed to the teeth, into what is now the DRC, where they encamped right on the border with Rwanda.
Their intention was to force their way back to Rwanda, and to continue the genocide, in their words, “finish where they had left off.” France continued to arm them, and their sustained attacks against Rwanda, from the DRC, led to what is now commonly referred to as the first Congo war. Exasperated by a two-year long attempt at persuading the international community to end these attacks, the RPF finally took matters into their own hands, and the fight to the enemy, inside the DRC.
Initially scattered, the genocidal forces would rally, under the new name of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). It is as the FDLR, that they continued to threaten Rwanda, launching attacks against the regions on the border with the DRC. They were always repulsed, and over time as their capabilities were degraded, they focused more on insinuating themselves into Congolese society, and its body politic.
With the active support of successive Congolese governments, the FDLR spread their anti Tutsi genocide ideology within the DRC, in particular the Kivus, where they all but replaced the national government, including levying “taxes” on the local population.
As well as attacks against Rwanda, at every given opportunity, they also continued their genocidal persecution and attacks, against the Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese, who are native to the Kivus. It is this persecution that led to the emergence of what the world now knows as M23, an armed group formed from within the Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese communities to defend themselves.
The OFAC statement pronounces the “resurgence” of M23. This is a US led Western narrative, that deliberately confuses cause and effect. The rebel group exists only to defend its community, and its supposed “resurgence” is a response to increased attacks and murders, against that community. End that persecution, and you end the conflict.
As happens at almost every election period in the DRC, the incumbents as well as their opponents, whip up anti Rwanda propaganda, in the time honoured belief, that the way to power, is to infuse hatred within the masses, against a manufactured enemy. Gripped by this hatred, the masses forget the incumbents’ failure, and the opposition’s vacuity, and bay for the blood of the perceived hated enemy. The Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese, always bear the brunt of this government instigated lethal madness.
There are now almost daily murders of Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese in the DRC. Perpetrators have filmed themselves burning their victims alive, and cannibalising them. Men, women and even children, are abducted, tortured and generally murdered, the lucky few are released on payment of ransoms.
The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, warns about the rise of genocidal intent and attacks in the DRC, hers however, is a lone voice that is ignored by the UN Security Council, where the USA holds sway over all it surveys.
Instead, the West in general, and USA in particular, point fingers at Rwanda, parotting Congolese accusations that Rwanda “is behind M23.” Rwanda denies any involvement, and draws attention to the causes of the crisis, but they speak to a Western world determined to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the underlying causes of the conflict.
The DRC has launched attacks against Rwanda, on at least three occasions, shelling Rwandan territory, and leaving significant destruction and causing injury, an act of war by any description. But for Rwanda’s forbearance, we would now be witnessing another war in the region. The US sweeps all this under the carpet, and instead echoes the Congolese government, that Rwanda supports M23.
The RDF is on high alert along the areas bordering the DRC, the commander of these defensive operations, is Brigadier-General, Andrew Nyamvumba, the same individual singled out by OFAC.
This unedifying pantomime is simply to mollycoddle the Congolese leader. The US and the West are gripped by anxiety that China might assert its influence in the DRC, and gain exclusive access to Congo’s vast mineral resources, and so, everything, including moral considerations, must be sacrificed at the alter of tickling Tshisekedi’s belly, even as his party youths, burn alive and cannibalise their compatriots, for the crime of being Kinyarwanda speaking.
The US and the West however, now find themselves in something of a quandry. They cannot be seen to condone genocidal murders, and the DRC government’s apparent thirst for war. But there are no depths of depravity the Congolese will not plumb. The more the West turns a blind to the unspeakable crimes instigated by the DRC government, the more the Congolese are given to believe they can commit any outrage with impunity.
There are over 130 armed groups in the DRC, including the FDLR. These groups exist to prey on the local population. It is how they earn their keep. They rape, murder and pillage. For almost three decades, the the Kivus have known no other life than surviving the besty they can under this brigandage. Among the most targeted, are Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese.
Earlier this year the DRC government, declared that all these armed groups, the murderers, the rapists, were no longer “negative forces.” They were now “patriots” against M23, henceforth to be known as “Wazalendo”, or self defence groups. They of course, have continued to be what they have always been, with the difference that they are now officially armed by the government, and don the same uniform as the national army, itself given to brigandage.
More people, especially Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese are having to flee their homes. Refugee camps in neighbouring countries, including those in Rwanda, are swelled by hundred of thousands more, joining those who have lived there for nearly thirty years now.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for the West to keep turning a blind eye and a deaf to all this, without it being too obvious to the world. For the USA and its Western allies, the answer is to offer a few platitudes of condemnation. But even these mealy mouthed offerings could upset the Congolese, and so, to mollify them, the USA drags Rwanda into what an internal Congolese crisis.
Brigadier-General Nyamvumba, is sacrificed to the policy of appeasing the DRC. It is an audacious absurdity that defies all sense and logic. In an ostentatious show of condemning the crimes in the DRC, the USA sanctions the man who defends his nation against those very crimes. It would be risible, if it were not a show of false equivalence, that threatens to perpetuate the conflict, by shielding the DRC from its responsibilities.
It would not be overstating it to say, that as the USA insists on creating an alternative reality that exacerbates Congolese anti Rwanda fantasies, the actual reality on the ground steadily edges towards a hellish dystopia for many ordinary Congolese, those who are Kinyarwanda speakers, in particular, a generation of whom has grown up in refugee camps. These young people now see M23 as their only hope of ever returning to their homeland, and are flocking to join the rebel group.
All this could end, and quickly. The M23 rebel group has always called for negotiations with the government, to end hostilities. But Tshisekedi has set his face against a negotiated settlement, and is instead calling for all out war againt Rwanda, which he claims is supporting M23. Despite all it must know, the USA encourages him.
The self styled leader of the free world, pushes the Great Lakes region, farther and farther into a conflagration, pouring fuel on the flames, has the world gone mad?