Home Special Reports DRC Crisis Or What We Learn From Western Journalists About West-Africa Relations

DRC Crisis Or What We Learn From Western Journalists About West-Africa Relations

by Vincent Gasana
1:27 pm

A FARDC soldier on guard

It should be generally acknowledged now, that with rare honourable exceptions, Western journalists, as with their commentators, academics, not to say politicians, are incapable of seeing Africa, in any way, other than through a colonial lens. As much as anywhere, the resulting distortion, can be seen in their coverage of Rwanda. They do not report on the country, they give approval ratings, rather as a head master would to a pupil.

There is an embarrassment of riches in articles, or broadcasts, to illustrate how Western journalists, suddenly mutate into headmasters, the moment they turn their eye on Africa, but the latest offering from Bloomberg, is as good an example as any.

Rwanda Meddling Is Deepening Congo’s Deadly Conflict,” intones the headline, authoritatively.

It is in many ways, an excellent headline. It grabs the reader’s attention, and summarises the story about to be told.

But for anyone familiar with the manner in which Western media covers Rwanda, the headline may also reveal too much, too early. It is obvious how the story is going to to be structured, how the facts are going to be bent, in some instances, until they break to fall as fabricated fragments.

The words “Rwanda Meddling…In Congo” especially, are standard, and instructive. They are found in articles, heard in studios, from the mouths of not only journalists, but commentators, academics, politics, and above all, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), especially human rights organisations. It is particularly noteworthy, that the words are so often brought up in relation to Congo.

To meddle, is to interfere in something that is not of one’s concern, or with things that do not belong to one.

While they may not say it openly, but the presumption that Congo belongs to them, seems to have permeated all aspects of Western opinion. Little seems to have changed, since the venal, murderously rapacious Beligian king, Leopold II, gleefully rubbed his bloody hands, at the thought of devouring his “magnificent African cake.”

The inescapable impression is that the mere mention of Rwanda, sends today’s iterations of Leopold, whether in the political corridors of power, media or academia, into a fevered anxiety, that Rwandans may take a bite out of their “magnificent cake.”

This so hypnotises them, that they are entirely blinded to the causes of the tragic crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Yet the notion that Rwanda is the cause of Congo’s ills, would be risibly fatuous, if it did not have such tragic consequences.

Bloomberg seems to have put a great deal of effort into producing its lenthy article. Co-written by two journalists, with supporting information from at least two more, it may have been intended to be a definitive feature on the crisis. What a pity then, that other than quoting those well known fount of probity and objectivity, bought and paid for mercenaries, the article was a recycling of stale claims.

Like all other articles accusing Rwanda of involvement in the Congo crisis, Bloomberg too, was short on evidence for the claims they reprinted.

The article opens with a description of a soldier firing a surface to air missile, reportedly targeting a United Nations (UN) operated drone, observing the missile system. We are told that the soldiers manning the missile system are Rwandan. At least that is “according to Western military analysts, who viewed the drone footage seen by Bloomberg.”

They [the soldiers] are deep in foreign territory where their government loudly proclaims, they’re not active, fighting alongside brutal rebel forces it says it doesn’t support…a rebel militia that UN investigators accuse of war crimes…”

Foreign powers, including the US, the European Union and Congo, as well as the UN, accuse Rwanda of backing M23, a group that says it’s fighting to protect ethnic Congolese Tutsis.”

Accuse” is the important word here. Rwanda has consistently denied that it has anything to do with the Congo crisis. And if the accusations against the country are based on any real evidence, the accusers continue to be shy about presenting it.

The Bloomberg feature does little to change that. What it does do is further demonstrate the desperation of the accusations. Alongside the usual anonymous individuals who we are told, testify to have been trained by Rwandans – trainers who apparently, brazenly not to say carelessly, announce their clandestine adventure, by displaying their national insignia – the article offers what they presumably regard as the unimpeachable opinion of mercenaries, paid by Tshisekedi to fight against M23.

The DRC is awash with mercenaries, attracted to the country by what are rich, easy pickings amidst the murderous chaos. Among them are east Europeans, Russia’s Wagner group, which continues to flourish in Africa, even after the death of its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, last year. Despite its east European origins, the Agemira group, is reportedly run mainly by the French, and includes former members of the French legion, and other former members of the French military. Not to be left out, according to a UN report, the Americans too have arrived, in the form of Blackwater, to join what looks like a free for all, for mercenaries.

It does not seem to have occurred to Bloomberg, that neither mercenaries nor individuals who claim to be defectors from M23, might be reliable sources of information, not least because certainly in the case of mercenaries, they know little of or about the DRC, other than that it is a good opportunity to swell their bank accounts.

As a piece of journalism, the article fails at the first hurdle. It does little more than repeat what in the fullness of time, will likely be acknowledged as the Western powers’ discreditable appeasement of the DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi, for their own material gain, even as he presides over the persecution and genocidal murders of a section of the Congolese population.

Since the 1990s, it has become a standard tactic for Congolese politicians, to deflect attention away from their failures of governance, by blaming Rwanda for the ills that result from that lack of governance.

It is a tactic Felix Tshisekedi, has pushed to breaking point, one that should have and might have been rightly dismissed, were it not that Western powers continue to parrot the accusations, so as not to upset Tshisekedi.

The Congo President continues to hold to ransom respectively, the Americans, the EU Commission as a whole, as well as some European countries individually, by threatening to make their presence in the country untenable, if they so much as breathe the absurdity of holding Rwanda responsible for the tragedy in the DRC.

It is a line the article toes faithfully. The M23 rebel group, is described as the “brutal forces,” it is “a rebel group the UN accues of war crimes…” It has become a rule, for Western journalists, and NGOs, that every time M23 is mentioned, these words must follow. It must be accused of human right abuses, and never must the reason for why the rebel group fights be admitted. Instead, the line, “it says it fights to protect the Tutsi population” is the accepted form.

Ignored is the UN’s own admission that the Congolese armed forces, known by their acronym of FARDC, is more responsible for atrocities against the population than those laid at the door of the M23 rebel group.

And that was before Felix Tshisekedi, declared all the over 200 murderous armed groups, “patriots”, conscripted and armed more thousands as so called “Wazalendo,” to join an army that is little more than a band of brigands, alongside foreign mercenaries, to fight M23. Ignored too are the almost daily genocidal murders of Congolese Tutsi, with some of the victims burned alive and cannibalised. Anyone with a strong enough stomach, can see the perpetrators proudly filming themselves, committing these crimes.

Neither the UN, the EU, the Americans, or even the supposed human rights organisations, seem able to condemn these atrocities. They are instead united in their condemnation of Rwanda, which they do indeed accuse of supporting M23, the article is right on that score at least.

The reality that is always studiously side stepped by Western journalists, politicians, diplomats, academics and commentators, is that for over twenty years now, successive occupants of the presidency in the DRC, have made their own, the genocide ideology against the Tutsi, that led to the murder of the over a million men, women and children, in Rwanda.

At the defeat of the genocidal forces in Rwanda, France, which had been complicit in the Genocide Against Tutsi, with the agreement of the moral vacuum that was Mobutu Sese Seko, escorted their erstwhile clients into what was then Zaire. There they could continued to arm them, in the forlorn hope they would invade Rwanda, and once again have a Rwanda that was little more than an appendage of France.

In Zaire, now DRC, the Rwandan mass murderers formed various organisations, with the so called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), as their armed wing.

Successive iterations of Mobutu, including now Tshisekedi, have injected the FDLR and their genocidal ideology, into Congo’s blood stream. The result has been the kind of attacks against Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese, reminiscent of what was perpetratred in Rwanda Genocide Against Tutsi. No wonder, the same people are responsible for the crimes in the DRC.

This is what led what is now known as the M23 rebel group, to take up arms, a fact that the West bends over backwards to avoid acknowledging, again, reminiscent of their refusal at the time, to recognise the Genocide Against Tutsi in Rwanda, in spite of their awareness of its preparation, and of course, its execution.

The performative, theatrical damning of the M23 rebel group, is part of the attempt to deflect from the reason for their struggle and the justice of their cause.

No evidence is ever presented for the supposed offences of which M23 is accused. Such evidence that has been presented, as in the so called Kishishe massacre, was fabricated, with the connivance of MONUSCO, the UN stabilisation in the DRC. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence now, that the population is safest in the areas the group controls, with the return of normal life of which the people had been denied.

The article mentions in passing, that “among the groups that operate in eastern Congo Hutu militias that perpetrated the 1994 Rwanda Genocide…before fleeing across the border and birthing the armed group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). That group is now allied is now allied with Congo’s army, known as FARDC, against M23.”

There then, before them, is the cause of the conflict about which they were reporting, but in a lengthy  feature, they managed to give it a couple of lines. Without the FDLR, there is no M23, with negotiation between M23 and the Congolese state, there is also no conflict between M23 and the government. These are salient facts that Western politicians, diplomats and commentators avoid, and which any journalistic endeavour worth the description surely ought to pick up. They are after all, the facts of the matter at hand.

Istead, true to colonial or neo-colonial design, the article frets about how M23 now controls territory, that is “choking off supplies from some of the world’s riches deposits of tin re and coltan, minerals used in semiconductors and mobile phones…”

The journalists could have noted that the conflict would end in a few days, literally, if Tshisekedi sat down to the negotiations with M23 that the group has always offered, even now, from a clear position of strength. But in claiming that there is no FDLR, that it is a spent force, and that there is no M23, whom he calls Rwandan and “terrorists,” Tshisekedi has painted himself into a corner from which he cannot escape, without acknowledging the absurdity of his position.

Rather than explore that, Bloomberg tickles Tshisekedi’s belly, by wagging a finger at Rwanda, which has the temerity not to bend to the West’s will in these matters.

As often in these articles, there really is no Rwanda, just a Kagame, who is depicted as ever troublesome. In spite of the incessant reference to Democracy, for the West, there really are no countries, just an individual leader, detached from his nation and his people, and is either good, like Tshisekedi, if he is answerable to the West, or a problem like Kagame, who seems to imagine that his nation, his people, actually matter.

Bloomberg wheels out a number of Western experts, to explain the DRC. It is interesting that in an extensive piece Africans feature only as victims, or perpetrators, without a one, to give an overview of his or her region or country.

Rwanda has troops in the DRC, we are told, “according to three Western officials in the region…”

The M23 at present is more powerful than it has eveer been, so Rwanda is clearly flexing its muschles…” said Richard Moncrieff, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, “neither Rwanda nor the Congolese government, which employs foreign mercenaries and backs both militias and armed vigilante groups that are accused of committing atrocities, show any signs of backing down” continues the expert. How many times must it be shouted out? It is not a conflict between Rwanda and Congo. It never was.

We’ve probably never really been as close to the potential for real war between rwanda and the DRC as we are now” chimes in another expert, Stephanie Wolters, and analyst from the South African Institute of International Affairs.” Perhaps, but why? Might it be because the DRC has shelled Rwandan territory on several occasions, and flown fighter jets over its airspace? Might it be that without Rwanda’s forbearance, there would indeed have been a war?

The conflict is the prime example of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s increasing defiance of Western countries that have poured billions of dollars in aid into Rwanda…” Bloomberg infoms us.

The first words are deemed so important, they are printed in capital letters. So, we should pay close attention to them.

It may of course, be argued that given the part played by some Western nations in all but ending Rwanda as a nation, they ought to pay a price for its reconstruction, and Rwanda could do with the billions the article claims, but which are banked in their imaginings more than they are in Rwandan bank accounts. But let us put that aside, and ask about “Kagame’s increasing defiance of the West…”

It is the school report from our headmasters. Kagame is showing increasing defiance. To what? Whose instructions is he failing to follow, what line is he failing to toe? And is his role to lead a nation or serve instructions about that nation, from beyond the seas?

That this can be said so blithely, by any journalist, and it is apparently accepted as making perfect sense, a description of the norm, has a significance that should not be missed by anyone, with a passing interest in relations between the West and Africa.

Kagame has made a calculation that he is too useful and too popular with international allies – particularly Western, but not only Western – for them to seriously punish or isolate him over what he’s doing in Congo” concluded our expert from the International Crisis Group.

Note that Kagame’s sole raison d’etre, is to be useful to the West or be “punished.” His “defiance” it would seem, might be entailed in his conviction that he occupies his position not to be “useful” to the West, but to serve his nation, his people.

The Bloomberg article tells us nothing of any value or importance, to help us understand the Congo crisis. What it does show us however, are the thought processes of the Western view of their relations with Africa.

And it shows that if the Congo crisis is to be resolved, there is no absolutely no point, in looking to the so called international community, which is little more than the word of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, one of the most important of whom, almost certainly gave the blessing to a mercenary group, to entrench itself in the DRC. It is inconceivable that Blackwater or indeed any of these mercenary groups, would be in the DRC, without their respective governments looking favourably on the adventure.

We know that the DRC can expect nothing from Tshisekedi, indeed his people can expect him to pour them out of frying pan into a raging fire, grab all he can and walk away, unconcerned. We know also the DRC cannot rely on the international community, which is more concerned with appeasing Tshisekedi.

The question then remains, will the African Union (AU), and the regional groups, surprise us by doing what they have always failed to do, take their destiny in their own hands, and insist the West follow their lead?

Related Posts