by Shifa MWESIGYE, 08/09/2013
Photo: M23 rebel fighters. File photo.
Image by: JAMES AKENA / REUTERS
The rebel M23 group have agreed to resume talks with Kinshasa in Munyonyo, in three days, time, after a respite in fighting in eastern DR Congo.
Regional leaders, meeting in Munyonyo, Kampala, last week, had given the rebels a 14-day ultimatum to conclude the talks. The rebels, who had protested the resumption of fighting back home, are now understood to have indicated a willingness to talk, according news agency reports at the weekend.
M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa was reportedly angry that the UN and Kinshasa ignored the talks and resumed the fighting, attacking his bases. The latest ultimatum followed an extra-ordinary meeting of the chiefs of defence forces and Foreign Affairs at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, last week. The meeting also had representatives of the M23 and DR Congo.
After the meeting, President Museveni, who heads the regional peace effort, said:
“Dialogue between the two parties if carried forward, we can get M23 to come out peacefully so that UN forces deal with the other criminal forces that have been in Congo for years.”
The meeting resolved that as the dialogue resumes, the forces ensure maximum restraint on the ground to allow for talks to conclude. They also want M23 to end all military activities and stop war and threats to overthrow the Kinshasa government.
The delegates pledged to continue exerting pressure on the M23 and all other negative forces in eastern DRC to ensure that the war stops. They also requested the UN to find a definitive solution to the former M23 combatants interned in eastern Rwanda since March 2013.
U.S., UN Urge Congolese, Rwandan Restraint
Sudan News Agency (Khartoum), 08/09/13
Kigali — United States special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa, former senator Russ Feingold, and United Nations counterpart Mary Robinson are in Rwanda on the last leg of a four-day trip to promote peace in the region.
Sounding upbeat about peace prospects and warning all sides against further military action, their joint visit came as Great Lakes regional leaders agreed this week that peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government and M23 rebels should resume in Kampala within days.…read more
Congo-Kinshasa: Congo to Return to Negotiations With Rebels
The New Vision 08/09/13
Kinshasa — Democratic Republic of Congo said it would return to negotiations with eastern rebels next week after regional leaders set a two-week deadline for peace talks to end an 18-month-old rebellion.
A summit of five African presidents from the Great Lakes region called on Thursday for Congo to restart the stalled talks with the M23 insurgents within three days, after military successes left the government in a stronger position.…read more
VOICE OF AMERICA (Washington, DC)
by Nick LONG, 23. August 2013
Photo: UN NEWS SERVICE
Goma — The United Nations Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new-style U.N. peacekeeping force with a uniquely robust mandate, has finally started fighting, the DRC government said Friday.
The force of more than 3,000 troops, mainly from Tanzania and South Africa, has been in eastern Congo for nearly three months and on Thursday opened fire on the M23 rebels.
This was the moment many people in eastern Congo had been waiting for …read more
UN NEWS SERVICE
24, August 2013
Warring Parties in Eastern DR Congo Must Protect Civilians, UN Agencies Urge
United Nations humanitarian agencies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) strongly condemned the attacks that killed and wounded a number of civilians today as fighting flared between Government and rebel forces near the eastern city of Goma, and urged the parties to “take all precautions” to avoid such acts, and to allow access to relief workers.
“I condemn all attacks causing deaths and injuries among the civilian population, and remind all parties to the conflict that the indiscriminate or deliberate attack against civilians is a war crime”, said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in DRC, Moustapha Soumare.…read more
GUARDIAN GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT NETWORK (London)
Photo: Arne Hodalic/UNHCR
by Mary ROBINSON 12. August 2013
Women have suffered most as a result of conflict in DRC and the Great Lakes region – their voices must be heard
Not a week goes by without reports of fresh fighting in the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Violence and destruction have ravaged the Great Lakes region of Africa for two decades, claiming more than 5 million lives. Yet the situation rarely makes the headlines.
What strikes me is the lack of outrage and horror, particularly given the disproportionate impact the conflict is having on women and children. As I asked the UN security council last month, how can we accept a situation where rape and sexual violence – which, let us be clear, are war crimes – have become the norm?
When Ban Ki-moon asked me to become his special envoy for the Great Lakes in March, I felt a particular responsibility to the mothers, daughters and grandmothers who – since my first visit to the region, as president of Ireland in 1994 – have shared with me what they have suffered in Bujumbura, Bukavu, Goma, Kigali or Kinshasa.
In 20 years of killings, rape, destruction and displacement, these women have suffered most. Yet I believe they are the region’s best hope for building lasting peace. My job now, and the job of the international community, is to support them in every way we can.
Women’s voices should not only be heard because they are the victims of the war. Their active participation in peace efforts is essential, because they are the most effective peace builders. As men take up arms, women hold communities together in times of war. This makes them stronger and better equipped to play a key role in securing real peace, as we have seen in Northern Ireland, Liberia and elsewhere.
My approach to peace-building involves not just political leaders, but all of civil society, including women. Without their full support and participation, no peace agreement can succeed. How many secret deals have been negotiated in the Great Lakes region, only to be ignored or forgotten by the signatories for lack of transparency and accountability?
I believe the peace, security and co-operation framework for the DRC and the region, signed in Addis Ababa in February 2013 by 11 African countries, provides an opportunity to do things differently. That is why I have called it a framework of hope. I have started to work on its implementation top-down, with the 11 heads of state who signed the agreement, and bottom-up, with the people of the region who will be its real beneficiaries.
As the first woman to be appointed UN special envoy, I have promised to ensure that women’s voices are heard at the negotiating table. Last month, with Femmes Africa Solidarité and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, we brought together more than 100 women from across the region – including the gender ministers of the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi – in Bujumbura. One upshot of the meeting has been to ensure the consequences of sexual violence are included in the benchmarks we are developing to measure progress in the implementation of the peace agreement.
I feel energised by the leadership shown by the women I met in Bujumbura.
They are taking full responsibility for peace, security and development in the region. Reaching across national borders, they are innovative, collegial and practical. I rely on them to hold their leaders to account for the full implementation of the framework of hope.
As special envoy, I will continue to support female-led initiatives. I am pleased the World Bank has allocated $150m (£98m) to finance gender-based projects, in addition to the $1bn already pledged for the region. I encourage the donor community to be even more strategic in its support of the framework of hope. It is crucial to demonstrate the economic benefits of a lasting peace based on development – what I call the peace dividend.
Almost six months after the signing of the peace agreement, armed groups are still roaming in eastern Congo, sowing terror and destruction. This is not acceptable. I have heard the region’s people voice their frustration and anger at the slow pace of change. However, I am confident that, with the support of civil society – including women – we can succeed in bringing peace to the region.
I have often heard my friend Desmond Tutu, a fellow member of the Elders, say: “I am not an optimist, I am a prisoner of hope.” The women of the Great Lakes are keeping my hope alive.
THE NEW TIMES
06. August 2013
by Ivan R. MUGISHA
Tanzanite miner at the Mererani mine in northern Tanzania. The mineral audit agency said between 60 and 75 per cent of all tanzanite production is undocumented. Photo/FILE AFP
The government of Rwanda has contacted their counterparts in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the tonnes of smuggled minerals from the neighbouring country.
The minerals which, according to the State Minister in charge of Mining, Evode Imena, constituted 8.4 metric tonnes of wolfram, tin and coltan, were seized in June as they were being smuggled into the country from DRC.
“We have communicated to the government of DRC. Rwanda Revenue Authority delivered a letter to the customs of DRC and we are waiting for their response,” Imena, said in an interview last week, adding that the response will determine when the minerals will be handed back.
The interception of the minerals was first announced last month by Louise Mushikiwabo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, during her address to the UN Security Council in a debate on the security situation in the Great Lakes Region. (Read article)
The value of the minerals is not known. “Once they (Congolese) are ready, we shall inform you of when we shall hand over the minerals,” Imena added. According to the state minister, the minerals constitute the three so-called “conflict minerals” of tin, wolfram and coltan and are currently stored at the Revenue Protection Department in Rusizi District.
The Deputy Commissioner General of RRA, Richard Tusabe, said that the smuggled minerals were seized by a Rwandan surveillance team along the DRC border, although the smugglers were not captured. “They abandoned the minerals and ran away. We do not have any details on who they are,” Tusabe said, adding that: “We will sustain surveillance to stop smugglers.”
In November 2011, Rwanda handed 82 tonnes of smuggled tin, coltan and wolfram back to DRC .
all this sounds so familiar…
Rwanda gives DRC back tonnes of smuggled minerals (Africa Review Nov. 2011)
About 82 tonnes of smuggled minerals seized by Rwandan police has been handed back to the Democratic Republic of Congo in a sign of improved relations between the two neighbours.
The minerals include cassiterite, or tin ore, as well as coltan, used in devices such as mobile phones.
DR Congo’s mineral wealth has been a major factor in years of conflict... .read more
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Washington, DC)
22. July 2013
A Congolese M23 rebels sleeps in the back of a truck as the rebels withdraw from Goma.Photograph: Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images
Goma — M23 rebels have summarily executed at least 44 people and raped at least 61 women and girls since March 2013 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Local residents and rebel deserters reported recent forced recruitment of men and boys by the M23 in both Rwanda and Congo.
After a nearly two-month-long ceasefire, fighting resumed on July 14 between the Congolese armed forces and M23 rebels near the eastern city of Goma.
Residents and rebel deserters described recent support from within Rwanda to the abusive M23 forces. This includes regular movements from Rwanda into Congo of men in Rwandan army uniforms, and the provision of ammunition, food, and other supplies from Rwanda to the M23. The M23 has been recruiting inside Rwanda. Rwandan military officers have trained new M23 recruits, and have communicated and met with M23 leaders on several occasions.
“Not only is Rwanda allowing its territory to be used by the abusive M23 to get recruits and equipment, but the Rwandan military is still directly supporting the M23,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This support is sustaining an armed group responsible for numerous killings, rapes and other serious abuses.”
The latest Human Rights Watch findings are based on more than 100 interviews since March, including with former M23 fighters who left the movement between late March and July and civilians living near the Congo-Rwanda border, some of whom were victims of abuses.
In addition to M23 abuses, Human Rights Watch documented several cases of killings and rapes by Congolese Hutu militia groups operating in and around M23-controlled territory. Some Congolese army officers have allegedly supported factions of these groups, as well as factions of the allied Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – a largely Rwandan Hutu armed group, some of whose members participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Since its inception in April 2012, the M23 has committed widespread violations of the laws of war. Despite numerous war crimes by M23 fighters, the armed group has received significant support from Rwandan military officials. After briefly occupying Goma in November, then withdrawing on December 1, the M23 controls much of Congo’s Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories, bordering Rwanda.
On April 25 and 26, M23 fighters killed 15 ethnic Hutu civilians in several villages in Busanza groupement in Rutshuru territory, and at least another 6 in mid-June, in an apparent attempt to “punish” villagers for alleged collaboration with Congolese Hutu militias.
Other civilians killed by M23 fighters since March include a 62-year-old man who was shot dead because he refused to hand his sons over to the M23, a motorcycle driver who refused to give money to the M23, M23 recruits who were caught after trying to escape, and others accused of collaborating with Hutu militia.
On July 5, four M23 fighters gang-raped a 12-year-old girl as she went to fetch water in her village in Rutshuru. An M23 fighter who accosted an 18-year-old woman near Bunagana shot her in the leg on April 15 when she refused to have sex with him.
Since June, M23 leaders have forced local chiefs in areas under their control to undergo military and ideological training and obtain recruits for the M23. The M23 considers these chiefs to be part of their “reserve force” that can be called upon to provide support during military operations.
M23 fighters have arrested or abducted dozens of civilians in recent weeks in Rutshuru, most of them Hutu. The M23 accused many of them of collaborating with the FDLR or allied Congolese Hutu militias. M23 fighters beat them severely, tied them up, and detained them. The M23 then forced many of them to undergo military training and become M23 fighters.
A former M23 police officer, who deserted in April, told Human Rights Watch that he participated in investigations of killings of civilians. He said that before each investigation, a high-ranking M23 commander, Innocent Kayna, told him: “You will do the investigation. You will say it’s bandits in the neighborhood who killed, not M23.”
Human Rights Watch contacted the M23’s military leader, Sultani Makenga, but he was unavailable to speak about the recent alleged abuses.
Those recruited in Rwanda into the M23 include demobilized Rwandan army soldiers and former FDLR fighters, most of whom had become part of the Rwandan army’s Reserve Force, as well as Rwandan civilians. A 15-year-old Rwandan boy told Human Rights Watch that he and three other young men and boys were promised jobs as cow herders in Congo, but when they got to Congo were forced to join the M23. They were given military training by Rwandan officers in Congo and told they would be killed if they tried to escape. Other M23 deserters also said Rwandan officers were training new M23 recruits.
Former M23 officers who had been part of previous Rwanda-backed rebellions said they recognized officers serving with the M23 who they knew were members of the Rwandan army. Congolese deserters told Human Rights Watch that a number of M23 fighters admitted freely that they were Rwandan. Some said they had served in the Rwandan army’s peacekeeping contingent in Somalia or Darfur.
Recent M23 deserters interviewed by Human Rights Watch described frequent – in some cases weekly – arrivals of soldiers and recruits from Rwanda. Sometimes these were rotations, with new soldiers replacing others who had returned to Rwanda. Weapons, ammunition, large containers of milk, truckloads of rice, and other supplies were brought to the M23 from Rwanda. M23 deserters also described phone conversations and meetings in both Rwanda and Congo between senior M23 leaders and people the deserters were told or knew to be Rwandan officials.
All of the recent M23 deserters interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that Rwandan soldiers, officers, and trainers were present throughout their time with the M23, and that there had been new arrivals from Rwanda in recent months.
“For the past 17 years, the Rwandan army has repeatedly deployed troops to eastern Congo and backed abusive proxy forces responsible for war crimes,” Bekele said. “As in the past, Rwanda denies it’s supporting the M23, but the facts on the ground speak for themselves.”
Rwandan government and military officials did not respond to Human Rights Watch’s requests for a meeting. Rwandan officials in the past have repeatedly denied allegations that the government is providing support to the M23.
The Rwandan government should immediately halt all support to the M23 because of its broadly abusive behavior, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations and United States special envoys for the Great Lakes region and donor governments should publicly denounce continuing Rwandan support to the M23 and call for sanctions against senior Rwandan officials responsible for backing the armed group.
The Congolese government should immediately suspend, investigate, and prosecute as appropriate Congolese military officers and government officials who have provided support to the FDLR or allied groups. The government should make clear that abusive militia commanders will not be integrated into Congo’s army as part of any political settlement.
According to international journalists present near the front line and photographs seen by Human Rights Watch, Congolese army soldiers treated the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons. International law prohibits “committing outrages upon personal dignity,” including against the dead. Human Rights Watch also documented cases in which the Congolese army detained former M23 fighters and alleged collaborators for several weeks without bringing them before a court, and often incommunicado and in harsh conditions.
Congolese military officials should appropriately discipline officers and soldiers responsible for mistreating corpses, and ensure that such acts cease immediately. Military and judicial officials should ensure that captured combatants and civilians are treated in accordance with due process standards, including being promptly brought before a judge and charged, or released. Detainees should not be mistreated or held in inhumane conditions.
Summary Executions and Other Attacks by the M23
Human Rights Watch has documented 44 summary executions committed by the M23 since March. M23 fighters have also killed and wounded an unknown number of civilians, including some caught in the crossfire during fighting.
M23 fighters killed 15 Hutu civilians in several villages in Busanza groupement in Rutshuru territory on April 25 and 26, and at least another 6 in mid-June, in an apparent attempt to “punish” villagers for alleged collaboration with Congolese Hutu militias.During the attack on the night of April 25, a group of M23 fighters moved through the villages of Ruvumbura, Kirambo, Nyamagana, and Shinda, killing and looting as they went. A 43-year-old mother of three told Human Rights Watch: “When they started killing people, we scattered into the bush. My husband went back to try to get our belongings, and they killed him. They shot him in the head.”
In late May, M23 fighters shot dead a 62-year-old man in Ntamugenga because he refused to hand his sons over to the M23. On May 15, M23 fighters stopped a motorcycle driver outside Kiwanja and killed him because he did not give them money. In mid-June, M23 fighters shot a moneychanger several times in the chest, killing him. They then told his wife, “Give us money or we’ll do to you what we did to your husband.” She handed over their money, and the fighters left.
In Kibumba in mid-May, an M23 officer, Col. Yusuf Mboneza, ordered the execution of a 24-year-old man whom he accused of being a thief. After the execution, Mboneza called the villagers to a meeting and displayed the young man’s corpse, saying it should serve as a warning to anyone else who might steal.
Others summarily executed by the M23 since March were new recruits and prisoners who unsuccessfully tried to escape.
On June 21, the M23 caught a Congolese M23 fighter known as “Tupac” as he tried to flee near Kabuhanga. They took him back to the military camp at Kamahoro, where the commander ordered the troops into formation and told soldiers to shoot him to discourage other deserters. They shot Tupac twice in the chest at close range. An M23 deserter told Human Rights Watch that he and other recruits were forced to bury Tupac.
After a clash between the M23 and a Congolese Hutu militia group on June 18, M23 fighters looted several villages in Busanza. The fighters demanded money from a 33-year-old woman. When she said she had no money, the fighters cut her on the shoulder with a machete and struck her 11-year-old son on the head. On April 15, an 18-year-old woman was shot in the leg when she refused to have sex with an M23 fighter who approached her at her farm near Bunagana. The victims of these attacks survived with serious injuries.
Rape by the M23
Human Rights Watch has documented 61 cases of rape of women and girls by M23 fighters between March and early July. Because of the stigma surrounding rape and fear of reprisals, the actual number of victims may be much higher. Many of those raped were in their fields or collecting firewood. M23 fighters accused some of them of being the “wives” of FDLR fighters. Most of the rapes occurred close to M23 positions, and some victims recognized the attackers as M23 fighters they had seen before. The rapists frequently told their victims that they would be killed if they spoke about the rape or sought medical treatment.
A 12-year-old girl told Human Rights Watch that an M23 fighter caught and raped her in June as she and her friends were buying sugar cane in a field near an M23 position in Rutshuru:
I saw a [M23] soldier. I started running, but I tripped on a piece of sugar cane and fell. The soldier caught up with me and said he would kill me because I tried to flee. I stopped then because I was very scared. Then he raped me. I cried out, but he closed my mouth.
A 17-year-old girl said M23 fighters had raped her twice. The second time, in June, occurred when she was alone in her house after M23 police abducted her husband and forced him to join a night patrol:
The M23 fighter came into my house and asked me where my husband was. He then put a knife to my chest and said he was going to kill me, and that I should give him money. I told him I didn’t have any money, that my husband took it with him on patrol. I was sitting on the bed with my child. The soldier fought with me on the bed. He was stronger than me and he had a gun. Then he raped me.
A 35-year-old Hutu woman who was raped by an M23 fighter near Bunagana in June told Human Rights Watch:
When he finished, he left me in the forest. I was shaking and turned toward the ground, crying…. The one who raped me was an M23 fighter whom I know. I recognized him, but what can I do to him?
Forced Recruitment, Including of Children, and Abductions by the M23
Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of cases of forced recruitment by M23 forces since March, including of children. Recruitment appears to have increased in recent months as the M23 has struggled to keep its forces’ numbers up. Over 700 M23 fighters and political cadres fled to Rwanda when Bosco Ntaganda’s faction of the M23 was defeated by an M23 faction led by Makenga in March, an estimated 200 M23 fighters were killed during the infighting, and scores of fighters have deserted.
Since June, the M23 leadership has held several meetings with local chiefs and other community leaders and demanded their help in recruiting new fighters. In early June, the M23 forced local leaders and chiefs to attend a week-long military training conducted by Rwandan officers. They also received “ideological training,” which included the M23’s vision for taking over Congo.
The chiefs were released but are supposed to form part of a “reserve force” that can be called upon when necessary. The M23 ordered them to find recruits in their villages and send them to the M23. One local leader who participated in the training told Human Rights Watch that they had been told to give M23 officials the names of demobilized youth in their villages, so that the M23 “could then go themselves, find the demobilized youth, and make sure they joined up.”
The M23 have arrested Hutu civilians whom they accused of collaborating with or supporting the FDLR or Congolese Hutu militia groups. The fighters detained, beat and whipped these civilians, and took many of them to an M23 military camp, where they were trained and forced to become M23 fighters.
A 19-year-old secondary school student told Human Rights Watch that he was recruited by the M23 in March while he was farming near Kalengera, in Rutshuru:
I saw the M23 come and surround me. They asked me if I was an FDLR, and I said no. After that, they started whipping and beating me. They tied me up and took me to Rumangabo, where they locked me in a cell. After two days, they untied me, but left me in the cell for a week. After, they told me I would become a soldier. They then started the military training. There were 80 of us being trained. There were 10 officers from Rwanda who led the training. They told us we had to become soldiers so we could fight to liberate Goma and then continue on to South Kivu.
On June 3, the M23 went from house to house in Kiwanja’s Kachemu neighborhood, apprehending about 40 young men and boys whom they accused of collaborating with a local militia group. The fighters beat the civilians and detained them in a cell at the M23’s base in Nyongera. Many had difficulty walking the next day as a result of the ill-treatment. About half of the youth were released after their families paid the M23 guards; 20 were taken to Rumangabo to be trained as fighters.
In other cases, families do not know what happened to abducted relatives. In March and April, for example, M23 fighters in Busanza abducted four young men whom they accused of collaborating with a Congolese Hutu militia. Their families have not heard from them since.
Congolese army soldiers captured by M23 fighters described torture and other ill-treatment in detention. One soldier, who was taken by the M23 in December and escaped in early July, said that two other soldiers held prisoner with him were beaten to death. For three days, the rebels hit the prisoners with sticks and stomped on their chests, while their legs and arms were tied together. While beating them, the M23 demanded information about where the Congolese army was hiding its weapons. The two men were not given medical treatment and died in detention.
M23 Recruitment in Rwanda and Other Rwandan Support
Based on interviews with 31 former M23 fighters who deserted since late March and numerous civilians living on both sides of the border, Human Rights Watch has documented military support from Rwanda to the M23. The support includes the provision of weapons and ammunition. Armed men in military uniform have moved regularly from Rwanda into Congo to support the M23; these could be new recruits and demobilized soldiers who were given uniforms before crossing into Congo, or serving Rwandan soldiers.Rwandan army officers have been seen at M23 bases, leading training for new recruits, and recruiting for the M23 in Rwanda.
Those recruited in Rwanda and taken across the border to fight with the M23 include demobilized Rwandan soldiers and former FDLR fighters who are part of the Rwandan army’s Reserve Force, as well as civilians, including boys. Between January and June, UN peacekeepers demobilized and repatriated 56 former M23 fighters who said they were Rwandan nationals. But M23 deserters interviewed by Human Rights Watch, as well as the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, said that Rwandan army officers forcibly brought back Rwandan nationals who escaped the M23 and tried to return to Rwanda.
Human Rights Watch has documented the cases of seven Rwandan children, ages 15, 16, and 17, who were forcibly recruited in Rwanda in March and April, forced to fight with the M23, and were later able to escape. Human Rights Watch has received reports of other children recruited in Rwanda in recent months who have not been able to escape.
A 15-year-old Rwandan boy told Human Rights Watch that he was forcibly recruited from his village in Nyabihu district in Rwanda with two other boys and a young man in late April. The four of them were making bricks when two men in civilian clothes offered them jobs as cow herders in Congo. The two men then took them by motorcycle to the Congolese border, and on to an M23 military camp. They were forced to become M23 fighters and were warned that they would be killed if they refused or tried to escape.
The 15-year-old said that Rwandan army officers gave them military training for 10 days and that many other Rwandans were in his group of 58 new recruits. He said some of the Rwandan recruits tried to escape, but they were caught and brought back to the camp.
A Congolese M23 officer who deserted in late May told Human Rights Watch that Rwandan recruits and soldiers arrived regularly throughout his time with the M23, from November through May. He said the soldiers would come and go, as they rotated in and out. The recruits were given military training and forced to stay in Congo. Many tried to flee back to Rwanda, he said, but some were caught once they crossed into Rwanda and were taken back to the M23.
One deserter told Human Rights Watch that a Rwandan soldier in his unit had told him in April that he was a demobilized soldier and had come to fight in Congo so he could have a higher rank in the Rwandan army when he went back. He said that two other Rwandans in his unit had escaped to Rwanda in March, but had been re-recruited and brought back to the M23. A former M23 officer said that two Rwandans in his unit escaped in mid-April. Soon after they arrived in Rwanda, the former officer said, neighborhood authorities informed military intelligence officials, who brought the young men back to the M23. They were detained by the M23 for a week, then redeployed.
M23 deserters and Rwandan villagers said that Rwandan soldiers and new recruits often crossed the border on foot at night, using remote trails through Virunga National Park.
Two former M23 officers told Human Rights Watch that some of the Rwandan fighters in their units told them they had served in Somalia or Darfur as part of the Rwandan army’s peacekeeping contingent. Several M23 deserters interviewed by Human Rights Watch, who had served in previous Rwanda-backed rebellions, said they recognized Rwandan army officers from their past experiences with the Rwandan military.
A Congolese man from Ntamugenga was forcibly recruited in May and forced to start military training. “In our group, there were 107 in the training,” he said. “Most of the others were Rwandans. They told me they had been tricked and were promised money if they came to Congo. Many of them were children. The army officers from Rwanda gave us the training, and they told us themselves that they lived in Rwanda. [After the training], there were demobilized soldiers from Rwanda and some ex-FDLR in my group.”
Several M23 deserters who escaped since late May described to Human Rights Watch the difference in the way the M23 treated Rwandans and Congolese within the rebel movement. One said:
Rwandans are favored. They’re given uniforms immediately, they’re given blankets, and they get boots. They’re spoiled. When they talk, they talk like they are the owners of the movement. I felt this threat. [They] called me a loser. They said, “You are worth nothing in your country.” They insulted me with things that you can’t say out loud. They said, “You Congolese, you may have studied a lot, but you’ve never been to the front.”
M23 deserters described deliveries of weapons, ammunition, food, phone credit, and other supplies from Rwanda. One former officer said that the wives of Rwandan officers often came to the M23’s positions in Congo to visit their husbands, bringing with them letters from family members in Rwanda.
All of the M23 deserters Human Rights Watch interviewed said the presence of Rwandan soldiers, officers, and trainers continued throughout their time with the M23, and that new arrivals – often bringing with them military and other supplies – continued coming from Rwanda in recent months.
Three former M23 officers close to the movement’s leadership told Human Rights Watch that the M23’s senior commanders spoke on the phone and met regularly with senior Rwandan army officers until at least late May or June, when the three deserted. Sometimes Rwandan officers came to Tshanzu or Rumangabo to meet with the M23 leaders, and sometimes the M23 leaders went to Rwanda for meetings.
Rwandan Support for M23 Military Operations
M23 deserters and civilians from near the Congo-Rwanda border reported an increase in support from Rwanda to the M23 at the time of three recent periods of heavy fighting – during infighting between two M23 factions in March; during fighting between the M23 and the Congolese army around Mutaho in late May; and before the fighting north of Goma in mid-July.
After the M23 split into two factions, Rwandan officials backed the faction led by Sultani Makenga against Bosco Ntaganda. A former M23 officer in Makenga’s faction told Human Rights Watch: “We were saved by Rwanda, and it’s thanks to their support that we were able to defeat Ntaganda’s group. They sent us ammunition and well-armed troops.”
Days before the fighting in Mutaho in late May, a young Congolese man told Human Rights Watch that M23 fighters abducted him in Kibumba groupement in mid-May. The fighters took him across the border into Rwanda, where they met a group of Rwandan soldiers. He and others with him were forced to carry containers of milk and boxes of ammunition and walk with the soldiers and rebel fighters back into Congo.
A 19-year-old Congolese student who was forcibly recruited by the M23 in March told Human Rights Watch that he and other M23 fighters were taken across the border into Rwanda in mid-May to pick up a delivery of weapons and ammunition and bring them back to the M23. They crossed into Rwanda at Gasizi and the following morning carried the weapons and ammunition to Kibumba in Congo. “The weapons were in two trucks,” he said. “We unloaded small bombs, machine guns, cartridges, and rocket launchers. Other Rwandans met us [in Gasizi] to help us carry the weapons back to Kibumba.”
Numerous local residents who were at or near the border between May 19 and 23 told Human Rights Watch that they saw groups of armed men in uniform crossing the border from Rwanda into Congo, including at Kasizi, Kabuhanga, and Hehu hill.
On May 20, for example, a teacher in Kasizi, who lives next to the border, saw three trucks arrive at the border at about 5 p.m. A large number of armed men in Rwandan military uniforms with Rwandan flags on their uniforms got out of the trucks and crossed the border into Congo on foot, through the forest, just to the side of the official border crossing.
On May 21, a local resident told Human Rights Watch, he saw at least several dozen soldiers with Rwandan flags on the shoulders of their uniforms by the Ruhunda market in Kibumba at about 11 a.m., walking in single file. They had weapons and some were carrying boxes. Some who appeared to be of a higher rank carried walkie-talkies.
Human Rights Watch also received reports of increased movements of armed men from Rwanda into Congo in the days leading up to the fighting that broke out on July 14.
A farmer told Human Rights Watch that on the evening of July 10 he was visiting a relative who lives next to the Rwanda border in Kibumba groupement when he heard the sound of vehicles, looked out the window, and saw armed men in uniform going from the border toward Kibumba. Some were on foot and others in vehicles.
A farmer who lives on the Rwandan side of the border said he saw similar movements of trucks between July 7 and 11, in the evenings, bringing soldiers to the Rwandan army military position at Njerima. The men got out of the trucks at the border and crossed into Congo on foot.
Another Rwandan civilian who lives near the border, in Rubavu sector, told Human Rights Watch that Rwandan army officers called him and other local residents to a meeting in early July. A Rwandan army captain leading the meeting told those present that the FDLR was close to the border. “Instead of letting the war come to Rwanda,” he said. “We will go to the other side.”
Four days later, the same Rwandan civilian saw hundreds of Rwandan soldiers cross the border into Congo, carrying heavy weaponry. “Some had heavy guns, the kind that break down and three men each take one section,” he said. “Others were carrying mortars. Most of the men were on foot, but they also used two trucks covered with sheeting.”
This man said he saw another large movement of Rwandan soldiers cross into Congo on July 8, a week before fighting broke out between the M23 and the Congolese army. During the following week, he saw smaller groups of soldiers cross into Congo.
A Rwandan farmer who lives near Kabuhanga village said he saw groups of several dozen Rwandan army soldiers cross into Congo between June 20 and June 30. He also saw a larger group cross on July 12, two days before fighting broke out.
Abuses by Hutu Militia with Support from Congolese Military Personnel
The M23’s control of territory weakened following the infighting between two M23 factions in March. Since then, Congolese Hutu armed groups, including the Popular Movement for Self-Defense (Mouvement populaire d’autodéfense or MPA), have carried out attacks in and around M23-controlled territory, and killed and raped several civilians. UN officials and former Hutu militia fighters told Human Rights Watch that some factions of these groups have received support from Congolese military personnel.
A 16-year-old girl told Human Rights Watch that on June 17, she, two other girls and an older woman who were coming home from their farm in Rutshuru were gang-raped by several Hutu militia fighters. In June, MPA fighters killed the local chief in Buchuzi, in Busanza groupement, as well as two M23 policemen. The fighters accused the chief of recruiting members for the M23. The attack followed a clash on June 6, when M23 fighters attacked the MPA and looted 12 houses and took dozens of goats.
Some of these Congolese Hutu groups are allied with the FDLR, which has long carried out horrific abuses against civilians in eastern Congo, including killings and rapes. Sources interviewed by the UN Group of Experts, cited in the group’s leaked interim report in June, said that Congolese army soldiers have supplied ammunition to the FDLR and that local Congolese army officers operating near M23-controlled territory and FDLR commanders “regularly meet and exchange operational information.”
Background on the M23 and Recent Fighting
The M23 was formed in April 2012 after a mutiny by former members of a previous Rwanda-backed rebellion, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), whose members had integrated into the Congolese armed forces in 2009. With significant support from the Rwandan military, the M23 gained control of much of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories in Congo’s North Kivu province. In late November, the M23 seized the main eastern city of Goma, again with significant Rwandan military support. The M23 withdrew from Goma on December 1, when the Congolese government agreed to peace talks.
On February 24, 11 African countries signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Region in Addis-Ababa, under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The signatories – including Congo and Rwanda – agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring countries; not to tolerate or provide support of any kind to armed groups; neither to harbor nor provide protection of any kind to anyone accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, acts of genocide or crimes of aggression, or anyone falling under the UN sanctions regime; and to cooperate with regional justice initiatives. The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, was appointed UN special envoy for the Great Lakes Region to support implementation of the Framework Agreement.
On March 18, Ntaganda, one of the M23’s leaders, surrendered to the US embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, following his defeat during infighting between two M23 factions. He was transferred to The Hague, where he is to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Over 700 M23 fighters and political leaders loyal to Ntaganda also fled to Rwanda, including four people on UN and US sanctions lists: Innocent Zimurinda, Baudouin Ngaruye, Eric Badege, and Jean-Marie Runiga.
Zimurinda and Ngaruye have been implicated in ethnic massacres, rape, torture, and child recruitment. They should not be shielded from justice but instead arrested and prosecuted without delay, Human Rights Watch said.
Makenga and Kayna (known as “India Queen”), who are still in Congo, are also on UN and US sanctions lists and are wanted on Congolese arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Talks in Kampala, Uganda between the Congolese government and the M23 have made little progress. The Congolese government has insisted that it will not integrate into its forces or reward people implicated in serious human rights abuses, including those who are on UN sanctions lists. Providing official positions to human rights abusers can encourage future human rights violations and is an affront to victims of past abuses, Human Rights Watch said.
After the M23 withdrew from Goma in December, a ceasefire had largely held between the M23 and the Congolese army until heavy fighting broke out around Mutaho, eight kilometers northwest of Goma, on May 20 to 22.
Fighting between the M23 and the Congolese army resumed on July 14 north of Goma.
Since its internal split in March, the M23’s control over some territory has weakened, allowing the FDLR and allied Congolese Hutu groups to carry out incursions there.
A new Force Intervention Brigade , an African-led, 3,000-member force made up of troops from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi, is being deployed to eastern Congo. The force is part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, and has a mandate to carry out offensive operations against armed groups operating in eastern Congo. The M23 has strongly opposed the deployment of this force.
To the Rwandan government:
- Immediately end all support for the M23;
- Cooperate with efforts to bring to justice M23 commanders allegedly responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious abuses, and ensure that any such commanders who have fled to Rwanda are not shielded from justice;
- Investigate and prosecute as appropriate Rwandan civilian and military officials who may be responsible for aiding and abetting war crimes by the M23 and other rebel forces in Congo.
To the Congolese government:
- Suspend, investigate, and prosecute as appropriate Congolese civilian and military officials who may be responsible for aiding and abetting war crimes by the FDLR and allied armed groups;
- Reject any settlement that rewards M23 leaders allegedly responsible for serious abuses, including Sultani Makenga and Innocent Kayna;
- Appropriately discipline officers and soldiers responsible for mistreating corpses, and ensure that such acts cease immediately;
- Ensure that captured combatants and civilians are treated in accordance with due process standards, including being promptly brought before a judge and charged, or released; ensure that detainees are not mistreated or held in inhumane conditions.
To the UN and US special envoys to the Great Lakes and governments providing aid to Rwanda and Congo:
- Denounce continued support to the M23 from Rwanda, and support sanctions against senior Rwandan officials responsible for supporting the M23 since 2012;
- Seek to ensure that any settlement between the Congolese government and the M23 excludes integration into the Congolese army of M23 leaders, including those on UN and US sanctions lists, implicated in war crimes and other serious abuses;
- Press for the arrest and prosecution of military commanders, including members of the M23, implicated in war crimes and other serious abuses;
- Suspend donor assistance to the Rwandan military for as long as it supports abusive armed groups in Congo, and continue to seek independent information about the use of Rwandan territory to recruit M23 members and the involvement of the Rwandan military in supporting the M23; include strong human rights benchmarks as part of other assistance programs to Rwanda.
VOICE OF AMERICA (Washington, DC)
by Nick LONG, 1 JULY 2013
Goma — United Nations experts say support for the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo is waning, but that the group is still getting some help from Rwanda.
The United Nations Security Council appointed a group of experts some years ago to report on rebels in eastern Congo and on their sources of arms, recruits and funding.
The experts’ report at the end of last year caused diplomatic uproar as it accused Rwanda’s defense chief of giving orders to the M23 rebels and of sending Rwandan army units to support it. Rwanda denied the accusations.
The experts’ latest report that was made public at the weekend, although it has not yet been officially released, will be less damaging for Rwanda’s image. The report says the M23 is still getting some support, however, from that country.
Analyst Timo Mueller studies conflict in the Great Lakes region for the research organization the Enough Project and has been examining the experts’ findings.
“The group of experts documented that the M23 enjoys continued, but has limited support from Rwanda. In particular, [General Sultani] Makenga, the current military commander of M23, has been able to recruit demobilized Rwandan soldiers,” said Mueller.
The experts report “no evidence of full Rwandan army units supporting M23” since November, however, when the rebels briefly occupied Goma. They also say there are “no current signs of Ugandan government support for the rebels,” whereas last year they reported some Ugandan help for the movement. The Ugandan government denied those allegations.
Division within M23
The experts say that earlier this year Rwandan officials intervened in an internal struggle between two M23 factions, led by Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese army general who has since been transferred to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and former Congolese army colonel Sultani Makenga.
“According to the group of experts Rwandan officials could no longer control Bosco and his extensive network in Rwanda, as well as his actions in DRC, and given that, they decided to sideline Bosco inside the M23 movement and team up with his rival Sultani Makenga and attempt to neutralize Bosco,” Mueller said.
Part of the reason for the rivalry between Ntaganda and Makenga, according to the experts, was that Ntaganda wanted the M23 to stay in the city of Goma last year after the rebels had seized it. There was heavy international pressure for them to leave. Makenga was in favor of leaving and appeared more willing to negotiate with the DRC government.
Rwandan officials’ backing for Makenga suggests they were a moderating influence on the M23 at that point.
Photo: UN peacekeepeing mission Monusco backs the Congolese army against M23 rebels (Reuters)
Rebels remain a factor
Makenga won that struggle. But the experts say that has left M23 weakened, as it has lost the support of Ntaganda’s network.
M23 attacked the Congolese army in May, but failed to take its objectives, leading the experts to conclude that it is unable to carry out large-scale coordinated military operations.
Mueller thinks it’s too early, though, to write the rebels off.
“According to current estimates Makenga has 1,500 men. The movement suffers from defections, yet he’s still able to recruit, often forcibly,” he said. “According to the group of experts, the M23’s main source of revenue is taxation – they make about $180,000 every month, and on that basis I wouldn’t necessarily believe that the M23 is finished.”
The experts also report that Congolese army units have been collaborating with the Rwandan rebel group FDLR. Some of that group’s members took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
They have written to the Rwandan and Congolese governments asking for clarification about the alleged collaboration, and they say they are looking forward to a reply.
by Taylor TOEKA KAKALA, 2 May 2013
Goma — The Congolese government is demanding a comprehensive strategy for a lasting solution for the repatriation of 127,537 Rwandan refugees estimated to be in the country.
This is according to Congolese Minister of Home Affairs Richard Muyej. He said the government believes that the cessation of refugee status for Rwandese nationals exiled in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is premature. The DRC neighbours the East African state of Rwanda.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has designated Jun. 30 as the worldwide cessation of refugee status for Rwandese nationals.
The UNHCR accords this status to refugees who fled Rwanda between 1959 and 1998. The cessation clause, which is binding on refugees and their host countries, requires refugees to choose between voluntary repatriation and residency in their host countries. They can also apply for a continuation of their refugee status on an individual basis.
However, the DRC is opposed to the move.
The Congolese government’s position reinforces the stance taken by Rwandese diaspora meeting at the International Conference on Rwandan Refugees held from Apr. 19 to 20 in Brussels. It called upon the UNHCR and asylum countries to consider the safety of Rwandese refugees.
Gervais Condo, the president of the United States-based Rwanda National Congress (CNR), who chaired the Brussels conference, told IPS: “There are no circumstances under which refugee status is a viable long-term solution.”
“But we cannot expect refugees to return home when the reasons they went into exile have not been addressed,” said Condo, an ally of General Kayumba Nyamwasa, the former chief of staff of the Rwandese army and a founder president of the CNR who is now living in exile in South Africa.
Between 1994, when the Rwanda Patriotic Front came to power following the genocide, and February 2013, the UNHCR has repatriated about 3.5 million Rwandese refugees.
While there are no conclusive figures, it is estimated that the 1994Rwandan genocide claimed the lives of almost one million people, mostly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Meanwhile, Muyej stated that the DRC would only apply the cessation clause after the implementation of the Tripartite Agreement signed between the UNHCR and the Rwandese and DRC governments to ensure that Rwandese refugees wishing to be repatriated are able to return to their country of origin safely and with dignity.
Muyej made these remarks on Apr. 18 at a conference of Ministers of Home Affairs of 11 African countries hosting Rwandese refugees.
However, Rwanda and the UNHCR have declared that there is no justification for extending the status for the refugees after Jun. 30. The Rwandese government has given guarantees that the situation in the Great Lakes country is now safe, and wants the cessation clause provided for in the 1951 Geneva Convention to come into force.
In October 2009, Rwandese President Paul Kagame and Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, agreed that Rwandese refugee status would be terminated in June 2011. But opposition from refugees and NGOs prompted the UNHCR to continue discussions with all concerned parties until June 2013.
Refugees remain worried that the situation of freedom of expression and association in Rwanda has not changed, and feel this concern is borne out by the large number of former dignitaries in exile, including former attorney general Gérard Gahima and former Rwandan ambassador Théogène Rudasingwa.
The arrest and trial of Victoire Ingabire, an opposition party candidate during the 2010 presidential elections who was tried and sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiracy against the country, has been cause for concern. On Mar. 25, Amnesty International called for a fair trial for Ingabire that met international standards. The human rights organisation stated that the court failed to test the evidence of the prosecution.
“A number of high-level officials have indicated that Europe does not consider Rwanda to be safe enough for the return of refugees,” Condo stressed.
Rwanda’s Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs Séraphine Mukantabana, a former genocide refugee in Congo-Brazzaville who was repatriated in May 2011, declared that Rwandese refugees could not benefit from limitless refugee status when there was peace in the country.
“We have been encouraging voluntary repatriation, as many refugees will find it difficult to remain in their host countries. Those who wish to apply for refugee status on an individual basis will not have grounds to appeal to the UNHCR,” said Mukantabana, who was also the president of the Rwandese refugees’ association in Congo-Brazzaville.
To ease the situation, Rwanda will deliver national passports to Rwandese who wish to stay in their country of asylum after Jun. 30.
Photo: Radio Okapi
Taylor TOEKA KAKALA, 23.04.2013
Goma — When M23 rebels tried twice to arrange a protest march against a United Nations resolution to deploy an intervention brigade with an offensive mandate to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, they had to postpone it because the local population would not participate.
In Kibumba, 25 kilometres north of the provincial capital Goma, not only had the population refused to demonstrate – they had also fled town.
The rebels rescheduled the Apr. 10 march for Apr. 15. But when that day rolled around, the local residents, and especially the young people, had not returned – and once again the protest had to be postponed.
But according to Janvier Nkinamubanzi, a political analyst at the University of Goma, it was absurd for the M23 to expect the local population to march against the U.N. force.
The M23 are named after a peace agreement in Mar. 23, 2009 between leaders of the former rebel group, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDCP), and the Congolese government. The M23 is a breakaway from the CNDCP, and its members are mostly from the Congolese Tutsi community.
“The inhabitants of Kibumba or regions occupied by M23, even those in Goma, have the impression of being victims of a foreign occupation,” Nkinamubanzi told IPS. The U.N. has said that both Rwanda and Uganda supported M23 rebels in their capture of Goma in December 2012. But after a weeklong occupation of the town, M23 withdrew.
According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, since the beginning of the M23 rebellion in April 2012, more than half a million people have been driven from their homes in North Kivu province in eastern DRC.
“Asking them to protest against a brigade that comes to liberate them from this situation is a double humiliation, as the national army is unable to protect them,” he added.
M23 have conducted a number of protests against U.N. Security Council Resolution 2098, which enables an offensive combat force in the eastern DRC. This includes forced protest marches, rallies, and a five-day blockade of 11 vehicles belonging to the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in Rutshuru, north of Goma.
“Our men will not hesitate to retaliate if they are shot at. The blockade of U.N. vehicles is a strong message of how serious we are,” Lieutenant-Colonel Vianney Kazarama, the military spokesperson for M23, told IPS.
Congolese Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Tshibanda told a press conference on Apr. 1 that the only future for M23 was to disband as an armed movement. If it failed to do so, the intervention brigade would step in and destroy it, he said.
“The government pretends to speak to M23 while in reality it wants to crush the rebels at the earliest opportunity,” Godefroid Kä Mana, the chair of the cross-cultural Pole Institute, told IPS. The institute works across the Great Lakes region.
While M23 were protesting against the U.N. resolution, local leaders, including village chiefs in Masisi, east of Goma, were calling for the Congolese government to integrate soldiers from the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) into the Congolese armed forces.
Bahati Kahembe, one of the four traditional leaders in the North Kivu provincial assembly, recognised that both the rebels and army were responsible for human rights violations in the east of the country. However, he told IPS “the APCLS is less violent towards the population than other forces.”
The APCLS is one of the most organised armed groups in the region. Self-proclaimed “General” Janvier Karairi created it in protest against the Mar. 23, 2009 agreement.
According to MONUSCO, there are between 500 and 1,000 APCLS combatants, who mostly belong to the Hunde ethnic group. They specifically target Tutsis, sometimes in collaboration with Rwandese Hutus from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, who have been refugees in eastern DRC since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The APCLS combatants have also provided support to the Congolese armed forces against the CNDP, and now against the M23, which broke away from the latter party. “We are only defending our land against the invaders,” Karairi told IPS.
But the governor of North Kivu, Julien Paluku, retorted: “There are no good or bad rebels.”
Photo: Paul Kagame. By Paulo Figueiras UN (file photo)
In October 1990, after Fred Rwigyema’s death on the third day the struggle to conquer Rwanda, Paul Kagame took over the command over the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and led it to victory in July 1994.
AFRICAN ARGUMENTS, 18 MARCH 2013
He became Vice-President and Minister of Defense in the transitional government installed after the Rwandan genocide. In March 2000, President Pasteur Bizimungu felt that he could no longer contribute to a regime dominated by the RPF. He resigned and Kagame became the Head of State. He has subsequebtly won presidential elections in 2003 and 2010.
In 2017, when his second mandate as an elected President expires, he will have led the RPF for 27 years and will have been Rwanda’s most powerful individual for 23 years (for 17 of which he has been the country’s President). The Constitution, adopted by referendum in May 2003, foresees a maximum of two consecutive mandates for the Head of State. This means that he cannot stand for a new term in 2017.
Very soon after his re-election in August 2010, speculation and rumour developed about the chances that Kagame, with or without a review of the Constitution, would seek a third mandate. On February 27th 2013 he gave a press conference on the issue stating that he is not interested in running again.
This press conference was a reply to earlier announcements by opposition parties such as Victoire Ingabire’s FDU-Inkingi and Frank Habineza’s Green Party that they would oppose changes to the Constitution allowing Kagame to continue. But at the end of the press conference, Kagame left all options open. He isn’t seeking a third mandate and doesn’t ‘need’ this job, but he doesn’t exclude the possibility of bowing to the will of the people if they want him to stay on. “At the end of the day, let’s remember that Rwandans have to decide,” he said.
2010: a landslide victory
On 9 August 2010, Kagame was re-elected with an overwhelming 93% of the vote. In the election itself he faced three candidates who were considered by the traditional opposition as “satellite candidates, phoney opposition players intended to maintain the illusion of pluralism”.
The months before the elections had been very tense when the more genuine opposition parties started to prepare their campaigns: the Social Party Imberakuri (PSI) led by Bernard Ntaganda, the Green Democratic Party (GDP) with a leadership that came mainly from the anglophone community and which, according to many, was a result of the discontent within the RPF; and lastly the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF-Inkingi), formed around presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, who had returned to Rwanda in January after an absence of 17 years.
The leaders of these parties confronted hostility and significant verbal aggression from the authorities and media. Victoire Ingabire in particular, with her clear message and direct, flambuoyant style received a lot of national and international attention. However, when the election actually arrived, none of these candidates were able to formally run for office.
In the end, all went well for Kagame. When you have almost complete control over the legislative, executive and judicial institutions, when an independent press has almost completely disappeared, when that section of opinion which has not openly sided with you has attained an extraordinary level of sophistication in the noble art of self-censorship, when for a large part of national and international opinion you represent the ending of genocide and the return to stability, you don’t lose elections.
The annus horibilis
In the months before the elections the focus of tensions changed. General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a long term companion of President Kagame and former Commander in chief of the Rwandese army, left Rwanda and its regime to join the dissident Colonel Patrick Karegeya in exile in Johannesburg. Karegeya is a former intelligence chief, but above all central to the running of the Congo Desk – created during the war in Congo to manage the exploitation of natural resources in the eastern DRC.
In the months after Nyamwasa’s departure, others left too – influential and high profile people like Theodore Rudasingwa (Kagame’s former director of cabinet), Gerald Gahima (former Prosecutor General and Vice-President of the Supreme Court) and Kagame’s private secretary David Himbara.
All of a sudden, Kagame wasn’t struggling with his traditional enemies but with his frustrated comrades-in-arms. The ruling inner circle was losing its coherence and had to fight against its own disintegration. When it looked at itself, it was confronted with the cracks in the mirrorthat belied the united and serene image which it wanted to show to the public in Rwanda as well as internationally.
Three weeks after Kagame’s re-election, the French newspaper Le Monde leaked the draft of the UN’s DRC Mapping Exercise Reportwhich aimed to document the most serious violations of human rights in the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003.
In paragraph 517, the report states: “The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide.”
This was nothing less than an earthquake for Rwanda. For a decade and a half the regime functioned as the incarnation of genocide victims over those who had perpetrated it. The report, published on October 1st 2010, suggested that this might only be one side of the story, that the reality of Rwanda’s traumatic recent history might be much more complex.
The report is nothing more than a very extensive inventory of the most important human rights violations in one decade, and as such it is not a basis for prosecution. Most of the facts reported by the UN researchers were known, but for the first time they were brought together in one comprehensive document and acknowledged at the level of an official UN document.
Thirty months after the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published the report, there has been insufficient follow-up by governments in Africa’s Great Lakes region and by the UN itself.
The landscape of Rwanda’s political and military elite has changed a lot with Nyamwasa’s departure. There are many indications that Nyamwasa and Karegeya tried to organize an armed resistance on Congolese soil, bringing together people from backgrounds as different as the part of the CNDP that had stayed loyal to Nkunda, certain Mai Mai groups, the FRF, bits of the FARDC and FNL.
Contact was even made with some people within the FDLR. All these forces had their reasons to be against Kagame and the ambition was to unite them in an ad hoc movement against the regime in Kigali. To do that, they had to reconcile water and fire. They tried but failed, this was because of several factors.
By the end of 2010 it became clear that they would not able to raise international support for an armed initiative. The main reason for this was that Kayumba Nyamwasa did not have a sufficiently high profile to incarnate the reconciliation of water and fire.
He had always been considered a hardliner of the regime, whose conflict with Kagame was about the President’s attempt to dismantle the parallel economic structure that Nyamwasa and Karegeya had organized around the plundering of Congo’s minerals.
It has never been easy to distinguish between hawks and doves inside Rwanda’s regime, but Nyamwasa was definitely not to be considered a dove. He did not seem to have much added value to Kagame in terms of democracy, reconciliation nor good governance.
For the same reasons, the political party he founded with Karegeya, Gahima and Rudasingwa isn’t much of a threat to the RPF: Kayumba Nyamwasa and his crew aren’t a credible alternative to Kagame. 2010 was his annus horibilis, but Kagame won back the full control over the regime.
Since 2011, a change of generation has taken place around Kagame. People who are or could be influenced by Nyamwasa lost space and made way for younger men and women with a different profile: born in the late seventies or early eighties, ambitious, well-trained technocrats rather than military, polyglot intellectuals rather than the leaders who grew up in the refugee camps, fought in the bush against Obote and Habyarimana, eventually getting rich through the plundering of Congo.
The people who shaped Kagame’s Brave New World were replaced by the people who grew up in it (mostly receiving training and education abroad).
Not another Mugabe
Over the last few months, some Rwanda watchers have seen indications that Kagame is interested in a Buyoya-type of exit scenario: remain present and influential with a rather low profile on the national level, and play a role on the international scene as a mediator in conflicts. Other people believe he’s constructing a more Medvedev – Putin inspired leapfrog.
Both sides believe that Kagame would like to avoid the political damage and loss of credibility if he continues. He is not looking forward to gaining a reputation as the new Mugabe or Museveni. His main concern will be to gain guarantees that he will not be persecuted by international justice.
Speculation has inevitably started on who could succeed him. At some point Richard Sezibera seemed in pole position. Born in 1964 and presently Secretary General of the EAC, Sezibera served as Minister of Health and as Ambassador to the US, Rwanda’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and as Kagame’s Senior Advisor. He is a medical doctor who practiced for many years in Uganda and Rwanda and has a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University.
Another person referred to internally as a potential successor is Donald Kaberaku (1951), currently President of the African Development Bank. He studied in Tanzania and the UK (obtaining a PhD in economics from the University of Glasgow). In October 1997 he was appointed minister of finance and economic planning in Rwanda and is considered as one of the masterminds behind the recovery of the Rwandan economy after the genocide.
Sometimes other names appear – they seem to come and go in waves. But Sezibera, in particular, is to be taken seriously.
The M23 misadventure
At the time of writing these lines, the latest offshoot of the RCD-CNDP tree ‘M23’ has been involved in several days of heavy internal fighting between the factions loyal to Bosco Ntaganda and Sultani Makenga. The draft of a peace agreement between M23 and the DRC government is circulating, but it remains to be seen if it will ever be signed.
M23 started nearly one year ago as another rebellion led by Congolese Tutsi. A settlement might be found around an old school arrangement which integrates the rebels in to the army, giving them grades and control over men and mines. Things might calm down for a while until the next time someone believes that his community’s interests are best served by a new rebellion.
This episode has weakened everybody – including the Rwandan government. It seems they overplayed their hand. As soon as it became clear that Kigali was very actively supporting M23, its most loyal partners took extraordinary measures. Nations like the UK, USA, Sweden, Holland and Germany suspended at least a part of their aid. Rwanda received heavy criticism and now knows that any future moves and actions will be looked upon with great suspicion.
As usual, the events in Congo have divided the Tutsi and, more generally, the Rwandan community in Congo as well as in Rwanda. Unlike earlier Tutsi-led rebellions, M23 wasn’t able to mobilise a lot of support among Congolese Hutu and the Banyamulenge. The Tutsi of South Kivu declared from the very beginning that they had nothing to be gained from the M23 rebllion, with which they did not identify at all.
The backbone of M23 were Tutsi from the North Kivutian territories of Rutshuru and Masisi, and since the Framework Agreement was signed in Addis Ababa, they are mainly fighting each other. What separates them (strategy, geography, clans, economic interests, political affinities) is felt within the inner circle of power in Rwanda and affects cohesion there.
Not really, Mr. Blair
I do truly believe that the Rwandan regime is working on a succession scenario. However, anybody who has traveled to Africa knows that nothing, apart from scrub and mushrooms, grows underneath a baobab tree. It is very difficult for new and younger leadership to emerge in the shadow of a strong leader. Kagame led the RPF for more than 22 years and turned the country into a virtual one party state.
It is not easy to replace such a leader, even in the most serene conditions. And conditions aren’t serene in Rwanda after one year of the M23. The country has been weakened by the events, as has any other actor in Central Africa involved in it, with the possible exception of Museveni.
Kagame has, however, managed an effective policy of damage limitation. Important international partners threatened to leave, but some of them have come back already. On February 22th Tony Blair wrote a letter, together with Howard G. Buffet, Stand with Rwanda.
According to Mr Blair “Slashing international support to Rwanda ignores the complexity of the problem within DRC’s own borders and the history and circumstances that have led to current regional dynamics.
Cutting aid does nothing to address the underlying issues driving conflict in the region, it only ensures that the Rwandan people will suffer – and risks further destabilizing an already troubled region … Cutting aid to Rwanda also risks undoing one of Africa’s great success stories.”
I do not belong to the group of people who believe that the alpha and the omega of Congo’s scourge, woe and disaster can be reduced to Rwanda’s role in it, but I do believe that a huge part of Rwanda’s success story is due to the surplus it extracts from Congo’s minerals, and that the Rwandan government is aware that it needs to consolidate this extraction if it wants to prevent the walls of its reign from tumbling down.
Congo’s complex problems are the fruit of its own colonial and post-colonial history, but the fall of Mobutu’s empire and the difficulties of reinventing and rebuilding the new Congo after the departure of le Président-Fondateur, have been complicated by the fact that Rwanda exported its problems on to Congolese soil.
Of course, “the international community should support the three regional governments – DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda – in their efforts to build a sustainable solution to the conflict”, as stated by Mr Blair, but I don’t really think this will happen without a delicate balance between support and pressure.
Not only pressure on the DRC (as it seems is the case in the Framework Agreement signed last month in Addis Ababa), but on all partners involved, Rwanda included. Pressure which does not foresee measures or sanctions is no pressure at all.
BY KRIS BERWOUTS, 18 MARCH 2013
Kris Berwouts has, over the last 25 years, worked for a number of different Belgian and international NGOs focused on building peace, reconciliation, security and democratic processes.
Until recently, he was the Director of EurAc, the network of European NGOs working for advocacy on Central Africa. He now works as an independent expert on Central Africa.
[…] During a press conference last month, when asked about 2017, Kagame impatiently answered, “I don’t need a third term. Just look at me, I don’t need it. I don’t do this job I am doing as a job for being paid, or as something that benefits me.” […] read more
Photo: The UN mission in DRC has welcomed the surrender of the rebel leader wanted for crimes against humanity (Photo: The New Times, file photo).
AFRICAN ARGUMENTS, 20 MARCH 2013
On March 18th 2013, Bosco Ntaganda walked into the American embassy in Kigali and requested to be delivered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The ICC had issued an international warrant against him in 2008 and for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2003, which he committed in 2002 and 2003 as a warlord in Ituri. The accusations included recruiting and deploying child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery.
The events of the last years involving Bosco are well known, but I will briefly recap here: Bosco Ntaganda was second in command in the CNDP after Laurent Nkunda. When Nkunda was arrested in January 2009, the governments of Rwanda and Congo put Ntaganda in command of the rebellion. The integration of the CNDP into the FARDC crystallized around him and he received, despite the international warrant, an elevated position in the Congolese national army.
Through the following years, the CNDP kept its own structure within the army – it maintained its own parallel lines of command, but also its internal divisions remained intact. This meant many CNDP soldiers at all levels stayed loyal to Nkunda and never forgave Bosco for playing a major role in the scenario that led to the arrest of their charismatic (former) leader.
A new rebellion
In early 2012 it looked like it might be the end for Bosco. Kabila had just been re-elected in very controversial elections and had lost a lot of his support inside Congo and within the international community. His international partners expected a clear sign of good will and democratic openness. There weren’t too many opportunities to do this, so Kabila was forced to consider cooperation in a couple of areas.
The first was to appoint a Prime Minister from the opposition, but for various reasons this was unrealistic. The second option was to arrest the wanted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda and deliver him to international justice.
A consensus with the Rwandans was easily found: Bosco had been heavily involved since 2009 in the Northern Kivu mineral trade – that is not something you can do without damaging the interests of high placed people within both the Rwandan and Congolese armies. Bosco’s fate seemed sealed.
Bosco, however, anticipated his arrest by withdrawing with a handful of loyal soldiers in to the hills of North Kivu. Other frustrated soldiers joined him in April and May and it developed into a new rebellion, M23, another movement led by Tutsi officers from North Kivu. As was the case with previous such rebellions (RCD and CNDP), M23 was actively supported by Rwanda.
For many months the rebellion, with its few hundred soldiers, controlled a small area in Rutshuru. But when they conquered Goma on November 20th 2012 with a firm military back up from Rwanda, things changed. All of a sudden, the risk that the violence would erupt in to a new national or international war became real.
A heavy diplomatic offensive was launched with a leading role for UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon himself, which materialised in aFramework Agreement for the Great Lakes region. That Agreement, signed on February 24th 2013, involved not only Congo and its immediate neighbours, but also the wider region, including SADC and the African Union.
Two key elements of the Agreement were the appointment of a Special Envoy of the UN for the Great Lakes region (the former president of Ireland Mary Robinson was appointed on March 18th) and a reinforcement of the UN force in Congo: extra soldiers, coming from SADC countries, with a stronger mandate than the existing Monusco one.
These reinforcements haven’t arrived yet, but the fact that they will eventually has caused a lot of unrest among the armed groups in Kivu. The arrival of the new troops will change the power balance in the field, so it was foreseeable that new violence would burst out between the signing of the Framework Agreement in Addis Ababa and the deployment of the new international troops.
War within M23
And it did. Initially confrontations took place within M23, more precisely between Sultani Makenga, the commander in chief of the rebellion (close to Nkunda), and Bosco.
On top of the traditional cleavages between the two camps was the strategic question of how to position the movement against the background of the Framework Agreement and other negotiations. It was clear that Makenga was much more eager than Bosco to finalize the negotiations with the government and come to some sort of integration.
Immediately after the violence within M23 erupted, it became clear that Rwanda actively pressurized M23 officers to join Makenga’s camp – this being a way to finish a war which has cost Rwanda a lot, as well as Congo.
It looks like the two countries are searching for a soft ending, which will crystalise around Makenga. By integrating him in to the army, they hope to establish some sort of balance, redolent of that which existed after the CNDP integrated FARDC at the time of Umoja Wetu (January 2009) and before M23 took off (April 2012).
During the last week it became clear that Bosco’s camp was about to collapse in its face-off with Makenga’s troops. The pressure increased with every passing day. On Monday he turned up in Kigali, presented himself to the American embassy and asked to be handed over to the ICC.
An unexpected twist maybe, but not too difficult to understand. Bosco did not have very many other options. The group of people he could rely on, politically or military, in Rwanda, Congo or elsewhere, was becoming smaller every day. The arrest warrant he carries with him has destroyed his chance for a dignified exit with new functions or responsibilities. Finally he had to choose between fighting himself to death or to surrender.
He chose the latter. In their first communication, both Rwanda and the United States made efforts to make us believe that they were not informed in advance, but some research and phone calls in to Bosco’s environment, as well as with those initiated in Rwandan decision making, quickly provided a different picture.
Bosco crossed the border on Saturday night with a few dozen fighters. A unit of the Rwandan army were waiting and disarmed them. The bulk of the troops were sent to a refugee camp of Congolese Tutsi, those who needed medical care (and there were many) were brought under supervision to the hospital at Gisenyi. Bosco himself was transferred to Kigali, where the next day he presented himself to the U.S. Embassy.
Next stop The Hague?
It looked like, and I have independently confirmed this, that it was a meticulously well prepared scenario with clear arrangements between Rwanda, the USA and Bosco himself. It remains to be seen if Bosco will be sent to The Hague.
After all these years, Bosco has a lot of sensitive information, not only on both Rwanda and Congo, but also on the arrangements made between the two countries since the official end of war in 2003. I imagine that the two countries would consider an international process, highly scrutinized by the media, to be nothing less than a nightmare.
It is reasonably likely that Bosco will go to The Hague, but probably not immediately. There were presumably some complex negotiations before he crossed the border and presented himself to the embassy, but I don’t expect the forthcoming discussions between Bosco, Rwanda, Congo and the international diplomacy before his departure to Holland to be any less complex. Unless they decide to keep him in a limbo like Nkunda.
BY KRIS BERWOUTS, 20 MARCH 2013
Kris Berwouts has, over the last 25 years, worked for a number of different Belgian and international NGOs focused on building peace, reconciliation, security and democratic processes. Until recently, he was the Director of EurAc, the network of European NGOs working for advocacy on Central Africa. He now works as an independent expert on Central Africa.