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Lion of Africa? Paul Kagame’s dangerous delusions of grandeur

Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa

Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal of May 19, 2013, written for him probably by his spin doctor, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Paul Kagame states:

This has been our approach in Rwanda. We have decentralized the state, reformed our business sector and strengthened our institutions. But we have also invested in health care, agriculture and education. As a result, the World Bank this year ranked Rwanda as the eighth easiest place in the world to start a business. A recent index in Foreign Policy magazine named the country the fifth best investment destination world-wide.

There are several flaws in President Kagame’s argument but let me cite three most important ones.

First, Rwanda has gone through repeated cycles of death and destruction despite economic gains that previous regimes and the current one were able to achieve. Governance is the fundamental problem in Rwanda, long polarized on ethnic and regional lines. Kagame’s record on governance is the worst in Africa. In Rwanda, political parties are banned; opposition leaders, human rights activists and journalists jailed, killed or forced into exile

According to the U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2012, “the most important human rights problems in Rwanda were lack of respect for the integrity of the person, particularly illegal detention, torture, and disappearance of persons detained by State Security Forces; unwarranted restrictions on the freedoms of speech and press, particularly harassment, violence, and arrest of journalists, political dissidents, and human rights advocates….Other major human rights problems included allegations of attempted assassinations of government opponents, both within the country and abroad.”

On a visit to Rwanda in 2011, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, a well-known defender of President Kagame, remarked that “the political culture in Rwanda remains comparatively closed. Press restrictions persist. Civil society activists, journalists, and political opponents of the government often fear organizing peacefully and speaking out. Some have been harassed. Some have been intimidated by late-night callers. Some have simply disappeared.”

Amnesty International Rwanda Report, 2012, documented “severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and enforced disappearances”. Human Rights Watch World Report, 2012, cites that in Rwanda “freedom of expression and political space are still severely restricted. Members of opposition parties, journalists, and other perceived critics of the government were arrested, detained, and tried, some solely for expressing their views.” The United Nations Human Rights Commission Mapping Report on the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2010, documented war crimes, crimes against humanity and apparent systematic and widespread attacks against Hutu in the Democratic Republic of Congo that could be characterized as “crimes of genocide”. The European Parliament on May 23, 2013, passed a resolution calling upon Rwanda to end political persecution and torture, guarantee fundamental freedoms and independence of the judiciary.

President Paul Kagame’s catalogue of gross human rights abuses in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo clearly show a pattern of impunity without accountability.

Second, President Kagame’s belligerent policies in the Democratic Republic of Congo have a regional destabilizing and humanitarian effect, by undermining efforts towards peace, security, and economic development. President Kagame’s regime is isolated in the region. Tanzania and South Africa, key African players in the regional dynamics, are increasingly unhappy about President Kagame’s aggressive policies and actions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Third, his latest venture into Congo through M23 proxies left most of the funding to Rwanda’s so-called economic miracle delayed or cut off. The U.N. Group of Experts Report, 2012, documented Rwanda’s support to the M23 rebel group, leading to unanimous international outcry and condemnation, even from his long term allies, the United States and the United Kingdom. Late last year President Obama called President Kagame to cease and desist from his actions in Congo. Now, on his upcoming visit to Africa next month, President Obama has excluded Rwanda from his itinerary. President Kagame, too used to a cozy relationship with President Clinton and President Bush, will not be amused by this dramatic reversal of fortunes.

Isolated from his own people, Africans and, increasingly, his own allies, it is mere wishful thinking and an empty dream that small and impoverished Rwanda will ever become the lion of Africa. Violent coercion, flattery and appeasement by some in the West do not place Rwanda on a sustainable trajectory for peace and prosperity. There is no short-cut to accountable government, genuine regional co-operation as a more durable anchor for peace and security, and international support that places people, not repressive dictators, as the center-piece of human development.

Rwanda’s history repeatedly shows that stakes are extremely high for Rwanda, the Great Lakes region and the international community. It is time for Rwandans, Rwanda’s neighbors and the international community to work together to avert the next bloodbath that will inevitably follow President Kagame’s policies and actions if they are not stopped and reversed as soon as possible.

Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa

Washington DC

5/25/2013

E-mail: ngombwa@gmail.com

The writer was President Paul Kagame’s Chief of Staff, Rwanda’s Ambassador to the United States, and Secretary General of Rwanda’s ruling party, RPF. He is currently the Coordinator of Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and the author of Healing A Nation: A Testimony: Waging and Winning A Peaceful Revolution to Unite and Heal A Broken Rwanda .

Source: Inyenyeri News

 

May 27, 2013   No Comments

Congo warlord says M23 will not back down from UN brigade

The M23 rebels

The M23 rebels

* Makenga says M23 will not take Goma, but will not retreat

* Warlord says Kampala talks only way to bring peace to Congo

* M23 will respond if attacked by new U.N. brigade

By Jonny Hogg

MUTAHO, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 27 (Reuters) – E astern Congo’s most powerful warlord stands on a hillside, surrounded by heavily armed fighters, and gazes down on the sprawling lakeside city of Goma spread invitingly below him in the distance.

Exactly what General Sultani Makenga is contemplating for his M23 rebels is a matter of some urgency, both for a government that has struggled to contain the revolt and for a new U.N. force tasked with disarming Congo’s insurgent groups.

Six months ago, Makenga’s fighters routed the ill-disciplined army and swept past U.N. peacekeepers to briefly seize the city of one million, provoking international outcry.

After months of calm, fresh fighting last week raised fears Makenga’s M23 fighters might once again have their sights set on Goma, on the shores of Lake Kivu, ahead of the deployment of the U.N. Intervention Brigade made up of 3,000 African troops.

“We’re not going to take Goma but we’re not going to give up our positions here,” Makenga says of the strategic village of Mutaho, from where refugee camps and army positions are clearly visible in the sun.

Dressed in combat fatigues and wielding a traditional cattle-herder’s stick, Makenga says the only hope of an end to the region’s troubles is to revive stalled peace talks between the government and M23 in neighbouring Uganda.

“The government can’t beat us. They have no choice but to negotiate,” says the lean, 39-year-old veteran of several revolts in mineral-rich eastern Congo. “We’re waiting for the negotiations in Kampala.”

M23 launched its rebellion in Congo’s beautiful but war-torn eastern borderlands more than a year ago. Hundreds of former rebels who had been integrated into the army – veterans, like Makenga, of a previous Tutsi uprising – abandoned their posts saying the government had failed to honour a 2009 peace deal.

Their discipline and military prowess won them large swathes of territory, forcing Kinshasa to the negotiating table.

But the fall of Goma prompted the international community into action. A February deal signed by 11 neighbouring countries sanctioned the deployment of the U.N. force with a mandate to neutralise armed groups like M23 in the eastern border region.

M23 WILL DEFEND ITSELF

As an incentive to peace, the World Bank last week announced $1 billion in development funding provided countries honour February’s agreement not to support rebels in Congo.

U.N. experts have accused Rwanda of sending troops and weapons to M23, which Kigali strongly denies.

Analysts say the latest fighting may have been prompted by the Brigade’s imminent arrival, as M23 jostles to improve its military position before any potential operations against them.

But Makenga insists the government attacked first.

He seems untroubled by the prospect of facing foreign troops if they bring the fight to the rebels. The 3,000-strong Brigade is to be made up of South Africans, Tanzanians and Malawians.

“We can’t attack the U.N. peacekeepers but if they attack us, what choice will we have? We’ll have to defend ourselves.”

The rebels have been weakened after months of infighting between rival factions and a steady stream of defections by those tired of the endless cycle of violence which characterizes eastern Congo’s jungle war.

But morale appears high amongst the remaining fighters, who tote heavy machine guns and rocket launchers as they swig from bottles of juice.

At least 22 people have been killed since fighting resumed a week ago, including three civilians who died when shells landed on aid camps and residential areas in Goma’s outskirts.

No one has publicly admitted hitting civilian targets but NGO workers say it is clear that M23 was responsible. Makenga warned that further collateral damage may be inevitable if the government launched further attacks.

Even here, in M23’s advance headquarters, evidence of the fighting is clear, with houses flattened by government shells.

Makenga, brandishing his walking stick more as a prop than a support, denies reports he was injured in the bombardment.

“They say that I am between life and death. But they’ve killed me many times and I’m still alive,” he says with a smile.

Source: Reuters

May 27, 2013   No Comments