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Massacres by M23 with support from Rwanda: Jason K. Stearns testifies before US House Committee

Before a jam-packed audience, on the 19thSeptember 2012 Jason  K. Stearns testified in front of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.

In his testimony, he started by saying “I have been working on the eastern Congo for the past eleven years. In 2008, I was the coordinator of the United Nations Group of Experts on the Congo, and I have also worked on the country for the United Nations peacekeeping mission, as a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, and as journalist and writer”.

From his research on the ground, he stated the following:

Background to the current crisis

Beginning with the to rise of the new M23 rebellion, is the result of the failure of the Congolese peace process to deal with the persistent causes of conflict in the region. While there are no easy fixes to these deep-rooted challenges, the United States government can help avert a further escalation by helping to broker a settlement. This will require a significant change in how the US engages with Rwanda, but also for Kinshasa to provide the political vision necessary for a solution.

The M23 mutiny

There is no doubt about Rwanda’s involvement. It has been documented by a United
Nations report released in June, by Human Rights Watch, and by the Rift Valley
Institute’s own researchers. In response to this evidence, donors suspended around $90 million in aid to Rwanda, including $200,000 from the US government.

Despite this, the situation has not improved. Rwanda has continued to support the
M23, including by sending in troops to Rutshuru near the Ugandan border in early July. Other armed groups, largely ethnically based, have also gained in strength, in part due to their links to the M23 and the Congolese army’s focus on the mutiny, and have engaged in tit-for-tat massacres of the local population.

He argued that ”The only way this kind of deal can work is if Rwanda plays a part. This means reformulating the kind of pressure put on Kigali, from asking them to stop providing support to the M23 – an outcome that is hard to measure, given the clandestine nature of the backing – to becoming an active part of the solution”. “It would have to allow the Congolese government or the United Nations to deploy troops along its border with M23 territory, as well as arrest key leaders of the mutiny, some of whom are based in Rwanda”.

This kind of deal will require strong and sustained pressure on Kigali. Donors, chief among them the United States and the international financial institutions where Washington has influence, have some hard choices to make. They can no longer see Rwanda’s admirable successes in health care, education and peacekeeping as separate from its interference in the Congo

In concluding he said that “the situation in the eastern Congo is bleak. But this latest crisis is also an opportunity to change the way the outside world engages with this region, and to address some of the structural problems that have caused these crises to recur with tragic regularity. It is time to act. As a matter of moral consistency, the United States cannot continue to help fund the Rwandan national budget and at the same time continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to stabilize the eastern Congo”.

So what are the implications? How will the world view us Rwandans, because of our hungry leaders? Will they swallow their pride and “do the right thing”? Or they will continue to tarnish our image, for the sake of fulfilling their stomachs? its up to you to make a change, and change starts within.

JD Mwiseneza



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