Africa’s Problem Child
Windhoek – Rwanda’s army continues to support the DRC rebel group called M23, a group of United Nations experts has said.
In an interim report recently presented to the UN Security Council, the Group of Experts say while Rwanda has scaled down support, Kigali’s assistance to the rebels means M23 remains a major security threat in the region.
This is not the first time a UN Group of Experts has revealed the extent of Rwanda’s complicity in destabilisation of the SADC member state.
However, the United States and France have repeatedly stonewalled attempts to initiate real Security Council action against Rwanda while paying lip service to calls for peace in DRC.
The interim report was leaked to news agencies this past week and confirms what The Southern Times has previously reported: that instability in the DRC is being fanned primarily by Rwanda.
The interim report clears Uganda – suspected to have been supporting M23 – of involvement but fingers Rwanda.
“Since the outset of its current mandate, the Group has to date found no indication of support to the rebels from within Uganda, and has gathered evidence of continuous – but limited – support to M23 from within Rwanda.
“The Group sent a letter to the government of Rwanda on 14 June 2013 asking for clarification about this support and looks forward to a reply,” the UN Group of Experts said.
“The Group received information that M23 commanders have regularly met with Rwanda Defence Forces officers. Three former M23 officers, a former M23 cadre, and several local authorities told the Group that from March to May 2013, they had witnessed M23 Colonels Kaina and Yusuf Mboneza with Rwanda Defence Forces officers,” the report went on.
The experts say M23’s chain of command is headed by Rwanda’s Defence Minister, General James Kabarebe.
The DRC government has told The Southern Times previously that Gen Kabarebe’s activities are sanctioned by his President, Paul Kagame.
The UN also says M23 receives “direct military orders from the Rwanda Defence Forces Chief of Defence Staff General Charles Kayonda, who in turn acts on instructions from Minister of Defence James Kabarebe”.
The revelations are increasingly embarrassing to Rwanda’s Western allies, and this past week US President Barack Obama was forced to issue a mild censure – though he stopped short of directly naming or condemning Kigali.
“The countries surrounding the Congo, they have to make a commitment to stop funding armed groups that are encroaching on territorial integrity and sovereignty of Congo.
“They have signed on a piece of paper, now the question is whether they follow through. Countries surrounding Congo should recognise that if the Congo stabilises, that will improve the prospects of their goals and their prosperity,” President Obama said.
The UN report adds that recruitment of child soldiers continues and that M23 is generating income of around US$180 000 a month from “taxes”. The rebel group charges amounts ranging from US$200 to US$1 000 – depending on the cargo ‑ for any truck that is transiting through territory that it controls on the DRC’s eastern border regions.
The eastern DRC is rich in some of the world’s most sought-after minerals, such as coltan, tin, tantalite, diamonds and gold.
The instability in the region has resulted in looting and smuggling of minerals from the DRC, and now Rwanda and Uganda are recording significant gold sales and yet they have no reserves of the mineral to speak of.
The questions arise: why is President Kagame so interested in what happens in the DRC? What is in it for Rwanda? And why do the US and France support Rwanda in its destabilisation of the Congo?
Noble Marara, writing for Inyenyeri News, says President Kagame believed Rwanda would have the greatest access to DRC’s mineral resources – whose proven quantities have an estimated value of not less than US$24 trillion – following the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.
“Kagame made Desire Kabila the new President of the DRC, convincing himself that he would use him to control and grab all he laid his hands on in the Congo.
“At that time Kagame had deployed in the DRC most of his senior trusted officers to control not only the wealthy country, but also President Kabila.
“Kagame’s own right-hand man, General James Kabarebe, headed the Congolese army.
“President Desire Kabila got a bit sceptical of Kagame’s long-term goals …”
President Desire Kabila – who was assassinated in 2001 and succeeded by his son and current President, Joseph Kabila – expelled Gen Kabarebe from the DRC.
Thereafter, President Kagame – a Major-General by military rank – ordered Gen Kaberebe to fight Kabila to the bitter end, writes Marara.
The war from 1998 to 2003 sucked in eight countries at its peak and resulted in the loss of millions of lives, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. Its legacy of instability still sews horror in the Congo today.
“This was all caused by Kagame wanting to make himself the richest man on the globe,” says Marara.
President Joseph Kabila, some experts say, has given much room to the rebels and Rwanda to cause problems in the DRC by failing to create strong state institutions and foster nation-building and reconciliation.
Unbridled corruption (especially in the minerals extraction sector), ethnic tensions and failure to integrate disparate former fighters into the state have all bred dissent.
In November last year, 103 MPs and Senators supported a declaration that President Kabila had essentially not even tried to build a national army during his tenure, and that his tolerance of Rwandan and Ugandan shenanigans in the eastern regions bordered on “high treason”.
Among their demands, M23 rebels want command positions in the national army if they are to put down arms, something that President Kabila has been decidedly against.
It is not just armed groups that are giving President Kabila sleepless nights. The political opposition in Parliament continues to frustrate government programmes as it contests his legitimacy.
Recently, opposition parties rejected President Kabila’s offer of “national consultations”. They said they were not interested in any talks that did not address, among other things, “the looting and selling off of natural resources and (the issue) of ill-gotten gains”.
President Kabila's government has tried to advance talks for several months, saying all stakeholders must come together to “reflect on the ways and means to bring a lasting and global response to the crisis afflicting Congolese institutions and parties”.
And President Kabila – who attained rank of Maj-Gen before becoming Head of State ‑ cannot always count on his own senior officials and officers to be on his side.
The suspended commander of Congo’s national ground forces, Gen Gabriel Amisi Kumba, was accused by the UN of procuring and selling ammunition and weapons to illegal armed groups, including the notorious militia Raia Mutomboki and their enemies the Nyatura, as well as to poachers.
Gen Amisi, a former rebel leader who was integrated into the national army, was essentially “running his own empire” inside the DRC.