Why Rwanda will not let go the eastern D.R. Congo

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The recent revelations of the material and military support to Rwanda’s Congolese rebels of M23 have cast a chill in diplomatic relations with the DRC. But for a long time, the Rwandan regime earns huge profits by controlling financial and geo-strategic province of North Kivu. Explanations:

The news has sparked excitement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as if it were something new. Rwanda is supporting the rebels in M23 material and men. A confidential report of the UN mission described the deserters as Rwandan citizens recruited in Rwanda, under the pretext of joining the national army. One of them is a minor. Some said they had been recruited in February, when the rebellion broke out in April.

The first reaction is from Rwanda, through its Foreign Minister, Mushikiwabo, which is categorical : “Rwanda has neither trained nor sent fighters across the border. This leak is a proof of lack of professionalism of Monusco. We are aware of these allegations for weeks.  The first thing was to check them: who are these Rwandans? Of which district they come from? … But to accuse a country of supporting a rebellion in another country, it is totally irresponsible, given our recent history, ” she told Jeune Afrique.

On the Congolese side, the slow reaction of the authorities came out through the spokesman of the government Saturday June 9 during a press conference in Goma (North Kivu), Lambert Mende said: “The Congolese government has been involved in a patient collection of facts. One thing is clear, the territory of Rwanda has been used in the preparation and commission of a conspiracy which, having started as a simple mutiny, moving dangerously towards a pattern of breaches of the peace between two countries of the Great Lakes. “

Joseph, a Congolese Tutsi student in France, already spoke of what looks much like a Rwandan presence in DRC recently: “Whenever Kigali wants to influence policy in the Congo, they recruit among the people in our kinyarwa-speaking community or some Rwandans who have lived in the Congo. They are either demobilized Rwandan former soldiers or former rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL). Since the genocide, the Rwandan civilians are trained in handling weapons. These people are sent to fight or exploit minerals. “

Several demobilized fighters have found themselves in the Congo after repatriation by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This phenomenon is well known to the UNHCR and the UN mission, even thou today, for reasons of communication and image, the news still seems to be a surprise.

Already, in 2008, a report openly accused Rwanda of supporting the National Congress for People’s Defense (CNDP) rebel movement created to defend the Tutsi minority in Congo, and Kigali ended up arresting General Nkunda while his troops threatened to capture Goma, a city in eastern DRC, a move that ridiculed forces claiming to be impartial. Against the argument of protection of minorities, the Congolese argue that “no ethnic group has a majority in the DRC. All are in the minority. So why should Kigali move in to protect the Tutsis?”

Hands on the Congolese gems

The question remains: why is Rwanda committed to intervene one way or the other in this troubled region of the DRC?

Several UN reports have said: “Rwanda is the hub of the illicit trade in precious stones Congolese.” In 2011, according to the Rwandan central bank, mining exports earned 68 million U.S. dollars to the State becoming the largest source of foreign exchange earnings, exceeding for the first time, the export of tea, which has always been the first export sector. Officially, Rwanda does not have fields capable of providing such production. So from where do all these exported minerals come from? Already in 2009, one observer noted exponential creation of mining firms, approximately more than 300.

The mining sector employs some 35,000 Rwandan people, and activities are concentrated in small-scale artisanal mines and a few of thosen mines are engaged in commercial operations. However, the exact proportion of mining production originating from Rwanda in mineral exports from the country is never in public domain. “We asked the leaders of Rwanda mine to give us statistics of local productions, mine by mine, until this day, we were not given anything. We are always given promises, “says Sophia Pikles, Campaigner for the latest report from the British NGO Global Witness.

Minerals of the Congo are exported as Rwandan Production.

Through these firms, “Congolese minerals crossing the border receive a label in Rwanda and are sold to international markets,” says an expatriate involved in the business in the region. Other evidence, this time provided in a report by a British NGO, shows that Rwanda is slow to implement due diligence to control the production chain of the minerals exported from its territory.
“The Rwandan government banned the import of minerals that are not certified and labeled by the competent authorities. The only exception is made to minerals that pass through the country in sealed containers when they come Kivu where they are not labeled.

General Ntaganda, a pillar of illicit trade

Congolese minerals never go to Rwanda without the knowledge of the Congolese security services. “The Congolese president understood what he was told. Rwanda can not grow if our border in the east it is closed, ” whispered a member of the presidential delegation during the January 2009 summit in Nairobi presiding negotiations with the rebels of Laurent Nkunda. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had made a proposal in January 2009 on the joint operation by Rwanda and DRC Congolese to share  Congolese wealth. Although this initiative has provoked the anger of the Congolese, in reality, the initiative was coming from Congolese President Kabila himself, confided a secret service in the Western French journalist Charles Onana investigation. Information included in his book, “These Tutsi killers. At the heart of the Congolese tragedy.

Note that the Congolese government replaced General Nkunda by General Ntaganda during a mediation brokered by the Americans to which the leaders of the current Monusco were isolated. General Ntaganda a.k.a “Terminator” because of his acts of violations of human rights, went to seize control of a territory extending from the entire Eastern Province to the province of North Kivu.

According to the latest report of UN experts, he has established a highly profitable network of smuggling along Rwandan-Congolese border area. Minerals are introduced into Rwanda through properties of Ntaganda. The General earns up to 15,000 U.S. dollars profit per week.

Does the Congolese government ignore all these transactions and movements? Could not the Kinshasa government forsee that Terminator would engage in this illicit trade?

Congolese government complicity

Another chilling fact is the involvement of Congo government services in blood mineral trade. Several reports of UN experts have noted the involvement of Congolese political personalities at all levels.
Reports, as early as 1994 Gersony report, Lutundula, Kassem report in 2002, and the Mapping Report in 2010, cited by name several personalities such as Katumba Mwanke, the almighty adviser to President Kabila, who died in tragic circumstances in Goma. These public figures have never been worried by any court of law. What’s more normal than to see these practices continue?

A reliable source within international business community reported this incredible scene: “On November 3, Rwandan authorities submited to the DRC 68 tons of smuggled minerals seized during the year by Rwandan security officials. The stock is placed in a repository in Goma owned by a former Congolese general, Bora, also quoted in the assassination of former Congolese President Laurent Kabila. But on Nov. 14 at dawn, in the presence of officials of the province including a former provincial minister in charge of mining, these minerals were smuggled back into Rwanda and sold to international buyers.” No investigation has been opened to date by the Congolese government, which officially claims zero tolerance and sector reform.

President Kabila himself was accused by British MP Eric Joyce for selling off natural resources that have looted off this country off more than $ 5 billion. Congolese resources are stolen and sold by any one from the top of the State to the lowest level of government institutions and through the security services.

Failed security service reform has increased smuggling

Is the deterioration of the situation in eastern Congo not maintained? Despite efforts in Congolese legislation to clean up  the mining sector, the failure of reform in the security service creates doubt on Kinshasa’s political will to put some order in the Congolese mining sector .  According Jaquemot Pierre, a French specialist in African Great Lakes region and former ambassador to the DRC, partners have seen billions of dollars consumed to fund the failed reform of the security system.

The Congolese army is made up of a hundred thousand men, under equipped, badly paid, least trained and is a true conglomerate of dozens of militias. No spirit of an army and with no unity of command. They struggle to eradicate the outbreak of tension in the East. It’s a remake of Mobutu’s army during the advance of Laurent Kabila, as detailed in Honore Ngbanda’s book “Ainsi sonne le glas, Les derniers jours du Maréchal” (Thus the Bell Tolls, The Last Days of the Marshal.) Some brigades have been formed by the Belgian, American, South African, French and Chinese. Unfortunately, these modern units have been slow to be deployed in the area of tension that are the North and South Kivu.

Several of its officers are suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity, like the current head of the army, Amisi Tango Fort, whose name is included on the classified and confidential blacklist of the  Mapping UN report of October 2010. The report recognizes that war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred in eastern DRC could be described as acts of genocide.

Nevertheless, President Kabila has implemented a policy of compensation of its officers, to ensure their unfailing loyalty, as did President Dos Santos of Angola during the civil war in Angola. Under the pretext of security, military controls several mines and extorts the artisanal miners to survive. Their pay is diverted by high-ranking officers, sometimes, even as poorly paid soldiers fighting in front line next to their wives and children. To express their discontent, it happens that these soldiers extort the population. The war gives rise to certain practices. Officers buy their food rations from Kinshasa and are transported by plane  at high cost instead of buying from local markets.

This chain of spending force senior officers to collect bribes to bail out their pockets. This has caused in the past, some heated debates in the National Assembly sessions of oral questions to the government without yet seeing the perpetrators punished. Several incompetent and corrupt  high-ranking officers were slow to take long transfers, others resist in order to retain their “profitable” posts in the East. Unlike in Angola, the remuneration policy has not produced the same effects in the DRC. It thwarted the reform of the security sector, increased the “militialisation” of law enforcement and multiplied illicit trafficking and smuggling of minerals.

Some units, specially those from the CNDP, the armed pro-Tutsi, refuse to be redeployed elsewhere in the country, claiming to be protecting the people in the Rutshuru and Masisi. Meanwhile, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), whose leaders are accused by the Kagame regime of being behind the genocide , Governement’s first allies against the threat of Rwanda, rape and pillage. They also indulge themselves in the exploitation of Congolese wealth, enough to finance their armed opposition against Rwanda and feed the angry dissidence of Kigali.

Congolese President Kabila has therefore conducted this kind of policy for a long time, while claiming to have made peace with his former Tutsi allies of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL). This nuisance from the CNDP has now forced a coaster and a spectacular rapprochement with Kigali. Rwanda wants to keep control of the game in Kivu, to expand its area of influence beyond its borders in a region rich of minerals. The land can also accommodate some Rwandans in search of land and pasture. Whereas the DRC wants to regain control of the province for domestic political purposes.

Several local leaders operate militias in the east of the country for political and financial compensation. They often succeeded. President Kabila is using the money or the power to rein on these opponents or on some stubborn political leaders on his camp.

The new war may change the balance of power in the region

After the chaotic elections that led to his re-election, Kabila seems to take things in hand. His goal? To improve his image tarnished by the past twelve years of his controversial rule. A new government was established and among its six goals including the restoration of state authority in areas in conflict.  Modern brigades of the army are finally deployed in the East to track down the negative forces, relegating to the background the political and internal resolution of the crisis. But this priority of Kinshasa does not please Kigali which is afraid of losing its influence on the Kivu and in turn in the region.

Rwanda has indeed acquired supremacy in the region since the time the Rwandan-dominated AFDL troops managed to overthrow the Mobutu regime, the former Congolese dictator who ruled the country for 32 years.
Supremacy increased when Rwandan troops defeated the Ugandan army during the Six Day War in 2000 in Kisangani, when the both armies occupied the DRC. Rwanda has been heavily militarized by the U.S. and Britain before, during and after the seizure of power by the Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1994. Its campaigns in Congo have enabled it to get hold of the immense wealth of this country, as evidenced by several reports of the United Nations and NGOs. DRC is a cash cow that Rwanda can not resist the temptation to milk more.

In Congo, the current Rwandan government is perceived as the one that, in complicity with Congolese authorities, has allowed multinationals to plunder the resources of the country. In Kinshasa, winning a military battle and reorganizing this part of the territory means not only limiting the influence of power in Kigali, re-balancing power in the region but also rewrite the history of the great-lakes region.
The Rwanda has understood and has urged the Congolese government to make a new joint military operation against the FDLRs, in exchange to help control the CNDP forces, allowing it to address the political aspect of the agreement signed with armed groups.

A new struggle for leadership is playing in Kivu now. Certain world powers that take advantage of this conflict are watching closely to decide their next position.

Nazaire Nkoko

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