Africa-Press – Rwanda. I’ve been racking my brain over the last few weeks trying to come up with a new angle to the DRC issue/s. As a columnist and writer I feel that it’s my job to give readers a different viewpoint but with what’s going on at this very moment in DRC, I’ve honestly failed to come up with a new wrinkle.
I cannot add anything new to the conversation. I’ve seen it all and I’ve heard it all.
DRC’s impact on the region is our very own Groundhog Day; a tedious cycle of governance issues, small arms proliferation, militia groups, mining interests, geopolitical scrambles, corruption, citizenship challenges and conspiracy theories.
As a child of the 80’s whose political awakening occurred in the 90’s, I’ve taken it for granted that Zaire/ DRC is the region’s ‘Sick Man’.
With a prostate cancer ravaged Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko at the helm in 1994, Zaire tried to play the regional power broker in cahoots with the French and other international interests. The only issue being that what he was trying to broker was an arrangement with the Devil himself i.e. the genocidal militia and Theodore Sindikubwabo FAR (Forces Armee Rwandaise).
As a result of Mobutu’s governments’ refusal to disarm these forces (either because they couldn’t or wouldn’t) Zaire became the staging ground for incessant attacks on Rwanda’s new government.
A government that was trying to make sense of the horrible situation its citizens were in as a result of the killing of over a million people at speeds previously unknown to mankind.
From the very beginning, and through a lot of fault of their own, Zaire’s leadership played a negative role in the lives of Rwandan citizens trying to rebuild their lives after 1994.
I’m old enough to remember the ‘Abacegezi’ threat and how, due to it, buses would be stopped at the Giti Kinyonyi checkpoint, passengers asked to disembark and luggage checked for grenades, firearms and other weapons. I remember listening to Radio Rwanda in early 1997 as it reported the murders of students in Ngororero District as well as in Rubavu. Many of the attacks that took place in Rwanda at the time came from safe havens in Zaire.
I can recall the AFDL rebellion and how it manifested as a result of Zaire’s own mismanagement of its securo-political affairs, this mismanagement being highlighted by the treatment Kinyarwanda speaking Zairois faced.
I remember Kabila Senior’s Faustian Bargain with the ex-FAR leadership; a pact that gave the defeated genocidal army a new lease of life. I remember watching the hounding and murder of Kinyarwanda speaking people in Kinshasa on TV, people being tossed into the Congo River and shot at as they drowned.
I remember the Sun City Agreement of 2002 that brought our military forces home. I remember the early promise of the 2009 joint FARDC and RDF offensives against the Rwandan militia groups dubbed ‘Kimia II and Umoja Wetu’. And I also remember how the successful offensives were then unceremoniously halted by the DRC government.
It feels like it was only yesterday when Etienne Tshisekedi held hands with our president as he attended the 2019 Africa CEO Forum in the Kigali Convention Center. Where once he called him a “brother”, Tshisekedi is now, a mere three years later, calling him a “devil”.
I’ve been keenly watching the events over the last couple of months, waiting to see if I would be surprised. But to paraphrase the Bible, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to our neighbors to the west. Weak political leadership? Check. Unhelpful foreign meddling? Check. A restive citizenry that is lashing out in all directions? Check. Political posturing? Check. International mining concerns exercising the Dark Arts in the background? Check. Global refusal to guarantee Rwanda’s security interests while remaining dismissive to the threat posed by genocide forces and most especially their ideology of extermination. Check.
An unwillingness to appropriately examine the challenges wrought by the 1885 Berlin Conference as well as the subsequent agreements signed by the Belgian, British and German governments that separated the Kinyarwanda speaking people from the Rwandan state. Check.
To be honest, the only difference I see in this latest brouhaha is the advent of social media platforms like Twitter and their ability to ratchet up unhelpful rhetoric and posturing.
So, in a nutshell, what we need to make peace with is the fact that we have a neighbor, who through some fault of their own (not ignoring the external forces and historical injustices and traumas they’ve faced) will always give the political leadership of the region a headache.
Rwanda’s will just be a stronger kind of headache. A migraine in fact. That is our lot in life. Let us be comfortable in that space and figure out how to continue developing the country and its people. This is just another hurdle we must surmount and I am confident that we shall do just that. We’ve done it before and we shall do it again.