By Paul Ndiho and Rush Perez
August 9, 2012
A United Nations report has implicated the Rwandan government in supporting the M-23 rebels in eastern Congo. The fighting has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee. In response to the report, some western nations have cut aid to Rwanda.
Since April, the Congolese army, supported by the UN Peace Keeping Mission, has been battling the M-23 rebels. The violence began when several hundred disgruntled government soldiers deserted the army and joined the rebels, led by Bosco Ntaganda– nicknamed the terminator. Ntaganda has been indicted by the international criminal court and just last month the I-C-C issued a new warrant for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Last month, in a major policy shift, the U.S State department announced it would be cutting 200-thousand dollars in military aid to Rwanda, and several other western nations followed suit, and also trimmed their aid. Jennifer Cooke, head of the Africa program at the center for strategic and international studies – CSIS Says since 1994 Rwanda has enjoyed immense support from the west.
“I think perceptions of Rwanda are definitely changing there’s been a lot of hesitance by the us to be too critical of Kagame there’s the overhang of guilt from the genocide and not taking actions soon enough, there’s the idea that Kagame did restore stability after a terrible situation. Rwanda ‘s been seen as a model aid recipient using the assistance well transparently speaking a language of the west on the development side, so there’s been a hesitance to critique him on whether its domestic policies in terms of authoritarian rule or the narrowing of political space or for his external engagement.”
In Eastern Congo last week, hundreds of people demonstrated against Rwanda’s support of the rebels. Meanwhile, here in Washington, some members of the Congolese diaspora camped out in front of the Rwandan embassy. Kambale Musavuli, a spokesman for friends of the Congo, explained why.
“Yes it’s definitely a symbolic move, but we do think it’s very encouraging for the past decades over a decade Rwanda has acted with total impunity for sections in the Congo. With the U.S actually taking steps to end the culture of impunity by withholding aid it sends a signal to the international community that Rwanda’s image is not that clean.”
Another protester shares Musavuli’s sentiment.
“we’ve been treated unfairly in the eyes of the creator every human being is accounted for there were six million eight million Congolese killed, 4 million women raped, ethnocide genocide the world has forgotten about us and we are very disappointed with the leaders of the world, the media of the world, and the people of the world everybody knows what’s going on.”
Felicity Nkudo, a Congolese native who traveled from New York to Washington to voice her concern about the issue of sexual violence in eastern Congo:
“As a woman i am deeply moved by the fate of my sisters back in the Congo there is a phenomenon that’s been created in the Congo by the Rwandese attackers, and the European Union spoke about it that it started in 1996 when Rwandese attacked the Congo it’s called rev that means rape of extreme violence. And in the Congo women are being raped they’re being stabbed in the womb the children are being raped that is unacceptable that is a total violation of human rights.”
Despite the violence, Jennifer Cooke believes there is hope for a diplomatic solution through dialogue:
“Ultimately there’s going to be needed a strong diplomatic push that involves the government in the DRC so Kabila and Kagame to come to some kind of agreement on security architecture for that region.”
According to the u-n, violence began gripping the eastern Congo in 1999– and has since caused more than 5 million deaths and forced hundreds of thousands of citizens to flee from their homes. Analysts say the conflict has been termed “Africa’s great war” and at one time or another, involved of at least eight countries. VOA tried to contact the Rwandan embassy in Washington for comment– but they declined.