By Paul Ndiho
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution last month that extended the arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while expressing its intention to consider additional targeted sanctions against the leadership of the M23 rebel fighters.
Rwandan support for rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo may be more widespread than previously believed, according to a report released in November by the UN Panel of experts. The report, noted that Rwanda continues to violate the arms embargo by providing direct military support to the M23 rebels, distributing arms, ammunition, facilitating recruitment and dispensing intelligence and political advice.
Dr. Théogene Rudasingwa, a former top aide of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, now a fierce critic of the regime, agrees with the report. He says despite public denials, President Paul Kagame is directly involved.
“These accusations are certainly based on fact. The UN Panel of experts did conduct an investigation and compiled a report. But for us who belong to the region, even without the group of experts report, we know very well that Rwanda primarily and to a larger extent Uganda had been middling in the affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996. So there is a legacy, a continuing legacy, and there is evidence to point that actually the recent escalation of conflict the Congo is actually the creation by Rwanda and Uganda.
The M23 rebels have withdrawn, at least for now, from the Eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo following an agreement reached with the rebels that preceded meetings with regional leaders in the Ugandan, Capital, Kampala. Congolese activist, Yussa Bunzigiye Prosper, says that at the beginning of their conflict with the government, nobody took M23 rebels seriously, but once they took Goma, things changed, and that President Joseph Kabila should be held accountable.
“The Congolese want to see a government which is responsible, a government which will deal with these issues, and a government which will deliver to them social services, a government which will allow them to be free on their land and enjoy everything on that land.
The International community has been pushing for sanctions that encompass an arms embargo against all armed groups including M23 rebels and a travel ban and asset freeze against individuals or entities that have violated the embargo. But Prosper disagrees with this notion.
“Does the international community really have a say in this matter? The International community has been in Congo for more than ten years with MONUSCO. The same very MONUSCO they’re in Walikali ten miles away from Walikali women are being raped, the same MONUSCO they are in Rubilizi in South Kivu and 30 kilometers away women are being raped, venerable people are being displaces all over their land by militias and they are there… Guess what, they are getting a billion and half dollars every year to do what –to just enjoy the Congo soil… Come on? The international community has no moral authority to discuss this matter.
Critics of Rwanda and Uganda say both Governments have also cooperated to support the creation and expansion of the political branch of M23 and have constantaly advocated on behalf of the rebels some of whom reside in or regularly travel to Rwanda and Uganda. But, both governments vehemently deny backing the M23 rebellion. However, Dr. Rudasingwa warns that observers monitoring the Congo crisis should look at it from the context of these two leaders wanting to be relevant to the international community.
“I think it points to the Character and the state of governance in Uganda and Rwanda because most of these problems that we can see in Congo are more or less an extension of the problems that have not been solved in Rwanda and to a large extent to Uganda itself.”
The international community is optimistic that the rebel’s pullout from Goma might signal progress in efforts to negotiate a peace deal, but only time will tell. Meanwhile, the rebels have given no indication they are ending their eight-month insurgency.