Laurent Nkunda’s “Arrest:” Rwanda’s Latest Shell Game in Response to International Pressure

Is Laurent Nkunda’s arrest a positive development?

We have reasons to doubt that Laurent Nkunda has been arrested. Rwandan Maj. Jill Rutaremara said that Nkunda was in Rwanda but “not in jail.” If Nkunda has in fact been arrested it would be a positive development but not a massive change as some analysts would like you to believe. A true marker of the veracity of Rwanda’s claims of arresting Nkunda will be the extradition of Nkunda to the Congo where he committed the crimes against the Congolese people. If Nkunda is not extradited to Congo in short order then that will be a clear sign that this is part of the shell game that Rwanda has been playing for the past 12 years, a period during which they replaced one proxy leader with another while they continued to occupy Eastern Congo. Even if Nkunda were to be arrested, it would be a fundamental flaw in one’s reasoning to believe that Nkunda was the primary cause of the conflict in the east. In essence, what has happened is that Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People has been replaced by thousands of Rwandan troops. The problem is Rwanda’s and Uganda’s aggression against the Congo backed primarily by the United States and British governments and corporate interests since 1996.

If Rwanda did in fact arrest Nkunda, doesn’t this mean that they never supported him as the December 12th UN Report documented?

No, to the contrary, over the past twelve years Rwanda has shuffled different rebel leaders according to its interests. It is in part for this reason there were so many versions of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD, former rebel militia backed by Rwanda), which Nkunda was a part of in 1998 – 2002 war. Nkunda’s apparent replacement, Jean-Bosco Ntaganda, also has an arrest warrant out for him issued by the International Criminal Court; one human rights offender has been replaced by another as Bosco now proclaims to head the CNDP.

A systemic and historical analysis is warranted in order to demystify current events in the Congo and arrive at prescriptions that will lead to lasting peace and stability. Unfortunately, the majority of Great Lakes analysts offer Rwanda-friendly analysis and prescriptions as Rwanda represents the US and British foreign policy interests in Central Africa. These analysts’ job is to provide intellectual and advocacy cover for an otherwise disastrous policy across now two US and British administrations that have led to the deaths of millions of Congolese and the systematic looting of Congo’s wealth to the benefit of U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda as well as Western corporations.

Isn’t the new collaboration between Congo and Rwanda a good sign on the road to peace and stability in the region?

On December 5th, Rwanda and Congo signed a secret pact in Goma that the Congolese people know nothing about (President Kabila is scheduled to speak to his nation on this issue on Saturday, January 31, 2009). James Kabarebe, Chief of General Staff of the Rwandan Defense Forces and former private secretary and aide-de-camp of Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame was later dispatched to Kinshasa to consummate a deal with President Kabila. Thus, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, James Kabarebe, and President Kabila worked out a deal that resulted in over 5,000 Rwandan soldiers entering Congo. These are the same characters that collaborated in 1996 when Congo was first invaded by Rwanda during the Clinton administration. During that period they traversed the Congo slaughtering Hutu man, woman and child and anyone else who was in the way. The United Nations says that the killings were so massive and systematic that they can be considered crimes against humanity and possibly genocide. The United Nations investigation into these crimes against humanity by the Rwandan army, Kabarebe and Kabila was blocked and still remains to be resolved (see the UN investigations). Once a responsible and credible government is in place in Congo all these crimes must be investigated and justice must be delivered so that the Congolese people can be made whole. Find out more about the Kagame, Kabarebe, Kabila connection in our January 20th Blog. In the final analysis, more troops and further militarization of the region is not the answer. A robust political path must be established in order to lead to peace and stability in the Great Lakes region.

So are you saying that President Kabila allowing Rwandan troops on Congolese soil to hunt down those responsible for the 1994 genocide is not a good thing?

The logic that allowing Rwandan soldiers on Congolese territory to hunt down Hutu rebels will bring about peace is fundamentally flawed. Below are some factors to consider:

1. The deal allowing Rwandan soldiers on Congolese soil was not between the Congolese government and the Rwandan government. It was between the Congolese president Joseph Kabila, whom many suspect is not even Congolese and the Kagame regime in Kigali. Neither the Congolese parliament nor the Congolese people were either consulted or addressed regarding Rwandan troops entering Congolese territory. In fact some Congolese are calling for the impeachment of Kabila. When it comes to matters in Africa, we tend to drop all critical faculties and common sense. Can you imagine troops entering US territory without the US Congress knowing about it and the president not even addressing the population to explain why? What is even more farcical is that some Congolese government officials are trying to convince the world that thousands of Rwandan soldiers are coming into the Congo as advisers to the Congolese troops. It has even been stated that the Rwandan troops will be under Congolese command. Will they be under the same compromised command that Nkunda chased out of North Kivu?

2. It is beyond imagination that Rwanda is going to do in a few weeks what it was not able to do or interested in doing when it occupied the Congo from 1996–2002. During this period of the occupation of eastern Congo they did not wipe out the so-called Hutu militia. In fact, the biggest battle they had was with their ally Uganda over mining concessions. Also, during this time they systematically looted Congo of its wealth. (See UN Reports from 2001–2003). It is this looting of Congo’s wealth that spurred the economic miracle that President Clinton and other Western officials wax eloquently about in Rwanda. You will notice that they never mention the degree to which ill-gotten wealth from the Congo contributed to Rwanda’s “economic miracle.” Former Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen says it best when he notes “Having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product”.

3. What is almost certain is that Rwandan troops on Congolese soil will lead to more suffering of the people of the Congo. Analysts in the West have not fully appreciated the enmity that the average Congolese holds toward Rwanda. Remember, it was the US and British backed Rwandan and Ugandan invasions of 1996 and 1998 that unleashed the deaths of estimated millions of Congolese. So, for one to say that Rwandan soldiers are now going to make things better for the people of the Congo does not take history into account. One merely has to look at the Congo-Ugandan action against Ugandan rebels inside Congolese territory to see where this latest action is heading. Over 600 Congolese civilians lost their lives as a result of military action against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Congo, which began over a month ago. Moreover, that operation was supposed to take a few weeks and now Uganda is requesting more time on Congo’s soil, while Congo’s gold and timber continue to find its way into Uganda.

What role are great powers playing in what is unfolding in the Congo?

It is key to understand how the game is played to keep Africa dependent and impoverished. Because the West is more powerful than the divided and weak African nations, they have been able to assassinate or systematically sideline leaders who truly serve the interest of the people. They facilitate the ascension to power of those who demonstrate a proclivity for killing their fellow Africans. Once these feckless leaders are in power and predictably incapable of governing, western diplomats condescendingly intervene on the premise that those they have assisted in acquiring power either through elections or otherwise cannot in fact justly govern. This narrative is buttressed by superficial media coverage of African society, intellectuals for hire by Western powers and the humanitarian industry. It is in this context that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen, have proposed the balkanization and economic neutering of the Congo. They have made proposals to reward Rwanda and their Western support structure for the systematic looting of Congo, which has resulted in unmatched death and terror for the Congolese people. Nearly 125 years since Europe gave Congo to King Leopold II of Belgium as his own personal property, the situation is fundamentally the same whereby the affairs of the Congolese people are not determined by themselves; but rather by external forces.

So what can be positively drawn from recent events?

Several things can be looked at positively:

1. It is clear that international pressure works. It has moved Rwanda to at least announce the arrest of Nkunda. As was said, the litmus test for whether Nkunda has actually been arrested is his extradition to Kinshasa, otherwise for all intents and purposes he is vacationing in Rwanda at the behest of Kagame while Rwandan troops roam the hillsides of Eastern Congo with the blessing of Joseph Kabila. The U.S. is finding it increasingly difficult to defend its proxy, Rwanda, as both French and Spanish courts (the same Spanish court that ruled against Pinochet of Chile ) have arrest warrants out on President Kagame’s top officials for commission of war crimes, one of whom, Rose Kabuye, was arrested in Germany in November 2008. Despite such repeated damning evidence against the Kagame regime, under the auspices of Donald Rumsfeld’s AFRICOM program, the US sent a shipment of military equipment to Rwanda for peace keeping purposes in Western Sudan in early January 2009, coinciding with Rwandan troops intervention in Congo. The military shipment is supposed to be used for peace keeping in Western Sudan. Both Sweden and the Netherlands suspended aid to Rwanda and of course the damning December 12th UN Report have made it difficult for anyone to defend Rwanda except for some ideologically-driven humanitarian institutions. Even the New York Times editorial board continues to call for international pressure on Rwanda.

2. Kagame felt a necessity to adjust to the new realities in Washington. He could not necessarily count on President Obama to give him carte blanche as he has received from Presidents Clinton and Bush. Rwanda is certainly still a staunch ally of the U.S. However, Kagame cannot be certain that President Obama will fully support him in spite of some of the old guards (Susan Rice at the UN and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State) being in the administration. The Obama administration can hardly present itself as an administration of change with an old policy for the Great Lakes in particular and Africa in general. The new administration would be best served to implement policies that serve the people and not strongmen like Kagame and Kabila.

3. The US and British baked resource war of aggression is being disrobed on a daily basis. The hunt for the Hutu rebels is an attempt to recast the conflict in an ethnic context. The Hutu rebels, otherwise know as the Interahamwe or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR in French) need to be dealt with, but not in the manner currently underway. Remember, it has been the Congolese people who have been the primary victims of the presence of the Hutu rebels in the Congo. Nonetheless, what is happening in Central Africa is a high stakes geo-political battle for precious and strategic resources that are vital to the world’s military, aeronautics, electronics and technology industries. This interview with British Foreign Minister David Miliband provides some insight and perspective on the vital corporate interests in Central Africa.

4. The average person is becoming better informed and more engaged about the root causes of the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two. They are better equipped to demand action from their elected officials and challenge humanitarian institutions that come to their communities peddling warmed over ethnic explanations for the suffering of the people of Congo.

We are confident that with persistent education, organization and mobilization, the people of Congo will be free from the forces that have her sons and daughters living in absolute misery while we in the West benefit from her riches.

Join the global movement in support of the people of the Congo and strike a blow for justice and human dignity.

The Friends of the Congo (FOTC) is a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The FOTC was established at the behest of Congolese human rights and grassroots institutions in 2004, to work together to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire. FOTC can be contacted at: Read other articles by Friends, or visit Friends's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. John Shafer said on January 31st, 2009 at 11:09pm #

    And on the FOTC website under ‘Human Rights’ is listed the International Crisis Group a Soros think tank of elite global management. Anything BUT a ‘friend’ of the Congo. One member of IGC is Louise Arbour described by the lead Defence Lawyer of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as “a criminal, corrupt [who] as Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR conspired to cover up investigations into allegations against the RPF.” With ‘Friends’ like this who needs enemies?” see:

  2. Nshuti Habimana said on February 1st, 2009 at 4:03pm #

    If you are able to go as far back as King Leopold who in actual fact was the spark of the worst violence ever on the people of Congo – then why not look at the history of Rwanda and see why Rwanda can no longer take any more chances with its future? How quickly we forget what the Interahamwe did in 100 days in 1994? Why not inform your readers about the killing fields of Rwanda (mainly Tutsis) since 1967, ’73, ’83, ’87 …I do not recall this much concern for Tutsis being massacred even after numerous presentations of documents and evidence to the ever-so-useless UN?? – Now that the UN peacekeeping force that blatantly left thousands of people to fend for themselves during the genocide as it was happening, NOW, when after spending $1.2billion with a force of 18.000 armed soldiers has failed to disarm these killers 14 years later – I can see why it is very easy to blame a small nation and its leader who has managed to do what the UN and the world could not do…I cannot understand why that does not appear in your articles as an outrage…Where is your “dissident voice” on that issue??….Since no one is willing to stand up for us (yes, I lost everyone in my family), we learnt the hard way!- We have to do what is necessary to keep our borders safe.

  3. kahar said on February 3rd, 2009 at 2:34pm #

    “And on the FOTC website under ‘Human Rights’ is listed the International Crisis Group”

    John, could you give the page link for this as I’ve searched that website and what you’re talking about doesn’t exist.

  4. AfroVolaitre said on February 16th, 2009 at 3:05am #

    Nshuti, I have no problem with you keeping your borders safe. But I believe the Congo, my country, has the right to the inviolability of its borders too. I find it criminal that your president Kagame, is using the pain of the Rwandan people victimized by the genocide, to justify committing indiscriminate massacres by proxy in my country, accumulate wealth, and annex land, and you, the people of Rwanda, are letting him get away with it.

    You talk about the killing fields of Rwanda? It is not the aim of FOTC to talk about the problems of Rwanda. You are more than welcome to have a Friends of Rwanda organization that will do that (in fact, here in the United States, Kagame’s lobbyists are numerous, including Amb. Andrew Young). But DO NOT come and tell me that the Congolese people in the Kivus and in the Orientale Province have to pay for your safety with their lives. It is simply cruel and objectively nonsensical, and I will not tolerate that. Instead of promoting peace in Rwanda, and working on reconciliation there, Kagame prefers to dull people with an ephemeral economic boom, continue to rule with an iron fist in a velvet glove, and more importantly for me, he is manufacturing a pocket of hatred towards Rwanda in the East of the Congo, that could have devastating consequences for both countries. And you want to talk to me about borders, or about past matters thatw ere internal to Rwanda? Please!

    I will let you know this. I was 12 years old, and living in Kigali (Kimihurura) when the genocide began. I lost some of my best-friends at the French school who were cut in pieces in front of my eyes. Same for my mother. Those were people we loved, people we cared for. It is not the same thing as losing Family, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that today 15 years later, I still have vivid nightmares about it. I have 6 siblings, 4 of which are half Congolese-Tutsi. If I hated the Tutsi, I would also hate my own siblings, which for me is NEVER an option.

    So understand that I have nothing but sympathy for the plight of the Rwandans in general, and the Tutsi in particular, for 1994 (and 67, and 73, etc, etc). I think what happened was unacceptable, reprehensible, and a scar of shame for all of humanity. Nevertheless, my dear, that does not give the Rwandan Tutsis (or the Hutus for that matter), or your country, or your government, or your calculating, coniving, lynx of a President the right of life and death over MY people, the right to occupy (and apparently seek to annex) MY land, the right to indiscrimintely wreck havoc in the region directly and/or by proxies, to drain all MY people (whether Kongo, Luba, Nande, Shi, hema, lendu, Ngala, Lunda or our Hutus and Tutsis) of all hope, and suck MY mineral resources dry. And believe me when I tell you that I will fight anyone who dares violate my country and my people – ALL my people – with every fiber of my being.

    My male cousin, 15 years old at the time, was raped by APR soldiers when they were supporting the RCD-Goma, and he was not the only one. Because of the conflict created and manufactured in Kagame’s office, between 4 and 6 million people in my country have died, and tens of thousands of women were raped, and are suffering from fistula. So spare me your attempts at pulling at our heartstrings about the past sufferings of the Tutsi people in Rwanda. Do you really want to enter a historical debate on that? Do we want to drag our neighbor Burundi into this, and talk about the successive massacres of tens of thousands of Hutus by the regimes of Micombero, Bagaza, and Buyoya respectively? Should we even go there? Is that very constructive? I don’t think so.

    You claim that people do not want to stand up for you, and you defend your “leader who has managed to do what the UN and the world could not do…”. MINUAR was a disaster, Yes. And MONUC is only marginally better, I will also grant you that. But the man that you describe as a savior for us all, has been one of the masterminds behind a holocaust of biblical proportions in the Great Lakes region, and particularly in Congo, and you want me to not blame him? Please!!

  5. steveG said on April 13th, 2009 at 3:14pm #

    I think Kagame is being too clever for the west here(US &UK). He knows they dont like the UN, so he denigrates them. He knows Guerilas are the most elusive people to deal with, so by demanding the DRC administration apprehend them, he is onto a 1000 year winner, it is nay impossible to achieve, so his role is assured forever. It is quite disheartening to see that Tshuti above is not the only one who thinks that in order for rwanda to solve its ethnic problems, it needs to invade an innocent country. unfortunatley for Tshuti, the path his president has chosen will simply internationalise rwanda’s problems for rwanda’s children. because, imagine if one day the drc were to become more organised and the world woke up to kagame’s tactics, the drc may one day want to take revenge. all the boom your country is experiencing from the congo loot will come back to haunt you.

    kagame is a typical example why africa will remain the world’s laughing stock. My suspicion is that kagame is a stinking tribalist who cant stand the hutus. for if not, why would he choose to conviniently demand the impossible, the capture of guerilla fighters(interahamwe) instead of the repatriation of hutu people(much more achievable) after which he would sieve and arrest known so called genocide perpetrators. this would not be in his interest because it would mean a hated tribe legally retaurning home the majority of whom obviously innocent.