DRC:US Congress Tackles Rwandan Government Support to M23 Rebels: Rwanda and Uganda Led by A Mafia-Like Network?

On Tuesday December 11, 2012 afternoon, the United States House of Representatives held hearings on the crisis in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the support by the Rwandan Government and Military to the Congolese rebels known as M23. Those who testified include US Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson, Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast, Former Coordinator of UN Group Experts on the DRC Steve Hege, and Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. They testified in front of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.

From the hearing briefs and the documents received by AfroAmerica Network, major themes were developed by those who testified in front of the US Congress:

  • Rwandan and Ugandan governments overwhelmingly condemned of being the root cause of current instability in eastern the DRC;
  • Rwanda and Uganda were accused to be led by a mafia-like network;
  • Rwanda is seeking federalism in the DRC;
  • M23 rebel leaders and its supporters, namely Rwandan leaders must be sanctioned;
  • the UN Secretary General and the US Government must appoint their special envoys to the Great Lakes region. 

Rwandan and Ugandan governments overwhelmingly condemned for being the root cause of current instability in Eastern the DRC.

All the testimonies clearly denounced Rwandan and Ugandan governments and military for supporting M23 rebels for geopolitical and economical interests. But, the forceful and blunt assessment by US Assistant Secretary of State was yet the strongest position by the US Government on the matter. According to Johnnie Carson: “The M23 would not be the threat it is today without external support, and we will continue to discourage outside parties from providing any assistance to the M23. There is a credible body of evidence that corroborates key findings of the Group of Experts’ reports – including evidence of significant military and logistical support, as well as operational and political guidance, from the Rwandan government to the M23. The British government has recently indicated that it shares this assessment. We do not have a similar body of evidence that Uganda has a government-wide policy of support to the M23.” So, the US and the British governments are aligned on the condemnation of Rwandan and Ugandan involvement in the chaos in Eastern DRC.

Rwanda and Uganda led by a mafia-line network.

The following strong statement came from the highly respected Enough Co-Founder John Prendergast, who is also a former US Government official under President Clinton’s Administration. According to John Prendergast, “This[NDLR: current crisis] is the latest chapter of a long story involving competing mafia-like networks controlled by leaders in the capitals of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, all of whom wrap themselves in national security concerns to mask economic and political interests. Sometimes these competing elites fight and sometimes they cooperate for control of lucrative land, livestock, mineral, and timber resources. “

Rwanda Seeking Federalism in the DRC.

Steve Hege, who has been vilified by the Rwandan government after the UN Group of Experts, he led, documented the involvement of Rwandan government and military in founding, funding, training, recruiting, commanding and reinforcing M23 rebels and other militia, gave a strong academic argument on why the Rwanda government seeks chaos in Eastern DRC. According to Steve Hege, Rwandan military leaders want a Juba-South Sudan type of solution in Eastearn DRC. The difference being that Eastern DRC will be under the control of the Rwandan military government. This is how Steve Hege put it: “Prior to the November 2011 elections, one of the most senior intelligence officers within the Rwandan government discussed with me several possible scenarios for the secession of the eastern Congo. Reflecting the thinking of many of his colleagues, he asserted that because the Congo was too big to be governed by Kinshasa, Rwanda should support the emergence of a federal state for the eastern Congo. He said, “Goma should relate to Kinshasa in the same way that Juba was linked to Khartoum,” prior to the independence of South Sudan.” Clear enough.

M23 Rebels are and remain a Rwandan creation.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele explained it very well in these terms: “M23, which is primarily a Tutsi mono-ethnic armed group, sought to exploit these dormant grievances, citing discrimination against Tutsis as one reason for the rebellion. But they failed to generate support from important Tutsi communities, such as the Banyamulenge who have so far refused to join M23. Instead the Banyamulenge are serving with DRC army and fighting the rebellion. The rebellion had threatened to take over Goma, march on to Kinshasa and liberate DRC. But when Goma fell to M23 elements, spontaneous protests broke out in Bukavu, Kisangani and Kinshasa, denouncing Kinshasa’s failure to protect the city and expressing ire against the rebellion.”

Appoint the UN Secreatary General Envoy and the US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region.

In 2009, an umbrella on Rwandan rebels and political opposition, known as the National Democratic Congress (NDC) signed an agreement with the government of Democratic Republic of the Congo in Rome, after lengthy negotiations mediated by the Sant’ Egidio Community, SIK-Norway, and Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC). The major provision in the agreement was for the Democratic Republic of the Congo government to ask the UN Secretary General to appoint a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa to help resolve the problem of refugees and get to the root of the problem.

Instead of heeding the call, the DRC government, notorious for its inconsistency, signed a parallel secret agreement with the Rwandan government to attack Rwandan refugees disarmed by NDC leaders. The attack of disarmed refugees and their dependents, including children women and elderly, regrouped in camps in Kasiki, Eastern DRC by Rwandan Defense Forces eventually put an end to the agreement. But, apparently, the idea of the UN Envoy has lived on.

This is how each those who testified put it:

Johnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary of State: “We encourage the UN Secretary-General to appoint a UN Special Envoy to engage on a sustained basis to facilitate ongoing discussions toward a long-term solution of these long-standing problems. We need such a high-level Special Envoy to be dedicated to the hard work of helping develop this long-term solution with all of the relevant stakeholders and to ensure that the solution is implemented over the long run, especially when the world’s attention turns to the next crisis.”

John Prendergast, Enough Co-Founder: “A highly respected senior UN envoy should be appointed to work with the African Union envoy in crafting and leading a transparent and inclusive peace process. Beyond the Congolese, Rwandan and Ugandan governments, the initiative should involve armed and unarmed representatives from throughout eastern Congo, in particular civil society and political party officials, to ensure that any agreement might have the buy-in of a wide swathe of stakeholders. Key regional governments such as South Africa and Angola must also be involved to help build leverage for a solution. A senior US Special Envoy should be appointed to support the mediation and better organize international leverage opportunities, including UN sanctions and war crimes accountability.

Therefore, I strongly recommend that the United States urgently take the following actions in support of peace in the Congo:

Appoint a Presidential Envoy: The current U.S. policy structure does not allow the U.S. to exercise fully its latent leverage, creativity and coordinating function with respect to supporting peace in Congo. Appointing a Presidential Envoy would help rectify that. The Envoy should be a high-level individual with experience and relationships in the region who would be responsible for developing a unified policy toward the regional crisis and be able to fully invest in helping to widen and deepen the peace process to address its gaping deficiencies. Such an Envoy would leverage America’s economic, political, and military influence to ensure that all parties fully cooperate with an international political process, and also work closely with the current AU Envoy and a proposed UN Envoy.

Call for a UN Envoy to the Great Lakes: The current peace initiative sponsored by ICGLR lacks internationally coordinated leverage and strong external voices that can help ensure that the real drivers of conflict are eventually addressed within a political framework. The UN should play a major role in this. Therefore, the United States should work within the UN Security Council to ensure the appointment of a high-level envoy to work with the ICGLR and the AU to build a credible international political process that addresses the continual cycles of violence and regional interference.

Impose Sanctions on the M23 rebels and their external supporters .

All those who testified expressed their support for UN Experts and the sanctions they requested against M23 and the Rwandan and Ugandan leaders cited in the report. This may have been music in the ears of Steve Hege, who has had his share of the abuses from the Rwandan governments and its powerful lobbies and was, clearly, the star witness during the hearings. The sanctions were highlighted in the following statements:

Johnie Carson: “The Department continues to closely monitor reports of external support and we will continue to respond appropriately, including by reviewing our assistance, to deter this support as the situation develops.”

John Prendergast:“• Support robust UN Sanctions: The international community is leaving a huge reservoir of leverage on the table by not following the recommendations of the UN Group of Experts and others. There must be accountability for those who have restarted Congo’s war, and those who are orchestrating or funding war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a responsible supporter of the UN sanctions regime, the United States should push to impose sanctions on all individuals identified in the UN Group of Experts final report and those individuals and entities supporting criminal networks through the trade in natural resources, one of the main but unspoken drivers and motivations of the current round of conflict.”

Now, it is up to the US Congress and the US President to act. As John Prendergast put it:

“There is no excuse for this sorry state of affairs. Rectification does not require huge amounts of money or wrenchingly divisive moves within the UN Security Council. It requires leadership – from the African Union, from the UN Secretary General, and from President Obama, who has a strong history of clarity on Congo going back to his days in the U.S. Senate when he sponsored legislation that – had it been implemented then – would have addressed many of today’s deficiencies.”

AfroAmerica Network