By David Himbara
As the saying goes, ‘Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.’ After labelling the international community as all talk and no action, General Paul Kagame got what he wished for. The US government took robust actions with Kagame at the receiving end. Crucially, the US informed Kagame that it would directly monitor any future transgressions along the Rwanda-DRC border. A month earlier, the Biden Administration had already sanctioned Rwanda for invading and occupying DRC’s territory. The US tied Rwanda’s recent violence in DRC to Rwanda Defence Force’s 3rd Division led by Brigadier General Andrew Nyamvumba. Subsequently, the US Director of National Intelligence, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and the Special Assistant to the President were dispatched to Rwanda to inform Kagame of the new rules of engagement in DRC.
Kagame delivered his bombastic speech in the wrong place at the wrong time
General Paul Kagame used the September 20, 2023, General Assembly platform to mock world leaders but did not mention names. The Rwandan Ironman declared that the international community suffers from two deformities. Not only do they engage in empty talk that is rarely backed up or acted upon. They also suffer from willful blindness to wrongful acts. To quote Kagame’s own words, “We still have a long way to go” to achieve peace:
“Paying lip service to peace, and getting lost in process and formalities, only serves to confirm the selective attention of some in the international community.”
Kagame’s bombastic speech was delivered in the wrong place at the wrong time. The US government had already begun to take concrete action against the Kagame regime. A month before the Kagame UN speech, the Biden Administration directly tied Rwanda to the escalation of conflict in the Eastern DR Congo. The Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, was unequivocal on the position of the Biden Administration:
“Treasury will not hesitate to hold accountable actors committing human rights abuses and exacerbating this already dire humanitarian situation.”
The Rwanda Defence Force’s 3rd Division led by Brigadier General Andrew Nyamvumba were identified as the invaders and occupiers of DRC in early 2022. Nyamvumba was then sanctioned in the following language:
“Brigadier General Andrew Nyamvumba (Nyamvumba), a Rwandan national, is the head of operations for the RDF’s 3rd Division. In early 2022, the 3rd Division entered DRC territory, and in conjunction with M23 combatants, attacked FARDC positions and camps, resulting in FARDC casualties.
Nyamvumba is designated pursuant to E.O. 13413, as amended by E.O. 13671, for being a leader of the RDF, an entity, including any armed group, that has, or whose members have, been responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the DRC.”
The next step in the Kagame-US battle was on November 6, 2023, when the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken held a telephone conversation with the Rwandan Ironman. Predictably, the conversation centred on the worsening humanitarian crisis in DR Congo and the border areas.
The US’s latest action is to directly monitor the Rwanda-DRC border
On November 19, 2023, the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines met Kagame in Kigali. The DNI is the head of the Intelligence Community and the principal intelligence advisor to the President. The DNI was joined by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee and Special Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for African Affairs Judd Devermont.
The White House gave two reasons why the President sent his high-level team to meet with Kagame and separately with his DRC counterpart. First, the US sought commitments to de-escalate the conflict. Second, the US informed the two heads of state that it would monitor compliance with the commitments made by Rwanda and DRC. The White House explained the outcomes of the Rwanda visit by the US Director of National Intelligence and her team in these words:
“DNI Haines met with Rwandan President Kagame and Congolese President Tshisekedi to secure commitments from both leaders to de-escalate tensions in eastern DRC…The U.S. government welcomes, and intends to monitor, these DRC and Rwandan steps towards de-escalation.”
Kagame is the real beneficiary of the international community’s lip service to peacebuilding in the Great Lakes Region. The pile of reports by the UN, US, and EU about Kagame’s terror in the region can fill a library. But holding him accountable is a different matter. Perhaps, the new US-led drive to contain the Rwandan Ironman will work this time. Stay tuned.