President Paul Kagame yesterday lashed out at Western countries and International organisations, saying they are the cause of the ongoing crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Head of State was speaking at the inauguration of the Rwanda Defence Force Command and Staff College at Nyakinama, Musaze District.
President Kagame gave a chronology of events that led up to the Congo crisis, saying the two countries (Rwanda and DRC) had made tremendous progress towards pacifying eastern DRC, which has been a haven of various armed groups for the last 18 years.
“This problem has not been caused by Rwanda and it has not been abetted by Rwanda. On the contrary, in the last four years, nobody in this region, on this continent and beyond, has worked very hard to see peace coming to our country and our neighbouring country than Rwanda,”he said.
Kagame pointed out that as the two countries were close to restoring peace, when the international community intervened and “twisted everything leaving the two countries in extreme misunderstandings and putting all the blame on Rwanda”.
“…Actually the problem of DRC came from outside….it was created by the international community – our partners – because they don’t listen, they are so arrogant to listen and in the end they don’t actually provide a solution they just keep creating problems for us. We know better our problems, we know better about this region’s problems,” the President added.
Over the last few years, officials from both sides of the border have met on several occasions, to come up with ways of eliminating armed groups in Eastern DRC.
In 2009, Rwandan and Congolese armies mounted joint operations which weakened armed groups, especially the FDLR. The Umoja Wetu Operation came just months after Rwanda had helped put down a rebellion in eastern DRC by brokering a deal between Kinshasa and CNDP rebels, and arresting the rebels’ leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda.
“We are genuine about trying to find a solution for this problem, but they (international Community) come and run over everything and when things explode they will come around and blame us for it, even when they are the ones who cause the problems,” Kagame said.
He added that during last year’s presidential elections in the Congo, Rwanda tried to play a positive role with the Kinshasa government, and after that, the two countries kept working together to deal with the problems in the east.
“We worked with them to deal with the challenges they had within their own country and then some people were not happy about that. They came up with the idea of arresting some people in the Congo for justice and accountability – which is good if only it was not selective.”
He explained that Rwanda’s response was that it did not see how it must get involved with arresting Congolese soldiers, maintaining that was for the DRC government to decide.
“We asked them that ‘how does that become our problem, why don’t you go and arrest him?” Kagame said in reference to Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who was then a serving Congolese army officer but indicted by the ICC for crimes he allegedly committed 10 years ago.
Ntaganda was the leader of the CNDP rebels who had been integrated in the Congo army under the March 23, 2009 agreement. “They insisted that we must have to help, and the pressure turned from Congo to us…this was before this conflict, and this kept going on and on. We appealed to them, we advised them that they were going to mess up the progress that has been made but they couldn’t listen,” said President Kagame.
“After that, members of the international community developed an idea that if Rwanda can’t support them to arrest someone in another country, then they would put us together with those they want to arrest, and this is really how it turned out to be. I am not dramatising anything here, I am telling the real story.”
Kagame added that, after the latest crisis broke out in DRC (in April), he telephoned his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila and discussed the matter.
“I asked him (Kabila) if he was aware of what was going on, if he had a hand in it, and if he wasn’t creating problems for himself, and he said no and that he had been approached (by the international community) and added that ‘my approach is different, I want to arrest some people for indiscipline but not handing them over to ICC’,” explained President Kagame, who said that he and President Kabila had all along kept talking over the developments in eastern DRC to help find a lasting solution.
Kagame said he had agreed with Kabila that officials from both countries meet and come up with the most appropriate way of dealing with the unfolding tension within the DRC. A meeting was later convened in the Rwandan border town of Rubavu.
“On the request of the Government of the DRC, Congolese officials called in the representatives of the (M23) rebels, one of them being the current leader of the rebellion. The group explained their grievances and the officials of the Government of Congo were taking note of the problems that were being raised and saying that they were aware of the problems that were being mentioned; they said they would address the problems when they go back to Kinshasa,” explained Kagame.
However, the Congolese officials went back to Kinshasa and did the contrary, the President pointed out.
“Then the International Community was saying that Rwanda is helping rebels, but helping them with what, and for what reason? They say we supply them with ammunition, but these people get guns from the Congolese army. The ammunition they have is from their Congolese armouries. We are not supplying even one bullet, we have not and we will not. If we had supplied them, by the way, I would be telling you that we have done so because we would have done it for a reason; but we have not even had a reason to have this conflict going on. On the contrary, we tried to prevent it and we advised both Congo and the international community,” said Kagame.
The Head of State added that for some reasons, the west is able to put the mess they have caused on some other people’s shoulders, adding “maybe that’s why they never listen”.
This week, members of the UN Panel of Experts on the Congo, who released the controversial preliminary report in whose addendum they accused Rwanda of supporting the DRC, are expected in the country to hear Rwanda’s side of the story.
“If the world has these kinds of experts on whose account of their report people are going to be penalised and abused, then please if you can’t prevent that, then you need to know how to constantly challenge it,” said the President.
The US government, over the weekend, released a statement saying they are holding a $200,000 pledge to support a Rwandan Military academy.
Contact email: sam.nkurunziza[at]newtimes.co.rw & edwin.musoni[at]newtimes.co.rw