By Erasme Rugemintwaza
In the exclusive interview granted to the most popular media by the French-speaking community, France 24 and RFI, in the evening of 17/05/2021, during his pomp visit to Paris, President Paul Kagame more than taunted the Congolese while defying the international community. His positions on the massacres in the DRC, his pernicious boasting towards the UN Mission in Congo (Monusco) have provoked a vague outcry that risks tarnishing the image of the strongman of Kigali who in recent days is losing momentum and becomes increasingly isolated by his neighbours. What happened? How does the world react to what he said?
It all starts in Paris, that evening of 17/05/2021, in front of the cameras and microphones of the media most prized by the French-speaking community, France 24 and RFI. The strongman of Kigali with snarl and disdain, will make remarks that will become a boomerang that risks knocking him down and turning him into the hero of “The lion and the gnat”.
Journalists Marc Perelman of France 24 and Alexandra Brangeon of RFI, chose the proper moment; Kagame was in the overexcitement of his visit to Paris not only because Paris seems to agree to get down on its knees and ask forgiveness for its “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” in the Genocide against the Tutsis of 1994, but above all Kagame was in Paris to spread his luxury. What can we say in fact of a man who mobilizes two luxury jets and a plane of his RwandAir for a visit, official as it is, while the population is starving, in his country where no one leaves! What can we say in fact of a man who mobilizes two luxury jets and a plane of his RwandAir for a visit, official as it is, while the population is starving, in his country where no one leaves! For the journalists it was a very auspicious time to make Kagame dance in ecstasy. Isn’t that “in vino veritas!”
Kagame categorically rejects the “Mapping Report”
In addition to questions about the negotiation of forgiveness for the role of Paris in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, Kagame also answered questions, which call upon Rwanda to face more serious problems than those that prompt him to ask Paris to kneel 27 years ago. A kind of booby-trap, well woven by journalists Marc Perelman and Alexandra Brangeon! These problems are in fact crimes against humanity in which Kagame’s army took part in Congo from 1996-2003, crimes contained in the UN report called the “Mapping Report”; the journalists wanted to know above all whether Kagame would accept the judgment of his officers for these crimes and the liabilities established in the report.
With snarl and disdain, Kagame replied that “The Mapping project report was extremely controversial. And in reality, it is highly contested by people either in the DRC or in neighbouring countries. It has been politicized. Mukwege becomes a symbol, a tool of these forces that we do not see and he receives the Nobel Prize so, we tell him what to say and I will add that there are other reports that have come out and that dispute by saying quite the opposite. There were no crimes. Even in the DRC. Absolutely not. Whether by the people being mentioned or the countries mentioned. If you will, the double genocide theory is at work. »
Since these statements, reactions have been pouring in to denounce Kagame’s remarks.
Thus Martin Fayulu, member of the presidium Lamuka, took to the stage to deplore and decry Kagame’s remarks and thus imputes to the lack of legitimate and strong leadership, at the head of the country. He says “We will not accept any denialist comments about crimes in the DRC”
While for Muzito, coordinator of the Lamuka coalition “No declaratory revisionism of the occupier will be able to erase the crimes committed in Makobola, Mwenga, Kasika, Kisangani during the six-day war and elsewhere in eastern DRC. The Mapping report must be exhumed and an international criminal court for the DRC, constituted.” 2018 presidential candidate Seth Kikuni sees humiliation in Kagame’s remarks and says that “diplomacy is not just smiling and fraternizing. It is also to say that we do not agree, to wage war when words are no longer enough, to correct the nonsense that affects national dignity. Macron and Kagame humiliate us, we just settle for photos”
Noel Tsiani, another 2018 presidential candidate, acknowledges that Kagame’s stance shocks by saying, “Paul Kagame’s comments in denying the existence of congolese massacres as noted in the Mapping Report are shocking. This gentleman sells the Rwandan genocide (of 800 thousand victims only), but spits on the 10 million Congolese killed as a result of his adventures in the DRC. It is disgusting! ». As for Bienvenue Matumo activist of the Movement for Change (Lucha) says “Paul Kagame’s comments on the Mapping report and on the Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege are denier and serious that deserve a public reaction from the Congolese authorities. Spitting on our millions of dead is a declaration of war against the republic.” The citizens’ movement called FILIMBI says that “these words of President Paul Kagame are an insult to the memory of our dead, an insult to all the Congolese people. Our authorities cannot remain silent any way! No to denialism!”
President Felix Tshisekedi did not wait the angry cries of his countrymen to react. He says he doesn’t want to be controversial, and moreover in the media, he wants to promote justice. In an interview with the international media, he cautiously states: “I have no controversy to do with President Kagame, I don’t have to use the media to respond to President Kagame, I have other avenues and I will use them to talk to him. I stress here that the Mapping Report is not a Congolese report, it is done by the UN experts. It’s the Mapping Report. What we have to do is to bring order, security and peace to the east of the country, to put an end to this cycle of the death of our compatriots and then also to open a page of justice that will go in all directions transitional or criminal, whatever. The aim is to pay tribute to all those victims who have been unjustly slaughtered. And so I am more in line with the logic of peace, peace in my country, peace with my neighbours, and I do not pay attention to these kinds of statements which, perhaps, can set fire to the region, because there is no point, so I really do not intend to respond to that.” He continued that “it would be rather a positive attitude that President Kagame would have to collaborate. If the people he defends are innocent, justice will exonerate them. . . . If there are people in the RPF who have committed crimes, they must be caught by the courts. And it is in President Kagame’s interest to deliver them to justice, because it is the honour of his country as well. » While on April 30, 2021, in the RPF Congress, Kagame boasted of having excellent relations with the DRC, here his arrogant attitude unearths the axe of hatred. Now the whole of Congo is mobilized against Kagame. Thus, some fifty Congolese personalities, scientists, politicians, activists, artists sign a forum reacting to these remarks of Kagame that they call deniers. These personalities say that our only facts are there and are stubborn but that there is also a case law of the International Court of Justice that has recognized Kampala’s responsibilities in the abuses committed by his army between 1997 and 2003, in the north-eastern part of the DRC. One thinks ipso facto of the city of Kisangani, which was, as you know, the scene of bloody clashes in the “six-day war” (June 5-10, 2000), between Rwandan and Ugandan forces. In their tribune they declare: “With force we say no to denialism! This is evidence that Mr. Kagame’s hurtful comments, riddled with denial, cannot change anything. In the face of this ignominy, fighting for justice in the name of the victims must now become a national cause. This forum is so that no one knows it and for posterity. Who else but us, if not it is up to us to be outraged against the lies of President Kagame. Who else but us, if not up to us to call on the Congolese authorities to break the silence and react? Our indignation, like that of those Congolese who are teeming with legitimate anger, marks a new page in awareness, in the fight against the falsification of history and its rewriting through feelings and not historical truth. The facts and the truth are stubborn and we are confident that one day those responsible for the crimes and massacres of Congolese citizens will be held accountable. That day will come. Congo will not forget. We will never forget the blood of our brothers and sisters who continue to cry out in us and who will cry out for our children. Twenty years of guilty silence, lying, looting, theft and rape will not disappear because of a few words spoken to journalists. Our dead are present in us and fuel our thirst for justice and truth every day. We are convinced that one day in the face of history, dead or alive, everyone will be accountable for his crimes, no displeasure to Mr. Kagame. For the dignity, justice and honour of a people are priceless.” It should be noted that among the quick reactions is a thinly veiled apology from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr Vincent BIRUTA, who wrote on his Twitter account: “There is confusion about what President Kagame said about the Mapping report when it was interrupted by Alexandra Brangeon. He argued that the report is used to falsely accuse certain individuals/countries in order to advance the “double genocide” theory. This excuse also makes no sense because it confirms instead how totally obsessed Kigali’s power is with the Genocide against Tutsis, which has become the measure of everything. It is a pernicious tribalism to take that only the massacres of the Tutsis can be described as genocide in contempt of others, more important in number! Kagame’s attitude also betrays Rwandan justice, only his word brings down the verdict. How can we propose to exonerate people who are not even before the judges yet.
As for the Congolese Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Denis Mukwege, whom Kagame blames for being a puppet in the pay of those who crowned him, President Felix Tshisekedi once again decides: “Compared to Dr. Mukwege I say, I insist here, it is a national pride. Moreover, we delayed award him a medal that values his struggle for the reparation of women, his struggle for the restoration of peace in the east, and he has all my confidence and affection. He is certainly not someone you can manipulate. He’s from this area, he lives there near the victims. I think he is someone who is well placed to talk about our people. So, he has all my affection and support.” That’s it, the dice are thrown! As for the Congolese Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Denis Mukwege, whom Kagame blames him for being a puppet in the pay of those who crowned him, President Felix Tshisekedi once again decides: “Compared to Dr. Mukwege I say, I insist here, it is a national pride. Moreover, he is slow to be awarded a decoration that values his struggle for the reparation of women, his struggle for the restoration of peace in the east, and he has all my confidence and affection. He is certainly not someone you can manipulate. He’s from this area, he lives there near the victims. I think he is someone who is well placed to talk about our people. So he has all my affection and support.” That’s it, the die is cast!
Kagame despises Monusco
Kagame also denied the presence of his troops on Congolese soil in eastern DRC, which the report, again by UN experts, mentions. In his unrivalled arrogance, Kagame despises the United Nations and instead asks them to say what they have done for the past 20 years. “I call on the United Nations to go further and ask why Rwanda should go to the DRC when they are responsible for this situation. If we were there, there wouldn’t occur such a failure. I can assure you that we would not fail to solve the problem of the armed groups” and to blame Monusco for the failure to resolve the crisis in eastern Congo, asking it: “What have you done there for 24 years? You go there to solve a problem, what happened? It’s a huge failure, it’s not much to say!” If Kagame has solutions for the insecurity of eastern DRC, the logic is that he is also the cause because the assurance with which he threw shame on the Monusco is revealing all the more since his troops are in the region not under any cooperation rather than as paid mercenaries. Thus, Kagame is suspected of forming militias that can be used to destabilize the region because only the insecurity of this region provides him with the cover of plundering the natural riches of Congo. So, in Rwanda people report that there are underground deposits of mining products from Congo, gold, uranium, coltan….
This contempt for Monusco finally broke Monusco’s silence. Thus, the spokesman of the Monusco will make a press briefing as a response to Kagame’s contempt, “Regarding President Paul Kagame’s analysis of the Monusco’s outcomes, you know, everyone is free from his analysis, everyone is free of his opinion.
For us, what is important is to remember that we found a country that was on the brink of implosion 20 years ago. With the joint efforts of Monusco and the Congolese authorities, we have managed to preserve the borders inherited from colonization, to gradually advance the authority of the state over the entire national territory,” Monusco spokesman Mathias Gillam said at a press briefing in Kinshasa. “There is work that has yet to be finalized and I am not trying to minimize the difficulties or setbacks that we have experienced. But there has been progress. It must be remembered that Monusco was never intended to replace the state. We have always had to work in a national dynamic that has not always been easy and a regional dynamic also that has still not been positive, so this set of factors that are taken into account for the analysis of the Monusco’s achievements picture.”
Kagame was quick to criticize his Congolese counterpart’s decision to declare a state of siege in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. He said: “It is one thing to declare a state of siege, for my part, I would do it too, but I would follow that with well conceived and planned actions to carry out concrete actions and not have the same problem after five years or even a bigger problem.” It is very clear that Kagame is critical of the Congolese army, which has long been considered by Kigali as a bunch of cowards. But he also insinuates that the situation can degenerate into the situation in Congo during these wars in which Congo invited a dozen friendly countries. And more curiously, the Ugandan and Kenyan armies are already reported on the Congolese soil, not to mention, certainly, Kagame’s troops unofficially operational.
Thus, the Congo incurs a great risk, once again, of seeing the foreign armies clash on the ground for its basement! If Rwanda and Uganda clashed in Kisangani in 2000, when they were friends, what can they do in the present moment when they looked daggers at each other?
At the moment, Kigali is active to try to calm the fire ignited by the snarl and contempt that his Kagame feeds for others. These words have become like a wildfire, a drop of water that makes the vase overflow! Some wonder whether Rwanda will one day have diplomacy that benefits to its people and which is not the preserve of a single individual, a diplomacy that allows them to leave their country and go to neighbouring countries in which Rwandans have friends and blood brothers without being lynched as it is daily plotted by Kagame’s secret agents.
Neighbouring countries remain united and have concluded major projects to isolate the country of thousand hills. Roads bypass the country, pipeline projects and power lines are straining, and it seems that the train project will never be implemented during Kagame’s reign. The bottom line is that Rwandans do not know that they have a virus gnawing their friendly relations with neighbours. It is none other than the arrogance, the thirst for the greatness of their president! How can one spit on the memory of the one who is declared to be his best friend? The Mapping Report has more than ever laid bare the true image of Kagame: a man consumed by remorse and obsessed with cataclysm in which he plunged his country and the entire region to such an extent that he forgets the misfortunes of others!
If Kagame asks France to kneel for “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities”, without “complicity” in the genocide that he himself provoked with reports ordered and tailored, is he prepared to do the same in front of the Congolese people whose massacres are recorded in the annals of the United Nations? Does Kagame believe that all Rwandans have jets to go to France, Israel or the Emirates? Rwandan wisdom, however, dictates that “a good neighbour is more important than a distant brother or friend.” It is very time that the real sons and daughters of Rwanda stand up to free the Rwandans from the prison where Kagame has locked them and establish a diplomacy of good neighbourliness. But a diplomacy built on lies, on arrogance, diplomacy without mutual respect and respect for values and the history of others, diplomacy without truth is comparable to a tree for which every zephyr is a hurricane!