RWANDA-DRC: Multi-faceted rapprochement!

By The Rwandan Analyst

Since Felix Tshisekedi came to power in the DRC following a brilliantly negotiated “deal” with Joseph Kabila, things have been going well overnight. This newbie in politics, initially decried as a fraud by his own people and even contested by the African Union, continues to arouse the admiration of everyone. Security of its fellow citizens, good neighborly diplomacy, infrastructure, all this gives the image of a reborn Congo. Humbly holding the dirty hands of a Paul Kagame who did not want him, Felix Tshisekedi first wants to calm down this neighbor with turbulent outbursts and bring peace to his country. His rapprochement with Kagame, his seduction of neighbors and friends make this man with charismatic calm, a political end. What are t hiding behind the agreements he concluded?

Confused for a long time, Kigali and Kinshasa have, since the election of Félix Tshisekedi in 2019, initiated a rapprochement both diplomatic and security. This rapprochement, which at the beginning owed to President Felix Tshisekedi, the contempt of his fellow citizens because his counterpart Paul Kagame did not fail to display his arrogance and contempt for the Congolese people, grew, at small steps until June 25 and 26 2021, immemorial dates for the official inauguration, of this building with the frontispiece of which is inscribed in marble, the word PEACE. Gisenyi and Goma, two Siamese cities were the scene of this diplomatic craze, the witnesses of a jubilant population, tired by the tensions which separated them and which never ended when they normally share the vicissitudes of life, with their common language Kiswahili.

This unexpected diplomatic rapprochement first, as I pointed out above, caused many tensions in the DRC, where no one has forgotten the tumultuous history that has linked the two countries for more than twenty-seven years. We recall with dismay the term “balkanization” in vogue in the late 1990s and early 2000 when rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda were operating on Congolese soil; a term that resurfaces in the mouths of Congolese whenever we talk about Kigali. Thesis which assumes that the insecurity in the east of the DRC is the conspiracy of which the mastermind is Kagame and his henchmen. The Congolese always have in mind the recent comments of Paul Kagame about the Mapping Report and their international hero Dr. Denis Mukwege, words of arrogance and scorn at the same time. How can a so-called friend disrespect his friend’s story and grieve, if necessary?

But despite this easily flammable context, Kinshasa and Kigali remain upright in their boots, considering that the past, admittedly filled with dark pages, is easily exploited by political ends. Let us underline that we cannot forget that these tensions are still maintained by the persistent vagueness of the motivations and outlines of this reconciliation. How did Kagame who had denied, as president of the African Union, the election of Felix Tshisekedi, come to flirt with the one whom he blocked the road towards the presidency of the country which abounds in the almost inexhaustible natural resources! Here we are pointing the finger at the mafia personal interests of the two presidents Tshisekedi and Kagame! However, with the validation of the election of Tshisekedi, which Kigali did not want, Kagame quickly realized that his arrival in power offered him a very real diplomatic opportunity at a time when his relations with his Ugandan and Burundian neighbors were deteriorating miserably. It was then necessary to catch up and beat the iron when it is still hot by looking for a substitute friend in the region. From then on, the batteries were activated and the desire for rapprochement between Kigali and Kinshasa was supported and facilitated by the Kenyan and Angolan chancelleries. There were more face-to-face meetings, even meetings thanks to family situations such as the funeral of the late Tshisekedi Etienne, father of the current DRC President in which Kagame was applauded by the crowd at the Martyrs stadium in Kinshasa.

Thus, this rapprochement was marked by a desire for mutual security and the cooperation of two armed forces, respectively, the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF), the premises of which were in particular the elimination and extradition of FDLR leaders. A mechanism called the “Joint Intelligence Team” (ECR) was set up, which brought together civilian and military data collected by the two countries to provide FARDC units specializing in operations against rebel groups. Here, after two years of intense activity, we have officially launched the diplomatic revival with the signing of three trade agreements. What are these agreements relating to? Who is the loser, who is the winner?

The Gold Mining Agreement

Here we are at the very heart of this rapprochement which seems to put in oblivion the judicial ambitions of the Congolese against Kagame who had become a persona non grata! It is well known that Kagame and his henchmen have often been singled out by numerous reports of the illegal exploitation or looting of the DRC’s wealth. And, what surprises the whole world, is that Rwanda, without gold subsoil has built the first refinery of gold in Africa, of which it would produce quantities! According to the agreement, “There will be complementarity between the two companies which will control the value chain from the extraction [in the DRC, Editor’s note] by the Congolese company Sakima and the refining by the Rwandan firm Dither SA [in  Rwanda, editor’s note]. This agreement aims at the traceability of gold in the DRC. It targets Kagame’s militias in the heart of the matter with the following clause: “Armed groups that derive income to finance the war with gold will no longer be able to afford to mine or resell to buyers on international markets”.

On this point Kagame is largely the loser because the mines of the DRC and other wealth he had squatted ipso facto return to theirs. And so, Kigali’s exorbitant profits from the plundering of these resources will dry up as the agreement sets up legal and controllable channels. In addition, this agreement seems to be protected by the presence of Kenyan and Ugandan soldiers who secure the region under the bilateral agreements of their countries. Thus, the armed groups that abound in the eastern part of the DRC, including those created by Rwanda to maintain insecurity, conducive to looting, will no longer have the leeway to loot. A question that leaves everyone dumbfounded: how the soldiers of Kagame, who exploited the mines and other resources, will leave the DRC, as long as Tshisekedi refrains from any open military cooperation with Rwanda? The only way to return to the fold in dignity, and this is the laughing stock of fate, is to disguise oneself as FDLR soldiers who want to return in the native land! To conclude this point, let us point out that there is international pressure against Rwanda basing on the reports of international organizations and NGOs which repeatedly accused Rwanda of plundering minerals from the DRC. Rwanda’s embellished reports present Rwanda as a major producer of precious stones in the African Great Lakes region! Despite the almost natural deposits created in Bugesera and Umutara, the quantity will decrease!

The two agreements for the prevention of tax evasion

The second agreement is on “The promotion of investments” while the third is a “Convention to avoid double taxation and prevent fiscal evasion with respect to taxes and income”

In fact, Congolese traders, in obscure ways, paid twice the tax, and this under the auspices of the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and the DRC customs agents, accomplices. These practices must stop and Rwanda loses!

Kinshasa dreams of joining the EAC

The next summit of the East African Community (EAC), to be held in February 2022, will be an opportunity to begin the process of reviewing Kinshasa’s application to join the organization. Indeed, on June 8, 2019, the DRC requested, in a letter to Paul Kagame, its integration into the EAC. So, the February 2022 meeting should make it possible to establish the necessary timetable for the examination of this request, including visits to the DRC by EAC delegations. Even if the process can be sometimes long, it should be noted that Kigali has already declared itself in favor of the membership of its neighbor but blockages could arise internally. In the background, two wills for regional integration risk clashing in the DRC. On the one hand Félix Tshisekedi wants to materialize his rapprochement with the countries of the EAC zone with which he has repeatedly shown his proximity since his inauguration in January 2019. On the other, the Kabila camp – and in particular certain generals who remain loyal to the former president- seems to look more in the direction of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Some geopolitics thereon

As, once again, I announced above, the election of Felix Tshisekedi is the result of a brilliantly concluded “deal” with incumbent President Joseph Kabila. His election was controversial and contested by his own and by his current romance Paul Kagame, then President-in-Office of the African Union. We know how much Joseph Kabila flew to his aid by sending emissaries to Kagame to ask him to stop contesting his election. How will Felix Tshisekedi then work with his two men who are very close to him and especially how he will free himself from their clutches to position himself as a strong man?

In politics there is a sacrosanct principle that there are alliances for a cause and not for eternity. To stand solidly Tshisekedi needed alliances but at certain times these alliances risk swallowing up his own political formation; it was then necessary to separate or to get rid of its tutelage in spite of everything, and to learn to walk with its own legs. He first freed himself from his godfather Joseph Kabila and his advisor Kamerhe, very close to Kigali. But he also goes outside and is going to put his closest neighbor, Paul Kagame, in a weak and embarrassing position. In fact, by calling upon the Ugandans and Kenyans for help without formalizing the presence of Rwandan soldiers operating in the DRC as mercenaries, Tshisekedi is progressively breaks away from Kagame. Thus Kagame, who arrogantly considered himself for the candid hero of the region who must fly to the aid of others, will be taken into trade agreements, which also limit his flight rather than in a military agreement. The Congolese are fed up with him! With neighbors, Tshisekedi will launch both economic and military cooperation with Uganda, sworn enemy of Rwanda, and the Kenyans under the leadership of the United States, which will propose Kenya as capable of working with MONUSCO to stabilize the Congo.

Thus, the presence of Uganda and Kenya in official military collaborations demeans Kagame whose soldiers are nothing but mercenary peasants who will come out of the DRC by a magic formula so as not to be intercepted by these Ugandans or Kenyans. Tshisekedi opens his country to neighbors by brilliantly dismissing Kagame. The construction agreements of the road of more than 450 kms with Uganda, trade with Kenya, France in Ituri fuel and especially the official coming of the United States to take over some Chinese projects badly concluded by his predecessor. Here is Tshisekedi who humbly strokes the animal in the direction of the hairs to finally kill it!

As it is written in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a season for everything: a time for everything under our skies … A time for war. And a time for peace”. And “To make peace with an enemy, you have to work with that enemy.” And this enemy becomes your partner,” said the Father of the Rainbow Nation, Nelson Mandela. How could anyone think that Kagame could give the hug, diplomatic though, to Tshisekedi, whom he initially challenged for legitimacy? How can we imagine a Kagame lowering his voice and barely concealed repentance? The dates of June 25 and 26, 2021, immemorial dates for the Rwandan and Congolese peoples have shown that man is capable of so many twists and turns. Because the commitment of the heads of state was solid. “We have wasted so many years looking at each other and doing nothing. We are only at the beginning, we will continue to expand our actions,” says Felix Tshisekedi. And Kagame replied in chorus, “Rwanda is committed to making efforts, in collaboration with the DRC, while respecting sovereignty”.