CLARE SHORT: "OH KAGAME IS SUCH A SWEETIE!"
On 30th of July, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila signed a peace deal in Pretoria, South Africa, which provides for the withdrawal in "90 days" of Rwanda's Tusti-led army from the Democratic Republic of Congo in exchange for Kinshasa's demobilisation, disarmament and repatriation (DDR) of thousands of Hutus, the ex-Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR) - Interahamwe militia accused of Rwanda's 1994 genocide. The agreement has been welcomed by the UN Security Council, the EU, the AU and the US. This, albeit the fact that it does not address Rwanda's role in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its accountability in a genocide of more 3.5million Congolese since 1998 and the looting of Congo's natural and mineral resources, with complicity of so-called Congolese rebels and the backing of Britain, America and Western multinationals. For the ordinary Congolese people bearing the brunt of an unjust war imposed on them, this latest accord between Congo and one of its aggressors and invaders from the east is yet another proof that maybe the rest of the world is conceding to the dictates of Rwanda with respect to its troops remaining definitely in Congo to annex the eastern part of Congo (all the previous agreements have fallen by the wayside). And they are absolutely right. Rwanda has started circulating its currency, the Rwandan franc, in the Congolese territories it controls, where also its national telephone code applies. Rwandan troops are forcing the local Congolese population under occupation to sing their country's national anthem and the Rwandan flag is hoisted at every public places in Rwanda-occupied territories. Rwanda has therefore already implanted all the symbols of its national sovereignty on Congolese soil, despite local resistance.
"Hutus can be disarmed in 90 days if Congo is serious," commented Charles Murigande, secretary general of Rwanda's Tutsi-led ruling party, Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).
However, Paul Kagame has been compared to a "tree that hides the forest" because he enjoys the backing of Britain and America to have a free rein in Congo. Rwanda, a tiny country in central Africa has accordingly become the most influential country in that region.
The Daily Telegraph, a London-based daily, on 8th August reported that critics of Rwandan expansionism have accused Clare Short, the British International Development Secretary, of providing major funding for the Tutsi-led Rwandan regime and turning a blind eyes to atrocities Rwandan troops are committing against the people of Congo. The Financial Times, another British daily revealed that the British government now gives Rwanda $36 million a year just "to cover its budget deficit".
The report said that according to senior UN officials, when Miss Short was challenged about British policy towards Kagame's government, she replied: "Oh, but he is such a sweetie!".
It is hard to see how Rwandan troops are going to withdraw from Congo after they have seized mineral mines there which are still pumping vast sums into its impoverished economy, and feeding the mobile phone and the computer chips industry in the West, to name but a few.
In a White House press briefing following the accord, Pierre Prosper, the US State Department ambassador-at-large for War Crimes said: "We want to see Rwanda withdraw from the Congo. But we also want to see the Democratic Republic of Congo take steps to address Rwanda's security concerns."
Prosper then went on "reminding" all states in the Central African region "of their international obligations to co-operate with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
"This means that all the states in the region, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Republic of the Congo 9the neighbouring former French colony), and Angola, must seek and arrest all inductees that may be on their territory. Only through a concerted regional and international effort will we be able to take the steps that are necessary to achieve lasting peace in region," he said.
Asked whether the US had any intention of putting in place sanctions in case Rwanda failed to withdraw its troops from Congo, Prosper was rather vague.
"What you can see and expect from the US is a country that will be engaged with the parties in the region, will work with South Africa as the broker of the peace agreement to find a way to move this process forward by way of a 'monitoring mechanism'."
At the meeting of the UN Security Council on the Democratic Republic of Congo, held in New York on 8th August, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan called the agreement "an ambitious agenda whose objectives could only be met if the international community invested all its energy and resources".
"I think the international community has the obligation to provide every necessary support - financial and logistic - to ensure the success of this initiative," Annan said.
On the same occasion, Léonard Okitundu, Congo's foreign minister also called on the international community "to invest itself concretely without sparing any means". Mr Okitundu accused Rwanda of still deploying more troops into Congo even as it was signing the agreement.
"Rwanda," he said, "remained the only country that was still engaging in military operations on a big scope on the Congolese soil."
Okitundu said his government was ready to make similar peace agreements with Uganda and Burundi, Congo's two other invaders beside Rwanda, as well as hold an all-inclusive power-sharing inter-Congolese dialogue, including with various Congolese rebel factions created by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
He called for the UN to rewrite the mandate of the UN Mission in Congo (known by its French acronym, MONUC) to allow peace keepers - together with the soon to be deployed 1,500 South African troops - to help his government demobilise, disarm and repatriate Hutu militias . The Hutu militia are now widely known to be scattered across eastern Congo, the very territory Rwandan troops have occupied for almost six years now without managing to flash them out, albeit their "military superiority".
"MONUC," Okitundu said, "needed 'new operations concepts' and should thereafter be stationed as a buffer between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo."
A diplomatic source told New African that Kagame still had more cards to play now that he could still hold on the pretext of the Interahamwe to kill, neutralise national resistance and loot in Congo in order to occupy it definitely and enrich himself and the clique around him.
The source said: "Kagame will have the last word as far as the outcome of this agreement is concerned. He will be able to dispute the number of the Interahamwe living in Congo. So 'a new war of number will emerge. The Congolese government says there are no Hutu militia in the territories still under its control after it rounded up 2,000 Hutu fighters in the military base of Kamina. But Kagame doesn't want to know about them. He estimates that they are more than 50,000.
The source added: "Kagame is also afraid of withdrawing his 35,000 troops from Congo, most of whom have not been paid since the invasion, while his top generals have amassed wealth looted in Congo and have built beautiful villas throughout Rwanda. Many Rwandan soldiers have died in the jungle of Congo and their families are claiming their bodies back. Kagame has no answer for them. He is not therefore in a hurry to withdraw his troops from Congo. Kagame is also trying to remote-control the political process in Congo, underestimating Congolese nationalism. His ambition and dream to conquer Congo is clearly not working."
In fact, this latest peace accord intervene at a time when Kigali has politically and militarily been weakened in Congo. The RCD, a Congolese rebel movement it created to use it as a "smoke screen" for its occupation of Congo is almost on the brink of disintegration following massive defections.
The French daily Le Monde reported on 27 July that Kigali has lost more than 2,000 men as a result of fighting between its troops and the Mai-Mai Congolese combatants backed by Kinshasa since April this year.
In an interview with Le Monde, General David Padiri, the leader of the Mai-Mai vowed "to fight on until the last Rwandan invader is either captured and killed or expelled from the Congolese territory."
Whatever happens, "sweetie Kagame" has no more pretexts to brandish in order to cling to the "land of milk and honey" he has found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. http://www.congopanorama.info/art-short.shtml