Thoughts on Global Witness´press release
I find Global Witness´recent press release very revealing. In retrospective, it helps me understand what has been going on in the Kivus since January last year.
As those who follow the situation in the Kivus will remember, by October 2008 the CNDP controlled large parts of the Kivus and advanced towards Goma in full speed. No one -FARDC, peacekeepers- could stop them. We evacuated Goma (I had just arrived at the time). Surprisingly, thanks to political pressure, Goma did not fall in the hands of the CNDP.
The situation was extremely tense.
Nkunda had made too much noise -Rwanda was not happy at all about this- and North Kivu was again in the news, so the International Community had to prove that it was doing something about it. David Milliband and Bernard Kouchner came to Goma. They said a lot of words, and they left. A coalition of NGOs asked the European Commission for a deployment of troops, as they understood (and they were right) that this was the only way to stop violence against civilians. The EU refused and showed zero political will towards this possibility.
A few months later, in January, the UN released a very well documented report, proving that Rwandan authorities had been complicit in recruiting soldiers, including children, had facilitated the supply of military equipment, and had sent their own officers and units to the DRC to support the CNDP.
The report simply put on a piece of paper what was well known by everyone in the Kivus. This time, however, it was official. No one could say anymore that it was an opinion. This triggered a chain of diplomatic reactions. Sweden first, then The Netherlands, froze their financial aid to Kagame´s regime. Criticism against Rwanda rose. Even The Economist criticized Rwanda.
Paul Kagame understood that the image of his regime was deteriorating and reacted. But no one could expect what was going to happen.
To the astonishment of all experts, the political situation turned 180º. We were told that several meetings had taken place between some of the highest representatives in both Rwanda (James Kababere) and the DRC (John Numbi). The conversations were so secret that MPs in the DRC complained about it (not in the same way in Rwanda, as the quality of democracy in that country is well known). The results seemed outstanding:
-CNDP and PARECO abandoned fighting.
-Nkunda was arrested (by Rwanda!)
-And Rwanda and the DRC joined forces in a military operation, Umoja Wetu (“Our Unity”), to put an end to the FDLR in the Kivus.
Rwanda was sending this message to the international community: “I have listened to you. I will prove you that we are a serious country. We want dialogue with the DRC. And we both, DRC and Rwanda, will work together to put and end to the FDLR”.
Umoja Wetu was followed by Kymia I and II. The operations were a disaster from a humanitarian point of view. In many cases, the FDLR returned to the areas they controlled before their retreat and retaliated against civilians for their collaboration. Human rights violations by FARDC forces were so horrendous that MONUC had to react and warn FARDC that cooperation with them would continue on the basis of respect to human rights (now, the government of Congo urges MONUC to leave by mid 2011).
CNDP was supposed to dissolve and integrate in the new army. However, when I left Goma, in September 2009, it was already clear that this was not happening at all and that a parallel CNDP chain of command was becoming stronger.
Now, Global Witness says:
“Former rebels from the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) have established mafia-style extortion rackets covering some of the most lucrative tin and tantalum mining areas in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (…).
The ex-CNDP rebels, who joined the national army in a chaotic integration process during 2009, have taken advantage of UN-backed government offensives aimed at displacing the FDLR militia from profitable mine sites. They have gained far greater control of mining areas than they ever enjoyed as insurgents, and in many cases have retained their old command structures and political agenda”.
I read what has happened in North Kivu as a new masterpiece chapter of Rwanda´s long dated parasitic economic policy towards the DRC. Rwanda has theatrically managed to show commitment towards ending the conflict, while… the situation on the field proves exactly the contrary: CNDP remains in control of many key areas and has even gained control of areas formerly controlled by FDLR.
Maquiaveli would not have done better.
From a personal point of view, I find this very sad. I have had the opportunity to meet many IDPs in Goma. Men, women, teenagers. I spent a lot of time in the camps. They just want peace at home and the end of impunity. However, for the Rwanda regime and for everyone involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC, these men, women and children are human waste.
Unfortunately, Rwanda is also a parasite for Congo because thousands of Congolese let this happen. For them, their fellow Congolese matter less than the minerals they trade with.
I heard once a pastor in Goma said: “Some houses in Goma are being built on blood”.
As greed keeps on fueling this conflict, and there are no lucrative alternatives in the horizon, the horror of innocent victims suffering in silence will go on.