M23’s last act

By Kambale Musavuli

Who are they trying to fool again?

ICC convicted Bosco Ntaganda and Rwandan president Paul Kagame

ICC convicted Bosco Ntaganda and Rwandan president Paul Kagame

Checking on the news about the Congo this morning and I have concluded that the rebels, their backers, the UN, and the US believe that Congolese are not smart enough to understand what they are doing. This is far from truth… the challenge of Congolese right now inside and outside is that they are not super-organized to take on the forces causing the chaos in the Congo.

Why am I saying this?

Well, for the past 48 hours, the M23 (the remix rebel group used to be called CNDP) has been hunting down Bosco Ntaganda (the ICC-wanted rebel) and Runiga (the president of M23 and former RCD rebels back in early 2000s). M23 is hunting them down so they can arrest and send Bosco to the ICC and remove Runiga as the political face of M23. Some of the rebels are already crossing the Congolese border to go into hiding in Rwanda. And I have been just informed that Jean Marie Runiga, the political leader of M23, has just been arrested in Rwanda

Why are the rebels fighting each other? What we are told is that the M23 has split with one group willing to negotiate with the Congolese government, the Sultani Makenga side (this side is also supporting Laurent Nkunda – another rebel in hiding in Rwanda since 2009), and the Bosco-Runiga side who definitely does not want to turn Bosco to the ICC nor negotiate with the Congolese government.

That sounds crazy right? But as I have always said… Don’t be fooled by the narrative being pushed by rebels. This is a deja-vu again… and they are hoping that we will not study the matter and think that the issue is again complex.

This happened before… about 4 years ago… Let me take you down memory lane.

Fall 2008
– CNDP (now called M23) rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and his soldiers including Bosco Ntaganda, Sultani Makenga and others are threatening to take over Goma. They have 8 demands to the Congolese government, one being that the Congolese government should not sign the Chinese mining contract.

– During the same time, in the US, it’s election time so there is less focus on Congo as one can imagine.

December 2008
– The United Nations publishes a report documenting how Rwanda is backing, financing, and equipping the CNDP rebels in DRC. Subsenquently, Sweden and Netherlands withhold aid.
– In the US, there is a transition team operating as Obama has just won the presidential elections. During this time, rather the US follow the lead of Sweden and Netherlands, the US chose a military route by supporting two military operations – one was called OLT (Operation Lightning Thunder) which was to go after Joseph Kony – another pretext from Uganda, and the other was called Umoja Wetu which formely invited the Rwandan army into the Congo.

January 2009
– To the surprise of many analysts, while there were still issue of Rwanda supporting rebels in Congo, AFRICOM shipped weapons to Rwanda and shared with us that these weapons were airlifted to Darfur. (http://www.africom.mil/NEWSROOM/Article/6419/us-begins-flying-rwandan-peacekeeping-equipment-to)

Feb to March, 2009
– Rwandan soldiers enter the Congo, they integrate some of them into the Congolese army alongside other CNDP rebels. They claim that operation Umoja Wetu is a joint Congolese-Rwandan initiative to go after the extremist FDLR (http://www.provincenordkivu.org/rdf-retour-ok.html). In the process, the leader of CNDP at the time, Laurent Nkunda, is arrested and put in house arrest in Rwanda. (Note: a similar case happened before with another rebel called Mutebusi who has been in hiding in Rwanda for almost ten years now). This is also when the so-called March 23 agreement between the rebels and the Congolese government was signed.

August 2009, then-Secretary Hillary Clinton visits the Congo and through many sources, she is told about the situation in the Congo with the interference of Rwanda. In a courageous move, Congolese members of Parliament from South Kivu (one of the areas affected by rebels) write a letter to Hillary Clinton to let her know that the game the US is playing is going to cause a resurgence of violence. (http://sfbayview.com/2009/letter-to-hillary-clinton-from-congolese-elected-officials/)

From all of this… Look at what is happening today….

So… what the rebels are going to try to do…

1. Arrest Bosco Ntaganda and send him to the Hague.
2. Remove Runiga as the political face of M23… remember that M23 is nothing but the CNDP, RCD, AFDL… It’s the same people…
3. Get amnesty for M23 leaders from the Congolese government and integrate M23 back into the Congolese military.
4. Sign another so-called peace agreement between the M23 and the Congolese government.
5. And this is another game that is going to work because Paul Kagame of Rwanda will not be held accountable for continuous interference in Congo’s politics as he kills, loot, and rape the Congo.

That’s a lot of information isn’t it?

If they get away again with displacing millions of Congolese, killings scores, and looting Congo’s resources… I guess that would be a shame on all of us to allow this to happen again and again.

What can we do? There is so much that can be done…

1. Stay engaged… that means whenever we call on you for action, Congolese needs and depends on your support. Letter writing campaigns, phone calls, twitter, etc are all needed. Remember that Susan Rice could not even admit of Rwanda’s role in the Congo but surprisingly now due to your action, she cannot cover for Rwanda’s actions in the Congo anymore.
2. Continue to mobilize for Congo Week. This is a marathon and not a sprint. We need a global constituency to learn about the Congo and take action. By organizing Congo Week, you are building a foundation of global supporters for peace in DRC.
3. Screen the film “Crisis in the Congo” in your community. It is located at http://congojustice.org/ . We need to make sure that our governments are not playing a negative role in condoning the violence in DRC.
4. Support social justice activists working to change the Congo. Congolese youth are working to change their country and they need our intellectual, material, and financial support to overcome the many challenges they face. Support the work of Friends of the Congo at http://friendsofthecongo.org/ and join us. We need you as a part of our team.

There cannot be peace without justice. Join us in this justice undertaking for peace in the Congo.

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