On 26 May 2013 in Addis Ababa the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, convened the first meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and Region. It was at this important meeting where the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete made what many level headed commentators have referredto as candid and commonsensical remarks about the protracted conflicts in the Great Lakes Region. President Kikwete – a seasoned and consummate diplomat who has helped broker many peace deals in Africa – remarked that it was high time Rwanda and Uganda gave serious attention to peace talks with FDLR and ADFrebels respectively. He said, and correctly so, that it was evident the barrel of the gun cannot bring about the ultimate answer as testified by the recurrence of fighting in our region. He never condoned the role that the FDLR rebels played in the 1994 genocide. He was being reasonable and pragmatic.
Rwanda should know better than any other country that there is no way Tanzania would condone or sympathize with the perpetrators of genocide. To make suchinsinuations is, quite frankly, a demonstration of breathtaking ignorance about Tanzania’s enviable and unparalleled history – the history of speaking out against any forms of crimes and injustices. Moreover, for Rwanda to make such insinuations is to show just what a short memory span this country has.
Admittedly, genocide brought about painful and unforgettable misery to the people of Rwanda but its spillover effects were felt well beyond its borders. The effects of genocide were felt right inside Tanzania which had to shoulder the burden ofproviding for thousands of Rwandan refugees. By the way, Tanzania has a long history of taking good care of Rwandan refugees both before and after genocide.The sons and daughters of the Rwandan refugees benefitted from Tanzania’sgenerous education system by studying, for free, at the country’s Universities and many of them are now occupying high positions in the Government of their motherland.
So given the foregoing, I have to say that I have been taken aback by ourneighbors’ over-reaction to what was a completely innocuous statement byPresident Kikwete. Indeed, what the President said could (and should) have been said by other leaders a long time ago. What he said is a no-brainer! It is commonsensical! Negotiations have a much better chance of resulting into durable peace than the use of force. Thus, I find the reactions from Rwanda not only disturbing but also objectionable and utterly impudent! What is even more shocking is the discourteous behavior shown by the Rwanda’s Foreign Minister. She seems to be getting too much big for her boots as to suggest that PresidentKikwete’s statement was absurd! She even has the audacity to ask that he should retract it. If anything, I think it is our Foreign Ministry which should summon the Ambassador of Rwanda in Dar es Salaam and ask him to clarify his Minister’s inadvisable utterances.
For far too long now the international community has adopted a softly softly approach with respect to Rwanda and this has meant that this tiny country getsaway with literally everything, even murder. Rwanda has become like a spoiled child – untouchable and overly sensitive to everything even the slightest suggestion of censure. Rwanda has a tendency of not taking kindly any form of criticism whether from within or without. And its leadership comes across as snobbish and delusional. May be the western countries’ plaudits about its so called success storyhave finally got into the heads of Rwandan leaders so much that they think they know it all.
For Rwanda to say that they cannot engage in talks with FDLR rebels because of their role in 1994 genocide is to allow themselves to be the captives of the past. History is replete with numerous instances of former sworn enemies burying their hatchets and extending an olive branch to one another for the sake of peaceful coexistence and future prosperity. This happened in South Africa where ANC and other progressive movements sat down with the perpetrators of one of the most brutal and inhumane policies in the history of mankind (apartheid) and agreed to work together in an inclusive and democratic society. Similarly, after many decades of committing some of the most heinous crimes against the people of Angola, UNITA is now part of the democratic government of that country. And in 2011, US and its allies initiated direct talks with some elements of the Taliban in Doha (Qatar), if my memory serves me well.
Rwanda should wake up and smell the coffee! Being delusional has not workedand won’t work. It is now close to 20 yrs since the 1994 genocide and during all that time Rwanda has not been able to achieve its objectives visa vis FDLR rebelsthrough the use of force. Any sane person in Kigali should see the wisdom of changing the tactic/strategy which is, for all purposes and intents, what our President said in the Statement. Rwanda should understand that by calling for direct talks, Tanzania does not suggest, by any stretch of imagination, that the architects and executors of genocide should go scot free. Not at all! Talks can, and indeed should, offer the mechanism of dealing with known perpetrators of genocide by isolating them from non-perpetrators such as those born after 1994.This is just one example of approaching talks. I am sure there are many others.
But talking of genocide, am I wrong in recalling that even President Kagame himself was once found to be complicit in this crime by a French Magistrate? I recall that Rwanda’s reaction to this finding was, as we have come to expect, fast and furious to the extent of severing its diplomatic relations with France. Again, this goes to show that this “spoiled child” can’t stand any sort of censure or straight talking. I also recall that as recent as last year a UN report revealed that Rwanda’s Kagame had committed or assisted in committing genocide in DRC!
Despite all this compelling evidence, neighbors of Rwanda are still ready to engage that country in talks. Why can’t Rwanda show the same attitude? And lest he forgets, Kagame himself and his RPF henchmen come from a background of rebellion. They were rebels operating from Ugandan forests before taking over power in 1994. However, despite their “rebels” status they were invited and took part in the Arusha peace process of the early 1990s.
Finally, I have a gut feeling that Rwanda doesn’t want FDLR rebels to go awaythat’s is why it is vehemently opposing the suggestion of talks which is one sure way of ending this conflict once and for all. This because, the perpetual presence of FDLR rebels in DRC gives Rwanda a convenient excuse to interfere in the DRC’s affairs thereby making the country ungovernable for its own economic and geopolitical interests. I read somewhere that Rwanda’s army – which is one of the biggest for a country of that economy and size – is mainly sustained by the exploitation of DRC’s natural resources. So, Rwanda goes into the DRC on the pretext that it is in hot pursuit of the FDLR rebels but in actual fact what it does is to plunder the resources.
And Rwanda is particularly angry with Tanzania because by being part of MONUSCO in DRC, its misdeeds will be exposed and curtailed by our non-nonsense troops. So the over-reaction to our President’s innocuous statement should not be seen in isolation. It is part of the frustration born out of the uneasy situation which Rwanda finds itself in as a result of our troops being part of the UN/SADC intervention force in DRC.
Source: The Tanzanian Government official blog.