Belgian professor and Africa expert speaks on situation in DRC and Rwanda
By Wayne Madsen
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Dec 9, 2009, 00:18
(WMR) -- Noted
Belgian expert on the history and politics of central Africa�s Great Lakes
region and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dr. Filip Reyntjens of the
Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB) in Antwerp, spoke at the
School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University in
Washington on December 3 and leveled a broadside on the policies of Rwanda�s
President Paul Kagame in his nation�s looting of the DRC�s natural resources.
Reyntjens said that in 1997 and 1998, Kagame, a Rwandan
Tutsi who grew up in Uganda, decided that the only way to deal with Hutus
exiled to Zaire from Rwanda was to �exterminate them.�
Kagame is now lauded around the world by uninformed �human
rights� groups and governments for the �suffering� he and his comrades endured
after the mass killings of Rwandan Tutsis in the aftermath of the aerial
assassinations of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi by Kagame�s forces
on April 6, 1994.
Eventually, Kagame became such a regional military threat by
2001 that his old ally, Uganda�s President Yoweri Museveni, asked British
overseas development minister Clare Short for permission to spend development
aid from Britain on defense in order to protect against what Museveni believed
was a Rwandan military threat. Rwandan troops began to appear in force in DRC�s
Ituri province, which has a border with Uganda but not Rwanda. Rwanda also
began supporting a rebel militia in Ituri, composed largely of Hema tribal
members, that was originally allied with Uganda but turned against it with aid
from Rwanda. Reyntjens believes that such �shifting alliances� are rampant in
the DRC and are making it difficult for the central government to reassert its
authority over the vast nation.
Essentially, Rwandan and Ugandan forces were competing
against one another over the lion�s share of DRC�s rich natural resources,
which were and continue to be looted by both countries from the DRC. In fact,
Reyntjens pointed out that the expensive villas and office blocks now being
constructed in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, are being paid with the profits
from the looted natural resources from the DRC.
Reyntjens, like any journalist or academic who
criticized Kagame and his dictatorship, stands accused by Kagame�s supporters
of having a relationship with the former Rwandan government of assassinated
President Juvenal Habyarimana. Reyntjens points out that such was not
always the case with Kagame and his government, �I was a hero until I started
criticizing Kagame.� Reyntjens says the Rwandan government engages in character
assassination when dealing with its critics.
Rwanda is also involved in the illegal exploitation of
resources in the DRC, according to Reyntjens. While admitting that Zimbabwe was
also exploiting the DRC for its resources, the major difference, according to
Reyntjens, is that Zimbabwe was dealing directly with the DRC central
government -- a sovereign power -- while Rwanda was not.
Reyntjens cited a recent UN report that stated that in the
DRC illegal aircraft movements are the rule rather than the exception. He also
said Rwanda used prisoners from Rwandan jails to mine diamonds in the DRC, a
clear violation of international law. Reyntjens called what is happening in the
DRC the �Luxembourg Effect,� comparing the situation to what the German
people would think if tiny Luxembourg wielded control over a large portion
of German land and resources.
One of the biggest problems for the Armed Forces of the DRC
(FARDC) is the presence of Rwandan-backed Congolese Tutsis in the FARDC
command structure in eastern Congo. Reyntjens says the situation on the ground
in eastern Congo is that Congolese Tutsis integrated into the FARDC are
fighting Rwandan Hutu rebels within the DRC�s borders. Reyntjens does not
believe the Rwandan armed forces should be allowed to operate in the DRC in any
respect. He believes what the DRC needs is a real army and a real state.
However, since Kagame and his government constantly and
astutely use the �Genocide Credit� with international donors, the aggression
and interference of Rwanda in the internal affairs of DRC is never discussed.
Moreover, Reyntjens said there are now �dozens of American� researchers now
operating inside Rwanda and that this is a new development.
Summing up the problems for all of Africa, Reyntjens said
that while the DRC must re-establish central control over its territory,
including preventing Rwanda from unrestricted border crossings between it and
the DRC, many Congolese, like most Africans, are suspicious of central state
governments. Most Africans associate �the state� with police, rackets, and
prisons, said Reyntjens. Ironically, the United States, through its military
incursion into Africa with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), is trying to
extend the control of state military structures over the nations of Africa,
except, of course, where U.S. and certain foreign economic interests do not
find such state control advantageous, as in DRC and Sudan.
Reyntjens is hopeful that a federal DRC will be able to
reassert Congolese authority over its territory and cited the 25 new provinces
of the DRC where revenues from each province will be distributed as follows: 50
percent to the central government in Kinshasa, 40 percent to the provincial
governments, and 10 percent to an equalization fund that will be used to
balance the financial disparities between rich and poor provinces.
Reyntjens has written a new book, �The
Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006,� from
Cambridge University Press. This editor�s book, �Genocide and Covert
Operations in Africa 1993-1999,� is referenced therein.
published in the Wayne
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Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and
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