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  • Foto del escritorWhat is Happening in Congo?

Rwanda, the Thorn in Congo's Side

As the news has finally begun to spread on Rwanda and the havoc they have been wreaking in the DRC with the M23 as of late, it would be better to illustrate how their dangerous meddling began decades prior.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, previously dubbed a "geological scandal", is perfectly placed in the center of the continent to be labelled the heart of Africa. When one mentions the DRC many things come to mind and its impact on the trajectory of the world cannot be denied. Congolese natives like Dr. Nico, Franco Luambo and Papa Wemba have greatly influenced music on the continent and the world at large. Congo brought "La Sapologie" to the world amongst many things and that's just a sliver of the country's cultural impact. Technologically, Congo has supplied large amounts of tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold to the world. Congo is believed to have approximately 80% of the world's supply of coltan. In terms of natural resources the Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be the richest country in the world, with the untapped deposits of raw materials being estimated at be approximately $24 trillion usd. A direct consequence of these geological blessings has been colonization and never ending war at the hands of African countries and the West alike. With Rwanda, under the leadership of Paul Kagame, being a consistent thorn at the side of the DRC.

Most of the world is aware of King Leopold II and what the Democratic Republic of Congo went through under his reign. In order to produce exuberant amounts of rubber, he exercised maniacal forms of power and had the hands of Congolese men, women and children chopped as an incentive to meet production quotas. Leopold II went on to be responsible for the murder of 10 million Congolese lives and simultaneously enriched himself and went on to construct the Belgium we know today. Whilst the DRC has yet to recover from the harrowing events of the 20th Century, they have yet another beast to overcome.

"While Rwandan officials co-ordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations, Uganda's more subtle support of M23 allowed the rebel group's political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations..." - UN report

Rwanda, is a small African country located to the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo with a population of approximately 13 million. Following colonial subjugation, both nations dealt with the meddling of Western powers which advertently led to the death of one too many people. In 1994, Rwanda underwent a horrible genocide, known as the "Rwandan Genocide", which led to the ethnic cleansing of 800 000 Rwandan Tutsis in the course of just about 100 days. After those turbulent times Rwanda found themselves with a new leader, and in time Paul Kagame went on to take office. As Rwanda went on to experience a semblance of peace and prosperity under the leadership of their new president, the DRC began their journey of a steady decline; undergoing their own genocide, orchestrated and executed in part by the Republic of Rwanda's very own, Paul Kagame.

Paul Kagame, who has been the president of Rwanda for over two decades has been an icon for great leadership and the face of modern-day pan-Africanism. The likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have been quoted, hailing Kagame as; a "visionary" and "the greatest leader of our time" respectively. In contrast to the opinion and support of these former western leaders, Kagame's presidency has had destabilizing effects on the great lakes region and on one country in particular, the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1996, Paul Kagame authorized an invasion into the eastern region of Congo without impunity, orchestrated under the pretense of pursuing the people responsible for the Rwandan genocide. The RPF went on to massacre Congolese civilians, men, women and children alike. He managed to undertake this mission of mass murder with the support of the USA, UK and France. These nations easily supported these efforts by Kagame because they wanted access to the DRC's coltan reserves, which are found in great quantities in the conflict areas of North and South Kivu. The Mapping Report, compiled by the UN, documents serious violations of human rights abuses that occurred in the DRC from 1993-2003 (although the war has not yet ceased). The report reveals the extreme acts of sexual violence, in addition to the killings committed on the women and children of the eastern DRC. 617 war crimes, human rights, as well as acts of genocide were perpetuated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, twenty-one rebel groups and eight foreign armies being found responsible for the deplorable acts. Rwanda's head of state was particularly highlighted for the orchestration and execution of these crimes. Through the instability in the region, Kagame hoped to gain access as well as control of the coltan reserves.

One of the rebel forces that Rwanda has used to terrorize the Eastern region of the DRC are the M23.

They are a rebel group aptly named after the date of a peace agreement they signed with the Congolese government, March 23, 2009. The rebel group was made up of the minority Tutsi ethnic group from the Kivu provinces of the DRC. In April of 2012 a M23 rebellion began. At the time the M23 were being led by the now convicted war criminal, Bosco Ntaganda, who is also known as the Terminator. Ntaganda born in Kinigi, Rwanda, himself is not a Congolese Tutsi but a Rwandan Tutsi and was a former member of the Rwandan Patriotic Army. He began his military career in 1990 as a member of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). For his crimes with the M23 in the DRC, Ntaganda is currently serving a thirty year sentence. His crimes include murder, rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers. In November, 2012, the M23 went on to take control of Goma, located in North Kivu. Human Rights Watch documented the rape of at least 36 women and girls in that period, some of the girls were as young as ten years old.

After the M23 took control of Goma in November of 2012, a United Nations Group of Experts gathered evidence that indicated that the M23 was supported by the Rwandan government, as well as the Ugandan government. For many years Rwanda's involvement with the rebel group was mere speculation, however there has been evidence pointing toward Rwanda providing the M23 with arms, recruits and military leadership from within the Rwandan Army. The evidence also implicates the UK, stating that they were donors for the M23, in addition to being supporters of Kagame's regime. Former Rwandan defence minister, James Kaberebe, and Charles Kayonga, a Rwandan soldier and diplomat and former chief of defence, were stated to have been commanding the M23 rebel group from Rwanda. "While Rwandan officials co-ordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations, Uganda's more subtle support of M23 allowed the rebel group's political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations..." - UN report. On May 26th of this year, M23 resurfaced in Eastern DRC launching an attack on the Congolese military base in Rumangabo. There was heavy fighting northeast of Goma in Kibumba, near the Rwandan border, this forced tens of thousands of Congolese nationals to flee the violence. Willy Ngoma, the spokesman for the M23, in an attempt to justify the attack claimed the Congolese army had started the hostilities. The Congolese, at that point announced that the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) had been fighting alongside the M23 to destabilize the country. The Congolese government went on to impose economic sanctions on Rwanda for their involvement with the terrorist group.

Rwanda has adamantly denied all claims of involvement with the M23, even though conclusive evidence has been presented of their support of the aforementioned rebel group. Rwanda has stated that any violent interference in the east of the DRC is due to the harbouring of the FDLR, which has long since been debunked. Especially because Rwanda was allowed entry in pursuit of these former genocide perpetrators in the mid-90's. Tensions between the DRC and Rwanda continue to grow as the M23 continue to push forward. A little over a week ago the M23 went on to seize territories like the towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru as the residents of Goma continue to fear an imminent attack. In response to this attack, the Rwandan ambassador to Congo was expelled and the Congolese government recalled their own ambassador.

As tensions continue to escalate in the region, Congolese nationals continue to ensure their plight is heard as well as acknowledged. For over two decades, Congo has seen millions of deaths in order to facilitate economic growth in Rwanda. Paul Kagame has managed to rebuild a broken nation, whilst breaking that of his neighbours. In order to escape the effects of colonialism on the Republic of Rwanda, Kagame saw it fit to collaborate with those very same western powers that destroyed the lives of his people, and made the lives of his neighbours to the west a living hell. Congolese lives cannot continue to be collateral damage in the damage control of another nation.

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