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Rwanda: Congo Ghosts
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February 5, 2013: The Rwandan government continues to claim that it is not aiding the Congolese M23 rebel group. It is also claiming that it did not help create M23. The government, however, is acknowledging that it is concerned about the threats made by major donor nations to curtail aid to Rwanda. The threats are being used by donor nations to force Rwanda to help stop M23’s rebellion. Despite the country’s economic growth, aid provides between 40 to 45 percent of the country’s budget. Several donors have curtailed financing for infrastructure projects and others are threatening to withhold funds.

Meanwhile, the government is asking the UN and neighboring nations to pay attention to what it claims is the reviving threat posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The FDLR was formed by radical Hutus involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Hutu radicals murdered 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and Hutu moderates. The government is touting reports that the FDLR is regrouping in the Congo’s North Kivu province. One Rwandan source contends that the Congolese Army (FARDC) is working with the FDLR. The UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) admitted there had been an increase in FDLR activity.

January 29, 2013: Belgium has noted friction is increasing between the Rwandan and Congolese expatriate communities in Brussels.  This included shouting matches and street fights. The inter-community squabbling is a reflection of the continuing trouble between the two countries. Approximately 25,000 Congolese live in and near Brussels. Some 10,000 Rwandans live in the area. Members of the Congolese community recently held a protest march outside the Rwandan embassy in Brussels.

January 25, 2013: Burundi troops are to participate in the African Union’s International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). The government did not provide a strength figure. Burundi has troops deployed in Somalia as part of the AU’s mission in Somalia (AMISOM)

January 23, 20113: Tea isn’t petroleum but there is an international demand for the product. Rwanda recently agreed to help form a tea producer’s association, the International Tea Producers Forum. The other members are India, Kenya, Malawi, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. These six nations produce over half of the world’s tea. At the moment the association is not a cartel but for almost two decades Sri Lanka has tried to get other tea producers to agree to production quotas.

January 14, 2013: Rwanda announced that it will not support UN plans to employ unmanned aerial reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft (drones) in the Congo unless the UN provides very specific information about how, when, and where they will be utilized. The UN is discussing deploying UN peacekeeping troops to confront the M23 rebel group in the Congo’s North Kivu province.

January 6, 2013: Rwanda continues to receive extensive criticism from the UN, major donor nations, and major non-governmental aid organizations for its alleged support of the M23 Congolese rebel movement. The criticism and condemnation, however, is not without irony. Rwanda is now a member of the UN Security Council (it was elected to one of the non-permanent member seats). Rwanda is also something of a darling among aid organizations and anti-corruption advocacy organizations. The 2012 Transparency International ranked Rwanda number 50 (out of 176 countries rated) on its corruption perceptions index. The index ranks from least corrupt (Denmark was number one) to most corrupt (at 174, a three-way tie among North Korea, Afghanistan, and Somalia). To put Rwanda’s ranking in perspective, Burundi was ranked 165. Neighboring Uganda was 130 and Kenya 139. In other words, given its east and central African location the country rates as comparatively clean and corruption-free. In fact, Rwanda ranked higher than China (number 80). The government has focused on trying to reduce corruption, for several reasons. Aid donors want their money to go to the projects and people they target, not the pockets of corrupt officials. Less corruption makes Rwanda an attractive place for many aid NGOs. Honest government also attracts international businesses that might want to operate or invest in Rwanda. Rwanda has been touting itself as the best place to do business in east Africa. It has made starting a new business relatively easy and inexpensive for Rwandans and foreigners. Streamlining business registration has a counter-corruption angle. Streamlining registration business has eliminated some of the bureaucratic bottlenecks that a corrupt official of yesteryear would promise to resolve in exchange for a bribe. Imposing severe penalties on corrupt officials, however, has been the government’s biggest tool. The government actually jails embezzlers and bribe takers. Several years ago President Paul Kagame said that his administration would have no tolerance for people who stole public funds. Since 2004 the government has an agency, the Ombudsman Office, which monitors fund distribution. The agency has a record for investigating high-level bureaucrats and government officials.  (Austin Bay)

January 4, 2013: Congolese M23 rebel officers claimed that FDLR commanders are operating with Congolese Army units and Congolese security forces. 

January 3, 2013: UN planners are providing more details about the international peacekeeping unit the Security Council would like to see deploy in the eastern Congo to help control and dismantle rebel militias like M23. The proposed Neutral International Force (NIF) would be formed as an intervention brigade of 2,500 troops to possibly 4,000. Both figures have appeared in print. The brigade would be assigned to MONUSCO. It would have quick reaction force capabilities so that it could quickly intervene to stop a rebel attack.

December 29, 2012: Burundian opposition groups are arguing that Burundi is now far worse off than it was before the 2010 elections. Over the past three months, several opposition leaders have accused the government of creating a one-party system in the country and of undermining the Arusha Accords. Signed in 1993, these accords provided the political framework for ending the Burundian civil war. The governing party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy/Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), has certainly solidified control in the country. However, some of the responsibility for the emerging one-party system lies with Burundi’s opposition leaders. After the CNDD-FDD swept the May 2010 local elections, many opposition leaders went into exile. The leaders claimed the vote had been manipulated, and it probably was. The opposition decided to boycott subsequent elections, including the presidential election. Only one opposition group (UPRONA) put up candidates in the July 2010 legislative election. The CNDD-FDD took control of over 80 percent of the parliament’s seats and has since them faced no real parliamentary opposition. Many opposition leaders decided to go into exile because they feared for their safety. All of the major Burundian parties have youth wings that are little more than armed street gangs. The CNDD-FDD’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure, is by far the most powerful, and it has conducted attacks on opposition party members. After the July 2010 elections Imbonerakure youths were reportedly conducting illegal arrests of opposition leaders. So the leaders had a reason to flee. Their absence, however, has thus left the CNDD-FDD completely in charge. The umbrella opposition group formed after the elections, the Democratic Alliance for Change (ADC-Ikibiri), is increasingly divided between leaders who want to revive the Arusha process and those who are ready to start a new civil war.

December 16, 2012: The Burundian government is concerned that weapons from Libya that once belonged to the forces of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi will start showing up in central Africa. The government is concerned that former National Liberation Forces (FNL) rebel commanders who have returned to the jungle will try to acquire the weapons. In early September Agathon Rwasa, a former FNL guerrilla leader, declared war on the Burundian government. Rwasa is believed to be in the eastern Congo and is organizing a faction of former FNL fighters.

December 5, 2012: Does M23 do anything for Rwanda other than cause it to be condemned by the UN and numerous aid organizations? Though the Rwandan government vehemently claims it does not support the rebel group, there are a few Rwandans who will tell reporters and UN investigators that they think M23’s predecessor organization, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), was a necessary response to the threat posed by the FDLR. They point out that the FDLR was formed by Hutu mass murderers (genocidaires) who killed over 800,000 Rwandans. The Hutu genocidaires fled into the Congo after the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) seized power in 1994. The CNDP was organized in late 2006, by Congolese Tutsis to counter the FDLR because the Congo government was unwilling or unable to take on the FDLR. The Rwandans interlocutors increasingly point out to journalists that the Congolese government is endemically corrupt.

December 2, 2012: the Rwandan government claimed that an FDLR band launched an attack near Kinigi. A national park warden was killed in the attack inside Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

November 27, 2012: Rwanda claimed that an estimated 100 to 120 FDLR fighters entered into Rwandan territory from the Congo and killed one civilian in the village of Muti. Four other people were wounded. 

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