Though Rwanda is continuing to receive heavy criticism for its alleged involvement with rebel militias in the eastern Congo, the political damage so far has not been significant. Rwanda has been a major contributor to the UN-African Union, UNAMID, peacekeeping force in Sudan’s Darfur region, and the UN knows that Rwandan soldiers have been reliable. Rwanda has also made some savvy political overtures to neighboring Uganda and Kenya. Both Uganda and Kenya have large troop commitments to the AU’s AMISOM peacekeeping effort in Somalia. Rwanda has also taken advantage of several U.S. AFRICOM training initiatives. In October, Rwanda will host some 1,800 soldiers from the East African Community (EAC). The EAC consists of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda. Rwanda has played an important role in strengthening the EAC. The concept behind the EAC is not new. In the first half of the 20th century, when they were both British colonies, Kenya and Uganda had a customs union designed to expand bi-lateral trade. An East African Community existed from 1967 to 1977, but fell apart. The current EAC was created by a treaty in 1999 and could evolve into a free trade pact. The member nations have now agreed to a defense protocol, so it is also on the road to becoming a military alliance. The October military exercise is billed as a major field training exercise designed to enhance security cooperation among the EAC members. A Burundian Army colonel who helped plan the exercise said that the field training will focus on counter-terror operations and also counter-piracy. Uganda and Burundi have gained a lot of experience in working together in AMISOM. A Burundian government official pointed out that the EAC members face common security threats. For example, Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamist militia has launched attacks in Uganda and Kenya. Al Shabaab has also threatened to launch attacks on Burundi.
August 23, 2012: A Burundi government task force investigating reports of extrajudicial slayings reported that no extrajudicial murders had occurred. The task force said that it had not found a single credible report of an extrajudicial execution.
August 16, 2012: Rwandan opposition leaders from the United Democratic Forces (FDU) have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Rwandan president Paul Kagame on charges of committing war crimes in the eastern Congo. The accuser cited a UN report that found evidence that the Rwandan government is supporting the M23 Movement rebel group in the Congo.
August 15, 2012: The Congolese government (Democratic Republic of Congo) asked that international donors and financial institutions freeze aid to Rwanda because the Rwandan government supports the rebel M23 movement.
The Rwandan government said that the UN group which investigated the allegations that Rwanda is supporting the M23 Congolese rebel movement is acting in bad faith. According to Rwanda, the UN report is highly inaccurate. The government accused one member of the UN study group of having a benign view of radical Hutu organizations like the FDLR and had published an article that described the FDLR as victims of the Rwandan Tutsi government. Rwanda basically said the UN study exhibited an anti-Tutsi tribal bias.
August 7, 2012: The U.S. government told Rwanda that it must help the Congo and the UN disarm the M23 rebel movement and insure that the rebel group does not receive military supplies or aid.
August 1, 2012: The Congolese government charged Rwanda with arming the M23 rebel group, which Congo considers a group of mutineers. Rwanda charged the Congo with helping the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) Hutu militias plan attacks on Rwanda. The FDLR has ties to the Hutu leaders who led the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
July 31, 2012: The UN’s Group of Experts on the Congo (GoE Congo) has accused Rwanda of providing M23 with material and financial support.
July 22, 2012: The U.S. announced that it will curtail military aid it provides to Rwanda. The U.S. announcement follows several weeks of serious allegations made by UN investigators that Rwanda is providing the Congo’s M23 rebel group with military and financial aid.
July 15, 2012: Rwanda and the Congo agreed to allow an AU (African Union) sponsored international force help deal with rebel groups in the eastern Congo. The AU had previously said that it was ready to organize a neutral regional force for deployment in the Congo.
July 5, 2012: The president of Somalia visited Burundi, which has over 4,000 soldiers deployed in Somalia with the AU’s AMISOM peacekeeping force.
June 20, 2012: Rwanda’s foreign minister said the Congolese government is lying when it accuses the Rwandan government of supporting the M23 Congolese rebel group. A leaked UN report, however, said that investigators have evidence that M23 is receiving military supplies and financial help through Rwanda.
June 9, 2012: Foreign observers say that recent reports of serious rebel activity in Burundi are credible. Bit by bit the peace settlement is unraveling. Several opposition political leaders have left the capital and according to the government are now organizing forces in the jungle. The government is particularly concerned about Agathom Rwasa, the National Liberation Front (FNL) leader. Rwasa is reportedly active in the eastern Congo.
June 6, 2012: The Burundian is believed to have executed Jean-Petit Nduwimana, a former senior intelligence officer. Congolese security forces apparently captured Nduwimana in May and then sent him to Burundi, where the government quietly killed him. Nduwinmana was a senior rebel leader and in 2004, was integrated into the Burundian Army after the peace settlement. He became chief of staff of the military intelligence service and was a member of the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). However, in 2008, he grew disillusioned with the CNDD-FDD government and said he was preparing to start a new rebellion. In 2011, Nduwimana said that he had joined the Forces for the Restoration of Democracy (FRD), a new Burundian rebel group.
May 24, 2012: A trial court in Burundi convicted 14 people of murdering Ernest Manirumva, a noted anti-corruption activist. Manirumva was murdered in 2009. At the time he was investigating ties between Burundian police and Hutu rebels operating in the Congo. Many believe that the court failed to try real criminals (corrupt Burundian police officers who were smuggling weapons remain at large and who were likely tied to the real killers).
May 20, 2012: The Burundi government is accused of permitting extra-judicial killings, which have led to scores of political opponents being killed. It is believed that the assassins have been state security personnel and sometimes members of rebel groups.
May 4, 2012: The Burundian Army claimed that rebel leader Claver Nduwayezu (known as Mukono) died in a firefight with government security forces. Nduwayezu also used the nom de guerre Carmel. According to the army, the firefight took place inside Burundi, five kilometers from the Congo-Burundi border. The government asserted that Mukono was responsible for the infamous attack on a bar in the town of Gatumba (near Bujumbura)where 39 people were killed, some of them murdered execution-style.
April 30, 2012: U.S. AFRICOM reported that members of Rwanda’s 71st Battalion completed a five-week long training course in preparation for deploying to support peacekeeping operations. The course included battalion logistics, weapons maintenance, and medical aid training.
April 15, 2012: The Rwandan government promoted 23 general officers. One was promoted to lieutenant-general, six to major general, and 16 colonels were promoted to brigadier general. The new lieutenant general is Karenzi Karake, who has served with the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Rwanda’s intelligence agency.
April 10, 2012: Rwanda deployed 150 soldiers to serve with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Rwanda has agreed to deploy a battalion of 850 soldiers to South Sudan.
February 20, 2012: The Rwandan government claimed that the country’s poverty rate had dropped to 45% from 57% in 2007. That announcement led to several independent attempts that tried to determine if it was true, and if so, why. Even if the statistics are rough (and they are) the fact is that Rwanda has made significant economic strides in the last ten years. A decade ago the government decided to focus very seriously on bottom-up economic development. As Transparency International (the premier anti-corruption non-governmental organization) noted, Rwanda began a serious effort to end corruption. If an official took a bribe, the official was prosecuted. The government also initiated reforms that made it easy for entrepreneurs to start businesses and for small businesses to grow. The Rwandan formula followed several ideas espoused by Hernando de Soto Polar, the Peruvian economist (who concluded that property rights and law and order were the keys to economic growth).
The government gave farmers solid title to the land. The government’s critics, foreign and domestic (and there are many of them), point out that President Paul Kagame’s government is politically repressive and the president really brooks no personal opposition. All of those points are accurate. They also note that Rwanda has few good roads and that transportation of goods is a huge problem. Electricity, even in the capital, Kigali, is iffy. The people also lack the technical skills that a modern 21st century economy absolutely requires. This criticism is accurate too. There are also critics who argue that the small business reforms have had very little impact and that much of Rwanda’s economy remains underground and untaxed. This is an interesting argument and given the extent of black markets in developing nations it could be true. The counter argument is that more reforms are in order, so the underground businesses can evolve into legitimate (tax paying) ones. However, the fact remains that Rwanda’s economy has improved. Income in Rwanda has increased, perhaps doubling since the wicked days of 1994, though 1994 income statistics are questionable. The government argues that infrastructure improvement is coming but Rwanda and Rwandans are beginning to reap the rewards of a decade of developing small business skills, human capital. (Austin Bay)