Rwanda: Putting Down The M23 Problem

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May 2. 2013: The UN has come out full force in support of Rwanda’s economic development strategy. However, it is not like the strategy is anything new. Rwanda has been pursuing international investment for a decade and implementing common sense economic reforms for the last five years. The government has also been cracking down on corruption, at least the bribe-taking government regulator form of corruption. So why the new vocal UN support? It looks like it is part of the pay-off for Rwanda agreeing to support the UN intervention brigade in the Congo and crack down on Rwanda-based support for the M23 Congolese rebel movement. There is also another read some African commentators have made. The UN response to the 1994 Rwanda genocide was haphazard and in retrospect very inadequate. Support for Rwandan economic reform is belated payback for that failure. This falls into the realm of maybe but probably not. The UN Security Council was very hard on Rwanda regarding allegations and evidence that Rwandans supported M23. However, when Rwanda was elected to serve on the Security Council as a non-permanent member, it was seated, over Congolese objections. The Security Council seat makes more sense as a payback for the UN’s 1994 failure.

April 23, 2013: In Rwanda 200 Burundi national police officers have begun a four months-long training program. The training program prepares police for deployment with peacekeeping forces. The Rwandan Police Training School (located in Gishari) sponsors the program.

April 22, 2013: The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Burundi. Because Burundi has a military unit involved in peacekeeping operations in Somalia, the Somali militant Islamist terrorist group al Shabaab continues to threaten to carry out attacks in Burundi. The State Department said that U.S. installations, companies, and citizens in Burundi could be targeted by al Shabaab.

April 21, 2013: Some 9,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees have been living in a Ugandan refugee camp located at Nakivale. Some of the refugees arrived in 1994, during and after the Rwandan genocide. Rwnada recently announced that it wants all Rwandan citizens to return to Rwanda. Many of the Hutus at the camp, however, have told Ugandan officials that they believe Rwandan Tutsis will harm them if they return to Rwanda. The refugees say they will not accept enforced repatriation. African investigators have reported that some of the Hutu refugees may have been involved in the genocide, making them liable to be prosecuted if they return.

April 18. 2013: The Rwandan government announced that it wants all Rwandans who fled the country to return to Rwanda. The government intends to treat the returnees as citizens, not refugees.

April 11. 2013: Two international business and economic organizations have rated Rwanda in the top ten of African countries positioned to take economic and social advantage of digital communication technologies. Rwanda was the top ranked East African nation. It ranked sixth in Africa overall.

April 3, 2013: The U.S. has put out a reward of five million dollars for information leading to the arrest of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) leader Sylvestre Mudacumura. In 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mudacumura was involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed over 800,000 people. Since then the Rwandan government has been asking for help in either arresting or eliminating Mudacumura.

Police reported that someone launched a grenade attack in a bus station in the Kirironko area of Kigali (Rwanda’s capital). 

April 2, 2013: The Rwandan government has moved 682 former M23 Congolese rebels from a border area to a camp inside Rwanda. Most of the M23 fighters have been identified as Congolese Tutsi tribesmen. They belong to the M23 faction that was loyal to Bosco Ntaganda but lost out in a fight with a rival faction, which split M23 in March. The government said the move was made in order to comply with international conventions which state that refugees should be placed in camps at least 50 kilometers from the border of their home country.

April 1. 2013: Rwanda assumed temporary leadership of the UN Security Council. The Rwandan UN ambassador will preside over Security Council meetings throughout the month of April. Ironically, Rwanda was also a member of the Security Council in 1994, when the Rwandan genocide occurred.

March 28, 2013: The UN Security Council approved the creation of an intervention brigade for deployment in Congo’s eastern provinces. The unit will deploy three infantry battalions plus a recon company, a special forces company, and an artillery battery. Rwanda agreed to support the creation of the brigade.

March 27, 2013: Rwanda and Congo have released more information about Bosco Ntaganda’s surrender. U.S. intelligence officers helped arrange Ntaganda’s surrender at the U.S. embassy in Rwanda. Around 650 M23 fighters loyal to Ntaganda also entered Rwanda and surrendered.  However, a rival M23 faction loyal to M23 commander Sultani Makenga is still operating in Congo.

March 25, 2013: The government confirmed that a unit of the Rwandan Army (Rwanda Defense Force, RDF) has deployed to Nepal to participate in a multi-national peacekeeping exercise. The exercise is code-named Shanti Prayas II. The exercise will last two weeks.

March 20, 2013: The March 18th surrender of M23 rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda caught many Rwandans by surprise. Ntaganda was the rebel Congolese general who formed the M23 rebel movement. After a fight with a rival M23 faction Ntaganda fled to Rwanda. He formally surrendered at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda (in Kigali). Ntaganda told U.S. embassy officials that he wanted to turn himself in to the International Criminal Court.

March 10, 2013: Will Rwandan president Paul Kagame leave power in 2017? Though the next election is four years away, Rwandan media is already asking what the country calls the big question. Rwanda’s constitution says Kagame cannot have another term. However, Kagame is the most powerful man in Rwanda and is regarded as the intellectual and political force behind the country’s modernization effort. He also has the respect of the Rwandan Army. Kagame recently indicated he plans to step down in 2017.

March 3, 2013: The 2004 Arusha peace agreement stated that the Burundian Army had to undergo an extensive reform process. One requirement was that the army have a 50-50 ethnic balance between Hutus and Tutsis. However, at the moment no one is quite sure if the military has reached that goal. The army has around 30,000 soldiers and a billet in the Burundian Army is regarded as a prestigious job. Moreover, the pay is exceptionally good for Burundian soldiers who are serving with the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM). When they are deployed each soldier earns $1,028 a month. The government takes a cut in taxes (around $100) but the rest goes into a personal bank account in the soldier’s name. In 2012, the Burundian military earned the country about $45 million, if the value of UN and AU provided equipment is included. In addition, international sources also pay for logistics costs. Burundian soldiers did not always make $1,028 a month. In 2010, Burundian soldiers, who were earning around $750 a month, learned that other UN peacekeepers were receiving more. They lodged a protest. Ultimately, the UN raised their pay.

February 22, 2013: The Rwandan military is reportedly holding around 300 deserters in a prison located on Iwawa Island in Lake Kivu. The island prison has not been inspected by the Red Cross.

February 21, 2013: The UN announced that Burundi’s political reconciliation program is making progress. Burundi’s next national elections are scheduled for 2015. The UN wants Burundi to hold fair and credible elections.

February 19, 2013: The UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General once again accused Rwanda of providing external support to the rebel M23 group in the Congo. UN investigators concluded that M23’s ability to provide its ground attacks with well-coordinated fire support demonstrated that it was receiving outside aid.

February 15, 2013: The UN Security Council voted to extend for another year the mandate to maintain the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB). The office serves as the residual headquarters of what was the UN peacekeeping effort in Burundi.

 

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