Another War on Your Watch?

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Archbishop Francois-Xavier Maroy of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, in a recent letter to the French ambassador, raised the alarm on what he deemed to be an imminent return to war in the East of Congo.  Here, Jacques Bahati, AFJN intern originally from the DRC, offers us his take on the present precarious situation:  In late May, the provincial government of the South Kivu province and the church in the eastern Congo raised the alarm, stating that they had evidence of the imminent preparation of a war against the Congo coming from the east. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has always been at war at all fronts. Who are its enemies?  An analysis reveals three.  The first is its own government. The D.R.C. has never had a responsible government, only selfish and corrupt ones.  The second is made up of the foreign multinationals that have been looting Congolese natural resources, leaving nothing to the people and nurturing war by arming rebel factions.  The third enemy … The third enemy is comprised of foreign nations.  The D.R. Congo has a long and painful history of colonization, neo-colonization and the foreign military invasion by its neighbors Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, who occupied three quarters of the country from 1996 until recently. On May 28th, UN radio announced a report of the infiltration of foreign fighters in the Minebwe Mountains:  “…a Burundian was presented to the governor of the province by the commander of the 10th regional military, General Sylvain Tshikwej.   The man said that he was contacted at his sport club in Bujumbura (Burundi) to participate in a competition in Uvira (South Kivu).   When he got to Congolese territory, he was taken with two other Burundians to the Minebwe Mountains at gun point.  After he escaped, he was captured by a soldier of the 10th regional military.   The South Kivu province governor, Celestin Cibalonza, said that he was worried about the situation.   According to him, it was a recruitment to destabilize the province”. What the central government in Kinshasa has called an interethnic conflict, calling for a round table for negotiations, was rejected by political and religious authorities from the East, who, through Archbishop Maroy’s letter, made clear that the evidence points not only to internal actors such as the Banyamulenge, but to neighboring countries. This information is based in part on the testimony of captured infiltrators recruited from Rwanda and Burundi.    One of them explained that he was promised a job opportunity in the Congo. But when he got there, he was taken to a military training camp from which he escaped. History also seems to point to what authorities in the East are saying about a new war.  Since 1990 and the beginning of the efforts to overthrow the Hutu regime of Juvenale Habyarimana in Rwanda, the Congolese Banyamulenge have been part of the planning, the beginning and the end of both the Rwandan war and the 1996 invasion of Congo.    After the Tutsi, exiled Tutsi from the Hutu revolution of 1959 in Rwanda, retook in 1994 the power that they had held since the 1300s, they moved on with their plan to have a Tutsi-led central Africa. They invaded the Congo, using the Banyamulenge citizenship crisis that existed even prior to their participation in the Hutu-Tutsi Rwandan war.    This issue was minimized, if not supported, by the international community that accepted the Rwandan Tutsi-led government’s pretext to invade the Congo: that the Congo had welcomed the former Rwandan army.  The war was long and very deadly. Today, Congolese still suffer from the consequences of the recent war, namely the birth of tribal armed self-defense groups, the presence on the Congolese territory of the Hutu armed factions that hope to return in power in Rwanda and the rebellion movement of Laurent Nkunda, who today is the cause of many massacres of the people in the North and South Kivu provinces.  The security situation in eastern Congo has never improved since its invasion by Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.  Just one of the many recent events reported by the UN radio MONUC involved 500 families of the village of Kanyiola who fled their homes. Some were kidnapped, women were raped and others killed.   Thousands fled Kisharo in Rutshuru/ North Kivu. The cry of the Catholic Church in South Kivu is a challenge to the D.R. Congo government to tackle the question of the readiness of the Congolese army to secure peace with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and to deal with the issues of the Banyamulenge (because of their relationship to these countries in planning to harm Congolese), the armed Hutu of the F.N.L from Burundi, the rebels of the L.R.A from Uganda, the Interahamwe from Rwanda who live and operate on the Congolese territory attacking their countries and harming Congolese. On June 7, 2007, in Lubumbashi, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda ended a meeting attempting to find a solution to the security issue.   From June 12 to 14, 2007 the UN was to hold a conference on disarmament, demobilization and reinsertion (DDR), as part of the effort to assist the newly elected government in addressing one of its many challenges.

Here is the Archbishop’s Letter:

MESSAGE FROM MGR. FRANçOIS-XAVIER MAROY,
ARCHBISHOP OF BUKAVU (D.R. CONGO)
ARCHIDIOCESE OF BUKAVU
B.P.3324 BUKAVU

maroy.jpg

Today, our villages and our towns are dominated by a psychosis of war. As our people have noticed, all the elements are gathering for a new war in South Kivu: There is a massive and systematic infiltration coming from Rwanda, through the borders of the Ruzizi River , of Uvira, of Nyangezi, of Kaza-Roho in direction of Cahi-Bukavu. As a proof to this infiltration, a Burundian person highly committed in recruiting for and finalizing a new war was shown by the Governor of the Province to the press on Saturday 26th May 2007.

The military placement is reproducing the same schema than the one which occurred just before the beginning of the war by the RCD in 1998. As a proof, the 11th brigade in the region of Walungu where the killings of Kaniola took place, the 14th brigade just a bit North of the previous one and the 3rd brigade in the city of Bukavu are all under the command of officers coming from the ex political-military movement of RCD Goma. Even the commander in second of the 10th military region, in charge of the operations is a former member of RCD Goma. Is it only a hazard or is there a military strategy behind this?

We find again the presupposed ethnic hatred expressed in a campaign found in the media.

The awful killing of Kaniola, near Walungu, which took place during the night of 26-27 May 2007, is a strong reminder of the killing which was perpetrated in Lemera, in Uvira territory just before the decisive attacks of the war of the AFDL. The nature of the cruelty of arms like machetes and knifes (armes blanches) is completely against our culture and gives a reminder of the massacres of Kasika and Makobola.

The massacre which took place in Kaniola was nearly done in the presence of the Major of the real army, who is close to the Commander of the 11th brigade. The cries and the shouts of the population did not disturb his sleep even if the massacres were happening in a place very close to where he was based.

As in 1996, our regular army, being completely restructured at the moment, is unable to protect the population.

As in 1996, the Banyamulenge are receiving arms to provoke war, they are moving, mainly, women and children, as some witnesses declare, towards the neighboring countries and leave only the men in the High Plateau of South-Kivu.

Some interrogations remain:
What meaning one can give to the silence of the Institutions of the Republic, meaning the Head of State, the Parliament, the Central Government and the Headquarters of the Army in front of the repetitive killings taking place at Kaniola? Under other skies, if there are hostages taken, even if it is only one, the whole Institution of the State is mobilized. Faced with the threat of a new war, and while massacres are perpetrated among the civilians, what is the Government of the Democratic Republic doing? Instead of dealing with the real problem which is rooted in the field of security and army, there are proposals of inter-communities Round Table. Can one speak of complicity or is there ignorance instead?

What did the process of “brewing and mixing” negotiated in the neighboring countries offer to our civilian people in the domain of security and why did it occur? Are there agreements and contracts established between our political-military government and our attackers?

As was done during the previous wars in 1996, 1998 and 2004, soldiers were sent to the front without any logistic support and without any sufficient food ration. Is this done in order to starve or discourage them or, more simply to hand them to the enemy?

congo_map.jpgThe Interhamwe, Rasta and FDLR, who are the perpetrators of the massacres all speak Kinyarwanda. They were driven to the East of the RDC by the International Community after the Rwandese genocide. When the return of these people converted into terrorists to a welcoming territory will happen? Is it the way to reward the people of East Congo for their hospitality?
Here are some of our recommendations:

That our Head of State who was elected with a massive support from this Province faces his responsibilities and sends elite troupes to counter the imminent war in North and South Kivu before it would be too late.

That the Government, stopping any other activity, studies the problem of the State security in the East as a priority an stops distracting the public opinion with Negotiating Plans, dialogs and Round Tables leading to nowhere. We have an experience of that.

That those elected by the people get more deeply motivated for the true security of
our population.

That the Members of the International Community, strongly represented in this Region do not say that they did not know what was happening. We have proof that they are informed.

That the MONUC comforted by the latest decision of the UN to prolong its presence until December 2007, does not hide from its duty and does not make a pact with the enemy but gets committed to the protection of the civilians, in accordance with its new mandate.

That the people of the East DRC, who never betrayed, open the eye, and the good one, as in the past. The enemy is still around.

We are natural neighbors of the people of Rwanda, of Burundi and of Uganda. We are forced to live together, and to live in peace and harmony and not in a never-ending war in this Sub Region that God lavishly gave to us. What is the use of new wars that will only impoverish our people and create unworthy enmities? “Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Mt. 5, 9) “No war anymore, the world longs for peace”.

I ask you to become the voice of the voiceless that everyday die in our villages. We express our deep condolences to the families who are mourning their lost ones and may our brothers and sisters who have been killed at Kaniola rest in peace.

Bukavu, 28th May 2007

Mgr François-Xavier MAROY RUSENGO,

Archbishop of Bukavu.

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