What does the War on Terror have to do with Rwanda? Certainly very little, but this is one of the pretexts that President Bush is using in Rwanda as he has elsewhere to strengthen US corporations access to the diverse natural resources from the other side of the Rwandan border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By doing business with these corporations, rebel groups have been able to continue financing their war against the Congolese government for 11 years.
The US-Rwanda relationship has caused a lot of grief among the Congolese people. They have been speaking out, but they continue to be ignored. “What is the point of providing vaccine to our children when you are making and providing weapons to our enemies who will kill or rape them before our eyes?” This was the message of Congolese women to humanitarian organizations workers during their door-to-door children vaccination campaign in the city of Goma, North Kivu Province, D.R. Congo in 1997. This was a direct complaint against the United States because of its military support to the government of Rwanda during its invasion of the Congo in 1996.
While Rwanda enjoys US military support, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda continues to support militarily one of the major rebel groups, led by the renegade Congolese General Nkunda, that has been killing, raping, looting and recruiting by force Congolese children into its ranks. This is why President George Bush’s visit to Rwanda on Feb. 19, 2008 was bad news and is seen as a threat to peace in the Congo. When asked why the US is training and arming Rwandan soldiers and at the same time supporting peace talks between Rwanda and Congo, Christopher Brose of the US Department of State honestly joined the many disappointed people in US foreign policy by saying that “as a country we have interests.”
What kind of interest is the US looking for in Rwanda, a small country with no oil or minerals that major powers need for their economies? Rwanda is very appealing to countries such as the US for economic and strategic reasons. In addition to securing its door to Congolese natural resources, the US has been exploiting the 1994 genocide situation in Rwanda to build its influence in Africa. This is in fact a US foreign policy trend. After the tragic Nazi Holocaust, the U.S. made Israel its agent and a partner in its destructive policies in the Middle East instead of acting in solidarity with all Jews for peace, healing, reconciliation and democracy in the Middle East. What kind of peace has Israel gained so far in embracing such friendship? Is arming and training the Rwandan army the way to democracy? It took 35 years for the Tutsi to regain the political and military power they lost to Hutu in 1959 and it will surely take more or less the same number of years for the Hutu to take it back.
The US government should choose to promote the path of a peaceful return of the exiled Hutu thereby elevating democracy in Rwanda. Instead, it has taken the path of militarization of Rwanda. The world should be concerned about the US’ lack of faith in the culture of nonviolence. Why not to work for peace instead of preparing for wars? Shouldn’t the Rwandan government be seeking international help to prevent another genocide? Nonviolence is the way of a brighter future. In his article « Vers une pédagogie de la non-violence et de la paix » (Toward a pedagogy of nonviolence and Peace) Llorenç Vidal underscores the pacifist proverb that says « If you want peace, do not prepare for war…If you want peace, prepare for peace…If you want peace, teach yours in the purpose of peace” “Si tu veux la paix, ne prépare pas la guerre… Si tu veux la paix, prépare la paix… Si tu veux la paix, éduque les tiens en vue de la paix…” dit un proverbe pacifiste. It is unfortunate that the United States, through its military program, continues to convince African nations, Rwanda one of them, that there will not and cannot be peace without preparing for war. The U.S. does not export its values alone, but its sins as well.
During his trip to Africa, from Feb 15-21, 2008, President Bush spoke extensively about the success of his President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Africa and promised to fight malaria. While we salute the success of PEPFAR, let us remember that it is only in times of peace that all the beneficiaries of this program can maximize their chances to live and prosper. What is the point of saving Rwandan lives from HIV/AIDS and Malaria now and see them go through an imminent war in a near future? More than anything else, President Bush’s mission was to continue to create opportunities for US interests and build up support for his US military initiative, AFRICOM (Africa Command), on the African continent.
This may leave many people wondering what happened to his message of democracy everywhere and for all. In fact, Bush’s politics of fear has overshadowed his effort to export democracy in the world. Today the point of connection for cooperation with the current American government is the willingness to buy into President Bush’s politics of fear through the War on Terror. As a result, President Bush believes that militarizing Africa is the only way he can contain the bitterness of his enemies – terrorists who might find safe heaven in Africa. Such policy may reduce African leaders to hopelessness and fear of artificial enemies instead of remaining hopeful and fearless to face their current challenges.