By Joseph Rwagatare
Rwanda has made its position very clear. There cannot be talks with killers. The very suggestion is an insult to the memory of a million people killed in the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.
It is an assault to the survivors of that genocide whose wounds are not completely healed. The thought is an affront to common decency, justice and morality.
That should be enough to put the matter to rest. But no, the nonsense about talks with the FDLR persists, fuelled mainly by apologists of the genocidal forces still visiting horror on innocent Congolese.
These range from foreign leaders to Rwandan fugitives from justice eager to clutch on anything that will remind us that they still exist. They include diplomats who served in Rwanda, like the Ugandan Harold Acemah who seems to have embraced the hate ideology when he worked here.
In their haste to launder the image of the FDLR, all these individuals and groups ignore several important issues.
In the first place, what is the FDLR’s agenda and has it ever changed? Do they even want to talk and what would they talk about? You can talk with people who have a programme for the country that is perhaps different from your own. You can have discussions with people who have genuine grievances or reasonable demands.
The political programme of the FDLR is well known. It is the extermination of the Tutsi. Their grievances are also clear. They were not allowed to complete their programme. Their demands, too, are well-known – to return and complete the unfinished business of 1994.
Now, no one in their right mind would negotiate the extermination of a section of their population. Annihilation of an entire people can never form the basis of negotiations in any civilised society. Human beings are not animals to be culled, and even if that were so, who decides who should be culled? To suggest that Rwanda should hold talks with the FDLR whose agenda is built on a genocide ideology is utter nonsense as President Paul Kagame put itWe have heard excuses that the majority of the FDLR members are young people who did not commit genocide. Granted. But they have been brought up on that ideology. Their young minds have been poisoned with hate. They know no other emotion than hate; no other political motive than the extermination of the Tutsi.
Only a few weeks ago, young Rwandans in the FDLR interviewed by western journalists said that they would kill any Tutsi wherever they saw them. These are the supposed innocents
In trying to justify the unthinkable, some misguided people have even compared the possibility of Rwanda holding talks with the FDLR with what happened between Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menahem Begin in 1979.
They forget that those talks happened and a peace deal struck because Egypt recognised the right of Israel to exist. It renounced its intention to wipe it off the face of the earth. If the FDLR renounced their ideology, I see no reason for them to return home. They don’t even need to talk about it. They would simply walk home and would be welcome.
Secondly, President Jakaya Kikwete and those singing to his tune have put the question to the wrong people. The FDLR are in D R Congo. They are not ordinary refugees but an armed group that has taken over territory of a supposedly sovereign state. Those so eager to become peacemakers should ask the Congolese government to expel them and if, as has proved the case the DRC government is unable to do so, help in flushing out the FDLR.
The onus is on Congo, but as we all know, they have been unable or unwilling to remove the FDLR because they are allies who fight on the Congolese side.
Another question that is ignored – does the FDLR as an organisation want to return home? I have a feeling they don’t – certainly not the leadership. They dangle that possibility only to earn respectability, remain relevant and continue receiving money from their backers who may think they are a genuine political organisation.
In reality, they want to remain where they are and maintain control on lucrative mining and trade in minerals, continue earning from illegal taxation and have lots of land to till.
These are some of the reasons Tanzania and South Africa are in a rush to get involved in D R Congo – to protect the business interests of some individuals, mostly connected to the political leadership. Problem is, they are using the national defence forces to secure personal interests. No one is protesting this blatant abuse of state power. Not even the usually vocal human rights brigade. The opposition Democratic Alliance in South Africa is the lone voice in this case.
It is for similar reasons that the major powers fund the obscenely expensive peace-keeping operation in DRC.
Just imagine what the billions of dollars spent on the ineffective peacekeepers DRC would do if used to build roads, healthcare facilities, schools and strengthen administrative institutions? All the DRC’s problems would disappear in a flash.
But that would empower the Congolese and make the “benefactors” irrelevant. More importantly, it would expose their illegal businesses where thousands of tons of minerals are regularly shipped to Europe and elsewhere through South African ports. So what better ways to protect their interests than invest in maintenance of instability and an ineffective peace-keeping force?
In the matter of peace in D R Congo and the Great Lakes Region, President Kikwete and co. should sing a different tune – convince the FDLR to abandon their ideology of genocide and extermination agenda and then return home. The rank and file have been doing so for years and are peacefully resettled. That’s all that is needed. Not flippant advice.