Agence France-Presse (AFP) published a story yesterday with the ominous headline, “Rwandan invasion of DR Congo feared”.
Few topics are more serious to report about than the prospect of one country invading another, but the article’s solitary source of evidence was:
A statement from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional body said it was concerned “at the deployment of Rwandan troops along the common border” and “expressed the hope that Rwanda is not contemplating to invade”.
The remainder of the article is a compendium of earlier AFP stories on the Eastern DRC and contains nothing new.
The most troubling aspect of this report, however, is what it does not include.
The “deployment of Rwandan troops along the common border” mentioned in the article occurred in response to 34 separate mortar attacks inside Rwanda from positions in the DRC between 22 August and 29 August 2013 alone.
The deployment was in response to what Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo described on August 29th as “a sustained strategy of provocation designed to draw Rwanda into the conflict”.
There have been no further mortar attacks in Rwandan border towns and villages since the troop deployment, suggesting the RDF’s strategy of deterrence has been successful to date.
By excluding this context, the AFP fails its readers as well as the news outlets who rely on its reputation for accuracy and balance. The article conveys to readers that Rwanda’s decision to deploy troops on the border with the DRC was an act of unprovoked aggression, rather than self-defense in the face of a volley of rocket fired indiscriminately into its territory.
For its own purposes, it is clear that SADC wants to present Rwanda as a belligerent vis a vis the DRC when the opposite is true. That is no excuse for AFP. Their role is to filter out such spin and propaganda and help readers understand complex issues by providing context and balance. They have demonstrably failed in this instance, instead reverting to their WWII role when they acted as the “Office Français d’Information” for the pro-Nazi Vichy regime.
Posted by Tom Ndahiro