UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Calls for “Decisive Action” Against the Rwandan Rebels
Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo, says US pressure is behind the call for action by Ban Ki-moon, and that there are political options for dealing with the FDLR
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a phone call with President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, appealed for decisive action against the armed group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as FDLR, after it failed to surrender by the January 2 deadline. So now preparations are underway for an offensive against Rwandan rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the meantime, officials in Burundi said on Monday that the army has killed 95 rebels who poured across the border from Eastern Congo.
To give us an update on the developments, joining us from Washington, D.C., is Kambale Musavuli. He is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is also a human rights activist and the student coordinator and national spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo.
Thank you so much for joining us.
KAMBALE MUSAVULI, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, FRIENDS OF THE CONGO: Thank you, Sharmini.
PERIES: So give us a report going on at the moment on the ground.
MUSAVULI: On the ground at the moment, at least from the United Nations side, there is a lot of talks around military operations in the eastern part of the Congo. This is coming mainly from the United States government. This is being pushed by the U.S. special envoy to the Great Lakes region (his name is Feingold) to actually not just use the United Nations forces, but to actually bring U.S. special ops to the Congo to tackle the Rwandan-Hutu rebels, called the FDLR, who have been in Congo since the end of the Rwandan conflict, which resulted in the genocide in 1994.
It’s quite surprising to actually see that after multiple military operations against the FDLR since 1994, the United States continued to advocate for military actions inside of the Congo to deal with political problems. The Hutu rebels who are in the Congo cannot be dealt with by military pressure, military actions. It has not worked in the past. It’s not going to work now. I believe this will be a Pandora’s box of U.S. special forces coming into the Congo in the guise of dismantling a rebel group in the Congo, and then stay and install the United States AFRICOM.
PERIES: Kambali, this is highly unusual, to have the secretary-general of the United Nations calling for decisive action. What has happened prior to this that has led to this kind of pressure?
MUSAVULI: I believe, as I mentioned a moment ago, that he’s really being pressured by the United States government. This was an idea pushed by the Rwandan government. You know the Rwandan government is a U.S. ally. And last year, for the past two years, the Rwandan government has been a member of the Security Council, though they have been caught many times destabilizing the Congo in many forms. So since 2012, the Rwandan government has been using the Hutu FDLR rebels in the Congo as a pretext to have their troops in center of the Congo. They have been in the Congo many times using that pretext.
So it’s only a continuation of what we know. We know, just as with Uganda, how the Ugandan President Museveni uses Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the LRA, as a pretext to have its troops in other African countries. This is the same thing that Rwandan government, the Rwandan military is using to come to the Congo, using its ally, the United States to put pressure on the United Nations to have military forces.
But I would quote a former UN commander, Patrick Cammaert. Patrick Cammaert was the UN commanders of UN forces in the Congo. He’s no longer there. But in 2008, he can be quoted saying the Rwandan Hutu FDLR is a political problem. Now, we can put military pressure on the FDLR; it will not end the crisis. What needs to happen is it needs to be dealt with politically. What does that mean? I think that the international community, specifically the United States policymakers, need to listen to the Tanzanian president Kikwete, who proposed a solution for peace and stability in the Great Lakes region, which include Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. He said, to deal with the Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebel forces in the Congo, we need dialog. He is encouraging the president of Rwanda and the FDLR rebel groups to come to the table to deal with the issues.
Why is that important? We have about 2,000 remnants, Hutu FDLRs, inside of the Congo, give or take. [About a hundreds of them (?)] documented by the United Nations, 100, 150 of them participated in the Rwandan genocide. The vast majority of them are young Rwandans, who are around 20, 30 year old, which means that more than likely that he participated in genocide. They have picked up the guns.
So we know that there is a cycle of violence, but you cannot stop that. But you’re sending troops to kill people. You know who’s going to be affected if there is a military operation in the Congo, that the U.S. special forces will come to the Congo? the Congolese civilians will be the one who are going to pay the price. We have already lost 6 million Congolese to this conflict since 1996. We do not need anymore bloodshed.
So if U.S. policymakers can follow the lead of the Tanzanian president, Kikwete, who called for dialog for the Rwandan government, the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, to sit at a table with rebel groups who are from his country and come to a peaceful solution to the crisis. That will have more fruit than sending American troops into the Congo in the guise–.
PERIES: Do you think that’s a possible scenario?
MUSAVULI: It is a possible scenario. The only reason why it’s not happening is because the Rwandan president, Kagame, does not want this to happen. He knows by the moment that the FDLR problem is over with, he will no longer have any pretext.
But the second thing also we have to remember: we are talking about Rwandans. I’m not only speaking about the Hutu rebels. But we have hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who have to be re-patriated into the country. They cannot go to the country, because we have an oppressive regime. So Paul Kagame of Rwanda does not want reconciliation in Rwanda. He wants to latch on to the story of the genocide, to hold the whole international community hostage, while he continues to oppress the people of Rwanda in his country and continue to do a vengeance in the Congo with total impunity. It has happened in other countries. You know, how did we have peace talks in Sudan? How did we have peace talks in the Congo? How come since 1994 there has not been peace talks with the Hutu FDLR and the Rwandan government? Can you imagine that? Since 1994 to the present, there have not been any peace talks to reconcile the Rwandans so they can have peace and stability.
PERIES: You raise a some good questions there, Kambale. We will be seeking the answers to them in future reports. Thank you so much for joining us today.
MUSAVULI: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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