The full text of the Ecumenical letter follows, click to read it below the break.
|Paul Kagame and his wife at Archbishop Rwaje’s enthronement|
: November 6. 2012
. Rwandan Religious Leaders
. Dr Ban Ki-Moon.
The United Nations Secretary General. New York
: – US State Department, Washington DC
– Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK
– Germany Foreign Affairs
– Sweden Foreign Affairs
– Netherlands Foreign Affair
– Belgium Foreign Affairs
– United Nations Security Council, New York
– Ecumenical organisations in Geneva, Rome, Nairobi and New York
– House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights on “The alleged Role of Rwanda in the DRCConflict”. Washington DC. USA
Statement on the crisis in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
As religious leaders from Rwanda, we are writing to express our gratitude to the United Nations for your attention and focus on the situation in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Regardless of your many other conflicting priorities you have always been instrumental in helping to set up conditions for peace in various parts of the world. Therefore, we come to you to submit our analysis and reflection on the crisis in the Eastern Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) our neighbor due to its implication to the entire sub region in general and to Rwanda in particular.
As members of the Civil Society in Rwanda, who happen to be on the ground, we feel the obligation to write to you in order to clarify issues which are sometimes presented in misleading ways, creating confusion and resulting in retardation of the good progress Rwanda has achieved over the last 18 years after genocide as well as the efforts being made within the African Great Lake Region and through the African Union in general to set up conditions for a lasting peace in the DRC.
The Religious Leaders in Rwanda belong to the faith based organisations that are part of the civil society. Our core value and special mandate is to build peace through faith. We promote justice, equal rights and are against any form of violence be it in Rwanda, the Great Lakes Region, Africa or the whole world. We advocate for freedom and have contributed towards building peace and reconciliation in Rwanda and in the Great Lakes Regions through our regional organisations networks and by our modest contributions, some remarkable results were achieved.
We hope our statement will highlight the true problems on the situation which have led to the rebellion in DRC and caused all the suffering the Eastern DRC population is going through. We believe that the loss of innocent lives with all sorts of violence which we strongly condemn can only be eradicated if the root cause of this conflict is addressed and if the International Community does not react hasty based on misleading information which only serves to undermine peace and progress in Rwanda.
We are still committed to pursue these efforts and to work for a lasting peace together with any willing religious leaders in the DRC in particular and in the African Great Lakes Region and we call upon United Nations and any other people of good will to accompany religious organisations and their leaders, as well as civil society in our countries to keep playing their role as peacemakers.
The Most Reverend Rwaje,
President of the Province of the Anglican Church in Rwanda
The Right Reverend Alex Bilindabagabo
President of the Protestant Council of Rwanda
Sheikh Sengiyumva Djumatatu
Deputy Mufti of the Association of Muslims in Rwanda
Bishop Enock Dusingizimana
Vice-President of the Alliance of Evangelicals of Rwanda
Reverend Theophile Kamanzi
Vice-President of the Forum of Born Again Churches and Christian Organisations in Rwanda
Statement from the Rwandan Religious Leaders on the crisis in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
TO : Dr Ban Ki-Moon,
The Secretary General of the United Nations, New York,
CC: US State Department. Washington DC. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. K. Germany Foreign Affairs,
Sweden Foreign Affairs,
Netherlands Foreign Affairs, Belgium Foreign Affairs.
United Nations Security Council, New York,
Ecumenical organisations in Geneva. Roma, Nairobi and New York.
House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on “The alleged Role of Rwanda in the DRC Conflict”. Washington DC. USA,
1. The Rwandan Religious Leaders have serious concerns about the recent UN reports implicating Rwanda in the internal problems of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ranging from the integrity of the experts compiling the reports, the methodology used, the lack of sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims presented in the reports and most of all, the way these reports are being used or misused to undermine and derail Rwanda’s political, social and economic progress without setting up sustainable conditions for dialogue, reconciliation and peace.
2. Two reports have been produced so far, namely, (The UN Mapping Report on the DRC published in Oct 2010 and the most recent, UN Group of Experts (GoE) Report published Aug 2012). Both reports were charging Rwanda to be responsible for the conflict and disorder in the DRC. Rwanda has dismissed both reports as unfounded and malicious, presenting another version of the story, which has not been challenged to date.
3. We acknowledge that the UN has the right to investigate and report their findings in pursuit of peace and human rights in the world. However, this does not exempt the UN from the responsibility of reporting the situation in Eastern DRC accurately and in a responsible manner that does not undermine the very reason of its own existence, hence contradicting the core mission and values of its mandate.
4. We that if a published UN report is found lacking and its credibility is in question, the UN should be courageous and humble enough to make a public statement to the effect that the document in question should not be relied on for any serious judgment or decision until the truth is established. Failure to do so would simply mean that the omission and anticipated harm was actually intended and the UN cannot avoid being seen as an accomplice in such a matter. In compiling the second report, lessons should have been taken from the experiences of the previous report whose credibility had been undermined by a methodology that was far from being professional. Knowing the United Nations and what it stands for, one is tempted to think, that there could be manipulation of UN processes by organizations or individuals which the UN systems may or may not be aware of.
5. We would like to show in this paper that the recent UN GoE Report has caused preventable devastating effects on the Rwandan community at the regional and international levels. We would also like to expose the misleading information presented by Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda of the United Methodist Church in the North Katanga Episcopal Area – Kamina/DRC to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights basing his claim on this report.
6. Compiled without the input of the accused, the report was dismissed as unfounded and baseless which led to Rwanda being given the opportunity to present their views. The Rwandan government has since presented a rebuttal to the addendum of the interim report of the UN experts, but to our disappointment the UN has not come up clearly on how the published Report should be treated.
7.As it stands, the report did not cover the real issues that led to the mutiny in the Congolese army (FARDC). The name of the mutinous group is M23 which means March 23rd the date on which a truce was signed between the Congolese government and the rebel outfit National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). CNDP had taken arms to defend their families against FDRL atrocities.
8. Without mentioning those internally displaced, many refugees from the DRC still live in refugee camps in countries in the region from the time of the 1996 Eastern Congo war, unable to return home because of insecurity. Of these, an estimated 80,000 still live in Rwanda alone. They continue to languish in camps in neighbouring countries, where they are sometimes invaded and killed by these criminal forces in the DRC. Notable among others is the Gatumba incident in Burundi where 152 were massacred and 106 wounded on August 13th 2004 according to HRW paper of September 2004. More than 30,000 arrived in Rwanda alone in 2012. Many of these are the Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese who have been targeted by the FDRL a rebel group that has been listed by the US Government as a terrorist group. And yet, there is no sign either in the DRC or in the international community of concern for these refugees.
9. In 2010 during one of the Great Lakes Ecumenical Forum (GLEF) meeting in Kigali, we succeeded in taking church leaders and members of the DRC parliament to visit the Refugees. They were astonished to discover that thousands of their fellow citizens were abandoned by their authorities and committed to return and campaign for their repatriation. We still wait for the promise to be fulfilled.
10. It is important to note that the Congolese government has the responsibility to protect its citizens and failure to do so would mean abandoning its people to the protection by the UN which has unfortunately failed to fulfill its mandate. M23 is composed of the same people that were in (CNDP) with the same grievances but with a different name. The name adopted by the mutinous group served to remind the Kinshasa government that they had not respected the agreement signed between them on 23rd March 2009. We are surprised that Rwanda should be blamed for the Congolese internal governance weaknesses. A look at the DRC history shows clearly the true source of conflict and gives an overview of where the problems lie.
Historical Background of the Eastern DRC Crisis
11. The DRC crisis go back in history to the 19th century when the appetite for resources triggered the conflict between European countries leading to the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference chaired by the Prussian Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck and the French President, Jules Ferry, on Congo to settle rivalries, recriminations and prevent potential war between the dominant and rival powers of the day. There started the traumatizing colonial enterprise with its lots of misery, abuse of rights and dignity of the Africans.
12. Unfortunately, instead of appeasing the situation and addressing the differences on Congo, the conference ended in the balkanization of the African continent. Well documented is the reckless carving and parceling out of the borders that left many different nations and societies divided and scattered between different colonial powers. The DRC is aware of that situation on every corner of its borders with its eight neighbours, Rwanda included. We must remember that the Berlin Conference was followed by different bilateral and multilateral conventions between the conquering powers, a case in point is the 1910 Convention between Germany, Belgium and Britain on Rwanda, Congo and Uganda with well-known consequences today. The Society of the Nations endorsed this decision and when the United Nations came to existence in 1945, as you may be aware, it never questioned such an injustice.
13. As if this was not enough, during the colonial period from 1910s up to 1960s, the colonial powers, moved the people/populations of Rwanda and Burundi for colonial interests, namely, the exploitation of the plantations and mines in various parts of Congo (DRC). When that country accessed the independence, all the populations within its borders were given Congolese citizenship.
14. However, ill-informed and selfish interests of motivated political powers and military mafia with sophisticated links in Europe, Africa and Americas continually manipulated the feelings of different ethnic groups not only in Africa but elsewhere in the world. Armed groups, rebellions, sectarianism and attempts of separatism in Congo (DRC) go back into history: these include the 1960s Mulele rebellion in Eastern Cong, the 1970s two wars in Katanga, etc. Isn’t Rwanda an easy scapegoat, when the UN promote rushed, unverified and void reports: isn’t appeasing the conscience of the dominant powers who dominate its mechanisms which failed to help DRC resolve its multifaceted crises?
The Rwandan crisis and its relations with DRC
15. Rwanda has known its worst during the 1994 genocide that took away more than 1 million of Rwandans from the Tutsi community. That tragedy did not come by surprise it was a consequence of bad policies of the colonial era that instilled the ideology of discrimination, but then at the turn of the independence, took the opposite direction, arming and equipping some groups of the population against the other. The 1994 regime that organized and executed the genocide in Rwanda was backed by the regime of Kinshasa (DRC) at that time. This explains why the machinery of genocide, the rump government, the army and militia interahamwe moved to Congo (DRC) under the protection of the French troops, the complicity of the regime in Kinshasa and the silence of the United Nations and the international community. This is reflective of what is happening in these falsifications in the UN reports today.
16. The UN and international laws were overlooked in 1994, when the entire Military hardware and machinery used in the genocide got an open entry in DRC, accompanied by ex. FAR, Interahamwe Militia. A great multitude of civilians were taken hostage from among them, they recruited more militia and continued to train in refugee camps.
17. In 1996 a rebellion led by Laurent – Desire (LD) Kabila erupted and led to the change of the regime of Kinshasa. Neither Kabila the father nor Kabila the son was able to create a peaceful transition in their beloved country instead there were armed groups almost in every province revolting against the absence of a visionary and strategic leadership. The cause of disparity, destruction and resort to group of armed forces is lack of leadership. DRC has failed to repatriate thousands of their refugees in neighbouring countries and Congo has been a Congo of FDLR which continues to threaten the life of the Congolese themselves and Rwandans after committing genocide in Rwanda. In DRC, there are forty armed groups based in different parts of the country and not in Eastern Cong alone as people think. M23 which resulted form the failed agreement between the government of Kinshasa and CNDP, the Mai Mai groups, the Rahia Mutomboki are just few among many other armed groups in DRC. Mark Schneider gives the following example: “The Rahia Mutomboki group has committed killings in the Walikale and Kalehe territories and launched a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Kinyarwanda-speaking people.” All these groups are actually desperately seeking solutions to their problems and, by doing so, end up causing more chaos. The long term solution to this is good, visionary and strategic leadership.
Despite calls from the EU and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) for dialogue and army reform, Kinshasa remains unwilling to reform the army and instead has sought to forge an alliance with some anti-(Rwanda) Tutsi armed Group, the FDLR.
Beyond the Eastern DRC!
18. Observers’ analysis provides additional causes of the crisis: the first is MONUSCO’s incapacity to fulfill its mandate despite heavy weaponry and resources; post-electoral dynamics; the absence of security sector reform have all compounded the crisis in the DRC. On Post-electoral dynamics, Schneider puts it this way: “a hasty constitutional change in January 2011, flawed voter registration and voter roll issues, minimal outreach by Congo’s independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to the political parties, lack of transparency, a sharp increase of political tensions, incidents of violence, the general inadequate preparation of the elections, etc…The lack of credibility of the results sparked opposition protests that, in turn, prompted heavy-handed repression by Congolese security forces in Kinshasa. On MONUSCO, Schneider says: “MONUSCO has been totally incapable of engaging the rebels or defending civilian areas where interethnic fighting has broken out. MONUSCO has thousands of troops in the Kivus and is run at a cost of 1.2 billion US $ per year; the Indian army component that leads it is a professional force equipped with helicopters and armed vehicles. In the DRC, people cannot understand why the most capable military force in their country is unwilling to use its firepower to implement its mandate.” That is the question!
Religious leaders’ dynamics for Peace in Great Lakes Region exist. Why distract them?
19. The claims made by a church leader from the Katanga Province are misleading. It needs to be challenged at least on two ground: the legitimacy and the authenticity of the facts on one hand, and his individualistic and divisive demarche on the other
20. Questioning the legitimacy and the authenticity of claims. The eastern provinces borders to Rwanda, concerned with the crisis, are North and South Kivus. Katanga, where Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda come from, is a separate Province in the southern part of DRC, several thousands of miles from the eastern provinces. There is no clear indication bishop Ntambo cooperated with the leaders in the eastern part of DRC; these have been part of many religious dynamics for peace within the Great Lakes region: DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and others.
21. These dynamics came to concrete steps with the creation, in May 2006, in Bujumbura, Burundit, of the Great Lakes Ecumenical Foru (GLEF) with assistance from ecumenical organisations including the World Council of Churches (WCC), the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), the Association of Roman Catholic Episcopal Conferences in Africa and Madagascar (AMCEA), the Fellowship of Churches in the Horn and East Africa (FECCLAHA).
22. GLEF has regularly organized summits of Church leaders, in DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya to discuss sustainable peace and mediate when necessary. Helped by eminent personalities, including former president of Mozambique, H.E. Joachim Chissano, former president of Nigera, Olusegun Obasanjo and many others. Church leaders have continually formed joint missions that met and presented successfully the imperative for peace and security to the presidents of DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. For example, in October 2008, a church leader’s delegation together with president Obasanjo met Joseph Kabila and Laurent Nkunda in Nairobi; in November 2008, the delegation met President Joseph Kabilia in Kinshasa; in January 2009, they met President Kagame in Kigali and in the same month, they went deeper in the bush and met Rebel, Laurent Nkunda. The same delegation met President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. At a time of high tensions in Burundi in 2010 and 2011, a joint mission of Church leaders together with former president Joachim Chissano met President Nkurunziza and political leaders of the Opposition in Burundi to urge them to pursue dialogue and reconciliation.
23. These processes have continued on regular basis and each time a call came from churches. This was the case, recently when the churches in DRC called for a summit of heads of churches, held in Nairobi, 23-24 July 2012. Church leaders including a delegation of Roman Catholic bishops from DRC attended. However, the caller, the Church of Christ in Congo to which Bishop Ntamba Nkulu Ntanda belongs, never went. We understood its hierarchy considered that “there was no need for a peace meeting since the two presidents, Kabila and Kagame met and talked in Addis Ababa.”
24. The conflict in the Eastern DRC has continued to breed confusion and the true beneficiaries of the crisis have taken advantage of the situation to mislead the international community. The report can easily be considered as aiming at building a strong case to explain the prolonged stay of MONUSCO in DRC, the UN second largest peace keeping contingent in the world with sophisticated military equipment at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars in annual budget. The force has failed to dislodge rebel groups operating in the DRC that have caused a lot of suffering to the people in Eastern DRC. This force should at least protect the Congolese citizens of all cultural and ethnic origins, who have become perpetual victims of the endless conflict in this region.
25. If the mandate of MONUSCO is simply to protect themselves when attacked, they would be better off staying in their respective countries where their live are not exposed to any danger and the budget involved would be allocated to something more useful such as advancing the Millennium Development Goals.
26. As religious leaders, we call upon all people of good will, the UN and all systems set up to protect peace, security and human rights of all individuals being on national, regional or international level to condemn violence in Eastern Congo and elsewhere in the world. There is no doubt that each loss of human life planned by violent groups or individuals is a crime and sin before God and humanity. Rwanda has experienced the worst of its history during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, and since then it has stood in search for peace the world over. In that regard, whilst we agree on the call for justice to the populations of Eastern Congo, we categorically dismiss the malicious claims of Bishop Ntambo Nkulu with regard to Rwanda committing genocide in DRC. How ridiculous and absurd would a government be to invite a force that committed genocide against its people to help pacify the country. Here we mean the joint Congo-Rwanda military offensives against criminal forces in the eastern DRC such as “Umoja wetu”,
27. Firstly, it is wrong to put on the balance the suffering on the basis of the number of people killed in Rwanda and Eastern DRC when calling for compassion from international community. No abuse of human rights should be condoned despite the number of victims. Let us all unite to condemn the causes of violence, conflicts and wars and their consequences wherever they are committed.
28. Secondly, to prove that Bishop Ntambo Nkulu’s malicious claims are fabricated, baseless and unfounded, one has to look at the statistics he used in his incendiary paper. Nobody does research with imaginably figures. It takes just a mouse click to know the population of eastern DRC. The 2005 facts show North Kivu Province population as 4.6 million, and South Kivu population as 4.8 million. Despite the fact that Rwanda is not responsible for the suffering of Congolese people, it can only be imaginary to claim that 6,000,000 people have died in this crisis given the population of the region, leave alone who killed them.
29. These unfounded accusations have misled Rwanda’s development partners to suspend funding thus slowing down the social economic progress of the country. However some of these partners have critically analysed the report/situation reconsidered their decision and resumed funding. They realized that the report was not reliable to base on decisions that would negatively affect innocent people of Rwanda.
30. Testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa Global Health and Human Right, Jason K. Stearns the Director of Usalama Project, Rift Valley Institute analyzed the Congolese problems. When it came to ascertaining Rwanda’s involvement in the Congolese crisis he said: “There is no doubt about Rwanda’s involvement. It has been documented by the United Nations Report released in June…”. This shows how this unsubstantiated report continues to cause confusion about the situation in the Eastern DRC. When a wrong medical diagnosis is made, all you can be sure to get is a wrong medical prescription. The same goes for analyzing the Congolese problems and the suggested peace solutions to the crisis targeting Rwanda.
Spreading hate Propaganda
31. The evidence of such hate propaganda and xenophobia that emanate from these untested accusations can be seen on YouTube with the notorious Congolese preacher Bishop Elysee resident in South Africa, who preaches that killing the Tutsi is not a sin in the sight of God. He calls upon Congolese all over the world to find and kill the Tusi wherever they are. This has started happening in some cities in Europe where Congolese gangsters calling themselves “les combatants” are wreaking havoc among the Rwandan communities especially in Belgium. Anybody who has read the history of the genocide committed against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 or the Jewish holocaust will understand the grounds of our concern.
32. Overall, we think that blaming Rwanda for the DRC crisis is a result of manipulation which leaves behind the real issue of governance and the responsibility of the Congolese government to solve this conflict.
33. As mentioned above, the armed groups in the DRC are the outcome of a complex, long-standing historical and political reality. A durable solution would therefore require a deeper analysis of the situation in order to identify the root causes of the conflict and address real issues accordingly. The solution of this crisis will not be found if the international community remains distracted by Government of Congo pointing fingers at Rwanda in order to find a scapegoat for their crisis.
34. We have serious concerns about the international community focusing on the current mutiny at the expense of the much broader challenges in the Eastern DRC and beyond. This is especially the extent to which Congolese of Kinyarwanda cultural background descent remain targeted for rape, torture and murder as a result of their ethnic origin, and yet are mostly ignored by the DRC government, human rights organisations and NGOs.
35. Professor James Putzel, co-author of Meeting the Challenges of Crisis States, a report from the London School of Economics, questioned the decision of the EU, the US and Germany in partially freezing aid to Rwanda; these donors have acted hastily in suspending aid to Rwanda without evidence of Rwanda’s involvement in the DRC conflict. Overall, we think that blaming Rwanda for the DRC crisis leaves behind the real issue of governance and the responsibility of the Congolese government to resolve this conflict.
36. The armed groups in the DRC are the outcome of a complex long-standing historical and political reality. A durable solution would, therefore, require a deeper analysis of the situation in order to identify the root causes of the conflict and address real issues accordingly. The solution of this crisis will not be found if the international community remains distracted by the government of DRC pointing fingers at Rwanda, in order to find a scapegoat. We have serious concerns about the international community focusing on the current mutiny at the expense of the much broader challenges in the Eastern DRC and beyond. We challenge the United Nations to cooperate with the Africa Union and regional bodies, including the Intergovernmental conference on the Great Lakes region to set up conditions for peace, dialogue and reconciliation between the government of DRC the defecting groups, at the same time help the country build solid institutions and consolidate democracy.
37. In the meantime the UN should be courageous and humble enough to make a public statement to the effect that the document in question should not be relied on for any serious judgment or decision until the truth is established. Failure to do so would simply mean that the omission and anticipated harm was actually intended and the UN cannot avoid being seen as an accomplice in such a matter.
38. Congolese refugees should receive humanitarian assistance immediately as they are currently abandoned and considered as second class citizens hence their protection and repatriation should be expedited since this is their fundamental right that nobody should deprive them of.
We, Religious Leaders in Rwanda, strongly urge the WCC, AACC, AMCEA, FECCLAHA and national councils and churches both in DRC, Rwanda and other countries to pursue with strong conviction, determination and moral willingness to durable peace and stability in the region. These are the efforts that will be blessed by God, the Almighty.
May God bless you and continue to guide you!