Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rwanda: Kagame Playing Ostrich in Congo War

The Observer (Kampala)

Rwanda: Kagame Playing Ostrich in Congo War

In 1991 when the war against the Juvenal Habyarimana government in Rwanda was hardly a year old, I wrote an article on possible solutions to the conflict.
When the New Vision failed to publish it, I translated it and had it published in New Vision's sister paper Orumuri under title 'Omunyarwanda N'oha?' (Who is a Munyarwanda?), in a two-part series. The 1990-1994 war was supposedly to enable Banyarwanda "return home", but it ended with hundreds of thousands fleeing into DR Congo and other hundreds of thousands massacred inside Rwanda.
In addition, of the many Banyarwanda that left Uganda after the war, a fair number "returned home" and happily lives in Uganda. In the said article, I argued that being a Munyarwanda was about ethnicity, not statehood; Banyarwanda could be at peace outside Rwanda rather than inside, since Rwanda's major problem was a high population density with no technological capacity to survive on the small land area.
I made two propositions. First, Banyarwanda should be given full citizenship in the neighbouring countries of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania which have a lot of land and be free to visit Rwanda as they wish.
Secondly, to have a long-lasting solution for the entire region, the states of Rwanda and Burundi should voluntarily cease to exist: Rwanda being integrated into Uganda and Burundi into Tanzania or both states go en bloc to either Uganda or Tanzania.
I said even if Habyarimana was to be overthrown, it would still remain a thorny regional issue, rather than a strictly Rwandan national problem. Habyarimana had argued that Rwanda was too small for all Banyarwanda, 'its people', which many addicted to the nation-state paradigm found hard to understand and simply laughed at him.
Rwanda is among the most highly-densely populated countries in the world. Despite the genocide and the flight into DR Congo in 1994, official statistics show Rwanda's population density at 416 people per square kilometre in 2012.
Kagame himself has used the 'genocidaire' card to keep thousands of Banyarwanda away from Rwanda.
Moreover, the 1959 mass massacre and expulsion of the Tutsi was a precursor of the 1994 genocide and mass exile into Congo.

The theatre has simply relocated to Congo; the war isn't over yet. Any solution short of the region permanently absorbing the 'excess population' in Rwanda is ostrich wisdom. Yet, as long as Rwanda remains a state, those Banyarwanda elites who feel they should be in power in Kigali will remain a source of insecurity in the region and they will remain 'suspect refugees' in the mass consciousness of the ethnic communities accommodating them.
Kigali accuses the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) of having conducted the 1994 genocide, and the Congo government of supporting FDLR, but also wants these expelled Banyarwanda to permanently stay in Congo.
But not only that: in M23 and their likes, Kigali wishes to maintain a 'discreet donor' to the state budget and the private lifestyle of its elites. That's why the possibility of eastern Congo breaking away as a new state is a highly-considered option among elites in Rwanda.
Now Rwanda-Tanzania relations have tumbled downwards following President Kiwete's advice in May that all governments in the region hold direct talks with their rebel movements. Kagame sees this advice as an act made in ignorance, and at best an "ideological problem that better stays with those who have it."
But didn't peace talks succeed in Burundi, thanks to Nyerere's role?
Kagame is wishing away a reality, just like the USA wishes away the problem-child Israel under the so-called 'two-state solution' rather than negotiating for a 'majority-rule state solution'.
This ostrich wisdom perpetuates the Middle East war by disparaging the 'majority-rule state' option which suddenly silenced the guns and chaos in South Africa. The longer the war lasts in eastern Congo, the more Congo and Uganda are affected by refugees, IDPs and diseases, and the more Rwanda's heart pumps abnormally.
The author is a journalist.

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