Friday, February 13, 2009

The Washington Post Raises Questions about Rwanda's Intent

Stephanie McCrummen has a good piece in today's Washington Post about Rwanda's real motives for entering the Congo. Money grafs:
Although the two Rwandan invasions [in 1996 and 1998] were devastating for the Congolese, they were hugely beneficial for Rwanda, which is still struggling to rebuild after the 100 days of well-planned violence in 1994 when Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Many Rwandans became involved in the lucrative mineral trade out of eastern Congo after the genocide, and some observers speculate that the current military operation aims to solidify Rwanda's economic stake in the region.

"It was a period of great economic boom for Rwanda -- a lot of people got rich, including military officers," [HRW's Alison] Des Forges said, adding that the current military operation could help Rwandan President Paul Kagame relieve internal pressures on his government, which allows little room for dissent. "Presumably, if the troops were back in Congo for a substantial period of time, they could expect to reap certain benefits. It could also be beneficial for Rwanda to have greater control over economic resources than they've had before."
McCrummen reports that Rwanda was deeply embarrassed after the UN report came out in December documenting that country's close ties to the rebel movement led by Laurent Nkunda, accused of committing numerous human rights abuses. Pressure mounted on Rwanda to cut its ties to Nkunda and resolve its differences with Congo. At stake were hundreds of millions of dollars from the European Union, the World Bank and other donors.

That money is supposed to be officially released next month, when Rwanda and Congo restore full diplomatic relations. McCrummen reports that a number of Western diplomats are buying the official line coming out of Kigali, that "Congo's deal with Rwanda represents a mature realization by Kabila and Kagame that their interests are better served by working together officially, rather than through rebel proxies."

But Des Forges points to some flaws in the official account. As recently as October, Rwandan officials had cast the militia as "a Congolese problem," saying it did not pose an immediate military threat to Rwanda. "Is the FDLR now suddenly on the verge of becoming more militarily powerful? I don't think we've seen that," she said. "And if they haven't, then what you have is Rwanda trotting out an old warhorse of an excuse to go in again. The question is, what is the intent?"

Des Forges has been proven right so many times in the past that you'd think the Western diplomats and bankers who oversee the Great Lakes would take heed. But they won't. It's so much more convenient to believe the government line. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was fated to be ignored only once, when she warned the city elders about the Trojan Horse; it has been Des Forges' fate to be ignored over and over again.

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