What is it about the Congo that attracts lazy journalism?
I’ve heard that it is bad form to attack people you share a profession with, but it’s really hard when your profession is journalism. Especially when you’re a journalist living in, or covering, the Great Lakes region.
I often wonder to myself, why do people with a semblance of rational thinking, suddenly lose all perspective and unbiased thought, when it comes to this region? I understand that there will be different points of views vis-à-vis the issues this long-suffering region is grappling with; however, what boggles my mind is the intellectual dishonesty and downright ignorance that is allowed to be peddled as ‘fact’ and ‘journalism’.
To names like Laura Seay, Susan Thompson, Steve Hege and Jason Stearns (all self-styled experts), I would like to add Michelle Faul, the Associated Press correspondent who wrote a hilariously atrocious article, ‘Captured fighter says he was recruited, trained in Rwanda to fight in Congo war’.
Here are some excerpts from the AP article, followed by my rebuttals.
‘Ibrahim Nsanzimana says he can no longer return to his home in Rwanda for fear of death…They’ll kill me,” he said bluntly, referring to Rwandan officials’.
That’s rather interesting. Why would Rwandan ‘officials’ want to kill him? Did they kill former FDLR officers, Captain Eraste Nshimiyimana or Colonel Etienne Mbarushimana? No. Despite the fact that they were sworn enemies of the Government, they were welcomed home and reintegrated into Rwandan society along with their families. Over 10,000 former fighters have been reintegrated through the Mutobo Reintegration Centre since 2001.
“Our area chief called a youth meeting, I think it was July 1, and there were about 300 of us young men at Amahoro Stadium. Military police in red berets told us we were all going to become soldiers, and they promised us a salary” equivalent to $60 a month, he said.
Are you kidding me? July 1 was Independence Day. Is she trying to tell us that 300 men were gathered at the stadium right under our noses? How is it possible that no one saw ANYTHING? Is it perhaps because Mr. Nsanzimana is lying like Pinocchio on steroids? It gets more and more ludicrous.
‘They were crowded into five Rwandan Defense Forces trucks and driven at night to Gaviro military camp…where they spent a week learning how to shoot with AK-47 assault rifles.’
First of all, Gaviro does not exist. Second of all, basic military training for ANY soldier-to-be cannot be less than one month as per RDF guidelines. Thirdly, if this poorly trained man is the sort of support Rwanda is giving M23, then why are the mutineers such a formidable force? I would have thought that the FARDC and MONUSCO would’ve taken them to the cleaners.
‘Only then did they tell us that we had come here to fight to take North Kivu province and to make it part of Rwanda,” Nsanzimana said. He said the announcement came from Rwandan army Capt. Francois Mugabo.’
I really can’t even begin to rebut that. That’s how ridiculous it is. Moving on swiftly.
‘When I woke up the next morning, we were in the volcano area in Congo,” he said, brought to fight a war led by the Tutsi tribe that he considers a mortal enemy of his Hutu people. Terrified that he was going to be killed, Nsanzimana fled into the forest and wandered for days before he was captured three weeks ago by Congolese soldiers. He is being held in an overcrowded holding cell of the military intelligence agency in Goma… Nsanzimana believes Rwanda’s latest adventure has left him homeless...The Rwandan Defense Forces are the same Rwandan Patriotic Front (rebels) that killed my brother and are responsible for the death of my father,” he said. “They are the same Tutsi military that trained me how to fight and brought me to this battlefield.”
I think this was probably the most disappointing part of the entire article and for this I put all the blame on the feet of Michelle Faul’s editors. Why didn’t they use basic logic to see that the story the man was weaving was a bunch of bullshit? How can it be that this man, who obviously has some serious sectarian issues, was allowed to spout this nonsense? If you believed anything he said, you also probably believed in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
The contradictions in the story should have made both the journalist and her editors pause for a minute and verify his claims. How could they have not challenged a SINGLE word he said? I’m not a clairvoyant and I won’t assume to know what is in this young man’s head and what his motivation is but I will hazard a guess. Is it possible that he’s USING Michelle Faul to get foothold in the asylum system? After all, he himself says that ‘his only chance is to seek refugee status far from Rwanda and eastern Congo, where he believes the history of hatred between Tutsis and Hutus can never be resolved’.
Contact email: sunny.ntayombya[at]newtimes.co.rw