When all the Special Envoys met last June in Goma to assess the progress on the implementation of the Addis Framework Agreement, a good eighteen months had already elapsed, with nothing more to show for it than the complete and utter annihilation of the M23 rebel movement.
When it came to the latter, the response was swift and unforgiving. Within record time, there was no more M23 to speak of operating on Congolese soil -or any other for that matter.
In contrast, virtually nothing has been undertaken to introduce the infamous FDLR with the same kind of fateful firepower.
Not so surprisingly, though. It is no secret that the most lethal of all armed groups operating in the Kivu’s- North and South- has enjoyed the support and protection of the Kabila’s –father and son- from the word go.
Minutes after being guaranteed safe passage by the French under UN mandate to the then Republic of Zaïre, this genocidal mob on the run has been roaming free, spreading their reign of terror in the very land that greeted them with open arms.
Despite the fact that the FDLR has been banned by the UN and most Western nations for the last fifteen years and that its leadership has been on the most wanted list of International Justice for just as long, virtually nothing has been done to rein them in!
Observers can attest to the fact that the FDLR has of late been enlisting the help of strategically placed powerful friends, capable of having them removed from the notorious US Foreign Terrorist List while getting them to sit across the table from senior officials of the UN and the West in an effort to absolve them of their past and present sins and paint them a viable political alternative to Rwanda’s current leadership.
Why else would the Government of Kinshasa be so hell-bent on aiding and abetting an armed group that harms its people, if not for what they represent in the eyes of the very same powerful friends whose interests should not be undermined by something as insignificant as lasting peace?
To these pencil pushers, Rwanda must always be viewed as the aggressor and the DRC the eternal victim. The Addis Framework Agreement, for all intents and purposes and despite full diplomatic vocabulary, does just that.
That… and of course getting rid of the only rebel movement capable of defeating the FARDC the army of Congo, the victim.
It is however not too late to do the right thing in regards to the FDLR, though the Special Envoys are way past standard time on this one and well on the way to running out of extra time.
Efforts to rehabilitate them will not do the trick. For quite some time, Rwanda has been taking care of the reinsertion and reintegration of more than 10,000 FDLR of all ranks with success. And there can be no other ways to go about it.
The much publicised and anticipated disarmament of the FDLR turned out to be another colossal disappointment. Less than a hundred showed up the last time. No senior officers… only old and rusty weapons and their tired owners for show.
It is against such a backdrop that the Special Envoys met with President Kabila after Goma.
In that meeting Kabila pleaded for a “negotiated” disarmament of the FDLR.
In other words, the Special Envoys were asked to exercise all forms of pressure at their disposal to force Rwanda to sit across the table from a militia group that is more of a nuisance to it than a challenge on a military standpoint.
It is to that end that they- the Envoys- accepted to meet in Italy with the rebel leaders under the auspices of Sant’Egidio, the Vatican’s unofficial diplomatic unit.
Twenty years after suffering a stinging defeat in Rwanda, the remnants of the genocidal forces responsible for causing mayhem and despair in the Kivu provinces are just about to be given a free pass to a new life.
By what magic trick are the Special Envoys going to whitewash them into a lighter more moderate version of themselves? Your guess is as good as mine.
Would Mary Robinson, Russ Feingold or Frank De Conink negotiate with remnants of the Third Reich?
Somini Sengupta of the New York Times said it best:
“…United Nations officials are cautiously backing the effort, though one said the prospect of political talks was as likely as former Nazis joining Israel’s Legislature…”
But THEY ARE “backing”! Just like in 1994, the UN finds itself on the wrong side of history.
It could not possibly be coincidental that a gentleman- and I use that term loosely of course- like Herve Ladsous, France’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN in ‘94, finds himself once again at the forefront of getting the very same genocidaires he helped escape the first time to get a free pass the second time around as the Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations.
This can only be made possible by a UN organisation only accountable to itself and of course powerful member states looking to safeguard their selfish interests to the detriment of lasting peace.
If the FDLR retains its ability to reign unchallenged in the Kivus while posing a threat to the stability of Rwanda, the story of Congo will be written in blood while its current President gets to keep his seat… for now.
Tensions will remain from the Indian Ocean to Kinshasa, from Juba to Cape Town.
There is absolutely no doubt that Rwanda, in the midst of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of its Liberation from the arms of tyranny and victory against the Genocide, will never accept to be dragged back into the abyss of the past.
There will therefore not be any negotiations possible with genocidaires turned terrorists.
Members of the FDLR who have distanced themselves from the Genocide ideology have already been reinstated in the Rwandan society.
When the World turned a blind eye to man’s inhumanity to man, Rwanda faced its own demons and dealt with Genocide head on.
From the ashes of its troubled past, the Land of a Thousand Hills made it against all odds… and its determination to stay the course is echoed in the voice of its President, Paul Kagame: “We’ll be so unkind to whoever wants to play with our rights and lives as Rwandans”.
The writer is a media expert on the Great Lakes Region