President Jakaya Kikwete’s comments made during an Africa Union summit on Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have caused a stir both in Rwanda and the region.
The Tanzanian Head of State suggested that Rwanda negotiates with the perpetrators of the genocide who, up to today, are still determined to annihilate the Tutsi.
The survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi not only feel insulted but also disrespected and disappointed by a neighbouring Head of State who is well aware of the genocide ideology that drives the terrorist group.
The suggestion that Rwanda enters negotiations with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has been received with all the contempt it deserves.
In her reaction, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said she was shocked and that those “who think that Rwanda today should sit down at the negotiating table with FDLR simply don’t know what they are talking about.”
These comments couldn’t have come at a worse time. On Sunday May 26th it was the 50th day into the 100 days of commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It is a period of grieving. For the survivors, comments by Kikwete have been construed as a stab in the wound.
In an open letter to US President Barack Obama, a petition by genocide survivors living in the US notes: “As concerned citizens of Rwanda and legal residents of the United States of America, we acknowledge that Rwanda has paid too big a price for too long and feel obliged to openly and strongly question President Kikwete’s hidden intentions behind such dreadful remarks.
“...hereby request your office to join us in our call to him to immediately withdraw this shocking statement made at the time when as Rwandans, we are still commemorating the 19th anniversary of the genocide and grieving the loss of our beloved ones.”
The misery that the FDLR rebel outfit has inflicted on people mainly in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the threat they pose to Rwanda cannot be over emphasized. The marauding FDLR terrorists have looted, raped and killed. And this is not just Rwandans or Congolese; even Americans have fallen victims of this rebel outfit.
The killing of two Americans; Rob Haubner and Susan Miller in Bwindi impenetrable forest in 1999 is still fresh.
The United States government has offered US$ 5 million for information leading to the arrest, transfer and conviction of the FDLR overall commander Silvestre Mudacumura who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court. Mudacumura was deputy commander of the presidential guard in the Rwanda Armed Forces during the 1994 genocide.
The absurd pronouncement by a Head of State, whose country hosts the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, leaves more questions unanswered.
If memory serves me right, Kikwete was Tanzania’s Foreign Minister during the genocide, so he is in position to appreciate better the threat FDLR poses to Rwanda and the region. It is hard to imagine what the government of Rwanda would be discussing with a terrorist group that is ideologically bankrupt.
And it is not that the government is after an outright military option to solve the FDLR problem. FDLR rebels who have renounced their activities have been welcomed back to Rwanda with open arms.
They have reintegrated into the Rwandan society, but it is the suggestion that government negotiates with FDLR leaders like Mudacumura that leaves a sour taste. Leaders of this terrorist outfit should have their day in court and answer for the innocent lives that have been lost under their orders.
This regrettable pronouncement further complicates the ongoing efforts to pacify especially the eastern part of the DR Congo. Tanzania has contributed troops to the UN-authorised intervention brigade, a brigade with a special mandate to neutralize and disarm armed groups in eastern DR Congo—including FDLR.
Of what significance will the Tanzanian troops be especially now that we know that Kikwete has a soft spot for the FDLR terrorist out-fit? Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said: “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” Kikwete has laid his bed, let him sleep in it.