These UN Groups of Experts remind me of my childhood in the Belgian Congo (DR Congo today) in the early 1960s. I remember how we used to react when, say, a Kabila – it’s a common name there – gave you a “report” that a Kasongo had said he would beat you.
Like all the other kids there, I’d immediately run to mama – always home unlike papa – and triumphantly “hand over” the report. Tugging at her long, black coarse-fabric skirt, clean à-la-Rwandaise – but no aprons, please! – I’d breathlessly squeal: “Mama, mama! Kabila aseme, aseme aseme aseme, aseme alisikia Kasongo akisema atanipiga!”
You may think I say this in jest, but wait. These Group of Experts reports, don’t they read like that childish, singsong Kiswahili (Kabila says, says.....he heard Kasongo say he’ll beat me)? In the first place, these allegedly confidential reports are always, as a must, leaked to the public in their draft form. These experts have no patience to finalise them or not to leak them out.
And why do they always leak them out to Reuters alone? But most importantly, why do they always compile reports from deserters and append their own names on them, to appropriate them to themselves? Don’t these deserters have the right to legal redress? Come to think of it, somebody should “leak” that little piece of legal advice to the deserters.
There are many explanations as to why our experts pick the above scenario as their work methods of choice but let’s look at the latest “bombshell” intended for Rwanda.
The aim of the report is to expose rebels responsible for the instability in eastern DRC. But in an area that spawns rebels by the day, and where at any one time you cannot count less than 30 rebel outfits, more than 70% of the report is “monopolised” by M23. And in that “M23 monopoly”, Rwanda is “gifted” with a none-too-thin a share!
Sample Reuters’ overwrought, ear-membrane-splitting headline: “Rwanda army officers aiding rebels in Congo – U.N. experts”. You’ll think Rwanda is the very diabolical North Korea, letting loose a nuclear bomb on our precious earth! Only that your heightened feelings will be dealt a deflating blow when you read on: “Since the outset of its current mandate, the group has.......gathered evidence of continuous – but limited – support to M23 from within Rwanda.”
But the above won’t have been the deflating blow yet. After all, there is “evidence of continuous...support”. That support for which Rwanda’s knuckles were slapped with temporary aid-cuts has remained “continuous” after all. The unrepentant little demon, Rwanda, has not behaved herself. The “but limited” is inserted in so discreetly as to be hardly noticeable.
Or else, won’t a disgraced colleague, wherever he may be languishing today, feel slighted? After all, it’s not as if he was acting on his personal mandate. (Remember a certain Steve Hege?)
Anyway, the blow comes later. You expected rock-solid evidence from these august experts, listen to what you get: “The group said current and former M23 members reported that Rwanda army officers or their representatives have crossed the border.......to meet with Makenga.” The report goes on to quote, repeat quote “14 former M23 soldiers” or “former M23 members” saying this or that, all of which is compiled to be presented as solid evidence.
In the end, you are left looking like that character, in a children’s cartoon book, with a hundred question-marks over a rotating head! When an ex-M23 soldier tells these UN experts “that Rwandans who deserted M23.......were forcibly returned to M23”, do they pause to ask about the number of those who guard deserters and those who fight, in support?
Why do they bother try to be kind to Rwanda, inserting that “limited”? It seems the support is full-scale, considering: those who provide support at the battle field; those in machinations of desertion; those hidden, ready to desert; those busy discovering deserters; those guarding deserters; those providing other forms of support....... As experts, they have answers to these questions. For the sake of us humble heads, they should have included them.
The above is in jest, though. Otherwise, which Rwandan needs to read reports of being implicated in anything bad? Rwanda has been guilty since colonial days. First, she was guilty of being united, on a continent of mostly scattered communities. When Rwandans were forced to carry identity cards assigning them ethnic identities, it was to provide them with a Belgian division-cure that worked to almost surgical perfection with the help of France in 1994.
Then the ragtag rebel RPF setup jettisoned the French effort and France had to hurriedly dispatch its division-and-genocide-embracing “good boys” to the Congolese territory. With fire hot on its heels, moreover. That fire, hot on the heels of “one of us, big boys of the world; the Super Powers? That ‘insignificato’ called Rwanda must pay!” I can literally see these swear words on the lips of our overlords of the Western world! No, Rwanda is as guilty as Hell.
No one need waste their time compiling these reports from M23 deserters, whether they exist or not. And, in fact, why does the UN Security Council go to the pain of sitting to approve these experts? But I’d forgotten – there are mouths to feed at home!
Even then, the power of a united people cannot be underestimated. The fact alone that Rwanda still stands firm after these past 19 years of “guilty accusations” is ample, solid evidence.
Beware, all! Divided, you fall. But united, you stand. Happy Liberation Day!