The entrapment of FDLR summits

ON JUNE 26 an ugly game took a dangerous twist. A game that has taken on different dimensions, tactics, and actors while retaining the same objective: to overthrow the regime in Kigali. 
Lonzen Rugira
Lonzen Rugira

ON JUNE 26 an ugly game took a dangerous twist. A game that has taken on different dimensions, tactics, and actors while retaining the same objective: to overthrow the regime in Kigali. 

As recent as early this year it acquired a diplomatic tact that that made it not only more sophisticated but also more dangerous. 

Let’s think together. It’s an open secret that Paris has, for the past two decades, overtly or covertly tried to overthrow or to undermine the regime in Kigali. That’s easy. It gets muddier, however. 

President Kikwete of Tanzania is on record calling for negotiations between Rwanda and the FDLR. While this call also involved Uganda negotiating with its enemies based in the Congo, it was clear that his primary target was Rwanda’s leadership. 

His motives are not as clear as those of the French, with some speculating about a network of personal commercial interests involving some leaders of SADC. 

Tanzania has never distanced itself from that position. On the contrary, it appears that it has already started initiating such a process. At the beginning of last month during a SADC summit in Luanda, Angola, the heads of state received a letter from the FDLR in which it was claiming that it was laying down arms. 

A fortnight later the government of Tanzania convened a meeting of diplomats in that country urging them to support SADC’s approach to the FDLR issue, around the same time that it’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe, urged the Rwandan government to negotiate with the group, according to a story carried by the BBC. 

Worth noting is that three weeks earlier on June 26 a meeting was held in Rome ostensibly to discuss this particular issue of disarming the FDLR. 

In attendance were the then UN Great Lakes Envoy Mary Robinson, the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Russ Feingold, the EU Special Envoy Koen Vervaeke, the Belgian Special Envoy Frank Deconinck, the head of MONUSCO Martin Kobler, and representatives of the DR Congo government and those of the FDLR.

Also suggestive were the tireless efforts of the UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Herve Ladsous, a Frenchman, to offer temporary reprieve to the president of the FDLR Major General Gaston Iyamuremye (a.k.a. Victor Byiringiro), currently on an international travel ban, to allow him to attend the meeting in Rome. 

Ladsous’ slick manoeuvres were diplomatically interpreted by Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Eugene-Richard Gasana, as an “ambush,” that was “highly questionable on both the procedure and on the motivation.” Let us leave it at that.

The Trap

Now SADC needs help. Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Bernard Membe, was quoted by the BBC requesting for support from the international community to “support SADC to implement the peaceful initiative of the FDLR in resolving the problem they have with the governments of Rwanda and the DRC.” 

It now starts to get clearer why meetings such as those in Rome are needed. Implied in this logic is that for the contents of the FDLR letter to get implemented there needs to be some form of negotiations involving the international community, SADC, DR Congo, Rwanda, and of course, the FDLR. 

One is reminded, however, that the decimation of the M-23 did not require a prior convention. Why then the double standards? Something fishy must be afoot. And this is suggested by the competing interpretations of the purpose of the Rome meeting. 

The EU official pointed out that the purpose of the meeting was to facilitate a quick disarmament of the FDLR. On the other hand, General Iyamuremye boasts about being “among those who initiated the meeting,” before letting the cat loose, “We need such meetings in the international community to articulate our cause so that we can have negotiations and ultimately solve Rwanda’s problem.” 

Iyamuremye speaks of the value of an international platform. What is also clear, however, is that the strategy is much more elaborate than he is willing to admit. 

Whether all those taking part in these talks are aware or not, the strategy is to create conditions over time where Rwanda has to choose whether to negotiate with the FDLR or accept isolation as a rogue state that is anti-peace and ultimately the cause of the problems in the region, effectively justifying an “internationally acceptable” armed rebellion. 

It’s a game of Russian roulettes. It’s one in which a responsible government must not be seen to dither. It must to go W. Most recall that during the Bush administration serious matters of national interest were dealt with in a simple and straightforward manner: 

You are either with us or against us. And either choice had consequences. 

Fine, Rwanda has a limited range of possible rewards and punishments compared to Bush’s America. 

However, it must unleash its moral might in resistance to unprincipled overtures for, and holding in utter contempt of, anyone involved in organising, facilitating, and participating in such meetings whose real intention is to provide a platform for sanitising unrepentant genocide perpetrators.