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December 9, 2022

The New Times

Stories on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) vis à vis some Rwandans cannot end. Some may think DRC has only recently started attempting to stab Rwandans in the back. That knife has been wielded since the days of its colonialism end.

It was 1963, when we were violently ejected from Bambo, eastern DRC, our exile-place as Rwandan refugees. We’d found a home away from home, welcomed by all Congolese, some of them Kinyarwanda-speakers with our language, and, culture and all.

As a kid, I found it puzzling. One, we hadn’t wronged anybody, although I remembered our own compatriots colluding with Belgian colonialists to violently exile us, despite our innocence. Two, some of those Rwandophone Congolese citizens were equally violently expelled.

Old women, men, children, the physically impaired, we all trudged our bare-footed hundred and so kilometres as hastily as possible to make our escape. Meanwhile, the 20,000-strong UN peacekeeping force (ONUC) – yes! – vehicles regularly passed us without paying the slightest attention.

As it is today, the cry then was “Loin avec les Rwandais!” (Away with Rwandans!). And as they don’t today, the government-instigated Congolese citizens then didn’t actually mean all Kinyarwanda-speakers. They meant the section of Kinyarwanda-speakers the regime in Rwanda had called “Tutsi” and declared non-Rwandan. And so the DRC government also picked “its” own Tutsi whom it declared non-Congolese.

Congolese legitimate citizens stripped of their statehood and harmless refugees thrown out of their exile abode, for what? Then as now, for an internal crisis that had nothing to do with them.

The 1963-1968 Mulele Rebellion was an internal crisis that involved no Congolese Tutsi, least of all a Tutsi refugee.  There were accusations of a Rwandan refugee having been sighted assisting the rebellion but who could have done that ‘sighting’?

There was a renowned international revolutionary whom no government soldier would have dared be caught within 100km of, trying to espy: Che Guevara! However, Che was immediately disappointed by the indiscipline of local ‘fellow revolutionaries’ and found his way back to Cuba.

Anyway, when the upheaval died down in favour of Joseph Mobutu, sanity returned to the DRC but, with that, ONUC also lost their job.  President Mobutu welcomed back almost everybody, including Rwandan refugees. Indeed, in the 1970s the economy of what he had renamed Zaïre was booming, with these refugees making none-too-small contributions.

That was before Mobutu Sese Seku Ngbendu etc. was bitten by the greed bug. He used his new Authenticité state policy to pump citizens with illusions of their grandeur, “Le Zaïre n’est pas un pays, c’est un continent!”, and they sang themselves hoarse as he and his cronies sucked their country to the bone marrow.  By the late 1980s, Zaïre was a shell of its former self, surviving by the grace of France.

When therefore in 1994 France asked for a settlement for “its” Rwandan génocidaires with their war material and government-property loot, the leopard-skin hatted giant of Zaïre wholeheartedly obliged. The génocidaires quickly embarked on effectuating their macabre genocidal mission, with violent incursions into Rwanda, only to realise they couldn’t ‘scratch’ a force that’d humiliated them and sent them packing, cutting their evil endeavour short.

After Rwanda had plucked innocent Rwandan refugees, being used as a shield, out from the ring of the génocidaires and ‘backpacked’ a Laurent Kabila to power so as to help them repatriate those génocidaires, Mobutu realised not even a superpower like France could help him. He shrunk into a shell of his former self in turn, till he met his demise.

But as Che had found out during the Mulelele Rebellion, so did Rwanda realise Kabila was, indeed, a wet rag. He immediately turned against his sponsors and opted to embrace the génocidaires but they spelt his doom and death.

When his son, Joseph Kibila, was put on the helm, he didn’t make an impact.

Which, by all appearances, his installed successor, Felix Tshisekedi, seems set to make for him. He has not only embraced the génocidaires, terrorist FDLR and splinters, but has buttressed them with some Congolese criminal setups like Mai Mai, Codeco, etc., and declared war against Kagame.

After all, from 1999, the West’s mounted 20,000-strong MONUC, later MONUSCO, to keep DRC as a theatre of turmoil might fail. So, he must do everything possible to sabotage the EAC intervention effort – if one of them is not in it with the former!.

Thus, his mission, he says, is to help liberate Rwandans from the clutches of Kagame. Since President Kagame is the voice of close to 13 million Rwandans and they are one with him and he with them, we’ll take it that for the first time a topmost DRC government official is using the term “les Rwandais” to mean those génocidaires, not the Tutsi. From bad to worse!

Level-headed Congolese know. Only good neighbourliness, not war, can help countries advance.

Tshisekedi, you want an all-out war? Better consult the master of the game. President Kagame knows a bit about war; its cost in flesh and material. And he advises against talking about it loosely.

That aside, have you overdone all your predecessors, or have you! Methinks when somebody coined this adage, they had you in mind: “That’s the way the cuckoo crumbles.”

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