Towards the end of 2013, in August to be precise, the Congolese army intensified sustained bombings deep inside Rwandan territory as they battled M23. FARDC fired a total of 34 bombs and rockets into Rwanda, killing and injuring Rwandans as well as destroying property. In one incident, one of the bombs fired by the FARDC killed a woman and seriously injured her two-month-old baby in a market in the town of Rubavu.
Without any shred of doubt, the provocative attacks had a bearing on the established collaboration between FARDC and FDLR. For a long time, credible intelligence reports had shown how FARDC had integrated FDLR into their ranks for reasons well known to them but visibly to use them (FDLR rebels) to fight for them since they (FARDC) do hardly fight.
Unfortunately, this unacceptable enlistment of FDLR into FARDC has unfolded in full view of MONUSCO, who are supposed to oversee the pacification of Eastern Congo by getting rid of all destabilizing armed groups, with FDLR being top of the agenda. Instead of disarming and repatriating FDLR fighters to Rwanda, the Congolese army decided to arm them and send them to fight in areas along their common border with Rwanda. Incidents of bombs fired by the Congolese army falling in Rwanda and injuring Rwandans had gone on for several years previously, and Rwanda repeatedly urged the Congolese government to stop the attacks, until when they increased in frequency and intensity instead.
Unable to hold back any further in the face of sustained bombings, the then Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, sent a stern warning, condemning the persistent shelling of Rwandan territory. The Minister stated that the shelling of Rwandan territory was unacceptable as it would be to any sovereign nation.
She stated: “We have remained restrained for as long as we can but this provocation can no longer be tolerated. We can determine who fired at us and will not hesitate to defend our territory. Rwanda has a responsibility to protect its population.”
Today, we are back to square one again, and the same scenario is playing out all over again. FARDC has reached out for the assistance of FDLR in their internal military activities; and Rwandan territory is under attack again, putting innocent Rwandan lives at risk. Just like before, no international condemnation of the provocations by FARDC is forthcoming, instead, the unsubstantiated accusation of support to M23 by FARDC against Rwanda is seemingly being accorded more prominence.
It is hypocritical for the international community to talk about protecting civilians when FARDC together with FDLR are causing harm to our citizens as if the lives of Rwandans have no value. As usual, the international community will look the other way until attacks by FARDC and FDLR reach another level.
While FARDC may have an obligation to pacify Congolese territory, it is a mistake for them to involve FDLR using false pretexts. FARDC should know that they cannot solve one problem by committing an even bigger one. The implications of FDLR to regional security are dire.
The best solution for regional security is for the Congolese authorities to simply implement agreements they have signed which stipulate the disarmament and repatriation of FDLR and address grievances advanced by M23; as for MONUSCO just implement their mandate. The fact that the same situation keeps repeating over and over again points to a serious failure by the two entities.
There is no historical evidence that blame games have ever yielded solutions anywhere in the world.
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