Anti-Rwandophone Congolese and anti-Tutsi hate speech and conspiracy theories have gripped the Democratic Republic of Congo over the years, and the recent flare-up has once again exposed this dangerous tendency.
The ongoing clashes pitting Congolese armed forces and M23 rebels have only acted as a measurement of how much genocide ideology has grown among Congolese ever since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was stopped in Rwanda, sending the perpetrators fleeing to the then Zaire.
The genocide perpetrators found a conducive ground, especially in Eastern Congo, where the ethnic demography was similar to that of Rwanda, although the genocide ideology was in dormancy at the time. The entry of the Rwanda genocide perpetrators activated the genocide ideology throughout Congo and the graph has been on ascendency ever since.
Like in Rwanda, the genocide ideology made its way to political circles where it was normalized and amplified and used to strengthen political networks and emboldened the actors, setting in motion dynamics of hatred that culminated in conflicts and violence against the Tutsi communities in Kinshasa and the Kivus.
Genocide ideology permeated the Congolese mainstream politics which in turn started poisoning social interactions.
Former dictator Mobutu who had firmly allied with the successive genocide regimes in Rwanda received and supported genocide perpetrators as they organized to return to Rwanda to complete the genocide they had been made to cut short. A major ethnic cleansing against the Congolese Tutsi Community was ignited before Mobutu was replaced by Lauren Kabila who only offered short-lived relief. Since then, Congo has never been the same for the Congolese Tutsi community.
Not even trials of genocide perpetrators in Arusha by the UN International Criminal Tribunal (ICTR) acted as a deterrent for further genocide ideology as Congolese politicians like Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi and others used inflammatory language that incited hatred against the Tutsi “vermin” “cockroaches” and “extermination” in reference to the Congolese and Rwandan Tutsi communities.
Just recently, we saw gruesome images on social media of senior Congolese police army officers making inflammatory ethnic speeches reminiscent of pre-genocide Rwanda discriminatory rhetoric broadcast on Kangura and at public rallies. Typically, the Congolese politicians are blaming Rwanda as a diversion to throw international scrutiny off their tracks.
We have also seen sections of the population carrying machetes and other crude weapons in reaction to the speeches by politicians and senior officials. They say “Once bitten, twice shy” and the international community should not give any chance for future regrets like they did in Rwanda. All the pre-1994 Rwanda signs are playing out in DR Congo and it is up to the international community to read them and act appropriately before it’s too late.