ANOTHER INVOLVEMENT OF RWANDAN TROOPS IN THE DRC
The Cambridge Consultation Group for the Congo
Introduction: General comments
1.1. Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Great Lakes of Africa seeks our comments on a range of questions set out in our discussion at the House of Commons on 12 February 2009 . The questions pertain to the current official involvement of Rwandan and Ugandan troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
1.2. Before we commence our detailed answers to each question, there are some preliminary matters on which we wish to comment since these determine the general outline of our detailed response.
1.3. First, whatever reservations one may have about the detail, there can be no objection in principle for the DRC to invite foreign troops to solve an important issue of national security. After all, s alus reipublicae supreme lex est (the safety of the state is the supreme law) said the Roman and it is the same today in the DRC. And if no state will foreswear responsibility for national security, it is foolish to suppose that the DRC will.
1.4. Secondly, we note that the DRC security is under constant threat, and that government is yet to regain full control of its territorial integrity since the conflicts broke out in the 1990s in the Great Lakes Region. From that period onwards, the DRC has been the battleground of various forces each with different degree of complicity against the central government in Kinshasa . Foreign international intervention has taken place through MONUC, but it has fallen far too short of restoring the DRC national sovereignty. Until recently, the DRC did not have an effective armed force capable of defending the borders against hostile elements. In fact, prior to, and in the aftermath of, post-war democratic elections, the country had found it increasingly difficult to build a national army out of the many factions which owe allegiance to different leaders. However, we believe that the Government is largely in control. It is able and willing to dictate a positive foreign policy agenda towards its neighbours.
1.5. On the strength of this, in November 2008, we offered that the DRC government needed to pursue overt and covert diplomacy with all its neighbours including Rwanda and Uganda to solve its national security issue. That meant for the DRC to sign accords for military cooperation and to use such accords to help fight rebels with the DRC borders. We also advised that any such treaty should have clear provisions and that the benefits of such intervention should be shown to outweigh the current burden for the DRC and its people. 1.6. Those recommendations now appear to have been heeded. However, we also suggested that following actual accords and prior to the engagement of foreign troops, the DRC Minister for Defence and National Security needed to make a statement before parliament to explain the government policy as well as the merits and demerits of the government's decision. Not only would such a statement be in keeping with the doctrine of accountability before Parliament, but it would also have assuaged the public opinion—which have grown so weary of Rwandan military interventions in the DRC. It would be recalled that Rwanda 's last attempt to root out the Hutu rebels, in 1998, sparked off Congo 's most recent civil war, when the armies of seven African nations fought on Congolese soil for five years. More than 5.4 million people lost their lives since that invasion. It will also be remembered that the Rwandans officially pulled out in 2002, but not before they were accused of looting Congo 's mineral wealth under the pretext of fighting the rebels. It is in this perspective that one must understand the reservations that one may have on any new Rwandan military operation in Congo . However, it appears that the new operation must be differentiated from the previous one in that this time Rwanda forces are called upon to work alongside the DRC forces in order to fight a common enemy—namely those rebels who represent a threat to the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda.
Now, in an effort to contain the inherent danger of such involvement, we should like to address each of the questions raised at our meeting at the House of Commons.
Is the DRC a benevolent or rogue Country?
1.7. With respect to the Conflict in the Great Lakes Regions of Africa the DRC opened its borders to thousands of refugees fleeing the Rwandan conflict in 1994. The DRC did this in order to discharge its obligations under the UN Convention for the Protection of Refugees and the related obligations under international humanitarian law. Now, it turned out, some of the refugees were actually responsible for the massacres in Rwanda . Their continued presence in the DRC meant their ability to re-organise themselves and topple the current Rwandan government. Despite its best intentions, the DRC was rightly or wrongly viewed as a country which offered its national territory as a breeding ground for hostile activities against the regimes of Kigali and Kampala . This argument featured on top of the agenda of Rwandan and Ugandan foreign policies for quite some time. Thus, since the beginning of the crisis in the Great Lakes region, the Rwandan and Ugandan governments have used the presence in DRC soil of these so-called negative forces as an overriding excuse for breaching the DRC national sovereignty.
1.8. In an attempt to stultify such a stratagem of continued breach of DRC national sovereignty and security, the Cambridge Consultation for the Congo proposed in November 2008 that the DRC government had to take its own national security very seriously and start working towards a military cooperation with its neighbours. The advice was reached on the basis of the evidence that the DRC lacked the military capability to restore its national sovereignty in its own terms. It also became increasingly plain that the United Nation Mission ( MONUC) did very little to resolve the DRC security maelstrom. The Cambridge Consultation Group for the Congo is now satisfied that the government has heeded that advice. However, we believe it necessary for the international community to back the ongoing joint operation and help avert its potential dangers. And there is a strong argument for this: the history of the DRC and past relations with Rwanda urge caution and lessons must be learned to avoid the situation Laurent Kabila found himself after seeking the support of Rwanda and Uganda to overthrow the ailing regime of Mobutu. On whole, however, we believe that the joint operation is an opportunity for the DRC to dispel the myth that it is all of a piece with foreign rebels within its territory. The move also signals that the DRC is not a rogue state and that it is capable of working together with all its neighbours to resolve potentially difficult issues in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
The legal justification for inviting foreign troops in the DRC
1.9. Now there are at least two persistent but ludicrous tirades against the DRC's move to invite foreign troops in the country . The first is that by formally inviting Rwandan troops into its territory the DRC government has ‘shopped' the Congo to foreigners. Secondly, it is claimed, the Government have breached the law and lacks the legitimacy for such a policy. Whilst it is accepted that the joint operation is prone to dangers, we believe that some of the criticisms just identified simply lack substance. As regards the first tirade we offer that the government should resist pandering to populism to solve one of the most ingrained problems in the country. As far as matters of national security are concerned, any government should listen to its own military intelligence and some national and international experts on the issue. The standard rule in situations such as this is to stay calm and carry out those things that our heads prompt rather than our hearts or emotions. The other criticism— that the DRC government had acted illegally by bringing the Rwandan troops back to the Congo —simply flies in the face of the true position in DRC legal framework.
1.10. Under the 2006 Constitution, the President has the power to represent the nation and is a symbol of national unity. He also acts as the guarantor of national independence and territorial integrity. Besides, the President guarantees observance of international conventions and treaties (Article 69). However, in carrying out his mandate, the President must consult with the Government, which leads the nation policy, and such consultation pertains to matters of national defence, security and foreign affairs (Article 91). Ultimately, the Government is accountable to Parliament or National Assembly.
1.11. We can infer from this that the Government is entitled to pass conventions with foreign states, whether this is a military cooperation or otherwise. Thus, the decision to call for foreign troops is justified in law. The DRC government has the responsibility for national security and will not give that up. On the other hand, we are aware that executive authorities may act on imperfect information so errors are likely to occur; and need to be corrected. Moreover, although the authorities have an inherent and inevitable tendency to equate national security with their own interests, we believe that the move to invite foreign troops is inextricably linked to national security and peace for the DRC. However, the current DRC government is an elected government. It has pledged to promote a free society where all activities of government should be open to scrutiny. On that basis national security should hardly be used in such a way as to sacrifice transparency and accountability. Thus, it is important that Parliament is duly informed of the Government policy in this matter. We are satisfied that the Government has reasonably discharged this duty, although it is still debatable the precise point at which the DRC leadership ought to have disclosed the details about the ongoing operation. Would it have been sensible for the Government to make such a disclosure before the actual engagement of foreign troops into the DRC? Would such revelation not have defeated the very purpose of such an operation which, as we understand it, was to take the renegade forces by surprise? At the end of the day, this is a matter which squarely falls within the discretion of the Ministry of Defence and National security—although it is the Government as a whole which is accountable to its people through Parliament.
What does the Joint operation consist of? How long will it last and what are its potential benefits?
1.12. The military cooperation between Rwanda and the DRC, which saw the official involvement of Rwandan troops alongside the DRC troops against the Hutu Rebels may well be shrouded in secrecy, but early this month (February 2009) President Kabila gave a press conference in which it released as much detail as possible regarding the joint operation. He revealed that the operation would proceed in two main stages. The first stage, he said, would consist in destabilising the Hutu rebels and their bases in Eastern DRC . The second was to cut these rebels off the underground mining activities, which has continued to finance their operations within the DRC territory. The President also stated that the joint campaign would last no more than 15 days. However, he warned that full withdrawal of all foreign troops would depend on the result on the ground and reports from chief military advisers. This caveat means foreign troops may well be allowed to continue operations if need be.
1.13. It is not difficult to surmise what benefits would accrue to Rwanda , if the joint operation was successful: The Hutu rebels have most of their bases in the DRC. They have formed an alliance which vows to liberate Rwanda from its current Tutsi-led Government and that Government would sacrifice anything to thwart the rebels' intentions. Thus, the joint operation, when successful, would have given Rwanda the advantage of rooting out that continued threat against its regime. The DRC will have gained the same benefit; and the military cooperation will have confined parties to such matters and nothing else . Furthermore, the DRC will have jettisoned the Rwandan and Ugandan pretext of invading the DRC territory on security grounds.
1.14. Ideally, DRC nationals would expect the campaign to last no more than 12 months in order to enable the government to start rebuilding the country. There are some hopeful signs that the campaign may be short rather than long term. Most Hutu rebels, according to various international sources in the DRC, have voluntarily registered to go home. However, we suggest that an international monitoring force is given the power to oversee the campaign according to strict deadlines so that the DRC would breathe a sigh of relief after years of bloody civil and regional war.
How to ensure the protection of civilians against reprisals from the rogue elements
1.15. Since the joint operation started, a number of organisations have reported several cases of massacres of the Congolese populations by Rwandan and Ugandan rebels in the DRC . We believe that these rebels are likely to continue resorting to tactics of killing, kidnapping and using the civilians as shields. We also think their motive is to cause frustrations among the population and political institutions.
1.16. To thwart this tactic, we recommend that it would be better to carry out the evacuation of the populations of the zones of engagements and the erection of the refugee or would be cabins populations them during all the period of the operations militaries. These camps must be put under supervision of MONUC whose blue helmets must have the sole responsibility of protecting the civilians when the joint operation continues.
What is the geographical scope of this new campaign or how far can these troops go in their hunt for Hutu rebels?
1.17. We understand that the main focus of the joint operation will be the province of North and the South Kivu . It is in these two regions that Hutu rebels have established themselves after the Rwandan genocide. No other province of the DRC has been home to these rebels. It is also in these regions that these rebels have committed callous acts of barbarity including plundering, rapes, massacres, and exactions. There are economic and tactical reasons why they sought to stay in these regions of the DRC. One is that Kivu is also home to tribes which share linguistic and ethnic ties with the Hutu of Rwanda, just as is the case with the Tutsi tribes of both the DRC and Rwanda . It was easier for the rebels to receive limited support among their DRC cousins in these regions than anywhere else in the country. The second reason is that it is much easier for them to rather launch an operation against Rwanda starting from Kivu starting from an E different area of the DRC. On the basis of that evidence, there can be no justification for a joint operation going beyond two areas of Kivu.
Is the involvement of these troops a chance or threat to the security of the DRC and how potentially dangerous the situation could be?
1.18. We believe that the international community would do a great service to the DRC and the Great Lakes region if it pulled all its weight behind the joint operation that Rwanda and DRC are conducting against all the renegade forces within the DRC territory.
1.19. Thus, in order for such operation to stand any meaningful chance of success, we recommend that a Joint Committee—consisting of experts from the international community, representatives of MONUC, Rwandan government, Ugandan and Congolese governments—be set up with the mandate to: (a) ensure this operation has one and only one objective which is that to dismantle, demobilize, and put out of state to harm the negative forces., (b) to ensure that there does no hidden agendas behind the military cooperation between Rwanda and Uganda;(c) to require the Governments of both Rwanda and DRC to name the precise number of troops that each country have deployed in this operation; (d) to require a regular update from chief commanders of the operations in order to keep the population informed; to allow field reporters from both national and international community within the area of operations so that the population can form an objective view of what is going on.; (e) to hold the government of Rwanda, Uganda and RDC accountable for any violation of human rights of both civilians and the captives; (f) to require from Rwanda and Uganda an exit plan of their troops from the DRC.
What role is MONUC playing in this campaign and to what extent is such a role satisfactory?
1.20. MONUC's past inability to deal with the DRC security question has been attributed to the lack of sufficient personal. Now, following the 1856 resolution, the Security Council has extended its mandate until 31 December 2009 . Such mandate is to protect Kivu civilians by force if necessary. The resolution places an obligation on MONUC to protect the civilians, disarm and demobilise foreign and DRC rogue forces, and support reform of security in the DRC.
1.21. MONUC should be allowed by the DRC to join the joint operation and steer it towards the right direction. Moreover, we believe that MONUC will be able to also play the role of a force plug between the Rwandan and Congolese forces to avoid repeat of sorry events in Kisangani . There is here need for the international community to press for MONUC to cooperate with Congolese, Ugandan, and southern Sudanese armed forces to establish a tactical headquarters focused on protecting civilians, rescuing abducted persons, obtaining the surrender of Ugandan and Rwandan rogue combatants, and the capture of their leaders wanted by the International Criminal Court. MONUC could also be used to provide necessary resources and staff, including staff with expertise on international humanitarian law and children's rights.
1.22. It may also help if MONUC increases the logistical support, including further aerial support, for the Congolese armed forces and other forces as necessary, to ensure rapid deployment of troops for the purpose of civilian protection. We also recommend that MONUC assist the Congolese and Ugandan armed forces in setting up reception points for LRA defectors and abducted persons. In coordination with UNICEF, MONUC should ensure that facilities and psychosocial services are established for children, with an emphasis on reunifying them with families as soon as possible. MONUC also needs to deploy a civilian multidisciplinary team including human rights, international humanitarian law, and children's rights experts, to Dungu to ensure ongoing monitoring of abuses by all parties to the conflict. Further, we recommend that MONUC be provided with additional resources, including further logistical capacity, to protect civilians at risk of all rebels' attack. Finally, we are of the opinion that MONUC should support a strategy to apprehend rebel commanders wanted by the ICC and others who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity with minimum risk to civilians and request member states to provide the necessary financial and operational resources.
What can the British Government do?
1.23. There is a perception from some quarters in the DRC and abroad that the DRC crisis is no more than an Anglo-Saxon plot against the DRC. Whilst conspiracy theories will always exist whenever a crisis erupts, we believe that since the outbreak of hostilities in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, the United Kingdom has invested much in terms of money and diplomacy in order to bring peace in Great Lakes in general and the DRC in particular. There is evidence that the UK is willing to do more despite difficult economic situation in which the world finds itself.
1.24. Today when it comes to completely rooting out the so-called negative forces operating in DRC, we believe that the British Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary should make a statement in Parliament to offer the British government support for the ongoing joint operation. The UK government should ensure that the operation does not spiral out of control and that the joint operation is effectively disarming the negative forces within a well-defined agenda. Everyone is fully aware that the success of such an operation will depend largely on financial and logistical support and there is no doubt that only the international community through the UK is well –equipped to deliver that. And if the UK and the international community pulled their weight, this special joint military operation stands a great likelihood of succeeding and the Great Lakes region will at least experience a fresh dawn of prosperity.
1.25. In other words, the UK should press for the reinforcement of MONUC capabilities and provide the members of the joint operation with the necessary logistical capacity, intelligence, communications, and other resources to ensure that forces in the area of operations are adequately prepared to protect civilians, rescue abducted persons, and obtain the surrender of combatants. The UK also need to pursue cooperation with regional governments, MONUC, and UNMIS to ensure apprehension of LRA and Hutu rebel leaders wanted by the ICC, including those who may be captured or surrender as part of the military operations against the Ugandan and Rwandan rebels. Finally, we believe that the UK , working alongside the EU, can provide MONUC with the rapid response capabilities and the additional 3,000 troops authorised by the UN Security Council in November 2008 to enhance MONUC's ability to respond quickly and protect civilians in the affected areas.
What could the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda governments do?
1.26. The DRC must be persuaded to coordinate with MONUC all efforts for protecting civilians, rescuing abducted persons, and obtaining the surrender of LRA and Hutu rebels. During military operations against the renegade forces, make the protection of civilians and rescue of abducted persons a priority. Deploy troops as necessary to protect civilian populations from rebel reprisal attacks. It is also imperative for the DRC to establish reception points near affected areas to make it easier for combatants to surrender or for escaping abductees to seek help by avoiding populated areas where aggrieved residents may attack them. We suggest that all captured or escaped children be handed over as soon as possible to appropriate authorities, such as UNICEF and appropriate local and international nongovernmental organisations tasked with reunifying children with their families and providing psychosocial support. Through the joint operation, the DRC and its allies must also be asked to hand over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) those leaders who surrender or are captured and who are wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
1.27. The proposals put forward in this paper (and the reasons for them) may now be summarised. First of all, an international monitoring force must be sent to the DRC in order to assess the development of the joint operation between Rwanda and DRC troops. That will ensure that these forces and their rivals are fully compliant with international humanitarian law and human rights. We would urge the British government to raise this issue before Parliament and the European Union. We understand that such an international monitoring force could be spearheaded by the EU forces, possibly at the scale of the forces that went in to supervise the democratic electoral process in the DRC.
Dr Paul Komba
Mr Mukelenge Kasiala
Cambridge Consultation Group Cambridge Consultation Group
CAMBRIDGE CONSULTATION GROUP FOR THE CONGO ©2009
23 WOODY GREEN CAMBRIDGE CB3 0PG , UNITED KINGDOM
We are a Cambridge-based think-tank for the DRC. Our main mission is to lobby the British Government and Parliament on security and policy issues affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo. We do this through drafting consultation papers which are then disseminated to policy and decision makers. We also organise public debates and conferences on matters relating to the DRC and the Great Lakes Regions. We are not a political party, even though our position may reflect a particular political slant towards the DRC's welfare and long-term development.
Both arguments have received wide press coverage in the DRC and beyond. They have unfortunately continued to influence Congolese public perception of the joint operation under discussion here. Yet no one who opposes the joint operation comes forward with a clear proposal as to how best to address the DRC security question. Surely, there is a choice that the government need to make between doing something about this issue and not doing anything at all and allow innocent lives to perish on a daily basis.
There is a growing suspicion from some DRC quarters that the joint operation will give the troops involved an opportunity to siphon off natural resources. The Cambridge Consultation Group understands, however, that these troops are normally disciplined and stand under the strict command of its leaders. We do not see why after a successful joint operation the DRC could not enter into bilateral investment treaties with all its neighbours in keeping with the rebuilding of African Union. But this is a matter to which we will return in a different memorandum.
See reports by Human Rights Watch and IRN February 2009.