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Firing artillery across our border into our territory is sufficient invitation – President Kagame on DRC’s provocations

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 1 December 2022 at 07:00

President Paul Kagame has said that Rwanda is always committed to peace and security where it doesn’t want to violate other countries’ territorial integrity and engage in avoidable skirmishes. The Head of State has however underscored that citizens’ security remains of great concern where whoever disrupts Rwandans’ sleep will pay the cost and spend sleepless nights.

Kagame made the statement after receiving the oaths of recently appointed cabinet members including the new Minister of Health, Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana and the State Minister in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ivan Butera.

After welcoming new cabinet members on Wednesday 30th November 2022, the Head of State also updated government officials on the status of security in the region as well as Rwanda’s contribution to peace and security in partner countries through bilateral agreements or United Nations missions.

As he talked about the regional situation, President Kagame reminisced on DRC crisis where the country has been externalizing its internal problems and accusing Rwanda of supporting M23 rebel during a fighting with Congolese Army (FARDC).

However, Rwanda repeatedly denied the allegations and accused DRC of working with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a terrorist group formed by individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The collaboration has resulted into three separate incidents where the forces shelled Rwanda’s territory, injured people and destroyed houses.

Kagame further talked about the root causes of insecurity in the neighbouring country highlighting that the issue is complex as it concerns many parties including Congo, FDLR, Rwanda, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), M23 and international communities among others.

He revealed that the problems are put on the shoulders of Rwanda instead of finding a solution together and proposed a durable solution.

On repetitive provocations, Kagame said that the shelling on Rwandan territory was enough invitation but insisted that the country can’t be drawn into avoidable war as it knows how bad it is.

Below is the transcription of an extract from President Kagame’s speech delivered today at the parliamentary building on security crisis in DRC, the country’s provocations and allegations against Rwanda.

Excerpts:

First of all, it should be a shame to all these people. You, that we are so many, have so much, in terms of means, we claim to want to resolve the problem,

It is actually simple, to resolve in my opinion, but it never gets resolved for decades.

Of Congolese problems, problems of DRC [...] I am just talking about the problems of the last few decades. [..] I am just talking about the last nearly thirty years now.

You would wonder, I am sure people should be asking themselves, how can these problems that relate to Rwanda, DRC, and to all these groups I am talking about, that relate to the whole region, powerful countries that so much talk about humanitarian crisis, human rights and all kinds of things and really speak up for wanting to resolve all these, sit with this kind of situation, and just keep massaging it and only...blaming everybody else except them for these problems.

And it is unfortunate that while I am saying, I have given a list of all parties concerned.

But it has become so convenient for long that all problems are heavily put on the shoulders of Rwanda. Rwanda is always the culprit in all these. It is not FDLR, not Government of Congo that should be responsible for its problems and people, it is not the UN, not the powerful countries, mainly America, UK , France, etc. […] It is Rwanda all the times.

And it’s M23 because of Rwanda. So, it still comes back to Rwanda. It is not FDLR, remnants of people who carried out Genocide here. It’s not the government of Congo, for many reasons,

I started saying here that we don’t have means but we have ways. And that is why in comparison, Rwanda and Congo, there is more, much more, much more Congo offers to these people than Rwanda. Naturally, these people masquerade carefully when they are dealing with Congo’s problems.

They must even assist Congo to alleviate their pain, by transferring the blame they should have, hold, put somewhere else and the easiest place to put their blame is Rwanda.

You know the...Swahili proverb, hapa mnajua Kiswahili?

Kwa Kiswahili, ‘Shamba ya ndizi kuna migomba na majani’. Migomba yaani banana stems, majani ikiwa banana leaves.

Kwa migomba, kuna migomba ,mifupi na migomba mirefu. Kwa sababu Afrika wanatumia saana, majani ya migomba fanya kazi nyingi mbalimbali, kupikachakula [...] ukienda kwa shamba la ndizi, ile majani wanayokata, ni yile ya migomba mifupi, ..sindiyo,..

When they go to banana plantations […] Africans use a lot of many things they use banana leaves for. The banana leaves they cut, are the ones of short banana stems.

Yile mlefu saana , wanaacha. Sasa hawa watu wanafikiriya sisi ni migomba mifupi, kwa sababu ya geography, …inchi ndogo tu, au resources, minerals, vitu vingine. Wale wana vingi saana sisi hatuna.

So, they would rather go for the short […] lakini wanajidanganya kweli. Sisi, kwa ufupi wetu, hatuna means lakini tuna ways, na tuko imara ambayo hauwezi kuelewa. Huwezi ukaelewa imara tulivyo.Those who think they can keep picking, cutting out banana leaves, because we are short stems, you don’t know how much you have deceived yourself.

Yes, they even say, we are accused, of stealing the wealth, minerals of Congo.

One thing we are not and that’s what makes us what I have just said, we are not thieves.

We work for what we have and what we get. In fact, we are where we are with some decent progresses, but not really too much. We still have to do a lot.

By the way, also on account of the support we get from these people who accuse us or who accept that we actually do that, meaning these powerful countries, they actually give us a lot of support.

And if they took time to scrutinize, because they support other countries as well, including the Congo that we are accused so much for what is happening there, they will find or will not find a place where we give value for their money than Rwanda.

They will not, I can bet on this. For every dollar they spend on us, support us with, we will show more for it than anybody they give their money.

And it is deliberate, it is not by accident. It is who we are, who we want to be and nobody will take it away from us.

But when it comes to trying to cut the banana leaves because we are short stems, they can or will discover that they can also provide value for money. Meaning, it will actually be costly for them.

Now, let me add to that, for the FDLR and their affiliate groups, RUD Urunana and so forth. By the way, affiliate groups, means also there are some individuals we have here in prison, whom we brought from outside, or others who masquerade around this so called opposition whom we have just left free to mess up themselves until some point when, if need be, to take care of them.

But why do you think this problem, for example, of FDLR has been there for the last nearly thirsty years, why?

Because you think it is a too complicated problem to resolve? No! I am beginning to believe something I never believed. I suspected but I had no proof an don’t want to believe it. But it is so many years, that few can’t find another explanation, then you have to believe it.

You can’t but not believe that actually, somebody, somewhere wishes this problem to be there forever.

Around it, so many things are played. One, it is may be to check these stubborn trouble makers but short banana stem. It is to check them , there is always something to, so it is maintained there. And then, it spins around for the crimes associated with these people of our history, of our tragedy in Rwanda in the 1994 and the history before that.

They start associating us with the very crimes of these people. It is like they exist because we are doing something wrong.

In actual fact, maybe we share in the crime they committed. In other words, for the perpetrators and victims of our tragic history, were actually the same.

There is no difference, isn’t it the narrative since 1994 how we, in this country, are known for stifling freedoms of people, violate human rights. Sometimes when they are talking about violating human rights, they point to the people who are here, whom they have labeled opposition leaders or associated with this history that we are violating their rights.

Can you imagine! The very people who are associated with Genocide, some of them were here, many of them outside there, whom they have even sometimes refused to try for their crimes because they say they can’t return them to Rwanda, because of Rwanda’s justice, human rights […[ if they return them to Rwanda, they will be denied their freedom, their human rights.

An then, we respond to these people, okay! If you can’t give them to us, here is the evidence, you try them in your courts because you are better than us and they still don’t do that. What would that mean for anybody who wants to think?

You don’t want me to try them for reasons you are giving, whether false or true, but then, how about you trying them? What is wrong with you? You mean you are questioning your own justice system as well?

On top of that, they still come and point fingers at us, you know... But sometimes, there is poetic justice that goes on. Some of these people who refuse to send these people back to us and we have been begging, showing them the crimes, and they have refused...in some cases, these people have gone ahead and committed crimes where these people are holding them in their countries.

And then prompted by that, they quickly now send them to us because there is a case where somebody was being accused. We were asking to have this people, then this killed somebody else in one of these countries outside that had refused to surrender that person to us, killed a person, another case, then another one in other case raped somebody. And then prompted by that, they start processing to send these people to us.

So, the first crime of Genocide they carried out here was not bad enough, but they are reminded by somebody violating the rights of their citizens. This is what I am calling, sometimes, poetic justice.

If for the last 28 years, this problem has been there and for the last 20 something 22 may be, the UN force was sent to Congo to deal with this situation, on top of the list, being to deal with FDLR and these other armed groups. And there is not a single day, that I know, may be you do, that these forces ever fought FDLR [...] But they have been so keen to fight a notorious, famous I don’t know, M23.

That’s what happened in 2012 and we warned this people. We were warning and saying , you are dealing with half of the problem, the other half will come back to all of us.

This is not a military issue, this is not a problem you want to resolve by force of arms. It is largely a political problem. You need to attend to or may be help the Congolese to address this problem. They ignored us. Ten years after that, the problem has come to…all of us.

But of course the easy way, again they have, is to blame Rwanda for it. That is where we are now. But why, wasn’t this problem resolved for the last ten years?

Those from M23, those who fled and came to Rwanda, we put them in a camp in Ngoma, former Kibungo.

We disarmed them, we gave arms to Congo, they took arms. I am talking about facts here.

Now, processes started of not talking to these people, how do we deal with them and we always gave access to the officials from Congo to go and talk to these people every time.

They came here like twenty times. The last I heard was they wanted the representatives of these people and the others. The majority of them went to Uganda, there was a bigger group and they said, they wanted to talk to their representatives. Those groups here and in Uganda.

They took them to Congo, to Kinshasa actually, supposedly to talk to them and solve their problems. These people they took, spent months in a hotel where they put them. And for those months, not a single government official visited or came to talk to them until they decided to, I don’t know whether, to escape or do what and left.

Now the problem comes back to be Rwanda’s problems. When they started fighting, don’t ask me how or where they came from. But we have had a moment to discuss this openly in meetings of heads of state in Nairobi and it was clearly demonstrated to the Congolese leaders, what had been going on.

And the only thing they kept telling us was no no no! These people must go back where they came from.

And then we asked them, where did they come from or what time do you mean? Because, even if you assumed they came from here, where did they come from when they came here. And I asked one simple question in the meeting. I said, we would be wasting our time, if we did not answer this question and continued discussing this issue. I asked one simple question. Are these people we are dealing with or having to deal with Congolese?

Fortunately, the Congolese leaders answered that they are actually Congolese. Then, I said okay! Now, we can have conversation because my impression at first was that you were saying that they are Rwandese, because they speak Kinyarwanda, because they are Rwandophones as some people here call that, but they are Congolese.

These are citizens of Congo; they have their ancestral homes and things in Congo not here. Here they are refugees, there are over 8,000 of them as refugees in the camps.

So, how do we deal with this issue, how does it become Rwanda’s issue? Just being associated for convenience[…]

So, this problem in my view, is not too difficult to address but we have to do the right thing. I want to remind people that they have to think about how to address the FDLR problem. It has been there for too long. Forget about the stories being created around it, and say no, they are no longer there, they came to Rwanda and then we sent them back, but on a record also of the UN, there are those who have been repatriated overtime and we received and reintegrated them. That is why there is Mutobo center.

Records are there. So, that problem has to be looked at. The other problem is the so called M23 or other groups. By the way, there are over a hundred rebel groups in eastern Congo. Did you know that? Armed, fighting for all kinds of things I don’t know. They can’t all be existing because of Rwanda. Certainly not. If it was because of Rwanda, may be they would be together.

So, that problem needs to be addressed in the right context and those problems are Congolese problems, they are not Rwanda’s problems. But we can help because we are interested in a stable neighbor.

Peace in Congo or eastern Congo is peace for us. So, we can’t be questioned about or our desire to have a peaceful country and region cannot be questioned, honestly!

Even those who accuse us of stealing minerals, if that were to be true, I think we can do better still by having peace. Yes, because when you have peace, you don’t even need to steal. […]

When I was talking to some very senior people recently, from somewhere who are saying now, the Congolese are saying we steal their Colta, Gold. I asked them one question … I said, there is something I know. Some people come from Congo whether they smuggle or go through the right channels, they bring minerals, but most of it goes through here, does not stay here. It goes to Dubai, Brussels, Tel Aviv and used to go to Russia but I don’t know if it still goes there, goes everywhere.

Then, I was asking them. Are you on the list of those who are still stealing minerals in Congo? Because these things end up with you?

For us, they go through our country. They are accusing us of stealing Congo’s minerals. How about the destination? Why don’t you talk about it?

And if we actually deployed everything and stop this flowing, the accusation would be even worse. They would be seeing no more Gold coming through here going to them. Then they say,…they are causing problems.

So, what are we supposed to do honestly? And then, there is this famous thing. You know I have heard of hate speech, saying, some of the things that need to be paid attention to, the hate speech that goes on from eastern Congo to the Western end.

Then recently , some very powerful people, who have some good ideas to resolve problems started saying, hate speech must be stopped on both sides.

Does anyone understand what that means? Which both sides? There is hate speech in Congo and in Rwanda. This is what they are trying to say. […] And these are people who are supposed to be helping to resolve the problem. So, they must give part of the blame to Congo, and another part must be carried by Rwanda. Even if, both of us have not been doing the same thing.

So, I am saying it is simple to resolve because all it needs is just avoiding being neither here nor there. You have to address the problem as it is, deal with facts, evidences, and the right things to do [...] How our name will keep coming up, […] not because we have solicited or created or in any way shape or form, war to happen.

We never ask for war, we don’t create grounds for conflict, not at all. We are interested in rebuilding and building until we are where we want to be.

We know what war means. I have heard some people, you know, in interviews in FT, London, France24, France or TV5 or something like that. Somebody say, I don’t rule out a war with Rwanda, you know when I used to talk to this person who keeps saying this, I used to advise or humbly tell him that we are actually tired of war. We need to be working together and creating peace between our two countries.

Because, if you are looking for somebody who knows about war, you come to me please. I know something about it and know how bad it is. And by that, I know how you cannot have anything better than peace.

So, this problem can be resolved if one country headed for elections next year, is not trying to create grounds for an emergency so that elections don’t take place. [...] If he is trying to find another way of having the next elections postponed, then I would rather he used other excuses not us.

I think we have really lot problems of our own. We don’t need to add other people’s problems. But what is surprising is that, you will help me to understand that, I don’t know how it comes that everybody, …, I think putting blame on Rwanda which the whole world seems, buys them votes, why you should be having problems with Rwanda and votes for people.

I see politics hitting up in DRC and everyone who has something to day, whether it is whoever, just keeps, ooh, Rwanda has invaded. Since when? And if you think also that we have, that we are there, even if I were to believe it, I would still proceed asking myself a question. Why would Rwanda be in Congo? May be you will find an answer because there is a possibility that can take us there.

That means really what we are saying. For example, let me say like this last time when you remember in 2019 when FDLR invaded, attacked Kinigi and nearly shut down that place where tourists go.

And by the way, we started seeing some messages, don’t go to the northern part of Rwanda, there is insecurity from all over the world. May be, this is what some people actually want.

So, we cleaned up that mess and then, this year’s first half […] you remember what went on. The bombings that took place being fired from across with heavy artillery in that place. So, that is very attractive for us to actually cross the border. There is no doubt about it.

We asked DRC several times, I asked the president to allow us to work with their people to actually deal with the FDLR, and they refused.

So, I kept asking why they would refuse. I told them, just be with us, we will do the work of dealing with them. Little did I know that they wanted to [preserve them.

In the end, later on in these arguments, when they started firing across our border, I told him that is enough invitation. I told the President of Congo, that while initially I was seeking the invitation to work with them to deal with the problem, actually firing artillery across our border into our territory is sufficient invitation. That statement still stands.

We have been keeping quiet about some things, you know violations. And again, when you see the statements everywhere saying, the territorial integrity of Congo must be respected, I totally agree, but so must Rwanda’s territorial integrity be respected. And respecting territorial integrity is not just by a soldier putting foot on the ground of that territory. It’s what you send on the other territory, even standing on your own.

If you fired artillery shells across the border into Rwanda, while you are in Congo, you have violated the territorial integrity of Rwanda. That’s the interpretation. I don’t know even other interpretation.

So, I gave you more than you wanted or expected but I thought I really needed to do this. So, be clear about it, when you see things happening, you just know, first of all we are not going to engage in skirmishes that could have been avoided. We are not going to violate anybody’s sovereignty, territorial integrity will be respected but with so much demand that it happens in our case as well.

And so, people along the border, can go to bed at night, knowing they will have security for them to sleep all night.

Short of that, we will make somebody else, spend sleepless nights.

Thank you very much!

President Kagame has said that the country is concerned with its citizens' security.

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