The appeal is made amidst escalating tensions between Rwanda and DRC over reciprocal accusations related to the fight between Congolese Army (FARDC) and M23 rebel group.
FARDC continues to loose bases to M23 rebel group and attributes its strength to alleged support from Rwanda.
Rwanda has however denied the allegations repeatedly calling the fight with M23 an internal problem which should be addressed by DRC.
DRC President, Félix Tshisekedi recently revealed figuratively that it is time to wage a war on Rwanda after elucidating that diplomatic process is no longer a promising option to restore peace in the eastern part of his country.
The letter sent to the Prime Minister of Canada to which IGIHE has a copy reads that the Rwandan Community in Canada is gravely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC and its manifestation through hate speech and genocidal ideology spreading across the Rwandans and Congolese communities both at home and in Canada.
Read the letter in full:
November 9, 2022
To: The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Appeal to the Government of Canada to support the Peace Process in the DRC
Dear Prime Minister: The Rwandan Community of Canada is gravely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its manifestation through hate speech and genocidal ideology spreading across the Rwandan and Congolese communities both at home and here in Canada. We strongly urge that the government of Canada do more to help stabilize the situation in the Eastern DRC and be vigilant to curb activities and incitement which create tensions in the communities who left these regions to settle in Canada.
There are laws about hate speech in Canada and we believe that they have been contravened. For example, a Congolese public figure by the name Martin Fayulu held a conference in Montreal on October 2, 2022, where he delivered a toxic rhetoric against Rwanda and Rwandophones. During his remarks, an inspired member in the audience declared that Rwanda is led by Nazis! Similar hate messages are being spread on social media, calling for killing Rwandans, in particular the Tutsi. In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo which has ethnic Rwandan populations, anti-Rwandan sentiment that is rampant among public officials, in the civil society and the DRC government has done little to quell such toxic incitements.
Sir, we would like to bring to your attention and to let the Canadian public understand the fundamental issues in the conflict of the eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) as we believe that until these issues are addressed, will there be lasting peace in the region. The conflict in the eastern DRC has at its root three fundamental issues namely:
• The right of Congolese “Rwandophones” (Congolese of Rwandan cultural heritage) to be fully accepted as citizens with all rights as other Congolese.
• Insecurity posed by the genocidal FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebel group and more than one hundred other negative armed groups in the Eastern region of DRC.
• Lack of political will by the DRC government to implement Peace Processes and Agreements that have been sponsored by regional governments, the United Nations, the African Union, and other Regional Organizations such as the ICGLR and East African Community, to address political issues and insecurity in DRC and the region.
From independence in 1960 different administrations of the Democratic Republic of Congo have taken conflicting positions on the status of the Rwandophones community of DRC. Under Mobutu Sese Seko who was President from 1965 to 1997, Rwandophones were fully accepted in the Constitution as Congolese citizens and permitted to participate in all affairs of the state. In latter administrations, however, particularly after 1994 the status of Congolese Rwandophones, especially those identified as Tutsis became less tenable. They became victims of the politics and prevailing circumstances. A genocidal regime of Rwanda had just been defeated and the perpetrators crossed into the eastern DRC and camped within less than 20 kilometers from the Rwandan border. Furthermore, they created a rebel group currently known by its acronym of FDRL and set on the strategy of rearming with the intent to destabilize Rwanda. They also targeted the local population especially the Tutsi communities of Eastern DRC forcing tens of thousands to flee into Rwanda and other countries. Today, in Rwanda, there are more than 50,000 of these Congolese refugees since 1996, as a direct consequence of the instability in the eastern DRC brought by genocidal remnant forces.
The rebel group code-named M23 (March 23), was born following the failure by the Government of DRC to implement previous agreements intended to primarily defend and protect the rights of the Congolese Rwandophones, and to create a conducive environment to enable the repatriation of Congolese refugees back to their lands and property in East Congo. In December 2013, the Government of DRC and M23 signed an agreement to put an end to the conflict, but it was never implemented due to lack of political will from the government. Since the resumption of hostilities in June 2022, the M23 rebel group has sought to negotiate with the DRC government for a political settlement, and the response of the DRC Government was to scapegoat Rwanda, alleging that it supports the rebellion; a charge Rwanda denies. Since then, through regional efforts, the Nairobi peace process was adopted to deal with all non-State actors in Eastern DRC, and the Luanda roadmap was adopted to de-escalate tensions between Rwanda and the DRC.
For the purposes of principle and clarity, it should be stated that in fact, it is not for the DRC government to decide on the rightful citizenship of the Rwandophones of DRC. When Africa was partitioned at the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885, these communities already lived in their present lands that are now in DRC. Therefore, unless the DRC government would like to suggest a revision of the international boundaries, the Congolese Rwandophones have a legitimate and indestructible right to remain Congolese citizens regardless of which regime is in power. The DRC government must exercise due diligence and treat all its citizens without discriminations based on ethnicity.
To bring about lasting peace in East DRC, one of the most important conditions is to permanently eradicate the problem of the genocidal FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and other domestic and foreign negative forces operating in DRC and the International Community have done little to solve this problem. The United Nations Peace Mission, MONUSCO, which is more than 20,000 men strong with a sizable budget has been in the eastern DRC for more than 20 years and failed to eradicate these forces. In fact, the DRC government has for its part recruited members of FDRL among its own army, FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to try and defeat the M23- a fact that has been documented recently by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The DRC government cannot have it both ways---fight the rebels while also recruiting rebels in its own ranks!
Underlying the mess in the eastern DRC is the existence of more than one hundred other irregular armed groups which roam the swaths with no immediate recognizable demand except to loot and plunder in this resource-rich region. And at times, local leaders and military officials do connive with these rebel groups to share in their exploits. Corruption and indiscipline reign high among security agents in this country.
We kindly urge the Canadian government to use its power and influence to support the Nairobi and Luanda Peace Processes in a bid to help push for sustainable peace in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the sub-region. The DRC government must be persuaded to take its own responsibility instead of shifting the blame of its own failures to its neighboring countries, notably Rwanda. We also urge the Canadian government to monitor and curb the spread of hate speech in Canada by stakeholders in the DRC conflict as such speech can lead to tensions and polarization in the Rwandan and Congolese communities here in Canada.
Alain Patrick Ndengera
President, Rwandan Canadian Community Abroad -Canada