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Rwanda: The Calamitous Congo Connection
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November 23, 2012: Rwanda has denied another barrage of charges that it is supporting the M23 rebel movement in the Congo. The government said that its policy is to end the hostilities and it has asked the Congolese Army and M23 to seek a peaceful solution. Rwanda has said that the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) provides the best regional forum for conducting peace negotiations. The ICGLR has 11 members, including Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Congo.

November 19, 2012: As M23 rebels neared the city of Goma, on the Congo-Rwanda border, the Congolese government rejected a demand by the rebel movement that the Congo begin direct political negotiations with the group. A Congolese spokesman said that the Congolese government needs to negotiate with the real aggressor in the region, which is Rwanda. Rwanda denied the Congo’s accusation and said that Congolese Army troops had fired into Rwandan territory. Rwandan security forces did not respond to the Congolese gunfire.

November 15, 2012: The government of Burundi acknowledged that a Burundian Army officer was killed in the Congo’s South Kivu province. The government said the officer was participating in an intelligence gathering operation that is permitted under a bilateral agreement with the Congo.

November 13, 2012: Great Britain announced that it will give very close scrutiny to any future requests for aid from Rwanda. The announcement comes after new allegations made by UN investigators that Rwanda is supporting rebel groups in the Congo. Great Britain, however, recently approved a controversial $30 million aid request to Rwanda.

November 5, 2012: Rwanda accused a group of Congolese Army soldiers of violating the Rwanda-Congo border near the town of Kibumba (13 kilometers north of the Congolese border city of Goma). Rwanda claimed that the Congolese soldiers crossed the border on a reconnaissance mission. A Rwandan military spokesman called the border crossing a provocation. The term provocation indicates the Rwandans believe the incident was intentional. After the Congolese crossed the border, a firefight erupted between the Congolese soldiers and a detachment of Rwandan soldiers. One Congolese soldier died and a Rwandan soldier was wounded. Both the Rwandan and Congolese governments regard the incident as serious. It is the first confirmed firefight between Congolese and Rwandan military units since 2001.

October 24, 2012: Burundian security forces claimed they killed nine gunmen in a firefight in the town of Buganda. The government claimed that the gunmen had entered Burundi from the Congo. After the firefight occurred, a guerrilla group calling itself the Murundi People’s Front-The Saviours' (FPM-Abatabazi) said that it had launched an attack in the area and its fighters had killed nine Burundian Army soldiers and wounded 17 others in the operation.

October 18, 2012: The UN voted to give Rwanda a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. Non-permanent members serve on the Security Council for two years. Luxembourg, Australia, South Korea, and Argentina were also elected to fill Security Council slots. Non-permanent seats bring prestige and recognition to any country obtaining one, but they are particularly coveted by developing countries. Their UNSC votes matter. Rwanda’s selection, however, comes at a very uncomfortable time, for both the UN and Rwanda. Bits and pieces of a UN report on the Congo’s M23 rebellion have been appearing in various international media. The UN report is very critical of the Rwandan government and its alleged support of the M23 rebels. The tribal connection is undeniable. The Rwandan military is largely run by Rwandan Tutsis. The M23 rebels are Congolese Tutsis. One media leak reported that UN investigators have evidence that Rwanda’s defense minister has given M23 rebels direct orders. Rwanda vociferously denies that it supports M23. Congo objected to Rwanda taking a seat on the Security Council but Rwanda had no opponents for the open African seat. The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to give Rwanda the seat. It was a reward of sorts. Rwanda has consistently provided soldiers for UNAMID, the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region and overall is the sixth largest provider of soldiers for UN peacekeeping missions.

Several key accusations made in the critical UN report appeared in print on October 17. One source claimed that the UN document said Rwanda’s defense minister is commanding M23 – and that is a very serious allegation. Excerpts claimed that the Rwandan government has given M23 heavy weapons and helped provide recruits. These allegations go several steps beyond a UN report issued earlier this year that concluded evidence existed that Rwanda was supporting the Congolese rebel group. Rwanda has a record of using proxy forces in the Congo to combat the radical Hutu FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda).

October 15, 2012: UN investigators claimed that the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries have aided the Congo’s M23 rebel movement.

October 2, 2012: Diplomats in Burundi are reporting that from 300 to 500 former FNL (National Liberation Forces) rebels have returned to bases in the jungle. Though the Burundian Army has used its experiences in Somalia to increase the professionalism of its soldiers, a 500-man strong guerrilla force represents a real threat to the country. Many of the FNL rebels are veteran guerrilla fighters.

September 25, 2012: The Rwandan government once again denied charges that its security forces are involved with the Congo’s M23 rebel movement.

September 6, 2012: The Rwandan government announced that its new national development fund with a long-range goal: getting the country away from relying on foreign aid. The fund now has a little over $10 million, most of the money coming from Rwandan government workers and Rwandan expatriates. The government said that the fund will help capitalize new projects and money from the fund will also be used to partner with foreign investors. The fund is named the Agaciro Fund (which translates as “Dignity” Fund in the Kinyarwandan language). Critics have pointed out that the Rwandan government is establishing the fund just as numerous international donors are discussing withdrawing aid because of Rwanda’s alleged support for Congolese rebels. Almost 50 percent of Rwanda’s annual budget comes from donor countries and aid organizations.

September 6, 2012: Observers in the eastern Congo reported that M23 rebels have moved into an area near the Rwanda-Congo border that was formerly patrolled by a Rwandan special forces unit.

September 5, 2012: UN peacekeepers in the Congo confirmed that 357 Rwandan Special Forces troops have been operating in the eastern Congo. The Congolese government said that 100 Rwandan Special Forces soldiers were operating in the region. The Rwandan troops were working with Congolese Army soldiers to monitor Rwandan FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) ethnic Hutu rebels and their Mai Mai militia allies.

September 4, 2012: Congolese civilians in North Kivu province reported that M23 rebels skirmished with Congolese Army soldiers in the Rutshuru district. The report puts in question claims by officials in the Congo that an informal ceasefire has existed between M23 and the Congolese Army since the first week of August.

September 3, 2012: The Rwandan Army said that it was withdrawing two special forces battalions which have been operating in the eastern Congo. The Rwandan government said the two battalions have been participating in joint operations with the Congolese military since 2009. The Rwandan special operations soldiers had been assigned to the Joint DRC-Rwanda Special Forces Battalion that was based in the Rutshuru territory of DRC's North Kivu province.

A former leader of Burundi’s main rebel group, the FNL (National Liberation Forces), said that a new FNL faction has been established. The faction was responsible for a recent attack on a Burundian Army post near Bujumbura. The new faction is named the FNL-Ubugabo-Burihabwa.

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