Why M23 wont be leaving Goma soon

The UN has demanded they withdraw from Goma. A summit of four African heads of state sitting in the Ugandan capital Kampala yesterday (Saturday) called on M23 to “stop expanding the war forthwith and stop talk of overthrowing an elected government.”

There is also, it would appear, at least seemingly, some agreement within the international community that for any talk meaningful peace efforts to be undertaken in DRC, M23 must first stop their advance – or better, give up the fighting altogether.

But none of these appear to be about to happen. Despite the numerous calls for their withdrawal, M23 have made it clear they are not about to leave Goma. Not yet. Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga, M23’s political chief, told Reuters news agency that Rwanda and Uganda had no authority to order them to give up the city.

“We’ll stay in Goma waiting for negotiations. They [government forces] are going to attack us and we’re going to defend ourselves and keep on advancing,” he was quoted.

It would appear from Runiga’s statement that M23 are expecting an attack from government forces to which they will then respond by capturing more ground. The rebel outfit has proved to be more powerful than perhaps many thought. Just before the summit, M23, perhaps buoyed by the ease with which they took Goma, were already talking of going as far as Kinshasha. As a Congolese friend said to me yesterday, “with the international community and the world media focused on events in Gaza and Syria, we thought they might go for it.”

They didn’t. Instead they have zeroed on Goma where they appear very relaxed. I spoke to a Congolese diplomat in London earlier today who is convinced that even without the summit, it is unlikely that M23 would have gone as far as Kinshasha. “To do what? Their case has nothing to do with Kinshasha. They are confortable where they are and that is all they ever wanted. Nothing else,” he said.

If the Congolese government are aware of what M23 are looking for, why have they not managed to solve the grievance – after all, what becameM23 was once part of the Congolese army?

Why Goma?

Goma remains by far the biggest and agreeably most strategic city in eastern DRC. If one is to go by the assertions in a UN report released this week, it is nearer to Rwanda and Uganda – the two countries said to be providing support to M23. It has an airport and judging by the ease with which they captured it, and the way they were received, one might as well say M23 forces feel at home in Goma than anywhere else in the country.

Some people have also suggested that with M23 feel Goma is the bargaining chip they needed against President Joseph Kabila. Despite initially stating his unwillingness to talk to the rebels, President Kabila has since changed his mind – it would appear. On Wednesday this week, Kabila said he would study the rebels’ demands and consider negotiating with them. Such statements will galvanise M23 whose main aim some have insisted is gaining more leverage against the government in Kinshasha.

Withdraw or Advance?

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Goma says it is unclear whether the rebels’ capacity matches their ambitions. In Col. Vianney Kazarama, M23 have a very committed spokesperson. So committed that his statements have sometimes appeared so detached from recent events but he seems to be relishing his role. Kazarama is convinced the rebels have got the momentum and that only serious negotiations with Kabila can prevent an advance on Kinshasha. This, despite calls from the summit organised by his purported backers, that his fellow fighters withdrawal from Goma.

May be he has a point. Following the Kampala summit today, M23 will feel their recent antics have paid off. By agreeing to speak to them, the DRC government have elevated them beyond marauding mutineers – a tag they previously were associated with – to a rebel outfit with concerns that need addressing. Question remains, will they actually leave Goma?

Over to you…

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When men become stooges for the sake of their daily bread

Be very afraid when an expatriate turns out with information that even the senior citizens in a given country have no idea about. And when that expatriate is an American who for over 10 years has been advising a president – who gradually is turning into a dictator –  it helps to be very frightened.

I can only imagine Michael Fairbanks is only trying to justify his stay in Rwanda as a money reducing agent given his astronomical salary for doing: well, nothing other than advising the head of state on how to effectively become a bona fide dictator. For, why would an American advisor to the head of state know to details that a Rwandan General who himself said he fled Paul Kagame’s repression, actually ran away from a military tribunal for sleeping with another man’s wife?

If this were true, and assuming of course that the said General whoever it is (quite a few of them have since fled) ran away because somewhere in Rwanda, an irate husband is lurking and fuming, why would the affected general find it relevant speaking to a senior presidential advisor about his family tribulations? Do these advisors not have work to do? Are we meant to believe really, that the few remaining generals in Rwanda are too dippy to think through even the simplest of issues like domestic disputes?

Interestingly, Michael begins his piece somewhere in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is a catholic who despite having lived in Africa for years still believes that nothing good comes out of it, until he goes to Rwanda. Notice too, that this is an academic and teacher who though he does not say until when, confesses to having been racist. Now, any one who has been a victim of racism or any racial taunts like I have, will agree that you simply don’t become racist. Racism is an ideology. Had he been Rwandan, his confession would have led him to jail for the equivalent of racism in Rwanda (ethnic hatred) is a crime under genocide ideology laws. But he is a free man now because he is on the right side of the political spectrum.

Like David Hume and Otto Weininger, Michael Fairbanks belongs to the same school of thought who believed that no genius has perhaps scarcely ever appeared amongst the Africans, and that the standard of our morality is almost universally so low that it is beginning to be acknowledged  black people’s emancipation was an act of imprudence.

He will not tell you why a young catholic boy would be racist even when Catholicism preaches love for one another and compassion. Why? Because explaining this would lay bare the true Michael Fairbanks. He has been in Africa long enough, studied and researched about her people and thus, knows very well how to handle those in charge. Even if it means offering advice on family disputes between generals who can’t keep their wives at bay, he will do so, as long as there is a massive paycheque and he keeps in good books with the regime.

In typical PR language, Mr. Fairbanks clearly goes over the political spin stating that Rwanda is the only country in Africa that spends more on education that it does on its military. While this may be true, he tactfully falls short of giving us the real figures and whether the overall illiteracy levels in Rwanda have gone down as a result. He might be true in his assertion that the Rwandan government spends less on its military but he neglects the fact that the Rwandan defence budget is mostly classified thus hard to exactly tell how much is spent each year.

In 2007, I remember speaking to the then State Minister for Energy and he was well in support of phasing out the number of foreign advisors that are on Rwanda’s employ. The minister’s argument was that these fellows are siphoning the country’s foreign exchange courtesy of astronomically wages footed by the tax payer. Yet, these are the sort of jobs that locals could do for far less money. We all recall when in 2006 the government of Rwanda through the ministry of education signed a contract to import 200 Kenyan teachers at $3000 each a month, to teach sciences in Rwandan secondary schools.

Had it not been for my opinion critiquing the move, the government would have signed a further 500. All this was being done while the local teacher earned a paltry equivalent of $250 at the time. I was cautioned about the story and no one has even ever bothered to make the ministry of education account for what differences these teachers made and whether there is anything to show for the massive investment or if they are still in the country, anyway.

Judging from what Mr Fairbanks says in his Huffington Post Op-Ed republished by Rwanda News Aagency, it would appear he was in the country then. If this is a gentleman who we should believe as being in Rwanda to help the country develop, I would like to know if he ever asked the authorities or even advised them against the policy as opposed to say investing the amount on training local teachers who the country would later turn to instead of depending on the expensive lot from Kenya.

Am even sure Mr. Fairbanks (a former Wall Street banker), like many in his trade will have read the February article in The Times of South Africa where it was discovered that Rwanda, a very poor country by any standard, had spent a staggering $100 million between 2003 and 2008 on the luxurious Bombardier Global Express BD-700 jets. The two acquired to transport the man he is so keen at advising. If Mr. Fairbanks was keen at seeing Rwandese out of oblivion, his first words to the man who employs him would have been that the $100 million could help set up 5 medical centres throughout the country so locals can have easy access to standard treatment instead of relying on one referral hospital in the capital, Kigali.

Instead, Mr. Fairbanks (who has been on the same planes on his trips with the president outside Rwanda) fearing for his job was busy leading his employer on and suggesting that he actually shuts down the BBC and later Umuseso for publishing and relaying news considered anti-establishment. And if you are President Paul Kagame, why would you fire a stooge like this one?

The fact that an academic of his stature who has written some books and been brought up in a catholic family, claims Victoire Ingabire an opposition leader is minor because she just acquired a Rwandese passport baffles even the simples of minds. How about Frank Habineza, has he also been in possession of a Rwandese passport for a couple of months. What does Mr Fairbanks want the world to believe as being the reason why his party, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda is yet to be allowed holding a meeting?

He suggests the criticism against Rwanda’s law on genocide in relation to oppression are unfounded and baseless arguing that even in Europe, vague laws have been adopted before. Well, if over a dozen European countries have laws that are vague or considered vague, is that reason for Rwanda to make vague laws?

He says “I called the Communications Director for the President and formally requested the list of news outlets that work in the country that have not been banned. The office provided the list to me in a few hours, and I was told that no one else has ever made that request. It is a varied list of world-class organizations functioning well.

Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AP, AFP, NPR, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, CBS, CNN, NBC, CBC, Guardian, Times of London, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Economist, Al Jazeera, NHK, East Africa TV, SABC, ETV, France 24, TV5, FR3, TF1, RFI, Canal+, Jeune Afrique, Der Spiegel, Arte TV, VPRO”.

Did he ask whoever was on the other end of the line why the BBC was not on the list? And of course if we are to assume it was not on because the list as stated was of world-class organisations functioning well, is he complicit in the belief that the BBC functions badly? Really?

It is sad when sensible people are carefully turned into yes men for the sake of money. I have even seen friends turn into enemies and overnight supporters of the regime in Kigali that everything I say, they jump on to abuse me as being anti-Rwanda and more Ugandan than I am Rwandese. Bullocks! Who said sensible reasoning had anything to do with ones nationality? With Mr. Fairbanks in the mix, may be it does.

Later my little monsters…

Can Victoire Ingabire fix Rwanda’s Political Puzzle?

Little known but committed Victoire Ingabire is a woman of all seasons. She has since her arrival back in Rwanda been trying to familiarise herself with the developments so far in a country she left 16 years ago. A career accountant-turned politician, she hopes, subject to the registration of her political party, to contest the forthcoming presidential election this August. Many agree she stands no chance but her introduction into the Rwandan political fold has already created a few surprises. Government propagandists under different pseudo names are already engaged in a tarnishing campaign to ensure all she says is never believed. Already, her political aide has been arrested and jailed over a Gacaca court conviction that Ingabire’s supporters and sympathisers believe is faked.

But as Kagame prepares to assume yet another seven year term, the world has been introduced to a politically charged mercenary type of society where opposition politics is only present on paper. It appears Kagame and his men are more at ease with the already established and very disorganised nine political parties who they know and have always controlled so easily. They are not ready for a party whose leader has been brave enough to raise critical issues. As part of a more detailed story to follow in one of the leading newspapers in the UK, I asked Ingabire about her thoughts on recent events:

You have been a subject of constant criticism from several government spin doctors and there is every indication you may not get to register your party, do you still believe it is possible?

I have indeed been subjected to all sorts of harassments from government sponsored media and services. But I have so far managed to keep on with my agenda of registering my party. Given the kind of hurdles that I have gone through, I can not rule out any scenario. The government may reject the registration application of my party on flimsy reasons, in order to hang on power. It is clear that the ruling party is not ready for competition of ideas, in a genuine multiparty system.

The fact that one of your aides has been charged with a genocide crime and imprisoned as a result must surely make you doubt and fear for your life. How have the events of the past weeks affected your overall desire to bring to Rwandans what you think they deserve?

The rough beating and subsequent arrest and detention of Joseph Ntawangundi brought to limelight the true colour of our government. In a rule of law, we expected the assailants to answer for their deeds, more so when the government claimed that they had been arrested. Instead, the victim was arrested and jailed, as if to cover up the assailants. We were both targeted by the mob and I narrowly escaped. I would have been equally beaten if I had been caught. Yes I fear for my life, as any human being, but this will not derail my desire and determination to bring changes in Rwanda.

You are a strong lady, aren’t you? Who is Victoire Ingabire?

I can not gauge my strength, I leave it to others. As for my background, I am 42 years old, married and mother of three children. I hold a degree in Commercial and business administration which I got in Holland, where I worked in private sector. I majored in Enterprises management. My political career started in late nineteen. I was also involved in many NGO’s activities. I believe in no violence as a way of bringing political changes.

Elections will be here in 6 months time but yet one would think Uganda will be voting earlier than Rwanda. What do you think is the reason for no morale about the coming elections in Rwanda?

Previous elections held in Rwanda in 2003 and 2008 were marred by massive rigging. This was confirmed among others, by EU observers in their report. Since the composition of the electoral commission has not fundamentally changed, there is no guarantee of a more transparent election. This is the reason why we are calling for a broad based electoral commission and an electoral code that has the blessing of all political parties involved in the election. The ruling party can not be a judge and jury. The recent resignation from the ruling party of the chairman of the electoral commission is a mere smoke screen move, to hoodwink donors and it is our prayer that some of these things get sorted out. He still is member of the party which does not change much.

Reports from both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International seem to hint on the excessive lack of political space in Rwanda viewing dissent as anti-progress. Is that a view you share especially after spending a few weeks in the country now?

I totally share the assessments of HRW, as far as political space is concerned in Rwanda. Freedom of expression and equal access to public and private media is paramount for democratic elections. No issue should be a taboo. People should be free to challenge the government on its achievements and generally the way it conducts its affairs. Government critics should not be treated as enemies of the nation, but as watch dogs. Democracy is a universal commodity. It should not be twisted merely to suit interest of a group or political organisation. This is what I am struggling for.

There is this allegation that FDU-Inkingi is connected to FDLR which has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the US, tell us this is true?

These are fabrications aimed at tarnishing my image and delaying the registration of my party. Of late, government lobbies have been going around, brandishing a UN experts report as evidence. This UN report which by the way was heavily criticised by Tanzania and Burundi, is so biased that it went to the extent of saying that the commander in chief of FDLR is my brother! This is rubbish? The report further alleges that I am connected with FDLR because I attended a meeting with FDLR members in Barcelona. The so called Barcelona meeting took place under the auspices of a Spanish NGO and was attended by Rwandan of all ethnic groups, including RPF well known individuals from Rwanda. This can be cross-checked from the minutes of the meeting. The agenda of the meeting was to see ways and means of organising an inter Rwanda dialogue. How came these RPF members who attended the meeting are not labelled FDLR supporters? The truth of the story is that the government does not want a true dialogue and want to demonise any dialogue initiative that is not under it iron fist. Had the Barcelona meeting been a conspiracy meeting, the organisers would have not invited delegates from Rwanda including staunch supporters of the ruling party.

What do you want and wish for Rwanda?

Peace, stability and reconciliation. I don’t want to see any more Rwandan being killed as a result of his ethnic, religious, region or political origin. I don’t want to see any more Rwandan seeking asylum abroad, or living in makeshift camps around Africa or being hunted like animals in neighbouring countries.
I want an independent judiciary and state machinery that pays allegiance to a cause, a nation, and no more to an individual or political organisation. I want a Rwanda where there is a rule of laws and equal economic opportunities. This is my dream.

After the attack on you a few weeks ago, do you now feel safe? We read in the papers that you have written to the president for security, what is the latest on this?

It is the duty of any government to ensure security for its entire citizen. This is what I expect from my government. I am not begging for favours.

If winning had to be about you (FDU) merging with the Green Party of Rwanda, and that is of course assuming that you both get registered, would you welcome a coalition?

Let’s not cross the bridge before reaching it. For the time being the issue does not arise. But I can assure you that I will support any move that can bring changes in Rwanda. I am not struggling for my own ego, but for the good of my countrymen. I share the Green party thirst for freedom and democracy.

Israel Mafioso takes Britain dangerously close to extreme lack of transparency

Watching the latest edition of Dispatches on Channel 4 this week made me shriek. It is no longer what is right that really matters but who you are and how much money you are willing to sink into an establishment from which, you expect favours.

British support for Israel will forever be available as long as UK political parties exist and the struggle for power goes on. Yes, and this only spells disaster for the less connected species like of the world like Palestinians.

Lets face it, am no professor on Middle East politics nor am I a fellow on Israel foreign policy but at least I know something that you lots don’t know. I know for a fact that, today, thanks to such groups as Conservative and Labour Friends Of Israel (CFI), Jewish Leadership Council, The Zionist Federation and Board of Deputies of British Jews, British foreign policy is being dictated by Israel.

It is about power and money and where there is money, decisions are bound to go the “right way”. Growing up in Africa, (Rwanda) I was meant to believe that corruption, as well as nepotism were scandalous agents in a political test tube. Today, I know this was completely classroom stuff.

What the last episode of Dispatches set out to show the world was that whether those in power know the truth, it can always be subdued when political interest override morality. That’s why, even the sensible the reasonable and understanding will stutter when the person with power flexes and pulls the right string.

So today, we know that over 8 years, the Conservative Party, which is likely to be the party in power come next year, has received £10 million from CFI. Conservative party leaders have been forced—or should we use coerced—into changing statements or risk losing financial support and the results are showing. We also know for fact that media organisations, which had hitherto to prized themselves on objective reporting, are suddenly changing and bowing to intimidation, pressure and financial threats. The future looks bleak and unless something is done now, those with no lobbyists to push them through and no connections stand to lose everything they have stood for and worked on for life.

But how and why should Israel, a state big enough to sustain itself rely so heavily on lobbying? Unless you were in the wrong, why would you flex so much muscle to win over hearts of so many when you are very well aware that your actions are legitimate and clean?

“If I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend that will never turn his back on Israel”, a beaming David Cameron noted at a dinner a couple of months ago.

He seemed keen to please each one of those listening in and his words, are understood to have been carefully chosen, especially now that we know he never said anything about Gaza and the Israel military attacks there even when the smoke was still bellowing out of smouldered buildings.

You have to wonder why Israel always gets things her own way. Why some countries bomb other countries, destroy their infrastructure, kill innocent civilians during the course of attacks and yet don’t seem to get the kind of condemnation that the others get. In the corporate world they call it PR, in politics, they call it political lobbying. Political lobbying because it cant simply be referred to as just lobbying for then, even the cry of the little Palestinian children should have been heard at least by Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC who cowardly refused to sanction the broadcast of a DEC ad calling for help for Gaza.

When you have a campaign to run and so many people conditioning their support to your campaign on your assurance to protect that, which they regard as sanctimonious, then you have limited choices as a politician and less if you are a deft one. What our MPs are doing is sell out the freedoms of those they claim to stand for. Those oppressed members of society like you and me, him and her or those living in abject poverty and distress orchestrated by a vicious desire to occupy and settle on illegal land.

3 years ago, Israel forces invaded Lebanon for attacks on Northern Israel. More than 1000 Lebanese lost their lives and 2 Israel soldiers killed while another 2 were hijacked. Early this year, alleging continued rocket attacks from positions in Gaza, Israel waged a full-scale attack leading to the death of over 1000 Palestinians and too much economic damage in infrastructure.

You would have expected at least most people watching the broadcasts from Gaza to agree first time that the force used was disproportionate. No way. Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague tried referring to the force used by Israel forces as disproportionate and it cost him financially and socially. Besides losing out on support from CFI, he got a stunning reminder from Tory peer Lord Kalms who wrote:

“Think again. William, for whom do you speak…your comments are not merely unhelpful; they are downright dangerous”.

And then, David Cameron backed off. He, according to Dispatches is said to have okayed Hague to change a statement to the UN as they prepared to vote on a reolution criticizing both Hamas and Israel for human rights abuses in Gaza to this, “unless the draft resolution is redrafted to reflect the role that Hamas played in starting the conflict, we would recommend that the British government vote to reject the resolution”. October 16th 2009 signed by Hague.

So, is Israel censoring British politicians, or has the world become too materialistic that votes and financial support for elections and campaigns are now more important than lives? And if the same thing that is happening here was to happen anywhere in the world, should we expect to see the British government let the events of the day decide the case or move in to condemn political lobbying?

To be continued….

$7m to starved and horrible looking pirates, you must be kidding

Somali pirates tonight demanded a ransom payment of $7m (£4.2m) for the safe return of a British couple who they kidnapped a week ago.

In a phone call translated by the BBC, one of the pirates said: “If they do not harm us, we will not harm them – we only need a little amount of seven million dollars.”