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…

Rwandan president rejects human rights criticism

(CNN) — Rwandan President Paul Kagame hit back Monday at human rights activists who say he’s behaving like an autocrat and fueling a bloody civil war in Rwanda’s neighbor, Congo.

“If you are talking about people in the human rights community from outside… I have an issue with this,” Kagame said, 16 years after he was hailed as a hero for ending a genocide that killed at least 800,000 people.

“You tend to make a judgment of a country, 11 million people, on what a couple of people have said and (they) don’t take into account what Rwandans say.”

Kagame added, “Nobody has asked the Rwandans … it’s as if they don’t matter in the eyes of the human rights people. It’s our own decisions in the end.”

He said everyone in Rwanda has to play by the rules and be accountable. “There has to be leadership to make things move in the right direction,” Kagame stated.

Kagame’s comments came a month after the New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, said opposition activists are facing increasing threats, attacks, and harassment ahead of Rwanda’s presidential election in August.

Human Rights Watch said opposition party members have suffered serious intimidation by individuals and institutions close to the government and Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The RPF took power in 1994 after its army swept into the capital of Kigali and overthrew the Hutu-dominated government responsible for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, most of them members of the minority Tutsi community.

In the aftermath of the 100-day genocide, the fastest in modern history, Kagame transformed his country, turning it into one of the fastest growing nations in Africa and — in the view of some — a model of economic and social development.

Kagame said Rwanda has made significant progress in erasing some of the scars left behind after the tragedy.

“That’s why the country is stable. That’s why the country is moving on. That’s why the country is developing.”

Kagame insisted he has nothing to do with the continuing civil war in mineral-rich Congo, even though he acknowledged that Rwandan troops intervened there a decade ago in an attempt to stop rebel groups from returning to Rwanda.

The war became the largest and most destructive conflict in African history, costing more than 5 million lives, as various groups and foreign armies fought for control of Congo’s land and mineral resources.

“I cannot be blamed for the problems of Congo or any other country,” Kagame said. “There are the Congolese who have their own country, who are supposed to manage it, who are supposed to govern it. It has nothing to do with me.”

Gov’t now links fugitive General to Col. Karegeya

RNA

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of ex-army chief Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa took another twist Tuesday when the Rwandan government suddenly blamed him for the recent grenade attacks in Kigali, which killed 3 people and injured dozens, RNA reports.

Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga told an impromptu press conference that Lt. Gen. Nyamwasa has been in “constant contact” with Col. Patrick Karegeya – a former head of intelligence. The two have now linked up in South Africa, Ngoga said, reading from a prepared statement.

No questions were allowed at the press briefing, with Mr. Ngoga claiming that the prosecution was setting the record straight to stop “unfounded rumours” being published by the media.

“Security and judicial officials have evidence indicating that Lt. Gen. Kayumba and another officer who fled before called Col. Patrick Karegeya, working together, have planned and started implementing acts aimed at creating state insecurity,” Ngoga said.

“Among these acts includes hurling grenades in Kigali city and other places,” Ngoga added.

The country’s top prosecuting authority said Col. Karegeya has not been interrogated on the accusations because he has not been around. “Gen. Kayumba was interrogated once, but fled before he could respond to the second summons,” Ngoga told listening reporters, in a mixture of English and Kinyarwanda.

Announcing the sudden fleeing of Gen. Kayumba on Friday evening, the Foreign Affairs Ministry statement did not say the charges on which he is being pursued. The government claimed the General was in Uganda, but it emerged on Tuesday that he only used Uganda as transit route – heading to Kenya, where he flew to South Africa on Sunday.

Mr. Ngoga confirmed that Gen. Kayumba was indeed in South Africa, affirming that he had linked up with Col. Karegeya. A combination of judicial, security and diplomatic efforts are underway to have the two men extradited to Rwanda to face justice, according to Ngoga.

Col. Karegeya was the head of the External Service Organisation (ESO) before he fell to the wrong side of the law in 2005. The following year saw him battling insubordination and desertion charges which resulted in him being stripped of his rank and he was jailed for about two years.

In November 2007, it emerged that Col Karegeya had fled the country, but there has not been any information about his whereabouts.

When three grenades exploded in Kigali two weeks ago, the Police claimed Rwandan rebels in eastern DR Congo – the FDLR, were behind the blasts. Three people are already in detention over the blasts – and they have apparently confessed. The accusations ended there.

Meanwhile, information available to RNA claims that on Monday, another grenade was found at the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) headquarters in Kacyiru before it exploded. The MINALOC office is located in the same area with several other ministries and government departments. A few meters away are the US Embassy and the Office of the President.

Ugandan General Murdered In Cold Blood

Maj. Gen. James Kazini, the former army commander, died Tuesday morning after his girlfriend, Lydia Draru, allegedly hit him with an iron bar.

Family and security sources say General Kazini was killed at his girlfriend’s home in Namuwongo, a Kampala suburb near this newspaper’s offices on 8th Street, Industrial Area.

The girlfriend has been arrested and taken for questioning at Kampala Central Police Station. Mourners, among them military officers and relatives, trickled in to the Namuwongo residence as the shocking news spreads.

The country was preparing for the burial later Tuesday of vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya’s son, Bryan, who died at the weekend after suffering serious head injuries in a motor crash.

By 8:00 a.m. his body had not yet been moved. Senior Police detectives arrived shortly after to take notes and examine the crime scene. Later, at about 10 a.m, his body was taken to Mulago Hospital mortuary.