Congo and Rwanda trade accusations of cross border fire
KPFA Radio News, 08.24.2013
KPFA Evening News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: Fighting has resumed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu Province, with both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo accusing each other of weapons fire across the border between the two countries. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: On Thursday, a Congolese spokesman told the BBC that shells landing in the border town of Goma were coming from Rwanda, and today he accused Rwanda of firing a rocket that landed inside Goma and killed three people. The Rwandan army said that Congolese mortar fire had landed in villages along its border. A UN spokesman said that the UN Force Intervention Brigade had undertaken its first offensive operation to support the Congolese army in displacing the M23 militia from their positions, but the Associated Press reported that a U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that it was a defensive operation. Many citizens of Goma distrust the UN’s motives, and believe it to be standing in the way of the Congolese army. The AP reported that roads through the city of Goma were blocked today by burning tires and crowds chanting anti-UN Mission slogans.
The 2012 UN Group of Experts report identified both Rwanda and Uganda, but most of all Rwanda, as the aggressors behind the M23 militia, but Rwandan President Paul Kagame still has his defenders, most notably former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, evangelical megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, and former President Bill Clinton. On August 13th, after visiting Rwanda, Bill Clinton told the BBC that he was willing to make special allowances for Rwanda.
Bill Clinton: I support a free press in Rwanda. I don’t support the repression of journalists. I don’t think human rights should be violated in the Congo to protect the territorial integrity of Rwanda, but I suppose I do make more allowances for a government that has produced as much progress as that one has, and has been well-organized and otherwise had the rule of law, and so, that’s the way it is. Very few situations are perfect.
KPFA: Clinton refers to the territorial integrity of Rwanda, but not the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which Rwanda and Uganda have invaded repeatedly since 1996, though this is not a matter of historical dispute. In 2009, on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, the Rwandan Army crossed into Congo with the blessing of the U.S. and the UN Security Council. The international community no longer explicitly agrees to Rwanda’s incursions, but the Security Council has refused to openly name Rwanda as the aggressor and sanction its top officials.
Clinton also excuses Rwanda in Congo because of “the rule of law in Rwanda,” though human rights defenders including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on Kagame to release imprisoned political opponents, and, though Rwandan journalists have been not only repressed, but also murdered and imprisoned in recent years. During the last week of May, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for a fair trial in imprisoned opposition leader Victoire Ingabire’s appeal, and stated that her first trial was politically motivated and did not meet international judicial standards.