Why Downplay M23 Atrocities With FDLR Story?

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The Voice of America's DRC Blames Insecurity on Rwandan Rebels,” reported, on 01.09.2013, that the North Kivu provincial government’s communications minister and spokeswoman Marie Shematsi Baeni, had stated that:

-The DRC’s biggest security problem is the Rwandan rebel group FDLR - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, meaning the remnants of the Rwandan Army that lost the Rwandan Civil War
of 1990 to 1994 and fled into the eastern Congolese jungle;

-The FDLR are ‘the only reason the province has a multitude of armed groups . . . because everyone is trying to ensure their own security. . . if they let the FDLR do what they like, they will kill people and rape women."

The VOA also reported that, "" And that, "The M23 militia has, since April, been the focus of most every statement the DRC has made about security in the eastern part of the country, but 'analysts' now say that the group has been 'surpassed' by the FDLR."

Yes, FDLR's atrocities have been widely reported. But this report attempts to dismiss the entire past year's UN Group of Experts and Human Rights Watch reports on M23's ongoing atrocities and the humanitarian catastrophe it created in Congo, simply by shifting focus to the FDLR. Here are some points:

1) Who are these unnamed “observers” who “say that Wednesday's statement could signal a thaw in relations between Rwanda and the DRC?

2) Who are these unnamed “analysts” who say that “the group [M23] has been surpassed by members of the FDLR“?

3) What is these analysts' use of the word “surpassed” supposed to mean in this context? That the FDLR is now "the focus of more statements made by the DRC, about security in the eastern part of the country" - a distinction attributed to M23 just before the statement that the FDLR had "surpassed" them? 

Even if that statement were true, M23 has not only been the focus of most every statement that the DRC government has made about security in the eastern part of the country but also the focus of most every such statement that UN investigators in Congo have made in the past year. 

What's more the President of the United States called Rwanda's Paul Kagame to warn him to stop supporting M23 which has also been condemned by Human Rights Watch for "widespread war crimes."

M23 has also been the focus of every statement about security in the eastern DRC made by European governments, who withdrew aid to Rwanda because of UN investigators' evidence that the M23 militia fighting in Congo is a unit of the Rwandan army, with Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe at the top of its chain of command. 

And M23 has been the focus of every such statement made by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, who opened the committee's December hearing by saying that the U.S. has been left standing alone in its support for Rwanda.

4) Marie Shematsi Baeni, communications minister and spokeswoman for the DRC’s North Kivu Province, says that all the armed groups in the eastern DRC are armed to keep the FDLR from killing people and raping women? Does the Voice of America feel compelled to repeat such a patently absurd statement - uncritically - just because the communications minister and spokeswoman for the DRC’s North Kivu Province utters or writes it?

Even without downplaying any atrocities committed by FDLR, does the Voice of America (VOA) expect any thinking person to believe that all the armed groups in the eastern DRC are armed - and killing people and raping women - to keep the FDLR from doing so? 

Or, that despite all these groups armed to stop the FDLR, and despite all their good intentions to protect the people from the FDLR, the FDLR continues to commit all the atrocities and displace all the people, including another 900,000 this year, in the eastern DRC?  And/or, that the highly trained, disciplined, well equipped M23 militia is blameless in all this, but at the same time helpless to stop them? 

Does the VOA expect us to believe that none of these groups, including M23, are highly armed so as to control eastern Congolese resources and resource smuggling across Congo's eastern borders into Rwanda and Uganda?  That all are, instead, armed to protect themselves and the people from the FDLR?

Doesn't it seem a bit too convenient - for Rwandan commanders, and for Rwanda's international backers - to point the finger, once again, at the FDLR militia and thus deflect global media attention from the M23 militia, after both the UN Group of Experts and Human Rights Watch emphatically identified M23 as the aggressive force that resumed the war in eastern Congo?

I often recommend The Voice of America, particularly its stellar "Straight Talk Africa" broadcast, as one of the best sources on Africa. 

And, Pacifica's WBAI AfrobeatRadio, the weekly radio hour I contribute to, has had the VOA's excellent Ugandan journalist Paul Ndiho on as a guest, so I know that the VOA can do better.

Ann Garrison reports for the Pacifica Radio Network's KPFA and WBAI-AfrobeatRadio, and writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, and the Black Star News.

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