Telegraph Exclusive: DR Congo rebels recruited from Rwanda army - Wealthy Rwandans need Nkunda to protect their interests in E. Congo
The Daily Telegraph, UK
DR Congo rebels recruited from Rwanda army
By David Blair in Goma, DR Congo
Last Updated: 12:20PM UK GMT 20 Nov 2008
Now we know, thanks to David Blair, that, surprise, surprise, the death and destruction affecting millions of Congolese all boils down to a wealthy few with farming and mining interests in eastern Congo, not for the benefit of poor locals. Spit. Criminals freely running around inciting anarchy and mass murder make me sick.
Evidence gathered by The Daily Telegraph contradicts Rwanda's official denial of any role in the war in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 250,000 people have endured months of suffering since they were forced to flee their homes.
Instead, fighters recruited from inside Rwanda's army have joined General Laurent Nkunda's rebels in Congo.
Rwanda is one of Britain's closest African allies, receiving £46 million of aid last year. President Paul Kagame appears to be treading a thin line between officially helping the rebels and turning a blind eye to their use of Rwandan territory.
A 27-year-old fighter in Gen Nkunda's movement said that he served as a platoon commander in Rwanda's army until last month.
"There are many former Rwandan soldiers with the CNDP [Gen Nkunda's rebels]. When I was still in the Rwandan army, I was in touch with them. They wanted me to join the CNDP," he said. "I decided to join them because fighting for the CNDP is like fighting for Rwanda."
Gen Nkunda's stated goal is to eliminate the militias who murdered at least 800,000 people in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. These armed groups have found refuge in eastern Congo and Rwanda has a vital interest in neutralising them. Hence Rwanda and Gen Nkunda share common aims.
The rebel, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Gen Nkunda needed more fighters when he launched his offensive in August. Rwandan officers who were in touch with the rebels quietly conveyed the need for recruits.
Along with seven other Rwandan soldiers, the fighter crossed the Rwinyoni border post shortly before Gen Nkunda advanced towards Goma, eastern Congo's main city, last month.
"We met our friends from the CNDP on the Congo side. They gave us new uniforms," said the rebel.
The fighter described himself as a "deserter" from Rwanda's army and an "ex-Rwandan soldier", saying that he destroyed his military identity card. But he added that Rwandan officers are aware of the flow of former soldiers over the frontier.
Some are deserters, others have been officially demobilised. But Rwanda's highly centralised government has full control over its borders. The authorities could almost certainly stop this movement of recruits for Congo's rebels.
Instead, it has become a long-standing tradition. Another 28-year-old rebel said that he was demobilised from Rwanda's army in 2006. He crossed the border into Congo and joined Gen Nkunda six months later.
"I am a soldier, not a politician," he said. "I am fighting to protect our community here in Congo."
Gen Nkunda has proclaimed himself the protector of the Tutsis in eastern Congo. The presence of genocidal militias who tried to eradicate Rwanda's Tutsis 14 years ago amounts to a constant threat.
These gunmen, who once called themselves the Interahamwe, or "those who kill together", are the prime cause of eastern Congo's chaos. For as long as they remain at large, Gen Nkunda's rebellion will continue - with tacit Rwandan support.
But great wealth is also at stake. Wealthy Rwandans, including members of the government, have farming and mining interests in eastern Congo.
They need Gen Nkunda to protect these assets. Meanwhile, the rebels must finance their campaign. Gen Nkunda's movement is believed to hold bank accounts in Rwanda's capital, Kigali.
Despite this, Gen Nkunda is not a puppet of Rwanda's government. He possesses an independent agenda and copes with deep splits inside his movement. But the neighbouring country serves as a crucial recruiting and financial centre.
Surely, violent overthrow of government is unacceptable in this day and age. In Africa, I hope that SLA's Nur, JEM's brahim, LRA's Kony and CNDP's Nkunda and their followers and sponsors are put on trial for crimes against humanity and imprisoned for life for inciting anarchy and mass murder, not to mention the cost to ordinary hardworking taxpayers' around the world involved in having to send billions of dollars worth of aid.
We can't afford to prop up gun toting gangsters and give them the world's stage. I'm feeling angry after years of blogging about these so-called "rebels". For the locals things just get worse while power crazed opportunists just get more rich and deluded like dimwitted pop celebrities believing their own hype. Where is the outrage while UN peacekeepers are being slain all over Africa because of a handul of gun toting psychos? The world is sick. Puke.
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UN seeks $7 billion in humanitarian aid for 2009, by far its largest ever appeal - November 19, 2008 report from UN.org - excerpt:
The biggest requirement is for Sudan at just over $2 billion, with the appeal for the DRC up from $600 million last year to $830 million.
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), around 250,000 people are believed to have been displaced in the last two months and the situation is becoming increasingly desperate,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Executive Director Frafjord Johnson said, referring to the surge in fighting between Government and rebel forces in the east of the vast country.
She said more than 100,000 children were “on the run” in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, either with their families or separated from them. Some 3 million people in the east were affected in one way or another, either fleeing fighting or hosting the displaced. There was no doubt that there had been a spike in recruitment of children by armed groups and sexual violence had increased, with clear evidence of children and women being raped.