Wednesday, June 23, 2004

DRC: Q&A with President Joseph Kabila on possibility of war w/ Rwanda

Here is a really interesting interview with President Joseph Kabila ... conducted today by William Wallis of the Financial Times and David Lewis of Reuters.

I had trouble choosing what to excerpt because the whole thing is really interesting ... but finally decided on the questions addressing the possibility of war with Rwanda ...
Do you believe that the current crisis (sparked when renegade ethnic Tutsi commander Gen Nkunda occupied the eastern town of Bukavu) has been partly orchestrated by Rwanda, across the border?

JK: The government has clearly stated from day one that the attacks on Bukavu were not only an orchestration from Rwanda but those attacks were assisted militarily by Rwanda. These are hard facts and these are reports that not only come from the population. They also come from the UN.

Do you think at this stage that a war with Gen Nkunda and possibly with Rwanda, is avoidable?

JK: We have never wanted to fight a war with Rwanda. It's not in our interests. It's not in the interests of our people. It's not in the interests of the region. With Nkunda, the government has stated clearly that either he surrenders his arms and himself so that he goes to a military tribunal, or we will deal with him militarily. If dealing with Nkunda militarily means dealing militarily with Rwanda, that's something else.

Why has it been so difficult for Congo to deal with the Rwandan Hutu militia threat in the east of the country? (The Hutu and " interahamwe" militia based in eastern Congo, some of whom participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and that have served as Rwanda's principle justification for the invasion of Congo in 1998 )

JK: Well, lets go back to the signing of the agreement in Pretoria. Since then, and these are figures from the UN, I believe that over 15,000 of these ex FAR have been repatriated to Rwanda. Those efforts were ongoing until Mutebusi (another insurgent) started his adventures and until Nkunda started his adventures. Our commitment to disarming these people and their eventual repatriation under UN auspices is still the principle that we intend to respect. But let's look at the reality. How do you go after the Interahamwe when you have Nkunda and Mutebusi making trouble? One of the conditions for us to take care of the ex FAR or any of these threats is that the situation in Bukavu, or South Kivu must be calm.

I have heard reports of the Congo sending 10,000 men to the east to fight Rwanda. No, we are sending 10,000 men to the east to retake control of areas like Kamanyola (scene of fighting) yesterday and eventually resolve the situation with Nkunda. Later these troops will stay in the area to deal with the threat of ex FAR (Forces Armees Rwandaises) and any other armed groups in the area.

There are reports that pro government forces are now mobilising these Rwandan Hutu militia (as allies)?

JK: It's not in our interests to deal with ex FAR or any other groups. The Congo has 60m inhabitants. Nobody is going to tell me that the Congolese people cannot organise themselves, and put in place an army to deal with a situation and that we have to go around looking for 1,000, or 3,000 ex FAR. That's truly an insult We want to get our hands on them to send them back to their country of origin. So, if there have been any contact, it could have been in that sense. Of course now the situation is very clear. Now that we have UN observers on the ground, its now not only going to be our word against that of Rwanda, we've got a neutral partner in MONUC (the UN mission to Congo).