Civil society calls for end of conflict in DRC
Every day, Congolese children, women and men face killings, rape and displacements, as a result of the conflict in the Eastern DRC. This situation has had significant spillover effect to Rwanda and Uganda. Considering these gross human rights violations of Congolese citizens, and particularly the Kinyarwanda-speaking community and the Rwandan citizens residing or travelling to the DRC, the Rwandan civil society has called on all parties involved to do their utmost to stop the crisis.
The call follows a field visit on August 9 and 10 to the area bordering DRC and the Kigeme refugee camp, to get a sense of the situation on the ground. Edouard Munyamaliza, the chairman of Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP), also expressed the civil society’s increased anxiety about the role played by the Congolese civil society, media and government in fueling and enticing hatred, circulating propaganda against the Rwandan people living in DRC and Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese citizens. He pointed out that this bore an eerie resemblance to the “hate campaigns” in Rwanda prior to and during the Genocide against the Tutsis.
Munyamaliza targeted his arrows especially to the media. “We deplore the deep insensitiveness and lack of professionalism of the media, both Congolese and international, in reporting biased, disingenuous and extremist information on the crisis, and fueling hatred against Rwandan citizens and Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese,” stressed RSCP’s chairman, adding that DRC’s civil society had been invited by RSCP to jointly seek a solution to the matter but they rejected the invitation. “We wanted to be proactive as civil societies from neighbor countries, but they refused to cooperate.”
“We are not going political, but we know what hate media and a politically driven civil society can do due to what we have witnesses in 1994,” said Appolinarie Mupiganyi, the executive director of Transparency International Rwanda. “We don’t want it to happen anywhere else.”
The civil society was also highly critical of the UN Group of Experts (GoE), which wrote the interim report in which Rwanda is accused of supporting the M23 rebels. “We request the GoE to objectively prove their neutrality and professionalism in producing their report as expected in October, to avoid worsening the situation in the sub-region due to biased and unprofessional reports,” Munyamaliza said. “A UN GoE led by a known genocide denier (Steve Hege, who has written articles defending the FDLR, ed.), what else to expect if not a biased report?”
“We know what hate media and a politically driven civil society can do due to what we have witnesses in 1994.”
On the other hand, RCSP think that the Rwandan government should be part of the solution. “We urge the government of Rwanda to continue playing a constructive role in engaging with DRC to find a lasting solution for building peace and stability in the Eastern DRC conflicts, within the framework of the Great Lakes Region Institutions as has been the case in the past months,” Munyamaliza said, urging both governments to work towards strengthening diplomatic cooperation so that any security issues are resolved jointly and in a sustainable manner as they have been doing through Umoja Wetu.
In addition, RSCP urges the International Community to play a constructive role of protecting citizens’ rights and support regional domestic solutions instead of undermining them. “As human-rights-based organizations, we wish to point out that the reaction of donors following the GoE interim report is a counterproductive practice, putting into question the genuine agenda of development effectiveness and unfortunately more efficient in undermining ongoing development programs and increasing human suffering than enforcing political change,” observed Munyamaliza.
According to RSCP, the UN should seek to address the underlying sources of conflicts in the eastern DRC and protect all civilians from the threats posed by armed groups, including the M23, FDLR and others, as well as take appropriate measures to prevent the creation of similar groups in the future.
“MONUSCO should uphold principles of neutrality and integrity in carrying out its mission so that they do not contribute to the worsening of the situation in eastern DRC, and regain trust among regional actors. Otherwise, they are doing nothing,” said Emmanuel Safari, the executive secretary of CLADHO, an umbrella organization of human rights organizations in Rwanda.
RSCP however commended the great work done by the government of Rwanda, the UNHCR and the Civil Society in responding to the needs of Congolese refugees in the camps in Rwanda, and urged all development partners to come to their aid.
“Out of the 11,424 refugees in the Kigeme camp, 6,585 are women and 2573 children under 5 years old. Among the refugees below the age of 18, 88% are female. They need urgent humanitarian support,” Munyamaliza said.
The RSCP appeal will be sent as an open letter to the UN, specifically the Security Council.