By Spy Uganda
Analysts say President Felix Tshisekedi’s recent speech, in which he warned “traitors and bad apples” and encouraged the Congolese youth to form “vigilante groups,” could amount to incitement to mass violence.
In a national address on Thursday, Tshisekedi reiterated his government’s position alleging that Rwanda supports the M23 rebel group in its war with Congolese army (FARDC),– allegations Kigali dismisses, calling the conflict an intra-Congolese issue.
Rwanda has instead denounced the collaboration between the FARDC and the FDLR, a militia whose members are accused of perpetrating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Congolese government also expelled Vincent Karega, Rwanda’s ambassador, further escalating the two countries’ cold relations.
“Owing to corruption and un-seriousness, the government now finds the FDLR criminals as a fertile recruitment and deployment ground for establishing a protective wall around itself,” says Mukasa Mbidde, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
In his speech, Tshisekedi called upon the Congolese to defend their country against the “war imposed on us by our neighbours” – which some analysts said was a declaration of war. He also encouraged young people to “enlist massively” into the army, and instructed the FARDC leadership to establish recruitment centres throughout the country.
President Tshisekedi rallied young people “to organize themselves into a vigilante group, in order to accompany and to support our defence and security forces in the accomplishment of their noble mission,” adding that it was “the opportunity to warn all traitors and other bad apples who serve the interests of the enemy”.
Analysts say, however, that the president’s remarks could add fuel to violence and hate speech against Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese, who have for years been the target of assaults, acts of murder and, most recently, acts of cannibalism.
“The president has outright flagged off a genocide against his own people and this requires urgent attention,” MP Mbidde said.
According to Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a researcher and political scientist, President Tshisekedi “could easily be accused of incitement to murder and mass violence against the people who are considered not to be Congolese but who are actually Congolese.”
“To encourage young people to become vigilantes is almost to encourage them to go around looking for people who look like Rwandans and, therefore, treat them as traitors, as infiltrators. And that can only lead to intra-communal violence,” says Golooba-Mutebi.
For Betty Mutesi, the Rwanda and Burundi country director of International Alert, a non-government organization, President Tshisekedi should have been careful with his statements.
“I am hopeful that the president’s speech doesn’t cause communal violence,” Mutesi said. “We have seen atrocities and genocide happen in societies where leaders are so careless about what they tell the citizens. We have seen it in the Genocide against the Tutsi, when the young interahamwe committed atrocities in a very short period of time.”
DRC’s Internal Issues
Analysts say that DR Congo’s accusation that Rwanda supports the M23 rebels, is a distraction from the real problems.
“The issue, as we all know, is FDLR. FDLR is the root of all problems related to security in eastern part of Congo. What does Rwanda benefit from destablising Congo as opposed to what it would benefit from cooperating with Congo?,” asks Golooba-Mutebi. “The “Tshisekedi is deflecting from his own responsibility as president of the DRC. M23 has its grievances.”
The DRC government has failed to implement a 2013 agreement it signed with the M23, which would ensure disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of the rebels. The failure, the M23 says, has led them to resume its war with FARDC in 2022.
Peaceful Talks Is The Solution
Mutesi, Golooba-Mutebi and Mbidde agree that military means will neither solve current diplomatic tensions between Rwanda and DRC nor the security crisis in the latter’s eastern region.
“The lasting solution is to sit down and discuss the root causes of the conflict in eastern DRC, and citizenship for Kinyarwanda speaking communities is at the bottom of these issues.”
Regional mechanisms, such as the Nairobi process and the Luanda roadmap, have been established to end the DRC conflict peacefully.
Mbidde says: “The East African Community needs to go robust however under the auspices of joint peace and security to enforce talks calculated to result into lasting peace.”
For Golooba-Mutebi, the long-term solution lies in engaging its neighbours, who have insurgent groups like the FDLR operating in eastern DRC.
“There’s only one way out of the current crisis and that consists of DRC recognising what the problem is and sitting down with countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, and then coming up with a strategy among the four countries for tackling this problem.
“As long as the FDLR, ADF and RED Tabara are in Congo, there is going to be no peace or stability.”