Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

10 December 2012

Rwanda: Gen Kabarebe Speaks Out On the Eastern DRC Crisis

Defense Minister James Kabarebe has reiterated that the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) has never had any role in the establishment of M23, the rebel outfit fighting the government of Joseph Kabila.

Gen. Kabarebe, who was appearing before parliament last week, repeated the statement twice for emphasis and stressed that Democratic Republic of Congo's problems are for Congolese and not Rwandans.

"When we were part of the peace process in 2009, no one appreciated us," Min Kabarebe said. "The world has ignored the real issues that led to the 2009 peace agreement falling part, leading to the birth of M23." he said while responding to allegations of Rwanda's involvement in the current crisis facing the Eastern part of DRC. Gen. Kabarebe also stressed that Rwanda and DRC have had more than 12 joint meetings working towards strengthening military cooperation.

He questioned the fact that when Rwanda and DRC carried out a joint operation under 'Umoja wetu,' no western country commended it. "How can we be accused of supporting M23 while we were operating with FARDC to fight FDLR on the Congolese soil?" Gen Kabarebe questioned.

According to the minister, FARDC and the RDF created a Joint Intelligence Team in 2009. Later on, the team was expanded into Intelligence Fusion Cell which included 11 countries of the ICGLR.

"This team has never accused Rwanda and I am sure it has all the information concerning that Eastern DRC mess. Do you think we can work together as that and go behind their back to support M23?" Kabarebe asked.

Kabarebe said RDF, together with the DRC, agreed to provide 250 soldiers each in order to fight a common enemy together.

"We were all dressed in FARDC uniforms but our soldiers returned recently after the now discredited report by the United nations Group of Experts was released. We decided that it had no sense to keep fighting alongside them while their country was accusing us of supporting a mutiny in the same region that we were protecting." He said UN GoE was spreading mere fabrications and nothing factual.

"We asked UN GoE to provide phone records of RDF officers linking with M23 but they had nothing."

Gen Kabarebe gave precise dates of when DRC sent envoys to Rwanda asking for help amid international pressure on National Congress for Defense of the People (CNDP). He said that on February 2, 2012, DRC sent envoys to Kigali to seek Rwanda's help in the peace process.

"At that time, they wanted us to help them solve two issues: ICC wanted to arrest Gen Bosco Ntaganda, and the DRC's military command wanted to take Kinyarwanda-speaking soldiers far from Kivu (East)," he said and stressed that Rwanda provided President Kabila's government with the right advice on how to contain the situation. For him, Kinshasa had everything in its power to stop the current situation from becoming what it is today but failed.

Numerous meetings

During the meeting, Gen. Kabarebe talked about the numerous meetings held in order to reestablish peace in the Eastern DRC. The include Army chiefs of staff of FARDC and RDF on May 2, May 3 (Ministers of defense), and May 12 when DRC's military heads asked RDF to go fight M23 alongside them.

He did not deny having spoken to M23 but said that he did so at the time when DRC was asking for Rwanda's intervention. Gen Kabarebe expressed his frustration that no one wants to listen to Rwanda's side of the story, or even attempt to examine GoE's evidence.

"The fabrication of data by 'Group of experts' was done so poorly that we already knew what they were planning the next day," he said. "We asked UN GoE to provide phone records of RDF officers linking with M23 but they had nothing."

Concerning the accusations related to uniforms, Gen. Kabarebe reiterated that during joint RDF-FARDC (Special Forces) operations in Rutchuru against FDLR, each side wore the other's uniforms. "Apart from that, be it RDF, FARD or M23, we all buy our uniforms in China! This makes it possible for any of us, to get easily others' uniform."

The parliamentarians received his explanations and commended the government's efforts to solving the issue.

"We are going to do our own analysis of the facts, but we commend our government's activities towards solving this issue," said the Senate President Dr Jean-Damascene Ntawukuliryayo who told the media to have personally talked on phone with the head of DRC's parliament.

"What we have not done, is meeting them (DRC parliamentarians) physically. But we'll do it in January 2013, when we'll meet in Kinshasa," Ntawukuliryayo said.

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