The New Times (Kigali)

11 December 2012

Rwanda: Steve Hege and His Lies Will Be Thrown Into the Dustbin of History

opinion

Jesus of Nazareth is known for a few things. I mean, he was a man who defied gravity, the Machiavellian attempts to murder him by King Herod as an infant and fed thousands with a few fishes and loaves of bread.

But in this instance, I'm not going to discuss any of these miracles. What I will talk about is his 'house built on sand' parable. According to him, and I paraphrase, 'if one builds a house on sand, it will crumble at the first hint of bad weather.'

Well, when I look across the border to our unstable neighbour, and reflect on the various actors, I cannot resist the temptation to say, "what goes up, must come down".

Remember Steve Hege? The head of the utterly dismal DRC Group of Experts (GoE)? Well, as of the present moment, he's a layman like the rest of us, pushed off his soapbox, kicking and screaming. We in Rwanda knew what he stood for. We knew that he had revisionist tendencies and was biased against the present Rwandan government.

However, this did not stop him from getting the delicate job and it didn't stop him publishing nonsense; convincing the international community that General Jack Nziza was commanding the day to day operations of the M23 in Rubavu District (despite the fact that he was in his Kimihurura office the entire time, and has evidence to prove it), that there were sightings of Rwandan troops crossing the border speaking English (come on now, when did they start speaking the Queen's tongue?) and that the M23 had arms that weren't in the inventory of the DRC army, therefore proving that they were receiving external backing (despite the fact that there was an earlier UN report stating the EXACT opposite!).

The lies worked. The leaked GoE document, published in tandem with a Human Rights Watch pile of rubbish, gave ammunition to those who either had a bone to pick with their own governments (such as the British press against the former International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell) or with the Rwandan one. The 'errant' politicians got kicked to the curb, and Rwanda's good name got smeared, important aid got withheld and Rwanda's nomination to the Security Council was jeopardised.

Of course, Rwanda pushed back, winning a seat on the UN Security Council and unleashing a barrage of withering critiques to the GoE report. And while it seemed to me that our voices weren't being heard, I can see that slowly by slowly, the lies are starting to unravel.

I felt the tide turn when, to my surprise, and despite pressure from its own Security Council partners (especially the French, quelle surprise) the US REFUSED to name Rwanda as the alleged backer of the M23. In the fevered environment, I expected Susan Rice to get swayed, but the fact that she stood firm gave the truth a chance to be heard. And it has begun to.

The first victim of the truth is Mr. Hege himself. He quietly left the GoE (or was pushed, as I believe he was) late last month. In my opinion, the unbearable pressure emanating from Rwanda, friends of Rwanda, made his position untenable and so he has fallen on his sword. His pro-FDLR writings and his inaccurate reports are all chickens that have finally come home to roost. So, good riddance Mr. Hege, the people of the Great Lakes Region will not miss you. May you and your dastardly report become a mere smidgen in the minds of future generations.

On another note, I find it extremely hilarious that the head of the DRC delegation in the ongoing Kampala peace talks is the Foreign Minister, Raymond Tshibanda. I mean, doesn't it make more sense to send perhaps the Interior Minister, or barring that, the Defence Minister, to negotiate with the M23? Why send a foreign minister to negotiate with domestic opponents? Is the Congolese government trying to portray the mutineers as foreigners?

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