7 January 2013

Rwanda: Behind the Headlines Lies a Conspiracy


Over the last few months, media across the globe, diplomatic circles, blogs, reports, social media, name it, has been awash with the on-going conflict on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

By closely analysing how the conflict has been discussed or covered, it is fair comment to conclude that there is a well coordinated PR campaign against Rwanda.

The way numerous controversial reports putting the blame of the conflict on Rwanda have been leaked to the media was one of the red flags that demonstrated a deliberate effort to have someone take responsibility irrespective of the truth.

Obviously, journalists, editors or even governments don't care about the DRC or its people who have to endure endless suffering as a result of the conflict..

Some may feel some pity or even short lived concern until the next hot news item comes up. NGO's and Human Rights groups are not much different either. They see the plight of the Congolese, they see the pain of war, and they report.

Of course reporting is good but only when impartial and in context - This has not been the case with the DRC conflict.

The so called UN group of experts reports on the DRC contained inconsistencies and obvious traces of bias. Despite unprofessional research methods used, the reports go on to be used as credible sources of information. And, without looking at them in detail, those with their own agenda's fish out the 'juicy' content and splash it on the front pages as investigative pieces of journalism.

Let's be honest, war is good for business. Imagine a conflict-free DRC. Gosh, no more original news pieces, no more expensive yet useless UN missions, no more smear campaigns that boost ratings like you wouldn't believe... what would these activists do for a living? I know, I know, move on to the next messed up place but nonetheless, my point is, these groups are not Mother Theresa. They too have rose- colored glasses and they derive relevance from giving their "unbiased" opinions.

Then we have the newspapers such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, The LA Times that "break" special news pieces and we buy their newspapers, and subscribe only to find five paragraphs of pure propaganda. No facts, no deep analysis, just repetition of the party line that was decided in western capitals. Any response from wounded parties is called a defense of the guilty because of course papers have no political or ideological bias!

In case readers missed the current narrative in the DRC conflict, let me make it easier for you. Here is it goes:

1. The DRC is a mess but it hasn't always been so. The international community has been taking care of the situation. If only the Tutsi elite in Rwanda (honestly, I think they throw that in there to provoke ) and their Rwandophone buddies would get out of the DRC and listen to our prescriptions, everything would just work out. [Forget 60 years of modern history]

2. President Kagame is a tyrant. What else can you call a guy who won't do what he's told! We've given him orders, threatened to take away aid that actually goes where it's supposed to go unless he admits guilt. So now we have woken up, cut aid and let's see what he will do now! Everything we let him build will crumble!

3. All those Rwandans and foreigners who speak against the above narrative are hired goons. And a regional solution...nah that can't work. If we ain't running it, it ain't credible!

Read any article, Op-Ed or report on the DRC conflict and tell me all the above elements aren't there. And wait---breaking news here---there's even eye-witness proof from nameless people who were recruited by nameless senior military officials in Rwanda, trained in a military hospital and given guns Rwanda no longer has and uniforms Rwanda doesn't possess. There's even proof from disgruntled employees who should really be sued for defamation. Blah blah blah...in the DRC, you can pay for pretty much anything, even genuine eye-witness accounts. Ask Human Rights Watch...they'll tell you all about it since they're experts on the topic.

And the result? The DRC governments can sit comfortably in Kinshasa and use waterworks to incite sympathy as if it is not the main problem and Rwandans are left scrambling to defend what really should have been thrown out by the United Nations itself without necessitating a rebuttal.

My personal favorite is "M23, the Rwandan-backed rebels..." I wonder who first wrote that because that is the most successful tactic ever. Repeat a thing long enough until it becomes fact...and now, M23 always comes with Rwandan-backed...genius from a PR perspective I tell you. No more need for facts to explain that association...it's set in stone. I shouldn't over generalise (although in this case, I'm bloody tempted) some journalists are scratching the surface and exposing the hypocrisy and sheer ignorance of some of the reporting. To them I say you honor your field.

I don't claim to know all the truth, but I know PR and what's happening is PR---good PR. The DRC has been a mess since well --- even before it became a Republic. It was openly raped by the Belgians (whose Monarch had the audacity to add his blood soaked voice to the clanging cymbals and to my shock, Congolese activists happily tweeted about this then a minute later tweeted about Lumumba!). Then the Belgians had to share to survive so the other western powers came in and gorged themselves and gave a few crumbs to its corrupt leaders. These are the same western powers putting all the blame on Rwanda. They have been creating havoc even before the 1960's in order to profit best. War is good for business (think MONUSCO and multinationals). Lawlessness, a remedy to laws that require equitable payment for the very stuff that goes into our cell phones and on our engagement rings.

Congo's problems are more complicated than Rwanda. The West's response is the equivalent of the slave master trying to convince the field slave that the freed slave is the real problem.

Last thought, Rwandans have worked very hard to get where they are and unlike the very loud bandwagon saying otherwise, Rwandans actually love President Kagame - They happen to be the ones who elected him. So please stop speaking for us!

I heard someone say that Rwanda is where it is because of aid. Yes, aid has helped, a lot, but aid is given to many countries. They are not as safe, not as clean, not as organised, not as economically vibrant, and not as corruption free. That happens because of good leadership and because a whole nation rallies behind the vision provided. Aid can be cut but we have tasted independence, and we have tasted success and we will not turn back. Like H.E. President Kagame likes to say, "this car has no reverse gear".

The author is a Rwandan-Canadian communications consultant.

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