Goodluck Musinguzi had a chat with M23 rebel leader Bertrand Bisiimwa about his vision for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
How did M23 start?
On March 23, 2009, different groups signed an agreement with the government of Kinshasa in Goma, but after three years, we asked the government to implement the agreement in January 2012. Instead of implementing it, they threatened to attack us. In February, they attacked. CNDP and other groups decided to form an alliance and defend themselves. This is how the M23 was born.
A recent UN report says M23 is supported by Rwanda and Uganda. Is this true?
The problems we have are not Rwandan or Ugandan, they are Congolese problems. In our claims, we do not have Rwanda or Uganda there.
How do you feel about the presence of foreigners in the name of peace keepers and the like?
Congolese want to be free, without war. The only thing we want is good governance and security. Eastern Congo harbours foreign militias that kill people. We ask government to protect us but they refuse. When we insist, they call us Rwandans. We have a right to live. The government must answer these fundamental problems.
Women and children are the most vulnerable during war. How are you protecting them?
Ladies are raped everyday by the government army and the marauding groups. The government has failed to sheild its people from these barbaric attacks. Women and children under our territory are secure from these attacks. You visited our area, ladies are working normally, girls going to school.
The Kinshasa propaganda machinery is trying to shift the blame, but the UN recently said it is fed up with some battalions which raped people. We call for the investigation to absolve us of these crimes, but we also hope those responsible be brought to justice.
But the continued fighting is creating IDPs and refugees:
We have many problems. Gen. Bosco Ntaganda tried to manipulate some of our soldiers and former president to influence decisions in the Kampala talks. It has brought insecurity, but we are managing it. Ntaganda is collaborating with negative forces, and he has started fighting us. We have to provide security for IDPs going from Kichanga to Rwanda. We want our people to go back home next month.
Will you arrest Ntaganda?
Arrest is not our priority but fighting indispline. We can arrest and try him in our courts, but it is not our mandate to arrest him. We do not have an agreement with the International Criminal Court. If they ask to arrest him, we shall look into the matter.
What do you think went wrong with the peace talks in Kampala?
If we do not have agreement from Kampala our people will not agree with us, they do not want war. We are still waiting for a word from the Kinshasa government. We hope they will accept to negotiate and reach an agreement.
What do you say about the use of drones in Congo?
They want to make another mistake in Congo. Our people do not want war. If the UN brings drones and soldiers to fight, we shall not accept. War is not a solution, but dialogue for peace. The UN should support the Kampala talks, so that we have a peace agreement soon.
My vision is not for myself, but to bring peace and good governance to the country. I will make sure the talks resume and we reach an agreement. I will tell the people why we are fighting so that we stop existing on paper only. My predecessor did not do much to build institutions but I have already started.