The New Times (Kigali)

19 March 2013

Rwanda: Bosco Ntaganda - a Monkey Off Our Back

opinion

LET ME be as honest as I can possibly be. Monday's thunderbolt that the 'Terminator' himself, General Bosco Ntaganda, had handed himself over to the Americans means a whole lot of NOTHING. Why do I say this? Simply because taking him out of the DRC morass won't change an iota, where the systemic failures of the DRC state is concerned. But I am getting ahead of myself.

For too long it seems that every single tragedy occurring in the DRC was Rwanda's fault. Rapes? Rwanda. Civil war? Rwanda. Bad roads? Rwanda. Mobutu? King Leopold? The rubber trade? Slavery? Mosquitoes? Cholera? All Rwanda's fault. When some disgruntled Congolese soliders, who were ill treated and unpaid for months decided to take to the Masisi hills and challenge the Joseph Kabila government, Rwanda was the villain. This despite the fact, which was revealed later by Minister James Kabarebe, that Rwanda was playing the role of mediator.

As a result of this move by Congolese citizens (a fact that many, many people who should know better refused to acknowledge), Rwanda was vilified and aid was cut. Despite Rwanda's protestations, the truth was ignored as an alternative 'Gospel' was put forward by 'experts'.

In this Gospel there were certain 'concrete' facts. First of all, Rwanda was the hidden power behind the M23, the evil puppet masters. Secondly, the M23 was full of rapists, child soldiers and miners (instead of the FDLR). Thirdly, despite Col. Makenga's leadership role in the M23, the 'real' leader was Bosco Ntaganda. Fourthly, because Bosco Ntaganda fought in the RPA during Rwanda's Liberation War, he was Rwanda's lackey (and if one is to believe Max Fisher, a foreign affairs blogger at the Washington Post, a Rwandan citizen). Well, the General's actions preceding his visit to the US Embassy in Kigali put paid to many of these assumptions.

As the fighting last week has proved, Ntaganda and Makenga are not the best of friends, never mind M23 allies. In fact if Bosco had had his way, he'd have scuppered the Kampala talks and taken his chances in the field of battle against the Congolese army and whatever the international community threw at him. Alas, that would not be the case. Makenga gave him and his faction a hiding, leaving him no option but to flee.

If he was supported by Rwandan troops (as reports continued to insinuate during the battle against Makenga) would he have been defeated so thoroughly? The RDF is renown for punching a lot above its weight. In fact, it has gained quite a mystical aura in the minds of those who see the boogeyman in every dark corner. If the RDF is truly as good as they say it is, it goes without saying that Makenga would have been trounced by all the 'Rwandan' firepower. But that wasn't the case. So, either Rwanda, 'The All-Powerful', actually didn't support Ntaganda in the first place hence his defeat...or the RDF isn't as mystical as some want to believe (and that wouldn't fit into the popular narrative where instead of mutinous Congolese units beating the DRC troops, it was actually Rwandan troops doing the fighting).

So, after his defeat, does Ntaganda, a Rwandan 'lackey', seek safety in the arms of his 'godfathers'? No. He sneaks into the country. Drives past the Ministry of Defence, the President's Office and Intelligence Services building and hands himself over to the Americans.

Honestly, the only reason that I care that Ntaganda handed himself in is because it's left a lot of eggs on people's face. Those who have made it their career to link everything wrong with the Congo to Rwanda were, for a few moments, left speechless with confusion. Rwanda's reputation, which they had dragged through the mud, is being restored. No longer do we have to be lumped along an alleged war criminal. We have our own problems to solve.

But what about the poor Congolese? I cannot see how Ntaganda's departure will improve their lives. I hope events prove me wrong.

Twitter: @sannykigali

Blog: sunnyntayombya.wordpress.com

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