Honorable John Kerry,
At the eve of the trip to Africa by the US President Barack Obama, The NaJonal DemocraJc Congress (NDC), the coaliJon between Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD) and Rally for the Rwandan People (RPR), takes this opportunity to share its vision regarding peace in the Great Lakes Region. We appreciate the US Government renewed interest in Africa and especially in supporJng efforts and iniJaJves aimed at bringing peace, security, regional integraJon and de-? velopment in the Eastern DRC and Rwanda.
The NDC has many reasons to expect much from the trip by the US President. In fact, the trip happens at the criJcal moment in the region and during a period with unprecedented posiJve developments: The Peace, Security and CooperaJon (PSC) Framework for the DRC and the Re-? gion, the appointment by the UN Secretary General Special RepresentaJve, the deployment of UN IntervenJon Brigade, and the recent statements by the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete at the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the African Union in which he urged the Heads of State of Rwanda, Uganda and the DemocraJc Republic of the Congo (DRC) to open direct talks with their armed opposiJon as the best way to bring durable peace in the eastern DRC and Rwanda.
In fact, the need for direct talks between the governments of the regions and their respecJve armed opposiJon has been the tenet of the recommendaJon of the Rome Agreement of 27 January 2009 between the Government of the DRC and NDC, negoJated with the facilitaJon of Sant Egidio Community of Rome, SIK-?Norway and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC). Hence, the NDC hopes that President Barack Obama’s trip will revive the missed opportunity provided by the 2008-?2009 demobilizaJon and disarmament process of Kisangani and Kasiki, Lubero, in North-?Kivu province that led to the January 27, 2009 Rome Agreement.
?We take this opportunity to recall how the DRC Government and NDC leaders, when signing the Rome Agreement, envisioned the roadmap to peace in the Great Lakes Region:
- The DRC Government and NDC leaders had requested that a UN Special RepresentaJve for the Great Lakes Region be appointed.
- The role of the Special RepresentaJve for the Great Lakes Region, as provided in the Rome Agreement of 27 January 2009 between the Government of the DRC and NDC, was primarily to address the pervasive problem of Rwandan Refugees in the DRC and Congolese refugees in Rwanda and the grave human rights violaJons stemming from the humanitarian tragedy in the Great Lakes Region.
- From that perspecJve, the Special RepresentaJve would then:
- Facilitate contacts and mediate between the Rwandan Government and the leadership of NDC, so that they engage into genuine negoJaJons aimed at ex-? ploring the root causes of and acJonable soluJons to the crisis.
- Help the two interlocutors establishing and engaging on a roadmap for peace, security and development
- Oversee the implementaJon of any agreement between the Rwandan govern-? ment and the leadership of NDC.
- The NDC believes that the root cause of the problems in the region is the poliJcal situaJon in Rwanda, DemocraJc Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. That has also been and conJnues to be our posiJon. Hence we urge the United States Government leaders to conJnue exhorJng General Paul Kagame to take this posiJve path being offered by the Peace, Security and Coop-? eraJon Framework for the DRC and the Region, the recent appointment by the UN Secretary General of Special RepresentaJve, and President Jakaya Kikwete’s goodwill in order to solve, once for all, the problem of refugees and armed rebellions that has become a scourge on the Rwandan people and a heavy burden for Rwandan neighbors and the InternaJonal Community. As we noted in our statement of January 24, 2008 in Kinshasa and on July 31, 2008 in Kasiki, General Paul Kagame, as President of Rwanda, has the primary responsibility for the plight of the refugees and the human rights violaJons in the region.
Background on the missed opportuni3es
The NaJonal DemocraJc Congress (NDC) is the coaliJon of RUD and RPR. Some of the combat-? ants of the two organizaJons are based in Eastern DRC in order to protect Rwandan refugees against murderous abuses by the Rwandan army and its proxy miliJa and armed groups. We should emphasize that these abuses have been well documented in several reports by UN ex-? perts and by organizaJons for the defense of human rights, one of the thoroughly documented reports being the UN Mapping Report published in October 2011 and, most importantly in vari-? ous US State Department Annual Reports of Human Rights.
In a series of meeJngs with the UN Security Council and other insJtuJons the government of Rwanda has, of course, consistently evoked the virtual threat against Rwanda by Rwandan combatants based in eastern DRC, including those from
RUD and RPR, to jusJfy the ongoing devastaJng intervenJons by its army and the support of armed groups conveniently created by the Rwanda military to cause chaos and humanitarian tragedy in this part of the DRC. That hol-? low argument has also been put forward in the reacJon by Rwandan officials in reacJon to Tan-? zanian President Jakaya Kikwete’ statements, following the celebraJon of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU, urging direct talks with Rwandan armed opposiJon, We affirm that this excuse has no merit whatsoever.
Indeed, Mr. US Secretary of State, in 2008 in Rome, with the mediaJon of Sant Egidio Commu-? nity, SIK Norway, and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC), the DRC government and the NDC engaged in an iniJaJve aimed at bringing durable peace in the Great Lakes region. The process, known as the Rome-?Kisangani Process, led to the signature, in Kisangani on May 28, 2008, of a Roadmap for Peace by the DRC Government, the European Union, South African Republic, UNHCR, World Bank, MONUC, OCHA, and NDC.
Based on the Rome-?Kisangani Process Roadmap, on July 31, 2008 in Kasiki in Lubero territory, North Kivu province, the NDC leaders iniJated a process of voluntary disarmament and demobi-? lizaJon of combatants. The ceremony to launch the process was conducted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DRC in the presence of leaders of MONUSCO, the African Union, the Euro-? pean Union and the delegaJon of the Rwandan government led by the Head of external intelli-? gence. The weapons were handed to MONUSCO and disarmed combatants and their depend-? ents, 156 in total, were regrouped in the Kasiki camps, awaiJng organized repatriaJon to Rwanda or relocaJon on the Congolese territory for those who did not wish to return to Rwanda.
Tragically, it is when a delegaJon of the refugees had returned from an exploratory visit to Rwanda to get a feel of the condiJons awaiJng them home and when another group of 500 combatants was on their way to join the voluntary disarmament, that the government of Rwanda decided to launch military operaJons against disarmed refugees, including children, women, the elderly, regrouped in the Kasiki camps. These military operaJons did not aim the repatriaJon of these refugees with dignity. These operaJons had, as usual, the objecJve of mas-? sacring or dispersing disarmed combatants and their dependents to prevent organized repatria-? Jon.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete’s recent objec3ve assessment of the root cause of the problem and the proposed direct talks among the protagonists are a cri3cal step needed in the region are perhaps the first concrete step by an African regional leader to bring peace in Eastern DRC and Rwanda.
The PSC Framework for the DRC and the Region, the appointment by the UN Secretary General Special RepresentaJve, and the deployment of UN IntervenJon Brigade and the recent state-? ments by the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete at the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the African Union in which he urged the Heads of State of Rwanda, Uganda and the DemocraJc Re-? public of the Congo (DRC) to open direct talks with their armed opposiJon as the best way to bring durable peace in the eastern DRC and Rwanda are all the ingredients needed to support the peace building efforts in the region. The peoples in the region are Jred of decades of wars, bloodshed, and uprooJng, and the World has started to view the conflict as a tragedy that could no longer be ignored. Now, the hopes of so many innocent vicJms, children, women, elderly
are placed in the leadership and vision of the US Government and African regional leaders, es-? pecially those of the countries the US President Barack Obama will visit. These Africa regional leaders know well the problems and have shown the will and the capacity to implement the so-? luJons.
NDC remains convinced that the vision of direct talks between the Rwandan government and its armed opposiJon is the right one, because it is a poliJcal approach to the poliJcal problems at the root of the tragedy. However, the NDC leaders and members believe that in order to suc-? ceed, the approach will need the US Government’s conJnued leadership and support to see di-? rect talks among the protagonists and the peace process carried through.
NDC leaders are ready to explain to US Secretary of State or the staff the details of our ap-? proach to resolving the conflict. Meanwhile, we remain grateful to the US Government for the conJnued support for the people of the Great Lakes Region.
We look forward to hearing from you or your staff. Sincerely,
Felicien Kanyamibwa, PhD
President, NaJonal DemocraJc Congress (NDC) -? Congrès NaJonal pour la DémocraJe (CND) New Jersey, USA.