Recent remarks President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that Rwanda should negotiate with the genocide-linked rebels FDLR, who are also listed by the US as a terrorist group, was shocking.
FDLR comprises of Interahamwe militias and remnants of former government forces, ex-FAR, who committed the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and moderate Hutus. The group, now based in eastern DR Congo, has over the years organised attacks on Rwandan territory killing innocent civilians.
In 2012, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for FDLR top commander Sylvestre Mudacumura on five counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and mutilation, plus nine more charges of war crimes.
In 2005, while serving as Tanzania’s Foreign Minister, on February 17 of the same year, Kikwete visited Rwanda and went to Gisozi Genocide Memorial Centre, where over 250,000 remains of genocide victims have been laid to rest.
In his own handwriting, Kikwete, wrote in the memorial book the following words, “It is horrifying, saddening and pitiful too. Let this be a reminder once again for such abominable things not to happen again. Let us say never again, and make sure it really doesn’t happen again.”
After eight years, has President Kikwete forgotten that FDLR has only one agenda, that is to carry on with the genocide against the Tutsi?
As defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, the act of genocide is not an ordinary crime and therefore, perpetrators like FDLR, should not be dealt with in any ordinary form, manner or circumstance.
Raphael Lemkin, in his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe-1944, came up with the word “genocide” to explain the unimaginable extent and motive behind the killings that happened in Nazi-occupied territories.
FDLR committed similar crimes in Rwanda and therefore, negotiating with such people as suggested by President Kikwete is a mockery to the genocide victims and survivors.
Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Bernard Membe made matters worse by equating FDLR to the independence and ruling party African National Congress of South Africa and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation which is fighting for an independent state of Palestine.
FDLR is nothing more than a genocidal militia seeking power to sanitise itself and re-establish a Hutu supremacist system in Rwanda. Its comparison to the ANC is poor analytical thinking or a deliberate political agenda.
It is difficult to believe that the newly created intervention Brigade in eastern DR Congo meant to deal with armed groups including FDLR and being commanded by a Tanzanian Brig Gen James Mwakibolwa will not be influenced in its operation by President Kikwete’s position as an advocate of genocide perpetrators who killed over a million Rwandans.
President Kikwete is approaching retirement and will leave the presidency, but Rwanda and Tanzania will forever share boundaries and the two countries should continue to enjoy cordial relations with mutual respect for all its citizens for the prosperity of the Great Lakes Region.
Published by The EasternAfrica on 7 June 2013.