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'Oh, Kagame is such a sweetie': after much cajoling, Rwanda has signed a peace agreement with Congo. But will it withdraw its troops as promised? Only the godfathers know. (Congo/Rwanda).

Six years after his first troops landed in Congo to "help" chase out Mobutu, the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, finally came round to sign a peace deal with his Congolese counterpart, Joseph Kabila, on 30 July.

Signed in Pretoria, South Africa, the deal provides for the withdrawal in "90 days" of Rwanda's Tusti-led army from Congo in exchange for Kinshasa's demobilisation, disarmament and repatriation of thousands of Hutus and former Rwandan soldiers--the Interahamwe militia particularly--accused of Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

The agreement has been widely welcomed across the world, including by the UN Security Council, AU, EU, and America. The wide acceptance has come despite the fact that the deal does nor address Rwanda's role in the Congo war and the more than 3.5 million Congolese since dead from the war.

In mid August, UN observers found 110 hacked-up bodies in Bunia in northeastern Congo where Ugandan troops have been fighting on the side of the Hema militia against the Lendu over control of territory. At the time of going to press, the Ugandans, who are the godfathers of both the Hema and Lendu militias, were in full control of Bunia. Another mass grave containing dozens of bodies was discovered on 12 August in Kisangani, controlled by Rwanda.

The agreement signed in Pretoria does not address the role of the foreign aggressors in the looting of Congo's natural resources, with the complicity of the rebels and the backing of Britain, America and Western multinationals.

The deal does not also address the Congolese concerns about the blatant Rwandan attempt to annex the eastern part of Congo where Rwanda has recently started circulating its currency, and has also extended its national telephone code.

Paul Kagame has been compared to a "tree that hides the forest" because he enjoys the backing of Britain and America to have a free rein in Congo. As such, Rwanda, the tiniest country in Central Africa, has become the most influential in the region.

The British daily, The Daily Telegraph, reported on 8 August that critics of Rwandan expansionism have accused Clare Short, the British international development minister, of providing major funding for Kagame's government while turning a blind eye to Rwandan atrocities in Congo.

The Financial Times, another British daily, has also revealed that the British government now gives Rwanda $36m a year just "to cover its budget deficit". And this is a nation that has been fighting a destructive war in a neighbouring country since 1998!

According to The Daily Telegraph, when senior UN officials challenged Clare Short about the liberal British policy towards Kagame, the free-talking minister replied: "Oh, but he is such a sweetie!".

In a White House press briefing following the peace deal in Pretoria, Pierre Prosper, the State Department ambassador-at-large for War Crimes, said: "We want to see Rwanda withdraw from the Congo. But we also want to see Congo take steps to address Rwanda's security concerns."

Yet Prosper did not utter one word about the Rwandan atrocities in Congo and the 3.5 million Congolese who have been massacred or died from the war. They don't matter--only the one million Rwandan genocide victims matter to the State Department, apparently!

Little surprise, therefore, that when Prosper was asked whether the US would impose sanctions in case Rwanda failed to withdraw its troops from Congo, he suddenly lost his powers of clarity:

"What you can see and expect from the US," he fumbled, "is a country that will be engaged with the parties in the region, will work with South Africa as the broker of the peace agreement to find a way to move this process forward by way of a 'monitoring mechanism'."

In plain English, Prosper meant, in effect, that the US will impose no sanctions. So much for acting as an impartial policeman of the world!

This was in sharp contrast to remarks made by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to the Security Council meeting on Congo on 8 August. He called the peace deal "an ambitious agenda whose objectives could only be met if the international community invested all its energy and resources".

A diplomatic source told New African that "Kagame will definitely have the last word on the agreement. He will be able to dispute the number of the Interahamwe living in Congo. So 'a new war of numbers' will emerge.

"The Congolese government says there are no Hutu militia in the territories under its control after it rounded up 2,000 of them at Kamina. But Kagame disputes it. He estimates that there are more than 50,000."

The source added: "Kagame is also afraid of withdrawing his 35,000 troops from Congo, most of whom have nor been paid since the invasion of 1998, while his top generals have amassed wealth looted in Congo and have built beautiful villas throughout Rwanda. Many Rwandan soldiers have died in Congo and their families are claiming the bodies back. Kagame has no answer for them. He is, therefore, nor in a hurry to withdraw his troops from Congo."

Whatever happens, "Sweetie Kagame" will always find more pretexts to brandish in order to cling to the "land of milk and honey" that his troops have found in Congo.
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Article Details
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Author:Bafalikike, Lokongo
Publication:New African
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6ZAIR
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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