QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
QUESTION: Yeah, Steve Smith, consultant. My question is to the panel in general, and it regards power sharing, which still seems to not be resolved and seems to be the basis of continued blockage. I mean, it’s gotten down to the level of the army, but really in the eyes of the people who are negotiating, the army is everything.
So one could say that they really have never come to an agreement in their minds to share power. To me that’s linked directly to what’s going on on the ground in the East. If you look at what people are trying to negotiate for, what they view as power, and what we here would actually like them to be thinking about, which is what any government is supposed to do which is to take care of the people under its charge.
I’m wondering if a policy might be thought about where the legitimacy of any authority is measured by how they take care of the people under their charge as one of the first measures, regardless of whether they sit in Kinshasa or Goma.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: I’m going to ask that those who think they have the best answer to just stand up, emerge, take the microphone. Go ahead, whoever would like to respond to that, because any one of you can, quite frankly. I don’t want to play favorites and be the hated one at the end of this thing.
ALISON DES FORGES: I think clearly that would be a wonderful criterion, but I guess most of us have been around long enough to think it isn’t going to happen, right? There are too many deals cut for too many other reasons. But we can all of us encourage those who give aid to at least make it one of the criteria that would be used in assessing the seriousness of the various negotiating partners, along with the willingness to give mineral contracts and various other important issues.
QUESTION: I thank so much the panelists. You’ve actually given us a very good insight of the problems in the region. However --
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Can you identify yourself? Everybody who comes to the microphone just tell us who you are.
QUESTION: I’m Joseph Zoumude [phonetic]. I come from Rwanda. As I earlier said, I thank the panelists for a very good insight of what is taking place in the region. However, it’s also important to note that what is taking place in DRC right now, the humanitarian crisis, and what happened in Rwanda in 1994, is not a spontaneous act. It has historical reasons that have led to what is happening right now.
In order to address these problems, it requires both the region, our citizens back home, and the international community to address the historical reasons that causes all that have led to this crisis. When the genocide took place in Rwanda, people, especially the international community, were saying that no, you see, these are ethnic killings that have been taking place historically. No, this is not the case. Neither should we address the problem in Ituri as something that is historical between the killings, between the Hemas and Lendus.
No, these have historical problems that are as a result of colonization; as a result of the international involvement in the region, especially their interests, especially economic, and their spheres of influence.
Now it’s quite absurd when definitely you have the Rwandan genocide and we should say no to genocide whatever it should come from. When the Rwandan Patriotic Front was actually stopping the genocide at the silence of the international community, a few countries decided to give them shelter. They sheltered them. They had -- what, they assembled the DRC. They were armed and now have this consequence.
It’s quite unfortunate when we sit here and say that the Rwandan army right now is in bed with the killers, as alleged by Madame Alison des Forges. This is quite a misinterpretation. No, the Rwandan (inaudible) can never sit or be in bed with the genocidaires. Instead, they have actually neutralized these marauding forces that are not only responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, but are also responsible for the killings/genocide in DRC.
Look at the Tutsis in DRC. Look at the massacres of journalists in Wende. These are actually real threats. I think the international community should come up and neutralize these marauding forces.
As a consequence, I would suggest we implement some of these measures in order to come to a positive solution. Let us support the region initiatives that have been negotiated. There are accomplishments, the Pretoria agreements. With a very strong DRC government that is able to control its borders and whatever is taking place there, are we going to get peace in the region? Let us have the international community take its active role at least for once, because they have gained from the economic resources in the region. They should, in turn, actually use these resources to rebuild peace and stability in the region. Thank you so much.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thank you. I saw you writing something, Paul. Does that mean that you’re -- oh.
PAUL SIMO: I didn’t hear a question.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Does anyone want to --
QUESTION: It was a comment.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: It was more of a comment. Anyone want to respond directly to it?
ALISON DES FORGES: Yeah. I would like to just say one thing. It’s clear that there are many people in the Rwanda, in the government and in the army, who are serious about preventing a recurrence of genocide and assuring justice for genocide. But I would also suggest that there are others who are quite willing to compromise.
In that connection, I would mention the case of Colonel Habimana, who is on the Category 1 list. The Rwandan government has created a list of participants in the genocide, and Category 1 is the most serious, people accused of the most serious crimes. Colonel Habimana was captured in the summer of 2000, when he came across the border into Rwanda. So far as I know, he was of the Presidential Guard, which was the unit most responsible for killing.
As far as I know, he has never been brought to justice and he has been reintegrated into the Rwandan army. So there are some cases, certainly, where compromises are made.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: One second, Charlie.
HERB WEISS: Can I make a --
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Yeah, go ahead while we’re waiting, Ambassador.
HERB WEISS: I have a slight disagreement with Alison on the issue of the importance of the Rwandan Hutu insurgency militia present in the DRC. As we all know, they have changed their name from Interahamwe/ex-FAR to Alir I and Alir II and more recently to FDLR. To look at the issue in purely military terms, seems to me to be an oversimplification.
I agree that the Rwandan army, if it were attacked by these forces, would be able to defeat them with overwhelming power. But, they are precisely not being attacked. When the ex-FAR battalions integrated into Laurent Kabila’s army – after August 1998 - were moved to Eastern DRC in the spring of 2001, the thought was that they would then attack. As you know, there was an attack by Alir I –those that had never left the Kivus - later in the spring of 2001. It turned out to be a disaster for the attacking forces and over 2,000 of them were captured. So, that supports your view that the Rwandan government has military superiority when there is an engagement.
But given the choices made by the Rwandan leadership about the future of Rwanda, and I don not necessarily subscribe to them, the presence of the remnant of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe in the DRC, especially now that an alliance with other Rwandan exiled opposition groups is being formed, is a very serious threat. I believe this is their point of view and we must take that into account. The fact that they could beat the now named FDLR, especially if they attacked Rwanda, is not sufficient to understand the motivations of the Rwandan state under its present leadership.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thank you, Herb. Ambassador Mitifu, please.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My statement will be rather a thank you note to Refugee International for organizing this forum. I would like also to express my appreciation to the panelists. I think this meeting was about where do we go from now to make sure that the tragedy unfolding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo stops.
Just seeing the number of people who attended this forum, it shows rather the importance being put on this particular problem, because I believe in many ways that we are at a turning point in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and we cannot afford another setback.
I would like to appeal to everyone in this room, those who belong to one group or the other, especially humanitarian organizations, to lobby hard so that the current mandate being given to this multinational force does not suffer a setback. We know that the multinational force going into Bunia is supposed to leave by September 1st. They are there under Chapter 7.
So if within the next 3 months, than mandate is downgraded to Chapter 6, which has been a MONUC mandate so far, then we run the risk of falling deeper in even more violence in this part of the country.
So thank you again for bringing this up and thank you for everyone who attended this forum.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thank you very much, Ambassador. We appreciate that.
QUESTION: I’m Charlie Cobb [phonetic] with AllAfrica.com. I have a fairly specific question which may have some broader implications, assuming other areas, as several panelists have pointed out, are at least vulnerable to violence. My specific question is directed at the representatives of the United States Government and the government of France sitting at the panel, although any panelist is welcome to jump in.
I’m curious with regard to, most immediately, the French troops that are committed to going in, and presumably other armed forces that are not MONUC, who will pay for it? I’d like to know if, for instance, is France paying for the French troops? Has France asked the United States Government to pay, to put up money, for this?
I know the State Department is supportive of this effort by France. The Pentagon seems rather cool to any U.S. involvement in the Eastern Congo, whether it’s boots on the ground or checks. So I’d like both representatives to clear up this point of money. Has the French government asked the United States Government for money, for example?
ALAN EASTHAM: At the moment, we’re not paying for any part of it. That’s not to say that that wouldn’t happen in the future depending on who would participate, but there are no funds committed to the operation that was authorized on May 30th.
What was the interagency question? Am I supposed to identify who’s in favor of what? Ask it again?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: You’d make Charlie’s day if you did that.
QUESTION: It was really almost as an aside. There does seem to be some difference in attitude between the State Department and the Pentagon with regard to Eastern Congo.
ALAN EASTHAM: I haven’t seen it. I don’t share that perception. I mean, it depends on how far you want to go. If you were an advocate of a U.S. military presence in Eastern Congo, you would probably find a surprising degree of unanimity about that, you know. But that’s a question that hasn’t been posed. It’s not something that’s been given serious consideration.
The interagency process at the moment is going to be focused on what to do in response to the Secretary General’s latest report, and that’s going to be MONUC-centered. Last week’s question was the authority for the French mission. I can’t tell you what the week after next will bring.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: But just to talk about this next week, there are a couple of issues on the table. There’s the increase in force size and then looking at questions going forward, which the ambassador and others have raised, about the mandate for the follow-on mission. Now that’s not an immediate decision, but could you comment first on how is the composition of the force levels looking like, how they might come out over the next week? Then secondly, going forward, will there be any alteration of the mandate or is this an issue on the table for the follow-on mission in Ituri after the MNF leaves?
ALAN EASTHAM: The core question is going to be financial implications of -- well, sorry, let me do it in sequence. With respect to the troop increase request that is on the table now, there will be a question of whether it makes sense, whether that is an appropriate -- and whether we think in our analysis that that is an appropriate action for the U.N. to take.
The second question to that is, okay, if that’s the case, how would it be paid for and what are the budget implications for the assessed budget of the U.N., which is always controversial? It’s a particularly difficult question right now, given what the budget looks like. There’s going to be a serious discussion about that. It’s on the table right now.
The Secretary General does not propose a change in the Chapter 6 versus the Chapter 7 mandate. To my mind, that is less material than the tasks that MONUC is assigned to do. And the critical part of a Chapter 7 mandate is whether a country is prepared to contribute its forces to a Chapter 7 operation. There are a great many countries which will not do that. They will not put their troops in a position where they might fact an active combat situation. That, to my mind, is the larger constraint.
There are also several other possibilities. You could go Chapter 7 on Ituri and maintain the present mandate for the rest of the operation. I suspect it would be highly controversial if someone put a proposal on the table for Chapter 7 associated with the DDR operation in the Kivus. I suspect there would be a great debate if that was on the table. It’s not -- I’m raising a hypothetical here.
But to my mind, it’s less critical whether you call it Chapter 6 or Chapter 7. The more critical part is whether what MONUC is assigned to do by the Security Council makes sense.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: A lot to follow up on, but we’ve got a line here. Thanks, Al.
QUESTION: Bosco Monga [phonetic] is my name. I’m a private citizen, not representing anybody. I’d just like to speculate for a minute as to some of the motivations that you may speak of Rwandans as they look into this conflict. I really would like to begin this rather by trying to stick to a positive note as the ambassador really is asking us to do, is really what do we do from here? Where do we move this from?
And some of the statements that I hear I find that begin to take us in the opposite direction. There are many of us in this room who have worked hard to see that things move beyond where they’ve been. There’s a lot of people who can be respected in that, including Ms. des Forges here, who I have met in this kind of forums many, many times.
But sticking to the point here is, we have to begin with when you look at Africa, that part of Africa, for the 30 years or 40 years since its independence, and I’m not trying to give a history lesson here, we see that really these were failed states; that people in these particular areas, one particularly being protected by -- we’re not talking of suburbs of Washington that before had some kind of authority over them, we’re talking of generally people who are just exploited in every way. Now when we then look at that we come with the particular instances of what may have happened in Rwanda.
That had its way of flowing into the Congo. Now that created for the first time people looking at opportunities that, you know what, maybe with some force we could change things. Therefore, there was that became the norm in that part of the world. Those who were moving into the Congo out of Rwanda were armed and supported by other players. Now those players are also of an international context. Now they need to be taken into account.
Now when the people of the Congo began to see that it was possible to be able to have a voice by arming themselves, obviously they took that solution. Then we need to remember that to a large degree, Mr. Paul here, it may be humorous to a degree, every tribe puts RCD at the end of it and it becomes a political party. These are things that Africans have been taught that the way to become a player to the table is to form a political party. We had -- if I come as a member of my tribe, nobody will give me a seat at the table. But if I am able to begin to use my tribe as a basis for moving up, that may seem to be the only logical way that is available to me. Then at the end of it all, who will protect me?
We are very easy to call them belligerent groups, but at the same time, when it is my tribe being attacked, what do I do as an individual, the local level that you speak of? It is the local level that I begin to say maybe me and my brother against my cousin on the other side. So when there is a breakdown, the breakdown has to be looked in its context from the very top all the way to the very bottom.
Then we also go back to the silence. Alison des Forges, you were there. Many people in this town were very silent. The silence continues. The silence of what happened Rwanda was incredible. So that in itself created a situation where people may feel that there is some truth to that.
Which takes me to the other point started by the gentleman who was given a few minutes to address is here we have Rwanda that was beginning to be a failed nation, right, that picks itself up. Whatever you may think about it, it contains the country. It stops the genocide.
Here we are, we are talking of why don’t we link the development aid of one of the poorest countries and maybe in some ways that in itself will have a way of correcting their behavior. Let us make them a little bit more poorer and somehow they’ll have better. I think that is just incredible, you know. That is the first point that I find doesn’t work.
The next thing is we talk of these really key players that Mr. Hubbard [phonetic] was talking about where we have in the leadership of the RCD. Well, when Uganda was there, as much as Ugandans may have destabilized everything, they were being asked to move out. When you ask them to move out without a mechanism of what else you’re going to do it becomes worse. So you need to create a mechanism before it gets even worse.
If today Rwanda had not to some extent done what it has done with the RCD in Goma, at least there is a basis to begin. It may not be the best of solutions, but we have to look at it. Even in Iraq today, the first things that the Americans do is to look at segments that they can work with. If they decide that, okay, let’s leave it all and begin from nowhere, it’s just not possible.
Which brings me to the fact that --
JOHN PRENDERGAST: I’ve got to ask you, look behind you. I know when you start in on Iraq, I know you might be just getting warmed up. So let these guys go because you got other people. There’s a lot on the table you put there. Thank you very much.
Please, go ahead. We’re going to take all of you and then we’ll take each one of the panelists to have a final point. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name’s Cliff Bernath. I’m with Refugees International. First of all, for the audience, if you didn’t get a copy of this, go to our Web site and we’ll be happy to mail you a copy.
For the panel, and I think particularly for the two government members who are also part of the P5 structure of the United Nations, I agree with the panel’s discussion. Most of it is focused on long-term solutions to the problem: The transitional government, the national army, the negotiations with the belligerents, and everything like that.
But I think you also have to look at the short-term, and the short-term now has been going on for about 5 years. We’ve already talked about it, 3.3 million people dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, the types of things that Alison has talked about going on today and on a day-to-day basis.
When this conference was opened up, George Rupp and Jerry talked about the importance of an international response, almost like an international conscience to genocide. For better or for worse, our most visible sign of this response is MONUC.
First of all, I want to say we’re not MONUC bashers. If you read the report, you’ll see a lot of the good things that MONUC has done, a lot of the shortcomings of MONUC. But MONUC is 4,300 people, even though it had an authorization of 5,700. Those 4,300 people never had the mandate, never had the might to stop the killing.
My question is, as we sit here today in the Holocaust Museum, how long are we going to be willing to put forth this minimal effort into stopping the killing today while we focus on these longer-term solutions? Although I agree with Herb’s comments on what has to be done to stop the killing eventually, isn’t a credible military force at least an important factor in driving these belligerent forces to the peace table? Thank you.
QUESTION: Doug Brookswith [phonetic] IPOA, International Peace Operations Association. Cliff basically touched on some of my key points here. It’s a shame there’s not a MONUC representative here today. I don’t know if one could have been obtained to actually talk about this because I think a lot of questions revolve around the capability of the peacekeepers.
No matter what kind of agreement you have, effective peacekeeping can actually help make it work, but we don’t have effective peacekeeping right now. So you wonder, you know, how many agreements have to fail before we finally figure out a way of coming up with effective peacekeeping?
The mandate’s important, but the will and capability to use a mandate, and I think Mr. Eastham touched on this, the will and capability to use a mandate is critical to effective peacekeeping. I think what we’re about to see is, you know, we have a great Chapter 7 force going in there, to Bunia at least, what happens September 1st when we’re back to Chapter 6 and we have some Bangladeshis in there that, you know, with all good intentions, I really wonder if they’re as capable as the French and the multinational EU force; or what should we expect when September 1st comes around?
QUESTION: My name is Intal Adamassi [phonetic] and I’m from the University of Pittsburgh. I represent a group called Friends of the Congo. Among our goals, one of them is to make sure that our fellow American citizens know exactly what is going on in the Congo, but also we want that the U.S. Government invest some of our tax monies in resolving the Congolese problems. We can’t care less about the Philippines, Iraq. As American citizens coming from Africa, Africa is at the heart of our concerns. So that’s part of our mission as Friends of the Congo.
Now it’s amazing that every time we come to these forums about the Congo, it always returns to Rwanda and Uganda. They talk about Rwanda and Uganda. To some extent it’s a good thing because that’s the key of the problem.
I just came back from Bukavu, and I went through and I spent weeks in Bukavu and Kigali. When I got there, there was killings that were taking care in Walungu that, all of a sudden, two groups that were allies to Rwanda, and I’m talking about RCD that used their form of government against the other one, they were killing each other. They brought in Rwandese soldiers.
As we’re talking about Ituri, let’s remember that before the killings came to its, I guess, its height, people at the grass-root level were saying what was going to happen if Uganda soldiers left. But all of a sudden now, how do I call it, we’re trying to patch up, you know, whatever has been done when we didn’t want to listen first.
What I’m trying to say here is -- I mean, representatives of the U.S. and France here, why don’t you enforce resolutions of the U.N. Let’s not even buy into the propaganda. Come on, guys. Kagame did not save from the genocide. He created the genocide. It’s there. I mean, let’s stick to the facts here.
The point here is that I want us from once to look at solutions that are going to be for the benefit of the Congolese people, not that they’re going to make us feel I guess a little bit exonerated for not intervening in Rwanda. Since when has Rwanda fought, I mean, the Interahamwe or the ex-FARs in the Congo? So I mean, let’s be clear about what is happening.
I mean, I didn’t want to ask a question. I just wanted to call on each person here to make sure that let’s not feed those who never went into the field with false information. That’s it.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thank you very much. Now we got 10 minutes left and 5 panelists. You guys do the math. If you can be interesting and succinct that would be fantastic. Alison, you first. We’ll come from left to right and just close it down. Thanks.
ALISON DES FORGES: I’d like to say one quick word about the use of aid to try to bring about change in governments. The question that Bosco raised, which is a very important one. There are, of course, different points of view on this and I suggest that people who want to think about it further take a look at the little book by Peter Uvin called “Aiding Violence.” It’s not a book that I agree with in most of its thesis about the Rwandan genocide. I think he’s got it wrong when he talks about a monocausal explanation.
But the first part of it, which is an examination of how external aid contributed to the development of this powerful group that in the end carried out a genocide, is an important thing to look at and to think about, you know, what is the responsibility both of aid workers on the ground and of governments that give aid in those situations.
HERB WEISS: There have been a lot of appeals for greater force, for a beefed up international force. I am entirely in favor of it. In 1960, there was a force of between 30 to 40,000 international troops in the Congo. They were not very successful, but anyway, it would be wonderful if one could put that kind of a force into Eastern DRC. There are two good reasons for this, first, because I do not think they would have to fight a lot if they came in force. Second, I think that the forces present in Eastern DRC would collapse very, very quickly faced with real soldiers. Of course, we could accomplish an enormous amount if there were an alliance of the willing ready to do that. But, there is no alliance of the willing and I am convinced that there will not be one in the future. So therefore, having given up on that preferred solution or scenario, I ask myself what can be done?
Well, if you cannot enforce a solution, then the best that you can do is act as a good mediator between the forces which are killing each other. That is why I come down on this notion of focusing, first and foremost, on dealing with the violence there where it is taking place. Whereas what is being done, specifically by our government and the U.N, is focusing on the division of ministries and power in Kinshasa. The people in Kinshasa are not killing each other.
One of the great fortunate things about the Congo is that at least three-quarters if not 80 percent of the country is perfectly at peace. Miserably at peace! Yes, but there is no violence. Considering the history of the countries around the Congo, that is half a miracle. Think of all the past and current violence in Congo/Brazzaville, in Angola, in Cabinda, in the Sudan, in Uganda, in Rwanda, in Burundi; compared to those countries, for reasons that there is no time to explain here and now, there is very little violence in the DRC with the exception of the East. This is most fortunate. So, focus on the region that has collapsed, where violence has become endemic and is growing.
The gentleman who said that the Congolese have learned that if you arm yourself you can get all kinds of goodies has a point, but fortunately that is a lesson which only the people in the East seem to have learned and adopted. This must be dealt with and must be our first focus. The way to focus on that, since you are not going to force it to stop, is to bring in our ability to act as a good mediator between those who are killing each other and to discipline those who are pouring oil on the fire.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thanks, Herb. You obviously weren’t a professor of math. Paul, please, help us. Take us home.
PAUL SIMO: I’ll just wrap up with a comment on the issue of MONUC’s immediate ability to respond in the area of civilian protection. Between the two options presented: on the one hand, a full-blown Chapter 7 force with combat troop, which some argue is a quagmire scenario. And, based on what everybody is saying, this is not a scenario that those who are working on this issue will countenance.
On the other hand, one could envisage a continuation of the Multi-National Force’s model – a laudable but very narrow focus on one city, on one location, for a specified period of time. Its rationale would be to empower MONUC to respond to a specific threat, at the risk of being overtaken by events elsewhere. So, between these two approaches, is there a middle ground? Is there a way to more systematically look -- as Alison was saying earlier on – outside of Bunia as the MNF has done? To extend such a robust mandate into North Kivu? To use such strength and presence to check the next round of threats? To question what’s going on with the Serufuli militia in North Kivu? Why do you have 20,000 people being recruited and armed there on the eve of a transition government involving the RCD? Is there a more strategic way to think about progressively reinforcing MONUC presence, its resources, its deployment capacity with very strategic choices about where that deployment is taking place?
I’m convinced that there is something in between the two options above, that is the overbroad Chapter 7, combat approach across the entire country, and the very limited mandate approach taken by the MNF.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thanks.
ALAN EASTHAM: I started off with my first principle of dealing with the Congo is that you should reach agreements and insist those agreements be enforced. I think my second guiding principle and maybe it is the first, this is my personal default setting in terms of thinking about the Congo, is that in every instance possible, it should be Congolese who take responsibility and make decisions.
Therefore, I tend to resist the idea that it is the role of the international community to mediate every conflict or to send armed forces to meet every violent situation. I have to differ with Professor Weiss about the relative importance of the transition government in Kinshasa. This is a debate that’s been going on for some months and I suspect it will continue for some time.
HERB WEISS: So the government won’t be able to do what you predict in some time.
ALAN EASTHAM: But we’ve had this discussion several times. It seems to me that 43 years after independence, it’s about time for Congo to cut loose from the colonial exploitation that it has enjoyed ever since the Conference of Berlin in the century before last. It’s high time for the Congolese to be empowered to take charge of their country. If our default setting is we have to get in there and do it for them, it’ll never happen.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Well, you are the truly committed here. Thank you for staying. Read everything you can, read the stuff from Human Rights Watch and Refugees International and ICG. The answers are all there. We really need to continue to build the political world to get there. So in the name of the Holocaust Museum, consider yourselves deputized to do so. Thank you very much.
JERRY FOWLER: Let me just say very briefly, for what we’re doing, you can keep up with it. We have a Web site, committeeonconscience.org, all one word. There’s a newsletter that you can sign up for so that you’ll get notices of the events that we do on Congo and other things.
Join me in thanking the panel and thank all of you.