Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Understanding President Kikwete’s ‘sympathy’ for FDLR rebels

His critics in Tanzania allege President Kikwete used “udini” (religious fundamentalism) to win power, a seat he has maintained for 8years now. Could it be President Kikwete’s wish that Rwanda goes the same route of divisionist politics?
Back in Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete is under immense pressure for ‘fanning religious insecurity’, a policy he used to bring him to power, and keep him there. It indeed worked; as President Kikwete is currently serving out a second term. It is this diversionist and divisionist agenda that Mr Kikwete wants to export to Rwanda.
This past weekend ended on high as Africans celebrated the 50th anniversary of African unity.  The event almost went without any incident except for a display of misjudged assertions marked by display of political immaturity from the most an unexpected corner.
Talking about regional politics is never complete without mentioning the DRC crisis. No doubt, this crisis has taken its toll on the region in terms of the suffering to the people. For this, the understanding of the crisis has become a benchmark for anyone pausing as regional political player. But to the astonishment of many, President Jakaya Kikwete seems to be in his own class, or that’s what it is to many. But this is turning into a political game only visible to a keen eye. No wonder he is ready to shove hundreds of Tanzanian troops into a war they know nothing about. For now though, this talk is for another day.
Flashback to May 26, AU Assembly: President Kikwete happened to one of the participants in a sideline meeting for the parties concerned by the Addis Ababa Peace Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo signed in February of this year. It is during his submission at this meeting that Kikwete brought out the unthinkable. In his usual soft mask of innocence, President Kikwete suggested that Presidents Kagame and Museveni initiate direct talks with rebels of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda and the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda [ADF-NALU].
Who is Kikwete speaking for?
Listening to Kikwete speak brought a few questions to the fore, but most importantly, whose interest was Kikwete representing at the meeting? Has Kikwete turned into a spokesperson for rebels that are on the International list of wanted terrorist groups? And why would Kikwete expect elected governments to talk peace with rebels who have rampaged on thousands of women and children, in addition to a long list of inhumane conditions that have been unleashed on Congolese poor. And the million dollar question: why would Kikwete expect the any same being to talk peace with militias who executed the 1994 Genocide – leaving more than a million for dead!
Whatever the explanation, many people may draw only one answer to this puzzle – mediocrity. But there seems to be more to this: President Kikwete’s political profile and the number of years spent on the scene is an indicator that the DRC crisis should not be new phenomena to him. So, what game is President Kikwete playing even as people continue to suffer in the DRC?
Behind the scene, the DRC crisis has turned into a political game for many people who are masquerading as sympathisers to the Congolese. But all this is now staged on the regional scene where greed for recognition has led some leaders to undermine other regional players. President Kikwete has his own ambitions of creating a name in his last term as the first Tanzanian president who is ready to ‘fight’ for the Congolese. But President Kikwete has another agenda – he knows that suggesting Rwanda government-FDLR negotiations floats another dice for negative criticism, directed at undermining President Kagame’s international profile. As the DRC turns into a football pitch for whoever nurses a political ambition, President Kikwete wants his to appear as a master game played under the shadow of caring for the suffering Congolese.
But there is still more to President Kikwete’s utterance, this time taking African dimension – other political and business interests from the south are at play as players try to stamp their foot on the Great Lakes region where companies they represent have invested heavily. Making the perceived enemy look the aggressor brings Rwanda into the picture as they hope to draw attention away from their misdeeds in the Congo. What appears safe for them is to exploit Kikwete, who is known to have his own political ambitions, to undermine regional leaders, even if it means spreading a falsehood that makes the FDLR rebels look the aggrieved.
Tanzania’s “monster” unleashed by Kikwete et al
The facts behind President Kikwete’s comments can be traced back to period before he became leader of Tanzania. Local media have reported extensively how Kikwete and his network set up a campaign platform which ‘facilitated and precipitated religious frictions never experienced before’.
Part of Kikwete’s strategy was to remind his fellow Muslims that it was their turn to “eat” as Christians had eaten through Mkapa’s presidency, according to jamiiforums.com, an investigative agency based in Dar es Salaam. That was in 2005.
“In 2010, faced with a mammoth challenge from Dr. Slaa, a Christian, Kikwete exploited “udini” to evade confronting gargantuan policy implementation failures on his part,” writes jamiiforums.com. The list of what President has done to favour the Muslims and isolate the Christians, is endless.
Here is what is so amazing with Kikwete’s comments on Rwanda. The FDLR rebels have been operating the DRC for more than 19 years. How come that it is only now that Kikwete, who has been in power for the last eight years, is gaining interest!! Where was he when FDLR rebels started raping, maiming Congolese, and targeting Congolese of Rwandan origin?!
All these only indicate Kikwete’s underlying motive as he starts speaking for terrorist groups like FDLR, whose leaders have millions of dollars as bounty on their heads on the US wanted list. Kikwete has positioned himself as a public sanitizer of genociders-in-chief Sylvestre Mudacumura, Ignace Murwanashyaka, Straton Musoni, Calixte Mbarushimana – and the list goes on, and on.
Rwanda needs no ideas from Kikwete
Many would expect President Kikwete to know that the Rwandan government initiated an all-inclusive process at Mutobo, Musanze District of integrating former FDLR rebels into society. So far ex-rebels numbering over ten thousands and their families have benefited from this process that goes beyond political talk to include fund support and vocational skills packages to enable the returnees start a new life. The evidence of well-integrated ex-rebels is there for all to see. Indeed these spokespersons of FDLR, whether self-appointed or acting on instructions from above, are a bunch of ill-informed mediocres. What direct talks would compare to such a process! Wamugane, “baravuga ibyo batazi,” to quote Minister Mushikiwabo comment on people who talk about things that they do not understand about Rwanda.
Whatever the political game President Kikwete has taken to, it does not help the region to be stable, and it risks isolating Tanzania in a region that is becoming more inter-dependent economically. President Kikwete needs to rise above suspicion or ridicule, and take the people’s suffering into account. No politics should be allowed to bring disgrace to the region on account of writing his political obituary.
Now that Kikwete wants terrorists on the negotiating table, do we also hope to hear him call on the US to initiate direct talks with Al Qaeda terrorists! Over to you…