As I said in South Africa, the concept of the Great Lakes is not a new one but an ancient one in our area. Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, South Sudan have, since time immemorial, been linked to the East African Coast of Zanzibar through mainland Tanzania. We would get textiles (emyenda), glass beads (enkwaanzi) and guns from or through the Coast and we would send elephant tusks (emiino) to the Coast. We would also send them bark cloth (ebitooma-embugu) and iron-ore (obutare) products (hoes, pangas, spears, arrows, etc). Out of the Congo forest, we would get copper products (emiriinga), animal skin products (amooshe), timber products as well as ivory products (engoro). The word lake is translated as “Nyaanja” or “Nyaanza” in many of the Bantu dialects of the area.
That is why you hear of the Kinyaanja of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique and of Nyaanza province in Kenya. Actually, in my other role as a linguist of African dialects, I have proposed that the interlacustrine Bantu dialects of the Great Lakes found in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, North-Western and Western Tanzania, Western Kenya and even, Northern Zambia and possibly Northern Angola, should be given the collective name of Kinyaanja North to distinguish them from the Kinyaanja of Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
In that connection, I have not yet understood why Malawi and Mozambique are not part of the Great Lakes’ fraternity because, historically and culturally, they are very much part of this region. Therefore, the Cushitic, Nilotic, Bantu and Semitic peoples of this area are either similar or linked culturally. Besides, as mentioned above, they have been trading among themselves for millennia. It was colonialism that interfered, for some decades, with these linkages by establishing Belgian, British, French and Portuguese colonies in the different parts of this vast region.
It is good that we have re-assembled this region under the ICGLR, COMESA and EAC. The conflicts that have afflicted this area are actually linked. They, essentially, came from three sources as indicated below:
(i) the colonial manipulation of the indigenous castes (occupational specialisations) of Rwanda and Burundi in the colonial period, climaxing into the first genocide organised by the Belgians in Rwanda in 1959 and 1960;
(ii) the wrong foreign and domestic policies of Mobutu of, on the other hand, harbouring enemies of neighbours (Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Brazaville) and, on the other hand, denying the rights of some of their own people as not being Congolese; and
(iii) the failure by the people of Sudan (the former United Sudan) to resolve the issues of their diversity resulting in the prolonged civil war in that country, involving eventually, Uganda.
The Belgian sponsored genocide of 1959-60 in Rwanda created a Tutsi diaspora that dispersed in the region (Uganda, Congo, Burundi and Tanzania).
After being told by Kayibanda and Habyarimaana for 30 years that they can never go back to their country because the people who had remained in Rwanda and taken their property had multiplied and, therefore, there was no space for them in the country of their heritage, they organised (under the RPF) and launched the attack of 1990 on Rwanda.
The sectarian and bankrupt Hutu regime, spurred on by the greedy foreigners who are always hovering around with a lot of confusion and shallowness, thought that genocide was the solution to the “Tutsi” problem just like Hitler with the Jews of Europe. Hence, to the bankrupt Hutu regime of Rwanda, there was a “Tutsi” problem, just like to Hitler was a “Jewish” problem in Europe.
The second genocide of Rwanda of 1994 did not save the Hutu regime. The Hutu regime fled with a million people to Goma, Congo, with arms. With Mobutu’s support, they were threatening to re-invade Rwanda and finish their genocide programme. That is what started the first Congo war of 1996 that resulted in the down fall of Mobutu. Apart from Mobutu threatening to re-launch the Hutu reactionaries into Rwanda, he had also started a campaign against the Banyarwanda of Eastern Congo, especially the Tutsi targeting a group known as Banyamulenge.
Up to now the presence of the Rwanda genocidaires in Eastern Congo has not been solved, leading to endless problems such as the 2nd Congo war, the Nkunda uprising, the M-23, etc. All these have been linked to the original problem of the Rwandese genocidaires in Eastern Congo. Yet, this should never have been a problem if there was clarity.
In order to avoid the Hutu diaspora of 1994 substituting for the Tutsi diaspora of 1959, the solution should have involved the right of return by those new exiles but with accountability for the crimes they committed using a graduated scale of separating the misleaders from the misled and being harsh on the former and lenient on the latter. If there are those that did not want to go back to Rwanda, they should have been removed from the border to deep inside Congo and should have been disarmed. This has never been done conclusively. This must be done. All the other eruptions have been the consequences of this mistake and the one of denying the Banyarwanda of Eastern Congo, especially the Tutsi, either overtly or covertly, the inalienable right to the land of their ancestry. To deal with the consequences without dealing with the cause is not a durable solution.
Meanwhile, the failure to handle the issue of diversity in the Sudan had generated a Civil War right from 1956, at the dawn of Independence of that country. The Southern Sudanese who spearheaded the rebellion against the Arab Government of the whole of Sudan after independence were very closely linked to our own Nilotic and Bantu peoples of Uganda, Kenya, Congo, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Therefore, some of the elements in Khartoum were always very suspicious of the neighbours. When our Movement won the protracted civil war in Uganda in 1986, against the fascist dictators of Uganda (Idi Amin and groups), some elements in Khartoum declared it as un acceptable and resolved to remove us, by force of arms from Government.
Working with remnants of the old regimes (Obote, Amin, etc), they sponsored two groups: Kony’s so called LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) claiming to be Christians and ADF (Allied Democratic Front) claiming to establish Islamic fundamentalist rule in Uganda which is 86 per cent Christian and where the tribes mainly practiced symbiosis of barter trade even before colonialism, apart from some few inter-tribal wars that were being promoted by myopic chiefs. We defeated the two groups.
Where did they flee to? They fled to the poorly controlled areas of Eastern Congo and CAR. At one time, the Congo Government allowed us to flush Kony out of Garamba National Park. Otherwise, there has been the exercise of terrorism conservation in Eastern Congo supervised by the UN all these years since 2003 when our army withdrew from Congo under the Lusaka Agreement. Fortunately, we are working well with the Congo Government to end the presence of the ADF in Eastern Congo and also our problems with Khartoum have improved.
Last year, the democratically elected Government of CAR was removed by a bankrupt, reactionary group known as Seleka while regional forces looked on. This bankrupt group entered the heavily populated Bangui, murdered people, raped women and looted the meagre properties of those already impoverished people. This is a real betrayal of our people. Why should we allow or tolerate armed groups overthrowing elected Governments in Africa unless they show that they are fighting genocidaires? After all, we should not forget that Hitler was elected in 1933. Even elected Governments can lose legitimacy if they do not respect, especially, the right to life and property. You cannot say that an elected Government has a right to kill people extra-judicially or loot their property.
Now that that bankrupt regime has collapsed in Bangui, I hope new problems will not be created for the people of CAR by those who are wheeling and dealing, targeting the natural resources of CAR. Let the people elect their leaders freely, without interference or manipulation and let the elected leaders respect the legitimate interests of all the citizens of the country without discrimination.