Thursday, May 23, 2013
Jean Baptiste Kayigamba
- Rwanda has denied a claim by a senior Zimbabwean official that Rwanda and Uganda are seeking to create a empire led by the Hima-Tutsi ethnic group and which would include Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The claim was made this week by Zimbabwe’s foreign minister, Stan Mudenge when briefing foreign envoys in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, on his country’s decision to send troops to the DRC to prop up the beleaguered regime of President Laurent Desire Kabila.
Mudenge alleged that he had evidence President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and his Rwandan counterpart, Pasteur Bizimungu, were bent on toppling Kabila and installing a “puppet” leader in Kinshasa. He claimed Uganda and Rwanda were seeking to create a Hima-Tutsi empire in the region.
His allegation has not gone down well here. “He (Mudenge) does not understand what a Hima is, what a Tutsi is, what an empire is,” Minister in the Rwandan President’s Office, Patrick Mazimhaka, said last week.
“If a cabinet Minister still thinks that the creation of Hima- Tutsi empire is possible, then there is a serious problem with him, because he is ignorant,” he said, referring to Mudenge.
Both Museveni and Rwanda’s Vice President Paul Kagame are descendants of the Hima-Tutsi Kingdom which encompassed Rwanda, Burundi and part of Uganda and the DRC and existed until the area was colonised in the late 19th century.
Mudenge said the role of the 3,000 Zimbabwean troops deployed in the DRC was to check the “expansionism ambitions” of Rwanda and Uganda and to halt the advance of rebel forces on the capital, Kinshasa.
Zimbabwe said on Friday that over 4,000 Rwandan and Ugandan troops had been killed by allied forces grouping Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Congo since the conflict erupted in the D.R. Congo on Aug. 2.
In Kigali, state-run ‘Radio Rwanda’ charged, also on Friday, that “the war in Congo has turned into genocide”.
“The genocide that is going on in the DRC should be condemned in the strongest terms possible,” it said, accusing Kabila of plotting with the notorious Rwandan Hutu ‘Interahamwe’ militias and former Rwandan armed forces (FAR) to exterminate Tutsis and their distant relations, the Banyamulenge of the DRC.
The Radio claimed that “hundreds of bodies of innocent people are floating down the Congo River”, and that other Tutsis had been tortured to death.
Kabila had denounced a “wide Tutsi conspiracy” aimed at removing him from power, and expanding the “Hima-Tutsi” empire. He ordered a witch-hunt of Tutsi, Banyamulenge, and other Congolese with similar (non-Bantu) physical features, in a bid to rally the population behind him.
“The (foreign) governments supporting Kabila should clearly understand that they are accomplices in committing genocide, a crime against humanity,” ‘Radio Rwanda’ warned.
Up to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in Rwanda by the Interahamwe (‘Those who fight together’ in the Kinyarwanda language) in 1994, three months before the Tutsi- dominated Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) overthrew an extremist interim government, prompting the militias and FAR to cross into the DRC.
Unconfirmed reports here said that “thousands” of Interahamwe had been trained by Kabila, and that they were now fighting alongside forces loyal to the DRC leader.
Mazimhaka warned that if witchhunts against Tutsis continued, Rwanda would have no choice but to send troops into the Congo to stop the ‘genocide’.
Rwanda has denied any involvement in the Congo crisis, saying Rwandan troops who helped bring Kabila to power in May 1997 had pulled out of Congo in July, and were transported to Kigali, accompanied by senior Congolese army officers.