In its neighbour the DRC, tiny Rwanda faces war with a battle-hardened leviathan 90 times its size, yet the Home Secretary and Parliament think we should send asylum seekers there
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Rwanda may be plunged into war with its much larger and more powerful neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where President Felix Tshisekedi is losing patience with his eastern neighbours – and singling out Rwanda’s Paul Kagame with particular bitterness. He has every reason to be angry. With over two decades of war and over 3 million dead, Kagame continues to meddle in the Congo’s blood-soaked eastern provinces.
Since October last year, Tshisekedi has warned that he’ll take his embattled country to war over Rwanda’s support for M23 rebels who’re killing and raping their way up and down the Congo’s border with Rwanda. M23 aren’t like most of the DRC’s armed groups. They’re well-armed, use military tactics, and have a recognisable command structure. Kagame denies supporting them but has admitted he has influence over them. Most Western and African intelligence agencies say Kagame’s support for M23 is irrefutable. So does the United Nations.
Intelligence agencies and private sector analysts have discussed that the two countries might go to war for over a year. And in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, it’s an unrelenting dread. Only Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman – and a majority of the lawmakers – seem oblivious to the danger, disregarding warnings from people who certainly know better. Neither General Richard Dannatt nor Archbishop Justin Welby were deemed worthy of listening to when they condemned the plan to send vulnerable migrants to Kigali.
Far more credible forecasters than the British government have warned of a potential Congo-Rwanda war. GIS, ReliefWeb, Crisis, and even the US government have warned of the threat. Analysts within Africa and the West warn the two countries are sliding towards war at escalating speed. There aren’t any dissenting voices among Africa watchers: this is a war that’s more likely to happen than not and no one can prevent it.
Africa’s Great Lakes Region is a cauldron of war without rules, unrest, political uncertainty, and economic misery – and millions of the world’s most desperate people blame Paul Kagame for their hellish existence. War with Rwanda would, ironically perhaps, be popular with Congo’s voters, which is why the vast nation’s usually argumentative opposition is also calling for war.
Just last week, Tshisekedi travelled to Gaborone, Botswana, to ask the Southern African Development Community’s leaders to send troops to his country. He also hinted that he’d kick East African forces out by the end of next month, saying some were ‘’cohabiting’’ with M23 rebels. There are no Rwandan troops officially in the country, so he can only have been referring to Uganda, which previously gave the rebel group sanctuary. Tshisekedi went on to slam the East African coalition as a whole for making unilateral decisions without consulting the government in Kinshasa.
However one looks at the Congo War, it could spread into Rwandan territory, and Rwanda is a small country, its capital Kigali less than 100 miles from the Congo border. That’s where Suella Braverman wants to house traumatised migrants from countries as diverse as Albania and Eritrea. It’s also a country with a shocking human rights history.
The DRC’s eastern provinces, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda have all experienced, or are still enduring terrible wars. None have even a semblance of democratic credentials, which always makes war more likely. Rwanda is the most likely to be drawn in of the three neighbouring states, followed by Uganda. Burundi, one of the world’s poorest and most oppressive states, lacks the capacity to govern, let alone wage effective war.
It’s not clear how much faith Tshisekedi places on SADC troops. Angola and Zimbabwe fought there in the 90s, ousting Mobutu Sese Seko, but that war cost Zimbabwe an estimated $9 billion and sparked an economic crisis that still cripples the southern African nation. They may be reluctant to go back.
Also operating in the DRC is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a mainly Hutu group opposed to Kagame’s predominantly Tutsi government. Known by their French acronym, the FDLR give Kagame an excuse to pursue war, and that’s because rebel groups in the Congo aren’t just fighting against government forces, they fight each other, too.
It’s into this perplexing mess of horror and heartbreak that Britain wants to send migrants who’ve probably escaped their own grim wars. Oh, they may well point out that Rwanda isn’t the Congo, and that’d be true, but it is right next door, it’s already involved and, ironically, it’s less democratic. Rwanda cannot prevent war from spilling across a leaky border. Its military is inept, despite the propaganda. Within weeks of sending soldiers to help Mozambique counter self-styled Islamist terrorists, Mozambicans started complaining about Rwandan cowardice and lethargy.
Indeed, there was a terror attack in Rwanda in June 2022. Neither Rishi Sunak nor Suella Braverman has mentioned that in reference to their eccentric plans for migrants. In fact, the state of permanent horror just a few miles from Kigali, where scores of armed groups, few with any real goal in mind, spread unspeakable terror is a non-topic. Congo’s east is Dystopia Now, armed village against armed village, tribe against tribe. In the last two weeks alone, 0ver 670 women and children have been sexually assaulted, according to the UN. The real figure is certainly far higher. Most won’t have the means or the courage to report rape.
Within Rwanda, there’s simmering opposition to Kagame’s autocratic rule. It’s unlikely Braverman and company consider the effects of anger among the traumatised populations around Africa’s Great Lakes. When the anger boils over, it won’t manifest itself in polite discourse. There’ll be violence, whether from within Rwanda’s borders or from Congo’s spillage, and bigger and better people have been driven to torment and madness by violence in the Great Lakes. Just ask General Romeo Dallaire.
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