The continued presence of the Hutu militias provided Nkunda with a cause.
In 2005, the general refused an order by the Congolese army
to deploy to another area of the country and officially became a renegade.
His argument: The Tutsis of eastern Congo needed his protection.
LUMUMBA-LIKE LAURENT NKUNDA
For a while, Nkunda had the support of Rwanda,
which considered his forces a necessary bulwark against Hutu militiamen.
Though Rwanda says it no longer supports him,
its sympathy for Nkunda's activities borders on justification.
"Rwanda cannot establish a relationship with such a person,
but we can understand why Nkunda is Nkunda.
We can understand his argument."
To Orwell Today,
re: GOMA'S LUMUMBA VOLCANO and CONGO IS LUMUMBA LAND
I followed your trips very closely to Rwanda. During your first tour I read that you had visited the North Kivu. I was very pleased about it. LUMUMBA LAND is a beautiful country indeed. Patrice LUMUMBA was one of the greatest sons AFRICA has ever had.
This time I would like to introduce to your readers one of his messengers. This is LAURENT NKUNDA MIHIGO.
LAURENT was born in the most beautiful place in this world, the North Kivu. So beautiful that the first European missionaries who came to Africa in the beginning of the last century thought that they had reached PARADISE on this EARTH.
Laurent Nkunda was born in Rutshuru in 1967 near the Park of Virunga which is to be called Park Albert in colonial days. A very nice place. That is where I first saw LIONS, ELEPHANTS, LEOPARDS in there natural habitat when I was younger. It was during MOBUTU's time.
Laurent attended primary school in his birthplace and among his peoples, the BANYABWISHA, as the Banyarwanda are called in that area.
After his primary school he moved to Goma for his high school studies* and went further to register after graduating to the University of Kisangani in 1987. In the then Zaire the academic teaching was extremely poor so he left and registered to study psychology at the University of MUDENDE in Rwanda. This happened during the HABYARIMANA regime.
While in Rwanda Laurent saw the suffering of the Tutsis peoples over there. When the RPF started the war of liberation Nkunda was in Rwanda. He saw the repercussions on the little peoples in the country especially on the Tutsis of Rwanda and at the same time he learned that his own folks were being hunted back home in Zaire because of being Tutsis and that the Habyarimana regime was the one orcherestating it.
In 1993 Laurent Nkunda and many other Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese decided to join the RPF in its struggle for justice, liberation and dignity for all humankind.
Given his political maturity, Nkunda became right away a POLITICAL cadre in the RPF from the start. He lived and fought the entire time of the struggle up to the fight which ended the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.
After the genocide in Rwanda the killers moved to Nkunda's homeland and proceeded on doing the same thing they had done in Rwanda. They spread the venom of ethnic hatred in North Kivu and killings against the Tutsis of Congo got under way.
When the AFDL of Kabila Sr started the war against the Mobutu Regime, Laurent was there. He fought all the way to Kisangani. When the city fell he was the man who was in charge of security for Joseph KABILA, the now President of Congo.
Nkunda did not go all the way to Kinshasa. He returned to North Kivu to insure the security in the region.
When the second war started he was based in Walikale. In 1998 he learned that KABILA had called for the killings of all Tutsis in the Congo. He got the news that the Banyarwanda peoples were being slaughtered all over the country. Nkunda took his men and they marched all the way to the Oriental Province capital, taking over the city on August 29th, 1998, before even the Rwandans and Ugandans had arrived.
During the entire military campaign in the Congo he played a major role in all the victories made by the RCD and RPA. Altough he was more of a military person, he was definitely the most Revolutionary person in the entire RCD - a man with Conviction and Ideals.
There is a lot to be said about this great person of our times.
All the best,
*PS - Ruzima Nsengimana sends correction that General Nkunda did his high school in Bwito not in Goma
Thank you very much for explaining how Laurent Nkunda came to be the protector of Tutsis in the Congo. I have heard a little bit about him over the past few years as I follow news about the Congo and Rwanda.
When I first started studying the history of the Congo and Rwanda I learned that in the very old days - before the Germans or the Belgians were there - that the Mwami of Rwanda had advanced his kingdom into the west beyond Lake Kivu - in what later became Eastern Congo when the powers-that-be drew their arbitrary lines dividing Africa amongst the colonizers. That is why that Kivu area is full of Tutsis - which go by the name of Banyarwanda - but which some people in the Congo accuse of having come from Rwanda. Yes, it is true that they DID at one time come from what is NOW known as Rwanda, but that was as part of winning and expanding their kingdom into what is NOW designated as belonging to the Congo but before circa 1848 did not.
When I look at a map of Rwanda and the Congo and see where the arbitrary line was drawn it doesn't make sense that so little was left for Rwanda and so much was given to the Congo - even though Rwandan people lived there. I'm not saying that the Congo and Rwanda borders should be redrawn (although deep down I think they should be) but I'm saying that it isn't fair to treat the present-day Tutsis there as though they are trespassers in what was once their land. As far as I can see, they have as much right to be there as any of the other tribes of the Congo - of which there are hundreds (compared to Rwanda where there are only three).
With that basic background I understand what some of the fighting is about in that Eastern part of the Congo and why the Tutsis who are living there (the Banyarwanda) need some protection from the forces which are trying to empty them from the Congo - either by forcing them to leave and, if they don't, by killing them.
Therefore, I have great sympathy for their plight, and am glad that they have someone - like Laurent Nkunda - sticking around to protect them from the Hutu genocidaires who - after killing Tutsis in Rwanda - are now in the Congo killing Tutsis there.
I have a love for the Congo - just as I have a love for Rwanda - and I appreciate their heroes - ie Lumumba in the Congo and Kagame in Rwanda. And it may be, as you say, that Nkunda can be added to the list of heroes of "the people" - the ones who, as George Orwell said, "are passed continually from conqueror to conqueror, and are expended like so much coal or oil in the race to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory... to control more labour power... to turn out more armaments... to capture more territory... and so on indefinitely".
It's hard to imagine that a place so like "paradise on earth" - as your pictures show (and as I saw for myself when I was on the Rwandan side of Lake Kivu in the south AND north) is suffering the pangs of hell with this never-ending war waged by the Hutus and their accomplices against the Tutsis in the Eastern Congo. Thank heaven for Laurent Nkunda because from what I've read so far, he has solutions for living side-by-side peacefully - but will fight - if must be - to get that peace.
Below are articles about Laurent Nkunda that I read recently in the Washington Post and Uganda's New Vision. The map shows the areas of Nkunda's "domain" - with the locations of some of the places you mentioned.
All the best,
Vincent says that for many Congolese "banyarwanda", Nkunda is their Hope
Congo struggling to stay in one piece
New Vision, Aug 20, 2007
".....Hutu rebels from Rwanda, many of whom took part in the genocide of 1994, once gave the Rwandan government a reason for invading eastern Congo. They no longer threaten Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. But their presence in Congo enrages their Tutsi enemies in Congo’s east, especially their self-proclaimed protector, Gen. Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi who refused to join the army after the war and has led a rebellion in the east instead.
Kabila’s government says it wants Nkunda arrested for war crimes, but Kabila has also sent an envoy to negotiate. Turning down an offer of $2.5m and a life of exile in South Africa, Nkunda accepted a deal in January to integrate some of his men into the national army. Kabila hoped this would weaken Nkunda. Instead, it let him recruit more Tutsis and others from Rwanda. He claims still to want to join the national army, but his influence has spread across North Kivu. By taking over the police, tax collection and the intelligence services, he runs a parallel administration.
Kabila is now sending soldiers, tanks and helicopter gunships to the east, threatening to squash Nkunda for good...“There is an international plot against the Tutsis and we won’t accept it,” says Nkunda in his headquarters.....
For Tutsis of Eastern Congo, Protector, Exploiter or Both?
by Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post, Aug 6, 2007
KICHANGA, Congo -- On the way to the mountain headquarters of renegade Congolese Gen. Laurent Nkunda, there are villages patrolled by Laurent Nkunda's police and checkpoints where Nkunda's soldiers demand that truck drivers pay a tax to support their leader's cause. Local residents can settle disputes these days in Nkunda's courts or attend church with a priest appointed by Nkunda, who is wanted on war crimes charges but lately has been wearing a button that reads "Rebels for Christ." What amounts to Radio Free Nkunda broadcasts from a mountaintop around here. And though the general denies it, villagers said that earlier this year Nkunda hoisted a flag and declared his mountain fiefdom a new country: Land of the Volcanoes.
"Is it really Nkunda who is the problem?" asked Nkunda, who carries a gold-tipped baton and often refers to himself in the third person. "They want to keep me as the problem so that they can explain all the problems in Congo through Nkunda. . . . But I will protect myself, and I will protect these small number of Tutsis who are here."
Congo is a vast country with a history of vast personalities. Mobutu Sese Seko, who renamed the nation Zaire and ruled for almost four decades, ordered news broadcasts to open with an image of him descending godlike from the clouds, and some here consider Laurent Nkunda the country's latest well-armed megalomaniac.
U.N. officials blame the general for forcing an estimated 230,000 people from their homes since January and creating the worst humanitarian disaster Congo has experienced since the peak of its decade of civil war. Displacement camps filled with sick, hungry and injured people are scattered across the east once again, and U.N. officials warn that Congo is on the brink of another all-out conflict.
But Nkunda, an admirer of such diverse leaders as Gandhi and President Bush, says he is fighting for a cause greater than himself: protecting Congolese Tutsis, whose story is wrapped up in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, evidence of which still litters the rolling, green forests here.
"The government can get rid of Nkunda," said Joseph Sebagisha, a leader in the Tutsi community, which backs Nkunda heavily and includes some of the region's wealthiest businessmen. "But the reasons why he is doing what he is doing will continue to exist."
Though it is difficult to speak of a minority in a country with more than 400 different tribes, the Tutsis have for decades considered themselves a vulnerable group.
As is common across Africa, the ethnic group was divided by arbitrary colonial borders, with most of its members living in what became Rwanda and others in eastern Congo. During Rwanda's independence struggle, many wealthy Rwandan Tutsis fled into eastern Congo, and over the years, politicians here have frequently cast Tutsis as outsiders.
Ethnic clashes targeting the Tutsis broke out in eastern Congo in 1993. A year later, following the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, more than a million Hutu refugees and genocidal Hutu militiamen poured across the border and continued to massacre Congolese Tutsis.
The Rwandan army, allied with the Tutsi-dominated rebel forces of Congo's future president, Laurent Kabila, soon followed, carrying out massacres in Hutu refugee camps and villages. Among Kabila's anti-Mobutu forces at the time was a young, Rwandan-trained intelligence officer named Laurent Nkunda, a Tutsi who had lost members of his family in ethnic clashes.
After the Rwandan invasion, anti-Tutsi sentiment ran high. One politician gave a speech urging Congolese people to "exterminate the vermin," referring to Tutsis. And Kabila, after overthrowing Mobutu, turned on his Rwandan backers, arming the genocidal Hutu militiamen to fight them.
One of the century's bloodiest wars followed, with nine African nations eventually engaged in a mad scramble for eastern Congo's abundant mineral riches. Some researchers have estimated that at least 4 million people died during the war years, mostly from disease, hunger and the collapse of human services associated with the fighting.
Although a peace agreement was signed in 2004, militia groups have continued to plague eastern Congo, including at least 6,000 Rwandan Hutu militiamen who were never disarmed.
By now, some of them have blended into village life, starting farms and marrying Congolese women. Others, however, have remained organized under genocidal leaders in the thick eastern forests, living off whatever they can pillage from the local residents they routinely terrorize.
"The root causes of the wars in eastern Congo have never been solved," said Jason Stearns, an analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "The problem of the Tutsis and of the Rwandan Hutus has not been addressed."
The continued presence of the Hutu militias provided Nkunda with a cause. In 2005, the general refused an order by the Congolese army to deploy to another area of the country and officially became a renegade. His argument: The Tutsis of eastern Congo needed his protection.
For a while, Nkunda had the support of Rwanda, which considered his forces a necessary bulwark against Hutu militiamen. Though Rwanda says it no longer supports him, its sympathy for Nkunda's activities borders on justification. "Rwanda cannot establish a relationship with such a person, but we can understand why Nkunda is Nkunda," Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande said in an interview. "We can understand his argument."....
In his territory -- a wide swath of lush, black-soil mountains including farms owned by wealthy Tutsi businessmen -- villagers report having to submit to ideological training in which they profess loyalty to the movement, which now has a political party, a Web site, flags, songs and the radio station that broadcasts messages about "tribal unity." Nkunda has usurped local government authority, establishing police and courts, paying some villagers' school fees and even purchasing generators for local hospitals. There is a video in circulation that shows Nkunda's men -- some of whom belong to an elite group called Che, for the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara -- goose-stepping and saluting their leader, who waves and smiles back. "I'm sensitizing others to protect the minority," Nkunda said in a recent interview. "I want to be one of the great hearts in Congo." He was relaxing in a Nike tracksuit at a farmhouse high on a hill, his soldiers standing guard outside. His current reading was a French book titled "The Paradox of Strategy." He talked at length about Congo's potential greatness, Christian leadership, Bush, military strategy and an idea he has of importing 100,000 macadamia nut trees to help develop his area. He spoke of biofuels.
Yet Nkunda insisted that his goals are limited: He wants the Congolese government to disarm the Hutu militias and to allow thousands of Congolese Tutsi refugees who fled into Rwanda during Congo's war to return home. Instead of addressing those issues, he said, the Congolese government is "turning Nkunda into the problem," and planning to attack him. At the moment, there are signs that the Congolese army could be preparing for such an offensive, which U.N. officials have warned could trigger a wider regional conflict.
Analysts fear that as his father did, Congo's President Joseph Kabila could decide to use the Hutu militias because the Congolese army is weak and because the Hutu commanders would like nothing more than to occupy Nkunda's position along the Rwandan border. Murigande, the Rwandan foreign minister, said that such a move would "start worrying us seriously." "That might be a disaster," he said. "Because we are also able to fight."
Interview with Charles Murigande, Rwandan Foreign Minister
by Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post, Aug 2, 2007
...Q: How big a threat do you consider the ex-FAR?
A: According to our intelligence and MONUC [the U.N. mission in Congo], these are people who are still armed, in military formation, and have commanders at the level of division, brigade, company and battalion. It is a very well organized army, estimated to be from 6,000 to 10,000 strong. . . . We also have information that they've been recruiting and training. . . . I do not know any country in the world which would not be worried about having a force 8,000 strong, well trained -- and a force determined to harm you -- on your border. . . . I do not even think bin Laden commanded such a huge military force. The fact that this force is not about to fight and defeat us does not mean it is not a threat. Bin Laden was never in a position to fight and defeat the U.S., but he was still considered a threat. I wonder why people don't apply the same logic when it's a situation that doesn't effect them.
Q: So how do you deal with the problem of the FLDR?
A: We think that a level of forceful disarmament must be applied. We need to break the grip of the commanders. The problem is, who should apply that force? Who should carry out this forceful disarmament?...
Q: What is Rwanda's relationship to Laurent Nkunda, [a renegade Congolese general]?
A: Rwanda has no relationship with Nkunda. In 1994, when the genocidal forces came to eastern Congo, they did not abandon their genocidal ideology. They began a campaign of ethnic cleansing, killing Tutsis in North Kivu including the parents of Laurent Nkunda. . . . As long as these ex-FAR are around, [the Tutsis] have nowhere to go unless they can defend themselves. And that led to Nkunda. And if you look at what caused Nkunda, the problem was when he refused to be deployed. He said, how can I leave when my people are threatened? He said, no, I can't be deployed. He said, I will be in the army if I am deployed here, where my people are threatened. . . . So that's the problem. Of course because Nkunda is [a speaker of the Rwandan language] and a Tutsi, it is easy for people who do not do a deep analysis to conclude that there's no way Rwanda could not be sympathetic to his case. And then they conclude there's a relationship between Rwanda and Nkunda. Rwanda cannot establish a relationship with such a person, but we can understand why Nkunda is Nkunda. We can understand his argument. Because at least he and the people he is with would be willing to die to protect their people. Which is not the case with everyone. . . . The major root cause of instability in eastern Congo is the ex-FAR. It is the inaction and irresponsibility of the international community that has created this mess here. The Congolese government seems to be saying that Nkunda is the problem. They seem to be building the case against him. This is a case of lack of logic, lack of fairness. This is someone who says, I'm here because these forces kill my people. Please, deal with these forces. . . . But instead of dealing with what caused him to be what he is today, you want to deal with him. It's like saying, if we didn't have these Tutsis, the ex-FAR would not have people to kill. It is an ugly way of seeing things. But, let's hope that which is just will prevail.
Q: What about the suggestion some analysts have made, that the Congolese army might use the ex-FAR to attack Nkunda . . . ?
A: A lot of people are worried that as has happened in the past, the government forces might link up with the ex-FAR and I know the ex-FAR would not be unhappy with an opportunity to kill Tutsis. If that happens, that will start worrying us seriously. And that is the message we have been giving. . . . That might be a disaster. Because we are also able to fight.
KNOW NKUNDA CONGO
ENIGMATIC LAURENT NKUNDA
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~