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Interview:Ernest Wamba dia Wamba on the DRC

In Interviews on July 7, 2009 at 10:14 pm

by Mandisi Majavu, Otabenga

Majavu: You are one of the co-founders of the Congolese Rally For Democracy (RCD) and its military wing – Congolese National Army (ANC). Before the RCD split into various factions, Laurent Nkunda was a soldier in the ANC. Did you know Nkunda before he became an independent rebel leader? If yes what were your impressions of him? What led to the split of the RCD?

Wamba: I did know of him and not know him personally. As far as I know he is a well-trained officer.

There were a number of splits as you know. The first time, the issue was an opposition between those who wanted a short rebellion war and those who seek ways of negotiating with Kinshasa instead of getting too many people killed unnecessarily, if the conflict that was essentially political could and will only be resolved politically. I was the leader of that group that was very much supported by some regional leaders such as Nyerere, Chissano, Chiluba and Mkapa. The other group was the militarists who wanted to get militarily to Kinshasa, overthrow the government and speak of democracy only after. We felt that no military victory can lead so easily to democracy, the military victors get so haughty that, as shown with AFDEL, they keep postponing elections indefinitely. The militarist group was supported by Rwanda whose interest for democracy in the DRC was zero.

The second split was about the relative independence of the rebellion from the allies: those who felt there should be no conditions on the alliance with Uganda, for example, and those who felt that relative independence was also a way of protecting the allies from outside accusation. I was the leader of the relative independence of the rebellion and went as far as proclaiming the need for self-determination and asked, after the Lusaka accord, that the Ugandan troops withdraw. The opposition group was led by Mbusa and Tibasima who felt very attached to the allies.

The third split was around the continuation or not of the war, after the killing of L.D.Kabila, and the formation of the Liberation front to that effect. I was the leader of the group that refused such continuation and did not join with MLC.

Majavu: It is often said that when the RCD was formed to fight against Laurent Kabila, Paul Kagame gave the cofounders of the RCD support in a hope that the RCD will eventually be Rwanda’s proxy in the DRC. Is there any element of truth in that?

Wamba: I do not know what Kagame had in mind; the rebellion started from a mutiny in Goma supported by the Rwandese; it was started as a reaction to the way L.D. Kabila had chased the Rwandese from Kinshasa, breaking from whatever agreements he had with the Rwandese. There was probably a better way of thanking those who put him in power. He had leaders around who could have helped him negotiate that peaceful departure such as Nyerere and Mandela. His way of exercising power was starting to alienate those who had supported him and this explains also the regional support, at least partially, of the 1998 rebellion.

Majavu: Did the RCD ever ask for help from the United States in its efforts to overthrow Laurent Kabila?

Wamba:Directly no. But the RCD did enjoy a certain moral understaning from the USA that was becoming very concerned about the way L.D. Kabila was exercising power.

Majavu: In retrospect, where do you think the RCD failed? What do you think the leaders of the RCD should have done differently?

Wamba: The basic failure of the RCD was the inability to have a relative independence from the allies and thus to carry out their initial objective of the rebellion: a democratic correction of L.D. Kabila’s regime tending towards dictatorship. This required just to get the Kinshasa regime to come to negotiations and agree on a process of democratization. The splits led to more divisions and the focus of the struggle got lost and increasingly those most interested in democracy were marginalized in favor of warlords. The objective then became one of power-sharing as a way to bring peace and thus give more leverage to those who held more military might. And almost no concern for healing the divisions inside the people. This explains why the truth and reconciliation did not take place.

Majavu: What is the situation like on the ground in the DRC at the moment?

Wamba: Not good at all and the promises are not convincing people that waiting will bring any better future at all: Very few of the electoral promises of peace, security and development are seen to be happening. The war in the East is not ending and both the rebels and the government forces are harassing the population with more and more displaced people and massacres as well. Negotiations don’t seem to get off the ground and one has the feeling once again that outsiders are probably going to come and impose another short-lived solution. In the meantime, of course, the corruption is growing and looting of resources seems to be the real fuel of the war.

Majavu: What does Nkunda want and where is he getting military and financial support?

Wamba: He has been changing his main agenda; initially he was opposed to the discriminatory character of the State not protecting the Tutsi citizens from the genocidaires (FDLR) that are believed to be supported by the government. And now he wants to open the whole issue of dealing with all the complaints, even those related to other parts of the country–the excessive repression in the Kongo Central, the generalized insecurity in the country, the liberation of Bemba, truth and reconciliaition, etc. According to the UN report recently disclosed in New York, he has been supported by Rwanda–most likely supported by those who have been getting the minerals found in the area he controls. Those are minerals very much sought by transnationals dealing with mobile phones, computers, airplanes and satellites.

Majavu: Nkunda has been engaged in a low-intensity conflict against the DRC government for the past four years, why do you think people are only starting to pay attention now?

Wamba: The recent elections in the USA seem to have brought about a significant shift of world power relationships; the possible change of the usual go about of things represented by the pro-neo-liberalist Bush regime seems to have awakened certain forces. That is why during the campaign, students in US universities started raising the issue of the silence over the killing in the DRC. The scale of the humanitarian tragedy also made the press report it often. The fact of the DRC contract with China and the European Union opposition to it has also something to do with it.

Majavu: Your own party (RCD-K) has seats in parliament. What politics does RCD-K subscribe to?

Wamba: In a sense, I am no longer a member of that party now controlled by Mbusa; not only do they not want me in, those close to me have constantly been denied positions. We have been working on the creation of a different type of political organization. I do not know what his MPs are saying about the situation. Short of coming back to our original program of democratization from the building of local cohesion inside the people to bridge the divisions and at the same time organizing a national reconciliation as a way to get the people to support the institutions, nothing long lasting will happen. Democratic institutions set up with democratization pushed from the outside are like offices put in place: if no creative decisions are coming out of those offices, there is no mass enthusiasm for their policy. Good policy is legitimized by mass enthusiasm. The issue of power should not be confused with the issue of democratization.

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