Congo: Top UK researcher casts doubt over UN report which controversially accused Rwanda and Uganda for backing M23

Dr Phil Clark

Dr Phil Clark

A recent report by a group of UN experts panel which controversially accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing a rebellion in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo exhibits “methodological shortcomings”, a top British researcher and lecturer has said.

Dr Phil Clark, a lecturer in comparative and international politics at SOAS, University of London, and a specialist on conflict-related issues in central Africa, says the analysis contained in the report should be treated with caution.

 He warns the donor community against taking policy decisions on the basis of the group’s allegations, which have strongly been refuted by Kigali and Kampala. 

“In the case of the June 2012 report, apparent methodological and substantive problems suggest that international donors should have treated the GoE’s analysis with much greater caution,” Dr Clark says.

 His observations, contained in a paper addressed to British decision-makers with regard to the country’s foreign aid, come just days after the British government announced it would be reviewing its development aid to Rwanda based on the GoE findings. 

The UK, Rwanda’s single largest bilateral donor, will mid next month decide on whether to release or withhold the next tranche of financial support to Rwanda after the initial segment was unfrozen back in September – ahead of the final GoE report, released last week.

US, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Union have also withdrawn or delayed their financial support to Rwanda in the wake of the country’s alleged support to the M23 rebels, who last week seized the key eastern city of Goma and threatened to overthrow President Joseph Kabila’s government. 

“There are substantial methodological and substantive shortcomings in the 2012 Group of Experts (GoE) report, on the basis of which several foreign donors reconsidered their development aid strategies toward Rwanda,” adds Dr Clark. 

In his paper, Dr Clark argues that “decisions to withhold or withdraw aid to particular states should be based on more comprehensive and systematic evidence than that provided by the United Nations Group of Experts (GoE) for the DRC.” 

“Most GoE reports in the context of the DRC involve interviews and other forms of information-gathering within confined regions of eastern Congo, with little engagement in neighbouring countries, including Rwanda…This geographical restriction limited the depth of analysis in the report and led to several erroneous claims,” he argues. 

Dr Clark echoes the government of Rwanda’s own rebuttal to the allegations of M23 rebel support, including claims that Rwanda trained rebel fighters at Kanombe military barracks in Kigali City.

 “The report states incorrectly that Rwanda trained some M23 fighters at the Kanombe army barracks in the Rwandan capital, Kigali – a key claim in showing the extent of Rwandan involvement in the M23 rebellion – when those barracks comprise only a military hospital and a cemetery. 

“It would be impossible for such training to take place in those barracks and even a cursory check of the premises would have convinced the GoE of this,” says the British researcher. 

He adds, “This error suggests that the GoE conducted insufficient investigations within Rwanda and relied on highly questionable sources, a point that has major implications for the GoE’s wider claims regarding Rwandan complicity in rebel activity in Congo”. 

Furthermore, a key dimension of the June 2012 GoE report is the reliance on testimony by unidentified Congolese military commanders and intelligence officials, whose impartiality on the issues at hand must be seriously questioned, he adds.  

“The report provides insufficient information regarding how evidence gathered in the field was tested and how the reliability of certain sources was established”.

“Coupled with the geographical narrowness of the GoE’s investigations, questions should be raised regarding the robustness of the evidence which underpinned the GoE’s conclusions. 

According to Dr Clark, “the withholding or withdrawal of aid to Rwanda will do little to address systemic causes of conflict in eastern DRC and may undermine important political, social and economic gains which Rwanda has made since the 1994 Genocide (against the Tutsi).” 

As such, the academic advocates for the continuation of UK aid to Rwanda “at the same level as before the GoE findings, alongside the continued use of non-aid measures to address the question of Rwanda’s alleged military involvement in the DRC and domestic human rights issues in Rwanda”. 

One significant problem with the GoE report and much of the international reaction to it, he said, is the insistence that Rwanda is primarily responsible for current instability in eastern Congo. 

“This view neglects the role played by Congolese President Joseph Kabila in generating the M23 mutiny. One key motivator for the rebellion was that President Kabila reneged on deals with these same rebels in 2009, before they were integrated into the Congolese army”.

President Kabila has undermined the 2009 peace agreement between the DRC, Rwanda and a range of Congolese rebel groups, which greatly improved the security situation in eastern Congo, Clark argues. 

“Rwanda played a vital role in this peace process and the subsequent increase in regional security – a positive contribution that warrants greater recognition in current policy discussions.” 

Not only should there be a closer assessment of the GoE’s findings, but the decision by the UK and other donors in 2012 to withhold or withdraw aid to Rwanda will not address systemic political and military causes of violent conflict in eastern DRC.

He said the vast majority of the aid to Rwanda (more than 40 per cent of the national budget) is spent on education, health and poverty alleviation. 

“As a landlocked, resource-poor country, Rwanda still relies heavily on foreign assistance. Most observers – even those highly critical of the Rwandan government – agree that Rwanda has recorded extraordinary successes in these domains since the genocide because of its effective use of international aid and its low levels of corruption.” 

These major socio-economic achievements have been the bedrock of the peace and stability that Rwanda has enjoyed over the last 18 years, he added. 

“The danger in using aid to alter Rwanda’s perceived military policy in eastern DRC is that ultimately it will be the Rwandan population that suffers from any reduction in social and economic services. Withholding aid will do little to address systemic problems in the DRC and will undermine substantial gains in Rwanda.”   

He urged the UK government to seek “more robust field methodologies employed by the UN Group of Experts, to ensure a higher quality of empirical analysis”.

“The Group should display greater transparency about the nature of its informants and its strategies to ensure impartiality and comprehensiveness in its reporting. More effective GoE analysis would provide more systematic insights into conflict-related issues in the DRC and elsewhere and a more informed basis for international policymaking”. 

For sustainable peace to be achieved in the Congo, the academic says there is need for what he calls “substantial political and military reform within the DRC”.

 The M23 rebellion broke out in April this year after former members of the ex-CNDP and PARECO rebel groups accused the government of reneging on a March 23, 2009 peace deal that had seen them integrated into the army. 

Last week, two high-profile regional summits convened in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, demanded the rebels to withdraw from Goma, and the Kinshasa government to “listen, evaluate and resolve the legitimate grievances of M23.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, current chair of the 12-nation member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), has hosted at least five extraordinary Heads of State and Government summits in five months, aimed at finding a lasting solution to the recurrent conflicts in eastern DRC. 

DRC is home to more than 40 armed groups, including the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), largely composed of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. 

There are also dozens of local ethnic based militias, including several Mai-Mai groups, and other insurgents fighting the governments of Uganda and Burundi, most of which are notorious for gross human rights violations. 

Congo is home to a US$1.4 billion-a year UN force, Monusco, which is widely viewed as inefficient and generally indifferent, and has for the last ten years been dogged by allegations of gross violations, including rape and selling arms to rebel groups operating in the region.

Source: newtimes

4 thoughts on “Congo: Top UK researcher casts doubt over UN report which controversially accused Rwanda and Uganda for backing M23

  1. Statement by HE Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, DRC Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the UK:
    Published Date
    “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) decision to suspend its loan to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a deeply upsetting development.

    We have worked closely with the IMF for many years to cancel our debt, which was mainly racked up by the corrupt Mobutu regime. In doing so, our Government has established a strong working relationship with the IMF. Together, we designed a government economic program that would comply with all the conditions required to qualify for the cancellation of that debt under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program. When that was achieved we embarked on an economic program that would allow the country to move forward after years of decay and civil wars.

    Much economic progress has been realised despite difficult circumstances:

    – between 2009 and 2012 the overall annual growth of our economy went from 2.8% to 7.2%.
    – The inflation rate was brought down from 46% to 3%.

    – The Congolese Franc is stable.

    – Direct private investments are on the rise.

    – Public revenue as well as the national wealth has doubled.

    – The government has introduced a VAT that has helped the tax system for companies.

    – The DRC has joined the OHADA, the African Organisation for the harmonisation of Business Laws that gives security to foreign investments.

    – Special zones of activities with tax relief have been created in order to boost job creation.

    – The government launched a system whereby salaries are paid through the banking system to fight corruption and to feed the banks with fresh cash every month.

    – For the first time in decades, mineral production has reached the historical levels of 1980.

    It is this positive trend that the IMF has decided to slow down by its decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan.

    The international community, and our bilateral aid donors in particular, know that we have been cooperative, transparent and above board in all our dealings with the IMF.

    The decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan at this time is in direct support of opposition forces aligned with those who work for the destabilization of our country and its government. This is a political attempt on the sovereignty of our nation and will alarm many other African and developing nations throughout the world.

    Despite numerous challenges, we are working for a brighter future for all Congolese, and the cancellation of this loan will damage our foreign currency reserves and could destabilize our economy. It will directly hurt the people such loans are intended to help. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) who spread innuendo and claim corruption – without any evidence to back up their claims – need to take responsibility and realize the damage they are doing to economic prospects of the DRC and our population. They need also know that in such instances they are doing more harm than good to nearly 70 million people.

    We can only presume that individuals and groups with political agendas against the Government of President Kabila have influenced the IMF representation in Kinshasa. When the DRC Government has given all the answers it can to all the questions put by the IMF, why now should the IMF office be singling out one contract as the basis for stopping loan disbursements of some $225 million? Have they fully considered the consequences that cancelling these loans will have on the DRC because they were unsatisfied with paperwork on one contract out of over 130 contracts?

    The Government of the DRC has and will continue to work with the IMF and other international financial institutions. It is in our best interests to do so for numerous reasons, including that such international assistance further helps us put in place the institutions that President Kabila, who has restored democracy to the DRC after years of misrule, believes are essential to sustaining the progress we have made. We want to work with international partners who are demanding but understanding, critical but lucid, and respectful of our independence and sovereignty.

    Those who lobby for the cancellation of vital loans – and those who are influenced by such hollow reasoning – are recklessly harming the prosperity of the DRC and its people.”

  2. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) decision to suspend its loan to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a deeply upsetting development.

    We have worked closely with the IMF for many years to cancel our debt, which was mainly racked up by the corrupt Mobutu regime. In doing so, our Government has established a strong working relationship with the IMF. Together, we designed a government economic program that would comply with all the conditions required to qualify for the cancellation of that debt under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program. When that was achieved we embarked on an economic program that would allow the country to move forward after years of decay and civil wars.

    Much economic progress has been realised despite difficult circumstances:

    – between 2009 and 2012 the overall annual growth of our economy went from 2.8% to 7.2%.
    – The inflation rate was brought down from 46% to 3%.

    – The Congolese Franc is stable.

    – Direct private investments are on the rise.

    – Public revenue as well as the national wealth has doubled.

    – The government has introduced a VAT that has helped the tax system for companies.

    – The DRC has joined the OHADA, the African Organisation for the harmonisation of Business Laws that gives security to foreign investments.

    – Special zones of activities with tax relief have been created in order to boost job creation.

    – The government launched a system whereby salaries are paid through the banking system to fight corruption and to feed the banks with fresh cash every month.

    – For the first time in decades, mineral production has reached the historical levels of 1980.

    It is this positive trend that the IMF has decided to slow down by its decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan.

    The international community, and our bilateral aid donors in particular, know that we have been cooperative, transparent and above board in all our dealings with the IMF.

    The decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan at this time is in direct support of opposition forces aligned with those who work for the destabilization of our country and its government. This is a political attempt on the sovereignty of our nation and will alarm many other African and developing nations throughout the world.

    Despite numerous challenges, we are working for a brighter future for all Congolese, and the cancellation of this loan will damage our foreign currency reserves and could destabilize our economy. It will directly hurt the people such loans are intended to help. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) who spread innuendo and claim corruption – without any evidence to back up their claims – need to take responsibility and realize the damage they are doing to economic prospects of the DRC and our population. They need also know that in such instances they are doing more harm than good to nearly 70 million people.

    We can only presume that individuals and groups with political agendas against the Government of President Kabila have influenced the IMF representation in Kinshasa. When the DRC Government has given all the answers it can to all the questions put by the IMF, why now should the IMF office be singling out one contract as the basis for stopping loan disbursements of some $225 million? Have they fully considered the consequences that cancelling these loans will have on the DRC because they were unsatisfied with paperwork on one contract out of over 130 contracts?

    The Government of the DRC has and will continue to work with the IMF and other international financial institutions. It is in our best interests to do so for numerous reasons, including that such international assistance further helps us put in place the institutions that President Kabila, who has restored democracy to the DRC after years of misrule, believes are essential to sustaining the progress we have made. We want to work with international partners who are demanding but understanding, critical but lucid, and respectful of our independence and sovereignty.

    Those who lobby for the cancellation of vital loans – and those who are influenced by such hollow reasoning – are recklessly harming the prosperity of the DRC and its people.”

    • Statement by HE Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, DRC Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the UK:
      Published Date
      “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) decision to suspend its loan to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a deeply upsetting development.

      We have worked closely with the IMF for many years to cancel our debt, which was mainly racked up by the corrupt Mobutu regime. In doing so, our Government has established a strong working relationship with the IMF. Together, we designed a government economic program that would comply with all the conditions required to qualify for the cancellation of that debt under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program. When that was achieved we embarked on an economic program that would allow the country to move forward after years of decay and civil wars.

      Much economic progress has been realised despite difficult circumstances:

      – between 2009 and 2012 the overall annual growth of our economy went from 2.8% to 7.2%.
      – The inflation rate was brought down from 46% to 3%.

      – The Congolese Franc is stable.

      – Direct private investments are on the rise.

      – Public revenue as well as the national wealth has doubled.

      – The government has introduced a VAT that has helped the tax system for companies.

      – The DRC has joined the OHADA, the African Organisation for the harmonisation of Business Laws that gives security to foreign investments.

      – Special zones of activities with tax relief have been created in order to boost job creation.

      – The government launched a system whereby salaries are paid through the banking system to fight corruption and to feed the banks with fresh cash every month.

      – For the first time in decades, mineral production has reached the historical levels of 1980.

      It is this positive trend that the IMF has decided to slow down by its decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan.

      The international community, and our bilateral aid donors in particular, know that we have been cooperative, transparent and above board in all our dealings with the IMF.

      The decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan at this time is in direct support of opposition forces aligned with those who work for the destabilization of our country and its government. This is a political attempt on the sovereignty of our nation and will alarm many other African and developing nations throughout the world.

      Despite numerous challenges, we are working for a brighter future for all Congolese, and the cancellation of this loan will damage our foreign currency reserves and could destabilize our economy. It will directly hurt the people such loans are intended to help. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) who spread innuendo and claim corruption – without any evidence to back up their claims – need to take responsibility and realize the damage they are doing to economic prospects of the DRC and our population. They need also know that in such instances they are doing more harm than good to nearly 70 million people.

      We can only presume that individuals and groups with political agendas against the Government of President Kabila have influenced the IMF representation in Kinshasa. When the DRC Government has given all the answers it can to all the questions put by the IMF, why now should the IMF office be singling out one contract as the basis for stopping loan disbursements of some $225 million? Have they fully considered the consequences that cancelling these loans will have on the DRC because they were unsatisfied with paperwork on one contract out of over 130 contracts?

      The Government of the DRC has and will continue to work with the IMF and other international financial institutions. It is in our best interests to do so for numerous reasons, including that such international assistance further helps us put in place the institutions that President Kabila, who has restored democracy to the DRC after years of misrule, believes are essential to sustaining the progress we have made. We want to work with international partners who are demanding but understanding, critical but lucid, and respectful of our independence and sovereignty.

      Those who lobby for the cancellation of vital loans – and those who are influenced by such hollow reasoning – are recklessly harming the prosperity of the DRC and its people.”

  3. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) decision to suspend its loan to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a deeply upsetting development.

    We have worked closely with the IMF for many years to cancel our debt, which was mainly racked up by the corrupt Mobutu regime. In doing so, our Government has established a strong working relationship with the IMF. Together, we designed a government economic program that would comply with all the conditions required to qualify for the cancellation of that debt under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program. When that was achieved we embarked on an economic program that would allow the country to move forward after years of decay and civil wars.

    Much economic progress has been realised despite difficult circumstances:

    between 2009 and 2012 the overall annual growth of our economy went from 2.8% to 7.2%.
    The inflation rate was brought down from 46% to 3%.
    The Congolese Franc is stable.
    Direct private investments are on the rise.
    Public revenue as well as the national wealth has doubled.
    The government has introduced a VAT that has helped the tax system for companies.
    The DRC has joined the OHADA, the African Organisation for the harmonisation of Business Laws that gives security to foreign investments.
    Special zones of activities with tax relief have been created in order to boost job creation.
    The government launched a system whereby salaries are paid through the banking system to fight corruption and to feed the banks with fresh cash every month.
    For the first time in decades, mineral production has reached the historical levels of 1980.
    It is this positive trend that the IMF has decided to slow down by its decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan.

    The international community, and our bilateral aid donors in particular, know that we have been cooperative, transparent and above board in all our dealings with the IMF.

    The decision to suspend the remaining portion of the loan at this time is in direct support of opposition forces aligned with those who work for the destabilization of our country and its government. This is a political attempt on the sovereignty of our nation and will alarm many other African and developing nations throughout the world.

    Despite numerous challenges, we are working for a brighter future for all Congolese, and the cancellation of this loan will damage our foreign currency reserves and could destabilize our economy. It will directly hurt the people such loans are intended to help. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) who spread innuendo and claim corruption – without any evidence to back up their claims – need to take responsibility and realize the damage they are doing to economic prospects of the DRC and our population. They need also know that in such instances they are doing more harm than good to nearly 70 million people.

    We can only presume that individuals and groups with political agendas against the Government of President Kabila have influenced the IMF representation in Kinshasa. When the DRC Government has given all the answers it can to all the questions put by the IMF, why now should the IMF office be singling out one contract as the basis for stopping loan disbursements of some $225 million? Have they fully considered the consequences that cancelling these loans will have on the DRC because they were unsatisfied with paperwork on one contract out of over 130 contracts?

    The Government of the DRC has and will continue to work with the IMF and other international financial institutions. It is in our best interests to do so for numerous reasons, including that such international assistance further helps us put in place the institutions that President Kabila, who has restored democracy to the DRC after years of misrule, believes are essential to sustaining the progress we have made. We want to work with international partners who are demanding but understanding, critical but lucid, and respectful of our independence and sovereignty.

    Those who lobby for the cancellation of vital loans – and those who are influenced by such hollow reasoning – are recklessly harming the prosperity of the DRC and its people.”

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