Gang of Four know days of rebel takeovers are gone

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Evidence Material
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On the night of Friday January 21, Rwandans and Rwanda watchers went to bed with a momentous piece of news: Exiled dissidents Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, Patrick Karegyeya, Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerald Gahima, had formed a rebel group to fight the Kagame government.

According to the BBC’s Focus on Africa broadcast that night, the group was based in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The news broke after a meeting bringing together defence ministers of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) comprising Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It followed an announcement, a few weeks previously, that they had founded a political party, the Rwanda National Congress, to challenge the Rwanda Patriotic Front’s hegemony.

It also came soon after the four men — now commonly referred to in Rwanda as “the Gang of Four” or “ebirasha” (jokers in cards), had been handed long prison sentences in absentia by a military court.

In the minds of some Rwanda watchers, the news raised hard questions.

Most important was whether the four men should now be believed when they say that their convictions had been intended merely to justify and prolong their continued exclusion from their country’s politics.

In an interview on the same BBC broadcast, Karegyeya seemed to confirm the claims of the CEPGL ministers.

However, in a subsequent Kiswahili bulletin, he backtracked and denied they had formed an armed group.

He went on to point out that they had no such intentions because people in the region were tired of war. It was all rather intriguing.

A larger question is raised by the alleged sabre-rattling by the dissidents, if indeed they are positioning themselves to wage war on the government of Rwanda: What are the prospects for waging a successful insurgency in today’s Great Lakes region?

The region’s evolution over the past decade or so, including the successful re-establishment of the East African Community and its expansion, the rapprochement between the DRC and Rwanda governments and general war fatigue in post-war countries, suggests that the days when rebels could wage war on sitting governments and win may be long gone.

Indeed, Karegyeya’s own admission that people in the region were tired of war, may have been made with these dynamics in mind.

To understand the extent to which the terrain has changed to the disadvantage of would-be and actual insurgents, one has to look back to the circumstances that made it possible for rebels to succeed in the past.

The Ugandan exile groups who uprooted the Idi Amin regime, were able to do so primarily because the government of Tanzania was willing openly to provide them with the necessary logistical and other support as well as lead the actual armed invasion.

Museveni’s National Resistance Army seized power primarily because they had a large chunk of the population willing not only to hide and feed them, but also to take up arms and fight a government in which they had no stake.

Not only that; they enjoyed at least the acquiescence, at most the tacit support, of the governments of surrounding countries in which their external support networks were based, and through which their agents transited on travels to far-flung places and transported arms and other supplies.

For Kagame’s RPF, the direct support of the Museveni government, whatever its extent, and the latter’s acquiescence in activities it could have blocked, were critical to its eventual triumph.

Another common thread linking all these insurgencies was the internal support networks the rebels established prior to the outbreak of hostilities.

Today, the broad aspirations of the East African Community countries render active support or facilitation for each other’s insurgents extremely difficult, if not virtually unthinkable.

A few years ago, in 2006, this was made clear by the signing, in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, of a protocol on security, stability and development by the presidents of the five EAC countries and President Joseph Kabila of the DRC.

The protocol sought, among other objectives, to end decades of armed conflict in the region.

Assuming that the protocol was no more than simply an expression of good intentions, where does all this leave would-be insurgents?



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