KILGALI – Ongoing unrest between rival military factions in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has triggered a predictable barrage of innuendo, fabricated leaks, and outright lies regarding Rwanda’s role. It began ten days ago, with a single BBC story on a leaked United Nations report that was said to prove Rwanda’s involvement, but did nothing of the sort (as the source of the leak admitted within days).
As if on cue, this was followed by Human Rights Watch, which paraded an even less credible set of allegations – including the risible claim that a Congolese rebel was seen by an unspecified number of unnamed witnesses at a bar on the Rwandan side of the border. Like the UN report, there was not a shred of material evidence to back up the Rwandan conspiracy – it relied on anonymous witness testimony and nothing else – but it gained a good deal of coverage anyway.
Finally, the DRC government added its voice, but once again failed to present any evidence beyond hearsay. Unfortunately, this is a well-worn path in this region whenever internal turmoil in the DRC threatens to spin out of control. The DRC must have known that its hyped-up claims would reach an audience that had been warmed up by the bogus UN and Human Rights Watch reports. The desire in some quarters to promulgate a war narrative easily outweighs the obligation to establish a credible basis for one.
Beyond fending off this latest round of exasperating claims, Rwanda is involved in the DRC crisis in one other concrete way. At last count, more than 12,850 Congolese citizens have made their way across the border into Rwanda following the recent outbreak of hostilities. The refugee situation, while tense and challenging, remains manageable, thanks to cooperation between the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the government of Rwanda, alongside the World Food Program, the World Health Organization, and other partners. Meanwhile, many more Congolese have been displaced to other neighboring countries and within the DRC’s borders, fleeing the too-familiar drumbeat of conflict.