by Bosco Mutarambirwa
One may reasonably argue that Rwanda, Uganda and any of those poor African countries contributing U.N. peacekeepers have no interest in peace around the continent.
It is strongly suspected that this may be what’s happening in South Sudan, where Uganda and Rwanda have had peacekeepers since the Darfur crisis era. Once relative peace began slowly returning in South Sudan, there were plans to scale down the U.N. peacekeeping operations, meaning that Rwanda and Uganda would be losing a lot of income.
With the recent DRC fiasco of M23, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni’s creation, these two countries need the peacekeeping cash to compensate for the income lost since the M23 withdrawal. Though it may seem like a gamble, conflict in South Sudan would also be good for Museveni and Kagame in terms of shifting the spotlight away from M23 defeat.
Peacekeeping soldiers are paid by their own governments according to their own national rank and salary scale. Countries volunteering uniformed personnel to peacekeeping operations are reimbursed by the U.N. at a standard rate, approved by the General Assembly, of a little over US$1,028 per soldier per month.
Let’s say the average Rwandan peacekeeper is paid US$200 per month according to Rwandan national salary scale, although they don’t actually get paid that much. Given their lack of accountability and high level corruption, the Rwandan dictator and his elite will get to pocket the rest.
Based on current levels of approximately 5,000 active Rwandan peacekeepers, the government would pay out $1 million to the soldiers and put the remaining $4.1 million in the pockets of Kagame and his inner circle every month. Add the U.N. reimbursements for leasing Rwanda’s military equipment, and you get the idea that the deal is too sweet for Paul Kagame to give up.
It is clear that we risk chronic instability in Africa if this conflict of interest is not given a serious look and loopholes are eliminated. It is clear that some conflicts in Africa will inevitably require peacekeeping. However, it is imperative that we avoid making bad things worse with conflicts we could have prevented.
Today, it is also being reported that Rwanda is lobbying the U.N. for permission to send Rwandan troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) under blue helmets. If Rwanda cannot keep itself from attacking its neighbors, how can the same Rwanda keep peace for other sovereign nations?
There are also detailed reports of criminal charges against Rwandan military generals commanding these peacekeeping operations – namely, Jean Bosco Kazura in Mali and others – about their undeniable involvement in war crimes and crimes of genocide. Why use mass murderers to keep peace for innocent civilians?
What good can possibly come out of this?
We risk chronic instability in Africa if this conflict of interest is not given a serious look. It is clear that some conflicts in Africa will inevitably require peacekeeping, but why use mass murderers to keep peace for innocent civilians?
By placing these alleged criminals at the heart of its peacekeeping operations, the U.N. is putting itself in a trap. For example, as soon as the U.N. tries to reverse Rwanda’s impunity culture, the U.N. is blackmailed by Kagame with the threat that he would pull his troops out. Without a Plan B, the U.N. cannot afford a troop withdrawal, so it shamefully chooses to keep quiet in the face of the absolute impunity and continued humiliation of the people of the African Great Lakes region by Kagame’s regime.
The U.N. must not employ Rwandan troops when it knows too well that they are not interested in peace, people’s unity or reconciliation.
Finally, the current Rwandan government is a serious oppressor of civil liberties, as recently evidenced by the Freedom House index, which ranked Rwanda’s freedom rating as 6 – the worst rank being 7 this year – which is not surprising. If Rwanda cannot set its own people free, it is also in the worst position to provide basic freedom to the people of other countries.
If Rwanda cannot set its own people free, it is also in the worst position to provide basic freedom to the people of other countries.
Bosco Mutarambirwa can be reached on Facebook and via Twitter @BoscoClub. This story previously appeared on Rising Continent, where a team of African writers builds self-determination and self-reliance, “finding solutions in themselves before seeking help from outside.”