Q: Do you feel the effect of the RPA's [Armée Patriotique Rwandaise] presence in Congo has been to damage the RPA as an institution? If you look at various external forces, the ZDF [Zimbabwe Defence Forces] is immersed in illicit diamond trading, UPDF [Ugandan People's Defence Force] ditto, and there are critical reports about your own officers.
A: I don't think so. Not as an institution. It's true some individuals were spoilt in one way or another. We have some officers in custody for being involved in different activities. But the army as an institution, I doubt whether it has had any influence. I would say that for various reasons really. The army wasn't just an army that was lying there, a professional army doing nothing and then all of a sudden it finds itself in the Congo. One has to understand the whole history of our army in fighting almost for the last ten years or so and there's that whole history of how we have managed that institution in relation to the tasks they have had to carry out. That's why when you tell them to walk, for example from Kisangani to our border which is 900 kilometres, they do it in sixteen days without any complaint. For me, that is a measure of how unspoiled they are. If they were spoilt they would have demanded us to bring aircraft to carry them and to keep supplying beers to march. I follow very closely: I haven't seen any of that developing.
Q: You know the United Nations' Report on the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Kinshasa] is coming out next week. For the first time, it's more even handed; it goes across all the areas but there are some particularly critical issues about the area where your troops have been. One interesting thing they have come across is a letter from Jean-Pierre Ondekane, leader of the RCD, in which he addresses ANC [Armée Nationale Congolaise RCD-Goma] troops and requests their cooperation with their Mai-Mai and Interahamwé brothers on the ground as a political strategy and also to cooperate in terms of what he calls sub-soil [mineral] exploitation. That paints a picture of your main political ally in eastern Congo actively collaborating with your avowed opponents in exploiting the wealth of the Congo. I wondered how you'd react.
A: I have very serious doubts about that letter. I wouldn't believe it. Maybe you don't know. At least I know, I think, the whole commission that carried out the investigation and wrote this report is not free of politics. We received the report and we'll remain undaunted over what has happened and it will not divert us from pursuing our own goals of achieving security for our country and in whatever modest way we can help the Congolese situation to improve. I have my own personal disrespect of the whole aim behind this report and the forces that were behind it. That is in a personal sense. It doesn't stop it from being damaging as far as creating a bad image for Rwanda or others is concerned.
Q: You've read it. Is everything in the Rwanda section not worthy of discussion or are there issues actually which need to be investigated and looked at?
A: I haven't read it. I have just heard about it. I wouldn't mind. I can't say Rwanda is perfect and everyone there does things perfectly well. There are people with all sorts of frauds they get involved in. But I think it is important in analysing a serious situation like that one to keep in mind the context and different reasons for different things happening. You have to have a correct interpretation of that. So my view is that I think it is wrong. First of all, they overreact when they should not be overreacting. The focus should be what is the origin of what is happening in the Congo. If we can agree on that, then we could be helped to deal with the root cause of the problem.
The second part is if people have been involved in any wrongdoing while they were there, then to deal with that particular problem separately. If so-and-so owns a mine in the Congo and they are exploiting the wealth of the Congo, that's a serious issue and it should be handled. But does that answer the question of the ex-FAR and Interahamwé who committed a genocide in Rwanda and are based in Congo and are being helped by Kabila: that should be dealt with. Not at all. And I don't see why they should overreact like that. Does that explain the indifference sometimes bordering on irresponsibility on the part of the international community? They should be coming in to tell Kabila that he has no point in associating with ex-FAR and Interahamwé supporting genociders and you should be serious about the inter-Congolese dialogue so you can bring together the Congolese and you have your own administration to run, your own affairs so that these people get out of the Congo and so on and so forth.
So if there are issues based on facts and concrete information that attack Rwanda or attack individuals in terms of leaders or commanders of the army, then those are of interest to us. We would very much want to pursue that, find out what is wrong and what has happened.
Q: The thrust of the report is making allegations that it is not so much individuals but systematic and state sponsored economic activities that are going on in the Congo. The accusation is against the Rwandan state, not individuals.
A: If those are facts that can be substantiated, then we are interested in actually having the state explain its case. I am agreeing to whatever can be substantiated on our part, to look into that and talk about it. But what happens? The context is important. What if there are companies from the USA and Belgium and France that are actually involved in doing business in that area? Why is it correct for them to do that and therefore they pass unscathed and yet they target Rwanda for what they yet have to substantiate on that? Secondly, the other part of the context is actually the business that has gone on in that region for decades that is legally covered in terms of the Lusaka peace agreement, the arrangement that was there where business can be carried out by nationals of those countries without recourse to governments or states. How about the actual legitimacy the DRC government has within the framework of Lusaka?
Q: Your view then is, 'Fine, all companies should be judged by same criteria' but if individual army officers are engaged in business activities, you would disapprove of that and disciplinary action would be taken?
Q: You may have heard the report mentions by name several senior officers, including your own Chief of Army Staff, James Kabarebe.
A: I would be very happy to know the truth about it and on the basis of the truth, we will judge how to deal with the problem.
Q: So you would take such accusations seriously?
A: Very seriously indeed.