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M23 Links: I don’t regret it, Andrew Mwenda Speaks Out

By Our Reporters

Sometime in March of this year, journalist and publisher, Andrew Mwenda, received a telephone call from an anonymous number. The caller told him that there was a group of M23 leaders in Uganda who would like to meet him. As a journalist, newspaper columnist, radio talk show host, television show panelist, social media personality and owner of a media company, Mwenda says, “I was interested.”

“My work and opinions require collection of information from primary sources. I talk to people of all backgrounds to inform myself. I was therefore most keen to talk to M23 leaders to hear their story.”

“I met them around March 11th at my office. They included Lawrence Kanyuka, Desire Rwigyema and a third person whose name I cannot remember. I had always thought M23 was an ethnic militia of the Tutsi of eastern DRC. To my surprise Kanyuka told me he is from the Luba ethnic group, just like President Felix Tshisekedi. They gave me the list of their leaders, political and military, most of whom were not Tutsi. In fact one of them is a Hutu Congolese. I was intrigued and we sat down to a long conversation. They told me that in October 2020, Kanyuka had led an M23 delegation to Kinshasa. They spent there 14 months negotiating a peace settlement with the government. The peace discussions agreed that M23 should demobilise and have their fighters integrated into the Congolese army. But just when the M23 were grouping to surrender in November 2022, they were attacked by Congolese forces. Many of their soldiers were killed. M23 protested to Kinshasa and got no response. However, they told me they do not want to continue fighting. They want the peace process back on track. They said they want me to help them contact the embassies of the USA, France, Belgium and the EU. These four, they said, have influence in Kinshasa and can help establish a communication channel with the government. Immediately, I saw a chance to bring the two sides to talk, end the fighting in Congo and bring about peace. I have read about such intractable civil conflicts in many nations: Vietnam, Iraq, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Columbia etc. In all of them, a purely military solution has been elusive. The lesson from my wide reading is that only when governments seek political accommodation with rebels does military victory on the battlefield translate into permanent peace at the political level. Thus, I felt that such an opportunity should not be missed. DRC has been mired in this intractable conflict for decades. I therefore called the U.S., French and EU missions in Kampala and briefed them on my meeting with M23. I told them that these rebels are looking for someone with influence to help establish a channel of communication with Kinshasa. The aim is to inform the government of DRC that M23 is willing to surrender,” Mwenda wrote in an opinion first published in The Independent on June 9, 2024.

Mwend has since been ‘linked’ to the M23 rebels.

However, in a post on X on Tuesday, Mwenda said he does not regret the meeting.

“I do not regret it at all. I would be the happiest man in the world if the USA sanctioned me, or sent me to the ICC to spend the rest of my life in jail, or better still, if they hanged me for promoting a peaceful settlement in DRC. It would be an honor to an old man!” said Mwenda.

“I lost my faith in these “international organisations” (read American or Western) a long time ago. When they investigate an issue, it is not to search for the nuanced truths. Instead, they begin with prejudices, assumptions and suspicions. Then they grab every straw in the wind that confirms these biases. Americans and their Western allies who control these international organisations always have an agenda. Intelligence gathering is only used and manipulated in pursuit of that agenda. Sad! In my case, Americans claimed I was trying to help M23 get rid of sanctions. M23 leaders did not talk to me about sanctions and neither did I to the Americans. I imagine Americans recorded my conversations with them. They must have an accurate record of our discussions. Why then, did they cook up such lies? I will return to this reckless abuse of power in this column next week,” Mwenda says.

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