“Would you like some fresh cheese?” A soldier says to me. “A snack while you wait for General Nkunda.”
“Sounds good,” I say, and gobble up several toothpick portions.
We have been waiting for the general all night and into the next day at his compound headquarters, once a beautiful Belgium dairy farm deep into the countryside of the Congo.
I was here as the guest of the general, so I didn’t feel any danger, just boredom as I wait hour after hour. I waltz around the farm visiting with soldiers and watching various dignitaries queuing up to visit with the general. At one point I briefly join in a game of volleyball with some of the soldiers in the camp to help pass the time.
One of my colleges tells me this farm used to be the headquarters for the Hutu militiamen who waged the genocide in Rwanda after they fled the country. It sits on top of a green hill and offers pretty view of the valley.
Eventually I’m told the general is on his way to see me. So I prepare my notes one last time.
We all stand as his walks into the barren, a room where he sits at the empty table. He invites us to sit.
I shoot through a series of questions trying to gauge what the security level is for the Province.
“It’s a major problem because security depends on belief in leadership. And if there is no leadership, there cannot be security,” Nkunda says.
He goes on to explain that he wants security for the region and the leadership he is providing is intended to bring this to the people.
There is also a distrust of the DRC government.
“It was proved the last time in the past war the government of Kinshasa used the FDLR (Forces for the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda or Hutu militia).”
The general is a Tutsi.
“We are thinking that the government of Congo is going to protect them so that they can conduct the genocide in Eastern Congo.”
As of today, 50,000 Congolese refugees are living in Rwanda, most are Tutsi who cannot go home because of the FDLR.
“So I think if they want peace, they must deal with reconciliation. It’s a major problem. The reconciliation between tribes and the reconciliation between what we call political classes,” says General Nkunda.
“You are crying for Darfur in Sudan, crying for Tutsis that were killed in Rwanda. But your country didn’t intervene and Rwandans were killed. Your country does a great thing to ask for pardon, for forgiveness of Rwandans. But today in Eastern Congo, there is a genocide in preparation. Are you going to ask also for a pardon again?”