Congo. Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio. Italian magazine Nigrizia conspiracy theory genesis
On the complicated story of the Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio and his body guard Vittorio Lacovacci, the Italian media unleashed the race to conspiracy. The most desperate theories about the instigators and the reasons that led to Luca’s death have been exposed, perhaps for reasons of audience and views. Not least that of the Italian magazine Nigrizia where the government of Rwanda is accused. An accusation devoid of evidence that could have been induced by very interested people …
The brutal assassination of the Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Vittorio Lacovacci, “carabiniere” stationed at the Italian Embassy in Kinshasa and in charge of protecting the diplomat, which took place near Goma, the capital of North Kivu, east of Congo (National Road RN2 in the vicinity of Kanyamahoro district of Nyiragongo), sparked the race to conspiracy in the Italian press. Suddenly an army of “experts” appeared from nowhere to explain us in ten minutes the complex situation of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its eastern provinces on the borders with Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda. Often these attempts have ended in a series of approximate truths, confusion between the political and military actors operating in eastern Congo, and several clichés. Their mainly information sources come from the provincial capital of South Kivu: Bukavu, hundreds of kilometres away from the place of the murder. A geographical location that is not accidental for those who know the complicated dynamics of eastern Congo.
A few days after the brutal assassination, the Congolese government accuses the armed group Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) of being instigators and executors. The FDLR are a Rwandan armed group formed in eastern Congo 6 years after the 1994 Rwandan genocide thanks to a reorganization of the Rwandan military and paramilitary forces that had unleashed the genocide against the Tutsi ethnic minority. The reorganization of the Rwandan genocidal forces was France’s masterpiece. At the time, Paris was obsessed with regaining control of the small African country through the same allies with which the French army had facilitated their extermination plans and subsequently protected by international justice. The FDLR have dominated eastern Congo for 20 years associated with the government of then President Joseph Kabila in the illegal exploitation and trading of gold, diamonds, coltan and rare earths.
The accusation launched by the Congolese government and supported by President Felix Tshisekedi had the merit of reminding international public opinion of the existence of this armed group included in the 2004 American list of international terrorist organizations together with Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram , Al-Shaabab, ISIS-DAESH. The FDLR, despite being the main terrorist group responsible for the chronic instability of the eastern provinces of Congo, with an estimate monthly turnover of about 4 million dollars of the black market in precious minerals and responsible for unprecedented massacres of the civilian population (also taking on loan acronyms of other armed groups), have always enjoyed an (apparently) incomprehensible media silence. A “gift” obtained thanks to the international complicity that the FDLR enjoy since its foundation.
FDLRs are an uncomfortable reality for many institutional, political and religious actors. Various Western and Asian multinationals have done excellent business with them through third party intermediaries. The FDLR were the privileged partner of the corrupt and despotic Kabila government. They served as buffer forces against Rwanda and the various Congolese Tutsi rebellions as well as efficient business partners for the plundering of natural resources in North and South Kivu. The UN Peacekeepers: MONUSCO also offered cover and assistance to FDLR terrorists intent on fighting Tutsi rebellions such as that of Colonel Laurent Nkunda (2009) and that of the March 23 — M23 (2012). Well-founded suspicions also indicate that many UN peacekeepers have been involved in trafficking in minerals and have done business with these terrorists and Congolese army (FARDC) corrupt generals.
Part of the local Congolese clergy and Western Catholic missionaries have always supported the FDLR and their ultimate goal: to regain Rwanda, lost in 1994 after 30 years of Hutu racial dictatorship and genocide. Support driven by ideological blindness and ethnic hatred of the Tutsi minority that has bogged down the Catholic Church in the chaos of regional violence until the turning point desired by Father Francis in March 2013 following the meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
On that occasion the Holy Father wanted to come to terms with the past recognizing the leading role played by the Rwandan Catholic clergy and certain European missionaries in the 1994 genocide. The most brutal massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus took place in the churches. Several diligent parish priests attracted the faithful to worship places promising protection and then handing them over to the Interahamwe genocidal militias, which later became the fighting fulcrum of the FDLR. Asking forgiveness for past responsibilities, Pope Francis announced a new Vatican foreign policy for the Great Lakes Region, based on overcoming ethnic hatred, outright opposition to the armed and terrorist groups that infest eastern Congo (including FDLR ), regional integration of states and peoples, inclusive development.
The reasons that would have led the FDLR to kill the Italian Ambassador are unknown. The Congolese government has not gone beyond the accusation at the moment, evidently in order not to pollute the ongoing investigations in which also expert investigators sent by the Rome Prosecutor’s Office and coordinated by the Prosecutor Michele Prestipino and the Public Prosecutors Sergio Colaiocco and Alberto Pioletti participate. The aim of the joint Kinshasa — Rome investigations is to find out who was responsible for the murder and to understand if there were any flaws in the organization of security by local leaders of the World Food Program: WFP.
On Luca’s death, the Italian media went wild. Suddenly Congo had become a priority topic capable of attracting Italian public attention by proposing an international thriller that could represent a “novelty” compared to the news concentrated for at least a year on the COVID19 pandemic. Without in-depth knowledge of the complex reality of eastern Congo, italian media have fired various hypotheses including that of the commissioned murder linked to the agreements in progress between the government of Kinshasa and the Italian multinational oil company: ENI for the extraction of oil at the east of the country. The “ENI” track is proposed by the Italian journalist Massimo A. Alberizzi on his blog “Africa Express”. According to Alberizzi, the FDLR, with the assassination of Luca, would have sent a clear signal to Kinshasa and ENI: “Either talk to us too and give us royalties, or you will never be able to exploit the fields”.
Simultaneously with the speculations of the Italian media, often made for reasons of audience and views on social networks, we are witnessing the manoeuvres implemented by the main suspects of the murder: the FDLR who immediately issue a statement that denies any involvement and accuses Rwanda of being the instigator of the Luca’s death. The Communiqué is not taken seriously by both investigators and the Western media. The “Rwandan” track was discarded from the start. The FLDRs remain the prime suspects.
The FDLR are going through a bad time. For the first time since their foundation (2000) they have lost much of the territories they militarily controlled in east of Congo and related illegal mines, due to joint operations of the Congolese and Rwandan armies called: Operation East Corridor, which began in March 2019. Currently the territories controlled by the FDLR have been significantly reduced and, as a direct consequence, also their illegal business with rare or precious minerals. The only safe bulwark remains Burundi, a prisoner of a bloody military junta based on racial superiority and extermination deology: the HutuPower, which is the mainly reason for living of the FDLR. These terrorists are first order political and military allies of the Burundian regime, infiltrated in the top management of the Armed and Police Forces and “tutors” of the Burundian death squads called: Imbonerakure.
The military and political leaders of the FDLR (most of them participated in the 1994 genocide and are internationally wanted) were extremely concerned that their terrorist group was in the international headlines. The FDLR have always acted in the shadows, never seeking international media visibility, unlike other terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda or DAESH. Acting in the shadows almost becoming a “ghost” armed group, allowed them to conduct the Congolese mineral trafficking undisturbed. Hence the need to remove any suspicion in the involvement of the death of the Italian Ambassador.
The FDLR, after noting that their statement had not been taken into due consideration and had not dispelled the doubts of their involvement, started a disinformation campaign on social media and WhatsApp aimed at blaming the Rwandan government. This disinformation campaign originated in Bukavu, South Kivu where the sympathies and support for the FDLR by politicians and some Congolese and European exponents of the Catholic clergy are still very strong. The disinformation campaign, based on fake news, pointed to the Kigali government as responsible. Italian Ambassador would have been killed by elite units of the Rwandan army while the Congolese army would have had an intelligence role. Why would Rwanda want to kill Luca? “To find an alibi that would allow him to find an official excuse to return to Congo, intervene here even more deeply. They have created an additional pretext to plunder natural resources and rob the riches of the territory, which this part of the country abounds in. “ Colonel Placide Niyiturinda, responsible of Genocide, Terrorism and Mineral trafficking, says in an interview.
In the disinformation campaign conducted on social networks, the FDLRs re-propose the theory created in the late nineties and in the first decade of the 2000s, by European missionaries and Congolese Catholic clergy. The governments of Kinshasa and Kigali would be allies to jointly plunder Congo’s natural resources and massacre Rwandan refugees and Congolese civilians. The FDLR are the only bulwark of these imperialist aims, which struggle to defend the defenceless population and restore “democracy” to Rwanda.
The WhatsApp and social media campaign is spread starting from Bukavu by political circles of the “Bashi” ethnic group involved in the exploitation of minerals and colluding with the FDLR and by a frightened minority of people pro HutuPower within the local Catholic clergy. A campaign that manages to create confusion in Congo but not to dispel doubts at an international level, especially in Italy.
The theories and accusations (devoid of any proof) of the FDLR unexpectedly find an important echo in the prestigious Italian magazine Nigrizia dedicated to Africa issues. In an article published on March 3, the Italian magazine proposes the Rwandan track. The entire article is based on testimonies from “Rwandan and Congolese sources” without specifying who are these sources presented by Nigrizia as “credible”. An article that accuses a government based on stories, hearsay and no evidence in an attempt to unveil a diabolical plan in Rwanda, of which the Congolese authorities are alleged to be complicit: Operation Milan.
What would this operation consist of with the very unlikely name of the famous city in Northern Italy, perhaps invented to make the thesis more familiar to Italian public opinion? In the explanation of the Milan Operation, Nigrizia proposes a classic detective novel based on hearsay and testimonies from “reliable sources”. The result, unfortunately, is a conspiracy article.
The Milan Operation, conceived by the Rwandan government with complicity of Kinshasa, according to Nigrizia, would in practice be the premeditated assassination of the Italian Ambassador, organized by the Rwandan government and carried out by a Colonel of the Congolese army: Jean Claude Rusimbi, former guerrilla of the Tutsi rebellion by Laurent Nkunda.
The Rwandan secret services would have learned that Ambassador Luca Attanasio was focus on mass massacres in eastern Congo and wanted to visit the mass graves where the innocent victims of Rwandan soldiers were buried. Colonel Rusimbi would have used one of his subordinates, the lieutenant “Didier” together with 4 Rwandan soldiers to ambush Luca and kill the dangerous witness. After the commissioned assassination Didier and his team would return to Rubavu, Rwanda.
Who would be the agent of the assassination? None other than the Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who: “For over 25 years has controlled the Great Lakes region on behalf of third parties” emphasizes the Nigrizia magazine. To make this conspiracy theory more credible, it is stated that Luca wanted to investigate the destination of funds for humanitarian aid that would be diverted to other purposes by international NGOs. Check the name of the director of Panzi hospital in Bukavu: Doctor Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize winner 2018 and staunch defender of innocent victims who denounced Rwanda to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed in Congo. According to the article, the Rwandans would have been very worried about the frequent visits of the Italian Ambassador to Doctor Mukwege …
The FDLR have always played on hatred of Rwanda to cover up their terrorist and criminal activities. Their main economic partner too: Joseph Kabila was indirectly accused by them of being in league with Rwanda. Now FDLR accuse President Felix Tshisekedi to be the preferred puppet of Diabolic Rwandan Dictator: Paul Kagame. Unlike his predecessor, Tshisekedi aims to annihilate the FDLR and their network of armed sub-groups in order to pacify the eastern provinces and get the economy and progress off the ground.
Nigrizia article contains many emotional elements. A young musungu ambassador sensitive to the Congolese population, victim of expansionism and the economic interests of a nearby African power, an international conspiracy linked to the exploitation of rare minerals and a democratic resistance group that fighting imperialist powers: the FDLR. The only element missing is the evidence. There are only statements by unknown individuals defined as “Rwandan sources” and verified “in detail and confirmed by several Congolese contacted”. Very little to blame a government.
What do the mass graves mentioned in the article refer to? To a series of massacres that took place in the localities of Rusimbi, Rutshuru and Masisi during March 1996 and June 2004, of which suspicions fall on the Rwandan occupation troops. Even admitting that the Italian Ambassador was particularly sensitive to these crimes, it is really fanciful to say that he intended to visit the places of the massacres. It is not the prerogative of the Diplomatic Corps and it does not appear that the Farnesina (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affair) or the Italian Government has ever given to Ambassador Attanasio such indications.
The accusation against Rwanda made by Nigrizia (mosto propably on behalf of third parties) was not picked up by the majority of the Italian media and, according to rumours, would not have been taken into consideration by the investigators. Yet the article, which contains lot of conspiracy theories, had a much more devastating effect. The article, of which the similarities to the accusations levelled by FDLR terrorists against Rwanda are at least astonishing, was resumed on social networks by virtue of the authoritativeness of the source (Nigrizia magazine) to start a campaign of ethnic hatred against the Rwandans and the Tutsi minority in Congo . A campaign orchestrated by the FDLR and their supporters whose origin is Bukavu, where the majority ethnic group: the Bashi are historically Tutsiphobic. The article is also shot on social media in Italy, but with different objectives and actors.
A clue that the article was the victim of untrue news that hid political purposes, including perhaps the rehabilitation of the FDLR, lies in Colonel Jean-Claude Rusimbi identified as the perpetrator of the assassination. There is no trace in the Congolese media and official statements of the name of Rusimbi involved in the fact of blood. His name is mentioned by an FDLR social media campaign through one of their sympathizers: Lisette Lisa Mongendu. It publishes on its Facebook page the false news of the arrest of Colonel Rusimbi implicated in the assassination of Luca, well underlining his ethnicity: Tutsi and his past ties with Rwanda. The news was released on February 26, 2021, attracting 1.6 million views, before being classified as Fake News.
When we write about the Great Lakes Region, we have an immense responsibility. Ethnic grievances and resentments have been around for decades. In some areas of the Great Lakes they have been rooted for centuries and are the cause of permanent instability. Gathering news is always difficult as one is exposed to prejudices that alter reality or to real misdirection. We come across witnesses or “charitable people” who hide political agendas that are difficult to understand. The article published in Nigrizia, in addition to not containing a shred of evidence, was easily exploited by European and Congolese actors near to FDLR who certainly do not share the ideals of the Italian Catholic magazine. A tool for those famous occult political agendas still carried out in the Great Lakes, despite the devastating end of the 1994 Holocaust?
In the real world, the investigations into the murder continue and FDLR remains the major suspects as indicate by Kinshasa Government. A difficult and dangerous investigation given the murder of William Assani, a magistrate at the Rutshuru Military Court, killed on 2 March at Katale, Rutshuru — Goma road. The magistrate had been in charge of investigating the assassination of the Italian ambassador, the carabiniere and the Congolese driver Mustafa Milambo. These are powerful games whose actors and mechanisms are hardly known. In this slippery terrain as it contains the quicksand of politically targeted fake news, particular attention should be paid to the difficult job of offering information to avoid risks of exploitation. Whether they come from the FDLR, Kinshasa or the government of Rwanda does not matter. Everyone has an interest in influencing and altering the truth.