Human beings are all different but at the same time all similar. They live, enjoy, suffer and then die. Depending on particular circumstances, unfortunately they don’t get all the time treated the same way, though the ideal situation would call for equal treatment for what happens under relatively analogous conditions.
The UN report on atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo which were committed between 1993 and 2003 is expected to be publicized. Though the report unveils crimes that several involved military forces and militias were responsible of, what is striking most are acts of genocide character that the Rwandan Patriotic Army/Alliance des Forces Democratiques de Liberation are accused of against their victims, the Hutu refugees and Hutu Congolese.
Howard French writes to explain why it took so long to go public about the crimes. Timothy Longman, the director of the African Studies Center at Boston University, said that people in eastern Congo had long charged they were victims, too. ‘The reason it didn’t get more attention is that it contradicted the narrative of the Rwandan Popular Front as the ‘good group’ that stopped the genocide in Rwanda,’ he said.
As it would be expected, the Rwandan government has reacted vigorously against the report. Even before the leaks, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, had written to the UN Secretary General to express their outrage. ‘… Attempts to take action on this report – either through its release or leaks to the media – will force us to withdraw from Rwanda’s various commitments to the United Nations, especially in the area of peacekeeping.’
Apparently, the menace was not taken seriously at the UN, since extracts from the report which were out last week accuse explicitly the RPA/AFDL rebel forces of acts of genocide. The threat could also even be seen as a bluff. In fact, as Peter Erlinder explains, ‘the Rwandan army is a serious profit center.’ The Rwandan government receives payments for troops on UN and AU peacekeeping missions in Darfur, Haiti, etc. It could then be ill-advised to cut a source of income unless maintaining it jeopardized the sustainability of Paul Kagame’s political platform.
The Rwandan government has repeatedly threatened and particularly blackmailed the UN and its institutions including the ICTR, and now about this new report for several reasons. Among them there is its serious involvement in contributing to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It has always blamed the UN and the international community because it needs an important scapegoat to justify and somehow explain what happened then and come out and look clean and even heroic afterwards.
In 1994, as UN Gen. Dallaire wrote to his superiors, Paul Kagame refused to agree to a ceasefire, because he was winning the war, and the civilian casualties were collateral damage for his war plan. The second reason is that Paul Kagame has built his credibility on his claim of stopping the genocide. The UN documents show that he knowingly triggered the mass violence in Rwanda by assassinating the two Presidents, Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi and then refused to use his military superiority to help stop the mass violence he had knowingly triggered. Though French and Spanish judges have found him guilty on these accounts, it will take the involvement of US and UK to get him in front of a criminal court.
The role of Paul Kagame in the Rwandan genocide and now Congolese genocide against Hutu refugees and Hutu indigenous is undeniable. It would be a miracle if for example the Oklahoma case against him came to a different conclusion from that of French and Spanish judgments. In 1994, the Security Council was quick to set up the International Criminal Court for Rwanda to judge perpetrators of atrocities committed in Rwanda at the time. The court failed in many regards by only judging the vanquished and in deliberately disregarding Kagame’s responsibilities in the Rwandan genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal Court for Congo which is many years overdue should learn from mistakes made in the Rwandan case. As the UN report on war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo comes out, its future will define how equal are Tutsi and Hutu in death.