Monthly Archives: August 2010

Call for an International Criminal Court for Congo

Human beings are all different but at the same time all similar. They live, enjoy, suffer and then die. Depending on particular circumstances, A UN Goma camp area in 1994. Two years later, the Rwandan army attacked the Goma camps, which were full of Hutu refugees, forcing hundreds of thousands deeper into Zaire. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/Corbis. Courtesy of The Guardian.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.

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Rwanda: A lot of PR needed for a fading image

The challenge of facing democracy inside and international justice outside appears to become a costly exercise for the government of Paul Kagame. Within the space of a few weeks, it was first the outcry about the outcome of presidential elections held on August 9th, and we then have the seriously damaging leaked UN report on atrocities committed by the RPA/AFDL rebel forces on Hutu refugees and local Hutu populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ann Garrison, a Californian independent journalist compiled a partial list of news outlets which have highlighted the content of the UN report as of 08.28.2010. These include Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Reuters Africa, Agence France Press, Newsweek, New York Times, De Standaard, as reported in PressEurop, Channel 4 UK, Telegraph, Press TV, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Miami Herald, NPR. She says that the political cost of standing with Kagame is mounting by the hour.

As for the contested outcomes from the election, Paul Kagame had resorted to publishing in The Financial Times of Thursday 19th August where he stood. Using such news outlet confirmed what had been reported by The Guardian a while ago saying that he was working with PR firms to launder his regime’s reputation. If he is clean about allegations he is accused of by Rwandan opposition parties and human rights organizations one would wonder the true motives of such costly assistance.

He highlights for example that he has achieved reconciliation among Rwandans, and then what are the explanations to the thousands of refugees from all ethnic groups who continue fleeing the country. Unease has been particularly evidenced among his colleagues in RPF ranks in recent times and apparently doesn’t end. His reconciliation without tolerance appears to exemplify what happened to the assassinated vice president of the Green Democratic Party of Rwanda, Andre Rwisereka, the shot dead journalist of Umuvugizi Jean Leonard Rugambage, or General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa victim of an assassination attempt in South Africa.

Political parties which criticize RPF regime are until today excluded from legally operating in Rwanda. Victoire Ingabire, leader of FDU-Inkingi, is under house arrest since April. Her party has been denied registration because of false allegations against her of genocide ideology, genocide denial, and being associated with a terrorist group. The Green Democratic Party couldn’t get registered either. Me Bernard Ntaganda, Chairman of Parti Social – Imberakuri is in prison since June 24th.

Paul Kagame’s claim of economic growth is misleading because it intentionally obscures the exact picture of what he found in Rwanda in 1994. Rwandan electrification was among the highest in Africa before the arrival of RPF in power. This was also true for the number of hospitals and frequency of roads. There is no evidence of significant developments in these areas which was installed since. On these issues Paul Kagame provides a picture of a country which apparently didn’t have any infrastructure before 1994. He forgets that the same institutions which are praising him today for making tremendous economic progress had also appreciated the model of development of his predecessor.

In addition, the point he makes of continuous economic growth seems to say that no one could have achieved similar performance while the Rwandan government receives from donors 60% of its budget and its structures are in the hands of external experts. Could such achievement be reasonably attributed to him?

According to the PNUD, Rwanda ranks among the 15% countries most unequal. There is a need to compare elements or situations which are comparable. The same institution reports that the population which lives under the poverty line has passed from 47% previously to 60% under RPF leadership. Who benefit from current economic growth if any? It is Kigali residents who consist of Rwandan elites. 85% of the population is rural.

Democracy is a universal principle. One does not have to choose between food, freedom, and electricity which is only available to a very small fraction of the population, yet this after 16 years of RPF leadership. It is not up to the president to decide what is convenient to the people. Citizens should be responsible for their destiny and not Paul Kagame imposing them his.

Justice is another fundamental and universal human right. For most Rwandans, their country has become like a prison where some of the inmates have the keys to get out but also back to their cells, whereas others are confined only to the space available inside its walls. Thousands have died unaccounted for at the hands of prison guards. The leaked UN report brings some hope of justice for the thousands who died in DRC running away from the RPA/ADFL forces in 1997-98. Their memory could then this time be publicly remembered.

Western backers of Paul Kagame turning their back

Again this final week of August 2010 the ‘leaked’ UN report is at the centre of all news savvy seekers who are interested in the politics of the Greatlakes region, and particularly its strongman Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

Kambale Musavili, a Congolese activist, was among rare people to announce that he had already in hands a copy of the apparently leaked report “Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993–2003: Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003.

As he reads through the pages, he momentously informed his contacts on what he was finding. After his reading he shared this comment about the report:

‘… the Garreton report documented the killings done by Kagame and his troops in Congo. 200,000 Rwandans, most of whom women and children, were massacred and buried in Congo. The mass graves still exist. Don’t tell me Kagame stopped the investigation. The United States government did. They blocked that report from being published. But it is available online. We have linked to it in many articles. This is not a new report, nor a leaked report! This is a report that the West decided not to publish or talk about to protect their African fall guy Paul Kagame!’

For those interested in the Garreton report, here is the link  http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/0811fcbd0b9f6bd58025667300306dea/8e3dbacbae51ce60802567460034073d?OpenDocument#IIB

Kambale concludes, ‘My concern is this. I understand the West is turning on Kagame. But let’s not be fooled once again. The central issue here is US and UK foreign policies in Africa supporting dictators in the name of profit. When Kagame is gone, we still have to deal with reconciliation within Rwanda.

Some in the West seem surprised as popular opinion in that part of the world was never really focused on the crimes going on in the Congo. They have always been distracted by American-led hype about Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. Whereas more people have died in the Congo in the past 15 years than in all three of those conflicts put together.

This is many years after these crimes were committed, covered up for greedy interests which don’t value lives in their ways. There have been International Criminal Tribunals, one for Yugoslavia and another for Rwanda. Since there is now public massive evidence to stop impunity of the perpetrators, can the memory of the victims be honored by the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for Democratic Republic of Congo?

End of UN cover-up of Paul Kagame’ acts of genocide (8)

Jason Stearns published on his blog extracts of the referred to UN report titled, “Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993–2003: Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003.

Paragraph 518 – Nonetheless, neither the fact that only men were targeted…

Nonetheless, neither the fact that only men were targeted during the massacres, nor the fact that part of the group were allowed to leave the country or that there movement was facilitated for various reasons, are sufficient in themselves to entirely remove the intention of certain people to partially destroy an ethnic group as such.

In this respect it seems possible to infer a specific intention on the part of certain AFDL/APR commanders to partially destroy the Hutus in the DRC, and therefore to commit a crime of genocide, based on their conduct, words and the damning circumstances of the acts of violence committed by the men under their command.

It will be for a court with proper jurisdiction to rule on this question.

Paragraph 512 – The systematic attacks
Paragraph 513 – At the time of the incidents covered by this report
Paragraph 514 – Several incidents listed in this report point to circumstances and facts
Paragraph 515 – Several of the massacres listed were committed regardless
Paragraph 516 – The massacres in Mbandaka and Wendji
Paragraph 517 – The systematic and widespread attacks
Paragraph 518 – Nonetheless, neither the fact that only men were targeted…

End of UN cover-up of Paul Kagame’ acts of genocide (7)

Jason Stearns published on his blog extracts of the referred to UN report titled, “Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993–2003: Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003.

Paragraph 517 – The systematic and widespread attacks

The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide.

The behaviour of certain elements of the AFDL/APR in respect of the Hutu refugees and Hutu populations settled in Zaire at this time seems to equate to “a manifest pattern of similar conduct directed against that group”, from which a court could even deduce the existence of a genocidal plan.

“Whilst the existence of such a plan may contribute to establishing the required genocidal intention, it is nonetheless only an element of proof used to deduce such an intention and not a legal element of genocide.”

It should be noted that certain elements could cause a court to hesitate to decide on the existence of a genocidal plan, such as the fact that as of 15 November 1996, several tens of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees, many of whom had survived previous attacks, were repatriated to Rwanda with the help of the AFDL/APR authorities and that hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees were able to return to Rwanda with the consent of the Rwandan authorities prior to the start of the first war.

Whilst, in general, the killings did not spare women and children, it should be noted that in some places, at the beginning of the first war, Hutu women and children were in fact separated from the men, and only the men were subsequently killed.

Paragraph 512 – The systematic attacks
Paragraph 513 – At the time of the incidents covered by this report
Paragraph 514 – Several incidents listed in this report point to circumstances and facts
Paragraph 515 – Several of the massacres listed were committed regardless
Paragraph 516 – The massacres in Mbandaka and Wendji
Paragraph 517 – The systematic and widespread attacks
Paragraph 518 – Nonetheless, neither the fact that only men were targeted…