For decades the Greatlakes region has been characterized by wars and social unrest. From the end of the 80s, the epicenter of violence moved from Uganda to Rwanda, and then in 1996 expanded to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During this whole period until today, the few who in the region and elsewhere have claimed an apparent climate of peace or prosperity are either part of those who benefit from ongoing situation or for personal reasons have to lie to themselves and others about the daily reality.
The guerrilla war that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by Paul Kgame imposed on Rwanda since October 1990 destroyed the social tissue which kept together Hutu and Tutsi. On April 6th, 1994, it culminated in the assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana, president of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryaminra, president of Burundi. This act triggered the Rwandan genocide which saw more than half a million Rwandan killed in a few months. Unfortunately, after RPF’s victory on July 4th, 1994, the killing spree continued in Rwanda and the region, with an alliance of war-mongers pursuing different political and economic objectives. Serial rapes and ensuing traumas for women are a constant reminder of unprecedented crimes RPF has brought to Eastern Congo and DRC as a country.
International Criminal Tribunal for Congo
Since RPF got into power in 1994, US and UK have obstructed attempts to investigate and punish perpetrators of crimes committed in Rwanda and DRC each time evidence has pointed to their protégés. This has been the case with the Gersony report in October 1994, which documented and accused RPF of having killed at least 30,000 Hutus since coming to power, and Garreton report in 1997 which released a damning account on crimes committed by the RPA against the Hutu refugees in DRC.
The UN report on war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide committed in DRC by rebel and militia forces between 1993 and 2003 should be published as it stands in its version leaked on August 26th, 2010 to the newspaper Le Monde. In spite of threats of the Rwandan government to withdraw its contingent from UN peacekeeping forces, a simple consideration of the number of victims that Kagame’s acts have caused – 5.4 millions of Congolese dead as of by 2007, and the intent of exterminating an ethnic group consisting of Hutu refugees and Hutu Congolese, demands that justice be done. In addition, it would be shameful for the UN to have in its military personnel soldiers who are accused of acts of genocide while on mission to prevent similar crimes.
In 1994, the Security Council was quick to set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to judge perpetrators of atrocities committed in the Rwandan genocide. The court failed in many regards by only investigating the vanquished and deliberately disregarding Kagame’s responsibilities in the tragedy. The International Criminal Tribunal for Congo which is many years overdue should learn from mistakes made in the Rwandan case.
Rwandans, Congolese, Ugandans and Burundians who survived Paul Kagame’s crimes in those years, or have to live in constant fear in Eastern Congo because of permanent insecurity he has created in the region, are waiting to see those crimes publicly exposed and punished. Altering the initial draft of the UN report to satisfy the demands of the Rwandan president would equal to discriminate among Hutus and Tutsis in death as he does for the living and the dead in Rwanda.
Transitional government of national unity and fair and democratic elections for Rwanda
During the run-up to Rwandan elections held on August 9th, 2010, the repressive nature of Kagame’s government has been widely and overtly uncovered. Journalists and politicians have been assassinated. Newspapers were banned. Human rights activists, opposition supporters, and political leaders have been imprisoned. The outcome of the elections where the incumbent scored 93% is a testimony of serious lack of democracy in Rwanda.
Rwandan partners have been reluctant to work for Rwandans’ interests by shying away from making President Kagame accountable to his people and less oppressive. He has become synonymous of Rwandan institutions. There is no aspects of judiciary, executive, or legislation he doesn’t control directly or indirectly. The lack of respect for basic human rights in every aspect of life undermines the prospect of a peaceful change in Rwandan political leadership. Political situation prevailing today in Rwanda is comparatively similar to pre-1994 at great extent, with social tensions at the brink of chaos.
In order to avoid a repeat of past violent political changes and their detrimental consequences in neighboring countries, EU, US and UK are urged to put pressure on President Kagame, to open up political space, free all political prisoners, form a Transitional Government of National Unity including the real political opposition which would, in the short term, set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and aim at preparing Free and Fair Elections.