When the leaked UN draft report on crimes committed in DRCongo came out on August 26th, it set new grounds for international ethics in peacekeeping. Back in 2006, there had been controversy over General Karake Karenzi, currently imprisoned in Kigali by his master, becoming deputy for the UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur – Sudan. His UN employment contract had to be cancelled because of the pressure of human rights organizations and survivors of crimes he committed in Rwanda and DRCongo.
The Rwandan government’s reaction to the content of the UN report was expected as it occurred. What has been a surprise was the behavior of the UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. When he went to Kigali on September 7th to beg Paul Kagame not to call back home his peacekeepers, it was like asking a suspect rapist to become the guardian of a college of only girls or a central bank robber being given authority to run the treasury department of a country.
The content of the UN report is unequivocal. Among many other issues surrounding crimes committed in DRCongo, it is clear about responsibilities of Kagame’s forces during the period covered by the document.’ In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or psychological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten.’
It is unquestionable that UN has shined in failing Africa in general and many African countries in particular. In 1994, at the threat of becoming a military target as Paul Kagame told them, the 2,500 UN peacekeepers serving then in Rwanda were reduced at a mere 270 men contingent at the height of the Rwandan genocide. Perceptibly, such threat was responded to positively at the Security Council by the countries whose geopolitical interests the rebel turned today president of Rwanda served at the time. RDCongo is another case of failure of the UN. In 1961, there was the alleged complicity of UN peacekeepers in the overthrow and assassination of elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba followed by decades of Mobutu’s dictatorship working for the West rather than Congolese people. The 17,000 UN forces which are currently stationed in DRCongo since 2003 supposedly to maintain peace have been proven to be part of the problem than the solution.
Using suspect rapists and other criminals as Rwandan UN peacekeepers doesn’t provide the peacekeeping mission with a good reputation. Sponsors or supporters of Rwanda as a part of UN contingent to maintain peace in troubled places should be ashamed. They are either in denial of atrocities the Rwandan army has committed in DRCongo, accomplices of its crimes or simply racist in their attitude towards African people. Can they ever imagine how it would feel to find out that you are protected by genocide or rapist suspects? I think it would rather add up to your insecurity and lower your peace of mind.
The serial raping of women in Eastern Congo has been carried on over the years. The most recent incident was reported last month and preceded by a few weeks the scheduled publication of the UN report which accuses Kagame forces of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Was it a hazardous incident or a deliberate occurrence to distract the general opinion from RPF serious responsibilities in alleged crimes?
Jeffrey Gettleman reported on April 30th, on the case of thousands of young people held like prisoners at Iwawa Island in the middle of the Lake Kivu. As the UN draft report indicates, some military forces which were involved in Congolese wars continued to have children in their ranks even after they officially ended. As raping is one of the weapons used to scare populations and get them displaced, it won’t surprise if these young people at Iwawa would be part of such raping contingents. A source which requested anonymity told us that there were many such camps in the countries of the Great Lakes region where rebels turned presidents keep on using dirty and dehumanizing tactics to achieve their political aims.