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Rwanda: Me Ntaganda confirmed as Chair by PS-Imberakuri Congress

Bernard Ntaganda - Leader of PS-Imberakuri

Bernard Ntaganda - Leader of PS-Imberakuri

RESOLUTIONS OF THE EXTRAORDINARY NATIONAL CONGRESS OF THE SOCIAL PARTY (PS-IMBERAKURI) HELD ON April 4, 2010.

Under the Basic Law of the Social Democratic Party PS-Imberakuri, an Extraordinary National Congress was held in Kigali on 4/4/2010. After reviewing the serious problems currently facing the Rwanda, the Extraordinary National Congress of the PS-Imberakuri party came out with the following resolutions:

GENERAL RESOLUTIONS

1. The PS-Imberakuri party invites all its members to participate with all Rwandans to the planned activities during this period of mourning to honor victims of the genocide against Tutsi occurred in April 1994.

2. The PS–Imberakuri party is willing to participate into constructive discussions with the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF-Inkotanyi provided that the discussions and debates are performed in a climate of mutual respect and understanding.

3. The PS-Imberakuri party condemns with all its energies the harassments of any kind towards its members.

4. The PS-Imberakuri party calls some of its members who have strayed from the ideals of the party to return into the ranks so that together we continue the struggle for democracy to flourish in Rwanda.

SPECIAL RESOLUTIONS

1. The participants in the Extraordinary National Congress of the PS – Imberakuri party reaffirm that Me Bernard NTAGANDA is the founding president of the PS-Imberakuri party and that all members support Me Ntaganda as the party candidate for the presidential elections to be held in August 2010.

2. The PS-Imberakuri party reiterates its determination to be part of the Electoral Commission as a legal opposition political party toward the government in Kigali, and this must be done unconditionally.

3. The participants in the Extraordinary National Congress of the PS-Imberakuri party have decided to terminate, with immediate effect, the membership of Mrs. Christine MUKABUNANI for treason she engaged herself in, in collaboration with former members of the party and with the clear support of the ruling RPF – Inkotanyi party. Therefore, starting April 4, 2010, Mrs. Christine MUKABUNANI is no longer Vice President of the PS-Imberakuri party and all her rights and privileges as prescribed by the Basic Law and other laws and regulations governing the PS–Imberakuri party are terminated.

Done in Kigali, April 4, 2010

Founding President of the PS-IMBERAKURI

Me Bernard Ntaganda (Signed)

April 5, 2010   No Comments

Boniface Rucagu urges ‘Intore’ to embrace genocide commemoration week

Boniface Rucagu, Chair of the Itorero National Taskforce

Boniface Rucagu, Chair of the Itorero National Taskforce

Kigali – Rwandans, who have undergone the ‘Itorero ry’Igihugu’, an informal civic education program, have been urged to fully participate in all activities planned for the 16th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide.

The call, was made yesterday by the chairman of the Itorero national taskforce, Boniface Rucagu, who urged them to specifically render support to Genocide survivors in their respective localities.

“Intore should participate in cleaning memorial sites, comforting Genocide survivors, and restoring hope among survivors,” Rucagu said in a live talk show on Radio Rwanda yesterday morning, adding that this is how it used to be in the ancient Rwanda.

“Intore are expected to actively get involved in the commemoration community debates that will take place at the village level across the country,” he said.

He also urged the tens of thousands who have undergone this form of education countrywide, to take part in helping in the construction of houses for those survivors who do not have shelter.

“The Genocide affected the entire social fabric of the Rwandan community, it is therefore the duty of all Rwandans to deal with its consequences,” he said.

The 16th commemoration of the Genocide will run under the theme ‘16 years after the Genocide perpetrated against Tutsi. Handling its consequences.’

Commemoration will take place at cell levels where night vigils will be held and discussions on what transpired in 1994 and the way forward will also be held.

April 5, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda: Kagame is now willing to review the contentious Genocide Law

Paul Kagame: Criticising Genocide Law is Nonsense!

Paul Kagame: Criticising Genocide Law is Nonsense!

Kigali: The Rwandan contentious law about genocide ideology is being reviewed in cabinet in the midst of accusations that government is using it to stifle free speech and the opposition, it emerged Monday from government. This could lead to a possible amendment.

Cabinet is discussing the law internally to see if there can be “room for improvement” as a result of a cabinet directive, according to Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama, who revealed this at a presidential press conference. President Paul Kagame had asked him to comment on the law.

Concurrently, the Minister announced, that a study is also ongoing to see all the cases of “whether there has been any abuse” of the law. However, Mr. Karugarama accused the fierce critics of the law of “imputing bad faith” in the debate on the law arguing that it was put in place to misuse it.

Since the passing of a law in 2007 criminalizing negating the Genocide – described here as “Genocide Ideology”, critics and donors have claimed that it has been used keep a curtain on free speech and oppress the opposition. The harshest criticism came last year from the Commonwealth Human rights Initiative, which was strongly opposed to Rwanda’s admission into the British Commonwealth block.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the US government in its annual human rights reports, have repeated the same concerns. The latest came when New York-based Human Rights Watch claimed recently that government was using the law “as a way of targeting and discrediting its critics”.

Amnesty International has also said that the terms of the law criminalizing “genocidal ideology”, are very “vague and ambiguous”. The group also says this law can restrict the ability of the accused to put forward a defence in criminal trials. The offence is punishable by 10 to 25 years’ imprisonment.

In February, President Kagame fired back in an address to Parliament branding such criticism as “nonsense”. He said nobody has the right to undermine what happens in Rwanda.
See: Angry Paul Kagame Says Criticism of Rwandan Genocide Law is “nonsense”

However, on Monday, the President came out with a more reconciliatory message directing that the law should be assessed to see why critics continue to have a problem with the law in its current state.

“But I don’t know of any case where it has been abused…that to my knowledge hasn’t come up. That does not even prevent us from looking at what is it really that people are worried about,” said Mr. Kagame.

“Is it said badly? Is it confusing? Maybe we need to fine-tune it to have it clear so that the Grey area is reduced. Maybe that also means the anticipated abuse of the law will probably be narrowed. There is flexibility in my view…I mean we are open to these exchanges…what I don’t accept is the anticipation that everybody will abuse…”

In other changes which could take effect this week, the President indicated that he would prefer not to have state TV continue to show graphic images during the Genocide commemoration period due to start on Wednesday.

April 5, 2010   1 Comment

Rwanda’s ex-U.N. ambassador Bizimana, who vanished after genocide, resurfaces in Alabama-US

In the spring of 1994, when the assassination of Rwanda’s president unleashed a horrific three-month genocide that would ultimately kill 800,000 people, Rwanda’s man at the United Nations assured the world’s diplomats that his government was not to blame.

By a coincidence of history, Rwanda held one of 10 rotating seats on the U.N. Security Council at the time, giving Jean Damascene Bizimana, the country’s 36-year-old ambassador, a place at the table for the council’s private deliberations. Bizimana, a rising star in Rwanda’s diplomatic corps, initially told his fellow ambassadors that the violence was due to spontaneous public outrage over the president’s death on April 6 and that the interim government he now represented would quickly reestablish order.

As violence escalated, he blamed rebel forces from the country’s Tutsi ethnic minority for all the trouble, insisting to the council on April 21 that the rebellion “must be made responsible for its attitude in wishing to continue hostilities, to perpetuate the current violence and to continue to perpetrate massacres.” In May, he voted against an arms embargo on Rwanda that every other member of the council supported.

However, in the weeks that followed, as the government’s direct responsibility for the mounting deaths became increasingly clear, Bizimana spoke out less and less. He became a “sullen and mostly silent” figure at Security Council meetings, and he “never showed the slightest sign of remorse about what was going on in his country,” former British ambassador David Hannay told me.

Shortly after the rebels captured the Rwandan capital in July and overthrew the extremist interim regime, the young ambassador disappeared. Diplomats from the incoming government who took over Rwanda’s U.N. mission on East 39th Street in Manhattan found the bank accounts empty and the offices stripped bare. Even the refrigerator and the stereo were gone.

Sixteen years later, the Rwandan government is still investigating whether Bizimana supported the genocide in his capacity at the United Nations, according to Andrew Tusabe, a counselor at the Rwandan Embassy in Washington. “Bizimana has not been forgotten,” he told me. But he said they had not been able to determine his whereabouts.

It seemed that the ambassador, along with his wife and two small children, had simply vanished — until he turned up living quietly in the small town of Opelika, Ala., a few miles up the road from Auburn University. He’s an American citizen now. He works for a plastics company. And he doesn’t want to talk about genocide.

As I researched a book on the Security Council over the past few years, Bizimana’s story stuck with me. His role in supporting the genocide is unclear; after all, he was not in the country when the killings occurred. But he chose to remain in his post when the interim government began its butchery, and he repeated the regime’s talking points. The new government threatened to arrest him on war crimes charges after he disappeared, and his immediate superior, former foreign minister Jerome Bicamumpaka, has been tried by a U.N. tribunal for conspiracy to commit genocide and is awaiting a verdict.

Canadian Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who was dispatched to Rwanda in 1993 as commander of a small U.N. peacekeeping force charged with safeguarding a cease-fire between the government and the rebels, is convinced that Bizimana was tied to the extremist circles that planned the mass killings. Dallaire pleaded fruitlessly with the Security Council for more authority and resources to intervene both before and during the genocide, and he blames Bizimana for misleading council members about conditions on the ground and for keeping the regime’s leaders informed of the council’s discussions.

Though Hannay, the British ambassador, doubts that Bizimana remained in close contact with his capital city once the killings began, Dallaire told me that Bizimana and top officials in Rwanda used satellite phones to stay in touch even as the carnage was raging. Regime officials, Dallaire wrote in his memoir, “were always ahead of me in the field and could adjust to any initiative I tried. Through [Bizimana] they knew exactly what the council was going to do.”

He is particularly bitter that Bizimana knew more about the Security Council’s decisions than he did. “There I was with my small team of intelligence officers who were risking their lives for crumbs of information,” Dallaire wrote, “while the extremists had a direct pipeline to the kind of strategic intelligence that allowed them to shadow my every move.”

After Bizimana left the United Nations, his own moves were not easy to trace. It seemed unlikely that he would have returned willingly to Rwanda. I found no evidence that he had been arrested or put on trial by the new government there. His name appeared a few times in the case files of the U.N. tribunal that has been investigating the genocide, but the documents offered no information on where he lived. France was a possibility, given the Hutu regime’s strong ties to that country, but the trail there ran dry.

I started looking through public records databases in the United States. Many Rwandan expatriates have settled in Upstate New York, but to my surprise, Bizimana’s name and number came up with an address in Opelika, a city of fewer than 30,000 people, beginning in the summer of 1994. When I called, the woman answering the phone identified herself as Bizimana’s wife and confirmed that her husband had been a U.N. ambassador. She agreed to pass on a message, but I never heard back.

Late last year, I decided to pay Bizimana a visit, on the off chance that he would talk to me and answer questions about his actions at the United Nations. About 100 miles from the Birmingham airport, after driving through Talladega County and past the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, I arrived in Opelika, the place where Jean Damascene Bizimana had chosen to build his new life.

Opelika has had a few brushes with fame. President Franklin Roosevelt passed through in 1939 on his way to Warm Springs, Ga., and during World War II, Opelika housed a camp for German prisoners of war. Hollywood briefly descended on the city in 1978 to film “Norma Rae,” starring Sally Field. And at a downtown chicken-fingers restaurant, residents proudly reminded me that Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s spokesman, hails from Auburn.

I found Bizimana’s modest, one-story house in a leafy, middle-class subdivision about a mile from downtown. It was early on a Friday morning, and I was hoping to catch the former diplomat as he left for work, without disturbing his family. When I pulled up across the street, I saw a pair of cats in the yard and five cars in the driveway, including a Cadillac with vanity plates. One by one, the family members left the house, but there was no sign of the ambassador. I finally knocked on the door. No answer. A neighbor who said she knew the family slightly — she occasionally drives to the mall with Bizimana’s wife, she explained — gave me the name of the company where Bizimana works.

Capitol Plastics Products is in a glass office building in one of the tidy new technology parks that dot the area around Opelika and Auburn. The company, which makes containers for the dairy and pharmaceutical industries, has a manufacturing plant in France, which accounts for the French flag that flies alongside the U.S. and Alabama flags outside the headquarters. While I waited for Bizimana, the receptionist informed me that he worked as a quality-control manager. She had heard that he was a former diplomat, she confided, and thought he might be from Algeria.

After about 10 minutes, Bizimana appeared in the lobby wearing a white lab coat and a hair net. We shook hands, and I explained that I was researching his role on the Security Council during the killings in Rwanda. He stared at my business card for a long while. Speaking quietly, he said that it was late on a Friday afternoon and that he had a meeting to attend. I offered to meet him outside of work hours, but he demurred. I explained what Gen. Dallaire had said about his role in assisting the regime, and invited him to respond. He shook his head.

Finally, Bizimana looked at me and said simply, “This has nothing to do with my current job.”

A few moments later, he turned and walked back through the double doors. He and his company have declined my interview requests since.

In the years since the Rwandan genocide, political leaders, activists and scholars have struggled to understand how such a massive killing campaign could have happened — and why the world largely stood by. Although Bizimana’s presence on the Security Council was maddening to people like Dallaire, it is clear that none of the council’s major powers was ready to intervene to stop the violence.

After a failed operation in Somalia, which the United States departed in humiliation, the Clinton administration was determined to avoid further entanglements in Africa. “Our opposition to retaining a [peacekeeping] presence in Rwanda is firm,” then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher cabled to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, on April 15, 1994.

The French had close ties with Hutu leaders in Rwanda, while Russia and China were suspicious of any U.N. involvement in the internal affairs of other countries.

If Bizimana was indeed in constant contact with his superiors in Kigali, his message would have been simple: The Security Council had no will to intervene.
Years later, some of the world’s powers expressed regret for their inaction. In March 1998, during a visit to Rwanda, President Bill Clinton acknowledged that “we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred.” And just a few weeks ago, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France admitted his country’s “serious errors of judgment” during the genocide.

Bizimana does not appear inclined to reckon with the past, and legally at least, he has no reason to do so. Opelika records show that he registered to vote in October 2004 and has cast ballots in primaries and general elections since then — meaning he acquired U.S. citizenship. And as a citizen, he enjoys full due-process rights. Even if Rwanda were to bring charges against him, it wouldn’t matter; there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Rwanda.

Perversely, his most likely path to citizenship was through political asylum. U.S. law protects individuals with a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries by allowing them to become permanent residents, thus opening a path to citizenship. (Rwanda’s ambassador in Washington during the genocide, Aloys Uwimana, took that route.) Asylum proceedings are not public, so it is difficult to know whether Bizimana applied. Still, with the new government threatening to arrest him back in 1994, he would have had little difficulty showing that his life would be in danger in Rwanda.

However, asylum officers normally investigate applicants’ stories to find out whether they were involved in the persecution of others, which is grounds for denial of an application. So if he did seek asylum, Bizimana must have artfully minimized his official role in representing genocidal authorities. Diplomats who served with him describe his uncanny ability to fade into the background, a skill that probably served him well as he established his new life in Opelika.

Michael Barnett, a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations during the Rwanda crisis, recalls that, at many points during Security Council discussions, it felt as though Bizimana “wasn’t even in the room. . . . He was unwilling or unable to engage.”

At the same time, with the killings underway in his country, Barnett recalls, the ambassador’s mere presence was surreal. “The genocide wasn’t just out there,” he said. “It was in the Security Council.”

By David L. Bosco – Washington Post

April 5, 2010   1 Comment