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The fading image of the genocide suspect Kagame

by Ambrose Nzeyimana.

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 General 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 Democratic Green 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 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 brought 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.

[The Rising Continent]

August 29, 2010   1 Comment

Rwanda threats to UN after report of genocide in Congo

Rwanda threatened to withdraw peacekeepers over UN report
Rwanda has threatened to withdraw its troops from United Nations peacekeeping operations if the world body publishes a report accusing the Rwandan army of committing possible genocide in Congo in the 1990s, Rwanda’s foreign minister says in a letter sent to the UN

Addressed to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the letter from Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo describes the report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as “fatally flawed” and “incredibly irresponsible.” The letter is dated Aug. 3 and was obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday.

A draft of the report leaked this week accuses Rwandan troops and rebel allies tied to the current Congolese president of slaughtering tens of thousands of Hutus in Congo. The attacks allegedly came two years after those same troops stopped Rwanda’s 1994 genocide that killed more than half a million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus.

“The report’s allegations — of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity — are extremely serious. However, the methodology, sourcing and standard of proof used to arrive at them most certainly are not,” Ms. Mushikiwabo’s letter says.

The letter asks why the investigators spent six weeks in Congo but never came to Rwanda or asked for meetings with Rwandan officials, who were given the 545-page draft two months ago.

Investigators say they required two independent sources for each of the 600 incidents documented.

The draft says the systematic and widespread attacks “could be classified as crimes of genocide” by a competent court.

In the letter, Ms. Mushikiwabo criticizes investigators for not seeking evidence that would stand up in court. She says the report’s weakness is that its goal was “not of being satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that a violation was committed but rather having reasonable suspicion that the incident did occur.”

This, her letter says means “UN investigators employed the lowest evidentiary standard” in making such serious allegations.

She suggests that the timing of the report is being driven by people within the UN who seek to damage recently renewed diplomatic ties between Congo and Rwanda. The rapprochement between the neighboring countries has contributed to greater stability in Central Africa.

“The timing of the report only heightens these suspicions as it is being circulated on the eve of Rwanda’s presidential election and at a time when Congolese officials are calling for (the UN Mission in Congo) to close up shop,” the letter says.

Congo, which also has denied the allegations, also questioned the timing of the report, but suggested it was being used to deflect attention from UN peacekeepers’ failure to protect civilians in a recent mass gang-rape atrocity.

The Rwandan letter says “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.”

Rwanda contributes thousands of troops to peacekeeping missions in Chad, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan.

Ms. Mushikiwabo’s letter was written before the report’s leak this week. She could not be reached for comment despite numerous calls to her cell phone on Friday and Saturday and an e-mail message.

The draft report says the Rwandan troops and their Congolese rebel allies targeted Hutus and killed tens of thousands over months, the majority of whom were women, children, the sick and the elderly who posed no threat. Most were bludgeoned to death with hoes, axes and hammers.

“Upon entering a locality, they ordered the people to gather together … Once they were assembled, the civilians were bound and killed by blows of hammers or hoes to the head,” it says.

Rwanda invaded Congo in 1996, saying it was going after those who committed the genocide. Many were in refugee camps in Congo, which they used as a base for attacks on Tutsis in Congo and for cross-border raids into Rwanda. Rwandan rebels remain in Congo and have been terrorizing the population ever since.

[The Globe And Mail]

August 29, 2010   No Comments