Rwanda Information Portal

Posts from — August 2010

Rwanda Slams Leaked United Nations Report on Congo Genocide as ‘Malicious’

By Paul Richardson

Rwanda’s government said a leaked draft United Nations report accusing the country’s army of atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo was “malicious, offensive and ridiculous.”

The Paris-based newspaper Le Monde reported yesterday that investigators from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees uncovered mass human-rights abuses in Congo in the 1990s, including the possible genocide of ethnic Hutus by Rwandan forces. Rwanda’s government said in a statement today that the UN report was “immoral and unacceptable.”

“The report is a dangerous and irresponsible document that under the guise of human rights can only achieve instability in the Great Lakes region and undermine ongoing efforts to stabilize the region,” the government said. The Great Lakes nations include Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.

More than 1 million ethnic Hutus fled Rwanda in 1994, mostly to Congo, following a genocide in Rwanda in which 800,000 people died. Rwandan government forces raided refugee camps in the neighboring country, then known as Zaire, in their search for Hutu leaders who were believed to have carried out the genocide.

The UN report detailed massacres, rapes and looting by forces from various countries involved in two wars in Congo from 1993 to 2003, Le Monde said.

Methodology Questioned

Rwanda’s government said it hadn’t been consulted by UN investigators and questioned whether the comments of non- governmental organization representatives who had been interviewed should form the basis for war crimes or genocide allegations.

The draft report’s allegations were also based on “questionable methodology, sourcing and shockingly low standard of proof,” the government said.

Eastern Congo has been mired in conflict since the mid- 1990s, when the aftermath of the genocide spilled over into the Central African country. More than 5 million people have died in conflicts in Congo since the late 1990s, according to estimates by the New York-based International Rescue Committee, which goes into conflict areas to rescue refugees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Richardson in Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.
[Bloomberg]

August 27, 2010   No Comments

Statement by the government of Rwanda on leaked UN report on genocide against Hutus in Congo

Kigali – The Government of Rwanda today described the leaked draft of “DRC Mapping Exercise” as malicious, offensive and ridiculous.

The timing of the leak of this draft report is quite revealing; it appears that the UN is attempting to divert international attention from its latest failure in the Great Lakes Region where recently hundreds of Congolese women were savagely raped under the watch of its peacekeeping force MONUSCO, a situation directly resulting from its failure to manage the post-genocide refugees crisis of 1994 in the then Zaire.

It is immoral and unacceptable that the United Nations, an organization that failed outright to prevent genocide in Rwanda and the subsequent refugees crisis, a direct cause for so much suffering in Congo and Rwanda, now accuses the army that stopped the genocide of committing atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” said Mr. Ben Rutsinga an official in the Office of the Government Spokesperson.

The report is a dangerous and irresponsible document that under the guise of human rights can only achieve instability in the Great Lakes Region and undermine ongoing efforts to stabilize the region, particularly at a time when unprecedented progress is being made in establishing peace, security and economic collaboration.

According to Mr. Rutsinga, “given the gravity of its mission, the Mapping Team’s failure to consult with Rwanda even though they found time to meet with over 200 NGO representatives is shocking and shows complete disregard for fundamental fairness. While NGOs are entitled to their opinions, their work should not form the basis of genocide or war crimes allegations against Rwanda or any other nation. Why such due diligence eluded a team of supposedly seasoned human rights investigators is hard to fathom.

The report makes extremely serious allegations – of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – based on questionable methodology, sourcing and shockingly low standard of proof.

“By its own admission, the Mapping Team “was not concerned with pursuing in-depth investigations or gathering evidence of sufficient admissibility to stand in court, meaning that they employed the lowest evidentiary standard to investigate these allegations.” said Mr. Rutsinga.

According to Mr. Rutsinga, the report fundamentally misrepresents the episodes it describes by failing to explain the circumstances at play during this difficult period in our history. “It is a fact that Rwanda’s intervention in the D.R.C. was a matter of survival and the direct consequence of the irresponsible and insensitive management of the refugee camps by the U.N. and the international community subsequent to the genocide. Rwanda, at great cost and sacrifice, managed to turn around a tragic situation and create new era of regional collaboration and increasing prosperity.

August 27, 2010   1 Comment

Bombshell UN report leaked: Kagame’s army committed crime of genocide against Hutus in Congo

by Jason Stearns.

Over a year after its completion, the UN mapping report has finally been leaked to the press. The report was mandated by the UN to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo between 1993 and 2003 in the hope that there could be accountability for the violence. To date, almost nothing has been done to bring those responsible to justice.

The report is huge, spanning 545 pages, and deals with war crimes committed by the security forces of Angola, Mobutu’s Zaire, Uganda, Chad, Laurent Kabila’s government, Joseph Kabila’s government, Zimbabwe, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe (and later the FDLR), the Mai-Mai and the many other rebel groups. I will speak at length about the massacres carried out by these forces in later postings. Here, I will speak about the most controversial claim: the massacres carried out by the Rwandan army (RPA) together with the AFDL rebellion (led by Laurent Kabila) against the Hutu refugees in 1996-1997.

The striking conclusion is that the crimes committed by the RPA/AFDL against Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutu could constitute a crime of genocide. This will be a bombshell for Paul Kagame’s government, which prides itself for having brought an end to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and has built its reputation and its appeal to donors on its promotion of post-genocide reconciliation. This report will rock the internet for months and years to come. Its political importance is hard to overstate.

A few words of caution. The report was not based on the standards of a judicial investigation; it was intended to provide a broad mapping of the most serious human rights abuses between 1993 and 2003. Indeed, the report says that an international court will have to be the final arbiter of whether the RPA/AFDL did actually commit acts of genocide. Verbatim: “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.”

Nonetheless, the mapping team’s mandate was to documents crimes of genocide, and it was rigorous: In total, the team gathered evidence on 600 incidents of violence between 1993 and 2003. Their standard was two independent sources for each incident. They interviewed 1,280 witnesses and gathered 1,500 documents. Many of the reports of killings of Congolese and Rwandan Hutu civilians were corroborated by eyewitnesses. While we always knew that there had been large massacres of Hutu refugees in the Congo, this is the first rigorous investigation, and the first time an international body has thrown its weight behind charges of genocide.

Another word of caution: This is the preliminary draft. The report is due to be released on Monday, but it has been leaked, I gather because Secretary General Ban Ki Moon – or othr UN officials – has pressed for the charges of “acts of genocide by the RPA/AFDL” to be removed. The Rwandan government has reportedly threatened to withdraw its troops from the AU mission in Darfur and the UN mission in Haiti. I imagine that it is to prevent such editing that the report was finally leaked.

On to the conclusion of the report.
[Congo Siasa]

August 27, 2010   3 Comments

Conclusion of the UN report on the genocide against hutus committed by Rwanda army in Congo

by Jason Stearns.

Here is the conclusion of the UN report on the genocide against hutus committed by Kagame’s army in Congo:

Paragraph 512.
The systematic attacks […] resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. 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 [Burundian army] 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 pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten.

Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication.

On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, in particular in Orientale Province, depriving them of assistance essential to their survival

Paragraph 513.
At the time of the incidents covered by this report, the Hutu population in Zaire, including refugees from Rwanda, constituted an ethnic group as defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Moreover, as shown previously, the intention to destroy a group in part is sufficient to be classified as a crime of genocide.

Finally, the courts have also confirmed that the destruction of a group can be limited to a particular geographical area.

It is therefore possible to assert that, even if only a part of the Hutu population in Zaire was targeted and destroyed, it could nonetheless constitute a crime of genocide, if this was the intention of the perpetrators.

Finally, several incidents listed also seem to confirm that the numerous attacks were targeted at members of the Hutu ethnic group as such.

Although, at certain times, the aggressors said they were looking for the criminals responsible for the genocide committed against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, the majority of the incidents reported indicate that the Hutus were targeted as such, with no discrimination between them.

The numerous attacks against the Hutus in Zaire, who were not part of the refugees, seem to confirm that it was all Hutus, as such, who were targeted.

The crimes committed in particular in Rutshuru (30 October 1996) and Mugogo (18 November 1996), in North Kivu, highlight the specific targeting of the Hutus, since people who were able to persuade the aggressors that they belonged to another ethnic group were released just before the massacres.

The systematic use of barriers by the AFDL/APR/FAB, particularly in South Kivu, enabled them to identify people of Hutu origin by their name or village of origin and thus to eliminate them.

Hundreds of people of Hutu origin are thus thought to have been arrested at a barrier erected in November 1996 in Ngwenda, in the Rutshuru territory, and subsequently executed by being beaten with sticks in a place called Kabaraza.

In South Kivu, AFDL/APR/FAB soldiers erected numerous barriers on the Ruzizi plain to stop Rwandan and Burundian refugees who had been dispersed after their camps had been dismantled.

Paragraph 514.
Several incidents listed in this report point to circumstances and facts from which a court could infer the intention to destroy the Hutu ethnic group in the DRC in part, if these were established beyond all reasonable doubt.

Firstly, the scale of the crimes and the large number of victims are illustrated by the numerous incidents described above.

The extensive use of edged weapons (primarily hammers) and the systematic massacre of survivors, including women and children, after the camps had been taken show that the numerous deaths cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage.

The systematic nature of the attacks listed against the Hutus also emerges: these attacks took place in each location where refugees had been identified by the AFDL/APR, over a vast area of the country.

Particularly in North Kivu and South Kivu but also in other provinces, the massacres often began with a trick by elements of the AFDL/APR, who summoned the victims to meetings on the pretext either of discussing their repatriation to Rwanda in the case of the refugees, or of introducing them to the new authorities in the case of Hutus settled in the region, or of distributing food. Afterwards, those present were systematically killed.
Cases of this kind were confirmed:
● in the province of North Kivu in Musekera, Rutshuru and Kiringa (October 1996), Mugogo and Kabaraza (November 1996), Hombo, Katoyi, Kausa, Kifuruka, Kinigi, Musenge, Mutiko and Nyakariba (December 1996), Kibumba and Kabizo (April 1997) and Mushangwe (around August 1997);
● in the province of South Kivu in Rushima and Luberizi (October 1996), Cotonco and Chimanga (November 1996) and Mpwe (February 1997) and on the Shabunda-Kigulube road (February-April 1997);
● in Orientale Province in Kisangani and Bengamisa (May and June 1997);
● in Maniema in Kalima (March 1997)
● and in Équateur in Boende (April 1997).

Such acts certainly suggest premeditation and a precise methodology.

In the region south of the town of Walikale, in North Kivu (January 1997), Rwandan Hutus were subjected to daily killings in areas already under the control of the AFDL/APR as part of a campaign that seemed to target any Hutus living in the area in question.

Paragraph 515.
Several of the massacres listed were committed regardless of the age or gender of the victims.
This is particularly true of the crimes committed in
● Kibumba (October 1996), Mugunga and Osso (November 1996), Hombo and Biriko (December 1996) in the province of North Kivu,
● Kashusha and Shanje (November 1996) in the province of South Kivu,
● Tingi-Tingi and Lubutu (March 1997) in Maniema Province,
● and Boende (April 1997) in Équateur Province,
where the vast majority of victims were women and children.

Furthermore, no effort was made to make a distinction between Hutus who were members of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and Hutu civilians, whether or not they were refugees.

This tendency to put all Hutus together and “tar them with the same brush” is also illustrated by the declarations made during the “awareness-raising speeches” made by the AFDL/APR in certain places, according to which any Hutu still present in Zaire must necessarily be a perpetrator of genocide, since the “real” refugees had already returned to Rwanda.

These “awareness-raising speeches” made in North Kivu also incited the population to look for, kill or help to kill Rwandan Hutu refugees, whom they called “pigs”. This type of language would have been in widespread use during the operations in this region.

Paragraph 516.
The massacres in Mbandaka and Wendji, committed on 13 May 1997 in Équateur Province, over 2,000 kilometres west of Rwanda, were the final stage in the hunt for Hutu refugees that had begun in eastern Zaire, in North and South Kivu, in October 1996.

Among the refugees were elements of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, who were disarmed by the local police force as soon as they arrived.

In spite of everything, the AFDL/APR opened fire on hundreds of defenceless Hutu refugees, resulting in large numbers of victims.

Paragraph 517.
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 518.
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.”

[Congo Siasa]

August 27, 2010   2 Comments

Some atrocities detailed in the UN Report accusing Kagame troops of genocide

Some atrocities detailed in the UNHCHR document seen by Le Monde

(UNHCHR = United Nations High Commission for Human Rights)

Kinigi, 7 December 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR killed nearly 310 civilians, many of them women and children. The troops had accused the local population, mostly Hutu, of sheltering Interahamwe [Hutu paramilitaries, who] had already left the village. At first the troops sought to reassure the civilians [whom they gathered together] in several buildings, including the adventist church and the primary school. In the afternoon, troops entered these buildings and killed the villagers with hoes or axes to the head.”

Luberizi, 29 October 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundi’s armed forces] killed around 200 male refugees. The victims were part of a group of refugees told by the troops to regroup so that they could be repatriated to Rwanda. The troops separated the men from the rest of the group and killed them with bayonets or bullets. The bodies were then buried in mass graves [near to] the church.”

Bwegera, 3 November 1996 “They burned alive 72 Rwandan refugees in Cotonco (cotton company) headquarters, one kilometre from the village.”

[wpaudio url=”http://rwandinfo.com/audio/20100413-kagame-yigamba-ko-yarashe-impunzi.mp3″ text=”Listen- where Kagame himself proudly says his army shot refugees in Congo” dl=”0″]

Mutiko, December 1996 “Special units from the AFDL/APR started to hunt down refugees, killing several hundred. Once they had been intercepted at barriers put up by the troops, the victims were given food and told to get into UN lorries waiting at the exit of the village. The victims were then taken out on to the road, then killed with blows to the head with canes, hammers and axes. The troops encouraged the local population to take part in the killings.”

[Guardian]

August 27, 2010   2 Comments

UN report accuses Rwanda of genocide against Hutus in Congo

Unprecedented investigation by human rights commissioner says Hutu deaths ‘cannot be put down to margins of war’.

Hutu refugees in Goma

Hutu refugees at UN’s Goma camp The UN’s Goma camp in 1994. The Rwandan army attacked the camp, which was full of Hutu refugees, forcing hundreds of thousands deeper into Zaire. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/Corbis

The United Nations has accused Rwanda of wholesale war crimes, including possibly genocide, during years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An unprecedented 600-page investigation by the UN high commissioner for human rights catalogues years of murder, rape and looting in a conflict in which hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.

A draft version of the report, revealed by Le Monde and expected to be published next month, says the abuses, over a period of seven years and two invasions by Rwanda, amount to “crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide” because the principal targets of the violence were Hutus, who were killed in their tens of thousands.

Among the accusations is that Rwandan forces and local allies rounded up hundreds of men, women and children at a time and butchered them with hoes and axes. On other occasions Hutu refugees were bayoneted, burned alive or killed with hammer blows in large numbers.

It is the first time the UN has published such forthright allegations against Rwanda, a close ally of Britain and the US.

Related:
Rwanda: President Kagame proud to have killed Hutu refugees in DRC

● [wpaudio url=”http://rwandinfo.com/audio/20100413-kagame-yigamba-ko-yarashe-impunzi.mp3″ text=”Listen- where Kagame himself proudly says his army shot refugees in Congo” dl=”0″]

The Rwandan government reacted angrily to the report today, dismissing it as “amateurish” and “outrageous” after reportedly attempting to pressure the UN not to publish it by threatening to pull out of international peacekeeping missions. Rwanda’s Tutsi leaders will be particularly discomforted by the accusation of genocide when they have long claimed the moral high ground for bringing to an end the 1994 genocide in their own country. But the report was welcomed by human rights groups, which called for the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes.

The report by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) covers two periods: Rwanda’s 1996 invasion of the country then called Zaire in pursuit of Hutu soldiers and others who fled there after carrying out the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, and a second invasion two years later that broadened into a regional war involving eight countries.

Rwanda’s attack on Zaire in 1996 was initially aimed at clearing the vast UN refugee camps around Goma and Bukavu, which were being used as cover by Hutu armed forces to continue the war against the new Tutsi-led government in Kigali.

Hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million Hutus in eastern Zaire were forced back to Rwanda. Many more, including men who carried out the genocide but also large numbers of women and children, fled deeper into Zaire. They were pursued and attacked by the Rwandan army and a Zairean rebel group sponsored by Kigali, the AFDL.

The UN report describes “the systematic, methodical and premeditated nature of the attacks on the Hutus [which] took place in all areas where the refugees had been tracked down”.

“The pursuit lasted months and, occasionally, humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, notably in the eastern province, thus depriving them of things essential to their survival,” the report said.

“The extent of the crimes and the large number of victims, probably in the several tens of thousands, are demonstrated by the numerous incidents detailed in the report. The extensive use of non-firearms, particularly hammers, and the systematic massacres of survivors after camps were taken prove that the number of deaths cannot be put down to the margins of war. Among the victims were mostly children, women, old and ill people.”

The report goes on to say that “the systematic and widespread attacks have a number of damning elements which, if proved before a competent court, could be described as crimes of genocide”.

The UN also adds that while Kigali has permitted Hutus to return to Rwanda in large numbers, that did not “rule out the intention of destroying part of an ethnic group as such and thus committing a crime of genocide”.

The Zairean army collapsed in the face of the invasion and Rwanda seized the opportunity to march across the country and overthrow the longstanding dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Laurent Kabila was installed as president. He promptly changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Rwanda invaded again in 1998 after accusing the new regime of continuing to support Hutu rebels. The following five years of war drew in armies from eight nations as well as 21 rebel groups in a conflict that quickly descended in to mass plunder of the DRC’s minerals as well as a new wave of war crimes.

The UN report accuses Angolan forces of using the cover of the war to attack refugees from Angola’s conflict-plagued Cabinda province who had fled to the DRC. Angola is accused of “executing all those they suspected of colluding with their enemies”. Angolan soldiers also raped and looted, the UN investigation said.

International human rights groups welcomed the UN report and said it should be used to bring the accused to trial. “This is a very important report,” said Human Rights Watch. “We hope that it can form the basis for ending the impunity that has protected the people responsible for some of these crimes.”

The UN’s damning conclusions will prove hugely embarrassing to Rwanda, which is attempting to project itself as a rapidly modernising state that has put its brutal recent history behind it.

President Paul Kagame’s office attempted to dismiss the report. “It’s an amateurish NGO job, and it’s outrageous,” said a spokeswoman, Yolande Makolo. “Nobody reasonable believes that it’s helpful to anybody. The countries mentioned in the draft report have rejected it and will continue to reject it.”

Makolo did not comment on reports that Kagame last month warned the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that Rwanda would pull its troops out of peacekeeping missions in Darfur and elsewhere if the report was made public. Le Monde said that threat was reiterated in a letter to Ban by Rwanda’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the leaked draft was not the final version and the report to be published next month had undergone revisions.

“It’s only a draft from about two months ago and the proper final version will come up very soon,” he said.

But if there are substantial differences, the UN is likely to stand accused of bowing to pressure from Rwanda.

[Guardian]

August 27, 2010   5 Comments

Rwanda: General Paul Kagame is painting a grim picture of democracy

by Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.

I was surprised to read in your August 19, 2010 the apology of the so-called Rwandan democracy by General Paul Kagame in his “Rwanda’s democracy is still the model for Africa” (see Anxious General Kagame on the defensive). This irony is exactly what Franz Neumann said some time ago: “If the concepts ‘enemy’ and ‘fear’ constitute the ‘energetic principles’ of politics, a democratic political system is impossible, whether the fear is produced from within or without. If freedom is absence of restraints, the restraints to be removed are many, but the psychological restraint of fear ranks first.

We are all aware of the tragic recent history of Rwanda, the war and the genocide. The reconstruction of the society is not a secret of a one man’s rule. In Rwanda, the alternance in power has been bumpy and bloody, therefore an all inclusive dialogue between all stakeholders is a must to set equal access regardless of their origins and ethnic backgrounds.
Democracy is a universal value with quality content, tools and necessities of ordinary life that the state must protect. It is not just an expression shaped according to the ruler, his interests and his understanding of the recent history.
General Paul Kagame does not really need to invent or advocate his kind of democracy. There is no need to invent a “counter-genocide concept” of democracy. There is Democracy, Free State or not. This is a process but all the time the need to level the playing field, the opening of the political space, the protection of freedoms should remain the guiding hallmarks.
We should all enjoy equal rights and accept the diversity of ideas. You can’t just promote your own type of democracy and shy away any meaningful free and fair competition. It is just a pretext to keep power.

Another serious issue is the confusion between a leader and the country or the population. For example, when the author of the article says “Rwanda is one of the countries that have chosen to apply unconventional mechanisms to solve daunting challenges”, it is clear that the demarcation line between the incumbent and the country has shrunk to exhaustion. Rwanda existed centuries and centuries before him, and it will exist after him.

His apology or argument are not from the democracy theories in known modern dictatorships where in many cases the military leaders or other “strong men”, “the saviors of the nation” impose their own values of democracy. For international consumption, they organize expensive polls with the highest colourful turnouts and are lauded as living-gods loved and adored by all the population, at least 90%, criticized only by blind or short-sighted people.
We have all heard about Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Joseph Stalin (USSR), Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania) or Marshal Presidents Idi Amin Dada (Uganda) and Jean Beder Bokassa (Central Africa Republic). We all know the turnout in their elections or the results. Yes, they speak volume.

What is strange enough is to belittle the whole African continent up to this unthinkable extent that “Rwanda’s democracy is still the model for Africa”! In general, the essential process that characterizes representative democracies is the ability to hold competitive elections that are free and fair both substantively and procedurally. Unfortunately, this value was crucially lacking during the 2010 Rwandan election. The whole world questioned a series of disturbing events that characterized the period leading up to the election. These include the assassination of a key opposition leader, the murder of a journalist, the suspension of two independent newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights researcher, the barring of three real opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists and political opponents.

One may boast for massive attendance at campaign rallies, huge turnouts, Rwanda’s economic success, and country’s apparent stability, but the reality on the ground is that Paul Kagame is a more ambiguous figure. How does it feel to enjoy such a Stalinist popularity and keep the opposition leaders in jail?

Whatever today’s level of Rwanda’s economic recovery, reconciliation and stability, it would be hard to sustain them in coming years with current political environment.
If Paul Kagame really cares about a better future for all Rwandans, he should without delay release all political prisoners, restore censured independent newspapers, register all political parties and allow without any further delay a free and fair competition. Otherwise his so much acclaimed landslide victory will keep Rwanda on the brink of chaos.

The author, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, is chair of political party FDU-Inkingi.

August 26, 2010   4 Comments

“Push Kagame Harder”, Activists Tell Obama

Washington – A nation-wide coalition of US activists is calling on President Barack Obama to go beyond recent White House criticism and intensify pressure on the government of newly re-elected Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

On Friday, August 13, a White House spokesperson, the National Security Council’s Mike Hammer, expressed the Obama Administration’s unhappiness about events in Rwanda. Hammer focused his ire on the repressive circumstances and the less-than-credible results of Rwanda’s presidential elections on August 9.

The NSC statement made clear the White House view that today’s Rwanda is not a democracy and then went further to dismiss the “development first, democracy later” argument often used to excuse Mr. Kagame’s iron-fisted rule. “Rwanda’s stability and growing prosperity, however, will be difficult to sustain in the absence of broad political debate and open political participation,” Hammer said.

While welcoming Friday’s NSC statement, the advocacy coalition is demanding much tougher action against the Kagame government.
Several members specified the tougher policies they want to see in Obama’s policy toward Rwanda.

Claude Gatebuke, a Rwandan genocide survivor and a leader in the coalition, linked American aid to improved democratization in Rwanda. He said the group wants President Obama to immediately terminate all military assistance and cooperation and also to freeze the $240 million that the US is scheduled to soon give Mr. Kagame.
American aid to Rwanda must be nonmilitary. And that nonmilitary American taxpayer money should be unfrozen if, and only if, Mr. Kagame meets two conditions,” Gatebuke said.
He outlined the first condition as “immediately widening Rwanda’s democratic space which includes: completely freeing all political opponents, critics and the media; scrapping repressive laws; and engaging in good-faith discussions with all stakeholders about the way forward in Rwanda.”

Rwanda’s behavior inside the Congo emerged as the coalition’s second condition. Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson for Friends of the Congo, outlined that condition, “In addition to allowing democracy inside Rwanda, General Kagame must be held accountable for his destabilization and looting of the Congo. President Obama must implement the bill he passed as Senator into law, PL 109-456 The Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act. That law clearly requires the US government to withhold aid to neighboring countries that destabilize the Congo.

Jacques Bahati of Africa Faith and Justice Network questions Washington’s cozy relations with President Kagame, “It is both mind-boggling and inexplicable how much The Congress and The Obama Administration have coddled the dictatorship in Kigali. Real American interests in Africa are hurt by this embarrassing relationship.”
Experts in Washington say past actions by the coalition on behalf of the Rwandan people have seen results. They point to two taken earlier this year.

On April 30, group members organized demonstrations against President Kagame during his Oklahoma Christian University visit. Some reports claimed that the president was forced to use a side entrance.
And three weeks ago, on August 3, the activists organized a packed press briefing at the prestigious National Press Club, a mere stone’s throw from the White House. Unconvinced after hearing out Rwandan Ambassador James Kimonyo, the activists called on President Obama to denounce the August 9 Rwanda elections as sham.

The experts say that the NSC statement is therefore a shot in the arm for the Rwandan people and their struggle for democracy.
Observers also find it significant that both President Obama personally and the NSC statement have pointedly failed to congratulate Mr. Kagame on his electoral victory–something done routinely when Washington is pleased with an ally.

Still some coalition members remain skeptical. They question if the NSC criticism means President Obama is finally moving to add substance to his 2009 Ghana speech when he pledged to support strong institutions in Africa, not strongmen.
Maurice Carney, Executive Director of Friends of the Congo is among the unconvinced. He notes “There is no better litmus test for President Obama keeping his word than how he responds to the quintessential strongman of Central Africa, Paul Kagame. Will the president continue the carte blanche support for Paul Kagame despite his own 2009 rhetoric in Ghana? Or will Mr. Obama engineer a bold shift, from a half century of US support for strongmen, dictators and despots, to assisting and encouraging non-violent, pro-democratic forces and strong institutions?

Contacts:
● Kitty Kurth, Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation 312-617-7288
● Friends of the Congo 202-584-6512
● Africa Faith and Justice Network 202-884-9780
Email: rwandaelections@gmail.com

August 26, 2010   1 Comment

Plot to kill Rwandan general Kayumba Nyamwasa in hospital uncovered

by Khethiwe Chelemu, Times Live.

Fugitive Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, accused of crimes against humanity

Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa – shot in Johannesburg in June 2010.

When former Rwandan Army chief Faustin Nyamwasa survived an assassination attempt, a plan was hatched to finish him off as he lay in critical condition at Sandton’s Morningside Hospital, a Johannesburg court heard on Wednesday as the suspects appeared.

Wealthy Rwandan businessman Pascal Kanyandekwe, 29, is alleged to be the mastermind of the hospital plot which was to take place in the next days after the shooting, according to details from the brief court appearance.

The hospital plot failed. Police found out about it and arrested the gunmen on their way there.

Kanyandekwe, who owns an aviation company in his country and is allegedly on the Rwandan government’s payroll, appeared briefly at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Nyamwasa was shot in the stomach in the drive of his Athol Mews home when he returned from a shopping trip with his wife, Rosette, in June. The driver was stopped by a man on foot, who asked him to open his window and fired on Nyamwasa. His wife has blamed Rwandan President Paul Kagame for the attack.

Nyamwasa, an outspoken critic of Kagame, fled from Kigali with his family in February. Since then, they have not had any peace.

Kanyandekwe allegedly paid Nyamwasa’s driver, Somalian Ahmed Ali, 26, for information on their target. Judgment on Ali’s bail application will be handed down on September 2.

The two men, the latest to be arrested, appeared with three co-accused. They are yet to plead to charges of attempted murder, incitement to commit murder, and possession of stolen property.

The case against the five men was postponed to September 8.

[Times Live]

August 26, 2010   No Comments

Tensions emerge between Rwanda and Western backers

By Linda Slattery and Ann Talbot.

Tensions began to emerge between President Paul Kagame and his Western backers in the course of the recent elections. Media reports criticised the exclusion of opposition parties from the poll and physical attacks on Kagame’s opponents.

Kagame has received extraordinarily high levels of aid from the West since he came to power in 1994 and has previously been virtually immune from criticism in the press. The shift in attitude can best be traced to the welcome that Kagame has extended to China’s growing investment in Africa. A warning is being delivered to Kagame’s regime that the tolerance he has enjoyed to date will not continue if he aligns himself with interests hostile to those of the United States and other Western powers.

Writing in the Financial Times on August 19, Kagame acknowledged the changing attitude that emerged in the course of the election and defended his brand of politics, claiming that it was essential if Rwanda was to be stable:

“Some in the media and the international community seem uninterested in fact-checking, and simply invented stories that play to damaging historic prejudices. It is a shame that some so casually disregard the views of the majority of Rwandans and prefer to elevate the dangerous opinions of fly-by-night individuals, which in turn threaten to reverse our hard-earned stability”.

Rwanda has become the gateway through which the strategic mineral resources of the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo reach the international market. A United Nations Panel of Experts found that Rwanda was responsible for the illegal trafficking of gold, coltan and cassiterite from areas of the DRC controlled by Rwandan-backed militias. All these minerals are vital for mobile phones and other modern electronic devices.

In the year 2000 alone, the Rwandan army is thought to have made $250 million out of this trade. Despite the evidence that the civilian population of the Congo has been abused, the US has made no criticism of Rwanda’s role in the DRC. The Congo Conflict Minerals Act passed by Congress in 2009 with the ostensible aim of putting an end to the looting makes no mention of Rwanda.

Following Kagame’s re-election, however, the National Security Council (NSC) failed to congratulate him on his victory and issued a press statement expressing concern about “disturbing events” that had preceded the election. “We remain concerned, however, about a series of disturbing events prior to the election, including the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights researcher, the barring of two opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists”, it declared.

Democracy is about more than holding elections”, said Mike Hammer, spokesman for the NSC. “A democracy reflects the will of the people, where minority voices are heard and respected, where opposition candidates run on the issues without threat or intimidation, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are protected”.

Kagame’s response came in the Financial Times. He rejected the US criticism of his election and insisted that he was pursuing a form of government suited to Rwandan cultural traditions.

For decades, one-size-fits-all development and democratic prescriptions have been imposed on Africa, with unsatisfactory, sometimes tragic, results”, he wrote. “Yet to break from the cycle of underdevelopment we must seek innovative, home-grown solutions. Rwanda is one of the countries that have chosen to apply unconventional mechanisms to solve daunting challenges. And it is working”.

Hinting at Rwanda’s importance for the export of minerals, Kagame said that those who accepted his methods would reap the economic benefits. He knows that he has the support of the major mining companies and can look to China as an alternative source of aid. In January 2009 Kagame signed a new trade deal with China, and a new Chinese embassy was opened in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Speaking to the German business paper Handelsblatt, Kagame praised the role of China in bringing investment in infrastructure to Africa. He recognised the potential for playing off one potential investor or donor against another. “There are new players, developing countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia”, he said. “That opens new possibilities for new relationships. Suddenly, the Americans and Europeans discover that they don’t want to be left out”.

At the China-Africa summit Kagame pointed out that trade between Rwanda and China had quadrupled over the previous four years.

Kagame has been sharply critical of the new US Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, which contains a clause obliging companies to demonstrate that their minerals have not come from the DRC. Major electronics companies such as IBM, Motorola, Hewlett Packard, Intel and Apple will be hit by this provision. Kagame may hope to bypass this legislation by turning to the Asian market and Asian electronic companies.

Kagame supposedly won 93 percent of the votes in the election on August 9. International observers reported no overt sign of violence or voter intimidation, but all the opposition candidates were former allies of Kagame. Three potential candidates were barred from standing. Leading oppositionist Andre Kagwa Rwisereka of the Democratic Green Party was found dead shortly before the election. The party is linked to Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who is in intensive care in South Africa after being shot. Nyamwasa fled to South Africa earlier this year after accusing Kagame of using an anti-corruption campaign to frame his political opponents.

Reporters have been subject to intimidation. Jean Leonard Rugambage was gunned down in Kigali after his paper Umuvugizi was closed by the government. Its editor Jean Bosco Gasasira had already fled to Uganda.

In June, American lawyer Peter Erlinder, who is representing defendants at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on trial for their alleged part in the genocide, was arrested. He was accused of denying the 1994 genocide on the basis of remarks he made at the tribunal, although the defence lawyers are supposed to be protected by diplomatic immunity. Other lawyers at the ICTR responded to Erlinder’s arrest by asking for postponements until their safety could be guaranteed.

These are the “disturbing events” that have caused concern in Washington. But they are hardly new.

In 1995 the journalist Manesse Mugabo disappeared in Kigali, followed in 1996 by the first post-genocide Minister of the Interior Seth Sendashonga and businessman Augustin Bugirimfura, who was shot dead in Nairobi. In 1998 journalist Emmanuel Munyemanzi disappeared from Kigali, and Theoneste Lizinde, MP and government intelligence chief before the genocide, was assassinated in Nairobi. In the year 2000, first post-genocide President Pasteur Bizimungu’s adviser, Asiel Kabera, was shot dead in Kigali. In 2003 top judge Augustin Cyiza and magistrate Eliezar Runyaruka disappeared from Kigali, as did opposition MP Leonard Hitimana.

The US has been prepared to turn a blind eye to Kagame’s record of repression until now because it has been useful to American interests. The Financial Times Africa editor William Wallis acknowledged the impact that the presence of China has had on Western influence in Rwanda. But he also blamed the West for the lack of democracy in Rwanda.

“With one hand the US”, Wallis wrote, “the [European Union] and other donors encourage and finance elections. With the other, they routinely accept the outcome regardless of how dubious the manner in which it is achieved”.

The process of formally democratic elections merely added a semblance of legitimacy to “a contemporary form of one-party rule, in which incumbents use patronage, oppression and control of electoral machinery to maintain power”.

Rwanda will receive an estimated $208 million in aid from the US this year. This includes the cost of military aid—the Rwanda army is US trained. Britain contributes £46 million, or $73 million, in humanitarian aid. Unusually for a country that does not have a history as a British colony, Rwanda joined the British Commonwealth this year. Membership will allow Rwanda to play a more prominent role in East Africa, where most of the large states are former British colonies and give its political and business elite access to the English-language education that is vital for the global market.

Kagame has been advised by ex-President Bill Clinton, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and has developed close relations with Bill Gates. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon even appointed Kagame to co-chair a committee of “superheroes to defeat poverty” to help push for progress in achieving the UN’s Millennium Development goals. Activists from the British Conservative Party regularly visit Rwanda to take part in aid projects. The country has been held up as a role model for other African countries to follow.

Despite the massive influx of aid into Rwanda, more than half of its 9.7 million population live on about 43 cents a day. Malnutrition is endemic. Almost half its children are malnourished, according to the World Food Programme. Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world and ranks 167 out of 182 countries on the UN Human Development Index.

[WSWS.org]

August 26, 2010   5 Comments