Rwanda Information Portal

Posts from — September 2010

Former Chief UN Investigator says more over the leaked UN Report on Rwanda-led Genocide in Congo

Leaked UN Report on Congo “Was Very Closely Guarded”

Jason Stearns – Former Chief UN Investigator

Former Chief UN Investigator on the Congo, now an independent analyst, Jason Stearns provides expert insight into the draft UN report that raises concerns of genocide in Congo and reveals details on the draft’s UN internal circulation in the run-up to its leak.

in his interview with Voices on Genocide Prevention, see transcript below, Jason stresses that, because many of the perpetrators of these massacres are in government positions in the countries in the region including in the Congo, the key recommendation should be to create a tribunal to try the people who committed these massacres.

In his answer to probable changes to the final version of the report, Jason also reveals that, according to members of the UN Human Rights High Commission, speaking on condition of anonymity, there won’t be changes. It will be difficult to subsquently change the report after its final draft has been leaked.

On the question of why the report was leaked, the former chief investigator emphasizes that the report had been finished for over one year, was submitted over one year ago by this team that had carried out the investigation, submitted to the High Commission in Geneva and then it was circulated amongst a very small group of people.

“This was a very closely guarded report. So the leak was not- could not have been a gratuitous leak. There most likely was a very good reason for somebody to leak the report, and that would have been because the report was about to be changed” says Jason.

Click the link to download and listen to Jason Stearns on Voices on Genocide Prevention from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“The novelty of this report was that it was done by the United Nations with rigorous standards and in a very comprehensive fashion so it comes with much more authority and gravitas than many of the reports that have come previously.” Former Chief UN Investigator on the Congo.

TRANSCRIPT:

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Welcome to this month’s episode of Voices on Genocide Prevention. This is Bridget Conley-Zilkic. With me today is Jason Stearns, who is the former Chief U.N. Investigator on the Congo and now an independent analyst. Jason, thank you for speaking with me today.

JASON STEARNS: Thanks for inviting me.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: So we have you on today to discuss a report that was produced by the Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights at the United Nations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a mapping exercise covering the years 1993 to 2003. Jason, what does this report attempt to do?

JASON STEARNS: The report was commissioned to chart out the main human rights abuses, the war crimes, and crimes against humanity between 1993 and 2003. What had happened was that there had been really no accountability for any of the many, many crimes that happened during this period, and the U.N. Secretary General at the time, Kofi Annan, decided that we needed some sort of report to jumpstart the process of transitional justice so he commissioned this report several years ago and then it finally came to fruition. Investigators were sent to the field and they then — the reason it’s called a “mapping report” is because they didn’t do — it’s not an international tribunal standard of investigation. It’s a rigorous investigation but it’s supposed to map out and not dig in depth into each individual atrocity.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And the report is broken up into several time periods. Can you talk about the various phases of the conflict that the report attempts to map?

JASON STEARNS: Sure, the first phase I would call sort of prewar phase. This was the dying days of the dictator Mobutu’s regime. The reason that it starts in 1993, in March 1993 specifically, was because that was the date there was a large massacre in the eastern Congo. And really this massacre as well as other massacres under Mobutu had sort of came about because in his dying days he was trying to cling on to power and he used divide-and-rule sort of politics pitting different ethnic communities against each other leading to quite a bit of bloodshed between 1993 and when he finally left power in 1997.

The second phase of the report is then the first war, the war that was called the War of Liberation or the War of Aggression depending on which point of view you come from. But it was the war to topple Mobutu that began in 1996 and lasted for roughly six or seven months. He was deposed in 1997. That period I guess the most — the biggest massacres covered in that period were the massacres perpetrated by the alliance that had formed to topple Mobutu led by the Rwandan government. In particular massacres against Rwandan refugees that were in the Congo at the time as well as many other massacres during that period. There were various different massacres, local level feuds, that turned into violent conflict.

Then the third phase of the war is really 1998 until 2003, which is the end of the mandate of the report, which is the second Congo war during which the Congo was carved up into a bunch of different zones ruled by different armed groups, and with a startling amount of complexity because each of these armed groups had a foreign backer. There was different bouts of violence in that period, as well. So those were the basic three phases that the report covers.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And the report has subsequent sections on particular abuses against women and children, as well as the role of minerals and resource exploitation. But the most controversial part of the report, as it currently stands comes from that period in 1996 when the Rwandans invaded Congo and initially claiming that they wanted to get rid of remnants of the genocidal regime that had reformed in eastern Zaire at the time. What does the report document though from that time period that has proven to be so controversial?

JASON STEARNS: Well, what happened was that the refugee camps that you spoke about were really the reason for the invasion in the first place. What happened in 1994 after the genocide in Rwanda, a million people roughly fled into the eastern Congo and were based in refugee camps there. This included most of the people who had carried out Rwandan genocide, an estimated hundred to two hundred thousand people were involved in Rwandan genocide, including security forces, police, army, presidential guard, but also many civilians.

But on top of those there were hundreds of thousands of civilians who had little or nothing at all to do with the genocide who fled because they were afraid that the people who took power in Rwanda after this, the Tutsi-led RFP party that had been engaged in the civil war in Rwanda since 1990, that they would then take revenge against the Hutu population that they saw as having perpetrated the genocide. So you had refugee camps in eastern Congo that housed around a million refugees. Also and they also housed the forced that perpetrated the genocide. This was an untenable situation for the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame, who was Vice President at the time. It was basically you had the same forces that perpetrated the genocide lurking across the border running a radio station and rearming.

There were cross-border raids in both directions. The refugee camps as well as into as well as into Rwanda, but I mean it was a completely untenable situation. These people were being kept alive by the United Nations and aid groups in these huge, huge refugee camps in eastern Congo. Something had to happen. Kagame, Vice President Kagame went on numerous occasions to the international community to the United States and said “Take action.” Or “If you don’t take action, I will take action.”

And then finally in September and October 1996, the Rwandan government took action although at the beginning people spoke of Congolese rebels. What really happened was the Rwandan government, as well as other governments in the region had come together in an alliance led by the Rwandans and used a Congolese rebel coalition sort of as a fig leaf to make people believe this wasn’t a foreign invasion, but it really was a foreign invasion. They came in to break up the refugee camps. It was in the process of breaking up these refugee camps that these massacres occurred and the most controversial part was that not only did the Rwandan government come in and kill some of the perpetrators of the genocide, but they committed systematic, generalized massacres against the civilian refugee population including infants, young children, babies, pregnant women, old women and men, who had not taken part in the genocide, and the massacres were so widespread and systematic that the U.N. mapping teams investigators concluded that there may have- this may have constituted acts of genocide. So that’s what the biggest controversy comes from.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And in the various massacres and abuses that the report documents, can you give us a rough sense of how many Hutu the report claims that the RPF killed?

JASON STEARNS: Well, I went back and actually sort of added together on a calculator how many Hutu refugees could have been using the smallest number because often what happens is because it’s not a- you know it’s difficult to find out exactly how many people died because you know people fled. Huge massacres and mass graves and to get a precise figure it was difficult, but if you use the smallest number possible, you probably arrive at a figure around 8,000.

Now it is not clear whether some of these civilians may actually have been militiamen and soldiers. It’s possible but in many, many cases the U.N. documented cases where these were people who had been disarmed or were identified at road blocks, or in many cases, for example, stragglers, who the Rwandan troops were chasing these people down across the Congo over 1,000 miles through the jungles in the Congo. And the people they caught up first with were the sick and elderly and people who couldn’t make it. These were not young, fit, strong Hutu militias and soldiers. These were often people too weak to have made it. So these were the people that were often killed first. So it was those people who were killed. Those amounted to about eight to ten thousand, but the report suggests it could have been many, many more.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: While the report is perhaps the most comprehensive in looking at the wars in Congo over this long ten-year period, there have been reports of abuses throughout. What in your opinion is really new about the information or about the structure of the report?

JASON STEARNS: Well, I mean this is the first time, you’re right. There are many of the massacres in the report. I want to emphasize this is not just a report about the Rwandan government’s abuses, although they do come off very poorly in the report. Many of the massacres have been documented and investigated before, but never so rigorously. Never by a United Nations team and never as comprehensively. So we had news maybe on you know 20 or 30 percent of these massacres were known but nobody had ever gone back and rigorously documented what exactly happened. For example, some of the worst massacres committed by Rwandan army and the proxy against the Congolese civilians in 1998 and 1999, for example, there were several famous massacres that happened in eastern Congo.

So the really the novelty of this report was that it was done by the United Nations with rigorous standards and in a very comprehensive fashion so it comes with much more authority and gravitas than many of the reports that have come previously. And the documents massacres that nobody even knew about. I mean even I who had been working on the Congo for a decade now, you know, I hadn’t heard of many of these abuses before so I think in terms of a historical document this is an incredibly important document.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: What were the key recommendations of the report or the draft report I guess we should say?

JASON STEARNS: We should say the draft report because report is now supposed to be released at the beginning of October, although I gather it’s going to be very similar to the one that’s been leaked. The key recommendations are really to try some sort of process of getting accountability to the Congo. The Congo is an anomaly compared to many post conflict countries around the world. Usually there’s at least some efforts for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a tribunal, vetting out officers out of the army who are known to have committed abuses, something. And in the Congo we’ve had absolutely nothing. We had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was a bit of a sham that never worked, that never published its work so that doesn’t even really count. So we’ve had nothing.

And many of the perpetrators of these massacres are in government in the countries in the region including in the Congo so the key recommendation is to create some sort of tribunal to try the people who committed this. They offer two basic proposals. One is to have a tribunal separate from the Congolese justice system that would include Congolese and foreign judges. That would sit in the Congo probably, but would be an independent institution, funded independently and not dependent on the Congolese justice system. The second proposal would be to create a specialized court within the Congolese justice system also mixed foreign and domestic judges but dependent on the Congolese justice system.

And the last thing is that they propose some sort of means of reparations for the losses of the local population and all of these things of course are going to have to be discussed by Congolese government first and foremost but also its foreign partners.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: And the Rwandans have specifically threatened to pull their forces out of the peace-keeping, the joint African union, United Nations peace-keeping force in the Darfur region of Sudan. Have you heard any fears, concerns or grounded suspicions that there would be any retaliation in Congo or along the border?

JASON STEARNS: Well I think the- it’s a complicated situation. The Rwandan government indeed has threatened, says the report is not rigorously documented. It’s a shoddy job, a “hatchet job” I think they called it. And they threatened to withdraw troops from Darfur. That doesn’t seem to be a very productive stance given the fact that their troops are supposed to be preventing genocide in Darfur and the reason they’re withdrawing them is that they’re accused of genocide. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in my mind but they have indeed threatened to do so. They have not threatened to do anything similar in the Congo.

Actually since the release of the report President Kagame has been inaugurated again for another term in office in Kigali just a couple days ago and the guest of honor so to say of that ceremony was President Joseph Kabila of the Congo. So one could say the relations between those two countries are closer now than ever before and that the fact the spotlight has been shown on Rwanda now through this report may make them more hesitant to try to meddle in the business of its neighbor at least for now. So I don’t- I haven’t seen any concrete threats against the Congolese but I’m sure if there were investigations then many of the witnesses provided information for this report who, of course, are anonymous would probably be fearful for their lives.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: The report is dated June 2010 but it was leaked the third week of August, and now this draft report, various countries that have a stake in it are being given until October first, basically to review it. Are you expecting many changes in that report or do you think they will be successful in changing any of the key language?

JASON STEARNS: I’m not privy, I don’t think many people are privy, to the internal wrangling within the U.N. between the U.N. and these different countries. What I’ve been told by the members of the High Commission for Human Rights, which is in charge of the report, is that no, there won’t be a lot that’s changed, and indeed I would imagine it would be difficult to change, substantively change the report after a version has been leaked. Imagine they take out the word “genocide” now and the report is already out there. It would be very easy to compare those two versions and to see that. So it would be very difficult I think at this stage to go back and change the report substantially.

I think this is primarily an effort to give diplomats more time to cool tempers, to prevent the Rwandans from withdrawing troops from Darfur and to give diplomacy a little bit more time. I think it’s true the Rwandans wanted more time to react to this report. But it’s, you know, the Congolese government, for example, had two months, had seen the report two months before it was leaked. It’s not clear that by having more time to react to the report it’s necessarily going to help their case much further. They’ve already rubbished the report in the press. It’s not clear to me what exactly they’re going to do to strengthen their case over this next month but we’ll see I guess come October 1st.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Do you know why the report was leaked?

JASON STEARNS: This is a good question. I mean certainly the- well most people believe it was leaked because some changes were about to be made to the report and people on the inside who had access to the report did not want those changes to be made so they leaked the report. That’s one theory. I should emphasize that the report has been finished for over one year. Was submitted over one year ago by this team that had carried out the investigation, submitted to the High Commission in Geneva and then it was circulated amongst a very small group of people.

You know, having worked with the U.N. for or worked with and worked alongside the U.N. for many years, it’s usually fairly easy to get reports leaked to you. Not with this report. It was very different. Nobody would give me a copy of this report. I saw a page of the report on a computer screen somebody dared to show me. But even that was a little bit audacious on their part, so this was a very closely guarded report. So the leak was not- could not have been a gratuitous leak, I think. I don’t think somebody who just said “Ah, I’m just going to leak it for fun.” There must- there most likely was a very good reason for somebody to leak the report, and that would have been because the report was about to be changed.

Now, since then numerous U.N. officials, anonymously and on the record have said that no, the report was not going to be changed. Those were all just rumors and slander. So some people disagree with that. But if that’s true, if the report wasn’t going to be changed, then I don’t see why release- why leak the report three or four days before the official version was supposed to be made public. It doesn’t make much sense, but I think the answer to that, we’re probably only going to know months or even years from now.

BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Okay, Jason, thank you very much for your time.

JASON STEARNS: Sure.

NARRATOR: You have been listening to Voices on Genocide Prevention, from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. To learn more about responding to and preventing genocide, join us online at www.ushmm.org/genocide.

[The ProxyLake]

September 29, 2010   1 Comment

Rwanda’s reaction to the leakage of Ruzibiza testimony

Abdul Ruzibiza

Kigali – The Government of Rwanda has cited conspiracy and foul play by some French elements for ‘leaking’ to the press the testimony Joshua Ruzibiza purportedly given to a French judge, referring to the incident as a “scheme to scandalise Rwanda.”

Ruzibiza, 40, died Thursday in Oslo, Norway where he had been living for over a decade. Shortly after his death, an excerpt of his so-called testimony which he gave to French Judge Marc Trevidic was published in a French magazine Mariannne.

In an interview with The New Times, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama said that the leakage of the “highly confidential” document containing the testimony Ruzibiza made to a French Judge in Norway is “very shocking.”

“We have received the information about the leakage of a confidential judicial statement made by the late Ruzibiza to the Judge in Norway. This information of judicial nature being leaked to the press is very shocking,”

“A judicial file is supposed to be confidential; it is supposed to be protected. If there are people who have access to the judges file and they can go in and pull out information and send it to the media, that’s extremely dangerous and we are expressing grave concern over that development,” Karugarama said.

Karugarama said that it is “unusual” for an investigative judge’s file to be leaked to the press, adding that the fact that a full excerpt was published shows that someone in the office of the judge deliberately leaked the information.

“That is extremely dangerous. We don’t know what else they could leak out, we don’t know what people could be interested in to have extremely confidential judicial documents leaked out,” he said.

“We find it extremely dangerous and its bothering us a lot. We have received that information with great indignation and we are very scandalised, that that could happen,”.

The Magazine said that there was much more to the hearing than what was published and said of Ruzibiza: “We have lost somebody who could have provided very interesting explanations on how the investigation was manipulated under Bruguiere.”

The same French Judges were in Rwanda last week carrying out investigations into the shooting of the plane that was carrying former President Juvenal Habyarimana. The findings are expected in March.

The former RPF lieutenant claimed in a book that he was part of the commando unit that shot the President Habyarimana plane down and became the key witness in the investigation launched in 2006 by the French anti-terror judge, but he later retracted his testimony. He told the judges that he was under threats by RPF.

In a recent interview with the French judges which has now been leaked to the press, Ruzibiza confirmed his claims against RPF. After his death last week, the lawyer for the RPF suspects called for an investigation into his death, saying that he would have been a key witness to prove that the French judge Bruguiere had been manipulative. That triggered the publication of the full interview by the magazine Marianne.
Read full interview (in French).

September 28, 2010   3 Comments

Kigali High Court hearing over bail denial of FDU-Inkingi activist Martin Ntavuka

The Kigali High Court started on Monday the hearing of bail denial for Mr. Martin NTAVUKA, an FDU INKINGI Kigali local leader, incarcerated since 24 July 2010.

In their motions to revoke the remand order and to grant an immediate release, the defendant and his lawyer Mr. Theogene MUHAYEYEZU insisted that the defendant should be released from prison because the charge of organizing illegal protest is politically motivated, and for the fact that the defendant was not demonstrating when he was arrested.

Mr. Martin NTAVUKA was arrested when Police found in the vehicle in which he was, a dozen t-shirts with the text  “WE NEED DEMOCRACY AND FAIR JUSTICE”. On the other side, evidences clearly show that Mr. Martin NTAVUKA is not a risk and does not pose any threat to the Rwandan community.

The prosecutor then confirmed that the government considers all militants of FDU INKINGI and PS IMBERAKURI (opposition parties) as a security threat because their plan is to topple the current government.

The verdict is expected on 01 October 2010.

September 28, 2010   No Comments

Former Rwandan Prosecutor General Gerard Gahima Testifies Against Kagame in Spain

Sources in Spain have informed AfroAmerica Network  that Gerard Gahima, a former Rwandan Prosecutor General and Vice-President of the Supreme Court has been testifying against  the Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame.

The testimony in front of the Audiencia National in Madrid is likely to be very critical and damaging for Paul Kagame. In fact, General Gahima was one of the closest allies,  comrades,  and friends of  Kagame’s sometimes regarded, along with Tito Rutaremara, one of the ideologues of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front.

The lengthy testimony was recorded on Wednesday September 22, 2010.

In the testimony, Gerard Gahima confirmed that General Paul Kagame has personally or through proxies, and private businesses committed, executed, supervised, and/or ordered war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in Rwanda. According to Gerard Gahima, among the companies belonging to Paul Kagame and his associates, including the wife of the Minister of Finances,  and exploiting resources in the DRC, especially coltan and other commodities, and shipping them across the border to Rwanda are  Air Navette, Jambo Safari, and New Gomair. He also reaffirmed that companies belonging to the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), General Paul Kagame and a clique of personal friends, relatives, and leading personalities  continue to benefit from illegal logging and poaching. They include the holding Tri-Star Investments that belongs to Paul  Kagame.

Gerard Gahima testified also on the assassination of spanish aid workers and missionaries, the catalan missionary Joaquim Vallmajó  in 1994 and Medecins du Monde workers  Flors Sirera and Luis Manuel Madrazo Valtueña, killed three years later.

One of Gerard Gahima’s associates, Kayumba Nyamwasa is accused of ordering these murders. The Spanish Government, at the insistence of Judge Andreu, formally requested his extradition from South Africa, where he has sought asylum, to Spain, to face prosecution for the crimes.

General Kayumba Nyamwasa was a victim of the first assassination attempt on June 19, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa where he has sought exile (see our article here ). After the first assassination attempt, the  South African Government pointed a finger to intelligence operatives from Rwanda as responsible for the failed assassination. The accusation led to a strain in the two governments relations. The South African Government eventually recalled its Ambassador to Rwanda (see our article here and here).

[AfroAmerica]

September 28, 2010   4 Comments

Investigation requested into death of Lt. Abdul Ruzibiza, key witness in the genocide-trigger assassination of President Habyarimana in 1994

Abdul Ruzibiza, key witness in Habyarimana assassination

Kigali – A lawyer for Rwandan officials indicted by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere for assassinating ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana is of the view that the death of Joshua Abdul Ruzibiza may not be due to natural causes.

Belgian attorney Bernard Maingain has asked Marc Trevidic, the judge who took over the case from Bruguiere, to request more details on the circumstances of Ruzibiza’s death.

Lt. Ruzibiza, 40, died Thursday in Oslo where he has been living for over a decade. The former RPF lieutenant claimed in a book that he was part of the commando unit that shot the President Habyarimana plane down and became the key witness in the investigation launched in 2006 by the French anti-terror judge.

Ruzibiza had retracted several of his claims when he was heard in France following the arrest of former chief of protocol Rose Kabuye. He said then that he made up the claims to get close to the French to “understand why they hated Tutsis”.

Ruzibiza was heard again recently by Trevidic in Norway and, according to an excerpt of the hearing published by French magazine Mariannne, Ruzibiza claimed he had gone back on his earlier revelations following intimidation from Kigali.

Now the defense wants answers.
I have asked Trevidic to contact the police and judicial authorities in Norway and demand that it be urgently established whether the death was of natural causes,” Bernard Maingain told French news agency AFP by phone.

I had not heard anything about him being sick,” he said.

Maingain was part of a group of experts, including Judge Trevidic, who were in Rwanda earlier this month to hear witnesses and visit sites related to the Habyarimana plane shooting.

He told AFP that there was much more to the hearing than what was published by the magazine ‘Marianne’ and said of Ruzibiza: “We have lost somebody who could have provided very interesting explanations on how the investigation was manipulated under Bruguiere.”

September 25, 2010   5 Comments

Video: United Nations should be ashamed and stay away from Rwanda, says Rwandan Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo

On Riz Khan (Al Jazeera) the Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo responds to new allegations of genocide.

She claims that the same allegations of atrocities started from 1994 as a way to balance against the Tutsi genocide.
She says United Nations “should be ashamed of itself” and “should stay away from Rwanda and genocide”.

September 25, 2010   5 Comments

Nervosity as UN report unveils Rwanda’s Other Genocide

by Tristan McConnell.

My friend nervously scanned the paved open-air courtyard. His eyes rested for a few seconds on a nearby table, where three affluent-looking men in suits sipped beers. He glanced into a shadowed corner at a young couple out on a date, then at a group of foreign missionaries gathering for an early dinner.

Dusk had just passed the way it does in equatorial Africa, suddenly, leaving us in darkness as waiters scurried about with matches to light candles. Satisfied that no one was listening in, my friend leaned close to whisper, “Of course, everyone knows who is Hutu, who is Tutsi. We just don’t talk about it. We can’t talk about it.”

There are many things you cannot talk about in Rwanda. You cannot talk about ethnicity because this little central African country was nearly destroyed by tribal enmities just sixteen years ago, when extremist Hutus killed around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate members of their own tribe in just three months. The killers used machetes, hoes, axes and guns to perpetrate one of the most efficient mass slaughters in human history.

Paul Kagame, the country’s de facto leader since marching into Rwanda at the head of a Tutsi rebel army in the summer of 1994, calls himself a Rwandan. The words “Tutsi” and “Hutu” have been erased from identity cards and excised from open conversation. But still, everyone knows.

There are laws against “divisionism” and “genocide ideology” that prescribe jail terms for tribal talk. One Western diplomat in Kigali told me these were “thought crimes.” The laws are intended to prevent the resurrection of deadly ethnic politics, but it is also a very pragmatic concern for Kagame, whose Tutsi ethnic group accounts for only around 15 percent of Rwanda’s 10 million citizens. Critics complain that the laws are used to block opposition politicians and stifle dissent.

There are two things you can—indeed must—talk about in Rwanda. The first is the genocide. Seemingly every town has its own genocide memorial, mausoleums with neatly arranged rows of skulls and bones on wooden shelves. They are eerie places, and impossibly moving. The second is that Kagame and his troops halted the genocide and have shown a single-minded determination to rebuild the country ever since.

Last month a draft United Nations report was leaked that questions this dominant discourse, forcing Rwandans to confront something else that cannot be talked about in Rwanda: what happened in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo after the genocide?

For seven months a team of researchers from the UN’s Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights consulted documents (more than 1,500 of them) and interviewed witnesses (over 1,200) across Congo’s vast territory. They concluded that Kagame’s own troops were responsible for a litany of atrocities and massacres after the Rwanda genocide was over. Some journalists, human rights activists and others have long argued that Rwanda’s invasion was a “counter-genocide,” but never have the allegations been leveled in such detail, and by an international body like the UN.

As Kagame’s army advanced southward through Rwanda in 1994, the Hutu killers fled to neighboring Congo, hiding among more than a million refugees in squalid camps along the border. From there the genocidaires reorganized, rearmed and restarted cross-border attacks on Tutsis. In 1996 Kagame ordered an invasion to hunt down the killers.

The UN researchers were tasked with documenting the most serious violations of human rights committed in Congo during a series of wars between 1993 and 2003, which, at their height, involved eight countries and led to the deaths of around 4 million people, mostly from disease and ill health.

The draft report talks of “the relentless pursuit and mass killing of Hutu refugees, members of the former Armed Forces of Rwanda and militias implicated in the genocide of 1994.” Revenge attacks might be understandable, given the horrific context of the genocide; but the authors of the report believe a baser motivation may have been in play.

“The systematic and widespread attacks…reveal a number of damning elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide,” the draft says. “Probably tens of thousands were killed” as Rwandan soldiers made “no effort” to distinguish between combatants and civilians. So many deaths “cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage,” says the report. “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces.”

One example, from 1996: It was a Wednesday afternoon in October, the day before Halloween, when a meeting was ordered in Rutshuru, a town set among the cultivated hills and forested mountains of eastern Congo. The Rwandan soldiers who had fought their way to Rutshuru four days earlier began registering people according to tribe. Nandes were told to go home, Hutus to stay.

“They then separated the men and women on the grounds that the women had to prepare the meal. The women were taken to the Maison de Poste, where they were executed. The men were bound and led in pairs to a sand quarry…. All of them were then executed with blows of hammers [sic].”

The death toll that day alone was “at least 350 civilians,” according to the draft report. This incident was just one of 617 listed by the researchers. Of these, one in six were carried out by Rwandan soldiers and their allies (the other killings were by various warring parties from eight countries that were embroiled in the Congo fighting).

It is damning, and Rwanda’s government has reacted angrily, dismissing the report as “immoral and unacceptable.” Even before the draft was leaked, Rwanda’s foreign minister wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon threatening to withdraw the country’s soldiers from UN peacekeeping missions if the report was published, or leaked, in its current form. Rwanda’s 3,300 troops are the backbone of a hard-pressed UN and African Union mission in the Sudanese region of Darfur, so on September 8, Ban paid a surprise visit to Rwanda to plead with Kagame not to follow through on the threat.

The leaked report is hugely damaging to Kagame’s moral authority and international standing, all of which stem from his ending of the Rwanda genocide, not attempting a second one in Congo.

Already Kagame has had a torrid year, during which he has faced unprecedented scrutiny. He won a presidential election in August with 93 percent of the vote, but two opposition candidates were prevented from registering their parties for the poll, critical newspapers were shut down and the mysterious murders of a journalist and politician as well as the attempted assassination of a dissident general did immense damage to Kagame’s well-cultivated image as Rwanda’s savior and visionary leader.

A decade and a half since that massacre in Rutshuru, eastern Congo is still at war, albeit a low-intensity conflict that harms more civilians than soldiers. The provincial capital of Goma is no longer engulfed by refugees, but there is an almost constant trickle of what aid workers call the displaced, those forced from their homes by violence.

Dreadful things are done every day despite the presence of one of the world’s largest UN peacekeeping missions. A senior UN official recently conceded the mission had “failed” to protect civilians when he admitted that more than 500 women and girls had been raped in just over a month of attacks.

The picture in neighboring Rwanda could scarcely be more different. It is a short walk from Goma in Congo to Gisenyi in Rwanda, but it takes you from chaos to discipline, from conflict to peace. Since taking charge, Kagame has effectively leveraged the guilt felt by Western powers who turned their backs on Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. He has attracted vast amounts of aid and has used the money well.

The corruption, bribes and backhanders that blight Rwanda’s neighbors are hard to find. Schools have been built and teachers trained; children get nine years of free education; a national health insurance scheme has been set up; a network of fiber optic cables is being laid; and the economy has grown impressively, albeit from a very low base.

Post-genocide reconciliation is a slow but ongoing process, and Rwanda is both peaceful and safe. Crime is rare, violent crime almost unheard of.

But the leaked UN report points to a darker side of Kagame’s Rwanda, a place where people are afraid to criticize the government, where central control is grasped tightly, where everything is creepily disciplined.

“Rwandans are characterized by obeying the government,” says Irenee Bugingo, a researcher at Kigali’s Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace, which works to foster reconciliation. He says this can be used for good—for example, during the last Saturday in each month, when everyone gets involved in a morning’s worth of community work, called umuganda—or it can be used for ill, as in 1994, when extremist leaders ordered Hutus to turn on their Tutsi neighbors.

Kagame has brought a military discipline to the governing of Rwanda, but with it comes a soldier’s ruthlessness and intolerance of dissent. It is not just ordinary Rwandans like my friend who are afraid to talk openly. Foreign diplomats and aid workers in Kigali are guarded when they speak on the telephone for fear of tapping; in their embassies and offices, they speak more quietly as local staff pass by.

“The country is obsessively controlled, the regime profoundly paranoid,” one Western diplomat told me. “Fear is the dominant expression among ordinary people,” said another.

Kagame’s control of the country has maintained stability in the years since the genocide and fostered a measure of economic growth and prosperity, but there are doubts over how sustainable it will be in the longer term, argues Carina Tertsakian, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“People may shut up and do as they’re told, but inside they are increasingly bitter and frustrated, and that cuts right across ethnic lines,” she says. “You can’t build stability, peace, reconciliation, in a society where people can’t speak.”

[Nation]

Tristan McConnell, a journalist based in Nairobi, covers east and Horn of Africa as a correspondent for the Times of London and GlobalPost.

September 25, 2010   1 Comment

Lt. Abdul Ruzibiza, key witness in Habyarimana’s plane shooting, is dead

Kigali: The key French witness in the alleged shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane, Lt. Joshua Abdul Ruzibiza is dead.

Ruzibiza, 40, died Thursday of natural causes in a hospital in Oslo-Norway where he has been exiled for more than 10 years.

The father of five suddenly sprung in the news with the publication of a damning book ‘L’histoire secrete’ in which he was critical of President Kagame and the ruling RPF party. The book among many accusations claims the RPF was behind the downing of President Habyarimana plane on April 06 1994 – which culminated into the Genocide against Tutsis.

Ruzibiza became a key witness of French Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere who indicted 9 Rwandan officials in November 2006 over the shooting of the plane.

However, last year, Ruzibiza took the airwaves with another surprise – withdrawing the allegation that RPF was behind the plane downing. He explained in various media interviews that he had made the allegations as a plot to get close to the French – saying he wanted to understand why they hated Tutsis.

Sources in Norway say Ruzibiza died of cancer.

[ARI-RNA]

September 24, 2010   2 Comments

General Kagame says he never made a threat to withdraw peacekeeping troops

As reported by journalist Joe Lauria in the Wall Street Journal, talking about the threat to withdraw Rwandan troops from the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan if UN published the Genocide report, embattled General Kagame said he had never made such a “threat,” but added that if the U.N. decided to pursue the report’s allegations in a court, he would reconsider.

Here is how WSJ reports the news:

Rwanda to Keep U.N. Contingent

NEW YORK—Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Thursday backed away from a threat to withdraw his country’s troops from a peacekeeping mission in Sudan if the United Nations published a report accusing Rwandan soldiers of genocide in neighboring Congo in the late 1990s.

“That is not on the table,” Mr. Kagame said in an interview on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Mr. Kagame said he had never made such a “threat,” but added that if the U.N. decided to pursue the report’s allegations in a court, he would reconsider.

The 509-page report by the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights was leaked in August, setting off a diplomatic crisis.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who called the charges “absurd,” said in a letter to the U.N. following the leak that “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.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew to Kigali, the Rwandan capital, earlier this month to plead with Mr. Kagame not to pull the country’s 3,000 troops out of Sudan just months before a crucial referendum on independence for southern Sudan. Diplomats fear war could break out if the referendum isn’t held and the south declares unilateral independence. The withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the 20,000-strong hybrid U.N.-African Union peace force could further destabilize the country, U.N officials said.

“The secretary-general would strongly hope that Rwanda would keep up the excellent work that it has done up to now in peacekeeping operations,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirsky said Thursday.

U.S. officials couldn’t be reached to comment on Mr. Kagame’s remarks Thursday.

Despite Rwanda’s initial reaction, Mr. Ban said the report would be released on Oct. 1. The leaked draft documents mass murders, rapes and other abuses committed in Congo from 1993 to 2003 by several armed groups, including the Rwandan army. The draft, a copy of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal, says Rwandan forces hunted down and killed “tens of thousands” of Rwandan Hutus living as refugees in Congo in 1996 and 1997, when the country was known as Zaire.

The soldiers were ostensibly tracking suspects of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. But according to the U.N. report, they often made little or no effort to distinguish genocide suspects from innocent refugees. Groups of people were shot, raped, burned or beaten, it says. “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces,” the report says.

Mr. Kagame said some Rwandan soldiers had been disciplined during this period, but “it doesn’t amount to anything near to what is being talked about in the report.”

U.N. investigators also accuse Rwanda of smuggling illegally mined minerals out of Congo. Mr. Kagame said in the interview that U.S., British, Canadian, French and Belgian mining companies should be asked what they were doing in Congo. These “companies … have been exploiting the minerals of the Congo in many ways,” he said, while Rwanda hadn’t profited at all.

[WSJ]

September 24, 2010   3 Comments

Rwanda: Development Partners need to support lasting solution

by Victoire Ingabire.

Kigali (Sept. 24) – The problem of aid and political conditionality and especially good governance and democratisation process has been a recurrent topic in the discussions between donor countries and beneficiaries.  This has obliged some dictatorships to open up the political space and level the playing field  or like in the case of Rwanda to police up a controlled  democratisation process with no opposition or elections with no competitors.  The current political and military crisis is dragging the country to the brink of chaos. Will the donors prioritize the stability of the country or just back up  the regime with no questions asked? This is the right time to judge the sincerity of bilateral and international development partners.  Will they once again turn a blind eye to the unfolding  crossroads or will they put pressure for a transitional negotiated process between the incumbent and his opposition?

The failure of the democratisation process.

Last month, officially General Paul KAGAME, in a very much touted landslide presidential election victory, scored more than 93%.  It took him a whole month to align in full his already existing cabinet  and to announce   tougher measures against non armed dissents.

Prior to August 2010 presidential election, human rights organisations and international media widely reported increased massive political repression  and crackdown on independent media. A political key figure and a journalist were slaughtered. No independent investigation has been allowed and instead the “confessing” arrested-suspects have been released. Human Rights Watch on 2nd August 2010 documented a worrying pattern of intimidation, harassment and other abuses – ranging from killings and arrests to restrictive administrative measures – against opposition parties, journalists, members of civil society and other critics.  Opposition parties were either prevented to register, either their leaders were and still are incarcerated or indefinitely kept under extended house arrest.

On 11th  August 2010 in  Brussels the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs on the Presidential Elections in Rwanda commended  the calm atmosphere but reminded: “The EU is still concerned about the serious incidents which marred the pre-electoral period and urges the Rwandese authorities to ensure that the investigations and judicial proceedings regarding these events are carried out in full transparency and as rapidly as possible.

Further opening of the political space and strengthening the public debate throughout the country would significantly contribute to safeguarding Rwanda’s achievements and will benefit all Rwandese”.

The report of the Commonwealth election observer group noted the peaceful aspect of the election but  mentioned that “however, while the campaign was fairly active, albeit dominated by the largest party, the fact that the four candidates were all drawn from the governing coalition meant there was a lack of critical opposition voices. A number of opposition parties had earlier stated their intention to stand but faced either legal or administrative problems, which resulted in their non-participation”.

Many other organisations and nations have expressed their concerns over the level of exclusion of the opposition.

It’s our right now to question clearly and publicly the legitimacy of the election results until dialogue, negotiation and compromise are reached.

Arm-wrestling contest with the UN over large scale mass killings in the DRC

Early September 2010, a leaked report, by the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR), detailing  undoubtedly war crimes and what “could be classified as crimes of genocide” committed by the RPF government and the army during the invasions and subsequent “relentless pursuit and mass killing” of Hutus  in the Democratic Republic of the Congo  sparkled an arm-wrestling between the UN and the regime.  The government of General Paul KAGAME angrily threatened to pull 3,500 troops out of a Darfur peace keeping mission  and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that the report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 1993 and 2003 will be made public on 1 October 2010.

This report brings to surface other thousands of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda by the RPF during and after the genocide in 1994.

Whatever will be the outcome of the pressure and hidden negotiations to alter the draft report the credibility of the government of General Paul KAGAME and his ruling RPF remains an open question.

Poverty reduction scam

Most development partners of Rwanda rely on the ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY 2008 – 2012 discussed previously with the government. It is a paper painting a glowing picture of a “stable nation, on the path to achieving better lives for each and every one of (the country’s) citizens”.

The FDU Inkingi does not share this optimistic diagnosis. Indeed, the so called achievements are not self sustainable in the medium and long term as they are based on heavy external aid.

For example, for the fiscal year 2010-2011, out of a total budget of billions 984 RWF, 345 billions are expected to be foreign funded.

This is a result of the government economic priorities which do not address the most urgent problems of national cohesion, economic equal opportunity and self sustainability.

Ascertaining that poverty has fallen under the leadership of the current regime is far from the truth. Indeed the bottom line should not be 1994, but well before the war. According to UNDP, the total number of people living under severe poverty is 60% (see also table 2.2.). This figure was 47% under the previous regime.

Exit strategy that is put forward by the government paper suggests among other to increase paid employment (page 24). Yet, even some of the paid workers live now under the poverty line. A recent survey by our economic desk shows that a medical worker (infirmier) earns 90.000 RWF. Assuming that he/she is married and has two children, which is well conservative, he/she will spend, according to our survey, a minimum of 141.000 RWF per month on basic items like foods, transport fees, and house rent. This leaves a deficit of over 50.000RWF to this medical worker. The situation is worse for primary school teacher. Some of them are simply deserting their profession as they can no longer sustain their families with their salaries.

As acknowledged by government paper (item 2.20) income inequality is increasing, both between rural and urban areas, and between Eastern province and the rest of the country, the Southern province lagging well behind. The GINI coefficient (page 142, figure 7.3) rose from 47% in 2001/2002 to 51% in 2005/2006. Rwanda was well above the average of the other African countries’ Gini coefficients. In other word, around 40% of the national wealth is in the hands of 10% of the rich. The so much lauded economic growth has therefore not contributed to the reduction of poverty, as it mainly benefited to the already rich class.

Reducing poverty is not just a window-dressing, it is more than cleaning the streets of Kigali or planting flowers along the streets. Reducing poverty is fighting it where it is the most severe, i.e. in rural and suburb areas. It is unacceptable that “68% of the total poverty reduction in the country be accounted for by a single province (page 25), which is by any standard the most populated.

Serious step towards a long lasting solution are needed.

In the background of the shrinking credibility and legitimacy of the Rwandan regime unfolds a deeper military crisis as well. A political and military decomposition of dictatorships have incalculable consequences in developing nations.  The only way to avoid total disintegration, chaos and a possible other Somalia is to tighten a strong international pressure to work on a solution to the political impasse.  The government should release all political prisoners i.e. Mr. Deogratias MUSHAYIDI (life sentence); Mr. Charles NTAKIRUTINKA (15 years); Dr.  Théoneste NIYITEGEKA (15 years); Mr. Bernard NTAGANDA, Mr. Martin NTAVUKA and drop all politically motivated  charges  against   the PS Imberakuri and the FDU INKINGI leaders including myself.

Independent inquiry on the murder of the Vice President of the Green Democratic Party of Rwanda Mr. André KAGWA RWISEREKA,  and the assassination of the journalist Jean Léonard RUGAMBAGE should start now.

We need an immediate mediation process for a negotiated solution which allows face to be saved and an agreement for an all inclusive transitional system that will  prepare a total democratisation of Rwanda.

Our plea to the donors is to “seek ways to ensure that it builds institutional capacity for the country’s continued progress, not political capacity for KAGAME’s continued power” . This is well described by    Charles Landow (associate director of the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations. The KAGAME Dilemma, September 8, 2010): “a constrained political climate punctuated by violence is hardly the way to preserve economic stability and poverty reduction in a country still recovering from wars and in a region full of conflict and the potential for more”. Continuing to dish in financial aid without taking into account this reality is like pouring water in a bottomless pit.

Ms. Victoire INGABIRE UMUHOZA
Chair, FDU INKINGI.

September 24, 2010   1 Comment