Rwanda Information Portal

Posts from — September 2012

Zimbabwe police seek Rwandan fugitive Protais Mpiranya

Zimbabwe’s police say they have launched a manhunt for a former top Rwandan official, accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

Protais Mpiranya was a commander in the Presidential Guard in 1994 and is accused of playing a key role in the slaughter of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Zimbabwe has previously been accused of sheltering him.

The UN’s Rwandan war crimes tribunal has offered a $5m reward for him.

“We want him dead or alive. We are looking for information to arrest him; we don’t know how long he has been in the country,” chief superintendent Peter Magwenzi of the police homicide section told the AFP news agency.

Last year, Zimbabwean official denied that he was in the country.

Source: BBC News

September 20, 2012   No Comments

Rwanda Green leader hopes to register political party

KIGALI — The leader of Rwanda’s Democratic Green Party, who returned from exile earlier this month, said Tuesday he hoped to register his party in time for the September 2013 parliamentary elections.

Frank Habineza left Rwanda for Sweden two years ago after his party failed to get permission to register for the 2010 presidential poll and after his deputy was found decapitated weeks before the vote.

“I had to go because my party was not legal … my partners were demoralized, very scared, so it was not a good time for continuing politics”, Habineza told AFP in an interview.

He said he hoped to get the green light from the government to organise a party congress — a mandatory step in the procedure to register a party — on November 16.

He hopes to have registered his party by the end of December.

The last party congress organised by the Greens in October 2009 was broken up by a man Habineza identified at the time on the party website as “an ex-soldier and a former employee of military intelligence,” along with three accomplices. He said the incident was “a well planned sabotage done by security operatives.”

Habineza on Tuesday however told AFP he “doesn’t know” who broke up the 2009 congress.

After the 2009 congress was disrupted, the government refused to allow the party, created earlier that year by former members of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, to hold a further meeting, he told AFP.

In July 2010 Habineza’s deputy Andre Kagwa Rwisereka disappeared in the south of the country. His decapitated body was found the next day. Two days later a man was arrested on suspicion of his murder, only to be released five days later after the start of the presidential election campaigns.

Habineza says he wants to look to the future and that if he manages to register the Green Party he “cannot fail” to get a seat in parliament.

Source: AFP

September 19, 2012   No Comments

Congo calls for embargo on Rwandan minerals

* Mines minister says writes U.S. SEC chief seeking help

* Congo accuses Rwanda of funding revolt in country’s east

KINSHASA, Sept 18 (Reuters) – The Democratic Republic of Congo is seeking an embargo on trade in minerals from Rwanda, which it accuses of funding a rebellion in the country’s east, according to a letter written by the mines minister and seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Tensions between the neighbouring central African countries have risen sharply this year over allegations made by U.N. experts that Rwanda is supporting the uprising in the Congolese province of North Kivu, charges denied by Kigali.

In a letter dated Aug. 29 to Mary Shapiro, president of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Congo’s mines minister accused Rwanda of helping armed groups smuggle minerals out of Congo and into Rwanda for export.

“To put an end to this situation, one of the solutions would be to impose an embargo on all minerals coming from Rwanda, until the establishment of a lasting peace in the provinces of North and South Kivu,” Martin Kabwelulu said in the letter.

“It is in this context that your institution … is invited to instruct all American companies … to no longer buy minerals extracted and/or coming from Rwanda,” he said.

An official at the SEC, which has no jurisdiction to impose trade embargoes, said he was not aware of the letter.

Kabwelulu wrote another letter on the same date to ITRI, a British-based tin industry organisation, calling on it to suspend its work helping to monitor certification of conflict-free tin in Rwanda.

An official at ITRI said it was consulting partners on the matter and would respond directly to Congo’s mines ministry “in due course”.

TRACEABILITY SOUGHT

The Rwandan government did not respond to emails and telephone calls asking for comment on Tuesday but it has repeatedly pledged to clean up its mineral sector and support new traceability initiatives.

Rights groups have long said that illegal exploitation of Congolese minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold has helped fuel nearly two decades of conflict in the east of the vast country that has left millions dead.

There has been growing international focus on efforts to tackle so-called “conflict minerals” and last month the SEC confirmed rules which will require U.S. companies buying minerals from Congo or its nine neighbours to demonstrate that the financial proceeds have not contributed to fighting.

Congo and Rwanda had been working closely on the issue before allegations of Rwandan complicity in the M23 rebellion brought about a breakdown in relations.

Rwanda has historically benefited from the exploitation of hundreds of millions of dollars of Congolese minerals.

A U.N. report in December last year said that Bosco Ntaganda, one of the leaders of the current M23 rebellion who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, was continuing to smuggle minerals through Rwanda.

On Tuesday the advocacy group Global Witness said that its research indicated Rwanda was continuing to launder proceeds from minerals that may have benefited armed groups.

“Not only does Rwanda’s predatory behaviour jeopardise its own reputation, … it also risks undermining the credibility of initiatives being developed to tackle the conflict minerals trade,” Global Witness spokeswoman Annie Dunnebacke said.

Last year Rwanda returned to Congo more than 80 tonnes of smuggled minerals that had been seized by customs officials.

Source: Reuters.

September 18, 2012   No Comments

Q&A: Rwandan President Paul Kagame answers TIME’s questions

By ALEX PERRY | September 14, 2012.

Paul Kagame

In the midst of a crisis over an army rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which the United Nations has accused Rwanda of supporting, Rwandan President Paul Kagame allowed TIME unprecedented access into his working and daily life. Africa bureau chief Alex Perry interviewed Kagame four times over five days, at his office in Kigali, at home with his family and at a regional summit on the DRC in Kampala, for a total of seven hours. Excerpts:

TIME: I’m not here to portray you as a saint but I wonder how you assess the recent press coverage, calling you a despot and a dictator?

Kagame: I don’t want to be a saint. I don’t even attempt to be. It wouldn’t make any sense. It would divert me from my responsibilities. Concentrating on being a saint would end with me doing nothing that I was supposed to.

But reading the newspapers, watching the television, it has been really ridiculous. It has no sense of justice, fairness or logic. They are talking about the situation in Congo. But they are never talking about Congo; they are talking about Rwanda. Which betrays everything about their intention: not to pay attention to the problems of Congo, not to solve these problems, but to abuse and kick Rwanda. We have the U.N. now engaged for 10 years. They have thousands of soldiers in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo]. The whole mission consumes $1.2 billion a year. But where are we after 10 years? How have you made not even a dent in Congo’s problems? The origin of the problem is linked to Rwanda – the FDLR [Democratic Liberation Forces for Rwanda] and genocidaires who live in the Congo and have been there now for 18 years. Have we come anywhere close to resolving that problem? Or should we just sit back and say that just by the mere presence of the international community and the UN, everything has been addressed?

These are enlightened people, people who always tell the world how well intentioned they are and how they want to see global security and fairness and justice and who are respected by all. And they are the ones who are turning everything upside down. This is the law of the jungle.

But bad as it is and shocking as it is, it is not surprising. It’s the same world we know, that we have come to try to understand how we might live in it, despite all the injustice and unfairness. It’s like living in a hurricane zone. The hurricane hits Rwanda and we take cover and hold our breath – and then it passes and we pick up the pieces and move on. We keep moving forward. We keep building our own lives.

TIME: What’s your response to the allegations of support to the M23?

Kagame: In March, after elections in Congo, we were being accused of being too close to Kabila. All of sudden it changed and we were No. 1 enemies. There was talk and press about how we must arrest CNDP [National Congress for the Defense of the People leader] Bosco Ntaganda. “He is dangerous. He has violated human rights to the highest level. He is a criminal.”
We said: “Wait a minute. If you are interested in this man, we do not mind or care, go and arrest him. You have forces in Congo. What does it have to do with us? Since we have Nkunda [Laurent Nkunda, former CNDP leader, detained by Rwanda in 2009 after Rwandan troops, with Congolese permission, intervened in eastern Congo to stop an earlier CNDP rebellion], we must also take this guy? Rwanda becomes a prison for fellows they throw out of Congo? Are you really saying that these people are not really Congolese but Rwandan?”

I actually called President Kabila on April 4 or 5.

I said: “We are getting a lot of people coming to us talking about the arrest of Bosco Ntaganda. Are you involved? You should be the one asking us?”

He tells me a story, how these people have also been coming to him. “I am not going to give Bosco Ntaganda to the ICC,” he says. “But Bosco Ntaganda is indisciplined and I want to arrest him.”

I said: “But why all this international outcry and pressure? Why don’t you send some officials that you trust and deal with the matter so that we don’t lose trust in what we are doing together.” Because we had already started discreetly deploying our forces. These forces were working with his people to hunt down the FDLR. We didn’t want to lose track of that.

So he sends people there. They asked if we can call the leadership of the M23 and our people accepted and they met just across the border in Rubenyi. And they [the M23] spelled out their problems. “They do not pay salaries. And we are hearing that the government and the international community wants to arrest Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda has flaws, but we think if they get Ntaganda, they will come for another, then another, then another. Some of our fighters have already disappeared. Is this all another way of eliminating us?” And the Congolese said: “Most of these things we are aware of and they are legitimate and we are sure the President will address it.”

Our people at that meeting kept insisting: “Address these legitimate issues. You need to avoid anything that will escalate these problems to a level where you have to turn against each other and start fighting because it is going to take us back maybe 10 years.” Because had good information that the CNDP was preparing to resist.

The next day President Kabila comes to Goma with money for the soldiers: $10 to this one, $5 to this one, $1 to this one. He says: “Now I have resolved the issues of salaries, I want Bosco put aside from the army. Understand that these issues have been resolved.” That’s when the fighting started. And I talked to Kabila again. He said: “We are seeing these things escalating.” And I said: “But President, you are the one escalating it.”

And all of a sudden an accusation comes up Rwanda is now supporting this M23, giving them weapons, uniforms. A number of them speaking English. They must be Rwandan. These stupid, wild things. And the whole world believes it. It goes to the Security Council. And the [U.N.] Group of Experts comes up with this whole thing… I’ve never seen such a stupid story like that. I do not think it’s because people are stupid. But I do think they want anything that implicates Rwanda, whether it is wrong or right. The M23 is [made up of] deserters. They go with their weapons, right? [Plus] the government soldiers were just running away and leaving weapons. The deserters were picking up what they wanted.

And the whole thing starts spinning out of control. We are trying to explain: “Look this is how this started, these are the facts.” But nobody is listening. They wanted Rwanda always to be seen as the culprit in the problems of Congo. Congo is a victim, always. The President, the government, everybody is a victim of Rwanda and Rwanda is the culprit. It doesn’t need a rational story, it doesn’t need facts or logic. It’s just how they want it.

TIME: Do you think that’s it?

Kagame: I can’t find any other explanation.

TIME: I read it like this. You come out of the genocide, which the world did not help you with. Then the genocidaires go to Congo, and the world feeds them. Then you have chaos in Congo for 18 years, the world puts its biggest ever peacekeeping force in – and it doesn’t work. And that builds in you a very robust self-determination. The flip side of that is that you question the world system [of international intervention] and the effectiveness of, say, the U.N. and the prerogative that an organization like Human Rights Watch assumes when it pronounces on human rights in Rwanda. You question what these people do for a living. You’re questioning their existence. Or you’re certainly questioning their right to define the narrative on Rwanda. And so it becomes a very personal fight.

Kagame: That is a very big part of it. Is this what the international system has been reduced to? Another question is: What’s wrong with self-determination? I understand some of these [aid] groups on the ground try to create an environment where they become indispensable. But how about countries? How do they not see?

TIME: Most NGOs absolutely concur with the right to self-determination. They talk about it all the time. In theory, you and they agree. What happens is that that kind of discussion is naturally quite heated, quite emotional.

Kagame: Yes it’s emotional, it becomes personal. But I just don’t understand how the rest of the world also gets deceived. And I want to say: we are not going to abandon these years of self-determination or self-respect, of survival and living for our people and our country just because there are people who are getting personal. It will come and go. It won’t stop our way of life. If anybody is questioning our determination to stay the course… This is about overcoming our past, having a decent living for our people. It’s an issue of our rights. [After all] what’s the alternative? People who have given up and surrendered and accept being treated the way they are treated – the way people want to treat us – what have they gained from it? We are better off.

TIME: A lot of people ask: “Why react like that?” After all, Human Right Watch does reports on every government in the world and plenty ignore it.

Kagame: These powerful countries can ignore it and get away with it. Nobody threatens them. But for us it is a different situation. They are building on our weak position as Rwanda or as Africa. The issue of aid comes in. We need to explain ourselves, otherwise we end up in very had shape. I’m not saying that if asomebody is doing something wrong, they should not write about it. But if you are seen to be selective and pursue an objective rather than deal with human rights violations, then it will shatter your credibility. People will think you’re not serious. This woman at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, [Navi] Pillay, says: “These M23 are dangerous people. These leaders, they recruit children…” But the FARDC [Congolese army] kill children. They are among the worst abusers. But everyone keeps quiet about it. [And what about these] people [the M23] with legitimate grievances who stand up to their own murderous government, a government which is killing their own people. This is an imbalance in the system.

TIME: I know you realize that if you didn’t react, there would less headlines. But you’re making a point here, right?

Kagame: It is a question of principle. If you keep writing about me in the papers that this is a violator of human rights, and the story of my country and my people is totally different—and it is repeated by people – then it is a question of the right of response.

But it’s not just about principle. This narrative ends up at the UN, even with action taken on it. It turns into a fact and some kind of actionable thing. This has consequences. And I should keep quiet? No. It doesn’t make sense.

TIME: I have a theory: the institutions and structures of world opinion and the international community are set up for an Africa of disaster, of famine, of wars. It’s about peacekeeping, it’s about saving babies, it’s about pointing out where governments are failing. And I wonder whether those structures are poorly adjusted to dealing with a country that demands respect and sovereignty and the choice to tell its own story?

Kagame: You are really putting it in the right way. This is the matter. Look at aid. We agree that it is about helping people to stand on their own. But at the same time [it works out that] they actually they fail to stand on their own. They are dependent.

So you have two tracks. [The international community] talk about self-determination. Human Rights Watch says we are all on the same page. But at the same time it is very clear that you are also creating a situation that undermines all of that. That is what Rwanda is facing. Should Rwanda accept it and say this is the way the international community works and we remain where we are? We say: “No. We have a respect for the international system. But we also have our own self-respect.

Time has already shown the results. You know this place. You know where we have come from. We are making good progress. Even the poorest of the poor will tell you we are in a different place than we were yesterday. From $1 a day we are now $3 or 4 or 5 or 6. And this has happened under this kind of pressure, this jostling between self-determination versus the international system, which says: “There are some people who should stay where they are and we are the only ones who can determine how and why they get out of this.” It’s a struggle every day.

TIME: Are you more able to confront the West as the world becomes less unipolar?

Kagame: Oh yes, absolutely. This old way of doing things is weakening. There are more countries, more people, who are seeing it the way we describe it. And even getting more angry about it and wanting really to challenge. What we are doing, we are not doing it alone. It’s a common thing that’s spreading, particularly among the ordinary people of Africa, civil society and business leaders. They think we are being treated unfairly, we are getting a raw deal, we need to be better than this, we need to be seen to be better and more capable.

I also think we are seeing more centers of strength, political, economic or otherwise. It’s not longer just unipolar, with one part of the world having everything and deciding everything for others. The ground is really being fairly and speedily leveled through innovation, entrepreneurship, technology – all these things are falling in the hands of many, globally. It’s no longer a monopoly of one part of the world.

TIME: One thing that accompanies that diversifying of power is the emergence of the idea that there are different ways to progress. Singapore or China or Turkey follow a different political system to classic Western democracy. Does that apply to you as well?

Kagame: Always it’s a matter of time and process, and an issue of where you start from. In our case, we started from a very low base on everything. We have got to take everything forward and we prefer doing that all together. We haven’t chosen socioeconomic transformation at the expense of democratic governance. We need to make progress on everything at the same time. People imagine that we emphasize one at the expense of the other. But it’s not true. In our case, most of the successes we have had in socioeconomic transformation would not have happened if it was not integrated with the democratic governance that built on people’s right and freedoms. Socioeconomic transformation cannot happen by coercing people to do it. People here tell you how much they are part of the development taking place, how much they are part and parcel of the decision-making, how much they have benefitted. I see no better way of achieving what we have achieved.

When there are reports from outside, there are two messages. That there is significant, good progress, on all fronts. Others see socioeconomic progress at the expense of freedoms. But where are the lack of freedoms? The Western model, whatever it is, I think they are talking about people. If we are doing what people are happy with and are part of, how can what is happening here be without freedom?

TIME: You do draw a line, on political freedom with people who might want to start another genocide, though.

Kagame: In any country, even if it is an advanced democracy, everything is contextual. What was happening in America 100 years is not what is happening there now. If you look at America today, some people have become disillusioned and skeptical. They say: “Phurr… politics! These leaders of ours.” They talk about “Washington.” Even the leaders from Washington are bashing Washington. Sometimes they don’t even want to cast their ballot.

In 2003 or 2010, [in our elections], our turnout was 96-97%. Why? The West says: “These fellows must be on the backs of people.” But can you imagine somebody in hospital begging and saying: “Please bring the ballot box here because I want to vote?” Somebody going to the polling station holding their IV drip because he has the urge to vote? By midday it was all done, 100%. How do you equate that with “Phurr… Go to vote? Why?” You cannot expect things to happen in the same way there as they happen here. It does not make sense, it has no logic. There are different stages. However, there are principles. If you are able to say that you are answering to the wishes of the people, is it the best thing for them at this time, then you have reason to believe: “Yes. This is how it should happen.”

TIME: What do you make of the aid cuts that have come in the wake of the Congo controversy?

Kagame: It’s mainly symbolic. And it’s not cuts, it’s suspension. People excitedly are writing all kinds of things and betraying their attitudes and wishes. They are celebrating, thinking Rwanda is now dead. “This should have happened long ago.” But the story I want to talk about is slightly different. How has all this happened?

It has happened on account of the Group of Experts’ report. But look at it. The Group of Experts wrote a report that is entirely one-sided. Most of it is the government of Congo, military leaders, government officials and different groups. They wrote a report condemning Rwanda and making Rwanda responsible for everything that went wrong there. The UN hurriedly put it out and Rwanda was crucified. The donors jumped on it. They pronounced the suspending [of aid] – really wanting to punish Rwanda for it.

At the end of it, when things cool down, we say: “Aren’t you being unfair? You hear from one side and then you shift the blame on the other side you have not even bothered to hear from. Is it right? If you really wanted to condemn Rwanda, at least try to disguise it. At least you must be seen to have been fair, trying to ask both sides. Why don’t you give us a hearing? You have already judged us and condemned us.” And they send their experts here but at a time when we have already been condemned and sentenced. What on earth is this? Why do you want to hear from me now, when everything that would have happened has actually happened? The full report is likely to come out in November. But I don’t see this Group of Experts changing what they wrote about us just because they heard from us. I think that what they are likely to do is to maintain that they were right. Because they cannot be seen to have made a mistake. The whole thing is just cosmetic. The whole international system is awash with so many blunders and errors.

This so-called free world of ours… When you see how these facts being ignored –we wonder which free world we live in. You, you want to dig out facts. But probably you might be the only one in a thousand.

TIME: The great joy and sad truth about covering Africa is that getting a scoop is really easy – because nobody’s out there. You’re actually catching Western journalism at quite a weak moment. There are cuts. There are not many people around. Most the stories you’re talking about are done from London or New York, without a single Rwandan quoted or any mention of the genocide.

Kagame: These people were coming to us, telling us we had to stop Bosco Ntaganda, posing as people who have values and want to defend human rights. And I ask: “Do you ever feel guilty or foolish that you come to me to talk about this recent problem of Ntaganda and keep quiet about these murderers of our own people in that same situation? These people are living there, raping there, killing Congolese people every day, killing children. You keep quiet. You have forgotten all about that. And you come to me, telling me to help?” This is just an insult, you know?

In Congo, if you look at the government, the President, his ministers, on the radio urging Congolese to kill these Tutsis. To some people it’s normal. Even to these people who are telling us about human rights. It’s normal because it’s Congolese and it’s normal because it’s against these Tutsis. In the end, those who say they are on the side of the victims have turned into perpetrators. It’s pathetic.

From our side of things, there are things we want to live for and are ready to die for. There are things we cannot deviate from. The issue of our rights. We have sunk to the lowest level, we can’t go lower. You cannot threaten us. There is no threat anywhere that can change our minds about how we should be and how we should fight for our rights. People can threaten this or that but we have had worse things. We will do what we feel and what we believe. We cannot be diverted. We have not offended anybody. We haven’t fought anybody’s interests or rights. It’s just about how we survive, how we live on. And nobody is going to do it for us. Nobody is going to do it for us.

[INTERVIEW RESUMES AT KAGAME’S HOME]

TIME: We were talking yesterday about the storm of accusations that Rwanda has faced…

Kagame: Is this how you are going to run the world?

TIME: … and you have a summit on Tuesday and Wednesday in Kampala at which African leaders, the Great Lakes’ leaders, are going to discuss an African force to intervene in Congo and try to achieve peace where the U.N. has failed. Do you think you can succeed in Kampala?

Kagame: I am trying to figure out, with all this noise, where are we now? Is Congo any better off? Is anybody better off? Are we in a better situation than yesterday? All this misrepresentation… Are we any closer to dealing with the problem, any closer to a solution? Maybe we are actually worse off. Not Congo, not us, not the donors, not the internationals who make so much noise. I do not see anybody who benefits from this. Nobody.

And the problem of Rwanda, which for many years has been one of security, these murderers who live in Congo, this problem never features. We should not just be used to find solutions for other people’s problems when ours has been forgotten. So I am really taking a back seat in this. Rwanda is not going to be unhelpful. But we are not going to be forced to take the lead. If anybody though that accusations which falsely blackmail us was going to make us more useful, they got it wrong.

The idea of a regional force came up in Addis Ababa [at a previous International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in July] but then it’s a regional force to do what? Congo thinks it’s meant to help those opposed to them. Congo thinks the world owes them a solution, that someone will just come and provide a solution. They think it’s meant to monitor allegations of Rwandan support to the M23. And while that has never been the case, one would want to know why such a force would not be also monitoring support by the government for these genocidaires.

But in the end, this is just diversionary. A solution at the end of the day is political, not military. If the government of Congo is not going to do things to bring about a solution, and bring about some understanding, to what are very serious and legitimate grievances… I do not think you can shoot your way to a solution. They’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked. You have a whole army of tens of thousands collapsing because of a few hundred rebels. That tells the story.

My relationship with President Kabila has been gradually eroded by things that have happened in the last few weeks. Kabila is used to playing games and the international community entertains that and plays games with him. They tell you one thing and mean something else. We have been talking and trying to find a solution. At the same time, he was sending emissaries all over the world to abuse us. He says we can be part of the solution and at the same time he is making very serious allegations against us. The relationship has been affected.

TIME: How has the recent storm of controversy around you affected your family?

Kagame: We try to keep them out of it as much as we can. They don’t need to be part of it. They’re better off leaving the burden to us.

TIME: You’re a very close family.

Kagame: Sure. That’s what we want. We like it. It works very well for us. We are closer than even you have been able to see.

TIME: You met Jeanette in 1988. Is it her, and your family, from which you draw so much of your sense of purpose?

Kagame: I really find a lot of strength [from them]. My moments with my wife and my children have the highest value of any moment for me. I take some relaxation from it. It takes away any bad days I have had. It’s very refreshing. I can start all over again. It’s been that way right from the time we built our family, and it gets better every day. We go out together in town to restaurants, to meet friends. I try as much as possible to give them a normal life.

TIME: Are you working 24/7?

Kagame: It comes close to that. Either working or thinking. [But] it turns out to be some kind of fun, also. It’s like you cannot do otherwise so you try to enjoy it, try to find some life in dealing with complex issues. It just becomes a way of life. People look to you got a way out of this mess. And you enjoy that responsibility in the end. At certain times you do.

That’s what I am required by Rwandans to do for them. The good thing is Rwandans are very, very responsive to the needs of a situation. They play their part, I play mine and that’s how we manage to make good progress even under such pressure. In the outside world, a number of times I have met people who say: “The whole world has descended on Rwanda! The country is being torn apart!” And they find people here are still in one piece and they get surprised.

TIME: There are few greater contrasts in the world than crossing the border from Rwanda into Congo. In one, street lighting, smooth roads, law and order, development; walk a few feet and it’s unpaved and potholed, there’s rebels waving AK-47s around, there’s refugees, there’s no power and terrible poverty.

Kagame: And that contrast is taken is a negative. We are held responsible for this difference. No. Compare us with ourselves. Look at our history and see where we are now. That’s a better comparison than comparing us with Congo. The two are different and have different histories. For us, we are doing it for ourselves, not as compared with Congo or anybody else.

It should be the same in Congo. If you look at the size of wealth of Congo, the question is why should it be like that? Why does Congo look like that? It shouldn’t. [Comparing us] becomes the false basis for making a judgment against us. Some people try to explain the difference by saying Rwanda must be exploiting the wealth of Congo. Do they think that’s what lights our streets and puts up all these buildings in our city and builds our roads? That’s a very shallow way of thinking.

Maybe people who raise these issues should be asking themselves a simple question: why does Congo, that has this wealth, not thrive on it?

TIME: Very few critiques of Rwanda’s actions in Congo fail to claim that Rwanda has large business interest in the east, including farms and mines. Is that true?

Kagame: I do not know and I really do not care. What right do other companies from China, America and wherever have to be in Congo that companies from Rwanda do not have? There are companies there from all over the world. We are probably the first country in the world to be accused of being guilty of having an economic interest somewhere. That’s common practice. How can we be guilty of that?

The relationship between Congo and Rwanda has been there since time immemorial. Why has it suddenly become strange? There is a lot that goes on between us. It’s not about trade or smuggling. It’s a blood relationship. To say this is all about Rwanda’s business interests is very simplistic. People who go to do business in Congo do not have to ask me, just as people who come from Congo do not have to ask me. They are saying Bosco Ntaganda has a house in Kigali. So what? I don’t know anything about that. But I do know that there are ministers in Kabila’s government who also have houses here. Congolese investment here because it is safe here. We have a lot of foreigners coming here and building houses. Maybe, if you looked carefully, you would find that Kabila himself has a house here. I don’t know. But I would not be bothered. We do not differentiate when it comes to money unless it is money that you killed people for or money that is questionable. But if you invest here, what’s the problem?

Who’s making such accusations? The same people. They say: “That’s how Rwanda earns a living. By being in Congo.” And all along this – mobilizing support for their side, raising money for their campaign – it’s actually an economic interest for them. It’s actually how they make a living. So I don’t even understand the meaning of the accusation.

You see, independence for us is in a very broad, including economic independence. The RPF has companies involved in businesses. It’s not something that started yesterday. It’s something that originated with the beginning of the struggle. We mobilized people, they made contributions towards the struggle, people would give us much as they had or could afford. We said: “We cannot just keep drawing money without making sure we do something to actually multiply this money, making it more dependable and sustainable.” In fact, when we took over in 1994, we ran the government here with money collected by the RPF. There was literally nothing here. That’s how we started created economic activities for the country and our companies improved themselves and made business. Many people have talked so much about the source of our wealth but for us it has that meaning. It may not make sense to some people but it makes a lot of sense to us. We have no apologies for it at all. We only have to make sure there is no mix-up [between] what belongs to the RPF and what belongs to the state, to avoid any conflict of interest. And all along what we did was for them to invest in certain areas where other people were shy to put their money so that we achieve another objective: to really stimulate and start another activity which should benefit the country

And if Rwanda’s interest really is economic, as people say, why not call Rwanda’s bluff? Deal with the security problem. Then Rwanda would have nothing to hide behind. Our problem in Congo for 18 years has been a security problem. You are saying we’re interested because of economics. Deal with the security so that it does not exist and then we can all see what crimes we are committing in our economic interests.

These are things that play into how the international system is built. It’s anything goes. It’s no longer justice, it’s no longer fair or has any level of honesty. It’s just the law of the jungle. I am not trying to say that things are clearly black or white, that the developed world is wrong and that the developing world is right. It doesn’t happen that way. Even with the grievances with how the situation is mismanaged and misdirected, even with all these people to blame, whether in human rights groups or governments or as individuals, I still think there are those who are really doing their best, who are adjusting very well to this new dynamic of wanting to see things differently. People are shifting and looking at things differently.

But there are others out there – bureaucrats – who do not want to step away from the old ways of thinking. It’s that attitude of looking at Africa as people who must get in shape and who must be punished when they try to deviate from what has been established as right. We still have many people who think like this. They are continuing with their way of being influential in terms of decision makers and making decisions. They put pressure on the Prime Ministers or secretaries of development to act against Rwanda, and in some cases it becomes effective.

We should not accept to be treated like this. And the best way to resist is not just saying ‘No’ but also to be doing what is right. That will defend you more than just making claims of sovereignty. We must govern and lead our people and do what is right. We have to put our house in order in order to claim our rightful place. We cannot just claim the place. We have to earn it. We do not expect anybody to hand anything to us, At least, I don’t. And then, over and above that, assert ourselves. If we do not fight corruption and govern well, we have no ground to stand and say: “Do not treat me like this.”

That’s why in Rwanda we can comfortably resist. Our people are with us. When you attack one, you attack us all. The rest of the world tries to create discord. They try to make claims and bring divisions among us along the lines of ethnicity. But they have failed. They do not know how far we have gone in our history. They try to bring the country to its knees but they have not succeeded. When people mistreat us, there has not been much success.

I take consolation from that. What you see happening in Rwanda, it’s part of our struggle and our ideology. Everyone in Rwanda shares the view of how we should lead our lives. With self-respect, and respecting others as well, and knowing that nothing comes easily. We fight these battles together. We are really together in this. I have played a part in this but it has developed its own dynamic, a life of its own – it can continue without me.

And with all these challenges, these injustices, I have found they tend to strengthen us rather than weaken us. Out there people are even angrier. People are saying: “What does the world want with us? Why don’t they leave us alone to live our lives?” So I think we are left stronger.

TIME: How significant are the aid cuts?

Kagame: There has been much excitement in the media. But it’s suspension of nothing, really. The Americans suspended $200,000. And the media blows it up and says: “America has turned against Rwanda.” There is jubilation. They wanted to give the world the impression. “We have got Rwanda where we wanted it.” But it’s not true. It’s $200,000 for one year. This is really silly. In fact, this is money that they owe us because for two sequential years they did not pay us. It’s really ridiculous.

TIME: When do you think Rwanda will be able to leave behind aid and move towards, as you see it, true independence?

Kagame: I can’t put a clear date on it. But looking at where we have come from, in another 10 years we should be close to that. We won’t have achieved it but I think we will be very close. As I said, we are stronger every day.

TIME: And that’s a core objective for you?

Kagame: Yes, it is. It not only makes people more independent, it actually puts them in a position where they are stronger in their beliefs, committed to them, and more advanced in things they demand of us. More democratic governance – it will be more entrenched. Prosperity will be more visible. People’s ability to really determine their destiny will become clearer. It’s very important. It’s not the life anybody deserves to live, a life that is controlled by somebody else or somewhere else.

TIME: Your experience of the struggle, you say, makes you stronger. But such an unprecedented struggle, it must have broken some people.

Kagame: Not so significantly. What I see is actually more determination. You go through rural areas and people say: ‘What is this I am hearing on the radio? What do these people want with us? Why don’t they leave us alone?’ It has this effect. I do not think it’s just me feeling like this. Even if it was, I try as much as possible to transmit it. And I have found a good reception.

If you look at Rwandan blogs, when these aid cuts were announced, they set up a fund to replace the aid. They use SMS to collect the money. We are perhaps running into a few million already. This is just self-generated by Rwandans across the world. It shows you, even if it does not promise much money, the idea is something interesting.

[INTERVIEW RESUMES AT KAGAME’S OFFICE]

TIME: One of your innovations is to combine politics and military, to have a politicized army.

Kagame: We really tried to make the dividing line as thin as possible. In our struggle which, in a way mirrors some other struggles – like the one Fred [Rwigema] and I were involved in in Uganda; and also Ethiopia and Eritrea – it combines these two very well. It grows militarily from the masses, from ordinary civilians who from the beginning are part of the struggle. We always try to maintain this. This fighting capability we developed, we shared the lifeblood [with civilians]. One feeds the other.

Again, it’s really part of this whole philosophy of self-determination, being independent, making sure that the whole essence of the struggle is to make people more free, make them feel they participate in the decision-making, they share problems, they share solutions, they share the benefits together, all the time together. Happily it seems to have worked for us.

TIME: Can you see why people might say: ‘Here’s a political party that has a definite military edge. Here’s a political party with big interests in the economy. This looks like Stalinism.’ You’re saying there is a different, pragmatic explanation for this and people have never understood that.

Kagame: They have never understood. Much as we have tried to explain. That’s why sometimes the understanding of these things conflicts. And some of those who criticize, you find they do the same things in the West. I was asking how they raise money for their campaigns. Well, you find they have godfathers in business. Why wouldn’t any say: ‘But these parties are indebted to these individuals? Don’t they behind the scenes have to pay back? Is this any better?’

It all starts with people who think we have no right to be seen to be doing the right thing ourselves. It is like the world has decided to divide itself into two: the parts of the world that whatever they are doing is what is right and must set the pace for the rest of the world; and the rest of the world, which can only be doing the right thing if they are told what to do it by the other. But then this contradiction comes in. When you do similar things to others, for some reason they say: ‘No, no, no, you can’t be doing that.’ It’s as if it’s only for them.

TIME: You’re saying you came up with something new. You worked out what you thought was the best system for the country and the best way to achieve it – and it didn’t fit anything that came before. In fact, it deliberately drew on Rwandan culture and was specific to this place – and people who come here and try to spot another system are going to misunderstand it.

Kagame: Absolutely. We are sticking to what works for us. Sometimes we get caught up in some double-standards and hypocrisy. Some people will just criticize, even if what they are criticizing mirrors something they are doing themselves. They don’t want you to do it. They say it is not for you. Or they think it is not for you to be able to do it unless you have first had clearance from them. We have been very, very careful, building on our cultures and traditions, and also modernizing them.

We are also very, very conscious of the fact that we are not an island, and very conscious of these universal values and feelings.

But the fact that we are firm on insisting on what we are convinced is right for us causes a lot of discomfort for many. There are people who don’t expect us to argue, to present our case, to even try to convince. ‘We don’t expect this from you.’ It’s like: ‘We expect this and when we tell you this, that’s what you must be doing without any question.’ But if you are really talking about freedoms and values to uphold, then why don’t you listen to my viewpoint as well, why don’t you allow me to also express myself, why do you want to cut me short, why do you want to silence me?

TIME: Human Rights Watch characterizes you as a regime that’s intolerant of dissent. You are saying they are intolerant of your freedom to have an opinion.

Kagame: Absolutely. If you want to make me keep quiet, if you want to silence me and you want me to swallow what you are telling me and not listen, then you are exactly committing the same offense you are accusing me of. They say: ‘Rwanda continues to deny this and this. They should accept it.’ We should accept it because they are the ones saying it. In the end, they really indict themselves.

TIME: Can we go very specifically into the situation in Congo and the M23? How would you characterize your relationship with actors on the ground?

Kagame: Our story starts with 1990 when our struggle started, and then in 1994, when we had the genocide and refugees running to Congo. So that period, when Mobutu came in and helped [the genocidaires], from that time Rwanda found itself swallowed into this big mess of Congo. And then you have the history of the international community and how they messed up and meddled and did all kinds of things. They were feeding genocidaires, giving them help and food in camps that were militarized. They were calling them refugee camps and you would find anti-aircraft guns and APCs and all kinds of weaponry in the refugee camps. And the world wants to tell you these are refugees.

This is not something that people need to analyze or think hard about. But they try to convince people otherwise or even ignore. One failure was adding to another. This constant here for us, which always dragged us into this, was relating to this genocide history and the threat that is always there, one way or another, from these genocidaires. Whatever we have done, has been this. Either working with the government to try to deal with this, trying to deal with it ourselves when nobody is listening, the international community coming in and blaming Rwanda for everything – the whole history of Congo.

But of course there is this other angle. There are these Congolese of Rwandese origin. The way it plays out is very complex. I think even under Mobutu they have always been seen as kind of secondary citizens in that country. It’s like they really belong to Rwanda, they don’t belong there. So to an extent, the problem is attributed to us.

And really this messy international system has been part of it. You know, we gather a lot of intelligence on the ground in Congo. And until recently some of these people – in the media, the NGOs – were discussing among themselves and they were saying: ‘We really want to fix Rwanda. But we have failed. We have been failed by Congo. We are helping people who are incapable. We tried to fix Rwanda and do it for the benefit of Congo, but these Congolese they are useless, they run away, they can’t fight.’ Now they are trying to fight it and have another day with us again. It’s no longer the suffering of the people in Congo. It’s just this mess.

We try to manage it by drawing certain lines. Things happen the way they happen but there is a bottom line. There things for our own security, our own existence, we will not have. [In the late 1990s] when certain red lines were crossed, we had to take the bull by its horns, and in a very costly way, in a very, very costly way, with the whole world descending on us. We did what we needed to do and short of doing that, we would not be there today.

TIME: Because the allegations are so persistent, I do need you to state for me in your own words exactly what Rwanda’s actions are in Congo.

Kagame: This situation we are dealing with, we never thought we would have to come back it. We had created a good relationship with the Kinshasa government and, to an extent, succeeded. To a point that they had accepted our forces to go into Congo and work with their forces to eliminate this threat for us that has always been there. That the U.N. and others have forgotten all about, though their presence their today is premised on that.

So this was a very good relationship. This is why we’re really upset, to the point of being seriously offended. Things changed in a matter of days, maybe weeks, but really a very short time. All of a sudden some kind of wedge is being driven between the two countries. [What was a] security problem has grown in other dimensions. It is now political, diplomatic, it keeps feeding into these human rights groups, then the media.

We are trying to stay the course and say: ‘For us the problem has always been that nobody is going to come and sort out this problem. We only have to sort it out ourselves, and especially by working with the Congolese.’ Because we have gone back to almost where we started from. These [genocidaire] groups are now part and parcel of government forces. Yesterday we were hunting them down together, now they are back to the Congolese side. It’s so confusing, it keeps changing. But for us, we stay the course and say: ‘Our problem is this.’ We will work with the government to eliminate this problem. If something good happens for Congo, in the end we also benefit because Congo becomes more responsive to our problems and we work together and so on. But it takes two to tango. You may have the best intentions, you may have certain capacities to deal with issues but if there are issues you share with others people, it is just a 50-50 thing. There is no way you can do 100%.

Take this man, General Nkunda. We took on the burden. And you know, when we held him here, normally human rights groups would be very hard at us. ‘You are violating somebody’s rights, you are holding him.’ But they are quiet. Actually, they are happy. So they are sectarian themselves, in a sense.

[But our actions] can contribute to a bigger problem. By doing what we did, we allowed some sense of stability in eastern Congo and for government to build on from there – which they didn’t do, unfortunately. And they thought this was the way to solve their problems. Before we are done with this case [Nkunda], they want to bring another one [Ntaganda]. And maybe a third. It goes on like this. In the end, we turn out to be a prison for these Congolese which are not wanted by their own government. Why these so-called human rights groups don’t see that as a problem? It just indicts them.

TIME: And your relationship with the M23 is what? You’re an interested party? You speak to everybody?

Kagame: Actually it is more in the minds of others. There is nothing like a relationship between us. It is in the minds of the Congolese and the minds of those associating with the Congolese against us. You see, some of these Congolese of Rwandese origin… There are blood relations. People having uncles, aunties. There is no way of policing it. I hear these stories of Afghanistan and Pakistan – it is blood relationships.

When we talk to Kinshasa government, we say: ‘You seem to be bent on wanting to resolve this militarily when this is actually a political problem.’ But in their minds, they were hell-bent on just saying, no, this is a military issue. They had units that had been trained by Belgians, South Africans – they really wanted to overrun. But they forgot: these are their own citizens, their own army. So when they insisted on wanting to solve it militarily, they failed miserably…

If we had not come to their [the Congolese] rescue, they [the CNDP] would have defeated them in 2009. In fact, you probably remember, they almost overran Goma. We thought, and the whole world thought, this is going to be catastrophic, with refugees and all kinds of people dying. [At that time] we really sent a very strong message to them. We said: ‘Look, we really have been trying to keep out of all this. But if you keep continuing to advance to Goma, we are going to step in on the side of government. And work with them to stop you. And actually fight you. Probably you don’t want us on the wrong side.’ And that stopped it.

This time, we stated right from the beginning: ‘We don’t have to come to that point. This is now a political issue that you need to solve politically.’ So when the government was defeated – and defeated by their own soldiers – they started saying: ‘Oh, these people, Rwanda…’ They were trying to find an explanation for this defeat. The whole army crumbling from within. They were saying: ‘No, we couldn’t have crumbled like this.’ They told the world it happened because a hidden hand came in with muscle and created this problem.’

How do you then say that it’s taking a superior force to defeat an enemy that is actually not fighting? It doesn’t take any force at all. The army is just not fighting. It is just running away. You cannot even say they have been defeated because they didn’t even try. People say: ‘Rwanda is supplying arms.’ No. We are not that generous to start supplying arms where they are not needed.

For this reason, we start calibrating our involvement. And pulling back. If anybody thought that by telling lies about us and trying to fix us, it was going to be an incentive for us to help, they got it terribly wrong. We will avoid doing the wrong thing in terms of taking sides in this conflict. There is no way anybody can force us, by saying: ‘You must help.’ We focus more on our problems. And if anybody crosses our border, they will find that we are not very kind.

TIME: Let me pick up on that, in a different context. You’re firm. Opposition groups, exiles make allegations that there are assassination teams wandering around trying to kill them, that when it comes to opposition, whether it’s expressed in journalism or politics, that Rwanda is a narrow space.

Kagame: We have a very narrow space for people who feel they are not accountable. If there anybody who thinks they are above the law, who thinks they are not accountable to the systems and the laws of this country, and if somebody thinks they can use any means for their political ends, they discover very quickly that this is not going to work. Some of things that happened here will never happen again.

Now, unfortunately, while I’m putting it this way, people build on it and say: ‘He is saying something else. It’s political space.’ But let me say this. If you look at all these people who are outside – all of them who are active, whether it is in South Africa, a couple in the US, and the others – there is not a single one who does not have a serious case, a charge here in Rwanda. In some cases, not even political, outright criminal. If we are going to have people out there claiming persecution of some kind but actually it is somebody running away from a case of, say, corruption, how does that become lack of political space? Nobody here who tried to have a different political view was punished for that.

This one in South Africa, [dissident General] Kayumba [Nyamwasa, former Rwandan army chief of staff, now living in self-imposed exile in South Africa, where two attempts have been made on his life] is saying in the press in South Africa, actually I was trying to make a coupe happen. If you have somebody out there saying ‘I wanted to carry out a coup,’ and later on he is shot, maybe he deserves it. Because a coup means he wanted to kill people here. You are really indicting yourself by saying ‘I wanted to kill people in order to make a change happen.’ It’s like you are really declaring war on a country.

Or take the former prosecutor-general [Gerald Gahima] who is in the United States. This fellow was involved in a gross case of corruption. He was a prosecutor general. He was in charge of an investigation of a bank that has serious issues and took money from the very bank he was investigating. The facts are there and in the end when he was found to have done that – and by his own admission, he used his mother’s name and stole millions – he did not even deny that… When this came out very clearly and he had just been appointed vice-president of the Supreme Court, we actually were obliged to fire him. He stayed a few days here and then escaped. And when he reached there, he says: ‘Oh, politics, RPF!’ It has nothing to do with lack of political space. It is lack of space for space for people to do corruption and I have no apologies for it.

When it come to other political activities, the Rwandan people have the verdict. When millions of Rwandans tell you something, there is no reason for you not to believe it. If they tell you: ‘We are happy with what we have and what we are doing, we are doing it freely…’

TIME: A much broader question. I sense in you that through your time in the RPF, then in government, you have become quite disappointed by … people.

Kagame: In a way, I expected things to be worse. I understood society very well from the beginning, I think, from long ago. That’s why I never get frustrated. Some of things that happen, however shocking, I expect them to be that way. I know people. I think I have understood this my whole life. Betrayals, lies, dishonesties.

TIME: That’s quite bleak.

Kagame: Society is like that. It’s not just here in Rwanda. People have asked me before this question of my life, before, as a soldier, as a commander, fighting battles, and my life in politics… and my simple answer is that the former, the soldier, the commander, these are extreme in a sense, they cause death, you can lose you life very easily. But on the other hand, things are predictable. They are clear-cut, you see? I tend to think this is easier to handle, to deal with, than politics, which has so many nuances, complexities, wrong turns. These are things that effect people beyond the borders. And things that if you get wrong, you can easily set the clock back. It’s very complex. You are dealing with the nitty gritty all the time, society, people, social, economic – their every way of life is effected by decisions you make, short, medium and long-term. It becomes more complex, more engaging, broader, it covers every part of life.

I think my think my kind of life has really prepared me for this. I was not meant to run away from problems. I just wanted to get up and move towards them. Not a problem at all.

These are for me more meaningful people than these people who write about human rights. I don’t think anybody in any human rights organization can claim to have contributed to human rights more than me. There is none. I have saved children, I have empowered women, I have actually fought repression and dictatorship and won over it and powered the people…. These people who talk about human rights, I don’t know what they mean. When I have enabled Rwandans to put food on the table and each can fend for themselves.

[INTERVIEW RESUMES IN KAMPALA]

TIME: How have the talks gone?

Kagame: It was a good meeting. It was a really good meeting. That the region is taking its place and managing our affairs is important. People are taking responsibility for what they should at least in principle and concept. The practice [of this] is a different issue. Here the international community just parachutes in and meddles in things they do not understand. It should start with national responsibility and governance, then regional. What happens in Congo, good or bad, relates to the region. If it’s bad, it spills over; if it’s good, it benefits us.

We were trying to create that responsibility. That’s the major problem. It has been lacking from the beginning, from when we have had the U.N. force in Congo. What are the responsibilities of this force? What did they come to do? If they came to help the country to exercise its responsibility and resolve its problems, I have not seen it. What we have is precisely the absence of responsibility and governance. It’s dangerous, the way the international community behaves. They give a false message: as if they have come in to address all the issues and the government can sit back since there is someone seemingly higher to deal with their problems. And then the international community does damage.

TIME: How much appetite did you find from African leaders here to take charge of African affairs?

Kagame: We have not got quite to where we should be with those that should have responsibility in Congo. I am not sure the government of Congo is thinking like this. Their arguments are still about how the international force should come in to fight their enemies for them. But that does not solve the problem, it only postpones it.

What has come out has been to agree to set up a community of countries, represented by the ministries of defense – Uganda, Tanzania, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC. They have to make an on-the-ground assessment, come up with a report to clear state what needs to be done – whether to have an international force or not, and if it does go there, to do what? They will report in another two weeks; and in another two weeks after that, we will have another summit. On the humanitarian situation, there is a possibility of contributing money towards that.

The region is really taking back responsibility, and that’s the best way. We remain with one problem: having a government in Congo that is more responsible, and more responsive to our problems. They want the force to monitor what is coming from Rwanda, and not even what originates in Congo and affects Rwanda. And they want the force to fight the M23 for them. That is what they are really saying.

TIME: How do you think the international community will react?

Kagame: The international community is definitely going to react negatively. They already did that. They think this is their part. We say: ‘You have been there for 12 years or more and we are not seeing anything. The failure is self-evident and it’s an indictment.’

The international reaction – it’s really amazing. It’s like one bloc against the other. Have they all turned critics? It’s like Ken Roth on behalf of Western countries against Rwanda. It’s madness. It’s an attitude problem. There is always this assumption: ‘These people do not know human rights. They do not know what is good for them.’ What are human rights? Do human rights not mean something to me? Do I need somebody to educate me what my human rights are? Do I not know what it means to be free, to express yourself, to have justice, to be treated fairly? If all this is external to me, I have a serious problem. If Ken Roth is the one who feels everything for me, then he has taken away my rights. Is it not wrong to assume that we the leaders of our countries are simply violators of human rights, that we are just there to be violators of human rights? Where does it end? They think this is their territory, that they are the ones who are right and the ones who must shape things. They inflict harm too.

All my life, through the injustice that forced me into exile and to become a refugee, then another life in the liberation struggle, then another life as a government leader – for anybody to feel that they can equate all this with simply being a violator of human rights and this whole history just comes to zero, it doesn’t add up.

Source: world.time.com

 

September 18, 2012   No Comments

Rwanda: Manhunt underway for members of FDU–Inkingi in rural areas

On 15 September 2012, about 19:30, Mr. Anselme Mutuyimana of Rutsiro District (Nyabirasi sector, Kivugiza cell, Mukungu location) was arrested by police officers on allegations of membership in an illegal political organisation FDU-Inkingi.

Another member of our party, Ms. Leonille Gasengayire of Rutsiro District, Kivumu sector, was also taken by a police vehicle to the station for night interrogation on his political membership.
We are still investigating the night arrest of many other FDU-Inkingi members in the same area after the police were tipped off the passage of the party Secretary General, Mr. Sylvain Sibomana, in the District.
FDU-Inkingi is concerned by this alarming behaviour of police officers to put the interests of the ruling RPF above their national mission to equally protect all citizens and safeguard the rule of law.

FDU-Inkingi
Boniface Twagirimana
Interim Vice President

September 17, 2012   No Comments

Human Rights Report – DR Congo: M23 Rebels Committing War Crimes

M23 Rebels Committing War Crimes
Rwandan Officials Should Immediately Halt All Support or Face Sanctions
SEPTEMBER 11, 2012

 

DR Congo - Map

© 2012 John Emerson/Human Rights Watch

Colonel Sultani Makenga, center, a senior M23 leader, on a hill in eastern Congo, July 2012.
© 2012 AP Images

DR Congo - people fleeing M23

Families flee fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo in May 2012.

(Goma) – M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are responsible for widespread war crimes, including summary executions, rapes, and forced recruitment. Thirty-three of those executed were young men and boys who tried to escape the rebels’ ranks.

Rwandan officials may be complicit in war crimes through their continued military assistance to M23 forces, Human Rights Watch said. The Rwandan army has deployed its troops to eastern Congo to directly support the M23 rebels in military operations.

Human Rights Watch based its findings on interviews with 190 Congolese and Rwandan victims, family members, witnesses, local authorities, and current or former M23 fighters between May and September.

“The M23 rebels are committing a horrific trail of new atrocities in eastern Congo,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “M23 commanders should be held accountable for these crimes, and the Rwandan officials supporting these abusive commanders could face justice for aiding and abetting the crimes.”

The M23 armed group consists of soldiers who participated in a mutiny from the Congolese national army in April and May 2012. The group’s senior commanders have a well-known history of serious abuses against civilians. In June the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, identified five of the M23’s leaders as “among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC, or in the world.” They include Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted on two arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ituri district, and Col. Sultani Makenga, who is implicated in the recruitment of children and several massacres in eastern Congo.

Based on its research, Human Rights Watch documented the forced recruitment of at least 137 young men and boys in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo, by M23 rebels since July. Most were abducted from their homes, in the market, or while walking to their farms. At least seven were under age 15.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that at least 33 new recruits and other M23 fighters were summarily executed when they attempted to flee. Some were tied up and shot in front of other recruits as an example of the punishment they could receive.

One young recruit told Human Rights Watch, “When we were with the M23, they said [we had a choice] and could stay with them or we could die. Lots of people tried to escape. Some were found and then that was immediately their death.”

Since June, M23 fighters have deliberately killed at least 15 civilians in areas under their control, some because they were perceived to be against the rebels, Human Rights Watch said. The fighters also raped at least 46 women and girls. The youngest rape victim was eight years old. M23 fighters shot dead a 25-year-old woman who was three months pregnant because she resisted being raped. Two other women died from the wounds inflicted on them when they were raped by M23 fighters.

M23 rebels have committed abuses against civilians with horrific brutality, Human Rights Watch said. Just after midnight on July 7, 2012, M23 fighters attacked a family in the village of Chengerero. A 32-year-old woman told Human Rights Watch that the M23 fighters broke down their door, beat her 15-year-old son to death, and abducted her husband. Before leaving, the M23 fighters gang-raped her, poured fuel between her legs, and set the fuel on fire. A neighbor came to the woman’s aid after the M23 fighters left. The whereabouts of the woman’s husband remain unknown.

The M23 rebels are committing a horrific trail of new atrocities in eastern Congo. M23 commanders should be held accountable for these crimes, and the Rwandan officials supporting these abusive commanders could face justice for aiding and abetting the crimes.
Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher.

Local leaders, customary chiefs, journalists, human rights activists and others who spoke out against the M23’s abuses – or are known to have denounced the rebel commanders’ previous abuses – have been targeted. Many received death threats and have fled to Congolese government-controlled areas.

M23 leaders deny that they or their forces have committed any crimes. In an interview with Human Rights Watch on August 8, Col. Makenga, one of the M23’s leaders, denied allegations of forced recruitment and summary executions, claiming those who joined their ranks did so voluntarily. “We recruit our brothers, not by force, but because they want to help their big brothers…. That’s their decision,” he said. “They are our little brothers, so we can’t kill them.” He described the repeated reports of forced recruitment by his forces as Congolese government propaganda.

Rwandan military officials have also continued to recruit by force or under false pretenses young men and boys, including under the age of 15, in Rwanda to augment the M23’s ranks. Recruitment of children under age 15 is a war crime and contravenes Rwandan law.

On June 4, Human Rights Watch reported that between 200 and 300 Rwandans were recruited in Rwanda in April and May and taken across the border to fight alongside M23 forces. Human Rights Watch has since gathered further evidence of forced recruitment in Rwanda in June, July, and August with several hundred more recruited. Based on interviews with witnesses and victims, Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 600 young men and boys have been forcibly or otherwise unlawfully recruited in Rwanda to join the M23, and possibly many more. These recruits outnumber those recruited for the M23 in Congo.

Congolese and Rwandans, including local authorities, who live near the Rwanda-Congo border told Human Rights Watch that they saw frequent troop movements of Rwandan soldiers in and out of Congo in June, July, and August in apparent support of M23 rebels. They said that Rwandan army soldiers frequently used the footpath near Njerima hill in Rwanda, close to Karisimbi volcano, to cross the border.

In addition to deploying reinforcements and recruits to support military operations, Rwandan military officials have been providing important military support to the M23 rebels, including weapons, ammunition, and training, Human Rights Watch said. This makes Rwanda a party to the conflict.

“The Rwandan government’s repeated denials that its military officials provide support for the abusive M23 rebels beggars belief,” Van Woudenberg said. “The United Nations Security Council should sanction M23 leaders, as well as Rwandan officials who are helping them, for serious rights abuses.”

The armed conflict in eastern Congo is bound by international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, including Common Article 3 and Protocol II to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which prohibit summary executions, rape, forced recruitment, and other abuses. Serious laws-of-war violations committed deliberately or recklessly are war crimes. Commanders may be criminally responsible for war crimes by their forces if they knew or should have known about such crimes and failed to prevent them or punish those responsible.

A United Nations Group of Experts that monitors the arms embargo and sanctions violations in Congo independently presented compelling evidence of Rwandan support to the M23 rebels. Its findings were published in a 48-page addendum to the Group’s interim report in June 2012. The Rwandan government has denied these allegations. The UN sanctions committee should immediately seek additional information on M23 leaders and Rwandan military officers named by the Group of Experts with a view to adopting targeted sanctions against them, Human Rights Watch said.

In July and August, five donor governments – the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden – announced the suspension or delay of assistance to Rwanda in light of the evidence presented by the Group of Experts. Although Rwandan military support for the M23, and M23 abuses have continued unabated, on September 4 the United Kingdom Department for International Development announced it would disburse around half the assistance it had withheld.

The renewed hostilities by the M23, the Congolese army, and various other armed groups have resulted in the displacement of over 220,000 civilians who have fled their homes to seek safety elsewhere in Congo or across the border in Uganda and Rwanda.

“Congolese civilians have endured the brunt of wartime abuses,” Van Woudenberg said. “The UN and its member states should urgently step up their efforts to protect civilians, and donor governments providing aid or military assistance to Rwanda should urgently review their programs to ensure they are not fueling serious human rights abuses.”

Background on the M23 and Its Leadership
The soldiers who took part in a mutiny from the Congolese army between late March and May and formed the M23 group were previously members of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a former Rwanda-backed rebel group that integrated into the Congolese army in January 2009.

General Ntaganda led the mutiny following Congolese government attempts to weaken his control and increased calls for his arrest and surrender to the ICC, in accordance with Congo’s legal obligations to cooperate with the court. He was joined by an estimated 300 to 600 troops in Masisi territory, North Kivu province. Ntaganda’s forces were defeated by the Congolese army, which pushed the rebels out of Masisi in early May. Around the same time, Col. Makenga, a former colleague of Ntaganda in the CNDP, announced he was beginning a separate mutiny in Rutshuru territory. In the days that followed, Ntaganda and his forces joined Makenga.

The new armed group called itself the M23. The soldiers claimed their mutiny was to protest the Congolese government’s failure to fully implement the March 23, 2009, peace agreement (hence the name M23), which had integrated them into the Congolese army.

Some of the M23’s senior commanders have well-known histories of serious abuses, committed over the past decade in eastern Congo as they moved from one armed group to another, including ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killings, abductions, and torture. Before the mutinies, at least five of the current M23 leaders were on a UN blacklist of people with whom they would not collaborate due to their human rights records.

Ntaganda has been wanted by the ICC since 2006 for recruiting and using child soldiers in Ituri district in northeastern Congo in 2002 and 2003. In July, the court issued a second warrant against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity, namely murder, persecution based on ethnic grounds, rape, sexual slavery, and pillaging, also in connection with his activities in Ituri. On September 4, the ICC renewed its request to the Congolese government to arrest Ntaganda immediately and transfer him to The Hague. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity by troops under Ntaganda’s command since he moved from Ituri to North Kivu in 2006.

According to research by UN human rights investigators and Human Rights Watch, Col. Makenga is responsible for recruiting children and for several massacres in eastern Congo; Col. Innocent Zimurinda is responsible for ethnic massacres at Kiwanja, Shalio, and Buramba, as well as rape, torture, and child recruitment; Col. Baudouin Ngaruye is responsible for a massacre at Shalio, child recruitment, rape, and other attacks on civilians; and Col. Innocent Kayna is responsible for ethnic massacres in Ituri and child recruitment.

Ntaganda and Zimurinda are also both on a UN Security Council sanctions list. Under the UN sanctions, all UN member states, including Rwanda, are obligated to “take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of all persons” on the sanctions list. Both Ntaganda and Zimurinda have traveled to Rwanda since April, former M23 fighters who accompanied Ntaganda and people present during meetings Zimurinda attended in Rwanda told Human Rights Watch.

Publicly, the M23 maintains that Ntaganda is not part of its movement. However, several dozen former and current M23 fighters and others close to the M23’s leadership told Human Rights Watch that Ntaganda has played a key command and leadership role among the M23 rebels, operating from the Runyoni area, and that he participated regularly in meetings with the M23’s high command and Rwandan army officers.

The same people also told Human Rights Watch that there were tensions between Ntaganda and Makenga due to past differences over Ntaganda’s 2009 putsch against the CNDP’s then-leader Laurent Nkunda. But these differences, they said, have been put aside to focus on the rebellion against the Congolese army. As one M23 fighter explained to Human Rights Watch, “Many of us have bad memories of Ntaganda…but we need to prioritize the war against the FARDC [the Congolese army] first. The war against Ntaganda will come later.”

Since July, Ntaganda appears to have been keeping a lower profile and, according to M23 defectors interviewed by Human Rights Watch, is closely protected by dozens of bodyguards.

Killings and Rape by M23 Forces
Human Rights Watch investigations found that M23 fighters deliberately killed at least 15 civilians, wounded 14 others, and raped at least 46 women and girls in areas under their control in June, July, and August. At least 13 of the rape victims were children. Some were attacked because they resisted forced recruitment or refused to contribute food rations to the M23. Others were targeted because they were perceived to be against the M23, or had fled to government-controlled areas and tried to return home in search of food.

In June, for example, M23 fighters killed a 50-year-old Hutu man, Nsabimana Rwabinumwe, who had fled when the M23 arrived in his village but came back to look for food at his farm. A friend who buried him told Human Rights Watch, “They [M23 fighters] used a hoe and beat him on the back of the head. …When you leave the areas controlled by the government and then come back, they punish you. …They killed [my friend] because he had been in the government area.”

In early August, an elderly couple who lived near Runyoni left their home to flee to government-controlled areas when a group of M23 fighters stopped them. The M23 fighters grabbed the woman and tore off her clothes. Her husband tried to protect her, but some of the fighters started beating the 60-year-old man with their rifles, while others gang-raped his wife. The man lost consciousness when he saw his wife being raped. He was later taken to a hospital, where he told relatives, “I want to die. I have no desire to live after what I have seen. It is only animals who could have done this.” Two weeks later he died of his wounds.

A 15-year-old girl from Muchanga told Human Rights Watch that she had gone to their farm with her mother and younger sister on July 10 when an M23 fighter approached them and demanded money. They gave him the money they had with them which they were saving to pay school fees, and then the fighter told them to get down on the ground. “He started by letting my mother and little sister go and telling them to run quickly. I was left alone with the fighter. He took me 500 meters from the farm and then he raped me.”

On August 24, two M23 fighters raped a 12-year-old girl. They broke into her home, threatened her mother and aunt, and told the young girl to go outside. Some meters from the house, near the family’s latrine, they gang-raped her. “[She] was in a lot of pain, she cried out loudly, but these criminals had no heart or pity for anyone,” a witness told Human Rights Watch. “They continued to rape her until they were satisfied.”

In addition to the 15 civilians deliberately killed by the M23, at least another 25 civilians were killed in July during combat between the M23 and their supporters against Congolese army soldiers and UN peacekeepers. At least 36 other civilians were wounded. In a number of cases neither the M23 nor the Congolese army made sufficient efforts to avoid civilian deaths or to permit civilians to flee the combat zone safely.

Rwandan Support to the M23
In July, several hundred Rwandan army soldiers, possibly more, were deployed to eastern Congo to assist the M23 take the strategic border post town of Bunagana, Rumangabo military base, the towns of Rutshuru, Kiwanja, and Rugari, and surrounding areas. Local residents and M23 defectors reported earlier Rwandan army deployments in which Rwandan soldiers came for short periods to support the M23 in key battles, withdrew, and then returned when needed. A UN peacekeeping officer in North Kivu corroborated regular surges of support for M23. He told Human Rights Watch, “Whenever [the M23] make a big push, they have additional strength.”

Local residents and escaped M23 fighters told Human Rights Watch that on July 5 and 6, during an attack on Bunagana, several hundred Rwandan army soldiers from Gen. Emmanuel Ruvusha’s division based in Gisenyi (northwestern Rwanda) were deployed to the area to reinforce the M23. Defectors told Human Rights Watch they recognized the division’s officers. M23 rebels coordinated their offensive with the Rwandan forces against the Congolese army, who were supported by UN peacekeepers.

UN peacekeepers present during the attack told Human Rights Watch that the forces that attacked Bunagana were well-equipped and spoke English, and that their behavior was markedly different from that of Congolese soldiers, leading them to conclude that the attacking forces included Rwandan soldiers.

Many Rwandan army soldiers deployed to support the M23 passed directly from Rwanda into Congo, using various footpaths, including near Njerima and Kanyanje. Others reportedly passed through Ugandan territory to enter Congo, including via a path on the Ugandan side of Sabyinyo volcano. M23 defectors and local residents told Human Rights Watch that Rwandan soldiers used Ugandan territory and Ugandan vehicles to enter Congo.

Congolese and Rwandans, including local authorities who live near the Rwanda-Congo border, also told Human Rights Watch that they saw significant numbers of Rwandan soldiers crossing from Rwanda into Congo in June, July, and August. They had also seen Rwandan soldiers later returning to Rwanda from Congo.

In early July, just before the M23 rebels attacked Bunagana with support from Rwandan troops, a Congolese farmer from Hehu hill, near Kibumba, was visiting a friend in Kasizi, Rwanda, when he was taken by Rwandan soldiers and forced to carry boxes of ammunition.

He told Human Rights Watch that he had counted seven army trucks filled with Rwandan soldiers, weapons, and ammunition. “The soldiers took me, my friend, and other civilians… and forced us to carry boxes of ammunition to Njerima [near the Congo border]. I was forced to do three trips and then I managed to get away. The soldiers were well-armed and wearing military uniforms… I asked one of the soldiers walking next to me where we were going. He replied that they were going to fight in Congo.”

In late July, people in Congo near Kasizi again reported seeing large numbers of Rwandan army soldiers passing into Congo from Rwanda. On August 3, two Rwandans, including a local village chief, told Human Rights Watch that they saw a large group of Rwandan army soldiers crossing from Rwanda into Congo, on a footpath near Karisimbi volcano.

Some people noticed Rwandan soldiers coming out of Congo. A journalist who traveled from Ruhengeri to Kinigi in early August told Human Rights Watch he saw two groups of at least 100 soldiers walking from the direction of the Congolese border toward the main road between Ruhengeri and Kinigi in Rwanda. He described the soldiers as “visibly tired and dirty” and said “some were limping, their boots were muddy, and they were clearly very tired.”

Rwandan forces in Congo appear to have coordinated their actions with the M23, often playing commanding roles, local residents and M23 defectors told Human Rights Watch. One former M23 combatant told Human Rights Watch he saw a Rwandan General, Emmanuel Ruvusha, on Tshanzu hill, one of the M23’s main bases, during the fighting in Bunagana, apparently commanding and overseeing military operations.

Another defector who commanded a unit of M23 fighters said he received his orders from Rwandan army officers during the attack on Bunagana. Other M23 defectors were also able to identify Rwandan officers by name that had been at M23 positions in Congo. They claimed that these officers had directed, or helped to direct, military operations, provided weapons, or supervised the training of new recruits.

Many of the M23 defectors and escaped recruits from both Congo and Rwanda interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their training had been conducted by Rwandan army soldiers at training camps in Bukima, Tshanzu, and Rumangabo, in Rutshuru territory, Congo.

A Rwandan M23 defector who used to be an officer in the CNDP told Human Rights Watch he recognized the Rwandan army officers training the new M23 recruits because he himself had been trained by them in Rwanda while he was with the CNDP. “I knew them well because I had taken their courses in Rwanda,” he said. “I recognized them.”

Human Rights Watch tried to contact the Rwandan military spokesperson for a response to the above allegations without success.

In an interview with Belgian newspaper Le Soir on August 29, the Rwandan defense minister, James Kabarebe, denied that the Rwandan army supported the M23. “Everyone knows that Rwanda does not have a single soldier amongst the M23 and does not give it any support.” When asked if uncontrolled Rwandan soldiers could be acting in support of the M23, he said that the Rwandan army was “solid, well-organized, well-commanded, well-disciplined” and that there could not be any “uncontrolled elements” within it.

Forced Recruitment in Congo by the M23
Since early July, M23 rebels have stepped up recruitment activities in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo, after the group took control of the areas around Bunagana and later Rutshuru, Kiwanja, Rumangabo, and Rugari. M23 commanders held meetings in villages and towns under their military control to convince the population to support their activities by providing recruits and food rations. When few joined voluntarily, M23 combatants quickly began to take young men and boys by force.

Human Rights Watch research found that at least 137 young men and boys were forcibly recruited in Rutshuru territory between early July and late August, including at least 20 children under 18, seven of whom were under age 15.

These are in addition to the 149 young men and boys recruited in Masisi territory in April, as reported by Human Rights Watch on May 16. The total number of young men and boys forcibly recruited by the M23 in Congo, known to Human Rights Watch, stands at 286; of whom at least 68 were children under 18, 24 of them under 15.

New recruits were taken to military training centers set up by the M23 in Bukima, Tshanzu, Runyoni, and Rumangabo. Recruits who managed to escape told Human Rights Watch that they were given military uniforms and taught how to use a rifle and other basic military tactics. The recruits also told Human Rights Watch that Rwandan army officers frequently led the training.

The forced recruitment created a climate of fear, leading many young men and boys to flee to government-controlled areas or across the border to Uganda or Rwanda.

On July 16 and 17, M23 fighters forcibly recruited at least 60 young men and boys from the Rugari and Kisigari areas. They told the recruits that they needed help transporting their belongings, collecting firewood and drawing water, and said they would be released afterward. Instead the young men and boys were taken to military training centers at Bukima and Tshanzu and briefly given military training.

One 20-year-old man who was forcibly recruited in the Kisigari area along with three other young men on July 21 later managed to escape. He told Human Rights Watch that he and the others were taken to a training camp at Bukima. “There, we spent an entire night in a hole with water up to our hips, like a pool,” he said. “The M23 soldiers told us that that was the start of the military training, to teach us how to get used to the cold.”

A 19-year-old Congolese youth was abducted on July 23 in Bugina on his way home from his fields. Witnesses said three M23 fighters forced him to carry their belongings, then inducted him into their rebel group. His family saw him in Rutshuru on July 25 in military uniform with a rifle, fighting alongside the M23 against the Congolese army.

One man who had gone to visit a relative in Tshanzu who had joined the M23 told Human Rights Watch that during his visit he saw a group of 70 to 80 new recruits undergoing training. The man recognized four of the recruits as children from his home village who were still in primary school and were around 13 or 14. The man told Human Rights Watch that many others of roughly the same age were among the recruits.

Any recruitment by armed groups of children under 18 is prohibited by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, ratified by Congo and Rwanda. Under the ICC treaty, the recruitment of children under 15 is a war crime.

Rwandan Recruitment for the M23
Rwandan military authorities continued recruiting for the M23 in Rwanda between June and August, as they had in previous months, either by force or under false pretenses. Information collected by Human Rights Watch indicates that an estimated 600 were recruited in these circumstances in Rwanda. These recruits outnumber those recruited by the M23 in Congo. They included young Rwandan men and boys with no previous military experience and Congolese Tutsi refugees living in refugee or transit camps in Rwanda. Others targeted for recruitment included demobilized soldiers from the Rwandan army, the CNDP, and demobilized fighters from the FDLR who had returned to Rwanda. The FDLR are a largely Rwandan Hutu militia group operating in Congo, some of whose members participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

According to recruits interviewed by Human Rights Watch who were able to escape and reports from other sources, Rwandan authorities recruited dozens of young men and boys from camps for Congolese refugees in Kibuye and Byumba, as well as the Nkamira Transit Center. Many were forcibly taken from the camps at night by men in civilian clothes who drove them to the Rwandan military camp at Kinigi. There they were given uniforms, weapons, ammunition, and other materials to transport, and were escorted by Rwandan army soldiers to Congo. Others joined voluntarily, after being told that supporting the M23 would help their families return to Congo.

A Tutsi student, 22, who studied near Kitchanga, in Congo, told Human Rights Watch that he had fled to the Nkamira Transit Center in Rwanda in May to escape forced recruitment in Congo. Two weeks later, he was taken by force from the transit camp along with 13 other young men. He said men in civilian clothes assembled them and forced them into a vehicle with tinted windows.They were taken to Ruhengeri, given salt to carry and forced to march to the Congolese border, escorted by Rwandan army soldiers.

At the border, the group was met by M23 fighters, who escorted them to Runyoni, where they were given military training within days of arriving. “They [the M23] would beat us,” the student said. “They told us we had to eliminate our ‘sense of being a civilian.’ They said we were going to take North Kivu.”

In another case at Nkamira Transit Center, an 18-year-old Rwandan youth went to visit his sister at the camp on June 6. He said that the same night, he was picked up by civilian-clothed men who rounded up 28 young men in the camp and brought them in three vehicles to the Rwandan military camp in Kinigi. The young men were each given fuel canisters to carry and were escorted on foot toward the M23 military position in Runyoni, Congo, accompanied by Rwandan army soldiers.

Rwandan military authorities also mobilized local authorities to help with the recruitment. In Rwerere, Rwanda, near the Kasizi village border crossing with Congo, Rwandan military authorities called local leaders to a meeting on June 27 and told them that each leader with responsibility for 10 houses (known as the nyumbakumi) should find five recruits to send to Congo to support the M23. Two people who were at the meeting and were later interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were instructed to “give priority to young demobilized soldiers” and to tell the youth that they should go to Congo “to secure Rwanda because the Congolese government was supporting the FDLR.”

According to the same local leaders, on July 4 over 300 new recruits mobilized by the local authorities were taken to Kabumba, close to the border with Congo. They were then escorted by Rwandan army soldiers across the Congolese border to Runyoni to join the M23.

Another nyumbakumi from the area in Rwanda bordering Congo near Kasizi told Human Rights Watch that in a meeting on August 24, Rwandan civilian and military authorities again called on local leaders to recruit youth to join the M23. They told them that “all of the Kivus should come back to Rwanda because it is ours” and that they should collect money from their populations to pay the youth and encourage them to join.

An M23 combatant who spoke to Human Rights Watch was candid about the recruitment in Rwanda. “We have a small number of soldiers, and Rwanda has many,” he said. “We recruit everywhere in Rwanda. We look especially for those with families in Congo, former CNDP fighters, or demobilized soldiers. The street children are also very susceptible to recruitment.”

Rwandan military and civilian officials who recruit children under the age of 15 for the M23 are responsible for war crimes. Recruitment of children under the age of 18 for military service is also prohibited under Rwandan law.

Summary Executions and Mistreatment of Recruits
The M23 has treated its new recruits harshly. Beatings and cruel or degrading treatment were regular occurrences. Human Rights Watch research found that at least 33 M23 rebels and recruits who attempted to escape and were captured were summarily executed.

A Rwandan man, 18, who escaped after being forcibly recruited in Rwanda told Human Rights Watch that he witnessed the execution of a 16-year-old boy from his M23 unit who had tried to flee in June. The boy was captured and beaten to death by M23 fighters in front of other recruits. An M23 commander who ordered his killing then allegedly told the other recruits, “He wanted to abandon us,” as an explanation for why the boy had been killed.

A Congolese Hutu man, 28, who was forcibly recruited in Karuba, Masisi, in early May, told Human Rights Watch that because he resisted becoming a fighter, the M23 detained him in a makeshift prison in a hole in the ground at the M23 military camp in Runyoni, along with 25 other Hutu recruits who were being punished for disobedience. A Rwandan recruit told Human Rights Watch: “We were mistreated at the [Runyoni] camp. …They often beat people so badly that they couldn’t recover and got sick. …I wanted to flee.”

Within days of being recruited, many young men and boys were sent into battle. With little or no military training or experience, the new recruits are frequently among the first killed. A 17-year-old Rwandan boy who was recruited in June in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, told Human Rights Watch, “There are lots of children with [General] Ntaganda now, and they send us to the front lines so we’re the first to die. It’s as if they take us to kill us.”

One man from Rugari, Congo, told Human Rights Watch that his 15-year-old nephew was forcibly recruited in mid-July by the M23 while walking to his fields. Days later, the boy was killed in a battle on a hill near Rugari. After the battle, the M23 rebels forced a group of civilians, including the boy’s uncle, to bury the dead. “I saw my [nephew] there, dead, with a bullet in his chest,” the uncle said. The uncle participated in the burial of at least 60 bodies that day. Many appeared to be children.

Intimidation and Threats Against Human Rights Activists, Journalists, Local Leaders
Local leaders, customary chiefs, journalists, human rights activists and others who spoke out against the M23’s abuses or are known to have denounced the rebel commanders’ previous abuses have been targeted. Many received death threats and have fled to government-controlled areas.

The M23 took over community radio stations in Rutshuru territory shortly after they took control of villages and towns in July, threatening radio operators and journalists and forcing them to hand over equipment. One radio operator interviewed by Human Rights Watch said he was threatened by a senior M23 official, who told him that if he refused to let the M23 use his radio, they would kill him.

In late July, the M23 established local security committees in Kiwanja, Rutshuru, and Rubare. M23 leaders assert the committees are to serve as liaisons with local communities about security matters. However, a member of one of the committees told a civil society activist from the area that the main aims of the committees include recruiting youth to join the M23 and reporting to the M23 hierarchy those who oppose the movement.

Local customary chiefs who have not shown their loyalty to the M23 have also been targeted and some have fled to government-controlled areas.

The Rumangabo locality chief, Manishimwe Rwahinage, was detained by the M23 on July 17. M23 leaders told Human Rights Watch he had been taken into custody for collaborating with the FDLR and they were “trying to change him.” He was released on August 11, after civilians from his locality paid US$150. On September 5, Rwahinage was shot and killed in Rumangabo, not far from an M23 military post. M23 leaders said that the FDLR may have been responsible, while those close to Rwahinage believe he was killed by M23 fighters. Further investigation is required to determine responsibility for his death.

Human rights activists in Goma said they received threatening phone calls and text messages from people suspected of being M23 members. On July 26, one activist received the following message: “We are now at the gates of Goma. Speak one more time [and] we will cut your mouth. Spread this message to your other colleagues, sons of dogs. We will end your life.”

Forced Labor, Looting, and Extortion by the M23
M23 combatants have forced civilians to work for them, in some cases under threat of death.

On July 26, M23 fighters forced a primary school teacher, 32, from Gisiza locality to transport boxes of ammunition from Kabaya to the Rumangabo military camp. When the teacher tried to return home, he was shot in the back and injured by M23 fighters.

A local chief from the village of Kigarama, near Rugari, who had fled to Kanyaruchinya, told Human Rights Watch that on August 3 he went back to his farm to look for food. The next day M23 forces arrived and forced him to bring his pig to their camp, where it was slaughtered to feed fighters. For the next six days, the chief was forced to dig trenches, milk cows, and collect beans. He was also forced to find young women to bring to the M23 camp; he brought three, ages 15, 20, and 25. Their fate is not known.

Numerous other civilians told Human Rights Watch that they were forced to hand over their harvests, money, and other goods to M23 fighters. A man from Rugari told Human Rights Watch that M23 commanders held a meeting in mid-July at which every family was ordered to provide the M23 five kilograms of beans within a week. The M23 also carried out door-to-door looting raids, attacking those who resisted. On August 24, M23 fighters went to the homes of five traders in Rugari, attacked them with machetes and knives, and forced them to hand over money.

As of early September, the M23 controlled three main supply routes through Rutshuru to Rwindi, Bunagana, and Goma, and was imposing heavy “taxes” on all vehicles passing through their territory.

Pressure on Former CNDP Members by Rwandan Military Officials
Senior Rwandan military officials have sought to influence former CNDP members and their families, in both Congo and Rwanda, to support or join the M23. Several former CNDP military officers and political leaders told Human Rights Watch that they were under intense pressure from Rwandan officials to join the M23. The tactics included death threats and intimidation.

Senator Edouard Mwangachuchu, the president of the CNDP political party, who had publicly denounced the M23 mutiny, told Human Rights Watch that in early May, he received a phone call from the Rwandan defense minister, Gen. James Kabarebe, instructing him to support the M23 and demanding that the CNDP political party withdraw from its political alliance with the Congolese ruling coalition of President Joseph Kabila. The senator said that when he refused, Kaberebe told him to “shut up,” and said “a lightning bolt will strike you.” A few days later, other CNDP political party members declared they had ousted Mwangachuchu as party president and pulled the CNDP out of Kabila’s political coalition.

The Rwandan government, in its official response to the UN Group of Experts, said that the phone calls between Rwandan officials and Congolese individuals had “deliberately been taken out of context” and that those made by Kabarebe were “aimed at avoiding a return to violence and [to] promote political dialogue.”

Congolese Tutsi civilians, including businessmen and civilian leaders, also said they were under intense pressure to support the M23. Some have done so voluntarily, but others have refused and faced threats or intimidation. “It’s as if they [the Rwandans] have a knife to our throats,” one Congolese Tutsi businessman said.

Abuses by Other Armed Groups in Eastern Congo
Since the start of the M23 rebellion, the FDLR and other Congolese armed groups, including the Raia Mutomboki militia, have also increased their military activities, expanding their areas of control and killing hundreds of civilians in other parts of North Kivu and South Kivu, according to the UN and local human rights activists. These militias appear to have taken advantage of rising ethnic tensions and the security vacuum created by the Congolese army’s focus on the M23 rebels.

Some of the militias, such as the Mai Mai Sheka – whose leader, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, is sought on a Congolese arrest warrant for crimes against humanity for mass rape – have also received support from Rwandan military officials or M23 leaders to conduct military operations against the Congolese army or the FDLR, according to UN officials and the UN Group of Experts.

Some of the most intense fighting has been between the Congolese armed group Raia Mutomboki (meaning “outraged citizens” in Swahili) and the FDLR. Residents and local human rights activists in Masisi, Walikale, Kalehe, and Shabunda territories of North and South Kivu provinces say that hundreds of civilians have been attacked during the fighting this year as each side accused the local population of supporting its enemies.On August 29, Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, condemned the killings and massacres perpetrated by both groups. “The sheer viciousness of these murders is beyond comprehension,” she said in a statement. “In some cases, the attacks against civilians may constitute crimes against humanity.”

The M23 has sought to ally with some of the armed groups active in eastern Congo, providing them with either periodic or sustained support, including weapons and ammunition, and on occasion organizing coordinated attacks.

For example, in early September, Mai Mai Sheka combatants attacked and took control of Pinga, a town bordering Masisi and Walikale territories, with the support of the M23, according to UN officials.

M23 leaders and Rwandan officials who provided weapons, ammunition, and other support to Congolese armed groups, either directly or indirectly, may be complicit in violations of the laws of war committed by these groups.

Abuses by Congolese Armed Forces
During operations against the M23 rebels, Congolese armed forces have also committed abuses against civilians in Rutshuru territory and Goma, including arbitrary arrests of ethnic Tutsi assumed to be M23 supporters, in addition to the mistreatment of detainees, at least one of whom was killed.
Some of those detained by Congolese soldiers had no apparent connections to the M23, but may have been targeted because they were Rwandan or were from the Tutsi ethnic group.

Between late May and early July, for example, Congolese soldiers detained five Rwandan children, ages 12 to 17, in separate incidents in Kibumba and Goma, at the border with Rwanda. The children were taken to the military prison at the headquarters of the 802nd Regiment at Camp Katindo, in Goma. The guards told the other prisoners, mostly army soldiers, to beat the children. One boy, 17, told Human Rights Watch that the other prisoners said, “Since you are Rwandan, we’re going to beat you to death.” At night, the children were beaten and hung from the ceiling for hours “like monkeys.” They were deprived of food and were not told of any charges or questioned by magistrates.

By mid-July, one of the children, Daniel Masengesho, about 16, became very ill. “We told the prison guard that he was very sick and would die here,” one of the boys told Human Rights Watch. “The guard responded, ‘Shut up. He is a Rwandan. Let him die slowly.’” The boys repeatedly asked the guards to take him to the hospital, but they refused. On July 23, Masengesho died. The next day, the army took the four other boys by motorcycle to the Rwandan border. Congolese immigration authorities questioned them after seeing their weak state, gave them food, and brought them to the hospital in Goma for medical treatment.

Congolese authorities responded promptly, and within days arrested Maj. Tharcisse Banuesize Chiragaga, the Congolese army officer responsible for detaining the five children. On August 17, a military court convicted him and sentenced him to five years in prison for arbitrary arrest, torture, falsification of documents, and illegal detention leading to the death of one detainee.

Although Congolese officials tried to return the boys to Rwanda, Rwandan government officials have refused to accept them, saying they are unable to confirm that they were Rwandan citizens. This has also occurred with Rwandan defectors from the M23, who continue to be held in Congolese military prisons or in the custody of UN peacekeepers.

As the Congolese army soldiers retreated north from their positions in Kiwanja, Rutshuru territory, on July 25, following an M23 offensive, the soldiers took a number of detainees with them. Human Rights Watch received several reports that four people in their custody may have been killed by soldiers near the Congolese military position at “Pont Mabenga.” Congolese judicial officials should urgently investigate this incident, Human Rights Watch said.

Congolese soldiers were also responsible for widespread looting. In Rutshuru and Kiwanja on July 8 and 25, Congolese army soldiers looted homes and forced dozens of civilians to transport their belongings as they retreated in the face of M23 rebel offensives.

Source: Human Rights Watch.

September 11, 2012   No Comments

UK unblocks some Rwanda aid frozen over Congo rebel row

KINSHASA, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Britain will unfreeze about half of its aid to Rwanda after the central African state made constructive efforts to solve a conflict in nearby Congo, the UK government said on Tuesday.

Congo officials criticised the move, saying Rwanda had fuelled the bloodshed in its much larger neighbour.

Britain and other donors, including the United States, Sweden and the Netherlands, suspended support to Rwanda – which relies on foreign aid for half its budget – after a United Nations report in June accused officials in Kigali of backing rebels fighting in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo.

A spokesman for Congo’s government said Britain’s decision was “totally disastrous”. Kigali has repeatedly denied the allegations that it backs rebels in Congo and accused the authors of the U.N. report of bias.

Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s outgoing international development minister, praised Rwanda for “constructively” engaging in efforts to resolve the crisis that has displaced 220,000 people since April and undone three years of relatively improved relations between longtime adversaries Congo and Rwanda.

“Given this progress and recognising that the government of Rwanda has continued to demonstrate its strong commitment to reducing poverty and improving its financial management, Britain will partially restore its general budget support to Rwanda,” Mitchell said in a statement.

Mitchell said the decision to release only around $12 million of the $25 million in blocked aid reflected continued concerns about Kigali’s alleged backing for the rebels.

Britain has long been one of Rwanda’s staunchest allies and its suspension of funds underscored deep international frustrations at outside meddling in Congo’s recurrent crises.

Rwanda has repeatedly sent soldiers into its unstable neighbour during the last two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan insurgents operating out of Congo’s eastern hills.

But critics say security threats are used as a front for lucrative economic and political networks in the region.

Lambert Mende, a spokesman for Congo’s government, swiftly criticised London’s move. “We do not share their analysis (of the situation)… This will not help to resolve the problems in the region. We’ll speak to how extremely dangerous we think their decision is,” Mende told Reuters by telephone.

Last week Congo called for U.N. sanctions against senior Rwandan figures alleged to be backing the rebels.

Ties between the two countries had improved after a 2009 Rwandan-backed deal to integrate previous Kigali-linked rebels into Congo’s armed forces and some joint operations between the two countries to tackle Rwandan Hutu FDLR gunmen.

But rebels accuse Kinshasa of failing to stick to the deal.

Last week, Rwanda withdrew more than 300 soldiers from eastern Congo who had been fighting covert missions alongside Congolese troops, saying the situation on the ground made their continued presence impossible.

There has been a lull in fighting in the past few weeks but an international “neutral force” due to be dispatched to the region has not yet materialised.

Source: Reuters.

September 4, 2012   No Comments

Kagame defends himself

The United Nations, based in New York City, is the world’s parliament. Metro, as one of the biggest newspapers in the city, today begins a series of interviews with leading political figures on important issues.

In a world exclusive, Metro speaks to Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, an ally of  the U.S.

His government stands accused by a U.N. Group of Experts of fomenting rebellion in diamond- and gold-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a charge Kagame denies. Into this volatile mix of political charge and counter-charge, Rwanda is poised to take up a coveted seat on the U.N.Security Council.

The last time Rwanda sat as a member of the United Nations Security Council was in 1994. It was between April and July of that year — more than 100 days — that more than 1 million mainly ethnic Tutsis were slaughtered in a genocide overseen by a regime whose representative the U.N. told the world to look the other way.

Almost two decades later, Rwanda, a strong ally of the United States and Israel, is again seeking a seat at the U.N. Security Council.

A TIMELINE AND IMAGES OF RWANDA’S GENOCIDE AND RECOVERY

This time the government is led by President Paul Kagame, who led forces that liberated Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, and brought a halt to the genocide in 1994. Well-disposed Western visitors to Rwanda include former President Bill Clinton, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Starbucks boss Howard Schultz.

Rwanda’s prospective elevation to the Security Council is not without its critics, especially in light of recent accusations that President Kagame’s government is providing illicit support to an armed mutiny in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Kagame vehemently denies the claims, but this hasn’t stopped several donor countries suspending aid to Rwanda.

Since 1994, when the fleeing genocidal forces escaped to the lawless eastern part of Congo, relations between the neighbors have been fraught. Nonetheless, Kagame insists that Rwanda plays no part in the current crisis in the DRC — claiming he has no interest in ‘costly, pointless foreign adventures’ that divert his country’s progress from the world’s poorest country 20 years ago to one of Africa’s most dynamic countries today.

Metro: On the cusp of your nation’s Security Council membership, an addendum to a United Nations report by the Group of Experts  accused Rwanda of unacceptable interference in the mineral-rich eastern part of the DRC, where lawless militia and illicit business interests rule, for failure of control of a weak  central Congolese government.  How do you respond to these   accusations? 

Paul Kagame: These accusations are not true. Our national priorities have to be directed toward our country’s development, not toward foreign ventures, in particular illicit ones. The history and national interest of Rwanda and the Rwandan people dictate our national orientation. Our country experienced the horrors of genocide only 18 years ago. Since then, on the basis of a policy of national reconciliation, more than 1 million of our people have been lifted out of poverty, over 90 percent of Rwandans are covered by health insurance and we are ranked by World Bank Doing Business as the third easiest place to do business in Africa, under conditions of low corruption according to Transparency International. We have established wonderful partnerships with development partners. We’re attempting to rebuild the structures of our society in a way whereby every Rwandan has a stake in our future.

Metro: Many commentators, including the U.N. Group of Experts on the DRC,  seem to believe historical and cultural ties to the rebel groups make it inevitable that Rwanda will get involved. You worked with these groups before, and you share ethnic and language heritage with them. Don’t you see how this causes suspicion?

Kagame: There’s a habit in the West to view Africa and our region in particular through the outdated and erroneous prism of tribalism and ethnicity. Because there are Congolese of Rwandan origin, such as those you referred to in your questions, who rebel against the Congolese government, people jump to the conclusions that Rwanda must be complicit in supporting them. Modern Rwanda rejects this primitive outlook. We embrace our Rwandan national identity and we will pursue our national interest irrespective of events in neighboring countries, regardless of so-called tribal affiliations. The new Rwanda is about building an economy that delivers prosperity and opportunity for our citizens based on a robust private sector. Foreign adventures would be costly and counterproductive distractions from these challenging objectives.

We simply cannot support a rebellion outside our border.

The Rwandan people, put to the sword perhaps like no other in the last 50 years, know the value of peace. So do I.

Metro: 
Rwanda has come in for a lot of criticism from human rights groups for alleged support for rebel groups like M23 as well as broader criticisms over your record on media and political freedoms. What is your response to these criticisms?

Kagame: I understand that human rights groups are locked in a fierce competition for big checks from wealthy donors and they need to generate big headlines. We do not like to be lectured to by unaccountable advocacy groups acting for their financiers about how to protect the rights of our
citizens. Human rights are not the preserve of Western activists: The definition must extend to encompass the right to the dignified life; the right to send your kids to school, for that child to get health care, for access for greater prosperity for generations to come and to have a say in the destiny of your community and country. Under that definition, Rwanda has nothing to learn from advocacy groups who think they own the copyright on what constitutes human rights under all conditions in every corner of the world.

Metro: Your government is reported to view Steve Hege, coordinator of the U.N. Group of Experts — which in an addendum to its own report has accused Rwanda of fomenting unrest in eastern Congo — as having an  impermissibly “benign view” of people who carried out the 1994 genocide. Is this still your view?

Kagame: We understand that experts come to the table with a variety of preconceived ideas and opinions. We accept that, in some cases, this will work against Rwanda’s interests. But there is a point at which this translates into outright bias. In the case of the coordinator of the Group of Experts, he has crossed the line from expert to partisan political activist. His anti-Rwandan views are well on the record and both the methodology and falsehoods that have found their way into the offensive addendum to the report conform to his unacceptable views. In his prior writings this coordinator appeared as an apologist for a group of Congo-based extremist militants who have repeatedly been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council and whose leaders are the same leaders which factually led the genocide and were labeled terrorist by the U.S. State Department.

It is completely unacceptable for a person with this history to sit in judgment on Rwanda or any other country for that matter. It’s really all quite extraordinary. Rwanda will not let this matter stand.

Metro: Western governments, including the U.S., have withheld aid to Rwanda over M23 claims. What do you see as the consequences?

Kagame: Some countries have reacted to this very flawed U.N. report by temporarily suspending aid funding to Rwanda.  This is regrettable, because we place a high value on good relations with development partners. But we are confident that these funds will be unfrozen once we tell our side of the story. It is a timely reminder to Rwandans that we still have some way to travel as a nation before we are truly independent. Strong economic growth, and especially a significant increase in private sector investment, is the only sustainable path forward for Rwanda. The donors as recipients can undermine aid effectiveness just as easily,  and this is exactly what happens when countries use the development dollar as a weapon to impose political will on smaller and less powerful countries.

Metro: Rwanda is said to have economic interests in Eastern Congo: You are accused of looting mineral resources in the DRC.

Kagame: This is a persistent myth. Rwanda leads the region in stamping out illegal trade in minerals. We have a functioning mineral certification process. We play by the rules. Recently we handed back to the DRC 80 tons of minerals that had been smuggled into Rwanda. Our geographic position dictates that our economic interests are best served by a stable and prosperous DRC, because under such conditions, Rwanda would benefit greatly from increased trade and legitimate transit of Congolese minerals. To this end, Rwanda supports the establishment of a so-called “Neutral Force” which has been agreed between the 11 member states of the International Conference of the Great Lakes region in Africa. This is a homegrown solution to a regional border problem.

Metro: The New York Times quoted a report by a human rights group accusing you of running a repressive regime. How do you answer those claims?

Kagame: They are mainly talking about laws related to genocide ideology, which I am more than happy to defend. Rwandans will not tolerate voices that promote a return to the ethnic divisionism that precipitated the genocide 18 years ago. To that extent, we place limits on freedom of expression in a similar way to how much of Europe has made it a crime to deny the Holocaust. Aside from that, Rwanda is a very open and free country. Key to our recovery as a nation has a range of grassroots, citizen-centered polices we call “homegrown solutions.” The idea that Rwanda is highly controlled from the center belies the reality, which is that citizens in every village have a powerful say in how things get done. We prize accountability and Rwandans are quickly adapting themselves to the possibilities of a digital economy. A lot of this talk of repression results from outdated stereotypes about Africa.

Metro: Rwanda has been described as the “Israel of Africa.” What similarities do you see between the two? And what lessons can you learn from Israel, especially in dealings with the U.N.?

Kagame: Like Israel, we live in a difficult neighborhood. We understand that national security is vital for economic and social progress. Our sense of national purpose has been forged in unfathomable tragedy. We also have in common critics who attack our fundamental legitimacy, or even our very right to exist. Israel and Rwanda both play an active part in international organizations, including the U.N., but I think it’s true that our unique experiences as nations have shaped a fierce independence that we will not relinquish.

http://www.metro.us/newyork/international/article/1150774–exclusive-interview-paul-kagame-president-of-rwanda

September 4, 2012   No Comments

Hutu Terrorists Become Victims!

September 2, 2012: Though Rwanda is continuing to receive heavy criticism for its alleged involvement with rebel militias in the eastern Congo, the political damage so far has not been significant. Rwanda has been a major contributor to the UN-African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force in Sudan’s Darfur region, and the UN knows that Rwandan soldiers have been reliable. Rwanda has also made some savvy political overtures to neighboring Uganda and Kenya. Both Uganda and Kenya have large troop commitments to the AU’s AMISOM peacekeeping effort in Somalia. Rwanda has also taken advantage of several U.S. AFRICOM training initiatives. In October, Rwanda will host some 1,800 soldiers from the East African Community (EAC). The EAC consists of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda. Rwanda has played an important role in strengthening the EAC. The concept behind the EAC is not new. In the first half of the 20th century, when they were both British colonies, Kenya and Uganda had a customs union designed to expand bi-lateral trade. An East African Community existed from 1967 to 1977 but fell apart. The current EAC was created by treaty in 1999 and could evolve into a free trade pact. The member nations have now agreed to a defense protocol, so it is also on the road to becoming a military alliance. The October military exercise is billed as a major field training exercise designed to enhance security cooperation among the EAC members. A Burundian Army colonel who helped plan the exercise said that the field training will focus on counter-terror operations and also counter-piracy. Uganda and Burundi have gained a lot of experience in working together in AMISOM. A Burundian government official pointed out that the EAC members face common security threats. For example, Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamist militia has launched attacks in Uganda and Kenya. Al Shabaab has also threatened to launch attacks on Burundi.

August 23, 2012: A Burundi government task force investigating reports of extrajudicial slayings reported that no extrajudicial murders had occurred. The task force said that it had not found a single credible report of an extrajudicial execution.

August 16, 2012: Rwandan opposition leaders from the United Democratic Forces (FDU) have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Rwandan president Paul Kagame on charges of committing war crimes in the eastern Congo. The accuser cited a UN report that found evidence that the Rwandan government is supporting the M23 Movement rebel group in the Congo.

August 15, 2012: The Congolese government (Democratic Republic of Congo) asked that international donors and financial institutions freeze aid to Rwanda because the Rwandan government supports the rebel M23 movement.

The Rwandan government said that the UN group which investigated the allegations that Rwanda is supporting the M23 Congolese rebel movement is acting in bad faith. According to Rwanda, the UN report is highly inaccurate. The government accused one member of the UN study group of having a benign view of radical Hutu organizations like the FDLR and had published an article that described the FDLR as victims of the Rwandan Tutsi government. Rwanda basically said the UN study exhibited an anti-Tutsi tribal bias.

August 7, 2012: The U.S. government told Rwanda that it must help the Congo and the UN disarm the M23 rebel movement and insure that the rebel group does not receive military supplies or aid.

August 1, 2012: The Congolese government charged Rwanda with arming the M23 rebel group, which Congo considers a group of mutineers. Rwanda charged the Congo with helping the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) Hutu militia Rwandan Hutu militias plan attacks on Rwanda. The FDLR has ties to the Hutu leaders who led the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

July 31, 2012: The UN’s Group of Experts on the Congo (GoE Congo) has accused Rwanda of providing M23 with material and financial support.

July 22, 2012: The U.S. announced that it will curtail military aid it provides to Rwanda. The U.S. announcement follows several weeks of serious allegations made by UN investigators that Rwanda is providing the Congo’s M23 rebel group with military and financial aid.

July 15, 2012: Rwanda and the Congo agreed to allow an AU (African Union) sponsored international force help deal with rebel groups in the eastern Congo. The AU had previously said that it was ready to organize a neutral regional force for deployment in the Congo.

July 5, 2012: The president of Somalia visited Burundi, which has over 4,000 soldiers deployed in Somalia with the AU’s AMISOM peacekeeping force.

June 20, 2012: Rwanda’s foreign minister said the Congolese government is lying when it accuses the Rwandan government of supporting the M23 Congolese rebel group. A leaked UN report, however, said that investigators have evidence that M23 is receiving military supplies and financial help through Rwanda.

June 9, 2012: Foreign observers say that recent reports of serious rebel activity in Burundi are credible. Bit by bit the peace settlement is unraveling. Several opposition political leaders have left the capital and according to the government are now organizing forces in the jungle. The government is particularly concerned about Agathom Rwasa, the National Liberation Front (FNL) leader. Rwasa is reportedly active in the eastern Congo.

June 6, 2012: The Burundian is believed to have executed Jean-Petit Nduwimana, a former senior intelligence officer. Congolese security forces apparently captured Nduwimana in May and then sent him to Burundi where the government quietly killed him. Nduwinmana was a senior rebel leader and in 2004 was integrated into the Burundian Army after the peace settlement. He became chief of staff of the military intelligence service and was a member of the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). However, in 2008, he grew disillusioned with the CNDD-FDD government and said he was preparing to start a new rebellion. In 2011 Nduwimana said that he had joined the Forces for the Restoration of Democracy (FRD), a new Burundian rebel group.

May 24, 2012: A trial court in Burundi convicted 14 people of murdering Ernest Manirumva, a noted anti-corruption activist. Manirumva was murdered in 2009. At the time he was investigating ties between Burundian police and Hutu rebels operating in the Congo. Many believe that the court failed to try to real criminals (corrupt Burundian police officers who were smuggling weapons remain at large and who were likely tied to the real killers.)

May 20, 2012: The Burundi government is accused of permitting extra-judicial killings, which have led to scores of political opponents being killed. It is believed that the assassins have been state security personnel and sometimes members of rebel groups.

May 4, 2012: The Burundian Army claimed that rebel leader Claver Nduwayezu (known as Mukono) died in a firefight with government security forces. Nduwayezu also used the nom de guerre Carmel. According to the army, the firefight took place inside Burundi, five kilometers from the Congo-Burundi border. The government asserted that Mukono was responsible for the infamous attack on a bar in the town of Gatumba (near Bujumbura)were 39 people were killed, some of them murdered execution-style.

April 30, 2012: U.S. AFRICOM reported that members of Rwanda’s 71st Battalion completed a five-week long training course in preparation for deploying to support peacekeeping operations. The course included battalion logistics, weapons maintenance, and medical aid training.

April 15, 2012: The Rwandan government promoted 23 general officers. One was promoted to lieutenant-general, six to major general, and 16 colonels were promoted to brigadier general. The new lieutenant general is Karenzi Karake, who has served with the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Rwanda’s intelligence agency.

April 10, 2012: Rwanda deployed 150 soldiers to serve with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Rwanda has agreed to deploy a battalion of 850 soldiers to South Sudan.

February 20, 2012: The Rwandan government claimed that the country’s poverty rate had dropped to 45% from 57% in 2007. That announcement led to several independent attempts that tried to determine if it was true, and if so, why. Even if the statistics are rough (and they are) the fact is that Rwanda has made significant economic strides in the last ten years. A decade ago the government decided to focus very seriously on bottom-up economic development. As Transparency International (the premier anti-corruption non-governmental organization) noted, Rwanda began a serious effort to end corruption. If an official took a bribe, the official was prosecuted. The government also initiated reforms that made it easy for entrepreneurs to start businesses and for small businesses to grow. The Rwandan formula followed several ideas espoused by Hernando de Soto Polar, the Peruvian economist (who concluded that property rights and law and order were the keys to economic growth).

The government gave farmers solid title to the land. The government’s critics, foreign and domestic (and there are many of them), point out that President Paul Kagame’s government is politically repressive and the president really brooks no personal opposition. All of those points are accurate. They also note that Rwanda has few good roads and that transportation of goods is a huge problem. Electricity, even in the capital, Kigali, is iffy. The people also lack the technical skills that a modern 21st century economy absolutely requires. This criticism is accurate, too. There are also critics who argue that the small business reforms have had very little impact and that much of Rwanda’s economy remains underground and untaxed. This is an interesting argument and given the extent of black markets in developing nations it could be true. The counter argument is that more reforms are in order, so the underground businesses can evolve into legitimate (tax paying) ones. However, the fact remains that Rwanda’s economy has improved. Income in Rwanda has increased, perhaps doubling since the wicked days of 1994, though 1994 income statistics are questionable. The government argues that infrastructure improvement is coming, but Rwanda and Rwandans are beginning to reap the rewards of a decade of developing small business skills, human capital. (Austin Bay)

Source: http://strategypage.com/qnd/rwanda/articles/20120902.aspx

September 3, 2012   No Comments

Congo asks UN to sanction Rwanda officials for rebel support

* DRC asks the United Nations to sanction Rwandan officials

* UN report accused Rwanda of supporting rebels in DRC east

* Rwanda repeatedly rejected allegations of involvement

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 31 (Reuters) – The Democratic Republic of Congo said on Friday it has asked the U.N. Security Council to place sanctions on Rwanda’s defense minister and two top military officials for backing an army mutiny in the country’s east.

M23 rebels, who have links to Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, have been fighting government soldiers in North Kivu province since April, displacing some 470,000 civilians.

Congo’s Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Tshibanda met with the members of the Security Council and the body’s sanctions committee this week to discuss a report on the country’s security issues by an U.N. expert panel.

“We believe that all the consequences must be drawn from the conclusions in the report of the group of experts and that sanctions should eventually be envisaged,” Tshibanda told a news conference at the United Nations.

“We also believe, and this is what we have requested, is that these sanctions also relate to foreign personalities in addition to personalities in the Democratic Republic of Congo that are involved in this situation,” he said.

Tshibanda said the foreigners named in the U.N. experts report should be targeted.

The report accused Rwanda’s Defence Minister James Kaberebe; chief of defense staff Charles Kayonga; and General Jacques Nziza, a military adviser to President Paul Kagame, of being “in constant contact with M23.”

 DRC WANTS UN FORCE TO ACT

Kigali has repeatedly rejected the allegations and accused the U.N. report’s authors of failing to verify their information or consult Rwandan authorities. Rwanda Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also met with U.N. Security Council members and the sanctions committee this week to defend her country.

Major donors the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany have all suspended some of their financial aid to Rwanda over its alleged backing of the rebels.

Rwanda has repeatedly backed armed movements in its eastern neighbor during the last two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan rebels operating out of Congo’s eastern hills.

Tshibanda also echoed earlier calls by Congo’s President Joseph Kabila for a new mandate for the country’s U.N. peacekeeping mission that would include stamping out the armed groups that have destabilized the east for nearly two decades.

The U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, has more than 17,000 troops, but the force is stretched thin across a nation the size of Western Europe and already struggles to fulfill its current mandate of protecting civilians.

“It is important that the mandate of MONUSCO be amended and be strengthened,” the foreign affairs minister told reporters.

“Right now it does not have the mandate of monitoring and protecting the border, it does not have the mandate of neutralizing, eradicating the negative forces,” he said.

U.N. helicopter gunships frequently back up outgunned government forces but even that firepower failed to prevent rebels from taking several towns last month. (Editing by Eric Walsh)

Source: Reuters.

September 1, 2012   2 Comments