2012 October — Rwandinfo_ENG
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Posts from — October 2012

Some Rwanda News 31/10/2012

Intensify Awareness On Early Screening for Breast Cancer
Rwanda: Intensify Awareness On Early Screening for Breast Cancer. 30 October 2012. RWANDA has recorded an increase in breast cancer cases over the last three years. According to statistics from the Health Ministry, in 2011 atleast 103 cases of the …
Read more on AllAfrica.com

 

A decade after being deemed complicit in Rwanda genocide, Hutu doctor
Eighteen years after fleeing Rwanda at the close of the genocide, 13 years after arriving in Canada, and 10 years after being deemed complicit in war crimes and refused asylum here, a Rwandan man who was living in Montreal has been deported.
Read more on National Post

 

Rwanda ex-army chief’s refugee status questioned in S.Africa
JOHANNESBURG — A migrants’ rights lobby group on Monday challenged in court South Africa’s decision to grant refugee status to a former Rwandan general, saying he was suspected of being a war criminal. Faustin Nyamwasa, an ex-army chief and …
Read more on AFP

 

October 31, 2012   No Comments

Human Rights Watch Comments on Victoire Ingabire’s Flawed Trial

Rwanda: Eight-Year Sentence for Opposition Leader

Victoire Ingabire on trial

In this September 5, 2011 file photo, Victoire Ingabire wears handcuffs as she listens to the judge during her trial in Kigali, Rwanda.

The prosecution of Ingabire for “genocide ideology” and divisionism illustrates the Rwandan government’s unwillingness to tolerate criticism and to accept the role of opposition parties in a democratic society. The courts should not be used for such political purposes.

Daniel Bekele, Africa director.

(Nairobi) – The guilty verdict on October 30, 2012, in the case of opposition party leader Victoire Ingabire is the culmination of a flawed trial that included politically motivated charges. The High Court in Kigali found her guilty of conspiracy to undermine the established government and denying the genocide, and sentenced her to eight years in prison.

Ingabire, president of the FDU-Inkingi opposition party, was arrested in the capital, Kigali, on October 14, 2010. She was charged with six offenses. Three were linked to “terrorist acts” – creating an armed group, complicity in terrorist acts, and complicity in endangering the state through terrorism and armed violence. The remaining three − “genocide ideology,” divisionism, and spreading rumors intended to incite the public to rise up against the state − were linked to her public criticism of the government in the period before the 2010 presidential elections. In its judgment, the court changed two of these charges and acquitted her of four others.

“The prosecution of Ingabire for “genocide ideology” and divisionism illustrates the Rwandan government’s unwillingness to tolerate criticism and to accept the role of opposition parties in a democratic society,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The courts should not be used for such political purposes.”

Human Rights Watch cannot comment on the veracity of the charges relating to Ingabire’s alleged collaboration with armed groups, but is concerned that some of the evidence used to convict her appears to be unreliable.

The trial, which began in September 2011 and closed on April 25, was complex and marred by setbacks and delays. Ingabire, who pleaded not guilty, was tried alongside four co-defendants − Vital Uwumuremyi, Jean-Marie Vianney Karuta, Tharcisse Nditurende, and Noel Habiyaremye − who implicated her in alleged collaboration with armed groups.

All four pleaded guilty to charges of belonging to a terrorist movement, participating in terrorist acts, and creating an armed group. Uwumuremyi was sentenced to four years and six  months in prison,  Nditurende and Habiyaremye to three years and six months each, and Karuta to two years and seven months. All four are former members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group operating in eastern Congo that consists in part of individuals who took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The FDLR has committed numerous atrocities against civilians in eastern Congo in recent years.

Ingabire was accused of collaborating with the FDLR and planning to form a new armed group, the Coalition of Democratic Forces (CDF).

“Several factors lead us to conclude that Ingabire did not receive a fair trial,” Bekele said. “These include the politically motivated charges, such as “genocide ideology,” doubts about the reliability of some of the evidence, senior government officials’ public statements before the trial about Ingabire’s guilt, and broader concerns about the lack of independence of the Rwandan judiciary in politicized cases.”

Possible Coercion in Military Custody and Witness Intimidation
During the trial, it emerged that three of Ingabire’s co-defendants had been detained at Camp Kami, a military camp. A witness for the defense cast doubt on the reliability of the testimony of at least one of them, raising questions about their detention conditions and the possibility of coercion.

Independently of its research into this trial, Human Rights Watch has received information that other detainees in military custody, including at Camp Kami, have been put under intense pressure, and in some cases tortured, to extract confessions. Some alleged that they were ordered to incriminate Ingabire and other government opponents, even though their cases were unrelated.

During Ingabire’s trial, a witness called by the defense undermined the credibility of testimony against Ingabire by Uwumuremyi, one of the co-defendants. The witness, Michel Habimana, said that he and Uwumuremyi had been detained together in Camp Kami in 2009. He claimed that Uwumuremyi was induced to incriminate Ingabire and had admitted to Habimana he did not even know her. Habimana said that Uwumuremyi had once asked him to collaborate with the intelligence services too to incriminate Ingabire, but that Habimana had refused. The court did not discount Uwumuremyi’s evidence, however.

Habimana, also known as Edmond Ngarambe, is a former spokesman for the FDLR and is serving a prison sentence in Kigali on genocide-related charges. After he testified in court, he was subjected to intimidation. Prison authorities searched his prison cell on the orders of the prosecution. Habimana told the court that all his personal documents were seized, including notes he had prepared for his court statement. In court the prosecution confirmed the search by producing the notes. In a highly unusual procedure, Habimana was also questioned out of court by prison authorities, without a lawyer.

Two of the other co-defendants, Nditurende and Habiyaremye, revealed in court that they too had been detained for several months incommunicado at Camp Kami. Nditurende stated that he had been questioned several times by people he believed were intelligence agents, without access to a lawyer.

Political Bias in the Justice System
The atmosphere surrounding Ingabire’s trial was politically charged long before her first court appearance. From early 2010 − several months before Ingabire was arrested − senior Rwandan government officials, including President Paul Kagame, publicly undermined the presumption of innocence, using language that strongly indicated their belief that Ingabire was guilty.

For example, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told The Independent newspaper on August 7, 2010: “She is a criminal… She is bad news, she is connected to the FDLR and terrorist groups and she has a criminal history” and told The East African on May 3, 2010: “There is no place for people like Ingabire in Rwanda. Not now and not in many years.”On June 30, 2010, Local Government Minister James Musoni was quoted by the Rwanda News Agency as saying: “Ingabire is like the advance party of the FDLR.”

Such comments were amplified in pro-government newspapers, in particular The New Times, which published numerous articles extremely hostile to Ingabire, particularly in the months leading up to the 2010 presidential elections.

“The odds were stacked up against Ingabire before any evidence had been produced,” Bekele said. “In these circumstances, it was highly unlikely she would receive a fair trial.”

Human Rights Watch noted that the Rwandan justice system has undergone positive reforms, but said that these have been undermined by the politicization of the judiciary. The Rwandan justice system lacks independence, and judges, prosecutors, and witnesses remain vulnerable to pressure from the government, especially in cases involving opponents and critics.

Crushing Dissent

The 2008 genocide ideology law, under which Ingabire was charged, has been used as a tool to silence criticism of the government. The definition of “genocide ideology” is very broad and imprecise, leaving the law open to abuse. People such as Ingabire who have spoken out about crimes committed by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) against Hutu civilians since 1994 have been particularly vulnerable to accusations of “genocide ideology.” Ingabire challenged the constitutionality of the accusation of genocide ideology but on October 18, the Supreme Court ruled that her challenge was unfounded.

Initial reports indicate that in its judgment on October 30, the High Court did not convict Ingabire for genocide ideology but for genocide denial under a 2003 law.

“The Rwandan government has a legitimate responsibility to prevent the kind of hate speech and incitement to ethnic violence that led to the genocide in 1994,” Bekele said. “However, the responsibility to prevent violence should not be used as an excuse for stifling criticism or prohibiting discussion of certain events − nor should it be invoked as a pretext for delaying democratic reforms.”
In 2010, the Rwandan government embarked on a revision of the genocide ideology law. An amended version was approved by the Council of Ministers on June 27 and is currently before Parliament.

Human Rights Watch urged the government to ensure that the revised version of the “genocide ideology” law guards against abusive prosecutions and the criminalization of speech that lacks the intent and effect of provoking violence.

Preventing Political Pluralism
Freedom of expression and association are severely restricted in Rwanda. Two years after presidential elections in which Kagame was re-elected with more than 93 percent of the vote, Rwanda effectively still has no functioning opposition parties. The RPF dominates the political scene and faces no meaningful challenge from other parties represented in parliament.

The FDU-Inkingi has not been able to register as a political party, despite several attempts before the 2010 elections. It has been further weakened since Ingabire’s arrest and, like other opposition parties, is now barely able to function in Rwanda.

Several other members of the FDU-Inkingi have been threatened, arrested, and detained, and some prosecuted. In September, eight members of the FDU-Inkingi were arrested in Kibuye, in western Rwanda, and accused of  holding illegal meetings. They were charged with inciting insurrection or trouble among the population. They remain in preventive detention. On September 8, Sylvain Sibomana, secretary general of the FDU-Inkingi, and Martin Ntavuka, FDU-Inkingi representative for Kigali, were detained overnight by the police near Gitarama, after making critical comments about government policies during an informal conversation on a bus. The police reproached them for being too critical of government policies and claimed their party was holding illegal meetings. They were released the following day without charge. In April 2011 two FDU-Inkingi members, Anastase Hagabimana and Norbert Manirafasha, were arrested in connection with a draft statement by their party criticizing an increase in the cost of living in Rwanda. Manirafasha spent two weeks in prison and Hagabimana four months.

Other opposition parties have had similar treatment. Bernard Ntaganda, founding president of the PS-Imberakuri party, is in prison for expressing his views and criticizing the government. He was arrested on June 24, 2010, just weeks before the presidential elections, and charged with endangering national security, “divisionism,” and attempting to organize demonstrations without authorization. On February 11, 2011, he was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison – a sentence confirmed by the Supreme Court on April 27, 2012.

Two other PS-Imberakuri members, Sylver Mwizerwa and Donatien Mukeshimana, were sentenced in August 2010 to three years and two years respectively for “rebellion” and destruction of property, allegedly for breaking into the PS-Imberakuri office after the landlord had reclaimed it. Mukeshimana was released in August after serving his sentence; Mwizerwa remains in prison.

Other members of the party have been repeatedly harassed, threatened, and intimidated, and questioned repeatedly by the police in connection with their political activities. On September 5, Alexis Bakunzibake, vice-president of the PS-Imberakuri, was abducted by armed men in Kigali, blindfolded and detained overnight in a location he could not identify. His abductors questioned him about the PS-Imberakuri’s activities, its membership and funding, and its alleged links with other opposition groups. They tried to persuade him to abandon his party activities, then covered his eyes again, drove him to an undisclosed location, and dumped him across the border in Uganda.

A third opposition party, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, has been severely affected by themurder of its vice president in July 2010 and the subsequent decision by its president, Frank Habineza, to flee the country. Like the FDU-Inkingi, the Democratic Green Party has been unable to register in Rwanda, due to a succession of administrative and other obstacles by local and national authorities. In September, Habineza returned to Rwanda to try to register the party once again with a view to participating in the 2013 parliamentary elections.

Targeting Journalists
Journalists and other critics have also been prosecuted in connection with the expression of critical views. In August, Stanley Gatera, editor of the newspaper Umusingi, was arrested in connection with an opinion article published in his newspaper about marital stability and the alleged problems posed − in the author’s view − by the supposed allure of Tutsi women. He was charged with discrimination and sectarianism and tried in October. He remains in prison awaiting the court’s judgment.

In April, Epaphrodite Habarugira, a radio announcer at Radio Huguka, was arrested and charged with “genocide ideology” after apparently making a mistake when reading a news broadcast and accidentally mixing up terms when referring to survivors of the genocide. He spent three months in prison before being acquitted and released in July. The state prosecutor has appealed his acquittal.

Agnès Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi, of the newspaper Umurabyo, are both in prison after being sentenced in February 2011 to 17 and 7 years respectively in connection with articles viewed as critical of the government and Kagame. On appeal, the Supreme Court on April 5 reduced their sentences to four and three years respectively. It upheld charges of endangering national security against both women, and a charge of defamation against Uwimana, the newspaper’s editor. It dropped charges of minimization of the 1994 genocide and divisionism against Uwimana.

Source: Human Rights Watch

October 31, 2012   3 Comments

Rwanda: Amnesty International reacts about unfair Ingabire trial

Rwanda: Ensure appeal after unfair Ingabire trial

Victoire Ingabire - Rwandan political prisoner
Victoire Ingabire – political prisoner

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire must get a prompt and fair appeal after being convicted in a trial that fell short of international standards, Amnesty International said today.
Ingabire, President of the United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), was sentenced to eight years in prison on Tuesday.
“The trial was marred by the court’s failure to ensure that evidence was properly tested, combined with the prosecution’s disregard for due process in some instances,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Africa Director.
“Victoire Ingabire must be afforded a prompt and fair appeal.”
The initial charges in the indictment against Ingabire fell into two broad categories – speech-related charges and terrorism-related charges. The speech-related charges, which were brought against Ingabire on the basis of the expression of her political views, should not have been brought before a court in the first place.
Ingabire was today convicted of two updated charges and acquitted of four others. Amnesty International is waiting for confirmation of the precise charges and the applicable laws under which she was tried.
Ingabire was arrested in April 2010, shortly after her return to Rwanda following 16 years in exile. She had hoped to register FDU-Inkingi to stand in the August 2010 presidential elections.
The open trial was well attended by human rights activists, journalists and diplomats.
Despite international scrutiny, the trial was marred by various violations of due process including: non-disclosure of potentially exculpatory evidence that could have assisted Ingabire’s defence, witness intimidation and interference with the right to remain silent after her notes were seized.
The initial terrorism-related charges in the indictment were based, in part, on the testimony of four men tried alongside Ingabire. The men all pleaded guilty and testified against her.
Major Vital Uwumuremyi, Lieutenant Colonel Tharcisse Nditurende, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Habiyaremye, and Captain Jean Marie Vianney Karuta confessed to past involvement with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed opposition group in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The prosecution alleged that Ingabire worked with the co-accused men to try to form an armed opposition group, the Coalition of Defence Forces (CDF). The co-accused said that she held meetings with them in the DRC and Republic of Congo. They also alleged that Ingabire transferred money to them by Western Union through third parties.
The court did not properly test oral evidence given by the co-accused and it prevented the defence from properly cross-examining them.
During limited questions that the court permitted the defence, it materialized that Nditurende and Habyaremye were unlawfully detained by the Rwandan military before incriminating Ingabire. They were interviewed at Camp Kami by intelligence agents without the presence of a lawyer. The court made no effort to obtain notes of these interviews which may have assisted Ingabire’s defence.
The judges prevented the defence from asking questions about detention conditions in Camp Kami, including to clarify if the co-accusers’ evidence had been coerced or induced.
A key defence witness, Lieutenant Colonel Michel Habimana, who might have shed light on events at Camp Kami, was intimidated by the prosecution. He said that he had been held there at the same time as Major Vital Uwumuremyi and that the terrorism-related accusations against Ingabire were fabricated under coercion from state security.
After testifying in court, Habimana, a former FDLR spokesperson serving a life sentence for genocide, had his prison cell searched. The prosecution submitted Habimana’s notes seized in the search, as evidence. They claim that the notes demonstrate that Ingabire’s defence lawyer improperly prepared the witness.
Ingabire withdrew from the trial after this incident, claiming that other defence witnesses could not testify in safety and that this undermined her right to a fair trial.
“If the prosecution had doubts about the credibility of a witness, they should have asked to question him,” said Jackson.
“The seizure of a witness’ notes outside of the court process sends an intimidating signal to other defence witnesses.”
Background
Amnesty International’s observation of the Ingabire trial focused on adherence to fair trial standards. The organization does not take a position on Ingabire’s innocence or guilt on the terrorism charges.
Amnesty International appointed an independent trial monitor who was present for all but four days of the trial and compiled a detailed record of court proceedings. The organization considers that the trial fell short of complying with various fair trial standards.
The court’s failure to ensure that oral evidence of Ingabire’s co-accused was properly tested is particularly concerning given their unlawful detention by the Rwandan military. Amnesty International’s October 2012 report, Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy: Illegal Detention and Torture by Military Intelligence, detailed credible allegations of torture at Camp Kami. The Rwandan authorities dismissed these allegations without investigation.

Source: Amnesty International – AI Index: PRE01/523/2012.

October 31, 2012   2 Comments

Rwanda jails opposition leader for ‘denying genocide’

KIGALI — Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was jailed for eight years Tuesday after a court found her guilty of terror charges and denying the genocide.

“She has been sentenced to eight years for all the crimes that she was found guilty of,” judge Alice Rulisa told the court, adding however that she was innocent of another charge of “calling for another genocide.”

Rulisa said the leader was found guilty of the “crime of conspiracy in harming authorities through terrorism and war” as well as denial of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The genocide denial charges against Ingabire were triggered by remarks she made in January 2010 at the memorial to the estimated 800,000 people, the majority of them Tutsis, who were killed in the slaughter.

Ingabire, herself a Hutu and the leader of the Unified Democratic Forces (FDU), a political grouping that has not been allowed to register as a party, said it was time Hutu war victims were also commemorated.

She refused to attend the hearing on Tuesday, and chose to remain in jail where she has been held since October 2010.

During the trial, prosecutors showed what they said was evidence of Ingabire’s “terrorist” activities, including proof of financial transfers to the FDLR, a Hutu rebel movement based in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ingabire, who denied all the charges, was accused of “giving financial support to a terrorist group, planning to cause state insecurity and divisionism.”

Ingabire’s FDU have accused Kigali of fabricating evidence against its leader to prevent her from participating in the political life of the small central African country.

She boycotted her trial mid-way through proceedings after the court cut short a witness who accused the Rwandan authorities of rigging evidence against her.

The witness, a former spokesman of the Hutu rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), said Rwandan intelligence services had offered money to rebels to make false claims over Ingabire’s ties with the group.

Source: AFP.

October 30, 2012   2 Comments

Britain Criticized For Rwanda Aid Donation

Britain Criticized For Rwanda Aid Donation
Human rights groups have criticized Britain for handing the Rwandan government $ 26 million in aid, after most international donors had frozen payments because of allegations that Rwanda was supporting a rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Read more on Voice of America

October 28, 2012   No Comments

Defiant Rwanda calls West’s bluff on aid

* Pressure grows on donors to act on alleged role in Congo

* Rwanda denies interference, says aid cuts would be mistake

* UN Security Council seat will enhance diplomatic weight

By Mark John

PARIS, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Rwanda is brushing aside allegations it is fomenting rebellion in neighbouring Congo, confident that foreign donors are reluctant to abandon a country on its way to becoming a rare African success story.

The gamble is a risky one for a state that relies on aid for 40 percent of its budget, but Rwanda’s newly-awarded seat on the United Nations Security Council will boost its diplomatic clout and could further discourage any moves to cut assistance.

“They’ve made the calculation that they won’t be isolated or ostracised. And if they lose some donor support, they can absorb that,” said Mark Schroeder of U.S.-based consultancy Stratfor, a long-time watcher of Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Pressure on donors to act grew this week after a leaked U.N. Group of Experts’ report accused Rwanda’s defence minister of commanding a six-month rebellion in the east of Congo, the strongest in a series of allegations that Rwanda is involved.

Congo’s eastern Kivu provinces are strategically vital to Rwanda. They are home to an established community of Rwandan speakers and a lucrative trade in coltan, tin, gold and other minerals just hours by road from the Rwandan capital Kigali.

While Rwanda has backed armed movements in Congo during the past two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan rebels operating out of Congo’s eastern hills, it firmly denies the latest allegations of interference.

Donors treat such denials with scepticism. The United States, the biggest giver with grants of $173 million in 2010, has already frozen some aid along with Sweden, the Netherlands and the European Union.

Yet while Western governments this week repeated concerns over a rebellion that has already forced half a million people to flee their homes, none contacted by Reuters after the leaked report have so far signalled moves to further suspend aid.

COMBATIVE TWEETER

A defiant Rwanda has rejected the Experts’ report as flawed and warned donors that any step to pull aid would be a mistake.

President Paul Kagame hailed Thursday’s award of a Security Council seat as proof the former Belgian colony is on the right track, nearly two decades after a 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Rwandans were killed by a Hutu-led government and ethnic militias.

“No matter what haters say … justice&truth will prevail!!!,” Kagame posted on his Twitter account. “Sometimes it just requires a bit of good fight for all that…!!!”

Rwanda’s gleaming highways, modern airport and efficient army – a reliable contributor to U.N. peacekeeping in Africa – are a far cry from the chaos in Congo and the decrepit infrastructure of many African states with less tormented pasts.

Kagame’s authoritarian style and allegations by human rights groups that Rwandan military intelligence services have engaged in torture are a cause of international discomfort.

But aid partners like the fact that Rwanda’s strong governance means they can see where their money is going. Total aid has more than trebled over the past decade to around $900 million in 2010.

“Every pound that goes into Rwanda stands a better chance of being spent on poverty reduction than it does anywhere else,” Malcolm Bruce, head of British parliament’s International Development Committee, told Reuters.

“Perhaps there’s also a residual guilt over the failure to act over the Rwandan genocide,” added Bruce, whose government is Rwanda’s second largest bilateral donor with disbursements of $78 million in 2010 and which, for now, is maintaining aid.

The question now is how far the goodwill can stretch.

It will become harder for donors to justify business as usual if a U.N. committee in coming weeks acts on the Group of Experts’ findings and imposes targeted sanctions against Rwandan Defence Minister James Kabarebe.

Belgium, the third largest bilateral donor, which disbursed 56 million euros ($73 million) last year, will review its position if the U.N. does impose sanctions, or the European Union takes further steps on aid, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday.

The European Commission said on Friday it was awaiting the decision of the United Nations’ sanctions committee. But it added it was “firmly committed” to helping Rwanda tackle poverty and praised the government for progress made so far.

FINANCIAL AUTONOMY

The U.S. State Department said it would not comment until the Experts’ report was made officially public, while France – which channels some 43 million euros of aid to Rwanda through the EU and other agencies – said it had no plans to suspend it.

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said authorities would study the issue before any new decisions on aid fall due in December.

Diplomats acknowledge that Rwanda’s U.N. Security Council seat may make donors even more reluctant to pull aid. Typically, such countries are courted for their votes on divisive issues such as last year’s Western-backed intervention in Libya.

Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group think-tank suggested that any future moves would be at most partial.

“They could cut general budget support to avoid providing military assistance but would continue support for education, health and agriculture,” he said.

That might be a risk Rwanda is prepared to run, given the importance of the east of Congo.

Past U.N. reports have cited lucrative smuggling rackets of minerals ferried across to Rwanda. At the height of Congo’s last war in 1999, profits from eastern Congo’s mineral fields added some $320 million to Rwanda’s defence budget, U.N. experts said.

Wealthy Rwandans are being encouraged to donate 10 percent of their salaries into the newly-launched Agaciro Development Fund, whose website says it was created to “improve the level of financial autonomy of Rwanda as a nation”.

While such contributions are voluntary, the social pressure to take part is strong. At a recent fund-raiser in the capital, young professionals were lining up to hand over a cheque and have their photo taken with Kagame. ($1 = 0.7674 euros)

Source: Reuters: Rwanda News

October 21, 2012   1 Comment

Kabarebe, Rwanda and Congo’s killing fields

* UN report says Rwandan minister as masterminded Congo rebellion

* Kabarebe is President Kagame’s right-hand man

* Rwanda denies involvement in recent Congo conflict

Oct 19 (Reuters) – Swept up in the mid-1990s in a conflict that has killed an estimated 5 million people, former child soldier Gabriel struggles to reconcile his feelings towards the man who led him into battle, James Kabarebe.

“He was very disciplined. He looked after us child soldiers. He took time to speak to us,” Gabriel, who was 12 when he became a fighter, said of Kabarebe, Rwanda’s defence minister, who was accused by the United Nations this week of fomenting war in neighbouring Congo.

“But when someone comes and makes war, and uses child soldiers, he can’t leave anything but bad memories behind him,” said the former fighter, who asked that his name be changed to protect his identity.

Right-hand man to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Kabarebe, 53, for two decades has been a central figure shaping the often violent history of the Central African region.

He is celebrated as a hero at home for helping lead the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) advance that stopped the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by the army and Hutu extremist militias. The war lifted Kagame to power in Kigali, and Kabarebe along with him.

Across the border in the vastly larger Democratic Republic of Congo, however, Kabarebe is almost universally reviled for his role in destabilising the mineral-rich but almost ungovernable country at a cost of several million lives.

Rwanda vigorously denies the latest allegations contained in the report of a panel charged with monitoring Congo’s arms embargo, which said Kabarebe has armed and given military backing to the M23 rebel movement.

Fighting between M23 and Congo’s army has displaced nearly a half million people. The Tutsi-dominated insurgency, which took up arms in April, is expanding its control over parts of North Kivu province with additional financing from Rwandan businessmen trading in smuggled Congolese minerals, the report stated.

Earlier findings in an interim report by the experts led to a freezing of some foreign aid by the United States, Britain, the European Union, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Repeated attempts by Reuters to obtain comment from, or interviews with, Rwandan officials about the report’s allegations failed to elicit a response. Phone calls and text messages to the defence minister, his spokesman, and his chief of staff all went unanswered. A Rwandan government spokesperson twice declined Reuters’ requests for comment.

“SMART AND ABLE”

But those who know Kabarebe and how operates say the U.N.’s findings do not come as a shock.

“I’m not the least surprised…He’s smart. He’s able. And heaven knows he knows the territory,” said Daniel Simpson, who was the U.S. ambassador to Kinshasa in 1996.

That was the year Kabarebe led a mixed force of gumboot-wearing Rwandans and ragged Congolese recruits 1,500 km (900 miles) across Congo, then known as Zaire, to topple longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Kigali accused Mobutu of harbouring the instigators of the Rwandan genocide, who had continued to launch raids into Rwanda from Congolese territory.

The rebel army met little resistance as Mobutu’s forces crumbled, but it left a trail of massacred Rwandan Hutu refugees in its wake, according to a comprehensive U.N. report on the violence published in 2010.

Initially welcomed by the cheering residents of the crumbling riverside capital Kinshasa, Kabarebe was even named head of the army by Mobutu’s successor, Laurent Desire Kabila, the father of current president Joseph Kabila.

The alliance didn’t last as Kabila – known popularly as Mzee, the Swahili word for “elder” – balked at Rwanda’s pervasive influence in his new government.

“They behaved like conquerors. Mzee Kabila didn’t like their behaviour here,” Congolese general Jean-Claude Kifwa, who knew Kabarebe at the time, said in an interview. “Rwanda is poor compared to Congo. They took the chance to pillage, to enrich themselves.”

The inevitable falling out came in 1998 with Kabila’s order expelling Rwandan troops from Congolese territory.

A few weeks later, Kabarebe secretly flew back across the country in a daring operation to seize Kinshasa with a few hundred men.

Though the plan was foiled when Angolan troops intervened in support of Kabila, it marked the start of a war whose aftershocks are still felt a decade on and which researchers estimate has cost the lives of more than 5 million people.

“FIGHTING FOR THE BOSS”

A 2003 peace deal that officially ended the conflict left Congo with an army cobbled together from dozens of armed groups, among them several with ties to Rwanda.

“He has contact with Congolese officers everywhere,” Kifwa said of Kabarebe.

In media interviews since the U.N. experts interim report revealed Rwandan links to the rebels, Kabarebe has said he used these contacts in an attempt to stop the M23 mutiny in its infancy.

However, the experts say he has instead provided the group with direct military support, facilitated recruitment, transferred weapons and ammunition, and encouraged Congolese soldiers to join the insurgency.

“M23’s de facto chain of command…culminates with the Rwandan Minister of Defence General James Kabarebe,” said the experts, who monitor compliance with U.N. sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo.

If the U.N. report is correct and Kabarebe is indeed orchestrating the M23 rebellion, it is unlikely he is acting alone, said Gerard Prunier, an academic who has written histories of both Rwanda’s genocide and the war in Congo.

“Kabarebe is a fairly simple person. He’s always fighting for the boss…It’s totally unthinkable, given the tight control Kagame has, that he would go into this on his own.”

October 20, 2012   No Comments

UN Security Council plans sanctions on Congo rebels, others

* Rwanda defense minister accused of commanding Congo rebels

* Uganda, Rwanda deny accusations of involvement

* Nearly half a million people displaced due to fighting

* U.N. says rebellion also being funded by traders in Rwanda

By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council intends to impose sanctions on the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels and others violating an arms embargo on the country, according to a statement the council unanimously adopted on Friday.

Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe is commanding the insurgency in eastern Congo that is being armed by Rwanda and Uganda, both of which also sent troops to aid deadly attacks, according to a U.N. experts’ confidential report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

“The Security Council expresses its intention to apply targeted sanctions against the leadership of the M23 and those acting in violation of the sanctions regime and the arms embargo,” the 15-member council said in the statement obtained by Reuters.

The council strongly condemned any external support to the M23 rebels, expressed “deep concern at reports indicating that such support continues to be provided to the M23 by neighboring countries” and demanded that it stop immediately.

The Security Council’s Group of Experts said in its report that Rwanda and Uganda – despite their strong denials – continued to support M23 rebels in their six-month fight against Congolese government troops.

The Security Council statement on Friday stressed “the urgency of constructive engagement and dialogue between the DRC and its neighbors, especially Rwanda, and the need to address the underlying causes of the conflict in eastern DRC.”

The Congolese government on Wednesday demanded targeted sanctions against Rwandan and Ugandan officials named in the U.N. experts’ report.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo on Thursday dismissed the idea that action should be taken on the basis of a report that she called flawed and untrue. She said the priority was to work out how to pacify the region.

“It’s wrong. This report is very problematic so anybody who would want to take action based on that report would be really unfortunate,” Mushikiwabo told Reuters in an interview.

AID WITHDRAWN

Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese general wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, controls the rebellion on the ground, and M23 leader Sultani Makenga is in charge of operations and coordination with allied armed groups, the U.N. report said.

Ntaganda and Makenga “receive direct military orders from RDF (Rwandan army) Chief of Defense staff General Charles Kayonga, who in turn acts on instructions from Minister of Defense General James Kabarebe,” it said.

Uganda and Rwanda have denied the accusations of involvement by the U.N. experts, who monitor compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo.

They delivered their report to the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee earlier this month.

Nearly half a million people have been displaced due to the fighting. M23 has proven so resilient that one senior U.N. diplomatic source told Reuters that Rwanda has effectively “annexed” mineral-rich eastern Congo thanks to the rebel force.

“The Security Council also condemns the attempts by the M23 to establish a parallel administration and to undermine State authority,” it said in Friday’s statement.

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

The latest rebellion also is being funded by traders in Rwanda who are profiting from tin, tungsten and tantalum smuggled across the border from mines in the eastern DRC, according to the U.N. experts’ report.

The accusations have prompted the United States, Sweden and the Netherlands to suspend some aid to Rwanda, which relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget. Last month the European Union froze further budgetary support to Rwanda.

Mushikiwabo said it was “the biggest mistake” for any countries to withdraw aid over the U.N. report.

Source: Reuters: Rwanda News

October 19, 2012   No Comments

Kagame meets students, ready to hand over power!

Kagame Ready To Hand Over Power

Kagame taking questions from students

President Kagame takes questions from students

Rwandan leader Paul Kagame has explained the succession question, saying he would be glad to be succeeded by a President capable of taking the nation another step forward in terms of development.

“I am not thinking of someone like me but someone who can do things even better,” Kagame said Friday during an afternoon interaction with Rwandan students in the country and overseas.

“Rwandans must be empowered. They must be given opportunities. Future leaders are in this room, my duty is to avail opportunity for all to think differently and move the nation forward,” Kagame inspired the students.

The statement shows Kagame’s readiness to hand over power after the expiry of his seven-year term in 2017.

He has on several occasions insisted he is relinquishing power despite calls from some members of his party to stay around.

A student from Haiti asked Kagame: “I see you as a leader like no other, a father and friend to the youth. Who do you think should replace you?”

“The next leader of Rwanda should be one who thinks right and will continue the same direction, no reverse,” said Kagame, adding “leaders of tomorrow must be ready to lead today.”

“We are talking about leaders in your nation and on your continent-a continent in need of change the must be brought by you. For youth to take proper role in leadership, you must start as early as possible. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Be the leaders today, it’s never too early,” said Kagame.

He further advised the youth that “If you want to understand a problem, you must understand and define it first.”

He also hinted on donor pressure over allegations of Rwanda backing M23 rebels in Congo that has led to aid cuts, saying “we must use aid to decrease our dependency and become self reliant.”

The President also responded to media reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) officials said he faced prosecution for war crimes in Congo.

“There is a problem at the ICC, Africans must wake up,” said the President, adding, “ICC has become a political tool of the west.”

“There is no justice as such…it is being used to decide fates of societies and nations. Why is your (international community) justice selective? We have our right as members of this community and should fight for it,” he said.

Credited for turning around a country bleeding from the catastrophic 1994 genocide wounds and strengthening institutions that have propelled the country to unprecedented levels of economic and social development, Kagame also said Rwanda deserved a seat on the United Nations Security Council “as a country with dignity.”

Rwanda was on Thursday night elected as non-permanent member on the Security Council despite protests from DRC and South Africa.

“What is dubious and controversial is not Rwanda taking its rightful place in the UN, it is the report (that accuses Rwanda of backing M23 rebels) that is dubious,” he observed.

“What kind of justice is it when we are first sentenced then asked to respond to the sentence?” he wondered.

He also advised students that “whenever you await others to solve your problems, the solution will not be sustainable.”

The President said “those who claim to speak for Rwandans are the ones who rob them of their right- the right to decide” for themselves.

“Forward we must go, there is no other way. Challenge yourself to use what you learn to move your country forward. We have our own imperfections; we cannot accept imperfections from other people to double our problems,” he said.

Kagame told students to “reject people who want to decide for you what is good and what is not for you.”

He further asked rhetorically “every day I see people who have never been to Rwanda who want to decide what is good for Rwanda. Do you want to accept this?”

He said “we must be responsible for ourselves and for our development.”

The President said youth in Africa, Asia all over the world have the same aspirations; to be the horse riders.

“Everyone wants to exercise their freedoms to use their talent to better their society. Young people everywhere are the same; no one wants to be a horse so others ride on them.”

He therefore encouraged the youth “to reject being made the horses” because “you don’t just say no, you have to do the right thing.”

DIGNITY

Kagame said the youth must work tooth and nail to “fight for every inch of our dignity, others should only help you in direction you have chosen.”

“It’s not just about saying no, it’s saying no through what you do. I am not saying it’s simple but we are capable of doing it. Others who think they are ordained to tell others what to do or not to do…you must not accept that,” Kagame appealed to the young generation.

“You should become agents of change. Why should you be a secondary global citizen?

Ask yourself why should you be a second citizen of this planet earth? Challenge yourself and your colleagues.”

Kagame said the youth must have the determination and make the choice to be the change agents they are capable of being.

“Do you want to be a horse or a horse-rider? We must end the relationships where we are the horse and it is up to you. Rwandans, Africans should be the horse riders, not horses. We have been horses for long. What matters is what you do, how well you do it and results.”

He observed “saying good words isn’t enough, what matters is what you do, and the results you achieve.”

Earlier, Syldio Mbonyumuhire of Carnegie Mellon of shared innovative ideas of students bringing solutions to their community, saying the “youth of Rwanda aim to be part of the solution not part of the problem…solutions are within us.”

The function was held Petit Stade where the President interacted with more than 2,500 University students in Rwanda.

Chimpreports understands students in foreign countries posted questions on Kagame’s Facebook wall while others used Twitter under the hashtag #MeetthePresident.

Source: Chimpreports.com-Uganda News

October 19, 2012   No Comments

Rwanda warns against cutting aid over Congo rebels

* Rwanda relies on aid for about 40 percent of its budget

* Says wrong to impose sanctions based on flawed report

* Rwanda won seat on U.N. Security Council on Thursday

By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Rwanda’s foreign minister warned on Thursday that it would be “the biggest mistake” for any countries to withdraw aid to Kigali over a U.N. report accusing Rwanda’s defense minister of commanding rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The United States, Sweden and the Netherlands have all suspended some aid to Rwanda, which relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget. Last month the European Union froze further budgetary support to Rwanda.

However, Britain unblocked part of its cash in September, praising Rwanda for constructively pursuing peace.

“It would be the biggest mistake that any donor country could make for Rwanda,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Reuters at the United Nations, shortly after Rwanda won a seat on the U.N. Security Council. “Rwanda is deserving of aid.”

“I think Britain has made the right choice,” she said.

A confidential report by the Security Council’s “Group of Experts,” seen by Reuters on Tuesday, said Rwanda and Uganda – despite their strong denials – continued to support so-called M23 rebels with arms and troops in their six-month fight against Congolese troops in the east of the country.

The Congolese government on Wednesday demanded targeted sanctions against Rwandan and Ugandan officials named in the U.N. experts’ report.

Mushikiwabo dismissed the idea that action should be taken on the basis of a report that she said was flawed and untrue. She also said Rwanda felt vindicated by its successful election to the Security Council.

“It’s wrong. This report is very problematic so anybody who would want to take action based on that report would be really unfortunate,” Mushikiwabo told Reuters.

“The priority right now is to look at what it would take first to pacify the region and secondly to look at the root causes and look for ways to solve this problem in a way that would last,” she said.

 

RWANDA “HAPPY WITH SIZE”

Nearly half a million people have been displaced due to the fighting. M23 has proven so resilient that one senior U.N. diplomatic source told Reuters that Rwanda has effectively “annexed” mineral-rich eastern Congo thanks to the rebel force.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said last month that the rebels had set up a de facto administration in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, controlling the people and collecting taxes.

But Mushikiwabo said there was no “desire to cut off part of the DRC … Rwanda is very happy with its size.”

Rwanda has backed armed movements in the Congo over the past two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan rebels operating out of Congo’s eastern hills.

Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese general wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, controls the eastern Congo rebellion on the ground and M23 leader Sultani Makenga is in charge of operations and coordination with allied armed groups, the U.N. report said.

Both Ntaganda and Makenga “receive direct military orders from RDF (Rwandan army) Chief of Defense staff General Charles Kayonga, who in turn acts on instructions from Minister of Defense General James Kabarebe,” it said.

Mushikiwabo rejected claims in the report that Ntaganda regularly travels to Rwanda.

“He hasn’t been traveling back and forth. If Bosco Ntaganda needs to be arrested why wasn’t he arrested?” she said. “He hasn’t been in Rwanda. He’s not in Rwanda. He’s in Congo. Those who want him know where he is.”

The rebellion also is being funded by traders in Rwanda who are profiting from tin, tungsten and tantalum smuggled across the border from mines in the eastern DRC, according to the U.N. experts’ report.

Source: Reuters: Rwanda News

October 19, 2012   No Comments