General Kagame says he never made a threat to withdraw peacekeeping troops
As reported by journalist Joe Lauria in the Wall Street Journal, talking about the threat to withdraw Rwandan troops from the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan if UN published the Genocide report, embattled General Kagame said he had never made such a “threat,” but added that if the U.N. decided to pursue the report’s allegations in a court, he would reconsider.
Here is how WSJ reports the news:
Rwanda to Keep U.N. Contingent
NEW YORK—Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Thursday backed away from a threat to withdraw his country’s troops from a peacekeeping mission in Sudan if the United Nations published a report accusing Rwandan soldiers of genocide in neighboring Congo in the late 1990s.
“That is not on the table,” Mr. Kagame said in an interview on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Mr. Kagame said he had never made such a “threat,” but added that if the U.N. decided to pursue the report’s allegations in a court, he would reconsider.
The 509-page report by the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights was leaked in August, setting off a diplomatic crisis.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who called the charges “absurd,” said in a letter to the U.N. following the leak that “attempts to take action on this report—either through its release or leaks to the media— … will force us to withdraw from Rwanda’s various commitments to the United Nations, especially in the area of peacekeeping.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew to Kigali, the Rwandan capital, earlier this month to plead with Mr. Kagame not to pull the country’s 3,000 troops out of Sudan just months before a crucial referendum on independence for southern Sudan. Diplomats fear war could break out if the referendum isn’t held and the south declares unilateral independence. The withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the 20,000-strong hybrid U.N.-African Union peace force could further destabilize the country, U.N officials said.
“The secretary-general would strongly hope that Rwanda would keep up the excellent work that it has done up to now in peacekeeping operations,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirsky said Thursday.
U.S. officials couldn’t be reached to comment on Mr. Kagame’s remarks Thursday.
Despite Rwanda’s initial reaction, Mr. Ban said the report would be released on Oct. 1. The leaked draft documents mass murders, rapes and other abuses committed in Congo from 1993 to 2003 by several armed groups, including the Rwandan army. The draft, a copy of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal, says Rwandan forces hunted down and killed “tens of thousands” of Rwandan Hutus living as refugees in Congo in 1996 and 1997, when the country was known as Zaire.
The soldiers were ostensibly tracking suspects of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. But according to the U.N. report, they often made little or no effort to distinguish genocide suspects from innocent refugees. Groups of people were shot, raped, burned or beaten, it says. “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces,” the report says.
Mr. Kagame said some Rwandan soldiers had been disciplined during this period, but “it doesn’t amount to anything near to what is being talked about in the report.”
U.N. investigators also accuse Rwanda of smuggling illegally mined minerals out of Congo. Mr. Kagame said in the interview that U.S., British, Canadian, French and Belgian mining companies should be asked what they were doing in Congo. These “companies … have been exploiting the minerals of the Congo in many ways,” he said, while Rwanda hadn’t profited at all.