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2012 Human Rights Reports: Rwanda

29 Apr

2012 Human Rights Reports: Rwanda

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) leads a coalition that includes six smaller parties. In August 2010 voters elected President Paul Kagame to a second seven-year term with 93 percent of the vote. Three other registered political parties participated in elections. Senate elections took place in September 2011, with RPF candidates winning the majority of seats by wide margins. International observers reported the senate elections met generally recognized standards of free and fair elections in most respects but noted concerns regarding the independence of voters’ decisions. State security forces (SSF) generally reported to civilian authorities, although there were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control.

The most important human rights problems in the country remained the government’s targeting of journalists, political opponents, and human rights advocates for harassment, arrest, and abuse; disregard for the rule of law among security forces and the judiciary; restrictions on civil liberties; and support of rebel groups in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings, both within the country and abroad; disappearances; torture; harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; executive interference in the judiciary; and government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights. The government restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and to a lesser extent, religion. Security for refugees and asylum seekers was inadequate. Corruption was a problem, and the government restricted and harassed local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Violence and discrimination against women and children occurred, including the recruitment by the M23 armed group of Rwandan and refugee minors as child soldiers. There was a small but growing incidence of trafficking in persons. Discrimination and occasional violence against persons with disabilities and the Twa minority occurred. The government restricted labor rights, and forced labor, including by children, and child labor were problems.

The government generally took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere, but impunity involving civilian officials and SSF was a problem.

During the year the government provided material, logistical, and strategic support to the M23 armed group in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which committed summary executions and forcibly recruited adults and minors. The government strongly denied providing any support to the M23. SSF remained complicit in the illegal smuggling of conflict minerals from the DRC.

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U.S. under pressure over Rwanda involvement in Congo fighting

21 Dec

December 20, 2012

As evidence mounts of Rwandan backing of eastern Congo rebels, pressure is on the U.S. to cut aid for the regime.

A youth identified as a 16-year-old corporal in the Rwandan armed forces sits with other prisoners in Kinshasha, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government accuses Rwanda of supporting rebels fighting in eastern Congo. (Junior D. Kannah / AFP/Getty Images / December 11, 2012)

GOMA, Congo — It was not the bullet lodged in the officer’s gut, or the botched operation he’d had in a field hospital, that made the case so difficult for doctors in a Goma hospital.

It was trying to save the life of a Rwandan officer injured in the recent Congolese battle for the eastern city when Rwanda’s government insisted it wasn’t involved in the Goma fighting.

Doctors were convinced the officer would die if he wasn’t sent home to Rwanda, where he could get better medical care.

“His family in the military in Rwanda came and took him from here,” Dr. Jo Lusi, founder of the Heal Africa Hospital, said in an interview last month. He said the hospital treats wounded people from all military groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The move apparently infuriated the Rwandan military. “They said, ‘Why did you allow this [officer] to go to Rwanda? If you take back wounded to Rwanda, it’s like proof,’ ” Lusi said. The Rwandan government has long denied it is supporting rebels in eastern Congo, its neighbor.

That assertion conflicts with the reports of outside observers. A November report by United Nations experts on the conflict in eastern Congo said Rwandan authorities had frequently facilitated the evacuation of casualties to Rwanda. It accused the regime of Rwandan President Paul Kagame of arming and commanding a group known as M23, associated with war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda. The British government said it had “compelling” evidence of such a link.

“The government of Rwanda continues to violate the [U.N.] arms embargo by providing direct military support to the M23 rebels, facilitating recruitment, encouraging and facilitating desertions from the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and providing arms, ammunition, intelligence and political advice,” the report says. “The de facto chain of command of M23 includes Gen. Bosco Ntaganda and culminates with the minister of defense of Rwanda, Gen. James Kabarebe.”

Analysts say that without Rwandan forces, M23 would not have made its recent territorial gains. In a report leaked this month, the U.N. experts alleged that Rwandan forces took part in M23’s October attack and capture of Goma.

“If it was difficult before, now it is almost impossible to justify this belligerence from Kagame’s government,” Congo analyst Jason Stearns said in a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine.

Critics and human rights groups have criticized the Obama administration’s support for Rwanda despite evidence of chronic interference in Congo, where conflicts have killed more than 5 million people. However, there are signs of change in Washington’s position. President Obama called Kagame this week and asked him to end support for any rebel groups in Congo, according to a White House statement.

Rebels tied to M23 have perpetrated atrocities and human rights abuses, including recruitment of child soldiers, among them girls, the burning of houses and the killing of hundreds of people in ethnically motivated attacks, according to Human Rights Watch and the U.N. report. Dozens of forced recruits and prisoners of war were executed by M23, the report alleges.

Human Rights Watch also reported in September that M23 rebels were involved in killings, rape and forced recruitment of child soldiers, and summary executions of men and boys who tried to escape forced recruitment. The group has called for sanctions against Rwandan officials it says are responsible for backing the movement.

Human rights advocates have strongly criticized Susan E. Rice, American ambassador to the U.N., saying she was among those most responsible for America’s support for a government that continues to fuel the Congolese conflict.

Rice, who is close to Kagame, met with British and French diplomats in New York in October to discuss the crisis in eastern Congo, according to another article in Foreign Policy magazine last month. She also strongly opposed a push by France’s U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, for the U.N. to implicate Rwanda as a supporter of the rebels and hold up the threat of sanctions, according to the article.

“Gerard, it’s eastern Congo,” Rice said, according to the article. “If it were not the M23 killing people, it would be some other armed groups.”

America has long held that it’s better to work with Kagame than to alienate him with sanctions, but critics see the chronic fighting in eastern Congo as proof that protecting the Rwandan president from international censure hasn’t worked. Obama made his call a week after 15 prominent think tanks and rights organizations wrote him saying that the policy of quiet diplomacy had failed to stop Rwanda from incursions into eastern Congo and support for rebel groups.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned M23 and issued sanctions against its Congolese leaders, including Ntaganda. Last month the council said further sanctions against M23 and its supporters would be considered — without naming Rwanda. Analysts accuse Rice of delaying the release of the U.N. report on the conflict and intervening to prevent a council resolution on the Congo crisis from naming Rwanda.

An October report by the International Crisis Group, a think tank, called on the international community to suspend assistance to Rwanda, which relies on foreign aid to support its budget, and to consider a weapons embargo against it.

The British government last month cut aid to Rwanda, citing evidence that the regime in Kigali, the capital, backed the M23 rebellion. The U.S. has also cut some military aid, but it continues to provide substantial assistance.

In June, Human Rights Watch reported that 200 to 300 Rwandans were recruited in their homeland in April and May and taken across the border to fight alongside M23 forces. “Rwandan military officials have 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,” it said in a later report, in September.

Rice’s intervention to protect Rwanda left Kagame’s government confident that international criticism would be minimal, according to a Rwandan official quoted in Stearns’ article.

“The question is not whether Rwanda is the Beelzebub or the savior of Central Africa; it is neither,” Stearns wrote. “But given the gravity of the crisis, and the significant support the United States was providing to the Rwandan government, simply giving Kigali a pass for repeated mass abuses was unacceptable and sent the wrong signal.”

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Source: Los Angeles Times

Obama urges Rwandan president to stop support for M23 rebels in Congo

19 Dec

Wednesday 19 December 2012 15.22 GMT

US president tells Paul Kagame that backing rebel group in eastern Congo is ‘inconsistent with desire for stability and peace’

The US has been accused of turning a blind eye to Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s meddling in neighbouring DR Congo. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty

Barack Obama has urged the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, to halt support for rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, a move welcomed by critics of Kagame’s government.

The United States, and in particular its UN ambassador, Susan Rice, have been accused of turning a blind eye to Rwanda‘s meddling in its neighbour, partly because of residual guilt over the 1994 genocide.

But in a phone call to Kagame, Obama “underscored that any support to the rebel group M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace”.

The White House said the US president stressed “the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC, abiding by the recent commitments he made… and reaching a transparent and credible political agreement that includes an end to impunity for M23 commanders and others” who committed rights abuses.

Obama “welcomed President Kagame’s commitment to moving forward in finding a peaceful solution” in eastern Congo, it added.

A recent UN report presented detailed evidence that the Rwandan government is backing the rebels, a charge that Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied. M23 members have allegedly perpetrated rapes, recruited child soldiers and carried out summary executions in eastern Congo.

America has been criticised for a muted response. Rice, who is close to Kagame, delayed the UN report’s publication for weeks and prevented a security council resolution from explicitly naming Rwanda as a supporter of M23.

While Britain and others have suspended financial support to Rwanda, the US cut only $200,000 (£128,000) of military aid from a programme worth around $200m. Last week 15 leading campaign groups and thinktanks wrote to Obama accusing him of a failed policy and called for the president to impose sanctions.

His intervention has been hailed as potentially signalling a new, tougher approach. “It’s good news for us,” said Jean-Baptiste Ryumugabe of the Rwandan opposition Social Party Imberakuri. “We hope Paul Kagame will listen to President Obama because up to now many presidents and many organisations have asked him to stop fuelling the rebel group in eastern Congo but he refused. We have to hope he will now react positively.”

Ryumugabe called for the US to take further measures such as cutting financial aid and limiting visas for travel to the US. “They have many things they can do to stop this aggression,” he said.

Other Rwandan opposition groups said they were “greatly encouraged” by Obama’s remarks. “It is absolutely important that the United States has taken this important and crucial step in seeking to bring president Paul Kagame to account for his actions in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said a letter addressed to Obama by the Rwanda National Congress and FDU-Inkingi.

“Your voice and effort to bring Rwandan leaders of the M23 rebellion to account will be instrumental in stopping and reversing the carnage in DRC.”

But some questioned why Obama did not speak out sooner. Carina Tertsakian, senior researcher on Rwanda for Human Rights Watch, said: “They’ve lagged behind in terms of coming out strongly to denounce Rwandan support for M23. They’ve been unforthcoming.

“Obama’s words come quite late given how far the situation in eastern DRC has deteriorated in recent months, but we welcome talks at such a high level.”

In a further sign that US patience is wearing thin, the treasury department has imposed sanctions against two leaders of M23, Baudoin Ngaruye and Innocent Kaina, who are accused of using child soldiers. Ngaruye was cited for targeting children through “killing, maiming, and sexual violence”.

The move comes just weeks after a UN security council sanctions committee added the two men to its consolidated travel ban and asset-freeze list.

Tertsakian urged the US to impose sanctions on senior Rwandan officials, including the defence minister and army chief of staff, because of their links to the rebellion in Congo.

The US has launched a fresh appeal for the arrest and prosecution of Sylvestre Mudacumura, the head of Rwanda’s main Hutu rebel group, and Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda, an ex-general who spurred the ongoing mutiny in the east. Both are the subject of outstanding international criminal court warrants.

M23 seized the strategic town of Goma in eastern Congo on 20 November as Congolese troops retreated to the nearby town of Minova. An investigation by the UN has found at least two deaths and 126 cases of rape in and around Minova in the 10 days that followed. Nine Congolese army soldiers have been arrested.

Source: The Guardian

Obama tells Rwanda: end DRC rebel support

19 Dec

December 19, 2012 2:42PM

US President Barack Obama has called on Rwandan President Paul Kagame to end all support for rebels in the conflict-wracked Democratic Republic of Congo.

The White House issued the strongly worded statement about the leaders’ call after Washington imposed sanctions on two top leaders of the M23 rebel group, saying they had used child soldiers and singled out children as targets.

In his telephone conversation with Kagame, Obama “underscored that any support to the rebel group M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace”, the White House said on Tuesday.

Obama stressed to Kagame “the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC, abiding by the recent commitments he made … and reaching a transparent and credible political agreement that includes an end to impunity for M23 commanders and others” who committed rights abuses, it said.

The DR Congo government has been battling the M23, former army soldiers who UN experts say are backed by Rwanda, since they launched a mutiny in April.

Several of the group’s leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities.

Obama called for a political agreement in DR Congo that “addresses the underlying regional security, economic and governance issues while upholding the DRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The White House said he had delivered the same message to DRC President Joseph Kabila.

During their talks, Obama and Kagame also discussed the DRC’s “longstanding governance problems”, according to the White House.

“President Obama welcomed President Kagame’s commitment to moving forward in finding a peaceful solution for eastern DRC,” it added.

Also on Tuesday, the United States launched a fresh appeal for the arrest and prosecution of two rebel leaders from Rwanda and DR Congo wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Sylvestre Mudacumura, the head of Rwanda’s main Hutu rebel group and DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda, an ex-general who spurred the ongoing mutiny in the east, are both the subject of outstanding ICC warrants.

Source: The Australian

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Rep. Karen Bass, Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Joins House Colleagues In Asking For Congo Envoys

13 Dec

Rep. Karen Bass, Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Joins House Colleagues In Asking For Congo Envoys

Washington, D.C.  –  Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights joined 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking the Obama Administration to appoint a U.S. envoy as well as the appointment of a U.N. envoy to help in diffusing the crisis engulfing eastern Congo.

Rwanda’s genocide and the bloody legacy of Anglo-American guilt

12 Dec

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Failure to intervene in 1994’s horror means the US and UK have refused to rein in President Paul Kagame’s excesses in Congo

Former US President Bill Clinton meets Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame during a visit to Kigali in 2006. Photograph: Reuters

The United States is allowing one tragic foreign policy failure to compound another.

Eighteen years ago, President Bill Clinton watched passively as the Hutu extremist regime in Rwanda oversaw the murder of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. His administration refused even to utter the word genocide for fear it would oblige the US to intervene.

Clinton wasn’t alone. One of the leaders of the Tutsi rebels fighting the genocidal regime told me at the time that during his attempts to persuade the UK government to intervene at the UN, he concluded that British officials regarded the Tutsi victims as little more than ants. The French spent their time trying to get the UN to authorise action that would have propped up the Hutu extremist leadership because they feared the alternative would diminish Paris’s influence in central Africa.

The aftermath was a searing experience for Clinton, his Africa gurus and national security advisers – one of whom is now the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who may well replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state – that has continued to shape American policy toward Rwanda. When the fighting ended, the true cost of western inaction was laid bare at the mass graves.

The scale of the killing was mind-boggling. I saw it first hand a church in the small town of Kibuye, where 11,000 were murdered in a single day and 10,000 more were killed the following day in the football stadium.

So it was only natural that, driven by a large dose of guilt, the US, Britain and other western countries – although, tellingly, not France – should throw their backing behind the man who put an end to the genocide and promised to build a new Rwanda: Paul Kagame. Nearly two decades later, though, guilt over the genocide has led the west to stand by while another crime is committed – this time, by Kagame and his forces in neighbouring Congo, where they are directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, some say millions.

Finally, Britain and Europe are waking up to this, following the comprehensive UN investigation charting Rwanda’s role in creating and arming a Congolese rebel group, M23, led by a man wanted by theInternational Criminal Court on war crimes charges. But the US still hesitates to tell Kagame that one crime does not justify another.

The Rwandan leader inherited an incredibly difficult situation in 1994. As a Tutsi, he was viewed with suspicion by the Hutu majority, which feared retribution. Kagame had not only to rebuild the country but to bring the guilty to justice, with meagre resources, while promoting reconciliation and ridding his country of officially sanctioned anti-Tutsi hatred. He has done better than might have been expected given the obstacles he faced. Early on, Kagame also had to contend with the Hutu extremist forces, which fled into what was then neighbouring Zaire and continued to threaten Rwanda.

Washington and London were unflinching in their support when, in 1996, Rwanda invaded Zaire to clear the sprawling UN refugee camps that housed the genocidal forces running murderous cross-border raids and threatening to kick start a new genocide. That invasion was justified – but support for Kagame should have been tempered by the actions of his army, which hunted down and massacred Hutus who failed to return to the Rwanda.

Many of them could be regarded as a legitimate enemy. But many were not, including the thousands of women and children slaughtered by the Rwandan military and its proxies. This was also the start of the mass rape by armed groups that has since plagued eastern Congo.

The Rwandan military, with its allies from Uganda and Burundi, then turned to the extremely lucrative plunder of Congo’s valuable minerals. That was the point at which the US and Britain should have made a stand. Instead, they turned a blind eye.

It was right that the west’s policy should be guided by guilt over the original genocide. It was right to support Rwanda’s reconstruction. But that tiny country’s future and the stability of central Africa have not been served by Washington and London’s years of unquestioning support of Kagame on the grounds that he has a good record on reconstruction and development (in expanding rural healthcare, getting children into school and building programmes to help small-scale family farmers), while all but ignoring what he is doing across Rwanda’s western border.

The Americans and the British have more recently been prepared to chide Kagame privately for closing down political space – which means no effective opposition has been allowed to develop to challenge his lengthy rule. Opponents have been jailed on the spurious grounds of spreading genocide ideology, and dissenters have been driven into exile.

But on Rwanda’s involvement in Congo, there has been virtual silence.

Who knows how many have died there – some studies put it in the millions – but various forces allied to the Rwandans have been responsible for years of murder, mass rape and forms of ethnic cleansing. This is tragic in its own right. But it is also not good for Rwanda’s future because it is contributing to the very instability it says it intervened in Congo to prevent.

After 15 years of invasions, insurgencies and trauma, a generation is emerging in eastern Congo that blames Rwanda for its suffering. And when those Congolese talk about Rwandans in this context, they often mean Tutsis.

Kagame has influential friends. Bill Clinton continues to defend him, describing Kagame as “one of the greatest leaders of our time” and Rwanda as “the best-run nation in Africa”. It’s hard to imagine that view doesn’t have some influence on his wife, the US secretary of state. Similarly, Rwanda policy is also strongly influenced by Susan Rice, who has spoken of her deep regret at her part in American inaction during the genocide.

Kagame also has a strong supporter in Tony Blair, who runs a foundation in Rwanda, which places officials in the president’s policy unit, the prime minister’s office and the cabinet secretariat. Two years ago, I asked Blair about Kagame. The former British prime minister called the Rwandan president a “visionary leader” and a friend. He said allowances had to be made for the consequences of the genocide and suggested Kagame’s economic record outweighed other concerns:

“I’m a believer in and a supporter of Paul Kagame. I don’t ignore all those criticisms, having said that. But I do think you’ve got to recognise that Rwanda is an immensely special case because of the genocide. Secondly, you can’t argue with the fact that Rwanda has gone on a remarkable path of development. Every time I visit Kigali and the surrounding areas you can just see the changes being made in the country.”

But a sound economic policy hardly justifies the years of abuses in Congo.

Rwanda has legitimate concerns about who and what is across its border. The remnants of the Hutu extremist forces are still there, twisting a new generation with a genocidal ideology dressed up as a liberation struggle. The Congolese government has not proved able, or particularly willing, to assert its authority over the region. But Kagame, for all his denials about intervention in Congo, is contributing to that instability and the continued suffering of large numbers of Congolese, while jeopardising his own country’s future.

Tellingly, this week, a US intelligence portrait of how the world may look in 2030 says that Rwanda is at high risk of becoming a failed state by then. Even Britain – the most stalwart of allies to Kagame from the days when Blair’s international development secretary, Clare Short, was a cheerleader for the Rwandan president – has decided to take a step back by withholding aid.

This week, a coalition of campaign groups and thinktanks have written to Barack Obama accusing him of a failed policy over Rwanda and calling on the president to withhold non-humanitarian aid and impose sanctions against Kagame’s defence minister and other Rwandan officials with ties to Congo rebels. The letter is signed by 15 organisations, including George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Global Witness, Freedom House and the Africa Faith and Justice Network. Human Rights Watch has made a similar call following its own detailed investigation of crimes against humanity committed by Rwandan-allied forces in Congo.

The Obama administration should heed the call. Kagame’s legitimacy comes less from highly-manipulated elections than from the recognition he gets at home and abroad as the man who stopped the genocide. Washington should now tell him that no longer gives him a free hand in Congo.

Source: The Guardian

US Legislators Seek Action on Rwanda for Supporting of DR Congo Rebels

12 Dec
Cindy Saine, December 11, 2012
CAPITOL HILL — A number of U.S. lawmakers are calling on the Obama administration to take tougher action on Rwanda for supporting the M23 rebels who are terrorizing civilians in the eastern Congo.  The Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Subcommittee held a hearing on the eastern Congo crisis Tuesday.

M23 rebel fighters sit on a truck as they prepare to withdraw near the town of Sake, 42 kilometers west of Goma in eastern Congo, November 30, 2012.

U.S. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary, the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department, testified about how serious the situation is for residents of eastern Congo since M23 rebels rebelled against the government and took control of the eastern region in April.”The security and humanitarian situation in the Congo is the most volatile in Africa today,” Carson said.

Carson said five million people have died in inter-ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1997.  Carson said there is a credible body of evidence from the United Nations and other sources that the Rwandan government is aiding the M23 rebels, and called on Rwanda to cease any such support.

Subcommittee chairman Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, said successive U.S. administrations have neglected to take a tough stand on Rwanda, due to U.S. regret about not stopping the genocide there in 1994.

“We must overcome our regret over what happened 18 years ago.  As an NGO letter to President Obama points out, the United States is not out of step with our European allies, who have cut aid to Rwanda because of their interference in the DRC,” Smith said.

His Republican colleague, Congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, was even more forceful in his criticism, asking Carson how long the Obama administration was going to try to negotiate with the leaders of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda while civilians continue to be killed.

“How many people have to die before you stop the negotiations and get serious about this?,” Marino said.

Carson said that the U.S. government has to be patient and to continue to press the involved governments to see reason and to put an end to the violence.  He stressed that the United States has taken action.

“We cut off our foreign military financing to the Rwandan government, one of the first such public acts by any government,” Carsons said.

Analysts say they fear it will be hard to get a peace deal in talks scheduled between Congolese President Joseph Kabila and the M23 rebels, and that more civilians will die or be displaced.

Source: VOA

Obama accused of failed policy over Rwanda’s support of rebel group

11 Dec

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Letter signed by 15 organisations calls on US to impose sanctions on Rwanda over human rights abuses in DR Congo

Criticism of US policy has focused on Susan Rice, who is regarded as a leading apologist for Rwandan president Paul Kagame. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Leading campaign groups and thinktanks have written to Barack Obama accusing him of a failed policy over Rwanda‘s support for rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and calling on the president to impose sanctions.

The letter – signed by 15 organisations including George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Global Witness, Freedom House and the AfricaFaith and Justice Network – follows the seizure last month of the eastern Congolese town of Goma by a rebel group, M23.

A recent report by a United Nations Group of Experts describes M23 as commanded by General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and under the ultimate control of the Rwandan defence minister, General James Kabarebe.

In the letter, the groups said that US efforts at “quiet diplomacy to address Rwandan involvement in eastern Congo have failed to deter Rwanda’s continued incursions and use of proxy armed groups” responsible for egregious human rights abuses in 15 years of conflict.

“As the situation once again dramatically deteriorates in eastern Congo, the US response to the crisis has patently failed and is out of step with other western nations,” they wrote. “Since the M23 was created in the spring of 2012, US officials continued to place faith in engaging Rwanda in a constructive dialogue. This approach has clearly failed to change Rwanda’s policy, as evidenced by the direct involvement of the Rwandan army in the recent takeover of Goma, as documented by the United Nations Group of Experts.”

The criticism is likely to again focus attention on Susan Rice, the embattled US ambassador to the UN and frontrunner to be the next secretary of state. She has been at the forefront of American efforts to shield the Rwandan government from criticism over its involvement in Congo.

The UN group’s report says: “Rwandan officials co-ordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations”, as well as providing troops and arming the group. It recommends imposing sanctions against Rwandan officials responsible, including Kabarebe.

Kabarebe told the Rwandan parliament on Monday that the country’s military played no role in the creation of M23 and accused the UN group of inventions.

“The fabrication of data by the Group of Experts was done so poorly that we already knew what they were planning the next day,” he said.

European countries have cut or suspended aid to Rwanda following the UN report. Eleven days ago, Britain announced it would stop £21m in aid after describing UN evidence of Rwandan complicity in the Congo conflict as “credible and compelling”.

The UK has been among Rwandan president Paul Kagame‘s closest allies and its decision to distance itself from him was a significant diplomatic blow.

The letter to Obama urges the president to join EU nations in cutting aid and to follow a recommendation by the UN Group of Experts to impose sanctions against Rwandan officials involved with the rebels.

“As a responsible supporter of the UN sanctions regime, the United States should push to impose sanctions on all individuals identified in the UN Group of Experts final report, including senior Rwandan government officials, and those individuals and entities supporting criminal networks through the trade in natural resources,” it said.

“The United States should cut all military assistance and suspend other non-humanitarian aid to the Rwandan government, while publicly condemning Rwanda’s support for the M23.”

The US has already frozen some military aid to Rwanda over its support for M23. The agencies also call on Obama to appoint a presidential envoy to focus on the crisis.

“Your envoy would leverage America’s economic, political, and military influence to ensure that all parties fully co-operate with an international political process, and also work closely with the proposed UN envoy,” the letter said.

Separately, Human Rights Watch has called on the US to pressure Kagame to end Rwanda’s intervention in Congo. Last month it said theObama administration should “publicly support sanctions against Rwandan officials backing the armed group M23”.

“The US government’s silence on Rwandan military support to the M23 rebels can no longer be justified given the overwhelming evidence of Rwanda’s role and the imminent threat to civilians around Goma,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “The US government should support urgent sanctions against Rwandan officials who are backing M23 fighters responsible for serious abuses.”

US policy toward Rwanda has been heavily influenced by guilt over Washington’s failure to intervene against the 1994 genocide of the country’s Tutsis. But the leeway given to Kagame comes out of understanding of the difficult political balancing act he faces as well as for the progress he has made in rebuilding Rwanda.

Some of the criticism of US policy has focused on Rice, who is regarded as a leading apologist for Kagame. She served on Bill Clinton’s national security council at the time of the genocide and played a part in the failure to intervene.

Rice pledged to do all in her power to prevent a similar slaughter in the future after travelling to Rwanda six months after the genocide and visiting one of the massacre sites.

“The memory of stepping around and over those corpses will remain the most searing reminder imaginable of what our work here must aim to prevent,” she said in 2009 in a speech to mark the UN’s Genocide Remembrance Day.

But that has translated into largely unwavering support for Kagame. Foreign Policy magazine reported that during recent debates over M23, Rice pushed back in UN meetings on attempts by Britain and France to bring sanctions to bear against Rwanda.

“It’s eastern Congo. If it were not the M23 killing people it would be some other armed groups,” the magazine reported Rice as saying.

Foreign diplomats have accused Rice of attempting to block publication of evidence gathered by a UN Group of Experts and of watering down a recent UN security council resolution naming Rwanda as supporting the insurgent group.

Those moves have ruffled feathers among a few senior US diplomats at the State Department who see Rice as having too much personal involvement in the cause, at the expense of older hands.

“I have heard some kick back from some career senior officials in State because she played a key role in causing that information [in the UN report] to be delayed,” said Mark Lagon, a former assistant secretary of state who is now a human-rights specialist at Georgetown University and a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Source: The Guardian

U.S. tells Rwanda to denounce Congo M23 rebels

1 Oct

By Richard Lough

NAIROBI | Mon Oct 1, 2012 2:43pm EDT

(Reuters) – The United States on Monday called on Rwanda to publicly denounce rebels who have seized swathes of eastern Congo in an appeal that highlighted its frustration over Kigali’s alleged role in its neighbor’s conflict.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied supporting the M23 rebel movement in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, blaming Kinshasa and major world powers for failing to tackle the problems that led to the uprising.

But it has not so far publicly condemned the M23 movement and donors, including the United States, one of Kigali’s closest allies, have slashed aid to the tiny central African nation as the result of a United Nations report which concluded Rwandan officials were supplying the rebels with weapons and logistics.

“It is not and should not be too much to ask the government of Rwanda to denounce a rebel group that is preying on the lives of people or undermining the stability of a neighbor,” Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said in a teleconference on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes by fighting since the M23, which has links to Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, took up arms in April.

“The M23 is led by individuals who are ICC indictees, is led by people who carried out serious human rights violations so it should not be too much to ask the government of Rwanda to do this,” said Carson.

The rebels say they are fighting to try to ensure full implementation of a 2009 peace deal that ended a previous rebellion which U.N. experts said was also backed by Rwanda.

Contacted for reaction after Carson’s comments, a Rwandan foreign ministry official directed Reuters to comments from President Paul Kagame denying accusations his country backed the rebels made during a U.N. meeting in New York last week.

Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly but no breakthrough was made.

Kagame last week said that “solving the crisis will be impossible if the international community continues to define the issue erroneously.”

A proposed African force that would be neutral and tasked with eliminating all rebels operating in eastern Congo has not yet materialized.

Carson said Kabila also had a duty to ensure peace and stability in his own country but Western nations have lined up to punish Rwanda, whose army fought two wars in Congo during the 1990s, for meddling in its neighbor’s latest conflict.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Reuters