Tag Archives: War Crimes

Oxford University’s business school faces protests over visit by Rwanda president Paul Kagame

17 May

FRIDAY 17 MAY 2013

There are plans to present him with a student award despite continuing controversy over his regime’s human rights record

Oxford University’s prestigious business school has been dragged into a row over plans to present the president of Rwanda with a student award for his country’s economic development despite continuing controversy over his regime’s human rights record.

Paul Kagame, the one-time poster boy of development whose reputation has been dulled by accusations of authoritarianism and fomenting conflict in Congo, will be greeted by protesters when he attends the Said Business School tomorrow to give a keynote conference speech.

A coalition of campaigners, including Congolese refugees and a prominent Oxford academic, are  backing calls for the university to cancel the invitation, saying it amounts to a vote of confidence in Mr Kagame at a time when he is under pressure over human rights violations.

The clash is the latest controversy to surround the Rwandan leader, who last year saw Britain suspend £16m of direct budgetary support to his government over “credible” reports that it was supporting the M23 rebel group responsible for atrocities in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The continuing dispute has done little to dent enthusiasm in financial and political circles for Rwanda’s continued economic growth, which will reach eight per cent this year. The country’s first ever sale of Eurobonds this month, securing $400m in funding for infrastructure and investment projects, was over-subscribed.

In a sign of thawing relations with Britain, which remains Rwanda’s largest single aid donor, the country’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, met the foreign secretary William Hague on Thursday as part of the visit to London by a sizable Rwandan delegation.

But critics said the decision by the Oxford Business Network for Africa, a student organisation within the business school, to make Mr Kagame the first recipient of its Distinction of Honour for African Growth risked tainting the university.

A petition calling on the student group and the business school to cancel the award had yesterday reached nearly 5,500 signatures. A counter-petition, applauding the award, had collected 2,300 signatures.

In a letter to the dean of the school, Professor Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding director of the university’s respected Refugee Studies Centre, said: “Bestowing any honour upon Mr Kagame at a time when he and his government are becoming increasingly isolated in the face of mounting evidence of their gross human rights violations represents a serious error of judgment.

“It positions the conference organizers and the University of Oxford against international efforts to pressure Mr Kagame to end his abuses and play a more constructive role in the achievement of African peace and development.”

A spokesman for a coalition of Congolese and Rwandan opposition groups, including Liberation, a Congolese women’s rights group, added: “It would be a disgrace for any university of Oxford’s calibre to ignore all the information in the public domain about Kagame’s crimes both on his people and abroad, and roll out a red carpet for him.”

The business school, ranked in the top ten outside the United States, underlined that the award was the decision of the student group but said it was allowing today’s event to go ahead because of its commitment to freedom of speech.

In a statement, the school said: “We prize open discussion and … we have not sought to prevent the students from extending this invitation. President Kagame’s presence in the Saïd Business School does not imply any endorsement by the school or the university of his views or actions. We are aware that President Kagame is considered by some to be a controversial figure.”

The student group defended its award, saying it was “in recognition of [Mr Kagame’s] work in opening and developing Rwanda’s economy” and there would be an opportunity for those critical of his government to raise questions.

The Rwandan High Commission in London did not respond to requests from The Independent to comment on the criticisms of Mr Kagame, who will also attend a Rwanda Day celebration for hundreds of members of the Rwandan diaspora while in London.

Rwanda has strongly denied any involvement in M23 and condemned a United Nations report chronicling links between the group and senior members of the Rwandan military. Critics have also accused Mr Kagame of trampling on media and political freedoms, maintaining a hostile environment for opposition politicians.

The Independent revealed that Scotland Yard also served notices on two UK-based dissidents  in 2011 warning them of “reliable intelligence” that their lives were under threat from assassins sent by the Rwandan authorities.

Britain earlier this year reinstated aid to Rwanda after halting direct budgetary support to the country last November because of the activities of M23. The £16m will be distributed in the form of direct payments to impoverished Rwandans and textbooks for schoolchildren.

The Independent understands there are no immediate plans to reinstate direct aid payments to the Rwandan government.

Source: The Indepandant


Controversy over visit of Rwandan President

9 May


By News Team

Unease has been expressed concerning g a scheduled visit of Rwandan president Paul Kagame to the Säid Business School, in light of numerous allegations accusing him of human rights violations.

Mr Kagame is due to arrive in Oxford on Friday 18thMay, when he will deliver a keynote address in the Oxford Africa Business Conference as well as being awarded the inaugural Distinction of Honour for African Growth Award.

The decision to give Mr Kagame this award in light the recent allegations has been questioned by a number of academics and students, who have started a campaign calling for the Säid Business School to cancel their engagement with him.

The Oxford Africa Business Conference is a student led organization and the decision to award Kagame the honour was taken by students of the Business School.

Salvator Cusimano, an M.Sc candidate in Refugee studies and leader of the campaign against Mr Kagame’s visit, commented: “As it stands, the University will appear to condone Mr. Kagame’s actions at a time when even the governments of the United States and the UK – Rwanda’s staunchest allies – have distanced themselves from Mr. Kagame and his government.

“As members of the Oxford community, we have a responsibility to use our influence to reverse the Business School’s serious error of judgment.

“We have a unique opportunity to promote human rights and defend our University’s reputation, and we must act. “

The campaign has sent a letter to the Dean of the Business School, the Vice-Chancellor of the University as well as the head of the African Studies Centre detailing why the visit should be cancelled, and has started an e-petition which has received over 260 signatures in its first 24 hours.

The Säid Business School has commented “We prize open discussion and in line with the University’s Freedom of Speech policy the students have invited President Kagame to speak and there will be the opportunity for those present to challenge him as appropriate.

“We are aware that President Kagame is a controversial figure and his presence here implies no endorsement of his views or actions. We have taken the view that it’s appropriate to ask him to address any issues that are put to him from a platform in Oxford.”

The controversy surrounding Kagame stems from the accusation that he has silenced opposition politicians and journalists support for rebels in DMC including the paramilitary M23 movement, and illegal exploitation of Congolese resources.

Dominic Burridge, a DPhil Candidate from Oriel College, commented: “The proposal from the Säid Business School to give a Distinction of Honor for African Growth Award to Paul Kagame cannot fall under the criticism of endorsing human rights violations per se because it is making an economic assessment only.

“In this way, the decision errs on the side of a greater tragedy. It is a categorical statement that, in Africa, economics should matter more than society and ethics, and that those who have been accused of brutalising regions through natural resource greed should be decorated as economic leaders.”

The conference website has ignored the controversies surrounding Kagame, and instead focused on some of the successes of his presidency, including the reconciliation after the Rwandan genocide and relatively strong growth in GDP.

As a result they have feted that Kagame’s presidency has “set Rwanda on its current course towards reconciliation, nation building and socioeconomic development.”

A letter delivered to the Säid Business School the campaign has argued: “Mr. Kagame’s Rwanda bears several disturbing similarities to Rwanda under the genocidal government.

“Reconciliation appears superficial: despite a law prohibiting speech with ethnic content – known as genocide ideology – the ethnic tensions that fuelled genocide in 1994 seem alive beneath the surface.”

Amongst the supporters of the campaign are a number of academics and students.  One academic said that is “concerning” that the conference organisers  have invited Kagame to the Säid Business School given the ongoing dispute concerning his human rights record in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.

Mr Kagame took office in 2000, after spending six years as Vice President in the years immediately after the Rwandan genocide, before winning democratic elections for the presidency in 2003 and 2010.

Source: The Oxford Student

Rwanda seeks to block talk of war crimes court at UN

15 Apr


By Tim Witcher (AFP)

UN Security Council members vote on sanctions against North Korea at the UN headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013 (AFP/File, Emmanuel Dunand)

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations has been hit by a second war crimes court dispute in a week with Rwanda trying to stop the UN Security Council praising the International Criminal Court.

The storm comes only days after the United States boycotted a UN General Assembly debate where Serbia’s president launched a fierce attack on international war crimes courts.

Rwanda is organizing a Security Council meeting Monday on conflict prevention in Africa when traditionally the 15-member body would release a statement.

The seven ICC members on the council — Argentina, Australia, Britain, France, Guatemala, Luxembourg and South Korea — insist on acknowledging the work of the court in ending impunity for war crimes, diplomats said.

Rwanda said it would not accept a statement which mentions the ICC which it has strongly criticized, according to diplomats.

Rwanda is the council president for April and its Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo will chair the meeting with UN leader Ban Ki-moon also attending. It is expected to highlight its own experiences in bringing stability since the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people died.

ICC members on the council wanted a statement which stresses “the important role of the International Criminal Court and reiterates the importance of cooperation with the court,” said a copy obtained by AFP.

“Rwanda said it would rather have no statement at all than one which mentions the ICC,” said a UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is a strange position for a country which is organizing the meeting.”

“There is a clear divide in the council, seven-seven, on the ICC issue,” Rwanda’s deputy UN ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe told AFP.

He said a compromise could be found before Monday’s meeting. But western diplomats said this was unlikely.

“Given their own tragic circumstances, this is just shameful behaviour by Rwanda,” said Richard Dicker, justice specialist for Human Rights Watch.

The rights group has has been strongly criticized by the Rwandan government for its reporting on the nation. Rwanda has also slammed the ICC and the international tribunal set up to handle its genocide cases.

About half of African nations are ICC signatories but Rwanda is among a hard core who complain about its tactics. “The ICC is a political court and we have never believed in its jurisdiction,” Rwanda’s foreign minister said last month.

Rwanda’s Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama took up the attacks against international tribunals at a UN General Assembly meeting on internationl justice on Wednesday.

Karugarama said his country felt “betrayed” by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda that handled major cases after the 1994 genocide.

The United States boycotted the General Assembly meeting which was marked by a fierce attack on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic. He said there was “a systematic atmosphere of lynch-mobbing of everything that is Serbian.”

The comments were strongly criticized by the European Union. And UN leader Ban strongly defended the growing role of international justice at the meeting.

The international tribunals have “ushered in an age of accountability,” Ban said.

Tensions over international justice dispute could worsen. The 20th anniversary of the Security Council’s call for the creation of the Yugoslavia tribunal is in May and some countries want a special anniversary meeting.

Source: AFP

DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda in ICC custody

22 Mar

22 March 2013

Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda has left Rwanda and is on the way to The Hague in the custody of the International Criminal Court.

Bosco Ntaganda, who handed himself in to the US embassy in Kigali, addresses a news conference in January 2009. Photograph: STR/Reuters

Gen Ntaganda, a key figure in the conflict in eastern DR Congo, surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali on Monday.

The ICC has charged him with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which Gen Ntaganda denies.

A date for his first appearance before judges is expected to be set soon.

Gen Ntaganda is the first suspect to surrender himself voluntarily to the ICC’s custody.

“This is a good day for victims in the DRC and for international justice,” said ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

“Today those who have long suffered at the hands of Bosco Ntaganda can look forward to the future and the prospect of justice secured.”

Known as “The Terminator”, Gen Ntaganda has fought for a number of rebel groups as well as the Congolese army.

Most recently, he was believed to be one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, which has been fighting government troops in the east.

He is accused of seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Ituri, DR Congo, between 2002-2003. The charges include enlisting child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery.

The DR Congo government has said that Gen Ntaganda, who comes from the Tutsi ethnic group, crossed into Rwanda on Saturday after he and some of his followers were defeated by a rival faction of the M23 group.

Eastern DR Congo has long suffered from high levels of violence linked to ethnic rivalries and competition for the control of mineral resources.

Source: BBC

DR Congo M23 rebels placed under UN sanctions

1 Jan

1 January 2013

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on leaders of the M23 rebel movement in DR Congo.

M23 rebels mutinied from the Congolese army in April in eastern DRC

Under the measures, those linked to the group will have their assets frozen and be barred from travel. Similar measures were taken against Rwandan FDLR rebels.

Made up of deserters from the army, the M23 captured Goma – on DRC’s eastern border with Rwanda – from government and UN troops last month.

It later withdrew from the city, following international condemnation.

The New Year’s Eve sanctions come the day before Rwanda joins the Security Council for a two-year term.

The UN and DR Congo government accuse Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels, an allegation they strongly deny.

Rwanda is widely seen as having backed armed groups in the east of DR Congo as a way to fight Hutu rebels who fled there after the genocide of the 1990s.

It has been accused of using militias as proxies in an on-going battle for the region, which is rich in minerals. The Rwandan government strenuously denies the accusations.

The M23 rebellion started when a militia that had been absorbed into the Congolese army mutinied and went on the rampage in the eastern part of the country.

Since then nearly half a million people have been displaced by fighting between the M23 and the army.

Source: BBC


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

Rwandan Ghosts

4 Dec


Benghazi isn’t the biggest blight on Susan Rice’s record.


GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Televised comments made by Amb. Susan Rice shortly after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi have dominated the debate over her probable nomination for secretary of state. This is a bit surprising, since it’s clear that she played only a marginal role in the affair and appears to have just been reading from the briefing notes provided. It’s also unfortunate that the “scandal” has crowded out a healthy discussion of her two-decade record as U.S. diplomat and policymaker prior to Sept. 2012 — and drawn attention away from actions for which she bears far greater responsibility than Benghazi.

Her role in shaping U.S. policy toward Central Africa should feature high on this list. Between 1993 and 2001, she helped form U.S. responses to the Rwandan genocide, events in post-genocide Rwanda, mass violence in Burundi, and two ruinous wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She did not get off to an auspicious start. During her first year in government, there was a vigorous debate within the Clinton administration over whether to describe the killing in Rwanda as a “genocide,” a designation that would necessitate an international response under the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention. In a now infamous incident from that April, which was reported in her now State Department colleague Samantha Power’s book, A Problem from HellRice — at the time still a junior official at the National Security Council — stunned her colleagues by asking during a meeting, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional midterm] election?” She later regretted this language, telling Power, “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.” And she has indeed emerged as one of the more forceful advocates for humanitarian intervention in U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, she has also often seemed to overcompensate for her earlier misstep on Rwanda with an uncritical embrace of the the country’s new leaders.

Rwanda was the most compelling, moving story out of the bunch. After a cataclysm of Dantean proportions — 800,000 people massacred in a hundred days — Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front was able to reduce crime in the country to the lowest levels anywhere in Africa; rebuild its economy, making it one of the easiest countries on the continent to do business; and pioneer new ways of managing health care and dealing with genocide-related crimes. The word “phoenix” often comes up in conversations about Rwanda, and deservedly so.

It was in this context that Rwanda’s invasion of its much larger neighbor should be seen. In 1996, with the support of Uganda and a slew of other African countries, Rwanda invaded the Congo (then called Zaire) to root out the Hutu militias that had attempted to exterminate the Tutsi population of Rwanda two years previously from the refugee camps where they had fled and were reportedly regrouping. After dismantling these camps, Rwandan forces along with Congolese rebels pushed all the way to the capital and overthrew longtime strongman Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997.

Laurent Kabila, the president put in power by the rebellion, quickly fell out with his Rwandan backers — when he asked them to leave, they launched a new rebellion in the East, while Kabila recruited the very rebels that Rwanda had initially invaded the country to crush. On the face of things, Rwanda once again had good justification for its actions — who could begrudge them the protection of their borders and citizens?

This facile truth, however, obfuscates the messy reality of the Rwandan intervention. Earlier in 1996, Rwandan troops had carried out vicious revenge massacres against civilian Hutu refugees who fled into the Congolese jungles, killing thousands, according to a detailed U.N. investigation andreports in the U.S. press at the time. But the United States, along with other governments, focused its opprobrium on Kabila, withholding aid to Congo and demanding an investigation. There was no official sanction of Rwanda. During this period, Susan Rice was first senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council and then assistant secretary of state for Africa. When a U.N. investigation into these massacres was concluded in 2010, Susan Rice tried to block its publication. According to a senior official involved in the report, “she didn’t see how opening up old wounds would help.”

Perhaps the most damning anecdote — told by French academic Gérard Prunier and confirmed byNew York Times journalist Howard French — was of a private converation Rice had after her first trip to Central Africa around this time: “Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the United States] have to do is look the other way.”

Rwanda’s means-justifies-the-end logic also led it astray during the second Congo war, which began in 1998 when Laurent Kabila fell out with Rwanda, asking them to leave and eventually allying with some of the troops who had carried out the Rwandan genocide. Increasingly, as the war — the deadliest in modern African history — became more costly, Rwandan commanders became more interested in the spoils of the eastern Congo. Three consecutive U.N. reports have documented their profiteering. As Kabila pumped weapons and ammunition into various armed factions in eastern Congo — including to the anti-government Rwandan rebels who hadn’t been dislodged by the first intervention — Rwanda responded with a brutal counterinsurgency operation that killed thousands of Congolese and plunged the region into a humanitarian disaster that probably killed millions. Kabila doubtless deserves a fair part of the blame for the catastrophe, but given its generous bilateral and multilateral aid, the U.S. government was in a good position to exercise pressure on Rwanda. Yet, as one official in the administration told me: “The [Clinton] administration never officially condemned Rwandan actions in the eastern Congo. Not once.” When asked what role Rice played in this decision, he simply said: “She was assistant secretary of state for Africa.”

Rice has repeatedly been on the record rejecting allegations of favoritism. In testimony before Congress several weeks after the 1998 war began, she said: “Mr. Chairman, let me be clear: the United States in no way supported, encouraged, or condoned the intervention of Rwandan or Ugandan forces in the Congo, as some have suggested. This is a specious and ridiculous accusation that I want to lay to rest once and for all.” To be fair, while she had applauded Kigali for its economic and social progress, she had also admonished it for its internal political repression.

The question is not whether Rwanda is the Beelzebub or the savior of Central Africa; it is neither. 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. To suggest, as Howard Wolpe, the U.S. special envoy to the region did to me, reflecting on this period years later, “We just didn’t know what was going on, most of the reports about abuses were coming from the Catholic Church and we didn’t know what to make of them,” is not convincing. A complex tragedy deserved a nuanced response.

Until recently, proponents of constructive engagement with Rwanda could brush aside these concerns by spinning a plausible success story. But when it comes to Rwandan domestic politics, it is clear that Rice feels the positives outweigh the negatives. In a speech at the Kigali Institute of Technology last year, she said: “Over time, you have implemented enlightened gender policies, advanced new development models, insisted on clean government, and made forward-looking investments. To many Americans and other foreigners, what you have achieved in 17 short years is impressive. It gives us hope and new models.”

Even in Rwanda’s relations with its troublesome neighbor, one might have forgiven Rice for detecting a promising trend. After all, in 2001, Rwandan leaders withdrew all of their troops from the eastern Congo, while their Congolese rebel allies joined a power-sharing government in Kinshasa in 2003. This fragile arrangement took a hit in 2006 when a new rebellion, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), swept across the region, but almost as soon as Rwanda was accused of backing the rebels by the United Nations, a peace deal was struck between Kinsasha and Kigali, integrating the rebels into the national Congolese army. The region appeared to be inching toward stability.

However, events this year have shattered this already shaky narrative. Since April, another rebellion has bared its teeth in eastern Congo. With hefty backing from Rwanda — as has been documented byU.N. investigatorsHuman Rights Watch, and my own research — the so-called M23 have expanded their area of control, taking control of Goma, the largest trade hub in the region, in October. Over 700,000 people now have been displaced by this fighting.

If it was difficult before, now it is almost impossible to justify this belligerence from Kagame’s government. The threat of Rwandan rebels — the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who seek to overthrow the government in Kigali — is vastly diminished now, and the M23 has less support locally, even among the Congolese populations of Rwandan descent, than previous rebellions. And while there is no doubt that the Congolese government is corrupt and short on vision and leadership, there is little evidence that an armed rebellion will change that.

And yet, some officials in the U.S. government, led by Rice, continue to give Rwanda the benefit of the doubt. When a United Nations investigation submitted its report on the conflict to the U.N. Security Council in June, providing copious evidence of Rwandan involvement, the ambassadorblocked its publication, insisting the Rwandan government be given a right of reply first (the investigators say they had tried to provide this, but had been rebuffed by officials in Kigali). It was eventually published, but Rice had signalled her sympathies in the matter. Several months later, Rice allegedly removed language from a Security Council resolution explicitly citing Rwanda and Uganda’s well-documented support to the M23, replacing it with the anodyne phrase, “outside support.”

According to some of her colleagues, Rice continues to weigh in on policy toward the region, questioning how much the administration should pressure Rwanda — according to former colleages, she feels that more can be achieved by constructive engagement, not public censure. An official in the government familiar with the internal debates told me, “Her questioning of the proof of Rwanda’s support for the M23 has likely diluted any tough message from other senior U.S. diplomats against Kigali. The Rwandans are paying attention to this, and feel with her support any criticism will be minimal.”

The diplomats and officials interviewed for this article left no doubt that Rice is bright, ambitious, and extremely hard-working. But in her reluctance to criticize the Rwandan government’s involvement in the Congo, she has also demonstrated critical lapses in judgment. Senators would do better to scrutinize this history, rathering than focusing on the Benghazi attacks.

Source: FP



The Conflict in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: A Conversation with Steve Hege

3 Dec

The Conflict in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: A Conversation with Steve Hege

Rwanda ‘wanted new DR Congo rebel front’

29 Nov

29 November 2012

Rwandan support for rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo may be more widespread than previously believed, the BBC has found.

Ex-rebel Bestfriend Ndozi said their orders were to ‘demoralise the government’

Kigali has already rejected UN accusations that it is backing the M23 rebel group which recently captured the strategic eastern city of Goma.

Two ex-rebel fighters told the BBC they were offered money from Rwanda to set up a new front further south.

More than 500,000 people have fled seven months of fighting in the east.

Rwanda has previously backed armed groups in eastern DR Congo as a way of fighting Hutu militias who fled there after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people died.

The M23, who like Rwanda’s leaders are mostly ethnic Tutsis, has also denied it is funded by Rwanda.

‘Co-ordination order’


BBC East Africa correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse spoke to two former rebel fighters in Bukavu, which lies on the southern tip of Lake Kivu, some 200km (125 miles) from Goma.

They were from DR Congo’s minority Tutsi ethnic group and said they had joined the rebel Congolese Movement for Change in July to fight for a better life for the people of the east.

They had spent several months in the bush fighting the army, thinking they were part of a home-grown movement.

“Then our chairman of this movement came with a delegation of the government of Rwanda, saying that the movement has been changed, we have to follow the instructions of the Rwanda government,” Capt Okra Rudahirwa told the BBC.

He said he and his men were given monthly supplies of cash – sometimes as much as $20,000 (£12,500) dollars, with which they bought food, uniforms and medicines.

His commander, Col Besftriend Ndozi, told the BBC they were also put in contact with a senior M23 commander, a Col Manzi, who urged them to co-ordinate their efforts.

“Manzi told us that the Rwandan army had given him the authority to support us and to command us. He ordered us to continue our fight, just as M23 were doing in the north, so that together we would demoralise the government,” Col Ndozi said.

The men said they decided to abandon the fight once they realised the scale of Rwandan involvement.

The Rwandan government has declined to comment on the allegations.

But many of the details of this account, including dates and names of intermediaries, tally with separate research carried out by the UN, our correspondent says.

A recent report by UN experts said the M23’s de facto chain of command culminated with Rwanda’s defence minister.

It also accused neighbouring Uganda of aiding the rebels.

Kampala has denied the allegations and has been mediating over the last week following the M23’s capture of Goma.

Its military commander, Sultani Makenga, has said he will withdraw his forces to a 20km (12-mile) buffer zone around Goma in the coming days.

The group mutinied from the army in April, saying it was because a 2009 deal to end a previous uprising by a Tutsi militia had not been fulfilled.

Source: BBC