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The Rwandan Genocide was 19 years ago. Though the genocide ended in 1994, its consequences are still deeply felt today. For myself and other survivors, those memories are ever present. We have never forgotten the horrors we lived through as unimaginable violence overtook our country. We grapple with mixed emotions, trying to process and come to terms with today’s reality. Our struggle has evolved from physical survival to that of the emotional turmoil caused by our trauma. Some days, we are grateful to be alive, to breathe, and to feel. Other days are fraught with anger, guilt, and sadness. We wrestle with endless, unanswerable questions. Many days we feel unworthy to be alive. We cannot comprehend why we are still alive and why many others perished. Why me, we wonder? Why not my family or friends? We wonder why we had to witness their demise and are angry because we felt so helpless. Try as we might, we can never reverse the darkest moments of our lives. We cannot undo the damage, no matter how hard we wish we could. The genocide was real, it happened, and we live with its consequences to this very day. I was a powerless child, but still, what if there was something I could have done? And what if it happened again?
It is precisely this fear of another genocide carried out by the perpetrators of the genocide of 1994 that motivated the current Rwandan government’s first invasion of Congo in 1996. It is this fear that has sustained the Rwandan government’s justification for repeated intervention in the Congo over the last 16 years. And it is precisely why the world continues to live
with the consequences of the Rwandan Genocide. Even though as survivors of the Rwandan Genocide we understood the security the Rwandan government sought when they first invaded Congo, we did not sanction the human catastrophe they triggered. We did not sanction the torture, rape, and possible genocide of women, children, and the elderly that were targeted in Congo when the Rwandan Government sent troops inside of Congo for ‘our protection’. And we certainly did not sanction the government of Rwanda’s ‘Six-Day War’ against Uganda over a diamond mine inside Congo, leaving significant numbers of Congolese people dead, injured, and displaced. And even now, we do not sanction the violation of the United Nations arms embargo, undermining of peace deals and processes, and commanding proxy rebel groups who kill, torture, rape, and displace people, while illegally capturing cities in Congo. And most of all, we do not sanction any attempt to annex any part of Congo in our name.
Since the first invasion, more than five million people have died in Congo, making it the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. And many of those deaths lie at the hands of the Rwandan government. These are hard truths we must swallow. Not only must we come to terms with crimes that were committed against us, we must now deal with crimes committed in our names. These crimes are not simply committed in our names, the survivors of the Rwandan Genocide, but in the name of the entire global community that stands still, providing tacit approval. They are also committed for the same international community that justifies, excuses, and protects the Rwandan government, as it continues to wreak havoc in the Congo. Though we could not stop or stand up against the violent acts that were committed against us during the Rwandan genocide, we can and we must stop and stand up against crimes committed against others, crimes committed in our name in Congo.
After sixteen years of invasion and intervention through proxy groups, it is still difficult for people in the international community to accept that the Rwandan government is guilty of anything but justified intervention in Congo. But members of the international community must look past the glowing economic reviews, look past the constant denials and well-oiled public relations machine, and deal with the hard truths. The Rwandan government is committing unspeakable crimes against humanity in the Congo under false pretenses, and we must stop it. U.S. President Barack Obama understood this when as senator, he authored and passed into law the Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act, PL 109-456 in 2006 that called for accountability for those of Congo’s neighbors that destabilize the country. And he understood it last summer when he cut $200,000 in military aid to Rwanda. And he understood it last December when he personally made a call to Rwandan President Paul Kagame and asked him to cease support of the M23 rebel group, currently wreaking havoc in Congo.
Despite all these steps from the Obama administration to address the conflict, the Rwandan government continues to relentlessly support, arm, and command rebel groups such as the M23, while these groups continue to commit war crimes and human rights violations in Congo. It is precisely because we refuse to swallow these hard truths that the Rwandan government continues to commit such atrocities unchallenged and with impunity. If we can muster the courage to face these truths, we can impose accountability measures consistent with the degree of suffering and instability wrought by the Rwandan government against the Congolese people. We can and we should sanction and impose travel bans on and freeze the assets of identified Rwandan military personnel responsible for committing atrocities in Congo. And we should cut or withhold military aid to a dangerous regime that wages and sponsors war and conflict in the territory of another nation.
Survivors of the Rwandan Genocide mourned and commemorate the 19th anniversary of the genocide this past spring. As we commemorate our loved ones, we continue to grapple with traumas of our past, and issues of our present. Our responsibility lies in what we do with our future, and how we stand up to evil perpetrated against our neighbors. We, along with the rest of the world, must no longer refuse to swallow difficult and painful truths, and dedicate consistent focus and action towards resolving the deadliest conflict since the Second World War in Congo.
* Alice Gatebuke is a Rwandan genocide and war survivor, Cornell University graduate, and a human rights activist. She is a co-founder of African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN).
Human and Labor Rights Lawyer
With the takeover of the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“Congo”) last year by M23 rebels, and with Rwanda receiving a seat on the UN Security Council last year as well, I wanted to talk to Rwanda’s most famous son, Paul Rusesabagina, about Rwanda’s role in supporting the M23 militia. Paul Rusesabagina was famously portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda by Don Cheadle. My first question to Paul was about the criminal charges brought against him in 2010 by the Rwandan government for his questioning the role of Paul Kagame (now Rwandan president) and his RPF forces in the Rwandan civil war and in the Congo. The government accused him of allegedly advocating a “double genocide” theory.
PR: This is what happens to any person who has really been advocating about the genocide that happened in 1994. I was on the inside, and I sensitized the whole world. I called for help. I tried to help people during that period of time. And afterward, I still fought for the truth to come out until I noticed that that was not what the Rwandan government wanted to do. They wanted power — not shared — and they wanted to demonize the rest of the population so that the army appeared to be the only nice people. For that I was not considered a nice guy. I had no choice but to go into exile. In exile, I was the one who spoke real loudly about the Rwanda genocide — the Rwandan genocide; not two genocides … If we Rwandans don’t reconcile, and sit down honestly and talk, then we might see history repeating itself because the Rwandan government as of now also has been involved in many massacres. This is what I talk about. The Tutsi government has been involved in many massacres. And they are still doing it. So that’s what they have been doing in the Congo. If you look at the situation as it has been analyzed, for example, in the Mapping Report which you may be aware of. People analyzing that are recording a genocide.
DK: I think that is right. You are referring to the United Nations Mapping Reportwhich shows that in fact huge amounts of fatalities in terms of where Rwanda had invaded and also where they are supporting the M23 rebels if I’m not mistaken. And I see numbers of close to 6 million dead as a result of that activity.
PR: Actually M23 is not the first militia proxy army to be helped and funded by the Rwandan government; it is one among many others. Since 1996 when the Rwandan army invaded the Congo, they have killed more than 300,000 refugees — Hutu refugees. And they killed them because they were Hutu refugees. And also, they have killed millions of Congolese … Rwanda has provided these proxy armies, including now the M23, with munitions, arms and uniforms. And the result of this is that more than 6 or 7 million people have been killed. Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped. Babies have been butchered. This has been done by [Rwandan President Paul] Kagame in the fields by proxy militas.
DK: And what is the U.S. role in all of this?
PR: Well, all I can say is that Paul Kagame was, how do I say it, “our guy” if you can say it that way. He was trained in intelligence here in the United States in Fort Levenworth [in 1990 before the genocide], and he became an ally to the United States.
[Editor’s Note: To read more about how Paul Kagame is “our guy,” Read here].
DK: Did the U.S. approve of his invasion into the Congo in 1996?
PR: I can’t say they approved, but still no one disapproved.
DK: And, they knew he was going to do it, because he told the world he was going to invade.
PR: Yes, since 1996 through 2012, for more than 15 years, no one has disapproved, so they have approved.
DK: Was placing Rwanda on the Security Council (“SC”) last year ratification of their conduct?
PR: Let’s say that this is upsetting. This is upsetting for the cause of human rights. I can’t say what all human rights organizations would say, but I can tell you, someone who has been invading neighbors as Rwanda has, and who has been raping the women of their neighbors, I don’t see Rwanda as teaching any lessons of conflict resolution. If you go online and see how many babies are being butchered, if you see how women are being raped, if you see how many young boys are being killed, this [placing Rwanda on the SC] is like a lion guarding the cattle.
[Paul talks at length about his work on fighting inequality in Rwanda, and then stuns me with the following statement]:
PR: And, the governing elite has a special program of sterilizing men so that they don’t produce.
DK: Excuse me, did you say sterilizing men?
PR: Yes, sterilizing Hutu men. Yes, and what did you call this? Is this not a genocide? This is not the people’s choice; it is the government’s choice.
DK: I read somewhere that you think there needs to be a new truth tribunal in Rwanda. And, why is this, what was wrong with the first international criminal tribunal on Rwanda? What were the shortcomings there?
PR: This is the problem. In 1990, the RPF rebels, composed almost entirely of of Tutsis living in exile, invaded Rwanda from Uganda. So, when they invaded Rwanda, there was a civil war for four years. In that civil war, that army, those rebels, we called them rebels at that time, were killing each and every person, every Hutu on their way. People fled their homes. They were occupying slowly. And, by 1993, early 1994, before the genocide, we had about 1.2 million displaced people who were surrounding Kigali the capital city, having to bathe in town, going to sleep in the open air in camps, dying every day, hungry. So, in 1994, these rebels, who had already signed a peace accord with the government, killed the president. That is a fact which almost everyone knows. So, when they killed him, the genocide broke out. Now, we were in a civil war where civilians were being killed by both sides. The civil war never stopped. The genocide happened within a civil war. Both sides killed, and now, afterwards, in July 1994, when the period of the genocide ended, after three months, 90 days, the Tutsi rebels took power. They took power in blood from both sides. And, the international community gathered the United Nations, and they decided to put up a tribunal for Rwanda. That tribunal was supposed to try and convict Rwandans who killed Rwandans for a period of time from January 1 through December 31 of that year . From January 1 through December 31 of that year, I saw myself with my own eyes, this [RPF] army tying people with their hands behind their backs and beating their chests, breaking it, throwing them into containers, burning their bodies, and spraying their ashes into the national game preserve. I am a witness to this. But, because the Hutus lost the war, they are the only ones being tried and convicted. So, the international tribunal, the international criminal court for Rwanda, is a court for the losers. But, both have been killing civilians. They say that the Hutus committed the genocide, but the Tutsis also committed war crimes, crimes against humanity.
DK: I’ve seen a couple of reports saying that more Hutus were killed during that period than Tutsis; is that possible?
PR: Yes. That is correct. Because Hutus killed Hutus, and Hutus killed Tutsis, and Tutsis killed Hutus exclusively. But the killing of Hutus never ended. I’ll give you an example. On April 17, 18, 19 and 20, 1995, the new army, the Tutsi army that took power in 1994, killed, destroyed actually, a displaced camp within the country by bombardment, helicopter bombardment, and, machine guns on the ground. At that time, in that camp, we had 8,500 people, Hutus only. So, of those people, how many were killed, how many escaped? That is the problem. So, the killing never stopped. And, what took place in the Congo was something else.
DK: What you’re saying, Paul, jives with things that I’ve read as well. So, it is interesting that at the end of the movie, Hotel Rwanda, it really leaves the impression, and really more than that, it really says that once the Tutsis took power, everything was fine, the genocide ends. I would think you would have some disagreement with the end of that movie.
PR: Well, the movie is something different. And, I would tell you that I did not want to portray the genocide as such, but I wanted to teach a lesson. And, this lesson was to young people on how to make a difference. That was my mission. Many companies like HBO wanted to portray my story, but we could not agree on how to make it. So, the movie had to have, had to show, a kind of small island of peace in a kind of sea of fire, so that people can see something that was supposed to be better, nicer. This is why you see it that way. The ending was supposed to be a happy ending. And, I did not leave Rwanda, as you see in the movie, with the Canadian general telling me to go to Tanzania. I did not leave the country, but the movie had to end somewhere anyway. I did not leave the country until September 6, 1996 when I was almost assassinated myself. When I was almost assassinated myself, I said that is enough, I’ve had enough, and I decided to leave the country in exile.
DK: So, it’s a Hollywood movie, so it needed a Hollywood ending.
PR: Well, I think that the Hollywood ending is a better message to the world than that the massacres went on and on and on.
DK: But that is your perception — that they did go on and on and on, really?
PR: If we see what is going on in the Congo, what do we think they are doing within their own country? Their main objective has always been to take the international community’s attention from the real target which is Rwanda to a different place. That does not mean that Rwanda is safe; that does not mean that the killings have ended in the country.
DK: I will say, Paul, that from a quick Google search, it appears that your willingness to say these things has drawn a lot of fire for you. I mean you could have retired with that Academy Award nomination for Don Cheadle and been a happy guy but you’ve, you know, the things you are saying are good, you speak the truth, but it’s very controversial, and I’m sure it has not been easy for you.
PR: I know when I started talking out it was around 2004, the Rwandan Patriotic propaganda campaign was so powerful that they have convinced each and everyone, listen guys, we are the good guys, and everyone else are the bad guys. They have travelled all over the world to convince the world of that. So to get people from the international community on my side took a while and a lot of energy you can imagine.
During the genocide, there were 10,000 people being killed every day. You can imagine what happens after three months, almost 15 percent of the population were already dead. No one can understand that.
DK: You really could have rested on your laurels. You could have gone around high-fiving everyone, but instead you’ve continued the work, really treading some controversial waters, and I really applaud you for doing that.
PR: If I had been willing to sit down and shut up, yes, I would maybe be a better-off man. But, I would still have my conscience which would tell me otherwise. My conscience would not agree.
Very insightful New York Times story about Susan Rice and Rwanda.
WASHINGTON — Almost two decades after the Clinton administration failed to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda, the United States is coming under harsh criticism for not moving forcefully in another African crisis marked by atrocities and brutal killings, this time in Rwanda’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and a leading contender to succeed Mrs. Clinton, in the administration’s failure to take action against the country they see as a major cause of the Congolese crisis, Rwanda.
Specifically, these critics — who include officials of human rights organizations and United Nations diplomats — say the administration has not put enough pressure on Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, to end his support for the rebel movement whose recent capture of the strategic city of Goma in Congo set off a national crisis in a country that has already lost more than three million people in more than a decade of fighting. Rwanda’s support is seen as vital to the rebel group, known as M23.
Support for Mr. Kagame and the Rwandan government has been a matter of American foreign policy since he led the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory over the incumbent government in July 1994, effectively ending the Rwandan genocide. But according to rights organizations and diplomats at the United Nations, Ms. Rice has been at the forefront of trying to shield the Rwandan government, and Mr. Kagame in particular, from international censure, even as several United Nations reports have laid the blame for the violence in Congo at Mr. Kagame’s door.
A senior administration official said Saturday that Ms. Rice was not freelancing, and that the American policy toward Rwanda and Congo was to work with all the countries in the area for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
Aides to Ms. Rice acknowledge that she is close to Mr. Kagame and that Mr. Kagame’s government was her client when she worked at Intellibridge, a strategic analysis firm in Washington. Ms. Rice, who served as the State Department’s top African affairs expert in the Clinton administration, worked at the firm with several other former Clinton administration officials, including David J. Rothkopf, who was an acting under secretary in the Commerce Department; Anthony Lake, Mr. Clinton’s national security adviser; and John M. Deutch, who was director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Payton Knopf, a spokesman for Ms. Rice, initially declined to comment on whether her work with Rwanda at Intellibridge affected her dealings with the country in her present job as an ambassador. But on Monday, Mr. Knopf said: “Ambassador Rice’s brief consultancy at Intellibridge has had no impact on her work at the United Nations. She implements the agreed policy of the United States at the U.N.”
Two months ago, at a meeting with her French and British counterparts at the French Mission to the United Nations, according to a Western diplomat with knowledge of the meeting, Ms. Rice objected strongly to a call by the French envoy, Gerard Araud, for explicitly “naming and shaming” Mr. Kagame and the Rwandan government for its support of M23, and to his proposal to consider sanctions to pressure Rwanda to abandon the rebel group.
“Listen Gerard,” she said, according to the diplomat. “This is the D.R.C. If it weren’t the M23 doing this, it would be some other group.” The exchange was reported in Foreign Policy magazine last week.
A few weeks later, Ms. Rice again stepped in to protect Mr. Kagame. After delaying for weeks the publication of a United Nations report denouncing Rwanda’s support for the M23 and opposing any direct references to Rwanda in United Nations statements and resolutions on the crisis, Ms. Rice intervened to water down a Security Council resolution that strongly condemned the M23 for widespread rape, summary executions and recruitment of child soldiers. The resolution expressed “deep concern” about external actors supporting the M23. But Ms. Rice prevailed in preventing the resolution from explicitly naming Rwanda when it was passed on Nov. 20.
Mr. Knopf, the spokesman for Ms. Rice, said the view of the United States was that delicate diplomatic negotiations under way among Rwanda, Congo and Uganda could have been adversely affected if the Security Council resolution explicitly named Rwanda. “Working with our colleagues in the Security Council, the United States helped craft a strong resolution to reinforce the delicate diplomatic effort then getting under way in Kampala,” Mr. Knopf said.
The negotiations subsequently fell apart, and the M23 continued to make gains in eastern Congo. Last week, the M23 withdrew from Goma but left behind agents and remain in range of the city.
Mr. Knopf declined to confirm or deny the account offered by the United Nations diplomat about the conversation between Ms. Rice and the French ambassador. But he said that “Ambassador Rice has frequently and publicly condemned the heinous abuses perpetrated by the M23 in eastern Congo,” adding that the United States was “leading efforts to end the rebellion, including by leveling U.S. and U.N. sanctions against M23 leaders and commanders.”
Ms. Rice’s critics say that is the crux of the problem with the American response to the crisis in Congo: it ignores, for the most part, the role played by Mr. Kagame in backing the M23, and, as it happens, risks repeating the mistakes of the genocide by not erring on the side of aggressive action. “I fear that our collective regret about not stopping the Rwandan genocide, felt by all of us who worked for the Clinton administration, led to policies that overlooked more waves of atrocities in the Congo, which we should equally regret,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, who has worked closely with Ms. Rice both in the Clinton administration and after.
“For almost 20 years now, the premise of U.S. policy has been that quiet persuasion is the best way to restrain Rwanda from supporting war criminals in the Congo,” Mr. Malinowski said. “It might have made sense once, but after years of Rwanda doing what the U.S. has urged it not to do, contributing to massive civilian deaths, and ripping up U.N. resolutions that the U.S. sponsored, the time to speak plainly and impose penalties has come.”
When Mrs. Clinton appeared before reporters on Nov. 28 to talk about the M23’s seizure of Goma, she sprinkled her talking points with a demand that the rebel group withdraw, calling the humanitarian impact “devastating,” with 285,000 people forced to flee their homes, health workers abducted and killed, and civil workers under threat of death. But she made no mention of Rwanda’s role backing the rebel group, limiting her inclusion of Rwanda to a mention of negotiations with Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo to try to get a cease-fire.
“The M23 would probably no longer exist today without Rwandan support,” said Jason K. Stearns, author of “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of Congo and the Great War of Africa.” “It stepped in to prevent the movement from collapsing and has been providing critical military support for every major offensive.”
Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, noted that the United States cut a portion of its military financing for Rwanda — around $250,000. But the Rwandan military continues to receive substantial American training, equipment and financial help. In an interview, he said, “There is not an ounce of difference between myself and Ambassador Rice on this issue,” adding that quiet diplomacy was better than publicly calling out Mr. Kagame.
Ms. Rice, who has been at the eye of a political storm over her portrayal of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in recent days, she seems to have tried to publicly distance herself from the M23 — although still not from Mr. Kagame. On Dec. 3, she posted on her Facebook page: “The U.S. condemns in the strongest terms horrific M23 violence. Any and all external support has to stop,” in a reference to action in the Senate.
Her posting drew immediate responses. “Condemn the rape but don’t name the rapist?” one of them said. “What kind of Justice is that?
Rwandan support for rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo may be more widespread than previously believed, the BBC has found.
Kigali has already rejected UN accusations that it is backing the M23 rebel group which recently captured the strategic eastern city of Goma.
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.
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.
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.
M23 rebels are due to withdraw from recently captured towns
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 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.
M23 rebels in Congo advance to the doorstep of provincial capital, Goma
Rebels in Congo Reach Door of Goma
By MELANIE GOUBY
The Associated Press
A Rwandan-backed rebel group advanced to within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of Goma, a crucial provincial capital in eastern Congo, marking the first time that rebels have come this close since 2008.
Congolese army spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli said the fighting has been going on since 6 a.m. Sunday and the front line has moved to just a few kilometers (miles) outside the city. After more than nine hours of violent clashes the two sides took a break, with M23 rebels establishing a checkpoint just 100 meters (yards) away from one held by the military in the village of Munigi, exactly 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) outside the Goma city line.
Contacted by telephone on the front line, M23 rebel spokesman Col. Vianney Kazarama said the group will spend the night in Goma.
“We are about to take the town. We will spend the night in Goma tonight,” said Kazarama. “We are confident that we can take Goma and then our next step will be to take Bukavu,” he said mentioning the capital of the next province to the south.
The M23 rebel group is made up of soldiers from a now-defunct rebel army, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, a group made-up primarily of fighters from the Tutsi ethnic group, the ethnicity that was targeted in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. In 2008, the CNDP led by Rwandan commando Gen. Laurent Nkunda marched his soldiers to the doorstep of Goma, abruptly stopping just before taking the city.
In the negotiations that followed and which culminated in a March 23, 2009 peace deal, the CNDP agreed to disband and their fighters joined the national army of Congo. They did not pick up their arms again until this spring, when hundreds of ex-CNDP fighters defected from the army in April, claiming that the Congolese government had failed to uphold their end of the 2009 agreement.
Reports, including one by the United Nations Group of Experts, have shown that M23 is actively being backed by Rwanda and the new rebellion is likely linked to the fight to control Congo’s rich mineral wealth.
The latest fighting broke out Thursday and led to the deaths of 151 rebels and two soldiers. On Saturday U.N. attack helicopters targeted M23 positions in eastern Congo.
Also on Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had called Rwandan President Paul Kagame “to request that he use his influence on the M23 to help calm the situation and restrain M23 from continuing their attack,” according to peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous who spoke at the U.N. headquarters in New York on Saturday.
North Kivu governor Julien Paluku said Saturday that the Congolese army had earlier retreated from Kibumba, which is 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Goma, after thousands of Rwandans, who he says were backing the rebels, attacked early Saturday.
“Rwandan forces bombarded our positions in Kibumba since early this morning and an estimated 3,500 crossed the border to attack us,” he said Saturday.
In downtown Goma, panicked residents had come out to try to get more information on what was happening. A 45-year-old mother of five said that she has nowhere to go.
“I don’t really know what is happening, I’ve seen soldiers and tanks in the streets and that scares me,” said Imaculee Kahindo. Asked if she planned to leave the city, she said: “What can we do? I will probably hide in my house with my children.”
Hamuli, the spokesman for the Congolese army, denied reports that soldiers were fleeing.
In 2008 as Nkunda’s CNDP rebels amassed at the gates of Goma, reporters inside the city were able to see Congolese soldiers running in the opposite direction, after having abandoned their posts. The Congolese army is notoriously dysfunctional with soldiers paid only small amounts, making it difficult to secure their loyalties during heavy fighting.
“We are fighting 3 kilometers from Goma, just past the airport. And our troops are strong enough to resist the rebels,” said Hamuli. “We won’t let the M23 march into our town,” he said. Asked if his troops were fleeing, he added: “These are false rumors. We are not going anywhere.”
U.N. peacekeeping chief Ladsous said that the rebels were very well-equipped, including with night vision equipment allowing them to fight at night.
Reports by United Nations experts have accused Rwanda, as well as Uganda, of supporting the rebels. Both countries strongly deny any involvement and Uganda said if the charges continue it will pull its peacekeeping troops out of Somalia, where they are playing an important role in pushing out the Islamist extremist rebels.
The U.N. Security Council called for an immediate stop to the violence following a two-hour, closed-door emergency meeting. The council said it would add sanctions against M23 rebels and demanded that rebels immediately stop their advance toward the provincial capital of Goma.
“We must stop the M23″ because Goma’s fall “would, inevitably, turn into a humanitarian crisis,” said France’s U.N. Ambassador, Gerard Araud. He added that U.N. officials would decide in the coming days which M23 leaders to target for additional sanctions.
Associated Press writer Maria Sanminiatelli at the United Nations and Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.
Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi have been suspected of military involvement in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebels are fighting government troops.
A leaked UN report recently accused Rwanda’s Defence Minister James Kabarebe of being the “de facto” commander of M23 rebels battling DR Congo government forces in eastern Nord-Kivu province. It also accuses Rwanda of breaking an arms embargo to supply M23 with military support, intelligence and weapons.
Rwanda has vehemently denied the allegations, dismissing them as a “determined political campaign opposed to resolving the true causes of the conflict” in eastern DR Congo.
Several major international donors have suspended aid over the claims.
Rwanda sent troops into the DR Congo in 1996 and again in 1998. It has also previously supported various proxies in DR Congo, while normally denying any involvement with them.
From 1996 to 1998, Rwanda backed Laurent Kabila’s rebels as they ousted the late dictator of the then Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko.
After falling out with Kabila, Rwanda re-invaded Congo in 1998, quickly getting sucked into a second major conflict in the country that lasted until 2003.
In 2001, the United Nations accused Rwanda and its proxies of systematically looting DR Congo’s vast mineral wealth.
In 2008, Rwanda was accused by the United Nations of supporting a rebellion by the Tutsi-led National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), many of whose members are now part of M23.
In 2009, Rwandan forces entered eastern DR Congo with Kinshasa’s permission to fight the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group, made up of some of those responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda of more than 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
According to the UN report, senior Ugandan officials have “actively supported” the M23. The allegations include claims that Uganda deployed around 600 troops to help the rebels prepare offensives.
Uganda has vehemently denied the accusations, saying Kampala is playing a central role as a regional mediator brokering talks between Kinshasa and the rebels.
In retaliation, Ugandan officials have threatened to withdraw the country’s troops from all international peacekeeping missions.
From 1996 to 1998, Uganda, along with Rwanda, backed Laurent Kabila’s rebels as they ousted Mobutu.
From 1998 to 2003, Uganda became embroiled in DR Congo’s protracted second war — sometimes called Africa’s “Great War” — backing proxy militias and battling former ally Rwanda in the eastern DR Congo city of Kisangani.
The United Nations accused Ugandan commanders of plundering the DR Congo’s mineral wealth, and in 2005 the International Court of Justice ordered Uganda to pay reparations.
In early October this year, a DR Congolese militia fighting government forces in eastern Sud-Kivu province claimed that Burundi government troops were fighting alongside DR Congo army soldiers, which Bujumbura denies.
Bujumbura claims instead that the Burundian rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL) have rear bases in Sud-Kivu.
Burundi nevertheless acknowledged that a Burundian officer was killed there, but said he had been on an official intelligence mission under a military cooperation accord with the DR Congo.
According to the Burundi army, this accord includes joint search operations along the border, with each of the two forces patrolling its own side.
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U.N. attack helicopters hit rebels in eastern Congo
12:18 PM CST, November 17, 2012
|KINSHASA (Reuters) – United Nations attack helicopters hit rebel positions in eastern Congo on Saturday after insurgents gained ground in heavy fighting with government troops, the U.N. said.
The clashes to the south of the town Kibumba mean the rebels have advanced to within 30 km (18 miles) of Goma, the closest they have been to North Kivu’s provincial capital since a rebellion exploded in the eastern provinces eight months ago.
North Kivu governor Julien Paluku said the army retreated to the southern outskirts of the town after M23 rebels – a group of soldiers who mutinied in April – advanced with support from neighbouring Rwanda. A Congolese government statement claimed 4,000 Rwandans had crossed the border.
Rwanda rejected the accusations, the latest in a string of charges by the Congolese government in Kinshasa. The Rwandan government called on Congo’s army and the rebels to halt the fighting as shells were landing in its territory.
The French mission at the United Nations in New York said it had called for an emergency meeting at the Security Council on the situation in Congo for 2000 GMT on Saturday.
More than five million people are estimated to have died from violence, hunger and disease in wars in Congo since 1998. It is the deadliest conflict since World War Two.
U.N. experts have said in reports they have evidence that Rwanda has supported the M23 rebels in eastern Congo. They have called on the Security Council to impose sanctions on Rwandan officials in response.
“The Rwandan army came across the border behind our troops, that’s why our troops withdrew,” Paluku told Reuters by telephone.
“The (rebels) are just a few kilometres away, so of course Goma is under threat, we can’t hide that,” he said, adding that government troops were regrouping at Kilimanyoka, 12 km north of the city. Rebels said they had no immediate plans to attack Goma.
The U.N. peace keeping mission in Congo said army units had come under heavy weapons fire since early on Saturday morning, forcing civilians to flee. U.N. attack helicopters were dispatched to strike rebel positions south of Kibumba.
“So far ten missions have been carried out by our attack helicopters,” the U.N. said in a statement. The U.N. has a mandate to protect civilians and support government troops when they need it.
No casualty figures have been given by any force.
RWANDA DENIES SUPPORT FOR M23
Rwanda’s army has repeatedly sent soldiers into Congo during nearly two decades of conflict in Africa’s Great Lakes region but Kigali has strongly denied Congolese and U.N. accusations of support for the M23.
“These are absolutely false allegations. They are very tired, and very old. Whenever DRC (the Democratic Republic of Congo) is defeated on the battlefield it’s meant to be (Rwanda’s army),” Rwandan army spokesman Brigadier General Joseph Nzabamwita told Reuters.
“Rwanda has called on (Congo’s army) and M23 to stop this useless war … Rwanda is being violated by constant bomb shells on our territory,” he added.
More than three-quarters of a million people have fled their homes since the fighting began, and regional efforts to find a solution have so far failed.
M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama told Reuters the rebels were now in control of Kibumba but said they would not advance further.
“We’re stopping here, we’re waiting, we’re not going to Goma,” he said, reiterating a call for the government to start negotiations.
(Additional reporting by Jenny Clover in Kigali, Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by David Lewis, editing by Rosalind Russell)
Copyright © 2012, Reuters
RS Says: A great insight from the Financial Times
By William Wallis
In the years since he led his guerrilla army to power after bringing an end to the late 20th century’s swiftest act of mass murder, Mr Kagame has faced extreme circumstances both at home and in Congo, to where the forces that executed the 1994 genocide fled and remain in small numbers.
Another is that the latest Congo debacle is distracting attention from the progress Rwanda has made in fostering economic growth, and ensuring, through a strategic approach to development that is distributed, if not evenly, then at least equitably across the population.
Kigali’s default response to the latest international concern has nevertheless been ringing hollow, given the weight of testimony implicating Rwanda in another gruesome episode of bloodshed across the border.
In the most recent report on the issue, Human Rights Watch, the US lobby group, said this month that senior military figures could be held liable for war crimes as a result of their alleged support for Congolese rebels.
Inside Rwanda, however, progress towards transforming livelihoods and modernising the economy continues apace. More than 1m of the 10m population have been brought out of poverty in the past five years, bringing overall levels down to 44.9 per cent, according to a recent survey.
Meanwhile, the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front is setting about upgrading infrastructure and improving services with the same single-minded discipline with which it once prosecuted guerrilla warfare.
The goal is to transform an inward-looking mountain nation into an outward-looking centre for services, agro-processing, information technology, tourism, and transport that forms a bridge between east and central Africa. Rwanda, as a member of the East African Community, has become a champion of regional integration.
Not for the first time, however, events in Congo – where the Rwandan army has already fought several wars since 1996 – risk hampering these ambitions as foreign donors, on whom the government depends for about 40 per cent of the budget, consider withholding funds.
The African Development Bank and several European donors have delayed disbursement of direct budget support. This prompted Kigali this month to bring forward the launch of a development fund, financed by public contributions and intended as a step towards weaning the country off aid.
Mr Kagame, who can count on an influential group of international cheerleaders, including Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, both of whom visited him in recent weeks to offer advice, is furious.
“If you look around, there is not a single country that receives aid and uses it better than Rwanda. This is a fact,” he told the FT during a recent visit to China, where he secured $50m in grants from a government that, as a matter of policy, claims not to interfere in other countries’ fights.
Mr Kagame flatly denies Rwanda has any responsibility for the latest Congo debacle. “This UN report is just rubbish. There is nothing in it,” he said, of a detailed report released to the Security Council that includes testimony from 80 witnesses pointing to Rwandan support in supplying weapons and recruits to Congolese rebels.
Congo’s problems are the result of its own government’s failure to root out corruption and establish state authority, Rwandan senior officers argue. They also point to the huge benefits that have accrued to Rwanda in increased trade during a three-year period of relative peace that lasted until April this year.
“If there’s anybody who would want peace in eastern Congo, it is Rwanda,” Mr Kagame says.
But while he and John Rwangombwa, his finance minister, appear certain the storm will pass, the episode has unnerved parts of the business community and threatens to undermine the confidence that has been building in Rwanda’s prospects, thanks to government efforts at improving the investment climate.
Rwanda has been ranked the second top reformer globally in the past decade, after Georgia, in the World Bank’s annual ease of doing business survey. The World Economic Forum has also ranked it the most competitive economy in east Africa.
“The problem for them is that is not enough,” says a development expert working for a European agency. “This is a small country with not a lot to offer, a fairly aggressive tax regime, some mining resources but no scale of land. You can add to that the highest energy costs in east Africa and distant access to ports,” he says.
Rwanda under Mr Kagame is nonetheless one of the most crime- and corruption-free environments in sub-Saharan Africa, he adds. And even if foreign investment levels remain low, at $371m last year, growth has outstripped much of the region over the past decade.
A drop in aid flows, however, will stretch the current account deficit.
“If the donors continue to withhold funding it will have obvious consequences. Our budget would be strained and they will squeeze for higher taxes,” says Faustin Mbundu, chairman of Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation.
The government remains ambitious. This year, the cabinet repeated its commitment to reduce the rate of people living below the poverty line to 20 per cent by 2020. Annual GDP per capita is now targeted to increase to $1,240, up from an old target of $900 a year.
To make this a reality, the government wants to increase the number of Rwandans living in urban areas to 35 per cent and to create 1.7m non-farm jobs from 500,000 today.
The authorities are also speaking to investors about a string of energy projects with a view to increasing access to electricity from 10.8 per cent today to 70 per cent by 2020. “Rwanda remains forever ready to do more than we should be able to do,” says Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, the country’s intelligence chief.
In the minds of influential members of the ethnic Tutsi minority, who have dominated government since 1994, the government’s success – or otherwise – in closing income inequalities is bound up with the nation’s stability.
They believe the best way to efface the divisive ideology that led extremists among the Hutu majority to use the power they once wielded to commit genocide is to improve livelihoods for all.
When it comes to economic development there is a master plan for almost every aspect of life.
The problem Kigali faces is that its plans for Congo do not conform with international expectations, and for that it may yet pay a heavy price.
RS says: The US is increasing its pressure on Rwanda.
Reuters, 01/10 20:47 CET
By Richard Lough
NAIROBI (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 neighbour’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 neighbour,” 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 materialised.
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 neighbour’s latest conflict.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Copyright 2012 Reuters.
Rwanda has done what it likes in eastern Congo since 1994, when Rwanda’s Hutu government carried out a genocidal assault on Congo’s minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus that killed 800,000. Another result was the flight of up to a million of Rwanda’s majority Hutus into Congo. The Tutsis seized control in Rwanda by military force and have retained power ever since.
The Tutsis overthrew Congo dictator Mobutu Sese Seko; installed in power Laurent Kabila, the father of President Joseph Kabila; and threw their weight around through militias in eastern Congo. They have paid for their activities by exploiting the region’s mineral resources.
The Rwandans’ surrogates in eastern Congo are the M23 militia. Largely Tutsi, its forces include Rwandans and its arms either come from Rwanda or are purchased elsewhere.
A United Nations peacekeeping force of 20,000 sits in Congo, along with a 150,000-man Congolese army that is badly armed, led and paid. Neither is a match for the M23 militia. The U.N. forces are stretched thin and not motivated. The Congolese army is known for incompetence and haplessness.
The United States, which stood by while Rwandans were slaughtered in 1994, has provided the Tutsi-dominated government of President Paul Kagame with development and military aid. Driven by the Rwandans’ unhelpful acts in eastern Congo, which have produced countless refugees and human misery and prevented economic development, the United States has finally taken an important step to disassociate itself from Mr. Kagame’s government.
Carnegie Mellon University, which is in the process of establishing a collaborative relationship with the Rwandan government, should follow suit and freeze its ties until Rwanda ceases playing a destructive role in the region.