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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?
Security Council Provisional
20 November 2012
The Security Council,
Recalling its previous resolutions and the statements of its President concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), especially the presidential statement S/PRST/2012/22 of 19 October 2012 and the press statements of 2 August 2012 and 17 November 2012 on the situation in eastern DRC, Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the DRC and emphasizing the need to respect fully the principles of non-interference, good-neighbourliness and regional cooperation,
Reiterating its deep concern regarding the rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC due to ongoing military activities of the 23 March Movement (M23), Expressing its deep concern regarding the resumption of attacks by the M23 and the entry of the M23 into the city of Goma on 20 November 2012, as well as the continuation of serious violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of human rights law by the M23 and other armed groups, Calling for all perpetrators, including individuals responsible for violence against children and acts of sexual violence, to be apprehended, brought to justice and held accountable for violations of applicable international law, Reiterating its strong condemnation of any and all external support to the M23, including through troop reinforcement, tactical advice and the supply of equipment, and expressing deep concern at reports and allegations indicating that such support continues to be provided to the M23, Expressing concern at the possible negative impact of the prevailing situation in North Kivu on the security and humanitarian situation in South Kivu,Expressing deep concern regarding the increasing number of displaced persons and refugees in Eastern DRC caused by the resumption of the attacks of the M23,
Welcoming the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General as well as of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union, to restore peace and security in Eastern DRC,
Welcoming the efforts of the Chair of the ICGLR in convening the ExtraOrdinary Summits of 15 July 2012, 7-8 August 2012, 8 September 2012 and 8 October 2012 to address the situation in Eastern DRC, Stressing the primary responsibility of the Government of the DRC for ensuring security in its territory and protecting its civilians with respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law, Calling on all parties to cooperate fully with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and reiterating its condemnation of any attacks against peacekeepers, Determining that the situation in the DRC constitutes a threat to international peace and security in the region,
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Strongly condemns the resumption of attacks by the M23 in North-Kivu and the entry of the M23 into the city of Goma on 20 November 2012;
2. Demands the immediate withdrawal of the M23 from Goma, the cessation of any further advances by the M23 and that its members immediately and permanently disband and lay down their arms, and further demands the restoration of State authority of the Government of the DRC in Goma and in North-Kivu;
3. Strongly condemns the M23 and all its attacks on the civilian population, MONUSCO peacekeepers and humanitarian actors, as well as its abuses of human rights, including summary executions, sexual and gender based violence and large scale recruitment and use of child soldiers, further condemns the attempts by the M23 to establish an illegitimate parallel administration and to undermine State authority of the Government of the DRC, and reiterates that those responsible for crimes and human rights abuses will be held accountable;
4. Expresses deep concern at reports indicating that external support continues to be provided to the M23, including through troop reinforcement, tactical advice and the supply of equipment, causing a significant increase of the military abilities of the M23, and demands that any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately;
5. Requests the Secretary-General to report in the coming days, in coordination with the ICGLR and the African Union (AU), on the allegations of external support to the M23 and expresses its readiness to take further appropriate measures on the basis of this report;
6. Calls on the ICGLR to monitor and inquire into, including by making active use of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), reports and allegations of outside support and supply of equipment to the M23, and encourages MONUSCO, in coordination with ICGLR members, to participate, as appropriate and within the limits of its capacities and mandate, in the activities of the EJVM;
7. Expresses concern that M23 commanders Innocent Kaina and Baudouin Ngaruye are engaging in activities for which the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) may designate individuals pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 1857 (2008), and directs the Committee to review, as a matter of urgency, their activities and those of any other individuals who meet the criteria for designation;
8. Expresses its intention to consider additional targeted sanctions, in accordance with the criteria set out in resolution 1857 (2008), against the leadership of the M23 and those providing external support to the M23 and those acting in violation of the sanctions regime and the arms embargo, and calls on all Member States to submit, as a matter of urgency, listing proposals to the 1533 Committee;
9. Requests the Secretary-General to report in the coming days on options, and their implications, for the possible redeployments, in consultation with troop and police-contributing countries, of MONUSCO contingents and additional force multipliers, observation capabilities and troops within the current authorized ceiling, which, in regard to the current crisis, could improve the ability of MONUSCO to implement its .mandate, including to protect civilians and report on flows of arms and related materiel across the borders of Eastern DRC, and in this. Context expresses its intention to keep the mandate of MONUSCO under review;
10. Calls on all relevant actors to use their influence on the M23 to bring about an end to attacks:
11. Calls on all parties, in particular the M23, to allow safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need in accordance with international law, including applicable international humanitarian law and the guiding principles of humanitarian assistance, and to refrain from any violence against civilians;
12. Calls upon all parties to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and internally displaced persons sites and stresses the need to prevent any forced recruitment of individuals, including children by parties to the conflict;
13. Commends the active steps taken by MONUSCO to implement its mandate, in particular the protection of civilians, further commends in this regard the tireless efforts of all MONUSCO contingents, particularly in and around Goma, and encourages the continuation of their efforts;
14. Emphasizes that any attempts to undermine MONUSCO’s ability to implement its mandate will not be tolerated and condemn# all individuals and entities who plan, sponsor or participate in attacks against MONUSCO;
15. Welcomes and emphasizes the importance of the continuation of the efforts of the ICGLR, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the AU to resolve the conflict and find a durable political solution, and calls on them and States of the region to coordinate their efforts in order to bring about an end to attacks, stabilize the situation and facilitate dialogue between relevant parties;
16. Welcomes the designation of Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra as Special representative of the African Union for the Great Lakes region, requests the United Nations Secretary-General to report to the Council on options for high-level dialogue between relevant parties to address short-term and long-term causes underlying the political, security and humanitarian crises in Eastern DRC, including the option of the possible designation of a special envoy, and further requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council in the coming days on the evolution of the crisis and on diplomatic efforts, including his own;
17. Emphasizes the primary responsibility of the Government of the DRC toreinforce State authority and governance in Eastern DRC, including through effective security sector reform to allow army and police reform, and to end impunity for abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and urges the Government of the DRC to increase efforts to provide security, reform the security sector, protect civilians and respect human rights;
18. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
Should a country backing a rebellion in a neighbouring land be part of a group tasked with maintaining peace and stability?
On January 1, Rwanda will join Australia, Argentina, South Korea and Luxembourg as part of a new intake of non-permanent members on the United Nations security council. The council’s pattern of rotation placed east Africa next in the line of duty, and Rwanda’s unopposed candidacy was readily endorsed by the African Union. It will fill a seat to be vacated by South Africa, joining Morocco and Togo to provide a voice for Africa on the council.
But Rwanda’s election to a body tasked with maintaining world peace and security is bittersweet for many. The latest version of a report by the UN group of experts, which was leaked to Reuters in late October, alleges that the Congolese rebel group M23“receive[s] direct military orders from RDF (Rwandan army) Chief of Defence staff General Charles Kayonga, who in turn acts on instructions from Minister of Defence General James Kabarebe”.
Some called for sanctions on Rwanda and the refusal of its bid to join the security council. But Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwandan diplomat at the UN, retaliated, stating that: “The members of the General Assembly know exactly what our record is, and they cannot be deterred or swayed by a baseless report which has no credibility.”
In the end, calls to refuse Rwanda gained little momentum and Rwanda was elected by 148 votes out of 193 to hold a two-year seat on the 15-member council. Concerns remain, however, that Rwanda’s presence could cause deadlock over issues related to the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and questions linger about the appropriateness of Rwanda’s ascension.
On the day of the vote, Atoki Ileka, the DRC’s ambassador to France and former envoy to the UN, lamented, “[this is] a very sad day for Africa because the security council is the UN body in charge of peace and security, and this is a country not committed to peace and security. It’s very embarrassing for the UN.”
Moving forwards, looking backwards
It cannot be denied that economically and developmentally Rwanda is excelling. Through the 2000s, it was the tenth fastest growing economy in the world and its GDP has reportedly grown by over 7% a year since 2004, except for a slight blip in 2009. Perhaps one reason Rwanda received so much support for its candidacy then is that it is an ‘aid darling‘ with the ability to speak the language of development and show off its progressive plans designed to leave its reputation of ethnic violence in the dust.
Broadening the picture, however, reveals that Rwanda’s progress has come with more political repression and governmental input than most of its donors would appreciate. Some analysts increasingly suggest this may be the way development has to be won in Africa, but a strong centralised state and authoritarian control are certainly not part the image growth donors would like to present. Although they often voice neoliberal concerns to the contrary, Rwanda’s donors have, in some cases, conceded to the strategy.
Rwanda has also roused controversy in other areas, however, and its economic success does not mean the legacy of its genocide has been dealt with. For example, it conspicuously aspires to be a regional superpower and has meddled extensively in the eastern DRC with the aim of preventing a resurgence from regrouped Hutu genocidaires known as the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR).
If the UN group of experts report is accurate in claiming that Rwanda is supporting and perhaps even leading the M23 as a proxy army, this is likely to be Rwanda’s way of trying to ensure its own peace and security – albeit at great humanitarian cost.
Contrary to early expectations, there has not been a standstill at the security council in anticipation of Rwanda’s presence. Most significantly, on November 12, the UNimposed sanctions on M23 leader Colonel Sultani Makenga – a move that was soon followed by the US. Furthermore, meeting in an emergency session on November 17, the security council strongly condemned the increasing displacement of civilians in the eastern DRC. And, after the M23 launched attacks using heavy weapons in North Kivu, Monusco (the UN peacekeeping force stationed in Congo) deployed attack helicopters to support the national army.
It is difficult to predict what the effect of Rwanda’s presence will be on the council and what perspectives or issues it will bring. Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister, however, has said she hopes Rwanda’s seat can be used to call more attention to the role of the international community in addressing genocide. “Working with fellow members,” she explained, “Rwanda will draw on its experience to fight for the robust implementation of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine that demands that the world takes notice – and action – when innocent civilians face the threat of atrocities at the hands of their governments”.
When it takes its seat therefore, Rwanda may ask whether a stronger international voice and/or presence in 1994 might have disbanded (instead of aiding) thegénocidaires that continue to threaten Rwanda’s security. But by that same token, many others – not least the DRC – can rightly ask whether supporting a rebellion – and by extension much humanitarian suffering – in another country can ever be justified in the interests of peace and security for oneself.
Courtney Meyer is studying for an MSc in Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London
Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe and other top Rwandan military officers played a central role in organizing, funding, and arming mutineers in the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a report by the U.N. Group of Experts.
The U.N. panel also charged that Kabarebe’s personal assistant, Celestin Senkoko, and other Rwandan officers mounted a “wide-ranging” effort to convince Congolese businessmen, politicians, and former rebels that had joined the ranks of the Congolese army to join the so-called M23 mutiny with the aim prosecuting “a new war to obtain a secession of both Kivus,” the eastern Congolese provinces that share ethnic and historical ties to Rwanda.
The Rwandan government issued a statement denying the allegations contained in the report, which was obtained by Turtle Bay, but which has not yet been made public. “This is a one-sided preliminary document based on partial findings and is still subject to verification,” it stated.
“The UN Group of Experts has accepted our invitation to Kigali to do what should have been done before; carry out relevant consultations and obtain the facts. We intend to provide factual evidence that the charges against Rwanda are false. These, as well as Rwanda’s own allegations, will hopefully be reflected in the final UN report due in November.”
The U.N. report — technically an annex to a separate U.N. report on enforcement of the U.N. embargo in eastern Congo — focuses on the former Congolese rebel movement, known as the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), that was integrated into the Congolese military in 2009, and which formed the core of a Rwandan-backed mutiny within the ranks of the Congolese army.
Laurent Nkunda, the founder of the movement; Bosco Ntaganda, an accused war criminal who led defectors; and Col. Sultani Makenga, another former rebel who defected from the army, form the core leadership of the M23 mutiny. But the U.N. report – excerpts of which were published byTurtle Bay last night — claims that the Congolese mutineers coordinated their mutiny with top Rwandan leaders. Here’s a new selection of previously unpublished excerpts that name Rwanda’s alleged plotters.
Rwandan officials have also been directly involved in the mobilization of political leaders and financial backers for M23. Based on interviews conducted with M23 members, ex-CNDP officers and politicians, intelligence officers, FARDC [Congolese Army] senior commanders, the Group [of Experts] has established that Rwandan officials have made extensive telephone calls and organized a series of meeting with Congolese politicians and businessman to promote and rally support for M23.
Throughout the Group’s investigations, it has systematically gathered testimonies from former M23 combatants, M23 collaborators, ex-RDF [Rwandan Defense Forces] officers, Congolese intelligence, FARDC commanders, and politicians which affirm the direct involvement in the support to M23 from senior levels of the Rwandan government.
a) General Jacques Nziza, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, supervises all military, financial, and logistic support as well as mobilization activities related to M23. He has recently been deployed to Ruhengeri and Gisenyi to coordinate M23 assistance and recruitment.
b) General James Kabarebe, the Rwandan Minister of Defense, with the support of his personal secretary Captain Celestin Senkoko, also is a central figure in recruitment and mobilizing political and military support to M23. Kabarebe has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities.
c) General Charles Kayonga, the RDF Chief of Staff manages the overall military support to M23. Kayonga is frequently in communications with Makenga and oversaw the transfer of Makenga’s troops and weapons through Rwanda.
d) The military support on the ground has been channeled by General Emmanuel Ruvusha, RDF Division commander based in Gisenyi, as well as General Alexi Kagame, RDF Division commander based at Ruhengeru, Both facilitate recruitment of civilians and demobilized soldiers to M23 as well as coordinating RDF reinforcements in Runyoni with M23 commanders.
e) Colonel Jomba Gakumba, a native of North Kivu, who used to be an RDF instructor at the Rwandan Military Academy at Gako, was redeployed to Ruhengeri since the creation of M23, where he has been in charge of commanding locally military operations in support of M23.
Ex-RDF officers, politicians, M23 collaborators also informed the Group that Ntaganda and Makenga have been regularly crossing the border into Rwanda to carrying meetings with any of the above mentioned senior RDF officers at Kinigi, on several occasions. Those same sources also stated that former CNDP chairman General Laurent Nkunda, officially under house arrest by the Rwandan government since January 2009, often comes from Kigali to participate in these meetings.Rwanda’s ambassador the African Union, Joseph Nsengimana, vigorously denied the allegations in a June 21 statement to the African Union Peace and Security Committee. “I want to state categorically that Rwandan is neither a cause nor an enabler of the ongoing crisis in the DRC. To the contrary, a pattern of undisputable facts indicate that Rwanda cannot be an obstacle but a strong partner for peace in the DRC,” he said in the statement, which was attached to the report.”Direct high-level engagement between Rwanda and the DRC diplomatic and defense officials have been at the forefront of Rwanda’s efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the worrying situation in the DRC since the beginning of the current rebellion in DRC in April 2012.”
The Rwandan government played a pivotal role in the creation of an armed anti-government mutiny in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then supplied the so-called M23 mutineers with weapons, ammunitions, and young Rwandan recruits, according to a confidential report by a U.N. Group of Experts.
The U.N. panel claimed in a 44-page report, which has been distributed to Security Council members but not made public, that Rwanda’s role in the mutiny constituted a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning the supply of weapons to armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In anticipation of the report’s release, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo denied at a press conference at U.N. headquarters Monday that top Rwandan officials have backed the mutineers, insisting that top Rwandan military officials had in fact urged the mutineers to put down their arms and resolve their difference with the Congolese army through talks. “Of course, Rwanda’s top army leadership in no way would be involved in destroying the peace they have been working very hard to build,” she said.
The report’s release has been delayed for weeks amid allegations by the Congolese government that the United States had sought to block publication of report that could prove damaging to a close ally. But the United States and other council member ultimately agreed to the release of the report after the experts had a chance to brief the Rwandan government on its findings. The final report is expected to be made public later this week. But Turtle Bay, which obtained a leaked copy, is posting excerpts from the report:
Since the outset of its current mandate, the Group [of Experts] has gathered evidence of arms embargo and sanctions regime violations committed by the Rwandan Government. These violations consist of the provision of material and financial support to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC, including the recently established M23, in contravention of paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 1807. The arms embargo and sanctions regimes violations include the following:
*Direct assistance in the creation of M23 through the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory;
*Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23;
*Provision of weapons and ammunition to M23;
*Mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23;
*Direct Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23;
*Support to several other armed groups as well as FARDC mutinies in the eastern Congo;
*Violation of the assets freeze and travel ban through supporting sanctioned individuals.
Over the course of its investigation since late 2011, the Group has found substantial evidence attesting to support from Rwandan officials to armed groups operating in the eastern DRC. Initially the RDF [Rwandan Defense Forces] appeared to establish these alliances to facilitate a wave of targeted assassinations against key FDLR [The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the armed remnants of Rwanda's former genocidal government] officers, thus significantly weakening the rebel movement (see paragraphs 37 & 38 of interim report). However, these activities quickly extended to support for a series of post electoral mutinies within the FARDC [The Congolese Armed Forces] and eventually included the direct facilitation, through the use of Rwandan territory, of the creation of the M23 rebellion. The latter is comprised of ex-CNDP officers integrated into the Congolese army (FARDC) in January 2009. Since M23 established itself in strategic positions along the Rwandan border in May 2012, the Group has gathered overwhelming evidence demonstrating that senior RDF officers, in their official capacities, have been backstopping the rebels through providing weapons, military supplies, and new recruits.
In turn, M23 continues to solidify alliances with many other armed groups and mutineer movements, including those previously benefiting from RDF support. This has created enormous security challenges, extending from Ituri district in the north to Fizi territory in the south, for the already overstretched Congolese Army(FARDC). Through such arms embargo violations, Rwandan officials have also been in contravention of the sanctions regime’s travel ban and assets freeze measures, by including three designated individuals amongst their direct allies.
In an attempt to solve the crisis which this Rwandan support to armed groups had exacerbated, the governments of the DRC and Rwanda have held a series of high-level bilateral meetings since early April 2012. During these discussions, Rwandan officials have insisted on impunity for their armed group and mutineer allies, including ex-CNDP General Bosco Ntaganda, and the deployment of additional RDF units to the Kivus to conduct large-scale operations against the FDLR. The latter request has been repeatedly made despite the fact that: a) the RDF halted its unilateral initiatives to weaken the FDLR in late February; b) RDF Special Forces have already been deployed officially in Rutshuru territory for over a year; c) RDF operational units are periodically reinforcing the M23 on the battlefield against the Congolese army; d) M23 is directly and indirectly allied with several FDLR splinter groups; and e) the RDF is remobilizing previously repatriated FDLR to boost the ranks of M23.
* * *
Elevated Standards of Evidence:
In light of the serious nature of these findings, the group has adopted elevated methodological standards. Since early April 2012, the Group has interviewed over 80 deserters of FARDC mutinies and Congolese armed groups, including from M23. Amongst the latter, the Group has interviewed 31 Rwandan nationals. Furthermore, the group has also photographed weapons and military equipment found in arms caches and on the battlefield, as well as obtained official documents and intercepts of radio communication. The Group has also consulted dozens of senior Congolese military commanders and intelligence officials as well as political and community leaders with intricate knowledge of development between DRC and Rwanda. Moreover, the Group has communicated regularly with several active participants of the ex-CNDP mutiny, the M23 rebellion, and other armed groups. Finally, while the Group’s standard methodology requires a minimum of three sources, assessed to be credible and independent of one another, it has raised this to five sources when naming specific individuals involved in these case of arms embargo and sanctions violations.
* * *
Rwandan Support to M23:
Since the earliest stage of its inception, the Group documented a systematic pattern of military and political support provided to the M23 rebellion by Rwandan authorities. Upon taking control over the strategic position of Runyoni, along the Rwandan border with DRC, M23 officers opened two supply routes going from Runyoni to Kinigi or Njerima in Rwanda, which RDF officers used to deliver such support as troops, recruits, and weapons. The Group also found evidence that Rwandan officials mobilized ex-CNDP cadres and officers, North Kivu politicians, business leaders and youth in support of M23.
* * *
Direct Rwandan assistance in creation of M23 through Rwandan territory:
Colonel Sultani Makenga deserted the FARDC in order to create the M23 rebellion using Rwandan territory and benefiting directly from RDF facilitation (See paragraph 104 of interim report). On 4 May, Makenga crossed the border from Goma into Gisenyi, Rwanda, and waited for his soldiers to join him from Goma and Bukavu. Intelligence sources, M23 collaborators and local politicians confirmed for the Group that RDF Western Division commander, General Emmanuel Ruvusha, welcomed Makenga upon his arrival to Gisenyi. The same source indicated that Ruvusha subsequently held a series of coordination meetings with other RDF officers in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri over the following days with Makenga.
Normally at this time of year, we have a plethora of new-to-us data about what’s happened in the Congo over the last few months. That’s because typically, in late May or early June, the United Nations Group of Experts on the DRC releases its interim report. This has been the pattern of the last few years, though certainly there are always variations in when the report is released, and, of course, what it contains.
The Group of Experts (GoE) reports are well-known as among the best sources of information about conflict in the DRC. It is fastidiously researched and documented, usually having annexes containing incredibly valuable (and damning) data (eg, receipts for illicit mineral transactions, photos of destroyed villages, load lists for cargo planes carrying weapons). The members of the GoE really know their stuff, most live in the region while conducting research, and they have connections and usually manage to talk to members of most of the armed groups operating in the Kivus and beyond. The reports are not perfect, but they are generally about as good as data gets when it comes to the DRC.
This year, however, the GoE interim report has yet to be released. It’s not because it isn’t ready. I’ve been trying to piece together why for the last couple of weeks. What follows seems not to be published anywhere, but is based on information from multiple reliable sources who are well positioned to know what’s going on. Take it as you will, and if you have better information, feel free to comment or to email me.
This year, the M23 rebellion broke out shortly before the usual deadline for publication of the GoE interim report. As is their charge, the GoE researched and traced the dynamics of the mutiny as they do every other conflict. As part of these efforts, the GoE prepared an annex detailing Rwandan involvement in the crisis. (Remember, Rwanda’s alleged involvement in supporting M23 has been reported by a BBC journalist who claimed to have seen a leaked UN report (ahem) and byHuman Rights Watch in recent weeks. The UN later denied that it has evidence for these claims.) Rwanda reacted furiously to both reports and denies its involvement in the crisis.
And therein seems to lie the holdup on the GoE report’s release. The Group wants the annex detailing Rwanda’s alleged involvement to be published along with the rest of the report (which I am assured will be published one way or the other). Someone (or multiple someones) at the United Nations does not want the annex on Rwanda’s involvement included. I have no idea whether the leaked report that provoked so much controversy a couple of weeks ago is the annex or is about the annex, but by all reliable accounts, this is the key issue holding everything up.
It would be easy to speculate on the reasons that the publication of factual information about the M23 mutiny is somehow controversial; it would strain the relationship with Rwanda (which the UN needs to cooperate with on everything from housing Congolese refugees to running country-based programs to allowing MONUSCO staff to pass to Kigali airport without being harrassed), the powers that be might want more solid sourcing of information, it could be a number of issues.
Making things even more bizarre, the Security Council on Friday released a statement condemning the mutiny and calling for investigation into “credible reports” of outside groups funding the crisis. As analyst Jason Stearns noted in a tweet on Saturday, why is the Security Council asking for an investigation while blocking the one the GoE already prepared for them?
If the motivation for withholding the annex is political, then it’s easy to see why the GoE is fighting behind the scenes to include it; the GoE’s mission has never been to bow to the political whims of anyone. Their purpose is to collect and analyze facts. If we’ve reached a day where facts are problematic for the United Nations, then we are in real trouble indeed.