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Why the celebrated Rwandan president really deserves an indictment.
by Howard W. French Jan 14, 2013 12:00 AM EST
When Rwandan-backed rebels recently took Goma, the biggest city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paul Kagame had every reason to think the world would give him a pass. That, after all, has been the pattern for years.
Frequently lauded by people such as Bono, Tony Blair, and Pastor Rick, the Rwandan president enjoys some extraordinary backing in the West—support that is particularly remarkable given his alleged hand in ongoing regional conflicts believed to have killed more than 5 million people since the mid-’90s.
On the aid and awards circuit, Kagame is known as the man who led Rwanda from the ashes of the 1994 genocide—one of the late 20th century’s greatest atrocities—to hope and prosperity: a land of fast growth and rare good economic governance with enviable advances in health care, education, and women’s rights. Bestowing his foundation’s Global Citizen Award on Kagame three years ago, Bill Clinton said: “From crisis, President Kagame has forged a strong, unified, and growing nation with the potential to become a model for the rest of Africa and the world.”
But that model narrative seems to be shifting in the aftermath of the Goma takeover. After a United Nations report found that Rwanda created and commands the rebel group known as M23, important European friends such as Britain and Belgium partially suspended aid donations to Rwanda, and President Obama called Kagame to warn him against any continued military adventurism.
Leading observers say the reevaluation of Kagame and his legacy is long overdue. Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian scholar whom many consider the world’s foremost expert on Rwanda, describes Kagame as “probably the worst war criminal in office today.” In an interview, Reyntjens told me that Kagame’s crimes rank with those perpetrated by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein or Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Washington and London have long supported Kagame as a bulwark of stability in a volatile region. But a recent U.N. report accused his government of instigating trouble across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Meanwhile, specialists in African affairs say a regime like Kagame’s, an ethnic dictatorship built along unusually narrow lines, represents a political dead end. And international human-rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have raised serious questions about violence committed against journalists and opposition figures. Kagame has generally been dismissive of such accusations of abuse.
Tall, gaunt, and almost professorial in manner, Kagame cuts an unusual figure for a former African guerrilla leader. His rise to power began in 1990, when as head of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, an exiled movement made up primarily of Tutsis, he launched a war to take over his native country from bases in neighboring Uganda.
Four years later, the course of history took a dramatic turn: on April 6, 1994, an airplane carrying Rwanda’s president, Juvénal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, was mysteriously shot down on its approach to the capital, Kigali, unleashing the murder spree that became known as the Rwandan genocide. In the space of 100 days, about 800,000 people—most of them members of the Tutsi minority—were killed at the instigation of Hutu extremists. As Kagame and his army gained control of the country, ending the genocide, the Hutu extremists, along with hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, fled to neighboring states, in particular Zaire, as it was then known.
Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, was named president in what seemed an effort at providing representation for the roughly 84 percent Hutu majority in Rwanda’s new national unity government. However, Kagame, a Tutsi and the nominal vice president, kept control of the Rwandan Army, becoming the country’s de facto leader. And by 2000, after numerous cases of forced exiles, disappearances, and assassinations of politicians, Bizimungu resigned the presidency, bringing a definitive end to the illusion of ethnic balance in high office. (The government now prohibits the use of ethnic labels.)
Since then, former Rwandan officials say, almost every position of meaningful power in the country has been held by a Tutsi. In 2001, when Bizimungu began organizing a political party in order to run for president, it was outlawed on charges of being a radical Hutu organization. The following year, Bizimungu was arrested on charges of endangering the state, and later he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
(Bizimungu, whom Amnesty International called a prisoner of conscience, was pardoned by Kagame in 2007, but the methods used to sideline him have been applied broadly ever since, with critics of the regime of all stripes being prosecuted for promoting “genocide ideology,” which has become an all-purpose charge.)
Theogene Rudasingwa, a Tutsi who was appointed Rwanda’s ambassador to Washington after serving as an officer in Kagame’s army, puts it bluntly: “If you differ strongly with Kagame and make your views known from the inside, you will be made to pay the price, and very often that price is your life.”
Rudasingwa, who now lives in exile in the United States, describes Kagame as an extreme control freak who has concentrated power in the hands of a select group of Tutsis who, like Kagame himself, returned to Rwanda from years of exile in Uganda after the genocide.
“When you look at the structure of key parts of government, leadership is occupied almost entirely by Tutsis from the outside, and this is especially true in the military,” Rudasingwa says. “As for the Hutus, they are completely marginalized, and things [for them] have never been as bad as they are today. Almost the entire Hutu elite that was built up since 1959 is either outside the country or dead. They are marginalized and banished, forced into exile when they haven’t simply been killed.”
Kagame tightly controls the country and its citizens through the Tutsi- dominated Army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the country’s dominant political party. Throughout Rwanda—in every town and tiny village—the RPF is present, not unlike the Stasi in East Germany during the Cold War. While a town may have a Hutu mayor, under Kagame’s system government officeholders have little authority compared with the RPF representatives who work in parallel to them and often pull rank.
RPF regulations—enforced by local commissars with vigor and steep fines—govern almost every aspect of daily life. There are laws requiring peasants to wear shoes and good clothes when not working their fields and prohibition of drinking banana wine from shared straws—a traditional gesture of reconciliation—and myriad other rules, generally resented as gratuitous and insulting.
“The RPF saturates every aspect of life in Rwanda,” said Susan Thomson, a longtime Rwanda expert at Colgate University. “They know everything: if you’ve been drinking, if you’ve had an affair, if you’ve paid your taxes.” Everything is reported on, Thomson says, and there is no appeal.
From the beginning, Kagame’s legitimacy was founded on his image as the man who had halted the genocide committed by the Hutu-led government and extremist militias. While the vast majority of the 800,000 people killed in the frenzy were Tutsis and moderate Hutus, there are profound flaws in what is usually a rather simplistic telling of the country’s history.
Pointing to the origins of the war and its bloody aftermath, Scott Straus, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, said: “An honest analysis … would show that the reasons for what happened were much more complicated than the idea that the Hutus hate the Tutsis and want to wipe them out.”
For one thing, there is abundant evidence that Kagame’s forces in the early days carried out targeted executions of the Hutu elite, followed later by much larger extermination campaigns that killed tens of thousands of people.
A year after the genocide had ended, blood was still being spilled, recalls Timothy Longman, then the country director for Human Rights Watch. “People would take me around and say, ‘There’s mass grave right over here,’ and you would ask, ‘From when?’ And they would say, ‘Just from a few weeks ago—not from the genocide,’” says Longman, who now directs the African Studies Center at Boston University.
One of the earliest investigations was undertaken by a U.N. team led by the American Robert Gersony in the fall of 1994. The team conducted research by interviewing people in refugee camps and the countryside. In a report later suppressed by the U.N., partly as a result of American political pressure aimed at supporting the new RPF government, Gersony’s team concluded that four provinces had seen “systematic and sustained killing and persecution of their civilian Hutu populations by the RPA,” the armed wing of the RPF.
Furthermore, the report estimated that the RPA killed between 15,000 and 30,000 people in just four of its survey areas in the summer of 1994. Years later a key member of Gersony’s team told me that the real number of Hutus killed during this period was likely much higher, but that a low estimate had been published because of fears of a political backlash within the U.N. so soon after its failure to stop the larger-scale killing of Tutsis. “What we found was a well-organized military-style operation, with military command and control, and these were military-campaign-style mass murders,” the team member told me.
(In one notorious incident in April 1995, the RPA attacked an internally displaced people’s camp in Kibeho using automatic weapons, grenades, and mortars. A team of Australian medics listed more than 4,000 dead when the RPA forced them to stop counting. France’s leading researcher on the region, Gérard Prunier, estimates that at least 20,000 more people from the camp “disappeared” after the massacre.)
Many people inside the country know this history well but have been prevented from talking about it as the political space has narrowed.
In the run-up to the 2010 election in which Kagame was declared the winner, there was widespread violence, with several journalists and figures from the opposition attacked or killed, including a politician who was beheaded. Amnesty International condemned the violence and the “killings, arrests, and the closure of newspapers and broadcasters [which] reinforced a climate of fear.”
The case of Victoire Ingabire, a politician from the opposition, was instructive. When she returned to Rwanda that year, having lived 16 years in exile, to prepare a run for president, her first stop was at the official genocide memorial. “We are here honoring at this memorial the Tutsi victims of the genocide. There are also Hutu who were victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes, not remembered or honored here,” she said in a prepared statement. “Hutu are also suffering. They are wondering when their time will come to remember their people. In order for us to get to that desirable reconciliation, we must be fair and compassionate towards every Rwandan’s suffering.”
Ingabire was promptly arrested and accused of “genocide ideology.” During her trial, President Kagame publicly declared that she was guilty.
Tiny Rwanda is called the land of a thousand hills because of its verdant, rolling countryside of strikingly fertile farmland. It is a land of beauty and unrelenting order. But unlike its much larger neighbor Congo, it is not endowed with any mineral wealth to speak of. Yet Rwanda’s economy depends on the exploitation of Congolese resources.
Through mafialike networks reportedly run by the Rwandan Army and the RPF, huge quantities of Congo’s minerals are siphoned out of the country, experts say.
As early as 2000, Rwanda was believed to be making $80 million to $100 million annually from Congolese coltan alone, roughly the equivalent of the entire defense budget, according to Reyntjens, the Belgian expert.
Pillaging the Congo obscures Rwanda’s giant military budget from foreign donors who provide as much as 50 percent of the country’s budget every year. It also provides a rich source of income to the urban elites, especially returnees from Uganda, who form the regime’s core.
“After the first Congo war, money began coming in through military channels and never entered the coffers of the Rwandan state,” says Rudasingwa, Kagame’s former lieutenant. “It is RPF money, and Kagame is the only one who knows how much money it is—or how it is spent. In meetings it was often said, ‘For Rwanda to be strong, Congo must be weak, and the Congolese must be divided.’”
Congo looms large in the story of Kagame in other ways as well. For years Rwandan government forces and their proxies have operated in Congo. Twice Rwanda has invaded the country outright, in September 1996, when with U.S. acquiescence it successfully waged war to overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko, and again beginning in August 1998, when it mounted a repeat operation to depose Laurent-Désiré Kabila. This second operation, to replace the very man Kagame installed to replace Mobutu, ended in failure but established a pattern of intervention and meddling aimed at undermining its much larger neighbor. The ensuing war, involving several African nations, is believed to have cost the lives of 5 million people.
As early as 1997, the U.N. estimated that Rwandan forces had caused the deaths of 200,000 Hutus in Congo; Prunier, the French expert, has since estimated that the toll is closer to 300,000. According to the U.N. report, these deaths could not be attributed to the hazards of war or to collateral damage. “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces.” The report concluded that the systematic and widespread attacks, “if proven before a competent court, could be characterized as crimes of genocide.”
Two years ago, Kagame delivered a lecture in London on “The Challenges of Nation-Building in Africa: The Case of Rwanda.” When confronted with a U.N. report that was then making headlines with the suggestion that his forces had committed genocide in Congo, he dismissed such allegations as “baseless” and “absurd.” Clearly he was keener to talk about economic indicators and repeat the oft-told success story of his country.
But even that is a truth with modification. Social inequality in Rwanda is high and rising, experts say. Despite an average annual growth rate of about 5 percent since 2005, poverty is soaring in the countryside, where few Western journalists report without official escort.
“The rural sector has suffered enormous extraction under the post-genocide government, far more than what had happened before,” said one longtime researcher who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There is a real increase in misery. When you speak of Rwanda as a volcano, that’s what’s involved.”
Will Rwanda explode again? The big, looming issue is whether Kagame will leave office in 2017, as the Constitution calls for. With so much to answer for, few expect a straightforward exit.
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.
An Editorial from the Boston Globe
The brazen takeover of the city of Goma by the rebel group M-23 is a disastrous return to uncertainty for the people of the eastern Congo, who have endured violence at the hands of squabbling militias for nearly two decades. Although little bloodshed has been reported in Goma — Congolese soldiers fled without much of a fight — the rebel victory is the clearest sign yet that the region’s fragile peace has unraveled. The international community should do some serious soul-searching about whether it makes sense to spend $1.4 billion a year on peacekeepers who failed to protect the city. Peacekeepers are only effective when there is a peace to keep.
What’s needed now are negotiations among the players behind this violence, and clarity about what it would take to change their behavior. It is an open secret that neighboring Rwanda and, to a lesser extent, Uganda, are supporting M-23 with weapons, funding, and recruits.
In recent months, international pressure has mounted on Rwanda and Uganda to cease their support for M-23, which controls territory rich in lucrative minerals and metals. Rwanda and Uganda deny such support, but a United Nations panel of experts recently concluded that the rebel group takes orders from Rwanda’s minister of defense.
Despite facing such criticisms, Rwandan president Paul Kagame — a brilliant strategist known for taking calculated risks — appears to have doubled down on his bet in Congo. But now that M-23 controls Goma, the world has no choice but to demand that Kagame restrain the group. Some two million people are believed to have been displaced in the current round of fighting. International donors who pay for the refugee camps should consider taking some of the money out of funds earmarked for Rwanda.
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.
* Rwanda genocide sowed seeds of recurring ethnic strife
* For years, Congo has paid price in blood for its riches
* Tiny Rwanda has not flinched from invading giant neighbour
* Questions hang over how far M23 rebellion can spread
By Pascal Fletcher
Nov 22 (Reuters) – History seems to repeat itself in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Once again, armed rebels are on the move in the vast central African country’s eastern borderlands with Rwanda and Uganda.
This Great Lakes area, where colonial era borders cut at random through ethnic groups, has in the last 20 years been a crucible of conflict and ethnic rivalry that has launched multiple uprisings and invasions, at least one even reaching the Congolese capital Kinshasa 1,000 miles to the west.
The latest Tutsi insurgents, calling themselves M23 and mirroring a previous 2004-2009 revolt, this week easily seized the North Kivu provincial capital of Goma and say they too want to “liberate” Congo and march to Kinshasa.
Whether they can remains to be seen, and Congo government troops were fighting back on Thursday.
The M23 revolt once again focuses the attention of an uncomprehending world on a territory in the heart of Africa the size of Western Europe that has dazzled explorers and invaders for years with its treasure trove of resources: rubber, timber, gold, diamonds, copper, as well as cobalt, uranium and coltan.
Congo has paid in blood and suffering for these natural riches. Abuses under colonial rule in the late 1880s and early 1900s during a rubber boom saw agents and soldiers of Belgian King Leopold II sever human hands, feet and heads to force natives to extract the white latex from the luxuriant forest.
Independence from Belgium in 1960 turned Congo into a Cold War battleground fought over by rebels and mercenaries, CIA agents and Cuban guerrillas and also led to the long crippling kleptocracy of U.S.-backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seku.
The last two decades have only worsened Congo’s “Heart of Darkness” image – propagated by Joseph Conrad’s brooding 1902 novel – with conflicts that at one stage sucked in the armies of six African countries, spawned a plethora of armed groups and created a deadly maelstrom of war, hunger and disease.
Estimates from humanitarian agencies say over five million people have died in this destructive vortex since 1998 alone.
“The Congo is a story of … a country where the state has been eroded over centuries and where once the fighting began, each community seemed to have its own militia, fighting brutal insurgencies and counterinsurgencies with each other,” wrote analyst and author Jason Stearns in his 2011 book on the Congolese war, “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters”.
He compared Congo’s recent turmoil to “seventeenth-century Europe and the Thirty Years’ War”, a religious and political conflict in which foraging armies devastated entire regions.
The roots of eastern Congo’s most recent cycle of violence can be found in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, when the world largely stood by as soldiers and militia of the Hutu ethnic group killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in a bloodletting that ripped apart the country’s tribal faultlines.
This brought on the coming years of chaos, as Tutsi rebels led by Paul Kagame, now Rwanda’s president, toppled the Hutu government and sent the perpetrators of the genocide fleeing into eastern Congo along with two million Hutu refugees.
Since then, the presence of Hutu ‘genocidaires’ in eastern Congo, grouped in the enduring Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), has given Kinshasa’s small but militarily powerful neighbour an excuse to interfere and invade.
One such Rwandan intervention ended Mobutu’s corrupt reign in 1997, replacing him with longtime eastern rebel Laurent Kabila. Kabila’s falling out with his former Rwandan and Ugandan backers in 1998 led to another eastern rebellion, by Congolese Tutsis supported by Rwandan and Ugandan forces.
Troops from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe backed Kabila in a multinational conflict lasting until 2003. Dubbed Africa’s first “World War”, it included widespread plunder of Congo’s minerals. Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and succeeded by his son, Joseph, the current Congolese president re-elected last year.
In 2004, a Congolese Tutsi warlord, General Laurent Nkunda began a fresh rebellion among the ethnic Rwandan Tutsis in eastern Congo, to counter what he said was their persecution by Kabila’s army working with the FDLR.
Once again, Congo’s government accused neighbouring Rwanda of being behind the Nkunda insurgency, which ended in a 2009 peace accord with Kabila. But Tutsi rebellion has resurfaced again in the M23, whose leaders say the agreement was not honoured by Kinshasa.
MINERALS AND PEACEKEEPERS
Rwanda denied backing Nkunda – it later arrested him – and has even more vehemently rejected charges this year by Congo and a panel of United Nations experts that it is supporting, supplying and directing the current M23 insurgency.
However, few abroad believe the public Rwandan denials, especially since Kagame has been on the record for years as saying that Rwanda will defend itself from any neighbouring threat. In this, he includes the FDLR in eastern Congo, still active though depleted in numbers from previous years.
“We will never shy away from crossing our borders to prevent a repeat of what happened in 1994 (the Rwandan genocide),” he told Reuters in a 2000 interview.
Congo says Rwanda also benefits from minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold mined in its east and smuggled out over the border, and U.N. experts have accused at least one M23 leader, Bosco Ntaganda, of being involved in such trafficking.
For more than a decade, the United Nations has kept one of its largest peacekeeping forces in the world – 17,000 strong – in the Congo, and this MONUSCO force faces criticism for failing to stop the M23 rebels taking Goma this week.
But despite the historical precedents, some analysts do not see the M23 with either the capacity or intention to march on Kinshasa, although Goma’s fall was an embarrassment for Kabila and could encourage other opposition challenges to his rule.
“We do not expect a major escalation by M23 (and backer Rwanda) beyond its provincial stronghold of North Kivu,” Eurasia Group’s Africa Director Philippe de Pontet said.
He described the territory’s significance for Rwanda as “a security buffer for Tutsis on both sides of the border and as a revenue source, largely from so-called conflict minerals.”
With uncertainty surrounding the future course of the M23 rebellion, the words of “Mad Mike” Hoare, who fought in the Congo in the 1960s and became the epitome of the white mercenary in Africa seem appropriate to the case: “Anything can happen in the Congo and frequently does”.
While the world’s attention has been focused on Israel and Gaza, rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have captured a city inhabited by a million people. The scale of the victory stands in stark contrast to the amount of attention that it actually gets from the Western media. Part of the tragedy of the Congo War is how easily it has been ignored, and it’s a tragedy compounded by the lavish praise heaped by developed nations on one of its combatants – Rwanda. Never in history
has a state so deserved the adjective “rogue.”
The origins of the Congo War lie in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when the Hutu government of Rwanda attempted to exterminate its Tutsi minority. The Tutsi leader Paul Kagame commanded an insurrection that took control of Rwanda and sparked an exodus of Hutu militants in to the eastern portion of what was then called Zaire. Rwandan policy thereafter became to try to assert control of those parts of Zaire that align its border, which just happen to be awash with minerals.
When the Zairian kleptocracy of Joseph Mobutu crumbled in 1997, Rwanda sponsored a revolution led by Laurent Kabila that created the modern day DRC. But Kabila proved a fickle and incompetent ally. Rwanda and Uganda sponsored a new rebellion in the east, while Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe came to the aid of their old Cold War comrade in the west. Kabila himself was assassinated in 2001. Although the war officially came to an end in 2003, fighting in the east has continued – kept alive in by countless army rebellions, including the M23 Movement that just captured Goma. Millions have died, many of them children. Rape has become an instrument of war. One study calculatedthat 1,152 women are raped every day in the DRC, equivalent to 48 every hour.
Rwanda and the DRC are a tale of two countries. The DRC is beset by corruption and constant threats of secession. Election results are commonly disputed; civil war never seems far off. By contrast, Rwanda seems to be a model of development. This Guardian report highlights the good things: “Life is orderly, pavements are clean and roads are free from the potholes that curse much of Africa … Primary school attendance has trebled, child mortality has halved and parliament has achieved the highest proportion of female members in the world.” Kagame’s praises are routinely sung by Anglosphere leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. In 2009, Rwanda was invited to join the Commonwealth. Its membership is an implied snub to the Francophone alliance – a detail that is no mere coincidence.
In France, you’ll find a different interpretation of Kagame. While he is undoubtedly the man who delivered Rwanda from a genocidal Hell, his leadership has evolved into a brilliantly marketed neo-authoritarianism. Some accuse him of using guilt about the West’s failure to defend his fellow Tutsis to discourage criticism of his own crimes. Journalists have been arrested and some killed. Kagame won the 2010 election with an implausibly high 93 per cent of the vote; three major opposition parties were excluded from the ballot. The Guardian picks up the story: “Two [of the opposition’s] leaders were jailed and still languish there today. The third, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party, was also arrested briefly then went into exile after his deputy, Andrew Kagwa, was found dead, nearly decapitated.”
Moreover, if the DRC is a failed state, then it’s partly because Rwanda is a rogue state. In June 2012, UN monitors directly accused Kagame of involvement in the DRC’s civil war (and for a sense of Rwanda’s proximity to the conflict, consider that Goma is effectively contiguous with the Rwandan town of Gisenyi). This is not a war in the traditional sense of violence pursued for political goals – it amounts to criminality on an unimaginable scale. Traders are subject to extortion, women are raped and property stolen. In April, rebels robbed the International Bank of Africa in Goma – twice. The first time, they walked off with $1 million. The second time, they could only recover $50,000 from the vault. The main reason why the M23 movement started was that the DRC’s government tried to bring criminal acts carried out by its soldiers under control – there are very few good guys in this war. But be in no doubt: M23 is a violent, barbaric organisation that exists only to exploit the very people it claims to be liberating. If his critics are right, it is being supported by the “excellent” Mr Kagame.
Central Africa might be a complex and distant region, but that’s not to stop the West making more discriminating moral choices about its engagement there. Rwanda’s membership of the Commonwealth was a big mistake. It is true that membership of the Commonwealth can help a government to work towards democracy, but that model ordinarily applies to former parts of the empire that effectively “inherited” their membership. In the case of Rwanda, a country that has no historic link to Britain, which is not truly democratic and which is accused of sabotaging a neighboring state was invited to join despite showing only the most superficial commitment to peace or liberalization. It was a bizarre choice informed more by political fashion than good sense. It needs to be revisited.
Dr Tim Stanley is a historian of the United States. His biography of Pat Buchanan is out now. His personal website is www.timothystanley.co.ukand you can follow him on Twitter @timothy_stanley.
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
In an emergency session on Saturday, the UN Security Council demanded an end to fighting by the “March 23 Movement” (M23) in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to the worsening situation in the country.
The Security Council demanded the immediate cessation of any outside support to the rebels from abroad. However, the Security Council members, expressed their intention to impose additional sanctions against the leaders of the group M23 and those who violate the sanctions regime and arms embargo against the rebels.
The origins of the conflict between the DRC and Rwanda have their roots in 1994, when the genocide of Tutsis by Hutus killed at least 800,000 people the territory of Rwanda.
Voice of Russia, RIA
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.
ABIDJAN (Reuters) – The U.S. government said Saturday it will cut military aid to Rwanda for this year, citing evidence Kigali is supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in a significant step by one of Rwanda’s staunchest allies.
Rwanda has denied reports by United Nations experts and rights groups that it is backing eastern Congolese rebels, including the M23 group, which has seized parts of North Kivu province in fighting that has displaced over 260,000 people since April.
The U.S. State Department cited evidence of Rwandan support for the rebels in announcing
the military aid suspension.
“The United States government is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23,” said Hilary Fuller Renner, a State Department spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.
“We will not obligate $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2012 Foreign Military Financing funds that were intended to support a Rwandan academy for non-commissioned officers. These funds will be reallocated for programming in another country,” she said.
Washington has stood by Rwanda in the past despite the tiny nation’s long history of involvement in wars in vast neighboring Congo.
Rwanda’s foreign minister has previously said reports of its involvement in Congo fighting were “disingenuous” and a bid to make Rwanda a scapegoat for its neighbor’s problems. Officials in Kigali were not immediately available for comment on the U.S. aid cut.
Renner said Washington was in the process of assessing whether further steps should be taken in response to Rwanda’s actions in Congo.
She said the United States would continue to help Rwanda support peacekeeping missions. Rwanda has a major peacekeeping presence in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Although the amount of cash being withheld is small, analysts said the move clearly signaled Washington’s displeasure.
“The U.S. government has been a longstanding ally of the Rwandan government. This step, even if symbolic, is emblematic of a shift in perception – if not necessarily in aid – in Washington,” said independent Congo expert Jason Stearns.
Rwanda sent its army into Congo, then called Zaire, in the mid 1990s, ostensibly to hunt down Rwandan Hutu rebels who fled there after the 1994 genocide.
A decade of conflict followed, in which Rwandan forces helped Congolese rebels topple the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. They then fell out with the rebels they initially backed, sparking a war that sucked in other neighboring armies and officially ended in 2003.
The current rebellion comes after three years of generally improved relations between Kinshasa and Kigali since the latter helped end a 2004-9 eastern Congolese uprising, which Rwanda was also accused of backing.
The leaders of Congo and Rwanda agreed at a meeting this month to allow a neutral force to be deployed in Congo to defeat each others’ rebels, but the plan’s details have not been announced yet.
(Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Roger Atwood)