Category Archives: RPA

Peter Erlinder Jailed by One of the Major Genocidaires of Our Era

Article from: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/hp290510.html

The May 28 arrest of the U.S. attorney Peter Erlinder by the Paul Kagame dictatorship in Rwanda reveals much about this regime that is routinely sanitized in establishment U.S. and Western intellectual life and media coverage.  But if we use Erlinder’s arrest to call attention to some less well-known facts, a much grimmer scenario about Kagame than as a “man of the hour in modern Africa,” who “offers such encouraging hope for the continent’s future” (Stephen Kinzer),2 comes to light.

For one thing, Kagame does not like free elections, and he has avoided or emasculated them assiduously.  Erlinder arrived in Kigali on May 23 to take up the legal representation of Victoire Ingabire, a Hutu expatriate who had spent the past 16 years in the Netherlands, but who immediately upon her return to Rwanda in January was regarded as the leading opposition figure, though her United Democratic Forces hadn’t been able to register as an official party.  The Kagame regime arrested her on April 21, and charged her with “association with a terrorist group; propagating genocide ideology; negationism and ethnic divisionism.”3  As 2010 is an election year in Rwanda (now scheduled for August 9), this should help Kagame once again to avoid any meaningful electoral contest.

In 2003, Rwanda’s last election year, opposition parties, candidates, and media not only weren’t welcomed, they wound up harassed, shut-down, arrested, exiled, and disappeared.  In 2002, Kagame’s main rival at the time, a Hutu and former President Pasteur Bizimungu, was arrested and charged with “divisionism,” a kind of Kagame-speak that means to provide political choices other than the one-party Kagame dictatorship.  In 2003, the Hutu former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu was permitted onto the presidential ballot but prevented from campaigning, and his Democratic Republic Movement (MDR) banned altogether; he and his MDR were also accused of “divisionism.”

The official August 25 presidential vote that year reported 94% for Kagame.  In a country whose population then, as now, as at the start of 1994, was majority Hutu by roughly a 6-to-1 margin over the Tutsi, only Kagame’s intimidation and repression of Rwanda’s civil society, and his election-rigging, could have produced a result like this.  Thus when Peter Erlinder spoke in late April about the arrest of Victoire Ingabire as a “carbon-copy of Kagame’s tactics in 2003, when all serious political challengers were jailed or driven from the country,” and when he likened the charges against her (and now against himself as well) to “trumped-up political thought-crimes . . . arising from the ‘crime’ of publicly objecting to the Kagame military dictatorship and Kagame’s version of Rwandan civil war history,”4 this was what he meant.

The Arusha Accords of August 1993 had stipulated that national elections be held in Rwanda by no later than 1995, but this was precluded by the military takeover of Rwanda by Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in April-July 1994, which allowed the minority Tutsi faction (less than 15 percent) to seize power by force.

The allegation of “genocide denial” has been an important instrument of Kagame’s rule, with potentially rival politicians, or in fact any Kagame target, so accused and pushed out of the way.  According to news accounts during the first 24 hours after his arrest, Erlinder, a lead defense counsel before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and a former president of the National Lawyers Guild in New York, “is being charged with denying the Rwandan genocide and was being interrogated . . . at police headquarters in the capital, Kigali. . . .  A police spokesman, Eric Kayingare, said that Mr. Erlinder was accused of ‘denying the genocide’ and ‘negationism’ from statements he had made at the tribunal in Arusha, as well as ‘in his books, in publications’.”5  Martin Ngoga, the Prosecutor General of the Kagame regime, told Agence France Presse that Erlinder “denies the genocide in his writings and his speeches.  Worse than that, he has become an organizer of genocide deniers.  If negating [the Tutsi genocide] is not punished in [the United States,] it is punished in Rwanda.  And when he came here he knew that.”6

Under Rwanda’s 2003 Constitution,7 the “State of Rwanda commits itself to conform to the following fundamental principles and to promote and enforce the respect thereof,” foremost of which is “fighting the ideology of genocide and all its manifestations” (Article 9).  “Revisionism, negationism and trivialisation of genocide are punishable by the law” (Article 13).  The Rwandan State is so conscious of the political usefulness of “genocide” that its Constitution even creates a National Commission For the Fight Against Genocide (Article 179).

Of course, this is straight out of Kafka, as a compelling case can be made that Kagame and his RPF were the major genocidaires in Rwanda and, in alliance with Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni dictatorship, both under U.S. and U.K. protection, have extended and enlarged their genocidal operations to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.  Peter Erlinder has never denied the fact that mass-atrocity crimes and even genocide were committed in Rwanda, much less that a large number of Tutsi were slaughtered.  But he has shown, with carefully gathered documentary evidence, that an even larger number of Hutu were also slaughtered there, and that Kagame and the RPF were the initiators and main perpetrators of these mass killings.  This, ultimately, is what the charge of “denying the genocide” really means: Like a growing body of researchers, Erlinder rejects the version of the “Rwandan genocide” long since institutionalized within U.S.-, Western-, and RPF-establishment circles.

One of Erlinder’s notable documentary discoveries is an internal memorandum drafted in September 1994 for the eyes of then-U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in which it was reported that a UN team on the ground in Rwanda “concluded that a pattern of killing had emerged” there, the “[RPF] and Tutsi civilian surrogates [killing] 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the [RPF] accounting for 95% of the killing.”  This memorandum added that the UN team “speculated that the purpose of the killing was a campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to clear certain areas in the south of Rwanda for Tutsi habitation.  The killings also served to reduce the population of Hutu males and discouraged refugees from returning to claim their lands.”8

We may recall that the reported (but contested9) massacre of 8,000 military-aged men at Srebrenica in July 1995 led to genocide charges, imprisonment of many Serb officials and military personnel, and huge indignation in the West.  Yet, here is an internal U.S. document alleging “10,000 or more Hutu civilians” butchered per month by Kagame’s forces to cleanse the ground for Tutsi resettlement — and not only is the leading butcher not imprisoned, but his regime continues to bathe in Western support and adulation, and can get away with charging the man who helped expose his crimes with “genocide denial”!

Consider also the five following material facts:

1. The “triggering event” in the mass killings known as the “Rwandan genocide” was the shooting down of the Falcon-50 jet carrying then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, then-Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, and ten others on its approach to the Kanombe International Airport in Kigali on the evening of April 6, 1994.  It is now conclusively established that these political assassinations were carried out by Kagame’s forces.  When ICTR investigator Michael Hourigan had assembled compelling evidence showing this, then-ICTR Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour quashed his investigation on orders from U.S. officials.  This official line of inquiry has been suppressed ever since, though it was amplified and confirmed by the French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière, whose own inquiry concluded in late 2006 that Kagame and the RPF, fully aware that they would lose the elections scheduled by the Arusha Accords due to the overwhelming majority enjoyed by the Hutu in the country, opted for the “physical elimination” of Habyarimana and reopening their assault on the Rwandan government to achieve their goal of an RPF-takeover of the country.10  Although three consecutive U.S. presidential administrations (Clinton’s, Bush’s, and Obama’s) and the establishment U.S. media have been wonderfully cooperative in keeping crucial evidence such as this on the “genocide” out of public sight, the work of Peter Erlinder and his colleagues has been important in the struggle to counter the Western party-line.

2. The important U.S. analysts Christian Davenport and Allan Stam also concluded that more Hutu than Tutsi were killed during the period of the “Rwandan genocide” (April-July, 1994), and that killings on the ground in Rwanda actually “surged” in each area attacked by Kagame’s RPF.11

3. Allan Stam, a former Special Forces soldier as well as an academician, has pointed out that the Kagame-RFP military offensive following the “triggering event” of the “Rwandan genocide” (i.e., the shootdown of the Falcon-50 jet) were closely modeled on the U.S. ground invasion of Iraq during the first Gulf War, and that Kagame’s forces went into mass action within one hour of this event.12  (Kagame actually studied at Fort Leavenworth in the United States, and was apparently a quick learner.)

4. Both before and during the “Rwandan genocide,” the United States pressed for the reduction of UN troops in Rwanda.  The Rwandan government urged more UN troops,13 but the presence of a larger contingent of UN troops on the ground clearly would have interfered with Kagame’s well-planned and executed military operations.  This points up the likelihood that any pre-planned, organized mass killings were dominated by Kagame’s RPF, and that the U.S. government supported it.

5. Kagame’s forces established control of Rwanda within one hundred days of the triggering event.  This is not consistent with the notion that his was an unplanned defensive reaction and that his ethnic group, the minority Tutsi, was the main victim.

Paul Kagame has used the excuse of pursuing “genocidaires” to justify his regular invasions of the Congo.  The casualties in these operations, coordinated with fellow dictator Yoweri Museveni, have run into the millions.  We believe that Kagame has far outstripped Idi Amin as a mass killer (Amin’s killings are estimated at 100,000-300,000, whereas Kagame’s surely run well over a million civilians).  But Kagame is servicing establishment U.S. and Western interests, and for the past 20 years has therefore received a free pass to rob and kill.

And all the while, Kagame has ridden the wave of fighting against “genocide denial”!  Hopefully, he has gone too far in using that Kafkaesque gimmick against Peter Erlinder, a notable fighter against both actual genocide and genocide denial.

Endnotes

1  For a much more comprehensive development of the themes discussed here, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System,” Monthly Review 60, May, 2010.  Also see Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010).

2  Quoting Kinzer’s hagiographic words in A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008), 337.

3  “Rwanda Opposition Chief Held for ‘Genocide Denial’,” Agence France Presse, April 21, 2010.

4  Peter Erlinder quoted in “U.S. Lawyer to Defend Victoire Ingabire: First Female Presidential Candidate in Rwanda — Jailed by President/Gen. Paul Kagame,” News Advisory, International Humanitarian Law Institute, April 23, 2010 (as posted to the BayView website).

5  Josh Kron and Jeffrey Gettleman, “American Lawyer for Opposition Figure Is Arrested in Rwanda,” New York Times, May 29, 2010.

6  “Rwanda Arrests U.S. Lawyer Defending Opposition Figure,” Agence France Presse, May 28, 2010.

7  See Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, June 4, 2003, and its Amendments, as posted to the website of the Rwandan Ministry of Defense.  Here we note that the word ‘genocide’ appears no fewer than 14 different times in Rwanda’s approx. 16,400-word-long Constitution.

8  George E. Moose, “Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda,” Information Memorandum to The Secretary, U.S. Department of State, undated though clearly drafted between September 17 and 20, 1994.  This document is archived at the Rwanda Documents Project at William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, ICTR Military-1 Exhibit, DNT 264.

9  See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” Monthly Review 59, October, 2007, esp. Sect. 5 and Sect. 6, 19-26. 

10  See Jean-Louis Bruguière, Request for the Issuance of International Arrest Warrants, Tribunal de Grande Instance, Paris, France, November 21, 2006, 15-16 (para. 100-103).

11  See Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, Rwandan Political Violence in Space and Time, unpublished manuscript, 2004 (available at Christian Davenport’s personal website > “Project Writings”); and Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam, “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” Miller-McCune, October 6, 2009.

12  See Allan C. Stam, “Coming to a New Understanding of the Rwanda Genocide,” a lecture before the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan, February 18, 2009.  Beginning at approx. the 22:47 mark, Stam explains: “Now, moments later, the RPF — literally moments, somewhere between 60 and 120 minutes after his plane is shot down, the RPF invades.  Now, we could characterize this invasion as, ‘Wow, a spontaneous reaction to go in and defend our allies’.  The problem is, this invasion looks staggeringly like the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 1991.  It has exactly the same features.  There is a central drive in this case due south towards Kigali, very much like the central drive towards Baghdad.  There is the sweeping left-hook — but in this case because the map is reversed there is the sweeping right-hook.  This is a plan that was not worked out on the back of an envelope.  Fifty-thousand soldiers move into action on two fronts, in a coordinated fashion, ‘spontaneously’?  Tsk.”

13  In the words of Rwandan UN Ambassador Jean-Damascène Bizimana: “[T]he international community does not seem to have acted in an appropriate manner to reply to the anguished appeal of the people of Rwanda.  This question has often been examined from the point of view of the ways and means to withdraw [UNAMIR], without seeking to give the appropriate weight to the concern of those who have always believed, rightly, that, in view of the security situation now prevailing in Rwanda, UNAMIR’s members should be increased to enable it to contribute to the re-establishment of the cease-fire and to assist in the establishment of security conditions that could bring an end to the violence. . . .  The option chosen by the Council, reducing the number of troops in UNAMIR. . . , is not a proper response to this crisis. . . .”  See “The situation concerning Rwanda,” UN Security Council (S/PV.3368), April 21, 1994, 6.


Edward S. Herman is professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and has written extensively on economics, political economy, and the media. Among his books are Corporate Control, Corporate Power (Cambridge University Press, 1981), The Real Terror Network (South End Press, 1982), and, with Noam Chomsky, The Political Economy of Human Rights (South End Press, 1979), and Manufacturing Consent (Pantheon, 2002).  David Peterson is an independent journalist and researcher based in Chicago.  Herman and Peterson are co-authors of The Politics of Genocide (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010).StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter

Rwanda’s Opposition Leader Ruffles Feathers on Genocide

Recently, a Rwandan opposition political leader returned home after 16 years outside of the country. She is the first woman to attempt a run at the presidency of Rwanda. Upon landing at the Kigali Airport, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza headed to the genocide memorial at Gisozi. During an interview with a member of the media, she expressed words that virtually every Rwandan living inside Rwanda is too terrified to utter. She said that the memorial shows the genocide committed against Tutsis in Rwanda but leaves out massacres committed against Hutus. In Rwanda, it is a cardinal sin to mix these two issues. The issue of genocide against Tutsi’s is well acknowledged and is a reminder of Rwanda’s dark past. What is intriguing is that it is sacrilege to acknowledge that there were crimes against humanity and massacres committed against Hutus. The major issue with these crimes against humanity is that they were committed by the RPF (Rwanda’s current ruling party) as Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations have pointed out time and time again. The big issue with Ms. Umuhoza’s speech is that she is telling an “inconvenient truth”.

As soon as Umuhoza made these comments, government newspapers such as New Times, government officials, other government sponsored media organizations, and several genocide survivor organizations went on a full blown attack against the politician and called for her prosecution on charges of divisionism and genocide denial. The question here is this: how does saying that Hutu’s were killed deny that Tutsi’s were killed? How does saying that Americans were killed in the recent earthquake in Haiti deny that Haitians were killed? This genocide denial charge and divisionism are crimes that the Rwandan government added to the tiny country’s laws in order to muzzle opposition and to silence any voices of dissent. It was predictable that Ms. Umuhoza would face such talk and it is conceivable that she may have to answer to these charges in court.  This will be Rwanda’s way of blocking her candidacy to the presidency as she poses a real threat to actually win Rwanda’s upcoming elections if they are held in a free and fair manner.  President Paul Kagame and his cronies will stop at nothing in order to retain power in Rwanda.  However, saying that Hutu’s were killed is far from saying that genocide did not take place in Rwanda.

It remains to be seen whether Umuhoza’s party will be allowed to function inside Rwanda. There are virtually no opposition parties in Rwanda. The country is essentially a one party state that is run similar to many of the former communist countries in terms of governance. Last year, an opposition party; Social Party – Imberakuri (PSI) was allowed to function in Rwanda. This major landmark in Rwanda’s political sphere has produced numerous appearances by PSI’s leader Bernard Ntaganda before the Rwandan Senate to answer to charges of divisionism. They are threatening to suspend his party from the country’s political scene.  The Green Party has attempted to formally register and been denied time after time. The Green Party’s gatherings have been characterized by attacks and beatings of it’s members and leaders by Rwandan government forces. With outrage of unfounded claims of divisionism and genocide denial, Rwanda’s muzzling of opposition and voices of dissent, Umuhoza’s party have an insurmountable task on their hands to get the party officially registered.  In the end, Rwanda is proving what many have said for years that opposition and disagreement with the government is met with zero tolerance. Freedom of speech, a fundamental right was dead long ago.

Conflict Minerals: A Cover For US Allies and Western Mining Interests?

Below is article from the Huffington Post that provides a concise recommendation on the Congo conflict. Although it is a short article, it has all of the points that MUST be considered if the Congo conflict is to be resolved.

________________________________

As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, myriad Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo’s challenges than to resolve them.

The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR and other rebel groups while scant attention is paid to Uganda (which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo) and Rwanda (whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by UN reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials). Rwanda is the main transit point for illicit minerals coming from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group (FDLR, CNDP or others) transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda’s mining sector output grew 20% in 2008 from the year earlier due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country’s three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed. In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo’s minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach $200 million by 2010. Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes “having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure.

According to Global Witness’s 2009 report, Faced With A Gun What Can you Do, Congolese government statistics and reports by the Group of Experts and NGOs, Rwanda is one of the main conduits for illicit minerals leaving the Congo. It is amazing that the conflict mineral approach shout loudly about making sure that the trade in minerals does not benefit armed groups but the biggest armed beneficiary of Congo’s minerals is the Rwandan regime headed by Paul Kagame. Nonetheless, the conflict mineral approach is remarkably silent about Rwanda’s complicity in the fueling of the conflict in the Congo and the fleecing of Congo’s riches.

Advocates of the conflict mineral approach would be far more credible if they had ever called for any kind of pressure whatsoever on mining companies that are directly involved in either fueling the conflict or exploiting the Congolese people. The United Nations, The Congolese Parliament, Carter Center, Southern Africa Resource Watch and several other NGOs have documented corporations that have pilfered Congo’s wealth and contributed to the perpetuation of the conflict. Some of these companies include but are not limited to: Traxys, OM Group, Blattner Elwyn Group, Freeport McMoran, Eagle Wings/Trinitech, Lundin, Kemet, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Anvil Mining, and First Quantum.

The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration, is silent on the question of resource sovereignty which has been a central question in the geo-strategic battle for Congo’s mineral wealth. It was over this question of resource sovereignty that the West assassinated Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba and stifled the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people for over three decades by installing and backing the dictator Joseph Mobutu. In addition, the United States also backed the 1996 and 1998 invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda instead of supporting the non-violent, pro-democracy forces inside the Congo. Unfortunately and to the chagrin of the Congolese people, some of the strongest advocates of the conflict mineral approach are former Clinton administration officials who supported the invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. This may in part explains the militaristic underbelly of the conflict mineral approach, which has as its so-called second step a comprehensive counterinsurgency.

The focus on the east of Congo falls in line with the long-held obsession by some advocates in Washington who incessantly push for the balkanization of the Congo. Their focus on “Eastern Congo” is inadequate and does not fully take into account the nature and scope of the dynamics in the entire country. Political decisions in Kinshasa, the capital in the West, have a direct impact on the events that unfold in the East of Congo and are central to any durable solutions.

The central claim of the conflict mineral approach is to bring an end to the conflict; however, the conflict can plausibly be brought to an end much quicker through diplomatic and political means. The so-called blood mineral route is not the quickest way to end the conflict. We have already seen how quickly world pressure can work with the sidelining of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and the demobilization and/or rearranging of his CNDP rebel group in January 2009, as a result of global pressure placed on the CNDP’s sponsor Paul Kagame of Rwanda. More pressure needs to be placed on leaders such as Kagame and Museveni who have been at the root of the conflict since 1996. The FDLR can readily be pressured as well, especially with most of their political leadership residing in the West, however this should be done within a political framework, which brings all the players to the table as opposed to the current militaristic, dichotomous, good-guy bad-guy approach where the West sees Kagame and Museveni as the “good-guys” and everyone else as bad. The picture is far grayer than Black and White.

A robust political approach by the global community would entail the following prescriptions:

  1. Join Sweden and Netherlands in pressuring Rwanda to be a partner for peace and a stabilizing presence in the region. The United States and Great Britain in particular should apply more pressure on their allies Rwanda and Uganda to the point of withholding aid if necessary.
  2. Hold to account companies and individuals through sanctions trafficking in minerals whether with rebel groups or neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. Canada has chimed in as well but has been deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo. Canada must do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300.
  3. Encourage world leaders to be more engaged diplomatically and place a higher priority on what is the deadliest conflict in the World since World War Two.
  4. Reject the militarization of the Great Lakes region represented by AFRICOM, which has already resulted in the suffering of civilian population; the strengthening of authoritarian figures such as Uganda’s Museveni (in power since 1986) and Rwanda’s Kagame (won the 2003 “elections” with 95 percent of the vote); and the restriction of political space in their countries.
  5. Demand of the Obama administration to be engaged differently from its current military-laden approach and to take the lead in pursuing an aggressive diplomatic path with an emphasis on pursuing a regional political framework that can lead to lasting peace and stability.

To learn more about the current crisis in the Congo, visit www.conflictminerals.org.


Kambale Musavuli
is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. Bodia Macharia is the President of Friends of the Congo/ Canada.

Kagame’s Hidden War in the Congo

Below is a book review written on the Congo war. Unlike many available resources this review brings up points that are not normally raised about the Congo or Rwanda itself.

By Howard W. French

Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastropheby Gérard PrunierOxford University Press, 529 pp., $27.95

The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africaby René LemarchandUniversity of Pennsylvania Press, 327 pp., $59.95

The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Realityby Thomas TurnerZed Books, 243 pp., $32.95 (paper)

Although it has been strangely ignored in the Western press, one of the most destructive wars in modern history has been going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s third-largest country. During the past eleven years millions of people have died, while armies from as many as nine different African countries fought with Congolese government forces and various rebel groups for control of land and natural resources. Much of the fighting has taken place in regions of northeastern and eastern Congo that are rich in minerals such as gold, diamonds, tin, and coltan, which is used in manufacturing electronics.

Few realize that a main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighboring Rwanda, along with several Congolese groups supported by Rwanda. The reason for this involvement, according to Rwandan president Paul Kagame, is the continued threat to Rwanda posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia that includes remnants of the army that carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Until now, the US and other Western powers have generally supported Kagame diplomatically. And in January, Congo president Joseph Kabila, whose weak government has long had limited influence in the eastern part of the country, entered a surprise agreement with Kagame to allow Rwandan forces back into eastern Congo to fight the FDLR. But the extent of the Hutu threat to Rwanda is much debated, and observers note that Rwandan-backed forces have themselves been responsible for much of the violence in eastern Congo over the years.

Rwanda’s intervention in Congo began in 1996. Two years earlier, Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had invaded Rwanda from neighboring Uganda, defeating the government in Kigali and ending the genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. As Kagame installed a minority Tutsi regime in Rwanda, some two million Hutu refugees fled to UN-run camps, mostly in Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces. These provinces, which occupy an area of about 48,000 square miles—slightly larger than the state of Pennsylvania—are situated along Congo’s eastern border with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi and together have a population of more than five million people. In addition to containing rich deposits of minerals, North and South Kivu have, since the precolonial era, been subject to large waves of migration by people from Rwanda, including both Hutus and Tutsis. In recent decades these Rwandans have competed with more established residents for control of land.

Following Kagame’s consolidation of power in Rwanda, a large invasion force of Rwandan Tutsis arrived in North and South Kivu to pursue Hutu militants and to launch a war against the three-decade-long dictatorship of Congo (then known as Zaire) by Mobutu Sese Seko, whom they claimed was giving refuge to the leaders of the genocide. With Rwandan and Ugandan support, a new regime led by Laurent Kabila was installed in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital. But after Kabila ordered the Rwandan troops to leave in 1998, Kagame responded with a new and even larger invasion of the country.

Kabila’s hold on power was saved at this point by Angola and Zimbabwe, which rushed troops into Congo to repel the Rwandan invaders. Angola was motivated by fears that Congolese territory would be used as a rear base by the longtime Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, following the renewed outbreak of that country’s civil war. Zimbabwe appears to have been drawn by promises of access to Congolese minerals. The protracted and inconclusive conflict that followed has become what Gérard Prunier, in the title of his sprawling book, calls “Africa’s World War,” a catastrophic decade of violence that has led to a staggering 5.4 million deaths, far more than any war anywhere since World War II.[1] It also has resulted in one of the largest—and least followed—UN interventions in the world, involving nearly 20,000 UN soldiers from over forty countries.

Throughout this conflict, Rwanda—a small, densely populated country with few natural resources of its own—has pursued Congo’s enormous mineral wealth. Initially, the Rwandan Patriotic Front was directly operating mining businesses in Congo, according to UN investigators; more recently, Rwanda has attempted to maintain control of regions of eastern Congo through various proxy armies. Among these, none has been more lethal than the militia led by Laurent Nkunda, Congo’s most notorious warlord, whose record of violence in eastern Congo includes destroying entire villages, committing mass rapes, and causing hundreds of thousands of Congolese to flee their homes.

Nkunda is a Congolese Tutsi who is believed to have fought in both the Rwandan civil war and the subsequent war against Mobutu. In 2002, he was dispatched by the Rwandan government to Kisangani—an inland city in eastern Congo whose nearby gold mines have been fought over by Ugandan and Rwandan-backed forces. Nkunda committed numerous atrocities there, including the massacre of some 160 people, according to Human Rights Watch. In 2004, Nkunda declined a military appointment by Congo’s transitional government, choosing instead to back a Tutsi insurgency in North Kivu near the Rwandan border. He claimed that his actions were aimed at preventing an impending genocide of Tutsis in Congo. Most observers say that these claims were groundless.

Nkunda’s insurgency was put down, but clashes between his rebels, government forces, and other groups continued to foster ethnic tensions in eastern Congo, including widespread sexual violence against women; in 2005, the UN estimated that some 45,000 women were raped in South Kivu alone.[2] And in the fall of 2008, Nkunda—apparently with Kagame’s encouragement—led a new offensive of Tutsi rebels in North Kivu that uprooted about 200,000 civilians and threatened to capture the city of Goma, near the Rwandan border.

In January 2009, however, the Rwandan government made a surprise decision to arrest Nkunda. Kagame’s willingness to move against Nkunda appears to stem, in part, from increasing international scrutiny of Rwanda’s meddling in eastern Congo. The arrest took place just after the release of a UN report documenting Rwanda’s close ties to the warlord, and concluding that he was being used to advance Rwanda’s economic interests in Congo’s eastern hinterlands. The report stated that Rwandan authorities had “been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment, and have sent officers and units from the Rwandan Defense Forces,” while giving Nkunda access to Rwandan bank accounts and allowing him to launch attacks on the Congolese army from Rwandan soil.

Following Nkunda’s arrest, Congo president Joseph Kabila agreed to allow Rwandan forces to conduct a five-week joint military operation in eastern Congo against Hutu rebels.[3] But attacks against civilians have increased precipitously since the joint operation, and with Hutu and Tutsi militias still active it remains unclear whether there will be a lasting peace between Rwanda and Congo.

Africa’s World War is the most ambitious of several remarkable new books that reexamine the extraordinary tragedy of Congo and Central Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Along with René Lemarchand’s The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa and Thomas Turner’s The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality, Prunier’s Africa’s World War explores arguments that have circulated among scholars of sub-Saharan Africa for years. Prunier himself, who is an East Africa specialist at the University of Paris, has previously written a highly regarded account of the genocide. But these books will surprise many whose knowledge of the region is based on popular accounts of the genocide and its aftermath. In all three, the Kagame regime, and its allies in Central Africa, are portrayed not as heroes but rather as opportunists who use moral arguments to advance economic interests. And their supporters in the United States and Western Europe emerge as alternately complicit, gullible, or simply confused. For their part in bringing intractable conflict to a region that had known very little armed violence for nearly thirty years, all the parties—so these books argue—deserve blame, including the United States.

The concentrated evil of the methodical Hutu slaughter of Tutsis in 1994 is widely known. For many it has long been understood as a grim, if fairly simple, morality play: the Hutus were extremist killers, while the Tutsis of the RPF are portrayed as avenging angels, who swooped in from their bases in Uganda to stop the genocide. But Lemarchand and Prunier show that the story was far more complicated. They both depict the forces of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front as steely, power-driven killers themselves.

“When the genocide did start, saving Tutsi civilians was not a priority,” Prunier writes. “Worse, one of the most questionable of the RPF ideologues coolly declared in September 1994 that the ‘interior’ Tutsi”—those who had remained in Rwanda and not gone into exile in Uganda years earlier—”deserved what happened to them ‘because they did not want to flee as they were getting rich doing business’” with the former Hutu regime. He also notes that the RPF “unambiguously opposed” all talk of a foreign intervention, however unlikely, to stop the genocide, apparently because such intervention could have prevented Kagame from taking full power.

Moreover, slaughter during the one hundred days of genocide was not the monopoly of the Hutus, as is widely believed. Both Lemarchand and Prunier recount the work of RPF teams that roamed the countryside methodically exterminating ordinary, unarmed Hutu villagers.[4] This sort of killing, rarely mentioned in press accounts of the genocide, continued well after the war was over. For example, on April 22, 1995, units of the new national army surrounded the Kibeho refugee camp in south Rwanda, where about 150,000 Hutu refugees stood huddled shoulder to shoulder, and opened fire on the crowd with rifles and with 60mm mortars.[5] According to Prunier, a thirty- two-member team of the Australian Medical Corps had counted 4,200 corpses at the camp before being stopped by the Rwandan army. Prunier calls the Kagame regime’s use of violence in that period “something that resembles neither the genocide nor uncontrolled revenge killings, but rather a policy of political control through terror.”

Some commentators in the United States have viewed Kagame as a sort of African Konrad Adenauer, crediting him with bringing stability and rapid economic growth to war-torn Rwanda, while running an administration considered to be one of the more efficient in Africa. In the nine years he has led the country (after serving as interim president, he won an election to a seven-year term in 2003), he has also gotten attention for the reconciliation process he has imposed on villages throughout Rwanda.

Firmly opposed to such views, the three authors reviewed here characterize Kagame’s regime as more closely resembling a minority ethnic autocracy. In a recent interview, Prunier dismissed the recently much-touted reconciliation efforts, calling post-genocide Rwanda “a very well-managed ethnic, social, and economic dictatorship.” True reconciliation, he said, “hinges on cash, social benefits, jobs, property rights, equality in front of the courts, and educational opportunities,” all of which are heavily stacked against the roughly 85 percent of the population that is Hutu, a problem that in Prunier’s view presages more conflict in the future. In his book, Lemarchand, an emeritus professor at the University of Florida who has done decades of fieldwork in the region, observes that Hutus have been largely excluded from important positions of power in Kagame’s Rwanda, and that the state’s military and security forces are pervasive. “The political decisions with the gravest consequences for the nation…are undertaken by the RPF’s Tutsi leadership, not by the political establishment,” he writes.

Those concerns are shared by human rights groups, which have documented the suppression of dissent in Rwanda.Freedom House ranked Rwanda 183 out of 195 countries in press freedom in 2008, while Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also described the Rwandan government as imposing harsh and arbitrary justice—including long-term incarceration without trial and life sentences in solitary confinement. Other Western observers and human rights activists have noted that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has never properly investigated atrocities committed by Tutsis. In June, more than seventy scholars from North American and European universities wrote an open letter to the UN secretary-general, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressing “grave concern at the ongoing failure” of the tribunal to bring “indictments against those soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rwanda in 1994,” and warning that this omission may cause the tribunal “to be dismissed as ‘victor’s justice.’”

On the question of Rwanda’s principal motive for seeking to control or destabilize eastern Congo, the books broadly agree: Kagame and his government want, as Lemarchand writes, “continued access to the Congo’s economic wealth.” Lemarchand says that within Congo itself the FDLR poses a “clear and present danger to Tutsi and other communities.” Like Prunier, though, he concludes that the threat the Hutu group poses to Rwanda’s own security is “vastly exaggerated,” noting that its fighters “are no match” for Rwandan and Rwanda-backed forces amounting to “70,000 men under arms and a sophisticated military arsenal, consisting of armored personnel carriers (APCs), tanks, and helicopters.”

Thomas Turner draws parallels between the exploitation of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda and the brutal late-nineteenth-century regime of King Leopold of Belgium, whose thirst for empire drove his acquisition of what became known as the Congo Free State. Citing a 2001 United Nations investigation of the conflict, Turner concludes:

Resource extraction from eastern Congo, occupied by Uganda and Rwanda until recently, would seem to constitute “pure” pillage…. Much as in Free State days, the Congo was financing the occupation of a portion of its own territory. Unlike Free State days, none of the proceeds of this pillage were being reinvested.

According to a 2005 report on the Rwandan economy by the South African Institute for Security Studies, Rwanda’s officially recorded coltan production soared nearly tenfold between 1999 and 2001, from 147 tons to 1,300 tons, surpassing revenues from the country’s main traditional exports, tea and coffee, for the first time. “Part of the increase in production is due to the opening of new mines in Rwanda,” the report said. “However, the increase is primarily due to the fraudulent re-export of coltan of Congolese origin.”

When Rwanda moved to invade Mobutu’s Zaire in 1996, Prunier says, the country’s administration “was so rotten that the brush of a hand could cause it to collapse.” Since the 1960s, Congo had remained relatively stable by virtue of a confluence of circumstances, which suddenly no longer held. After backing the wrong side during the Rwandan genocide, France had lost its will or interest in playing its longtime part as regional patron to several client regimes. Following the removal of Mobutu, who often did the bidding of Western powers, there was no longer any clear regional strongman to mediate disputes. The allegiance of African states to the idea of permanently fixed borders, which had held firm since independence, was being challenged. And finally, the vacuum created by Mobutu’s overthrow unleashed fierce competition for Congolese coltan and other resources and led to what Turner calls the “militarization of commerce” by both foreign governments and rebel groups.

In allowing the Rwandan invasion of Zaire, the United States had two very different goals. The most immediate was the clearing of over one million Hutu refugees from UN camps near the Rwandan border, which had become bases for vengeful elements of the defeated Hutu army and Interahamwe militia, the agents of the Rwandan genocide. In Prunier’s telling:

When Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice came back from her first trip to the Great Lakes region [of East Africa], a member of her staff said, “Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the US] have to do is look the other way.”

The gist of Prunier’s anecdote is correct, except that participants have confirmed to me that it was Rice herself who spoke these words.

In fact, getting the Hutu militia out of the UN camps was rapidly achieved in November 1996 by shelling them from Rwandan territory. Thereafter, the war against Mobutu dominated international headlines, overshadowing a secret Rwanda campaign that targeted for slaughter the Hutu populations that had fled into Congo. Here again, Washington provided vital cover.

At the time, the American ambassador to Congo, Daniel Howard Simpson, told me flatly that the fleeing Hutus were “the bad guys.”[6] One of the worst massacres by Kagame’s Tutsi forces took place at the Tingi-Tingi refugee camp in northeastern Congo, which by 1997 contained over 100,000 Hutu refugees. But on January 21, 1997, Robert E. Gribbin, Simpson’s counterpart in Rwanda, cabled Washington with the following advice:

We should pull out of Tingi-Tingi and stop feeding the killers who will run away to look for other sustenance, leaving their hostages behind…. If we do not we will be trading the children in Tingi-Tingi for the children who will be killed and orphaned in Rwanda.

There was a grim half-truth to Gribbin’s assessment. The Hutu fighters traveling amid the refugees were often able to avoid engagement with their Tutsi pursuers by fleeing westward into the Congolese rain forest. The genuine refugees, who by UNHCR’s estimate accounted for 93 percent of the Hutus in flight, could not. The best evidence suggests that they died by the scores of thousands in their flight across Congo, in what Lemarchand calls “a genocide of attrition.” Prunier estimates the number killed in this manner at 300,000.[7]

In August 1997, the UN began to investigate Tutsi killings of Hutu civilians and, as Turner recounts, “a preliminary report identified forty massacre sites.” But the investigators were stonewalled by Kabila’s Congo government—then still backed by Rwanda—and received little support from Washington. Roberto Garreton, a Chilean human rights lawyer who headed the UN investigation, was barred from the Rwandan capital of Kigali and his team was largely kept from the field in Congo. Garreton later wrote:

One cannot of course ignore the presence of persons guilty of genocide, soldiers and militia members, among the refugees…. It is nevertheless unacceptable to claim that more than one million people, including large numbers of children, should be collectively designated as persons guilty of genocide and liable to execution without trial.

Rwanda’s designs on eastern Congo were further helped by the Clinton administration’s interest in promoting a group of men it called the New African Leaders, including the heads of state of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Rwanda. As Clinton officials saw it, these New Leaders were sympathetic and businesslike, drawn together by such desirable goals as overthrowing Mobutu, by antagonism toward the Islamist government of Sudan, which shares a border with northeast Congo, and by talk of rethinking Africa’s hitherto sacrosanct borders, as a means of creating more viable states.

Then Assistant Secretary of State Rice touted the New Leaders as pursuing “African solutions to African problems.” In 1999, Marina Ottaway, the influential Africa expert of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Senate Subcommittee on Africa:

Many of the states that emerged from the colonial period have ceased to exist in practice…. The problem is to create functioning states, either by re-dividing territory or by creating new institutional arrangements such as decentralized federations or even confederations.

In fact, the favored group of African leaders were also authoritarian figures with military backgrounds, all of whom had scorned democratic elections. According to Turner, support for the New Leaders “apparently meant that the USA and Britain should continue to aid Rwanda and Uganda as they ‘found solutions’ by carving up Congo.”

As in the case of the Rwandan genocide, Lemarchand suggests, the policies of the United States and other Western powers toward the conflict in Congo have been misguided in part out of ignorance of Central Africa’s complicated twentieth-century history. Episodes of appalling violence in this region have occurred periodically at least since 1959, and cannot be remedied without first understanding their deeper causes. As Lemarchand writes:

From the days of the Hutu revolution in Rwanda [in 1959–1962] to the invasion of the “refugee warriors” from Uganda [under Kagame’s leadership] in 1994, from the huge exodus of Hutu from Burundi in 1972 to the “cleansing” of Hutu refugee camps in 1996–97, the pattern that emerges again and again is one in which refugee populations serve as the vehicles through which ethnic identities are mobilized and manipulated, host communities preyed upon, and external resources extracted.

Some will always quibble with where to begin this story, whether with colonial favoritism for the Tutsis by Belgium in the first half of the twentieth century, or with Brussels’s flip-flop in 1959 in favor of the Hutus on the eve of Rwandan independence, which led to the anti-Tutsi pogroms that sent Kagame’s family and those of so many others of his RPF comrades into exile in Uganda. These events in turn had far-reaching effects on Rwanda’s small neighbor Burundi, a German and later Belgian colony that gained independence in 1962 and, like Rwanda, has a large Hutu majority and Tutsi minority. In 1972, an extremist Tutsi regime there, driven by a fear of being overthrown, carried out the first genocide since the Holocaust, killing 300,000 Hutus.

In the West, the Burundi genocide is scarcely remembered, but its consequences live on in the region. Terrorized Hutus streamed out of Burundi into Rwanda, helping to set Rwanda onto a path of Hutu extremism, and priming it for its own genocide two decades later. The final instigator of the Rwandan tragedy was the mysterious shooting down of a presidential plane on April 6, 1994, which killed presidents Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaramyira of Burundi, who were both Hutu. This precipitated the horrific massacre of Rwandan Tutsis, but also a broader Hutu–Tutsi conflict, which by 1996 had begun to tear apart large swaths of eastern Congo.

The events that have followed Rwanda’s arrest of the warlord Nkunda in January of this year suggest that Congo and Rwanda have finally found reasons to sue for peace. Congo’s weak government and corrupt army are powerless to fight Rwanda or its proxies, and there is desperate need to rebuild the state from scratch. Rwanda, meanwhile, is seeking to placate important European aid donors, who account for as much as half of Rwanda’s annual budget and who, for the first time since its initial invasion of Congo in 1996, are asking difficult questions about its behavior there.

As part of the deal that gave Rwandan forces another chance to fight Hutu militias in eastern Congo last spring, Kagame agreed to withdraw Rwanda’s support for the Tutsi insurgency in eastern Congo while at the same time pressing Congolese Tutsis to integrate into Congo’s national army. Kagame hopes now to find a legal means to sustain Rwanda’s economic hold on eastern Congo, for example by promoting civilian business interests in the area. These are often run by ex-military officers or people with close ties to the Rwandan armed forces. In interviews, both Prunier and Lemarchand say that the direct plunder of resources by the Rwandan military has ceased, but that a large “subterranean” trade in minerals has continued through corrupt Congolese politicians and local militias.

For its part, the United States has begun to acknowledge the scale of the problem in eastern Congo. In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a two-day visit to the country, during which she described the conflict as driven by “exploitation of natural resources” and announced a $17 million program to help women who have been raped in the fighting.

Notwithstanding these developments, the conflict in the east has been surging again, as the UN-backed Congolese army pursues a new campaign against Hutu rebels.[8] It is hard to dispute Lemarchand’s logic. Without addressing the problems of exclusion and participation, whether in a Rwanda ruled by a small Tutsi minority or in heavily armed eastern Congo, where contending ethnic groups want to get hold of the region’s spoils, it will be impossible to end this catastrophe.

Letter to ICTR Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow in Response to His Letter on the Prosecution of RPF Crimes By Kenneth Roth Executive Director

Human Rights Watch August 14, 2009

Also available in: Français

Dear Mr. Prosecutor,

We write in response to your letter dated June 22, 2009 concerning the status of your office’s investigation of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) crimes. As you recall, Human Rights Watch wrote to you on May 26, 2009 before your briefing to the Security Council urging you to announce your intention to pursue these cases before the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). We take this opportunity to respond to certain points raised in your June 22 letter.

Status of ICTR Investigations

In your letter you state, “The suggestion that no investigations or prosecutions have been conducted or that since has been delayed against RPF members due to the threat of non-cooperation from Rwanda is not borne out.” Please be advised that Human Rights Watch has never claimed that the Office of the Prosecutor failed to conduct investigations of crimes committed by the RPF in 1994. We are keenly aware of investigative efforts taken since you took office in 2004 and have assisted you in the gathering of such evidence. However, our concern is that none of the investigations has led to prosecutions before the Tribunal.

Your statement that the Government of Rwanda has not threatened or suspended cooperation with the Tribunal since resumption of RPF investigations in 2004 does not persuasively show the Government’s commitment to justice for victims of these crimes. One reason for the Rwandan government’s decision not to threaten or impede your work could be that you have not brought the investigations forward to the indictment stage.

Justification for Indictments of RPF Crimes

In response to your assertion that the decision to indict will not be based on “extraneous considerations or feelings of maintaining ‘balancing acts’ by indicting ‘all sides’ to the Rwandan armed conflict,” we are not asking you to engage in a “balancing act.” We request that you execute your mandate to “prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law” and that you act on credible evidence of serious crimes committed by senior RPF commanders which we believe your office has gathered. The reported killing of 30,000 people by RPF soldiers, as documented by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, is by any standard sufficiently serious to merit prosecution.

Prosecution by Rwanda of RPF Crimes

In your letter, you state that you want to set the record straight with respect to cases your office has transferred to Rwanda for domestic prosecution. You state that the Kabgayi case, involving the killing of 15 civilians (13 of whom were clergy) in June 1994, was not the first or only case that you transferred to the Rwandan prosecutor general. We recognize that you have transferred other files to Rwanda, but all of these files have involved alleged génocidaires and not RPF members. The Kabgayi case was the first time you entrusted the Government of Rwanda with prosecution of its own RPF forces, a matter in which the Government obviously has a different incentive to seek justice.

You assert that the Kabgayi case is not the only instance of RPF soldiers being prosecuted by Rwandan military courts for crimes committed in 1994. We concur with this statement, but we would qualify it by stating that this is the first case in which RPF soldiers were tried in Rwanda on serious allegations commensurate with the gravity of the actual crimes. As we documented in our July 2008 report “Law and Reality: Progress in Judicial Reform in Rwanda,” the Government of Rwanda has prosecuted 32 RPF soldiers for their conduct in 1994.[1] Most of those convicted were ordinary soldiers or of lower ranks and received relatively lenient punishments. The Government of Rwanda pursued these killings as aberrational, spontaneous acts of misconduct by low-level soldiers rather than actions carried out on the orders of senior commanders. In Rwandan government documents listing these cases, the crimes were called “crimes of revenge” or “human rights violations,” not war crimes or crimes against humanity, and were prosecuted as violations of the Rwandan penal code. A more useful test of the Rwandan government’s commitment to delivering justice for the victims of RPF crimes would be to assess whether prosecutions have targeted any senior level commanders.

Kabgayi Case

We question your statement that your office does not possess evidence showing that the Kabgayi killings were a planned military operation. Human Rights Watch has found ample evidence to support this understanding of the facts, and we have done so with fewer resources than are available to your office. We described this evidence to you on March 23, 2009 when we met in Arusha.

According to our investigation and as relayed to you, senior RPF military commanders ordered 13 clergy members and their entourage to be moved on June 5, 1994, from Ruhango, a place where they were under international attention – essentially assuring their safety – to the remote Novitiate of the Josephite Brothers in Gakurazo, Kabgayi. Commanders then sent away the RPF soldiers who had been guarding the seminary and its few remaining refugees, and a team of military intelligence officers were brought in to surround the seminary.[2] In the evening, around 6:30 or 7:30 pm, an RPF officer summoned those who had arrived that morning to a meeting in the refectory, allegedly to discuss the security situation. The 13 clergy members and several other persons, including at least four women and two children, were present.

The officer had just begun speaking, in the presence of another soldier, when two other soldiers entered the room abruptly. One of these soldiers pushed the four women and one child to leave the room. Unfortunately, a 9-year-old boy remained seated on the lap of an elderly priest. Armed soldiers were outside the refectory with guns pointed in through the open windows. The shooting began and continued until a whistle blew, at which time it immediately stopped. No other shots were heard after that time.

The officer in charge then summoned others outside the room to return and showed them the bodies. The officer proceeded to assemble those persons and others present at the seminary in front of the chapel, a short distance from the refectory. He explained to the group that a soldier, driven mad by grief at the deaths of his relatives, had just committed the killings and had then committed suicide. He briefly pointed his flashlight at a mass on the ground, saying it was the body of the assassin. It was dark, and the light was insufficient to determine if the mass was an actual corpse or merely a pile of military clothes.

We made these points to you during our March 23, 2009 meeting, and gave you specific names of senior RPF officers whom we believed were involved in both the ordering and the execution of the killings. Through this evidence, we laid out a compelling argument that calls into question the Rwandan prosecution’s theory that the killings were spontaneous acts by low-level soldiers and shows instead that this was an attempt to cover up responsibility for a planned military operation.

Your assertion that the Office of the Prosecutor observed every proceeding of the Kabgayi case is not accurate. Human Rights Watch observers were present at every hearing. Knowing both your Kigali-based trial observer and your Arusha-based senior legal advisor, we were in a position to note their presence or non-presence in the courtroom. While the reports of your observers were supplemented with the written record of the proceedings and a video recording of the trial, we maintain that your office did not diligently monitor the proceedings. It is our view that had your office consistently and closely monitored the trial, the observer would have come to the same conclusion that we did, namely, that the case was not vigorously prosecuted and did not pursue the evidence suggesting a planned military operation ordered by more senior level commanders.

While two junior commanders were prosecuted in the trial in Rwanda, the prosecutor did not pursue more senior commanders who had been involved in the military operation and against whom evidence exists. Without targeting these more senior officers – indeed by pursuing a theory of the case suggesting that there was no more senior culpability, the Government of Rwanda cannot be said to have meaningfully tried those persons with greatest responsibility for the Kabgayi killings. Given that failure, we believe you have the duty to seek indictments for these individuals.

Fair Trials and Fulfillment of the ICTR’s Mandate

We disagree with your contention that there is an inconsistency on our position with respect to fair trials. Asserting that suspected génocidaires may face difficulties in securing witnesses or having an impartial arbiter and that RPF suspects of war crimes may be given leniency due to political interference in the judiciary is fully consistent. The underlying principle is that judicial decisions should be based on evidence, not political influence or other considerations. Human Rights Watch is as concerned about individuals being unfairly acquitted as it is with individuals who are wrongly convicted.

We continue to believe that your mandate as Chief Prosecutor at the ICTR will not be fulfilled until you pursue all senior commanders responsible for atrocities committed in Rwanda in 1994. Your office has successfully pursued many senior leaders behind the genocide, but the same cannot be said for senior RPF commanders who directed the slaughter of 30,000 civilians. The fact that other génocidaires are still at large is important but does not negate the need for the ICTR to pursue senior commanders allegedly involved in serious crimes from all sides. It would be a failure of justice – not merely victor’s justice – if you do not vigorously investigate and prosecute senior RPF officials because they are currently senior officials or military leaders in Rwanda.

Accountability is the key to fighting impunity, as you state in your letter. However, delivering justice in unfair trials does not serve this goal. We, too, believe that domestic prosecutions are better at fighting impunity than international trials because they involve the local population in the judicial process and can have a larger impact on affected communities. Yet the Government of Rwanda has a strong incentive not to pursue senior RPF officials who directed crimes in 1994 – many of whom may be currently senior government or military officials. Unfortunately, the choice is not between international and domestic justice but between international justice and impunity. You are in a unique position to take a stand against impunity and to ensure accountability for these crimes. We hope you will reconsider your failure to date to do so.

We again ask you to recall the Kabgayi case from Rwanda and to re-prosecute it according to international fair trial standards or, in the alternative, to prosecute senior RPF commanders who directed these killings and who have not been prosecuted but against whom there is strong evidence. We also urge you to prosecute other senior RPF commanders who led similar military operations in other parts of the country in 1994 and against whom the ICTR has evidence. The recent extension of the Tribunal’s mandate until the end of 2010 affords an opportunity for such prosecutions to take place. Failure to do so will taint perceptions of the Tribunal’s impartiality and undermine its legitimacy for years to come.

We thank you for your attention to this pressing matter.

Kenneth Roth Executive Director

[1] Each prosecution is described in detail in annex 2 of the report, for a total of 32 prosecutions. Our compilation is based on documentation provided by the Rwandan government. Your assertion of 42 prosecutions most likely includes prosecutions of RPF soldiers for events that took place in the years after 1994.

[2] The Kabgayi area, where the Gakurazo seminary is located, had already fallen under RPF control on June 2, 1994.

Related Materials: Letter from Hassan B. Jallow to Kenneth Roth, June 22, 2009

Rwanda: Tribunal’s Work Incomplete

Rwanda: Academic Scholars Call for ICTR to Fulfill Mandate and Prosecute RPF/RPA Members

Rwanda: Tribunal Risks Supporting ‘Victor’s Justice’

Peace in Congo Requires More Than Just Pictures of Kabila and Kagame Together

From MJPC by Amede Kyubwa

As President Obama himself likes to quote, the insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Sadly that is exactly what has been happening in Congo for more than 10 years….

It is impossible not to recognize that the growing rapprochement between the Congo and Rwanda, is a signal that the Congo is likely to achieve some form of stability under the Obama Admnistration.  It seems President Obama is very firm in the expectations of wanting to see both President Kagame and Kabila working together for the sake of peace in the Great Lakes. While it’s too early to say for sure whether this will bring the kind of stability needed to end the violence and impunity, often described by many human rights organizations as terribly systematic and endless, in Eastern Congo, it is clear that none of these two heads of state can afford to defy the United States at this time.

On one side, without implying any causal, president Kabila knows what happened to all previous presidents of Congo who attempted to resist the demands of Washington. They all failed and lost their lives in tragic circumstances. Kabila must be intelligent enough not to repeat this. He has to do what his father failed to do when it comes to dealing with the USA. Do what they ask you to do and seek to tactically negociate later!!!. He is also a young man who probably understands quite well how much president Kagame was able benefit in the past when the congolese authorities used some fatal tactics of resisting to the prescriptions from Washington

On the other side, Kagame knows that it would be his end if the USA is not behind him. He has been mostly untouchable in the region because of the unyielding support he enjoys from the most powerful country on earth,(USA) which are believed to have supported the rebellion that led him to power via Uganda in the 1990s. He does not enjoy this kind of wide support in the Europe where even some countries have tried to arrest members of his cabinet for allegedly being behind the shooting down of late Habyarimana’s plane. For the moment, he has been safe because he has the USA on his side. By all accounts, President Kagame can’t afford the luxury of shooting himself in the foot by opposing the prescriptions of the Obama Admnistration. In similar way, this would benefit President Kabila as this could make President Kagame look like enemy of peace in the Great Lakes.

While the current events in Congo must be applauded by all, any peace effort between Rwanda and Congo which excludes finding alternative solutions to the problems of FDLR would not be a lasting one. The need for changes in the strategies on how to effectively force the FDLR to return to Rwanda is imperative simply because the current strategies of machine guns have failed to make this happen for more than a decade now.

In watching the celebrations on the streets in North Kivu when Kagame arrived in Goma over the weekend to meet with Kabila would make one ask if the Congolese have misdiagnosed the security problem in their country. The challenging relationships between the two presidents have never been the cause of the problem. Why? The answer is quite simple; because the two capitals have worked together in past and failed to force FDLR to leave Congo with their machine-guns.  One should even be reminded that Rwanda occupied that part of the Congo for more than year, reportedly for the same reasons and failed to do this with machine-guns. Maybe this time the Obama Administration will encourage Kagame to find alternative solutions on how to force the FDLR to return to Rwanda without relying on the use of machine guns.

As  President Obama himself likes to quote, the insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Sadly that is exactly what has been happening in Congo for more than 10 years with regards to the FDLR.  The consequences of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results have been very disastrous and catastrophic for the Congolese people. In the last decade more than 5 million have died in Congo mostly women and children and almost half a million women and children have been raped and tortured because of the same approach of doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.  Machine guns have been the biggest failure in Congo and whole region at large.

Whatever happens in Congo after the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, let’s hope that this time the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results will not be repeated again in Congo with the Obama Administration.

Amédé KYUBWA, MA, MPA, is the Executive Director of MJPC, a nonprofit organization that promotes peace and justice in the DRC through actions aimed at fighting against impunity, sexual violence and other serious violations of human rights in DRC. The MJPC also advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts (non-violent approach to conflict)

Paul Kagame Compared to Barack Obama

By Eric Brown
A child soldier in Bunia, Congo. A symbol of Paul Kagame's reign of terror in Eastern Congo.

A child soldier in Bunia, Congo. A symbol of Paul Kagame's reign of terror in Eastern Congo. Photo from Mwamba Family Foundation

Lee Slater is a professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She visited Rwanda for 10 days.  Her work in Rwanda was focused on development of community-building skills. However, her article titled “Rwanda’s Obama” that claimed similarities between Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame and US President Barack Obama was a downright insult to president Obama and to the American people at best.  The two men are like night and day next to each other as the differences between the two men and their personalities are major; even beyond measure. How do you begin to liken a tyrant who is a war criminal alleged to have a hand in the genocide of his people to the president of change and hope? How do you compare a peacemaker to warmonger?

Slate claims that “Both men are visionaries, forward-thinkers, striving for reconciliation (Obama in the politically fractured U.S. and Kagame in a post-genocide Rwanda) and both are calling for institutionalized dignity in governmental structures.” In Obama, the world has seen his vision of striving for an era of hope and peace where dialogue is used to resolve conflict and to mitigate future conflicts.  Obama has reached out to those who are known as America’s adversaries and is willing to talk to them. In contrast, Kagame has mastered the use of violence and Intimidation to maintain his political power.

While Obama is striving for negotiated solutions; Kagame meanwhile invaded the Congo and caused a conflict that has claimed over 5 million innocent children, women and men and still counting since 1998.  The Rwandan forces and their proxy militias and rebel groups have sent almost 2 million Congolese into refugee camps, amputated thousands, raped hundreds of thousands of women and used thousands of child soldiers. Obama sends message of take your destiny into your hands and earn an honest living. This is a far cry from Paul Kagame who has enriched himself, his friends and Rwanda through the plunder of Congo’s minerals. Kagame and his government in Kigali use Rwandan prisoners as slaves to work in the mines in the Congo as well as to clean Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

Rwanda's military dictator Paul Kagame

Rwanda's military dictator Paul Kagame

It is farfetched to compare Obama who deplores evil institutions such as slavery to General Paul Kagame whose government institutions in Kigali use slaves. On his recent trip to Ghana, President Obama said that:” history is on the side of the brave Africans and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.” By that account, history is not on Kagame’s side and neither is evidence. Kagame acquired power after fighting a four year guerrilla war that culminated in the Rwandan Genocide. He has since manipulated the genocide to maintain his grip on power and thwart and real opposition in the country. He runs a state under worse conditions than the former Soviet Union.

Contrasts between the leader of the world whose hopes for Americans is to reconcile the fractured U.S. political arena by focusing on what unites Americans rather than what divides Americans and Kagame who kills his own people can go on forever.  Furthermore Obama’s hopes for Africa are for a continent with strong institutions that rule by the will of the people. This again is a major difference from the ever cynical Paul Kagame who claimed that “you cannot make an omelet without breaking the eggs” referring to Tutsis who were killed during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.  A man who left a big mark in the region by taking part in massacres of millions of people, kills and imprisons opponents, uses prisoners as slave laborers, committed terrorism by shooting two former presidentshas no comparable qualities to President Obama. Any forward thinker knows that war is no longer a solution anywhere. It is true that college and university professors strive for creativity and thinking outside the box but comparing Paul Kagame to Barack Obama is thinking outside of the Universe.