Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

The US State Department Negligent in Peter Erlinder’s Case

When president Obama was running for president, he repeatedly said that “Washington is broken”. Today, Washington is still broken in spite of a year and a half of Obama’s administration. In fact, you may argue that it may be more broken than it was during the previous administration.

Consider the case of Professor Peter Erlinder, a William Mitchell College of Law professor who went to Rwanda as a hired attorney for presidential hopeful Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.  After a week in the country, Erlinder was arrested and accused of the same crimes as his client. Mind you, Erlinder’s alleged crimes were committed outside of Rwanda. Due to the conditions of the prison in Rwanda, Erlinder has  gotten ill and the Rwandan government may be cooking up a plan to assassinate him. That seems the only way out with a small victory for the Rwandan government as the charges against Erlinder are weak at best.

The US State Department and the US Embassy in Rwanda have been negligent at best. Below is the State Department’s response to Erlinder’s case in a press briefing yesterday:

“QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status of this American lawyer who was arrested in Rwanda? There are some reports that he tried to kill himself in prison this morning.

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say.

QUESTION: And apparently, his wife or his family is trying to – is seeking a meeting here at the State Department.

MR. CROWLEY: All I can tell you is that we have visited and spoken with Peter Erlinder. He was taken to the hospital this morning and remained there overnight for observation. His U.S. and Rwandan attorneys have had access to him and we expect that due process will be accorded by the Rwandans in a timely and transparent way.

QUESTION: Do you know why he was taken to the hospital?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not.”

The State Department and the embassy are happy to allow Rwanda to jail an American citizen without charges, and the US representatives in Rwanda are hugging the jailers and doing nothing to secure the release of their constituent. The Obama administration and espicially the State Department must step up their game and demand the release of professor Erlinder or else explain how hundreds of millions of dollars of American taxpayers spent on Kagame’s dictatorial regime, the North Korea of Africa, are being used to imprison and possibly kill American citizens.

Advertisements

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)