Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

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.


The Rwandan Government May be Planning an Assassination of Peter Erlinder

This morning, reports from the Rwandan government mouthpieces claimed conflicting stories about professor Peter Erlinder’s health. Peter Erlinder is the American Law professor held in a Rwandan jail since May 28 under the accusation of Genocide Ideology; an ill defined law applicable to anyone who disagrees with the Rwandan government.  The police spokesman Mr. Eric Kayiranga claimed that Erlinder had attempted suicide by swallowing 45 to 50 prescription pills. The  New Times editor Edmond Kagire reported that Erlinder was faking his illness.

The Rwandan government under Paul Kagame has a history of assassinating opponents, dissidents, as well as regular Rwandan citizens using poison. Some prisoners have been fed broken glass causing them to die of illness resulting from consuming such. Former government officials such as Seth Sendashonga and Theoneste Lizinde have been killed by death squads outside of Rwanda. Consider that Rwanda’s general prosecutor Martin Ngoga refuted the reports of  suicide.  Martin Ngoga is not alone as Erlinder’s family, colleagues, and friends have all rejected the notion that he would commit suicide. They have all testified to his strength of character and mental toughness. Many Rwandan nationals especially on social networking sites such as facebook have raised the suspicion that the reports this morning are a prelude to an assassination by the Rwandan government. Notorious for various killing methods, Paul Kagame’s government is responsible for the death of 5 million innocent Congolese citizens who have been killed since Rwanda’s invasion of Congo in 1996.

It appears the US embassy as well as the larger US government have left Erlinder to the lions in Rwanda hungry for his blood. Silence on the part of the US State Department has been deadly. It seems as though the US government is happy to sit by and allow their citizen to rot in a prison where no developed country has ever extradited an individuals, including those suspected of genocide. The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, England, France as well as other countries have all declined to extradite anyone to Rwanda, citing an unfair judicial system. Yet, no word has been heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or anyone in the Obama administration.

Erlinder traveled to Rwanda on May 23 to represent opposition leader Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza who has been accused of Genocide Ideology as well.  Mrs. Ingabire Umuhoza plans to run in the upcoming Rwandan Presidential election, provided the Rwandan government finally allows her to run.  However, her efforts as well as other government opponents’ effors to register for election have been blocked at every turn by the Rwandan government. Dictator Paul Kagame is guaranteed to win an uncontested election this August.

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.


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

Advocates Demand Rwanda’s Immediate Release of U.S. Attorney Erlinder



David Gespass, National Lawyers Guild; 205 566-2530

Gena Berglund. International Humanitarian Law Institute of Minnesota; 651 208-7964

Emira Woods, Institute for Policy Studies; 301 523-2979

International Human Rights Advocates join Erlinder family to condemn Rwanda’s arrest of U.S. Attorney Peter Erlinder and demand his immediate release.

Saturday, May 29, 2010 (Washington, DC) –Professor Erlinder, a faculty member at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States and president of  the Association des Avocats de la Defense (ADAD), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association, was arrested by the government of Rwanda under the leadership of president Paul Kagame. Peter Erlinder has been arrested in the course of his representation of Rwanda’s opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire.

Erlinder’s arrest was politically motivated and seeks to punish him for fulfilling his responsibilities as a lawyer, to be a vigorous and conscientious advocate for his clients. The Rwandan government and President Kagame must allow fair and public trials. Erlinder’s advocacy is in the finest tradition of the legal profession and every individual and government committed to the rule of law, including the authorities in Rwanda, should applaud his dedication to human rights and international law.

As international human rights activists, we join the Erlinder family to call on the United States government, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world to prevail upon Rwanda to release Erlinder immediately.  The U.S. has had a special relationship with Rwanda which remains one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in Africa.  Given the U.S. government’s expressed commitment to democracy and the rule of law, it is critical that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress uphold these values in Rwanda and demand the immediate release of Peter Erlinder, an advocate of justice.

“Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of his clients. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for representing defendants it dislikes.  A government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted. The entire National Lawyers Guild is honored by Erlinder’s membership, his leadership as past president and his courageous advocacy.” said David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild.

“The offense Peter is charged with is not based on facts, but on the suppression of free speech in his representation of clients, which undermines the rule of law. His family knows he stands with people who are oppressed by those in power and he encourages people to stand up for justice.” Masako Usui, wife of Peter Erlinder.

“The real issue here seems to be whether the U.S. and the world will stand by and allow my father to be detained and prosecuted for doing his job, as an attorney and advocate for his clients. After a career of defense of others, he needs our help now demanding his immediate release and dismissal of all charges.” said Sarah Erlinder, daughter of Peter Erlinder.

“The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) is outraged at the arrest of Peter Erlinder in Rwanda.   This arrest violates the rights and privileges of lawyers in discharging their professional responsibilities, constitutes a willful obstruction of the judicial process and is in gross violation of the rights of defense of an accused person,”  said Jeanne Mirer, President, International Association of Democratic Lawyers

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)

Letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Advance of Her Africa Trip

July 30, 2009

Related Materials:

US: Clinton Should Stress Human Rights on Africa Trip

Dear Secretary Clinton,

Human Rights Watch welcomes your upcoming visit to Africa beginning next week. As you promote economic opportunity and growth in your seven-nation trip, we urge you to also emphasize good governance, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. These are essential to providing the conditions favorable to economic progress in Africa as well as improved security for all Africans.

Human Rights Watch takes this opportunity to offer recommendations on several of the countries you will visit. We appreciate your attention to these important human rights concerns.


In Kenya, the first stop on your trip, Human Rights Watch urges you to press government officials to seek accountability for the violence that was orchestrated following the December 2007 elections and to address the conduct of Kenyan security forces. As Kenya’s close ally and partner, the US government has a key role to play in urging the Kenyan government to implement key reforms in the security sector and judicial system. Human Rights Watch was encouraged to hear Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson emphasize the importance of ending impunity in Kenya in his speech on July 22 at the National Endowment for Democracy. Human Rights Watch is concerned that without immediate action on these issues, the country will fall victim to a rise in vigilante activities, deepening ethnic divisions, and the risk of broader violence. Kenya’s ongoing failure to address impunity should be viewed as an urgent threat to both national and regional stability and as an impediment to economic development and growth.

Only today, Kenya’s leaders once again avoided tackling these crucial political problems. The cabinet reneged on its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Waki Commission on post-election violence, having earlier told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it would either establish a special tribunal to deal with suspects or refer cases to the ICC. The cabinet now claims that existing mechanisms can deliver justice, precisely the outcome that the Waki Commission tried to avoid. Given that senior politicians and government officials stand accused of grave crimes, all sides acknowledge that existing mechanisms are not sufficiently independent for the task.

Your visit is a timely opportunity to deliver clear and unambiguous messages to senior government officials. We ask you to:

  • Urge Kenya to return to the principles of the Waki Commission recommendations, accept that existing judicial mechanisms are not independent, and either promptly enact appropriate legislation for the establishment of a special tribunal on the election-related violence or refer cases to the ICC.
  • Press President Mwai Kibaki to replace Attorney General Amos Wako and Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali, two individuals who have become important symbols of the government’s failure to hold accountable government officials implicated in serious human rights violations. This move, as recommended by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in his June report to the UN Human Rights Council, would help instill public confidence in the government’s respect for the rule of law.
  • Publicly state that the US may consider the imposition of targeted sanctions, including travel bans, against those deemed most responsible for serious human rights violations.
  • Remind the Kenyan government, as a matter of regional security, to rapidly fulfill its February 2009 pledge to provide more land to help relieve congestion in three chronically overcrowded camps for Somali refugees near Dadaab in northeastern Kenya. The camps, built for 90,000 people, now house 275,000.


When you meet with Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), we ask you to press him to support the establishment of a commission of inquiry into serious crimes by all the warring parties in Somalia. Somalia’s crisis – long one of the most acute on the continent in terms of scale, gravity, and impact on civilians – continues to worsen, displacing hundreds of thousands of Somali civilians within Somalia and into Kenya and other neighboring states. Every party to the Somali conflict has regularly committed serious violations of the laws of war and other abuses, and the absence of accountability has fueled a downward spiral of bloodshed and abuse. While efforts to bolster security are a necessary and justifiable priority, governments promoting them need to recognize that deeply entrenched patterns of impunity for serious abuses have been a primary cause of violence and instability in Somalia.

Given the long history of external interventions exacerbating Somalia’s conflict, recent reports that the US government is supplying weapons and financial assistance to the TFG – apparently without the monitoring mechanisms needed to ensure that such assistance is not misused – are also of great concern to Human Rights Watch. We thus ask you to:

  • Support the establishment of a commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in Somalia.
  • Ensure that all training and material assistance to TFG security forces is accompanied by adequate vetting of personnel and the creation of mechanisms to respond to serious abuses when they occur.

South Africa

We understand that while in South Africa, you will urge the new government to play a more active foreign policy role in Africa. We heartily concur with this recommendation, particularly with respect to Zimbabwe, where the South African government should monitor closely the progress of all parties in carrying out their commitments under the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Based on our research, Human Rights Watch remains skeptical about the extent to which the GPA has contributed to any real improvements in governance. The few changes we have observed have been superficial, at best. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s political party, ZANU-PF, retains control of the security establishment and uses it to undermine the rule of law and commit abuses with impunity.

The US government and members of the European Union should maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe until there is evidence of irreversible change and a clear program of institutional reform in the country. These sanctions are aimed at those most responsible for Zimbabwe’s abusive human rights environment and those who have profited personally from the country’s economic collapse.

To that end, we ask you to press South Africa to:

  • Urge President Mugabe and ZANU-PF to commit to and institute genuine political reforms.
  • Condition the removal of sanctions with Zimbabwe’s compliance with the GPA.
  • Encourage Zimbabwe to implement the recommendations of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and end abuses connected to diamond mining in Marange.
  • Honor its own April 3 commitment to not deport Zimbabwean migrants and asylum seekers and to grant temporary status permits, including work rights, to ensure that the estimated 1.5 million Zimbabweans in South Africa – who are still escaping the effects of the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe – are able to look after themselves and their families back home.


Human Rights Watch asks you to strongly encourage the Angolan government to rein in its armed forces and to ensure that they abide by international human rights and humanitarian law in Cabinda, Angola’s oil-rich enclave, where for 30 years there has been a separatist insurgency. In a June 2009 report, Human Rights Watch found that the Angolan armed forces were arbitrarily detaining people in Cabinda accused on flimsy grounds of affiliation with the insurgency and torturing individuals in custody before presenting them to judicial authorities.

Human Rights Watch is currently completing an investigation of abuses by the Angolan armed forces against refugees and asylum seekers, most of them Congolese, during a mass expulsion of migrants from Angola’s diamond-rich areas. Refugees told Human Rights Watch that Angolan army soldiers unlawfully detained them and pillaged their houses in Lunda Norte, near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some women refugees in this area claimed they were gang-raped in their houses by Angolan army soldiers during the operation.

We ask you to:

  • Urge the Angolan government to take all necessary measures to ensure that the military and intelligence services abide by international human rights and humanitarian law.
  • Ensure that the Angolan government appropriately disciplines or prosecutes military and intelligence officers who commit torture and other serious human rights violations.
  • Advocate for transparency and good governance in Angola’s use of oil and diamond revenue, particularly in the areas of education and health.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Your visit to the DRC provides an excellent opportunity to focus a spotlight on the prevalence of sexual violence in the eastern Congo. Despite improved relations between Congo and Rwanda, the situation in eastern Congo has become increasingly catastrophic for the civilian population, especially for women and girls. Since the launch of military operations in December 2008 against the Rwandan Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and the Ugandan armed group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), rebel forces and Congolese army troops altogether have killed more than 1,500 civilians and raped thousands of women and girls. More than a million people have fled for their lives from these conflict areas, adding to the tens of thousands of others displaced from earlier waves of violence.

Much has been done recently to raise awareness of the use of rape as a weapon of war in Congo, where, since 1998, tens of thousands of women and girls have been raped. Despite such efforts, the prevalence of rape is not decreasing. In nearly all the health centers, hospitals, and rape counseling centers visited by Human Rights Watch in nine frontline locations since January, rape cases had doubled or tripled since the recent resumption of military operations. While all sides continue to use rape and other sexual violence as a weapon of war, soldiers from the Congolese army have perpetrated the majority of rapes.

Military operations, supported by UN peacekeepers, against the foreign rebel groups are not adequately taking into account protection of the civilian population, including women and girls most at risk, and insufficient pressure has been exerted on the Congolese army to stop abuses or punish those responsible. To date, no generals have been prosecuted for crimes of sexual violence. In early July 2009, the government publicly proclaimed a policy of “zero tolerance” for human rights violations by the army. While a step in the right direction, making such a policy a reality will require investigation and prosecution of senior army officials allegedly involved or complicit in sexual crimes.

On your visit to Congo, we urge you to:

  • Press for a new and comprehensive approach toward the FDLR, one that emphasizes protection of civilians, taking into custody those wanted for genocide, and a reformed disarmament and demobilization program, among other measures.
  • Push for accountability to ensure that those responsible for serious human rights abuses, including sexual violence, are prosecuted, regardless of rank.
  • Pledge financial and technical support for the creation of a vetting mechanism to remove abusive officers from the armed forces and for the establishment of a “mixed chamber,” staffed by Congolese and international judges and prosecutors, to prosecute serious crimes according to international human rights and humanitarian law and to help overcome the weaknesses of the country’s justice system.
  • Demand the arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, a general in the Congolese armed forces who is sought on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and who is currently playing a senior role in operations supported by UN peacekeepers. Condition future UN operational support on his removal.
  • Urge a clear and properly resourced international strategy to apprehend and bring to justice LRA commanders wanted by the ICC, plus others implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • Pledge serious, high-level, and consistent diplomatic engagement by the US government to help find solutions to the armed conflicts in Congo and the Great Lakes region.


While in Nigeria, we ask you to speak publicly about how, despite Nigeria’s tremendous oil wealth, endemic government corruption and mismanagement rob ordinary Nigerians of their basic rights to the highest attainable standard of health and education. President Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria, halfway through his presidential mandate, has undermined the country’s foremost anti-corruption body, done little to rein in abusive security forces, failed to hold accountable those responsible for election violence and fraud, and taken no effective steps to address the root causes of the ongoing crisis in the Niger Delta or repeated outbreaks of deadly inter-communal violence, which in the past year alone have claimed hundreds of lives.

In a June 5, 2009 letter to President Yar’Adua marking his two years in office, Human Rights Watch proposed a 10-point human rights agenda of concrete steps the Yar’Adua administration should take to address Nigeria’s pressing human rights concerns. We ask you to:

  • Raise the concerns contained in Human Rights Watch’s 10-point agenda with Nigerian authorities.
  • Emphasize in your meetings the importance of holding government officials accountable for embezzling public funds or sponsoring political violence.
  • Urge improved oversight of state and local government expenditures.


The government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made tangible progress in addressing endemic corruption, creating the legislative framework for respect for human rights, and facilitating economic growth, but little headway in strengthening the rule of law. Frequent incidents of violent crime, mob and vigilante justice, and bloody land disputes continue to claim lives and expose the systemic weaknesses within the police, judiciary, and corrections sectors. Human Rights Watch is concerned about the Liberian government’s failure to establish three key commissions that we believe could both reinforce respect for the rule of law and address issues that gave rise to Liberia’s brutal armed conflicts: the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, the Law Reform Commission, and the Land Reform Commission.

Liberia’s 14 years of armed conflict were characterized by the commission of widespread and systematic violations of human rights. The gravity of these abuses – massacres, mutilations, sexual violence, recruitment and use of children as soldiers – have been tragically illuminated during the public hearings conducted by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In June, the TRC released its final report which concluded that “reconciliation cannot be fully achieved without justice” and proposed the establishment of an “Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia” to try the most serious offenders.

During your meetings with Liberian government officials, we urge you to:

  • Push for the prompt establishment of the three key commissions on human rights, law reform, and land reform.
  • Pledge international support to improve Liberia’s weak justice system to ensure justice for crimes in violation of international human rights law.
  • Stress the importance of fair, credible prosecutions for the most serious crimes committed during Liberia’s armed conflicts.
  • Commit to working with the Liberian government as they strategize on the best way forward to achieve both reconciliation and justice.


We believe that promoting good governance, respect for human rights, and accountability in the areas suggested above will help achieve your stated goal of promoting Africa as a place of opportunity where Africans can realize their great potential.

We are pleased that the Obama administration has vowed to elevate Africa’s importance in US foreign policy and we look forward to working with you on these important issues.


Georgette Gagnon
Executive Director, Africa Division

Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa