Tag Archives: RPF

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.

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

National Lawyers Guild Demands Immediate Release of Attorney Peter Erlinder Vigorous Legal Advocate Arrested in Rwanda

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2010
1:07 PM

CONTACT: National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
David Gespass, 205-566-2530

Heidi Boghosian, 917-239-4999

NEW YORK – May 28 – The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) demands the immediate release of its former president, Professor Peter Erlinder, whom Rwandan Police arrested early today on charges of “genocide ideology.” He had traveled to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, on May 23, to join the defense team of Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Erlinder is reportedly being interrogated at the Rwandan Police Force’s Kacyiru headquarters.

“Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of Umuhoza. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes and 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 his membership and his courageous advocacy,” said David Gespass, the Guild’s president.

Erlinder traveled to Kigali after attending the Second International Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Conference in Brussels. Since his arrival in Kigali, the state-sponsored Rwandan media has been highly critical of Erlinder.

The Rwandan Parliament adopted the “Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology” (Genocide Ideology Law), on July 23, 2008. It defines genocide ideology broadly, requires no link to any genocidal act, and can be used to include a wide range of legitimate forms of expression, prohibiting speech protected by international conventions such as the Genocide Convention of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966.

Sarah Erlinder, Arizona attorney and NLG member said, “My father has made a career defending unpopular people and unpopular speech-and is now being held because of his representation of unpopular clients and analysis of an historical narrative that the Kagame regime considers inconvenient. We can help defend his rights now by drawing U.S. government and media attention to his situation and holding the Rwandan government accountable for his well-being.”

Before leaving for Brussels and then Kigali, Professor Erlinder notified the U.S. State Department, his Minnesota Congressional Representative Betty McCullom, Representative Keith Ellison, and Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Professor Erlinder is a professor of law at the William Mitchell College of Law. He is a frequent litigator and consultant, often pro bono, in cases involving the death penalty, civil rights, claims of government and police misconduct, and criminal defense of political activists. He is also a frequent news commentator. Erlinder was president of the National Lawyers Guild from 1993-1997, and is a current board member of the NLG Foundation. He has been a defense attorney at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since 2003.

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The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members–lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees–the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

Rwandan Genocide: Is Rwanda Gearing up for Another Genocide?

Hate media, violence, dehumanizing opponents, acts of terrorism, cynical apologies for violence, threats, and the quest to remain in power at all cost were some of the elements leading up to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Today, we are seeing similar behavior and talk coming from Rwanda. Politics have become interesting lately, to say the least. Since the return of Rwandan opposition leader Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza on January 16, 2010, a refugee for 16 years, the Rwandan government has found itself in unusual territory and an awkward situation. Constantly on the defensive, the government created a number of high profile blunders. The language coming out of Rwanda is eerily similar to that of pre-genocide Rwanda. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail and that the end is the opposite of what we saw sixteen years ago.

Upon her return, Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza visited the genocide memorial at Gisozi and pronounced that the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis as well as the perpetrators of crimes against humanity against Hutus should all be brought to justice. This did not sit well with Rwanda’s elite of the ruling party, the RPF.  No Rwandans inside the country have ever so loudly demanded that crimes committed by the RPF and Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s troops be prosecuted. Make no mistake, the RPF committed major atrocities against both the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda. Anyone who does not believe this fact is either not informed enough, or a cynical RPF and Kagame apologist. This demand for justice by Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza infuriates the Rwanda government for many reasons.

One of the reasons this puts the Rwandan government in a quagmire is that not only did the RPF troops led by General Paul Kagame commit these crimes against humanity, they have also been able to keep Rwandans silent about this. In Rwanda, it is taboo to talk about ethnicity. Everyone is Munyarwanda or Rwandan. Ironically, the Rwandan government has changed the term “Rwandan Genocide” to “Genocide against the Tutsi’s”. On one hand Rwandans are supposed to be Rwandas only but the genocide was not committed against Rwandans, it was committed against Tutsis. However, no one in Rwanda can question such illogical tripe lest they are accused of being “genocidaires”, “genocide deniers”, “genocide negationists”, or “divisionists” or all of the above. When I visit Rwanda, people talk to me in whispers with much trepidation while continuously scanning their surroundings. However, Mrs. Ingabire Umuhoza’s remarks must hit home with the RPF officials. The truth hurts and if prosecutable, it makes them nervous. Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza’s comments, if echoed by millions of Rwandans will bring President Paul Kagame and his cronies to their knees.

Reason number two is that it threatens the Rwandan government’s biggest diplomatic tool: the Rwandan Genocide. Rwanda has continuously used the guilt of genocide to get their way with the international community. Anytime President Kagame is on the defensive, he goes on the attack and blames everyone for not doing anything during Rwanda’s dark hour. This method has proved successful because international community members are quickly silenced. In Rwanda, it has also proven to be a strong tool to silence opposition. When Rwandans makes a critical comment of the government, they are quickly blamed of taking part in the genocide and they are jailed. If not implicated directly in the genocide, they are punished using ambiguous laws related to the genocide. These include laws of “divisionism” and “genocide ideology”. Good luck figuring out what these laws mean and how they are defined or when they are applied. Anything that criticizes the government can be prosecuted under these laws.

Upon hearing the remarks by Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, government officials along with pro government media started a smear campaign against the first woman to announce her intentions to run for president. As usual with any critics of the government, she was accused of divisionism and genocide ideology. They called for her to be prosecuted. They sent people to follow her and monitor her every move. On February 3, she was summoned to the Kinyinya government office by Mr. Shema; the local government leader. She was called to receive official documents. Upon her arrival at the office with her assistant Mr. Joseph Ntawangundi they were attacked by a mob. Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza managed to escape unharmed, although her purse carrying her passport was stolen and returned by police days later. Mr. Joseph Ntawangundi was beaten by the mob for about 45 minutes, stripped of his clothes and his glasses stolen. He sustained injuries that required a visit to intensive care. The police on the scene did not intervene and Mr. Shema did not attempt to call for help for Mr. Ntawangundi. On February 5,The New Times,  a pro government newspaper reported that Mr. Ntawangundi had been sentence to Nineteen years of prison in absentia by a Gacaca court (courts where no one is trained in the area of laws that prosecute genocide). Go figure.

According to a statement from the FDU Inkingi, Mr. Ntawangundi left Rwanda in 1993 and never returned until 2010. This means he was not in Rwanda in 1994. However, Gacaca courts’ incompetence is a discussion for another day. A day after the report, Mr. Ntawangundi was seized and jailed. In the media, the Rwandan police first tried to justify the well coordinated mob attack by saying that the mob was angry about the victims’ politics. This would be a funny explanation if it wasn’t for the fact that an actual attack on real human beings occured. The police later changed their story saying that Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and Mr. Ntawangundi skipped the long line and angered the crowd.

As if it was not enough, the media preaching hate for Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza began to call her IVU (translated in English as ashes). The pro government New Times repeatedly called her IVU similar to the way the genocidaires called Tutsis INYENZI (cockroaches) in 1994 to dehumanize them. During the same period, President Kagame had a press conference where he threatened that laws will do their work after the honeymoon (referring to her recent return to Rwanda). Doing work is also a term that was used by the genocidaires in 1994 meaning to kill. In this case, there is no doubt that President Kagame was referring to the earlier mentioned ambiguous genocide laws. Sure enough, Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza was summoned to the police to answer to charges of “divisionism” and “genocide ideology”.  Surprise surprise. She has been summoned a second time to answer to these charges again.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ntawangundi is in prison and the police continues to harass Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. The Green Party and other opposition has been denied official authorization to meet because the notary in the office is on maternity leave. This is awfully similar to the events leading up to the genocide when administrative unwillingness led to the transitional government forming. Meanwhile, the Rwandan senate continues to harrass Mr. Bernard Ntaganda of PS-Imberakuri with accusations of divisionism. In their desperate attempt to hold on to power, the Rwandan government is stopping at nothing out of all options.  Now, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Internation and other human rights organizations are calling for it to loosen its tight grips on the freedom and rights of the citizens of the country.  Knowing that they have killed 5 million people in neighboring Congo it would not be surprising if they killed others in masses in their desperate attempt to hold on to power and avoid facing justice for their crimes.

On night of Friday January 20, three grenade explosions occured in Kigalin in three separate places. Various reports put the initial toll at one death and eighteen injured. The explosions were in public places including a building that houses several businesses, a bus station (such places are very crowded anywhere in African countries), and a restaurant. Indeed this act of terrorism is very cowardly but not unusual in Rwanda. In the period leading up to the genocide in 1994, there were deadly grenade and bomb blasts on a regular basis.  The Rwandan government must ensure security for all of its citizens. Recent events though tend to point at the government of Rwanda having a hand in this as in the previous incidents of violence against the opposition.  It is also curious that these events are taking place in the midst of political issues where the Rwandan government has found itself in the midst of politically motivated violence, imprisonment, and violence.

It appears to be a difficult period to be a Rwandan, especially a Rwandan who dares stand up against President Kagame. Let us hope those who stood by while a million were killed in Rwanda and while five million died in Congo will now rise to the occasion and make sure that it never happens again.  Is kagame and the rpf preparing a genocide?

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.

Haiti Earthquake Aftermath: The UN Continues to Demonstrate Unbilievable Incompetence

By Eric Brown

As millions of people were trapped under the rubble in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, most of the world learned that there were 9000 UN peacekeepers stationed in that country since the mid 90’s. What these UN, so called peacekeepers, were doing in Haiti is beyond any logical person’s understanding. With all of the turmoil that Haiti experienced over the last two decades, you would think that these UN “peacekeepers” were of any use.  They have been no where to be seen as Haiti went from one issue to another.  However, it was predictable given the current situation with the largest UN “peacekeeping” mission in Congo. A mission of 17000 troops stood by while Rwandan and Ugandan troops, several rebel groups from Rwanda and Congo, killed and raped civilians claiming up to 6 million lives.  Another UN “peacekeeping” mission also bailed out on Rwandans in 1994. As the UN troops either withdrew from Rwanda or stood by during the genocide, over a million Rwandans were massacred. General Romeo Dallaire, the leader of the mission in Rwanda, claimed to have sent a fax requesting more troops. This fax never existed, much like the security threats claimed by the UN in Haiti on Friday January 15, 2010.  But what does Congo and Rwanda have to do with Haiti?

Friday night, the UN, as if it couldn’t out perform its incompetence of previous missions, called out all medical personnel from the makeshift hospital tent housing some of the suffering-yet-still-alive injured Haitians due to “security concerns”. Weren’t there any UN “peacekeeping” troops available to monitor peace while these doctors cater to their patients? Perhaps it’s my bad English that lead me to think that “peacekeeping” actually meant keeping the peace and providing security. This was a dishonor to the medical profession urged by paranoid UN decision makers.

As Anderson Cooper of CNN said, many Haitians were going to experience “STUPID” death all because the UN decided to abandon them in their suffering; just as they have done in Congo, Rwanda, Darfur and elsewhere.  It is beyond understanding how medical ethics allows doctors and nurses to leave people on life support unattended and leave with no apparent reason. Granted there were pockets of disturbance in Port-Au-Prince, BUT these medical professionals were in no danger. Even if there was concern, there are thousands of troops that could have ensured their security. As a matter of fact, Doctor Sanjay Gupta of CNN stayed behind to attend to as many patients as he could. In the end, the UN made a decision to leave the suffering to their death.

While many of us are working tirelessly to help out with the crisis in Haiti, with communities getting together to pitch in, individual donations hitting record numbers, Haitians showing extraordinary courage to save lives as well as several international rescuers getting in the mix; the UN is busy pulling medical staff from victims. What an insult!! At this point the best course is for the rest of the caring world to continue to donate time and money to the cause and not get tired as the reconstruction will take a while. However, it is extremely frustrating to see the UN’s mixed up priorities in the midst of death and suffering to citizens of the world they are supposed to care about.

The UN’s behavior and modus operandi is a total disgrace to say the least. This is more so in poor countries than anywhere else. How many people must die under the UN’s watch? Is there a need for these UN peacekeepers at all? Knowing their record in Rwanda, Congo, Darfur, and now Haiti; I believe there is no need for these troops anywhere.  However, UN so called peacekeeping missions and other various missions around the world is surely a way for those involved to line up their pockets. The UN’s behavior in Haiti and elsewhere is a case of major cowardice that has no place in times of crisis. As a citizen of a country that contributes funds to the UN, I am calling on the US government to withdraw our tax money from such an institution. It is an disgrace to use our tax money to contribute to a worthless organization. As things are, I believe the UN has outlived its usefulness and should be disbanded.

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.

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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.