Monthly Archives: September 2010

Bashir, Kabila, Kagame, Museveni: Who is not ‘genocidaire’?

Omar al Bashir is president of Sudan and Paul Kagame and Joweri Museveni are presidents of Rwanda and Uganda respectively. Joseph Kabila rules over the Democratic Republic of Congo. As for the vocabulary, the term ‘genocidaire’ has come to refer to those guilty of the mass killings of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Since July 1994 until today, the Tutsi government which emerged from the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front over Habyarimana Hutu regime, used extensively and politically that term to label all Hutus indistinctly, whether not they have participated in the killing of Tutsis.

War crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide are offences that many Africans leaders are accused of. In July an international prosecutor at the International Criminal Court accused president Bashir of acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Sudanese president’s government forces and affiliated militias – Janjawid have been condemned for being responsible for committing atrocities against Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. The scale of violence led to the humanitarian crisis of Darfur in the last couple of years.

The Mapping Exercise report of the UN meant to come out on October 1st accuses on its part forces and militias from different countries which were involved in Democratic Republic of Congo, between 1993 and 2003. Evidence contained in the report show that they have committed reprehensible serious atrocities including acts of genocide against Hutu refugees, Hutu Congolese and other Congolese ethnic groups. Among forces mentioned by the report are Rwandan Patriotic Army, Alliance des Forces Democratiques de Liberation, and Uganda People Defense Forces.

It has come to light that being in the favors of the West make some of the four presidents spared by the international judiciary system on crimes committed while pursuing their political or economic policies internally or regionally. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, an international warrant has been issued for his arrest, while his colleagues Paul Kagame, Joweri Museveni and Joseph Kabila not at all. Sudan is an officially Muslim dominated country and mainly culturally Arabic in its mostly populated north. The south shares the civilization of black Africa, with important influence of Christianity and indigenous beliefs.

Sudan is also endowed with natural resources.  The following mineral resources have been discovered all over the country: iron, cooper, chrome, manganese, gold, silicon, in addition to lime stone, marble, gypsum, mica, talk, natural gas. The emergence of China as an economic power has pushed Chinese to search globally for raw materials for their booming industries in recent decades. Sudan became one of its many suppliers on the African continent. Moreover, in recent years, exploration and production of petrol have increased.

The fact of being an Islamist state which at some times harbored terrorists researched by the West, and which on top does business primarily with China, an aggressive competitor of the West for raw materials, could probably explain the lack of laisser-faire on the part of ICC while dealing with Sudanese human rights abuses. Atrocities committed by Sudanese forces and affiliated militias against Southern and Eastern populations were apparently investigated by ICC under such background. Having said that it is noteworthy mentioning that the court is seen in developing countries circles particularly African as a neo colonialist instrument set up to punish leaders who don’t serve well interests of the West.

This brings us to consider the attitude of the international criminal law in relation to Paul Kagame and Joweri Museveni and at a lesser level Joseph Kabila. The Congolese president inherited in 2001 a situation where he has apparently found himself being willingly or not used by most protagonists to the wealth of Congo except the Congolese population. In the case of Rwanda, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has failed to investigate serious crimes Kagame’s government committed against Hutu populations internally and regionally. The Luwero Triangle guerilla war and treatment of northern Ugandan populations under Joweri Museveni bear plenty of evidence of serious atrocities which the Ugandan president has never been accounted for so far. The UN report to come out also mentions involvement of his forces in atrocities committed in Democratic Republic of Congo.

During the last two decades, Paul Kagame and Joweri Museveni have until today been the darlings of US and Britain through their multinationals sourcing minerals in the Great Lakes region, despite an almost 8 millions of dead the two leaders are directly and indirectly responsible of. But because they have been serving well the capitalist/inhuman system, when it comes to African lives, they can get away with their numerous crimes. Omar al Bashir’s forces are accused of violence which caused the death of an estimated number of 300,000 lives in five years and a displacement of over 2.5 million people. If the comparison had to look only at the number of victims, the question would be who among listed leaders would be less ‘genocidaire’?

Goretti Nyiramahinja’s memory in the midst of the UN report on crimes committed in DRCongo

She was already in her 70s when she fled from her native region of Kinigi in the north of Rwanda. The war which in 1994 uprooted her from a neighbourhood she and her numerous relatives had occupied for several generations was led by Paul Kagame. The latter has been hailed by the like of Blair and Clinton to be among the so called “new breeds of visionary leaders” of Africa.

Goretti Nyiramahinja managed to walk seventy kilometres all the way from Ruhengeri through Gisenyi and on to Goma UN camp just running away from the advancing killing might of the Tutsi National Resistance Army/Rwandan Patriotic Front in June 1994. Until 1996 she had survived the harsh life of refugee camps. When her camp was bombarded by Rwandan Patriotic Army forces, she flew among the hundreds of similar old women who could not run any further into the jungles of RDCongo and were brutally murdered using old used hoes to knock their brains out of their skulls by Kagame’s men, sometime in the watchful docile face of the UN and other NGOs whose mission is normally to protect the vulnerable.

Kagame’s men killed many people whose real number will never be known. Today Nyiramahinja’s body may be one of those buried in huge mass graves in the Goma area of the DRCongo, found by the UN investigators. It has taken now sixteen years to acknowledge odious crimes committed against this old woman and others like her in hundreds of thousands, this hoping that the initial draft of the UN report does not disappear or simply be watered down. It wouldn’t be the first UN report to know a similar fate.

Western governments have individually or collectively been blamed for letting these savage carnages happen. But what people forget is that when the politicians in Europe or USA take oath to serve their people, they swear to uphold the interests of their countries. Their foreign policies and subsequent actions taken on the ground in Africa for example must suite the needs of their people and their interests. So if their interests are to loot or pillage Africa you cannot blame them because they are serving their peoples’ interests thus fulfilling their foreign policy. Nyiramahinja’s death could be understood under such perspective.

A serious problem arises when, in pursuing their interests and fulfilling their foreign policies in Africa, western powers are assisted by African intermediaries, the so called progressive leaders of the continent. The like of Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame make easy the work of external predators by fighting their wars, sharing the result of their hunt, and killing as many fellow Africans as they so wish to fight off any internal dissent and opposition.

How many people have died since 1981, in the Luwero and Rwanda wars or until today in the Congo wars carried out and supported by ‘enlightened revolutionaries’ Museveni and Kagame in the Great Lakes region of east and central Africa? Should we continue to blame the foreign politicians who are serving the interests of their people, or should Africans blame these stunt minded politicians who are instead slaughtering their own people?

I am certain that if Nyiramahinja had still been around, the question wouldn’t have been difficult to answer. Part of her extended family in Uganda died because of Museveni’s wars. Other members and people connected to her in the Ruhengeri and Byumba regions were killed during Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda. Probably none of her surviving relatives will ever know where to trace her remains. Will the yet-to-be published UN report on crimes committed in DRCongo at any time in the future restore some dignity to that old woman? This is an important question still pending about addressing ongoing and western backed impunity of political leaders of the Great Lakes region.

Shame on UN using Kagame’s genocide and rapist suspects as peacekeepers

When the leaked UN draft report on crimes committed in DRCongo came out on August 26th, it set new grounds for international ethics in peacekeeping. Back in 2006, there had been controversy over General Karake Karenzi, currently imprisoned in Kigali by his master, becoming deputy for the UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur – Sudan. His UN employment contract had to be cancelled because of the pressure of human rights organizations and survivors of crimes he committed in Rwanda and DRCongo.

The Rwandan government’s reaction to the content of the UN report was expected as it occurred. What has been a surprise was the behavior of the UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. When he went to Kigali on September 7th to beg Paul Kagame not to call back home his peacekeepers, it was like asking a suspect rapist to become the guardian of a college of only girls or a central bank robber being given authority to run the treasury department of a country.

The content of the UN report is unequivocal. Among many other issues surrounding crimes committed in DRCongo, it is clear about responsibilities of Kagame’s forces during the period covered by the document.’ In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or psychological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten.’

It is unquestionable that UN has shined in failing Africa in general and many African countries in particular. In 1994, at the threat of becoming a military target as Paul Kagame told them, the 2,500 UN peacekeepers serving then in Rwanda were reduced at a mere 270 men contingent at the height of the Rwandan genocide. Perceptibly, such threat was responded to positively at the Security Council by the countries whose geopolitical interests the rebel turned today president of Rwanda served at the time. RDCongo is another case of failure of the UN. In 1961, there was the alleged complicity of UN peacekeepers in the overthrow and assassination of elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba followed by decades of Mobutu’s dictatorship working for the West rather than Congolese people. The 17,000 UN forces which are currently stationed in DRCongo since 2003 supposedly to maintain peace have been proven to be part of the problem than the solution.

Using suspect rapists and other criminals as Rwandan UN peacekeepers doesn’t provide the peacekeeping mission with a good reputation. Sponsors or supporters of Rwanda as a part of UN contingent to maintain peace in troubled places should be ashamed. They are either in denial of atrocities the Rwandan army has committed in DRCongo, accomplices of its crimes or simply racist in their attitude towards African people. Can they ever imagine how it would feel to find out that you are protected by genocide or rapist suspects? I think it would rather add up to your insecurity and lower your peace of mind.

The serial raping of women in Eastern Congo has been carried on over the years. The most recent incident was reported last month and preceded by a few weeks the scheduled publication of the UN report which accuses Kagame forces of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Was it a hazardous incident or a deliberate occurrence to distract the general opinion from RPF serious responsibilities in alleged crimes?

Jeffrey Gettleman reported on April 30th, on the case of thousands of young people held like prisoners at Iwawa Island in the middle of the Lake Kivu. As the UN draft report indicates, some military forces which were involved in Congolese wars continued to have children in their ranks even after they officially ended. As raping is one of the weapons used to scare populations and get them displaced, it won’t surprise if these young people at Iwawa would be part of such raping contingents. A source which requested anonymity told us that there were many such camps in the countries of the Great Lakes region where rebels turned presidents keep on using dirty and dehumanizing tactics to achieve their political aims.

The ugly truth on crimes committed in Congo demands justice for the departed

On October 1st, 2010, the UN through its HCHR will publish a report on atrocities committed by military and militia forces in Democratic Republic of Congo between March 1993 and June 2003. The document is the result of a mapping exercise detailing the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The report which is a 545 pages long document, describes in its Paragraph 512 some of the facts the experts found and which incriminate some of the forces involved. ‘The systematic attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundian army] forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or psychological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, in particular in Orientale Province, depriving them of assistance essential to their survival.’

This is the ugly truth on crimes committed in Congo that the world should not leave not thoroughly investigated and their perpetrators not punished. For many years, millions of voiceless Rwandans, Congolese and Burundians have called for justice for their relatives, compatriots and friends cruelly killed. But vested interests have for long worked and continue to lobby to keep the criminals off the hook. The sad reality is that leaving them prevail in the Great Lakes region has jeopardized the possibility of a sustainable development. Created situation of impunity has impacted negatively on many fronts where improvements have been postponed nearly forever. The state of   justice, economy, health, education, reconciliation, infrastructures is some times portrayed positively by the same interests who hide the reality on the ground to cover up their associates in the crimes.

On the same day that the UN report will be published citizens of the Great Lakes region will also remember the invasion of the Rwandan Patriotic Front from Uganda on October 1st 1990. It will be 20 years during which the region will have experienced assassination of presidents ( Melchior Ndagaye of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, Juvenal Habyarimana, Laurent Desire Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo), archbishops, more than 8 millions of dead, millions of refugees, disappearances, political assassinations, imprisonments of populations in tens of thousands, generalized oppression of civilians characterized by total lack of respect of fundamental human rights particularly in Rwanda.

Humanity that we all constitute should remember that not condemning and bringing perpetrators of these crimes in front of a tribunal makes us accomplices. Our silence about the need for justice for the victims would acknowledge victory for the criminals. Though it is a fact that international criminal tribunals are compromised by the US and its allies on the Security Council, justice will be served only when disinterested parties lead on seeking it.

I don’t need genocide in a report, but justice to be done.

A positive outcome from the leaked UN report has so far been achieved. The need for justice is from now on so paramount that after the world has an approximate picture of what happened years ago in Democratic Republic of Congo, it will become quite impossible to stop the quest for honouring the fallen victims. Atrocities including acts of a genocide character against Hutu refugees and Hutu Congolese took place and were perpetrated by RPA/AFDL and other military and militia forces between 1993 and 2003.

Since extracts of the report went out on August 26th, Kigali has been out with nails and teeth stretched at their full length, screaming that the investigation was malicious, unprofessional, threatening that it would call home its peacekeepers forces if its criminal activities in Congo during the time covered by the report were qualified as genocide in character. According to Kigali, the report has not even any legal value. For those familiar with the Rwandan political scenery, it is straightforward to notice that the same energy which has been deployed to see the report redrafted, has been regularly used to blackmail the international community which willingly or not failed to prevent or stop in time the Rwandan genocide.

Kigali has used the Rwandan genocide, blackmailing, time and again to seek compensation for failure on the part of the international community. The genocide has been a justification to cover up human rights abuses, to oppress the population, to deprive individuals of their properties, to segregate among citizens, to silence politicians or any dissent voice. There are thousands of people languishing in Rwandan prisons for many years, not because of their involvement in the genocide but only because Kagame’s regime wants them there for its strategic political, economic and social aims.

I don’t think there are many people among those ardently seeking that the UN report is not changed when it is finally published, who don’t only want to see justice being done. I am quite certain that none of them would want to use the publication of clear accusation of Kagame’s army crimes as a business mean to achieve financial or political gains, as this has been the case for the Rwandan government since 1994. No one could be as cunning as the Rwandan president to go beyond getting the memory of their murdered relatives and compatriots honoured.

For many years, which have now become decades, voices from relatives of the victims, academics, NGOs, activists from around the world, have called for justice in the Great Lakes region. Postponing to address current impunity of leaders of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, despite their serious responsibilities in the making of the human disaster of the African continent, is dangerously hindering sustainable development of an area considered to be the engine of the continent. And the sad side of the story is that it is not only Congo which has been targeted so far, but the whole African central region including countries such as Congo Brazzaville and Cameroun. The geopolitics from US, UK and other Anglo-Saxons allies which are at play since the end of the cold war early the 90s don’t care about African lives as long as they get their minerals.

Since October 1990, millions of people have died because of Kagame and Co’s wars in the Great Lakes region. Calling genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity crimes committed in Democratic Republic of Congo doesn’t count much for the departed. None of these appellations will bring them back. But they need justice. The suffering of their survivors is ongoing. Whatever is finally retained in the final version of the UN report people should press to have a special tribunal for Congo to try the perpetrators. I don’t need genocide in the report, but I seriously need to see justice being done for the sake of those who cannot be with us anymore, not for their own fault but only because of Kagame’s army and its allies in the plundering of Congo’s minerals.