Rwanda: UN Congo report threat to region’s stability

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Rwanda has presented seven objections to a United Nations report accusing its troops of committing atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo and said publishing it could threaten regional stability.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report details some 600 serious crimes committed by various forces from a number of nations in Congo from 1993-2003, Reuters reports. In August, Rwanda threatened to pull its 3,500 UN peacekeepers out of Sudan’s western Darfur region, following the leaked report’s accusations that the crimes committed could be construed as genocide.

President Paul Kagame later decided to keep its troops in the conflict-torn territory after consultations with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Rwanda government spokeswoman and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo described the draft document to be released on October1 as flawed and dangerous. Its official publication will include comments from concerned countries, including Rwanda.
“Our comments to the UN today demonstrate how the Mapping Exercise has been a moral and intellectual failure — as well as an insult to history,” Mushikiwabo said in a statement. UN peacekeepers were widely criticised for failing to prevent the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda that ended only after Tutsi-led fighters under current President Kagame retook control of the country. Rwanda’s army then invaded Congo, ostensibly to hunt down Hutu fighters who had taken part in the killings and fled into eastern Congo along with over a million Hutu civilians.

The UN probe accused Rwanda of systematically killing tens of thousands of Hutu refugees — crimes that it said could be considered as genocide if proven by a competent court. In its objections, Rwanda said the leaked draft lacks historical context, in particular the ‘immediate and serious threat posed by armed and ideologically charged refugees’ living just over the border. Rwanda said the report used flawed methodology, ‘the lowest imaginable evidentiary standard’ and relied too much on the use of anonymous sources.

The central African country said the UN had been manipulated to rewrite history and that the draft contradicted eyewitness accounts saying Hutu fighters, often posing as civilians, used the refugee camps as cover. The genocide charge also contradicts Rwanda’s efforts repatriate, resettle and reintegrate several million Hutu refugees, the statement said. “Given these objections, it seems clear that no amount of tinkering can resuscitate the credibility of this fundamentally misguided process,” said Mushikiwabo. Neighbouring Uganda and Burundi have also raised objections to their being mentioned as having taken part in the abuses outlined in the report.



Pic: Human skulls. The remains of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.