The narrative of Rwanda as a post-genocide economic and social success story, propagated by the country’s president Paul Kagame, is widely accepted in the West. Oft projected by outside influential friends of Rwanda such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Rick Warren, the positive story is widely distributed in the Western media, with help from a Boston-based public relations firm that manages a $50,000 per month positive image campaign on behalf of the country.
Groups like Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Group of Experts continue to present a much more troubling view of Rwanda. This counter narrative testifies not only of an oppressive regime in Kigali, but one that has greatly contributed to the violence in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo that has taken some six million lives. Reports from these groups also indicate the secret flow through Rwanda of minerals from the Congo enabled by Rwandan backed militias.
The UN Mapping report (see our previous blog) suggested Kagame’s mostly Tutsi army attempted a counter-genocide in the mid-1990s in parts of Congo. The report accuses the Rwandan Army of purposefully massacring Hutu refugees in the Congo. The Rwandan government received an advance copy of the report and discredited it.
And now, according to a June 23 Reuters report, a new United Nations report on the Congo has omitted reference to findings that high-ranking Rwandan officials are backing an army mutiny in Congo’s volatile east led by Gen. Bosco Ntaganda and his newly formed “M-23″ militia.
Diplomats have accused the United States of seeking to delay publication of the findings by the U.N. Group of Experts to give neighboring Rwanda time to formulate a response.
Philippe Bolopion, UN director of Human Rights Watch, told the Guardian: “The US government’s reluctance to allow the publication of the UN group of experts’ findings of Rwandan military support for Bosco Ntaganda’s rebels is counterproductive.
“Stifling information will only hinder attempts to put an end to the atrocities committed by ICC (international criminal court) war crimes suspect Ntaganda and other abusive commanders who have joined his mutiny.”
He added: “The US and other security council members should be doing everything they can to expose violations of UN sanctions and the arms embargo, including by Rwanda, and not attempt to cover them up.”
A report from Human Rights Watch released last month documented evidence of Rwandan support to the break-away militia, stating that Rwandan military officials have been arming and supporting the mutiny of Ntaganda. The militia leader is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for recruiting and using child soldiers.
These new reports claim that Rwandan military officials have allowed Ntaganda to enter Rwanda and supplied him with new recruits, weapons, and ammunition.
Field research conducted by Human Rights Watch in the region in May 2012 revealed “that Rwandan army officials have provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo. The recruits include civilians forcibly recruited in Musanze and Rubavu districts in Rwanda, some of whom were children under 18. Witnesses said that some recruits were summarily executed on the orders of Ntaganda’s forces when they tried to escape.”
As has been his response in the past toward UN and human rights reports, Rwanda’s President Kagame shrugs off any responsibility toward fueling the violence in the Eastern Congo, placing all of the blame on the Congolese.
There is some urgency for the U.S. to get it right on the Congo.
The eastern provinces of North and South Kivu have witnessed increased fighting between government troops and renegade fighters following Ntaganda’ mutiny in April. The fighting has displaced more than 200,000 people, including many who have fled to neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, according to the UN News Service.
Congo Peace urges U.S. citizens to contact their elected officials to voice dismay at any suppression of information at the United Nations about Rwanda’s role in perpetuating the conflict in the Congo. Understood that not much progress can be made in the Congo until there is better leadership in the country. In the meantime though, the U.S. could at least at least play a role in ending the extreme violence the Congo has seen since 1994 by holding its ally Rwanda accountable.