UN report on Rwanda genocide threatens stability in Central Africa
The leaked report accuses Rwanda's leadership of mass murdering Hutu refugees in Congo. Once seen as heroes for ending the 1994 genocide – they're now billed as villains. But oversimplified claims don't serve justice, and may have dangerous consequences for regional progress.
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However, the problem is not just that Rwanda has been imagined as a non-existent African Shangri-La. It’s also that some armchair critics have often gone so over the top in demonizing the RPF – seldom based on any thorough, on-the-ground research – that the movement handily dismisses essentially legitimate concerns as baseless accusations. One Rwandan diplomat called the leaked UN report “an amateurish NGO job.”Skip to next paragraph
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It was once mandatory to demand “empathy” for the war-ravaged country’s authoritarian government. Today it is becoming fashionable among some to blame the regime – and Kagame himself – for almost all Central Africa’s wrongs. Desiring to denounce the RPF as the brilliantly evil organization “you love to hate,” too many commentators are now recklessly amalgamating charges of human rights violations, corruption, and bad policy.
Some are coming dangerously close to embracing revisionism about the 1994 crimes, too.
The conventional and well-documented account of the genocide is that government forces, extremist militias, and ordinary Hutus murdered at least 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu Rwandans in less than 100 days, following the assassination of “their” president, Habyarimana. An entire propaganda machine and a brutally crafted extermination ideology fuelled the massacres in churches, schools, and homes.
Dangers of a "double genocide" theory
Today, the idea of a “double genocide” is gaining strength, suggesting that the madness of 1994 was less a one-sided ethnic cleansing of Tutsis, but part of a long and vicious fight between Hutus and Tutsis that became “uncontrollable.” Unfortunately, and shamefully, it is no longer just Hutu génocidaires and their French silent accomplices who suggest the “double genocide” hypothesis, conveniently trivializing two decades of anti-Tutsi massacres.
Former NATO secretary-general Willy Claes was the Belgian Foreign Minister in 1994, and driving force behind the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Rwanda during the genocide. He recently called Kagame co-responsible for the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans. Numerous journalists, scholars, and activists are now jumping on the new UN report’s controversial hypotheses, claiming it offers supreme evidence of the culpability of a regime they loathe (for doctrinal or fashionable reasons).
Some even go so far as to theorize: If the RPF waged an extermination campaign in DRC in 1996-1997, then perhaps it also co-engineered the 1994 events so that it could take over power?
The real need to hold people accountable for what happened to the 200,000 Hutu refugees in the DRC during that time is at risk of being merged with the problematic agendas of genocide revisionists and not particularly innocent RPF detractors.
Debate over the technicalities of genocide seldom leads to concrete improvements on the ground. For example: The counterproductive debate about genocide in Darfur did little or nothing to end impunity and increase accountability in the Sudanese region. The risk is particularly acute because the report’s author, the UN, has not done a particularly good job of owning up to its own catastrophic failures in Central Africa.
This includes its shameful role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but also its shocking inability to neutralize tens of thousands heavily-armed génocidaires in the very refugee camps where it alleges the RPF massacred civilians. The UN would have far more moral credibility and political leverage to finally do something about the DRC atrocities if it had done its utmost to solve the deadly embrace between Eastern Congo and Rwanda during the past 16 years.