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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Unfortunately, the international community has yet to fully accept the devastating responsibility of Security Council members in this ongoing tragedy.Skip to next paragraph
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A treacherous time for Rwanda
Moreover, the debate is re-ignited at a treacherous time for Rwanda. Despite the semblance of a secure hold on power due to Kagame winning an impressive, and controversial, 93 percent of the vote in the last presidential election, tensions are rife in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
The RPF leadership remains an ultra-professional, but deeply paranoid, military organization, not an ordinary political party. Formal institutions collide with the informal logic of a leadership that thinks like a guerilla movement, in uncompromising terms. The RPF’s security-obsessed hardcore has disintegrated rapidly in recent years. The rivalry problem between Kagame and his former lieutenants (Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegyeya) is not about policy but power. Politics in the (increasingly fragmented) RPF is more than ever based on “nobody trusts nobody” anymore.
The Kagame regime, both internally and externally, sees its legitimacy to rule as inextricably tied to having ended the 1994 “genocide.” Standing accused of the most heinous of crimes is more than a diplomatic insult. It’s questioning the regime’s right to rule.
Consequences for Central African stability
The RPF core will react the way it has learned to respond to such threats – by going on the offensive. (Withdrawing its blue-helmets from the Darfur peacekeeping force, as the RPF has threatened to do? Stirring up trouble in Eastern Congo to show it’s indispensable as a force for stability there?) At best, it will offer temporary tactical concessions through on-and-off negotiations.
Ultimately, the RPF will consider itself vindicated in its initial distrust of the outside world, shutting down avenues of mutual listening and further squashing internal dissent.
The inconvenient truth is this: With its genocide reference, this perhaps well-intended report will probably be counter-productive to justice and stability in Central Africa. It was written at a terribly sensitive moment, by an organization that is in no position to lecture Rwanda about accepting responsibility.
The chances of the leaked document leading to increased accountability for crimes in DRC of RPF officials seem nil. Calling the atrocities “genocidal” spices up the debate, but doesn’t further the cause of peaceful politics inside Kigali, and doesn’t necessarily bring justice any closer for eastern Congo massacres.
Harry Verhoeven is a doctoral student at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. He heads the Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN) is co-authoring a research project on the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, “Point of No Return. Kabila, the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the Internal Dynamics of the Great African War.”