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Dissecting Rwandan criticism of UN report on Congo genocide

The Rwandan government claims there were flaws in the UN report that implicates it in the possible Congo genocide. Guest blogger Jason Stearns responds.

By Jason StearnsGuest blogger / August 31, 2010

The remains of a destroyed luxury resort built by the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in Virunga National Park and occupied by rebels during the long-running conflict in eastern Congo are seen through a vehicle windscreen riddled with bullet holes on Aug. 28.

Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

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I've received some angry emails and comments about the posting on the UN mapping report. Since then, the Rwandan and Congolese governments have responded to the allegations, as well. Several of these points merit reflection.

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Some general points:

1. The report's intention is to call for accountability for the mass atrocities committed during 10 years of conflict in the Congo, not to single out Rwanda for "acts of genocide." Indeed, Angolan, Burundian, Ugandan, Chadian, and Congolese officials are also cited for war crimes in the report. While the systematic massacre of Rwandan Hutu refugees stands out as one of the worst crimes committed during the war and deserves to be highlighted, the press should have put the report in context and highlighted its call for a tribunal and a truth and reconciliation commission.

(Read the entire pdf report here, in French.)

2. There is no doubt that some Rwandan opposition members will seize this opportunity to resurrect the notion of a double genocide. The comparison is not helpful in the least. Some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed during the 1994 genocide. This reports suggests "tens of thousands" of refugees killed by the RPA in the Congo and probably several times that many died from disease and starvation. However, while the figures of refugees that died were nowhere near as high as those of people killed in 1994 genocide, the systematic nature of the killing is deeply chilling and indicates complicity at a very high level within Rwanda's government.

To the concrete points made in Rwanda's rebuttal, which can be read here:

The report was leaked to distract from allegations that UN peacekeepers did nothing to prevent an incident of mass rape in Walikale.

This is unlikely. The report was written by a team under the authority of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, not by MONUSCO. While MONUSCO did have a copy, all indications from within the UN suggest that it was leaked because some UN officials wanted to change the language in the report, in particular allegations that Rwandan troops may have committed acts of genocide in 1996/7. As reported here, Rwanda has threatened to withdraw its peacekeepers from UN missions if the report is published.

It is immoral for the UN, a body that failed to act during the 1994 genocide and then managed the refugee camps that hosted refugees and genocidaires alike in the Congo, to accuse the Rwandan army of genocide.

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