The UN is as it again. The popular aphorism, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” by a famous writer Dale Carnegie embodies much truth regarding the constant challenges of nation building virtually in all countries.
It would be fair to say, though, that the adage has particular resonance in Rwanda’s post-genocide efforts for building sustainable peace and development and the ingenuity with which the leadership has had to overcome unique challenges both at home and from the external environment.
Well, what the UN has given Rwanda and the region through its so-called mapping exercise report on the DRC is not just lemons but also a case of sour grapes owing to a deeply flawed methodology and outrageously false allegations that it seeks to translate into a credible discourse. Still Rwanda has gone out of its way to provide a properly worked out and convincing document in response to some of the serious deficiencies in the UN report.
Assuming other factors constant, the controversy surrounding the making of the report was supposed to be purely methodical and any efforts aimed at correcting the professional deficiencies exposed in the UN report ought to have been limited to the technical level – plain and simple. Yet, the UN created a diplomatic emergency that was completely uncalled for.
Rwanda, out of good will, agreed to the diplomatic initiative by the UN Secretary General. And the results? No more than cosmetic modifications have been made to the report, which serves to indicate that the UN was not genuine about the discussions with Rwandan officials anyway.
After all, albeit out of opportunism, the UN may probably rationalise that it has gotten what it wanted: Rwanda will not withdraw thousands of its troops from various UN peacekeeping missions, and it calmed its fears that President Paul Kagame might have been considering to boycott the UN General Assembly meeting.
It is not always easy to speculate about irrational behaviour, but they were certainly well aware of the seriousness of the unsubstantiated allegations against his country.
The UN might have its rationalisations in this case, but it is wrong on one key aspect in the equation, and that is Rwanda’s zero tolerance on all kinds of injustices. This is one of the defining constructs of the country’s character as a nation today and Rwanda is not likely to give up on challenging the UN report until justice to its history is done.
As the situation stands, there is a range of options that Rwanda might explore to challenge the UN’s destructive report.
First, in accordance with articles 34 and 35-paragraph 1 of the UN charter, Rwanda should officially demand the Security Council or the General Assembly to repeal the UN mapping exercise report on the DRC in its entirety or just a number of fundamentally flawed sections of it. The demand for repeal should be on the basis that the false allegations contained in the report are a serious threat to regional peace and security among many other credible justifications.
The charter provides that a member state may bring to the attention of the Security Council or of the General Assembly “any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the [...] situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.” The Security Council par excellence approved the mapping exercise and it is in order that Rwanda makes such a demand to the UN.
Second and in connection with the above, Rwanda should launch its diplomatic power to rally the support of its regional and international allies to co-sponsor the repeal motion so that a proper and systematic inquiry of crimes committed in the DRC can be commissioned.
Even though Rwanda can make the demand on its own, working in the framework of the regional bodies of which Rwanda is a member would be a good option, as it would strengthen its position and voice.
For instance, there are important provisions in the charter for the establishment of the East African Community that would act as a basis for the action even though there is not yet a detailed international relations protocol for the partner countries. The Common Wealth is another important body in which to explore this possibility for action.
Action within the framework of the African Union would be relatively more feasible based on the organisation’s Peace and Security Council protocol. All these different founding documents exist to serve a useful purpose and they should be operationalised in undertaking Rwanda’s legitimate action.
Third, should the above initiatives be sidelined by different actors for various reasons as it ought to be expected, Rwanda should not shy away from exploring several other retaliatory and/ or legal actions.
As a juridical person, the United Nations has willingly and deliberately committed a serious offense against the Rwandan people by subtly espousing the “double genocide” theory and by falsely accusing its military of committing serious crimes.
Apart from being a destabilising bonanza against Rwanda’s and regional peace and security in the short and long term, the UN’s false allegations are likely to have a serious negative impact on the character, reputation and legitimacy of the Rwandan people and the government.
Rwandan lawyers should consider whether and under which arbitration jurisdictions the UN can be held to account, and whether the UN’s actions against Rwanda regarding the DRC mapping report may not constitute forms of liabilities for which it may be held accountable.
Rwanda’s course of action in seeking to repeal the report would not be without precedents. For instance in his address to the 46th session of the UNGA on the September 23, 1991, the US president George W.H. Bush called for the repeal of UNGA resolution 3379 that had misrepresented Israel’s Zionism as racism.
The resolution was unconditionally repealed just three months later. The resolution had mischaracterised the struggle that led to the creation of the Jewish state enabling millions of Jews in the Diaspora to finally find a place to call home – a home that had been theirs in the first place.
President Bush Sr. rightly made the case that “to equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism is to twist history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and, indeed, throughout history. To equate Zionism with racism is to reject Israel itself, a member of good standing of the United Nations.”
The UN mapping report on the DRC has placed Rwanda and its military in a similar situation and it is Rwanda’s legitimate right to demand that the report be repealed.
The UN has committed the same historical mistake against Rwandans by mischaracterising the intentions and the conduct of the Rwandan military in the DRC and it risks undermining Rwanda’s willingness for active self-defence in the future among other negative consequences.
The UN should realise that the need to establish facts about the events in the DRC and its obligation for morality, respect for state sovereignty and fundamental fairness and justice to all are not mutually exclusive. One should not come at the expense of another. That is UN’s duty.
As important as high-level short-term political promises that are likely to ensue may be, such promises may not be reliable in the long term as they tend to last as long as office tenures of the respective politicians who make them.
Anyone could take action on the basis a published document anytime and the best course of action might be for Rwanda to keep on challenging the UN mapping report on substantive grounds.
The author is a graduate student of International Development at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.