One can seek responses to more pressing questions but definitely the twist brought by this secretly prepared UN report intended to destabilize the entire Great Lakes. This is neither the first time nor the last.
This report, leaked in the wake of election period in Rwanda and pre-elections for DR Congo, intends clearly to harm Rwanda, its leaders and allies. But more fundamentally, it aims to recreate the suspicion between the peoples of the Great Lakes region and attempts to disrupt the reconciliation of Rwanda and France, Rwanda and DR Congo respectively.
We can see similar or complementary manoeuvres amid the preparation of the referendum on South-Sudan. And if the probable war breaks out on the Sudanese front, it will affect definitely the entire Great Lakes region and trigger massive refugee’s influx again.
If the recently published UN report also achieves the rise of tensions between countries and ethnic group’s altogether, the cocktail will be even more explosive. You’ll probably guess some complex interests at stake that transcend our little lives and our weak states, indeed becoming pawns in the map of global strategic games.
Anyway, weakening our states further and bringing more instability in the Great Lakes is not the safest and smartest way to counter the terrorist threat coming from the Horn of Africa, quite the contrary!
As far as the Hutu refugees in Zaire are concerned, it was documented (archives citing UN agencies notably UNHCR) that the number which had reached Kisangani and its peripheries (Biaro and Kasese) in mid-April 1997, was approximately 80,000 people.
And within three weeks after their arrival, the UNHCR in collaboration with Rwanda and the local ADFL authorities were able to repatriate about 10,000 refugees directly by air. How can someone logically and decently on the basis of unsubstantiated and manipulated claims go to the other extreme to advance and confirm the intent to commit genocide on Hutus when on the contrary, facts can speak for themselves? When over a million people were returned, reintegrated into the social and political life without any doubt?
When it’s documented that the genocidal forces did not hesitate to kill their own each time they attempted to escape and return to Rwanda, even up today? Actually the RPA fight around those camps controlled and organized by ex-FAR was precisely to liberate the hostages and repatriate the refugees, and Rwandan soldiers died on this duty, a supreme sacrifice for the bigger nationalistic cause.
Beyond the figures and gruesome descriptions compiled by this UN mapping intended notably to mudsling the positive image of Rwanda, the report fails to describe the whole picture of the extreme suffering caused on the human level. In this regard, the surreal testimony of a handful of ex-FAR soldiers (6) who fought the armies of the RPA, ADFL, MPLA and UNITA between 1994 and 1998 and who had crossed the whole of Congo (almost walking) to Angola and Zambia back and forth as the reversal of alliances unfolded, is simply outrageous.
When they were offered freedom on condition they joined Kabila senior’s FARDC to counter the RCD troops, these ex-FAR refused categorically and preferred to stay detained with Tutsi on death row at the infamous Kokolo military camp.
They resisted unthinkable pressures and were finally evacuated to West Africa with a number of Tutsi survivors of the pogrom in Kinshasa in 1998 who were supposed to be their enemies.
Assuming that these unscrupulous hardliners, burdened by the guilt conscience, manage to evade their share of individual criminal responsibility, can they escape the verdict of history?
The next questioning is whether these people should be heard alone or along with all those who pulled the strings behind the scenes and using some vocal NGOs today? This report compiling hundred of incidents and hypothetical genocide of Hutus in Congo, is a very equivocal and clever manoeuvre to forever hide that responsibility and intimidate Rwandans.
The very blurred boundaries of responsibility in this tragedy of the Hutu refugees and other Congolese should be decanted. By positioning itself as prosecutor, some of these NGOs and UN agencies (or their individual executives) active at the time, are trying to hide their own depravity.
These organizations have always taken pretexts behind the rules of engagement, the terms of their mandate and the theoretical principles of international law to justify their inaction and especially their ideological and political inclinations.
These NGOs and the United Nations agencies have failed the Tutsi, they have failed Hutu refugees taken hostage by questionable political interests. They are currently failing Congolese when considering their approach and ineffectiveness to stop the massacres and rapes of Congolese on a daily basis since 1994.
It is about (or late?) time to restore the historical truth to prevent our future generations being easily manipulated by agencies or groups who care less about consequences of these evil games. Where Africans are the only victims and or quickly accused to be perpetrators. It is indeed a vast field of wide open historical research.
There are genuine NGOs who had assisted and continue to help needy people in the region, in good faith and professionally. The role of NGOs being to supplement the work of governments where and when they cannot.
Unfortunately, when States or Governments do not work properly, some NGOs cross the boundary and tend to fill the space and dictate the way forward on every subject or matter. In the case of Zaire, weakened by years of mismanagement of the Mobutu regime, there is ample evidence that NGOs have played an important role, deciding on the fate of Hutu refugees in particular and Congolese people in this saga.
Incidentally why an investigation, that began in 2008, whose terms of reference were approved in 2007 after the accidental discovery of mass graves in the area of the north of Goma in 2005, could not cover the period until at least up 2005? Why leave out crimes committed from 2003 to 2010?
After all, the recent crimes are much better documented with the presence of MONUC? By restricting the investigated periods, one can guess what interests will be protected and who will be the scapegoat!
Between the dates of ratification of the ICC Rome Treaty and the withdrawal of Rwandan troops in October 2002 from DR Congo, there is plenty of room to manoeuvre! By the way, there are a good number of incidents involving organized and systematic massacres of the Tutsi Congolese of all ages and sex, encouraged by the highest authorities in DR Congo during the 1993-2000 eras.
Yet this report does not suggest or draw the very same conclusion to check if they cannot be qualified as acts of Genocide. Is it the number of massacred people or the intentions?
Anybody who has followed the recent history of Rwanda and great lakes region cannot be surprised by these double standards. Until recently, the FDLR was easily getting media coverage and its leadership unquestioned despite the evil nature of the said organization and its activities.
And some NGOs are suggesting the relocation for the bulk of FDLR troops. No mention of any criminal prosecution whatsoever. Supreme reward and protection, isn’t it? But when a former CNDP commander, now integrated in FARDC, is “suspected” or accused by unreliable informants about any individual misdeed, the information will make headlines in the world’s media even before the proof is out, in a typical game of double standard.
Ultimately, this article aims to break a taboo by raising the question of the role of NGOs and UN agencies in the plight of Hutu refugees in Zaire. And beyond the plight of Congolese people massacred and or raped on daily basis since the influx of the said refugees in 1994.
Was the NGOs’ intervention at that time helpful and timely? Certainly yes! Is their contribution only of a positive nature, unquestionable? Certainly not! Beyond the post-mortem constructive criticism applicable to any type of organization handling emergency situations, there were huge errors in the assessment of the situation and serious misjudgement from most NGOs active within Hutu refugee camps, and who followed this rather unusual trek with vulnerable children, mothers and elderly westward toward a hostile tropical environment.
If proved intentional, it is more than a mistake, but criminal behaviour or negligence that should be qualified and cross-checked. Documents can be found, and testimonies from survivors of this tragic experiment on a large scale can be assembled.
Rwandans and Congolese intellectuals in particular and Africans in general, need to wake up. They should try to find and define the appropriate legal framework and instruments that may qualify those unlawful acts, negligence or omission, to hear passive or active accomplices, especially for non-assistance to endangered populations.
In any case, the judgment of history will be unforgiving for all of these actors who claim a moral superiority while the above questions are left unanswered. However, the search for historical truth should be actively pursued without compromise.
It is both a moral duty and an obligation to restore the sense of fair and balanced international justice to ensure the end of impunity and arrogance.
It will be important also to rethink the rapport with the UN systems and to reform this institution whose efficiency and effectiveness are being questioned. Otherwise the UN will remain a “big for nothing institution, as characterized by the famous General de Gaulle back in the sixties.
The African Union must go beyond the rhetoric, shallow resolutions and statements read without conviction at each of the annual UN Assembly.
African intellectuals must come with convincing proposals and impose a new type of rapport with this UN organization, its agencies and specialized courts that seems to be reminiscent of the imperialistic behaviour of the nineteenth century.