Unravelling international conspiracies against Rwanda

As Rwandans within and outside the country this week embark on a series of activities organised to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, a document presented by British award winning investigative journalist Prof Linda Melvern   to the UK Parliament has come to light, exposing the impunity that architects of the Genocide have continued to enjoy across Europe and North America.
 Prof Linda Melvern
Prof Linda Melvern

As Rwandans within and outside the country this week embark on a series of activities organised to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, a document presented by British award winning investigative journalist Prof Linda Melvern   to the UK Parliament has come to light, exposing the impunity that architects of the Genocide have continued to enjoy across Europe and North America. Melvern has written extensively about the abandonment Rwandans were subjected to by the International Community, especially the United Nations, as they were killed in their thousands every day spanning 100 days.  Below is her submission in verbatim.

In the recent extensive news coverage of Rwanda there has been little reference to a continuing campaign to destabilise and try to eventually destroy by force the current Rwandan government. This campaign, orchestrated by an international network of Hutu Power ideologues, includes fugitive génocidaires and their supporters.

This group sustains an armed militia group in the DRC which continues to kill and terrify the civilian population; it attempts through propaganda to project a benign image of its organisation.

It is portrayed as a legitimate political opposition to the current regime.

There is detailed research work on this movement by a former member of the UN Group of Experts on the DRC; he is a world expert on the activities of the armed Hutu Power militia movement in the DRC, the Force Démocratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), and its splinter groups. His investigation was prepared for but has not yet been published by the UN.

It shows how the FDLR operates through “regional committees” in Europe, in the Nordic countries, the US and Canada. These committees conduct propaganda against the Rwandan government, they help to protect genocide fugitives from international justice and actively promote genocide denial. Their use for propaganda purposes of unnamed informers to spread disinformation is widespread.

Experience has shown that when it comes to Rwandan political affairs the utmost caution is needed when anonymous informers come forward offering information.

There have also been accusations in France that former French military officers and mercenaries have tried to destabilise the Rwandan government with claims that the current President Paul Kagame is responsible for the assassination of his predecessor.

The Rwandan government has been subjected to a diplomatic and political war by these elements.

1. News stories in the Western media about wrong-doing in African countries sometimes seem to require a lower level of proof than those concerning events closer to home. There is certainly less investigative effort than is the case in Western news production and in the past few years there has developed a reliance by journalists on the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) whose reports -- certainly on the Great Lakes region -- have increasingly relied on anonymous informants.

2. I would refer the committee to the pre-genocide standard of reporting and detailed information provided by a consortium of human rights workers and international lawyers in a landmark report prepared by the International Federation of Human Rights of August 1993 (FIDH), Africa Watch, Inter-African Union of Human Rights, and International Centre of Rights of the Person and of Democratic Development: report of the International Commission of Investigation of Human Rights Violations in Rwanda since October 1, 1990 (January 7–21, 1993).

3. To try to report the current political reality of Rwanda without mentioning the activities of the Hutu Power movement and its continued presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in Europe and in North America, is simply biased reporting.

4.The highly organised Hutu Power movement which purports to be a genuine Rwandan opposition group includes political and military operatives who took part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It is currently operating through a world-wide lobbying network and in Norway, in particular, it has obtained valuable influence at political level.

Rumours, lies, racist propaganda.

5. The Hutu Power ideology which underpinned the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi never went away: to this day its supporters remain organised and well-financed. They live among us. Inspired by racism they are determined to oust the current government by violent means if necessary in order to claim power in the name of the “majority Hutu people”.

6. Whilst this opposition advocates a violent overthrow of the current government, it has offered no programme for the advancement of the Rwandan people who continue to be cursed by rumours, lies and racist propaganda.

7. These dangerous elements continue to destabilise the Great Lakes region.

8. The forces of the former Rwandan army and the Interahamwe militia which fled Rwanda with the help of French armed forces in July 1994 have over the past 18 years undergone several mutations. They are now involved in the creation of a revitalised political opposition, coordinated from Europe and the USA and involving hundreds of genocide fugitives who hope to escape international justice.

9. A major splinter group of the FDLR, known as the Ralliement pour l’Unité et la Démocratie – Urunana (RUD-Urunana), is currently under investigation by a US law enforcement agency and a criminal case against them is being prepared.

10. There is detailed evidence on the RUD-Urunana recently provided to US investigators including documents on the group’s communication networks and money transfers. The leadership of this group, which is more efficient than that of the FDLR, resides in North America and it has considerable skills in lobbying operations.

11. Some information on the RUD-Urunana has recently been provided to US law enforcement by a Belgium FDLR specialist, Raymond Debelle. Debelle, a foreign armed group field researcher, is a former special operative from the Belgian Army. He is an arms expert and was in charge of field security of the Africa Desk for the Council of the European Union. He was subsequently an International Criminal Court Investigator (ICC) investigator in The Hague and in January 2009 joined the UN Group of Experts on the DRC until November 2010.

Deadly grenade attacks

He stayed in the Great Lakes region until mid-2011 to conduct intensive research on the FDLR and RUD-Urunana. Debelle is willing to testify to the committee and his report “Leadership et idéologie des FDLR-FOCA Dossier pour appréhender les enjeux caches” can be made available to the committee.

12. This report shows how the FDLR 15-member Executive Committee is comprised entirely of those involved in the Genocide against the  Tutsi of 1994; while this group publically supports justice and reconciliation it continues to destabilise and try to destroy the current government by promoting disorder and uncertainty in Rwanda. This group is suspected of being behind deadly grenade attacks in Kigali which have targeted the civilian population.

13. The Hutu Power adherents actively promote genocide denial and as in 1994 the movement is skilled in the use of effective propaganda - their weapon of mass deception - and they use unnamed informers to spread disinformation. The recent coverage of Rwandan political affairs is notable for excluding any mention of this group, its network of supporters and its fundraisers in Europe who are responsible for some of the more recent anti-Tutsi hate-filled and racist postings in social media.

14. To seek to return Rwanda to the ethnic politics of the past, with political parties created along ethnic lines, is surely unadvisable. To question the motives of the Hutu Power movement attracts personal attack and in some cases threats of violence. I have experience of this. The group accuses detractors of “whitewashing” the regime of President Paul Kagame. These propagandists are skilled at weaving a proportion of truth together with their own falsehoods in efforts to make their stories believable.

Media connection

15. The Hutu Power movement makes effective use of the Western press to promote its aims: a Rwandan civil war is now being effectively waged in the western media. This includes the political activity of several former defence lawyers from the ICTR ,most notably the US lawyer Peter Erlinder.

His continuing efforts to minimise, distort, obfuscate and deny the genocide of the minority Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 includes the promotion of a theory that the RPF was a front used by US and UK governments whose intention was to oust the French from the region in order to facilitate the plunder of minerals of the wealth of the DRC.

16. Genocide does not end when the killing is over. Genocide denial is recognised by scholars as the final part of a genocidal process, a part of the crime itself. There is some research work on the circumstances of the 1994 genocide which does represent legitimate historical revision.

Other research, however, departs from the academic standards of historical analysis and moves clearly in the direction of politically and ideologically motivated historical denial. One overarching characteristic of all deniers, the one characteristic which binds them together, is racism and upon this the deniers ultimately come to rely.

At the ICTR the defence has produced a complex denial narrative that has been very effective: it aims to prove that the massacres in Rwanda were a spontaneous reaction to the assassination of the President and that no planning of the killing had taken place.

17. It is to be expected that Rwandans living abroad, who are not fans of the current President, Paul Kagame, would steer clear of genocide deniers who continue to advocate that the genocide of the Tutsi in 1994 never happened. Yet Rwanda’s political opposition has recently given a central role to a Canadian lawyer, Christopher Black, who is a former defence lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Black recently represented Rwandan groups who submitted a request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for President Paul Kagame to stand trial for human rights abuses. This Canadian lawyer widely promotes the idea that the 1994 genocide is a “myth”.

18. One of the most important claims of the deniers is that the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were responsible for what happened. This view has been actively promoted in France where a part of the judiciary has tried to prove that President Paul Kagame, when the military leader of the RPF, had ordered the assassination of his predecessor, Juvenal Habyarimana, with a missile attack on his personal jet on April 6, 1994. This event is widely believed to have triggered the genocide.

19. A French judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, issued a report in 2006 which purported to prove that Kagame had been responsible for the assassination and more than twelve years after the event nine senior Rwandan government officials serving in the Rwandan government became the subject of international arrest warrants; only the immunity accorded by French law to serving heads of state prevented the authorities from issuing a warrant for Kagame.

20. The claim that Kagame was to blame for the assassination was widely reported as fact and was believed credible by human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, and by journalists and academics.

The claim, however, was entirely based on the word of informants who claimed to be former RPF soldiers and on information given to the judge by alleged génocidaires on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). One of the informants told Judge Bruguière the names of those who had purportedly fired the missiles and further testified that there had been a secret RPF death squad called Network Zero -- a group of killers that was responsible for the murder of politicians.

21. The Bruguière case eventually collapsed. His key witness retracted his testimony claiming to have had links with operatives in the French secret service who had promised him asylum in Europe. He said he had fabricated the entire story.

Judge Marc Trévidic probes

22. The investigation into the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana continues and is now in the hands of Bruguière’s successor, Judge Marc Trévidic, who for the first time conducted forensic and scientific work in Kigali on the crash site. In an interim report, in January 2012, he reported that the missiles were most likely fired from the then Rwandan army’s strong hold, the Kanombe military camp.

23. One other story is illustrative of a failure to adequately verify and challenge information when it comes to Rwandan political affairs. In early May 2011, a 43- year-old Rwandan man, travelling on a Belgium passport, was stopped in Folkestone by UK border patrol: intelligence had been received from French sources that he posed an immediate threat to two Rwandans living in London. He was travelling on a Belgian passport, carried no weapons and very little money. He was denied entry to the UK and returned to Belgium.

24. A few days later, on May 12, the two Rwandans were visited by officers from the Metropolitan Police who presented them with a Threat to Life Warning Notice which informed them that the Rwandan Government posed a threat to their lives. A news story soon developed that an armed “hit squad” had been sent to London to wipe out Rwandan dissidents opposed to the Kagame regime.

Life to threat notice

25. The Metropolitan Police had conducted no enquiries, no investigation, and no interviews. The information on the so-called assassin in Folkestone provided by the French authorities contained no supporting evidence. No one could assure the reliability or otherwise of the information provided–only that the police said they had no reason to doubt the source.

26. A Threat to Life Notice is signed by a superintendent as authorising officer, a senior investigating officer determines the seriousness of the warning and a detective inspector is briefed on all the circumstances. An investigating officer is responsible for making an initial assessment.

It appears that in this case because the warning came from a foreign service no investigation took place. In 2010, there had been 352 warnings issued by the Metropolitan Police.

27. No one seemed able to explain what the Rwandan government hoped to achieve in jeopardising its relations with the UK – one of its closest allies and biggest donors. The two who were apparently threatened were seemingly low-profile dissidents.

28. It is interesting to note that a month before the threat notice was issued a newly created opposition group calling itself the Rwandan National Congress (RNC) was formed in London. The RNC was said to represent opposition activism in Europe, and was given a great deal of publicity as a result of the widely circulated “hit squad” story.

29. The 1994 genocide of the Tutsi contributed to the destabilisation of an entire region in Africa and it has been followed by years of war, human deprivation, rape and misery, with untold and unimaginable brutality, and an incalculable number of victims.

The withholding of aid to the Rwandan people will do little to address the problems of the continuing activities of Hutu Power and the lawlessness in neighbouring Congo where the repercussions of events in 1994 continue to be felt; the withholding of aid will serve to embolden the adherents of the FDLR and its various off-shoots. It will serve to increase the influence of those who wish to pull the Rwanda back to the politics of the past.

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