HRW’s double standards on Rwanda, eastern DR Congo

The work of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda and the situation in eastern DRC raises more questions than answers, and this points to one major factor; that the ‘respectable’ non- government actor is more political than humanitarian.  

The work of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda and the situation in eastern DRC raises more questions than answers, and this points to one major factor; that the ‘respectable’ non- government actor is more political than humanitarian.  

The second implication by HRW, while covering this region, is that human rights violations like rape, torture, etc become crimes when committed by a certain section, and not another.

There are reports that over 60 people some from Rwanda and other Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese have been arrested within Goma and flown to Kinshasa, where they are under torture and other forms of mistreatment, over allegations that they are Rwandan agents.

Every morning and evening, hundreds of people, if not thousands, shuttle different border points either going to work or do business. There are many Congolese nationals who conduct their businesses freely on the Rwandan side and they are not victimised.

HRW has not raised even a thin voice to condemn this violation of human rights and denial of free movement of the people between the border towns of Goma and Rubavu.

However, HRW took time to produce a report alleging unsubstantiated Rwanda’s support for M23, and ‘rape’ allegations committed by M23.

When it comes to human rights violations committed by Congolese government forces (FARDC), FDLR, other rebel outfits in eastern DRC affiliated to the national army and even MONUSCO; how come that the sharp watchful eyes of HRW which normally do not miss “human rights violations” by Rwanda and M23 are rendered blind?

Someone can help me get another word as that of double standards of such kind of behavior by HRW, is an understatement.

Professor Victoria Fontan of the University of Peace, recently commented on how fresh evidence in DRC point to human rights abuses committed by the UN forces and wondered why despite the atrocities being committed in broad day light, the UN has kept a deaf ear.

Prof. Fontan says, “There is distressing new evidence, that foreign soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo can sexually and violently rape young girls with impunity so long as they wear that iconic blue beret or blue helmet”.

According to Prof. Fontan, many of the cases she learned about are never actually reported, though they’re familiar enough to anyone in the region who cares to see. Many UN officials seem to prefer to remain ignorant and uninvolved.

If HRW has the capacity to document in detail alleged sexual violence committed by M23, what happens when UN peacekeepers are involved? Turning a blind eye? 

In Rwanda, we are not surprised by the methods of work by our friends at HRW, what surprises us are those who believe political reports disguised as human rights concerns.

It is a known fact that there have been xenophobic attacks against Kinyarwanda speaking people in DRC for a very long time, but the condemning voices from organisations like HRW seem to be  by design  inaudible or even totally absent, but when Rwanda is unfairly under condemnation, the voices are very loud.

The DRC authorities should be urged to release unconditionally all Rwandans illegally held in detention facilities in DRC who were picked, especially from Goma and other parts of DRC with the intention of branding them Rwandan security agents.

The writer is an analyst based in Kigali.

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