Open Letter to HRW’s Kenneth Roth

Dear Mr. Roth,I have been compelled to write you this letter following your recent ‘report’ in which you alleged that Rwanda supports the M23 rebels in DRC and that the M23 had raped and killed innocent civilians. You further alleged forceful recruitment of M23 fighters from Rwanda.
Congolese troops are notorious human rights violators. Yet Human Rights Watch has conveniently turned a blind eye to these abuses, mainly targeted at Rwandophones.  Net photo.
Congolese troops are notorious human rights violators. Yet Human Rights Watch has conveniently turned a blind eye to these abuses, mainly targeted at Rwandophones.  Net photo.

Dear Mr. Roth,

I have been compelled to write you this letter following your recent ‘report’ in which you alleged that Rwanda supports the M23 rebels in DRC and that the M23 had raped and killed innocent civilians. You further alleged forceful recruitment of M23 fighters from Rwanda. To any keen observer, what is contained in your report is far from qualifying as a genuine report, but a politically motivated document based on lies, rumors and fictitious interviews that no serious readers and recipients can rely on. Any report worth the name must be accurate, based on facts not rumors, qualities that are deliberately ignored in your report.  In summary, when one reads your ‘report’ two objectives are deduced:

• Your writing is intended to make the world believe that Rwanda is responsible for the war in Eastern DRC, and therefore the international community should condemn and impose sanctions on Rwanda and its leadership.

• That M23 is the rebel group in Eastern DRC to be held accountable for rape and murder of civilians more than any other rebel group in the region, despite the fact that Eastern DRC has more rebel groups than the fingers and toes of a human body counted all together.

Your ‘report’ mentions that over fifty interviews were relied on to get to the conclusion that Rwanda supports M23. However, it is quite appalling, unprofessional, and unfortunate that a highly regarded organisation like HRW only cites deserters and former combatants as the main source of its findings! Deserters are in most cases undisciplined soldiers who are dismissed or cowards who ran away from the battle, or disgruntled characters and so on. Such people are even most of the time jobless and trade falsehoods for information.  I am sure, Kenneth, you very well know that such people are biased and cannot be relied on as sources of credible information.

This is not the first time your organisation has produced reports on Rwanda that are biased and far from being human rights concerns, but a leaning and sympathy  towards  genocide perpetrators. I am sure you very well know a fellow American Mr. Richard Johnson,  a respected former diplomat who has taken time to study and document the  intriguing involvement of your organization, HRW, in political  advocacy on Rwanda rather than human rights

In his recent essay titled, “The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda”, Mr Johnson observes, “Kenneth Roth and the HRW personnel who cover Rwandan issues are accountable for this travesty, which has dangerous implications for Western policy toward Rwanda and for the overall credibility of Western human rights advocacy. Donors to HRW should think seriously about what causes their money might serve”.

Indeed the US has fallen into the trap you have set by falsely condemning Rwanda based on your flawed and politically motivated ‘report’, and Mr Johnson’s essay had given a word of warning to Western governments to be careful about HRW’s reports on the region.

Mr Roth, as I have been trying to figure out your agenda on Rwanda, Mr Johnson seems to have got the precise answer where he observes that, “HRW’s discourse on Rwanda is a threat to that country and to peace and stability in Central Africa. It discourages Western governments from doing what they should to support Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 genocide. It perpetuates impunity for important genocide perpetrators”.

This leaves every peace loving person in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region speechless on what your intentions are or what atrocities Rwandans committed against you and your HRW.

Dear Kenneth, it is very hard for me to respond to each and every point in your ‘report’ due to the limited space and the fact that some issues are not worth responding to because they appear as simply fictitious interviews and evidences given by paid up and coached ‘witnesses.’ For example, how can a 12-year old girl confirm that she was raped by an M23 soldier when there is no distinctive identifications/ uniforms and marks from the rest of rebel outfits and government forces operating in eastern DRC? Government forces (FADC) have been implicated in gross acts of rape, killings and shocking body mutilations. When one reads your report, atrocities committed by government forces and FDLR (the militia composed of the extremists responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda) are mentioned in passing and not given prominence and detailed account as much as M23!

Yes, it is evident that this is a deliberate political strategy meant to attract world condemnation and sanctions against and isolation of Rwanda because of its supposed support to a monster rebel group that has committed unimaginable human rights abuses more than FADC, FDLR and other rebel outfits in the region, if not in the world!

How are we going to trust international organisations like yours and others which are being used as political tools when their primary objective should to be defending and advocating for human rights and sanctity.

Dear Ken, when were you last in Rwanda? Let me hope it is not like 2003, because Rwanda has moved forward and fast since then. Let me remind you that Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and has set an ambitious development plan, vision 2020, which does not allow time wastage, including getting involved with fomenting trouble with neighbours. Rwanda cannot achieve its development objectives while working in isolation. It needs a peaceful Congo and a peaceful region in order to do business and continue to grow its economy.

This is why Rwanda has supported all initiatives meant to bring peace in Eastern DRC, including cooperation on transfer of Bosco Ntaganda to the ICC to face charges of human rights violations in Eastern DRC.  Secondly, you must be well aware that the violence, human rights abuses and rebel groups in Eastern DRC existed since the 1960s more than 50 years before the current Rwandan government came to power. The problems and solutions to the Eastern DRC unrest, therefore, should be looked at in a wider context beyond Rwanda and the M23 rebellion.

Dear Mr. Roth, have you carefully and deeply considered the consequences of your reports? Be reminded that the real cause of the current insecurity in Eastern DRC is the control of spaces in that region by FDLR; an extremist Hutu supremacist group that threatens the existence of Rwandan and Congolese Tutsis; a group that has over the years eroded the peaceful coexistence of local Congolese communities.

Your reports are aimed at demonising the M23 in the eyes of the international community; a group that has legitimate grievances against the Kinshasa government. Your reports also aim at tarnishing the image of the government of Rwanda and indirectly giving a boost to the FDLR genocidaires.     

Supposing M23 is neutralised tomorrow, will DRC achieve peace? I doubt. The M23 and its predecessor CNDP have been fighting for their rights and their ultimate objective is not the capture of state power but recognition and having their grievances addressed. Despite all its flaws, the M23 has to a certain extent created a buffer against attacks on Rwanda by the FDLR. If M23 is dislodged from its positions tomorrow, Rwanda could be under direct fire from FDLR and such a scenario would lead to the internationalisation of the conflict dragging in Rwanda and other countries in the region, thereby replicating the late 1990s situation that came to be known as Africa’s First World War.

Eastern DRC is home to a cocktail of armed groups, both local and foreign but the most dangerous of these is the FDLR because of its extremist ideology. In order to stabilise the Eastern DRC, the international community and the region must eliminate the threat posed by the FDLR because, by so doing, Congolese Tutsis will be able to go back to their land and will no longer have reason to join mutineers.

Rwanda, too, will no longer feel threatened by the presence of a genocidal group across its border and, ultimately, her relations with DRC will go back to normal.


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