May 29, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Michael McGehee:
On page eight of the New York Times May 29, 2012 edition is a story about a leaked United Nations report which shows Rwandans were recruited by the Rwandan government to go fight in Democratic Republic of Congo, or the D.R.C.
Josh Kron’s article “U.N. Report Says Rwandans Recruited to Fight in Congo” reports that “rebel soldiers who have defected told United Nations officials that they were Rwandans who had been sent across the border to fight in a mutiny in eastern Congo that has displaced tens of thousands of civilians.”
Kron also reports that “Rwandan authorities have been seemingly complicit in recruiting soldiers for the new Congolese rebel leader, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
It is rare to read this level of criticism of the Rwandan government in the New York Times. Rwanda is an important U.S. ally in Africa, and the “paper of record” often complements U.S. interests by providing differential treatment towards allies and foes.
So it comes as no surprise to see Kron make excuses for Rwanda’s genocidal involvement in D.R.C.—a resource-rich African country which has suffered considerably and continuously since the late 1800s ever since colonial powers discovered the country’s wealth—and get a number of other issues wrong in the process.
For Kron, the reason Rwanda is even in D.R.C. is for self defense.
Tensions [between Rwanda and D.R.C.] began soon after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutus. Many organizers of the genocide fled across the border and later established a Hutu rebel group in eastern Congo bent on overturning the Rwandan government. Various militias supported by neighboring countries have been organized in Congo over the years. Rwanda in particular was accused of supporting Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese rebel who is also an ethnic Tutsi, and his movement, known as the National Congress for the People’s Defense, or the C.N.D.P., which in 2008 threatened to overturn the Congolese government.
There are quite a few things wrong with this statement. For starters, “800,000 ethnic Tutsis” is 200,000 more Tutsis than there were in the 1991 census. And with a reported 300,000 survivors that leaves the figure half-a-million high. Of the roughly one million killed in the Rwandan genocide, the majority were Hutu’s. The significance of this exposes a gaping hole in the official version of the Rwandan genocide: If the majority of the killed were Hutu, then who killed them and why?
Rwanda’s dominant political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (R.P.F.), which is headed by the country’s President Paul Kagame, has its roots in Uganda. The R.P.F. was an official arm of the Ugandan military, and consisted largely of Rwandan exiles that were a part of the U.S.-backed National Resistance Army, which was led by now Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni. Paul Kagame was the head of military intelligence for the N.R.A., which was an armed militia whose goal was to seize power in Uganda. After they successfully did so in the mid-1980s, the R.P.F. was created to carry out a similar plan in Rwanda. And on October 1, 1990 the R.P.F. invaded Rwanda from Uganda. And for nearly four years the R.P.F. conducted a plan to destabilize and overthrow the government, which came to a crescendo on April 6, 1994 when the R.P.F. assassinated President Habyarimana, and carried out a massive military offensive.
A couple of American analysts, Christian Davenport and Alan Stam, who studied the conflict closely noted in their article “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” that,
Perhaps the most shocking result of our combination of information on troop locations involved the invasion itself: The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased. The data revealed in our maps was consistent with FAR claims that it would have stopped much of the killing if the RPF had simply called a halt to its invasion. This conclusion runs counter to the Kagame administration’s claims that the RPF continued its invasion to bring a halt to the killings.
It was the R.P.F. who was the main antagonist in the conflict, and who largely outgunned the Rwandan military—which explains how they were able to overthrow an entire government in less than 100 days, and send their military forces fleeing to neighboring countries.
And this pattern, which occurred in Uganda, and repeated in Rwanda, was again carried out in Democratic Republic of Congo when Uganda and Rwanda invaded, overthrew the government of President Mobutu, and began butchering people. This was facilitated through men like General Ntaganda, who Kron describes as once having “military ties to [Paul Kagame's] government.”
Kron goes on to write that, “Although [Ntaganda] was accused of orchestrating a massacre in eastern Congo as a rebel in 2008, General Ntaganda became a senior officer in the Congolese Army, working alongside the United Nations as well as Rwanda to subdue the Hutu rebels.”
This is very misleading, especially the word “although.” It is inaccurate to give the impression that Ntaganda’s record as a war criminal is an aberration in regards to his relationship with Kagame’s Rwanda. The leaked report and a previous U.N. report show that the Rwandan government is deeply involved in human rights abuses in the neighboring country. According to the U.N. Mapping report, which describes “The systematic attacks, in particular killings and massacres perpetrated against members of the Hutu ethnic group”:
These attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked …
And unlike Kron’s article, the mapping report also deals considerably with mineral exploitation. Democratic Republic of Congo is a very wealthy country, and the report states that, “A growing number of foreign actors became directly involved in exploiting the DRC’s natural resources.” The report then names Rwanda and Uganda as doing so “either through the intermediary of their Congolese partners [writers note: e.g. Ntaganda] or connections or by directly occupying a part of the country.” In sum, the report stresses that, ”Given the weakness and corruption of the central government, the DRC’s wealth was within the grasp of any group violent and determined enough to impose its control by force.”
Another misleading aspect of Kron’s excuse for Rwanda’s involvement is the comment about “organizers of the [Rwandan] genocide fled across the border” to D.R.C. It is worth pointing out here that there are no “organizers,” at least as long as we keep to the official version which claims a Hutu conspiracy. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (I.C.T.R.) has not convicted one person for the conspiracy or planning of genocide. The largest trial to date, that of Colonel Théoneste Bagosora and a few other former high-ranking Rwandan military officials, ended with an acquittal on charges of planning a genocide. The inability to uncover a plot to commit genocide, however, is largely due to the court’s unwillingness to consider or prosecute an R.P.F. conspiracy—where evidence is abound.
Furthermore, Rwanda was targeting a lot more than so-called ”organizers of the genocide” in their effort “to subdue the Hutu rebels.” Australian soldiers doing United Nations peacekeeping work bore witness to the carnage of Rwandan forces against unarmed civilians. As reported in Australia’s Herald Sun:
By early 1995, the displaced persons’ camp at Kibeho was the biggest in Rwanda, sprawling for 9sq km and containing 80,000 to 100,000 people.
The 32 Australian soldiers and medical officers arrived there as part of the UN peacekeeping force on April 18, 1995.
There were daily random killings by the Rwandan soldiers, but the slaughter exploded out of control soon after 10am on April 22. The Australians had a grandstand view of the nightmare from the Zambian compound.
The RPA soldiers murdered women and children right up to the UN wire. Bodies were everywhere. For the Diggers behind the wire, the next few hours were agonising.
For the refugees, there was nowhere to run.
As the Australians collected the wounded from among the piles of dead, the crisis began to escalate as panic-stricken Hutus overran the Zambian compound, driven forward by machete-and rifle wielding militia.
Hundreds were killed in the crush and the Australians were forced to repel at bayonet point the terrified victims they were supposed to be protecting, pushing them back into the RPA killing zone.
The RPA went wild and cut loose with another hail of fire on the panicking crowd.
All of this, and more, goes a long way to explaining why, as Kron put it, “The relationship between Rwanda and Congo has long been considered crucial to the stability in one of Africa’s least stable regions, an area laid waste by militias over the last two decades.” This is partially accurate. The problem here is that Rwanda is not at the top of the political pyramid. While the Times will publish Kron acknowledging that Rwanda is recruiting forces for militias in D.R.C., what is inconspicuously missing from the article is that the destabilization of Congo—which has seen around ten million killed and millions more displaced since the Rwandan and Ugandan invasion in 1996—is part of a U.S. imperial project to control and exploit the wealth of the Great Lakes region.
The unwillingness to identify Rwanda as a subordinate of the United States (in fact the U.S. and U.S. businesses are completely missing in the article), or a major component of the “conflict mineral” wars, or to provide accurate information on the Rwandan genocide (which is absurdly used to explain why Rwandan forces are in D.R.C.), and such, leaves the article void of any means for readers to understand what is really going on.
The impression that is given, that Rwanda is merely involved to protect itself from “a Hutu rebel group in eastern Congo bent on overturning the Rwandan government,” is simply not true. Not only is the R.P.F. a considerably more powerful military force, as the events of the last 20 years show, but the narrative is a total distraction from what really happened and is happening, and why.