01 September, 2010

Trouble in the Congo

From Adventures of a Retired Armchair Traveler - a round up of articles and blogs on what is (still!) going on in the Congo:

U.N. E-Mail Shows Early Warning of Congo Rapes – The NY Times

Another interesting discussion at the moment in the release of a UN Mapping Report. 

Congo Siasa shares his thoughtsHere is how he explains what the report is: 

Over a year after its completion, the UN mapping report has finally been leaked to the press. The report was mandated by the UN to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo between 1993 and 2003 in the hope that there could be accountability for the violence. To date, almost nothing has been done to bring those responsible to justice.
The report is huge, spanning 545 pages, and deals with war crimes committed by the security forces of Angola, Mobutu's Zaire, Uganda, Chad, Laurent Kabila's government, Joseph Kabila's government, Zimbabwe, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe (and later the FDLR), the Mai-Mai and the many other rebel groups. I will speak at length about the massacres carried out by these forces in later postings. Here, I will speak about the most controversial claim: the massacres carried out by the Rwandan army (RPA) together with the AFDL rebellion (led by Laurent Kabila) against the Hutu refugees in 1996-1997.
A few words of caution. The report was not based on the standards of a judicial investigation; it was intended to provide a broad mapping of the most serious human rights abuses between 1993 and 2003. Indeed, the report says that an international court will have to be the final arbiter of whether the RPA/AFDL did actually commit acts of genocide. Verbatim: "The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide."

You can read his highlights of he report here

Here are some Texas In Africa's thoughts: 

  • The facts are not on the Rwandan government's side.Western reporters, Zairian/Congolese NGO's, and international NGO's were aware of and keeping track of these human rights abuses as they happened. That's not to say it was all cut and dried - there were certainly genocidaires among the Hutu refugees who fled across Zaire in advance of the rebel and RPA forces. But there were also women and children. All of them were massacred. Even Kristof covered it.
  • This report vindicates Howard French, whose masterful reporting from the ground for the New York Times in 1996-97 was what got me interested in the region in the first place. French covered the use of Hutu refugees as human shields and the attacks when they happened. He wasn't allowed access to some of the areas in which these abuses happened, but it was evident to everyone what was going on - when bulldozers head out to fields to bury bodies and the smell of death is heavy in the air, locals know what has happened. French covers this in much more detail in his book, which you should absolutely read if you haven't already. His coverage of the leaked report appeared in the Times this weekend. You won't find a piece that puts the report into better context.
  • Philip Gourevitch covers the leak and the Rwandan government's reaction to the report for the New Yorker. He implies that the methodology for the report, the standards by which it defines "genocide," and the fact that Kofi Annan arranged for the report to be conducted somehow discredits his findings. He implies that Annan was interested in spreading the blame after Annan's failure to stop the 1994 genocide.
  • I disagree. Even if Annan did want to do penance for his errors, that does not change the facts on the ground. Gourevitch is a brilliant writer, but his reporting is rarely critical of Rwanda's regime. He has long taken far too much of what Kagame and other RPF representatives tell him at face value. I think this stems from a fatal error in perception that Gourevitch made while reporting in the immediate aftermath of the genocide. Faced with the incredible horrors around him, he assumed that since thegenocidaires were the bad guys, Kagame and his team were the good guys. What Gourevitch failed to understand then - and seems to still be missing now, despite all evidence to the contrary - is that there were never any good guys in this fight. Blood is on almost everyone's hands, and there's plenty of blame to go around.
  • The use of the term "genocide" is intentional and significant. I am not an international lawyer and I do not know whether the crimes committed by these particular forces in Zaire constitute "genocide" or not. The draft report concludes that there were "tens of thousands" of Hutu victims of this violence; that's a far cry from the counter-genocide claims of hundreds of thousands dead that many Hutus in Rwanda's diaspora have made for years. But in the end, it doesn't matter what you call it. Summary executions of women and children refugees who are fleeing violence or forced to serve as human shields is wrong. It doesn't matter how many people were killed, whether they were targeted because of their ethnicity, or who did it. And no one ought to be allowed to get away with it.