By David Himbara
In 2002, DRC took Rwanda and Uganda to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). DRC’s case against Rwanda included the following:
[B]y killing, massacring, raping, throat-cutting, and crucifying, Rwanda is guilty of genocide against more than 3,500,000 Congolese, including the victims of the recent massacres in the city of Kisangani, and has violated the sacred right to life provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and other relevant international legal instruments. In consequence, and in accordance with the international legal obliga- tions referred to above, to adjudge and declare that: all Rwandan armed forces responsible for the aggression shall forthwith quit the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so as to enable the Congolese people to enjoy in full their rights to peace, to security, to their resources and to development.”
DRC won its case against Uganda. But the case against Rwanda could not even advance to trial. The Kagame government blocked the trial using Habyalimana manoeuvres.
When acceding to the UN Convention on Genocide on 16 April 1975, the Habyalimana regime inserted the following reservation: “The Rwandese Republic does not consider itself as bound by Article IX of the Convention.”
“Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.”
Put in another way, when the Habyalimana regime informed the UN that the Rwandese Republic “does not consider itself as bound by Article IX of the Convention on Genocide,” the regime automatically removed Rwanda from the ICJ’s jurisdiction. And that is what Kagame used to escape justice in DRC.
“For these reasons, the Court…finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the Application filed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 28 May 2002.”
Rwandans who are blinded by ethnicity never learn the hard truth. Autocratic rulers have not tribes. If further evidence to support this view were needed, here we see each ruler using genocide convention to serve their own interests. Habyalimana sought to guard against being taken to ICJ way back in 1975. Kagame maintained the status quo. The millions of Hutu refugees who have been brutalized by the Rwandan military in the past two decades in DRC forests would be surprised to learn that Kagame relied on Habyalimana to escape responsibility for the refugees’ misfortunes.