Kagame rejects charge of crimes committed in DR Congo

Paul Kagame

By The Rwandan Analyst

 In his replies to journalists interviewing him on the role of his army in killings committed in DRC during the wars of 1996 and 1998 where more than 6 million were savagely assassinated and others raped or sexually tortured, the Rwandan president denied all the charges; disparaged the role of Monusco in the peacekeeping mission in DRC and rejects the heroism of Dr Mukwege to heal female survivors of crimes constituting gender-based violence especially rape, child defilement and sexual torture. What are the ins and outs of such a denial on the bilateral relationships between the two states which were currently friendly? What perspectives for an effectiveness of that mapping report incriminating the Rwandan regime?

Kagame on the defensive

A growing campaign for justice for war victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo has caused fresh tensions with neighboring Rwanda and its leader Paul Kagame whose troops took part in two invasions in the 1990s.In an interview with AFP, DRC leader Felix Tshisekedi threw his weight behind calls for accountability for the more than two decades of devastating violence in the east of the country that has left millions dead or missing. But he said he did not wish to “pick a dispute” with Kagame. Tshisekedi urged the international community to build on the findings of a landmark UN investigation in 2010, known as the Mapping Report, which concluded that atrocities had been committed in his vast, resource-rich country.”The Mapping (Report) was produced by the international community, they must continue it because we need justice to be delivered to our victims,” Tshisekedi said in Paris on Wednesday after a summit on post-pandemic financing for Africa. The report, carried out by international investigators for the UN Human Rights Commissioner, described 617 serious crimes between 1993-2003 that could amount to war crimes and possibly genocide. The report recommended further investigation and the prosecution of the perpetrators by an international war crimes court.Rwanda, whose troops were identified as being responsible for massacres during two invasions in 1996 and again in 1998, along with rebels they backed, has categorically rejected the report.

Tshisekedi said that if there were Rwandan war criminals “it’s in the interest of President Kagame to deliver them to justice because it is a question of honor for his country too.”

Outrage in DR Congo 

Kagame caused anger this week in the DR Congo following an interview he gave on the sidelines of the same African financing conference attended by Tshisekedi.

Asked about the Mapping Report, he rejected it as “extremely politicized” and “highly disputed by people”.

“There were no crimes,” he told journalists from France 24 television and RFI radio.

In response, Congolese politicians and public figures have accused him of “negationism” and insulting the memory of the victims.

“Paul Kagame has never gone so far in his taunting of Congolese people,” Juvenal Munubo, a close ally of Tshisekedi and head of the parliamentary defence and security commission, told AFP.”Dignity, justice and reparations are the only appropriate responses faced with the negationism of Kagame,” 60 Congolese public figures including artists and scientists wrote in a joint statement published this week.The flare-up risks complicating efforts to patch up relations between DR Congo and Rwanda, which have been strained ever since the 1990s wars and by allegations that Rwanda backs militias in eastern DR Congo.Tshisekedi has reached out to Kagame since coming to power in 2019.In the same interview with France 24 and RFI, Kagame had hailed “good discussions” with his Congolese counterpart and “the environment where we can talk to each other which was lacking before.”

Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta attempted to clarify his comments on the Mapping Report on Wednesday, saying there was “confusion” and that the president had been “interrupted”.

Nobel winner

Civil society groups and Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist specialized in treating victims of sexual violence, have led calls for justice in the region.Mukwege, who lives under UN protection at his hospital in Bukavu because of persistent death threats, has called for an international tribunal to try war criminals which could mean troops from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, as well as regular Congolese troops and militia leaders, landing in the dock. Kagame, whose government has been linked by rights campaigners to disappearances and assassinations of opposition figures, said Mukwege was “told what to say” and implied he was part of a conspiracy against Rwanda.

Tshisekedi rejected Kagame’s statements, saying that Mukwege was a “figure of national pride” as the country’s only Nobel laureate and that the 65-year-old had “all of our support”.Kagame ordered troops into the DRC in 1996 to pursue ethnic Hutu militia who had fled there after taking part in the genocide against ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.As well as pursuing the militia, Rwandan troops backed a rebel group known as the AFDL which overthrew Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 and seized power, with help from neighboring Uganda and Burundi too.Many Congolese and Hutu civilians were allegedly killed, along with Hutu militia members. Rwandan troops invaded the DRC again in 1998, which resulted in the country splitting between rebel-controlled areas in the east and north and a government-controlled area in the west. The vast central African country, one of the poorest in the world despite its immense mineral wealth, has been dogged by chronic instability, violence and insurgencies ever since, with militias that continue to kill, rape and extort people in the east.

Facts from the mapping report

After the start of the First Congo War, and as the AFDL/APR troops advanced across Orientale Province, the Zairian security services and the people of Kisangani adopted an increasingly hostile attitude towards the Rwandans and peoples of Rwandan origin, especially Tutsis, who they systematically accused of being in collusion with AFDL/APR. From October 1996, the Zairian security services and civilians arbitrarily arrested several dozen civilians of Rwandan nationality or origin, as well as people resembling them, in the town of Kisangani and the surrounding area. They reportedly killed an unknown number of these people; at least one person was killed in public. Most of the victims were detained until the capture of Kisangani town by AFDL/APR troops, and several of them were allegedly tortured.

Attacks against Hutu refugees 

From August 1996, Banyamulenge/Tutsi armed units and soldiers from the APR, the FAB and Ugandan army attacked the refugees camps of Uvira, Southern Kivu, Northern Kivu  and will kill them during their leak till Kinshasa, Brazzaville and Central African Republic throughout the equatorial forest of the entire Congolese territory. 

South Kivu 

From 1995 onwards, the Armée patriotique rwandaise (APR) carried out at least two raids in Zaire to neutralise them. On 11 April 1995, around fifty APR soldiers attacked Birava camp in the Kabare territory with heavy weapons, allegedly killing around thirty people and seriously injuring an unknown number of others. During the attack, the exFAR/Interahamwe and the refugees did not retaliate. After this incident, the camp’s refugees were transferred to the Chimanga and Kashusha camps. Another incident took place in April 1996 at the Burundian and Rwandan refugee camp at Runingu in the Uvira territory. In April 1996, Banyamulenge/Tutsi armed units from Burundi reportedly killed between eight and ten refugees in the Runingu camp in the Uvira territory. The assailants then continued their journey towards the Hauts Plateaux and the Moyens Plateaux.

 Uvira territory

As they advanced, AFDL/APR/FAB soldiers reportedly carried out widespread and systematic attacks on the eleven Rwandan and Burundian refugee camps set up in the territory. Many witnesses have confirmed that these attacks took place within a few days of the majority of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and CNDD/FDD units leaving the area. In this context, the Mapping Team documented the following alleged incidents: On 20 October 1996, AFDL/APR/FAB units attacked the Itara I and II refugee camps near Luvungi village, killing at least 100 Burundian and Rwandan refugees. In the neighbouring village of Katala, they captured and killed refugees at point-blank range who were trying to flee. The soldiers then forced local people to bury the bodies in mass graves. On 20 October 1996, AFDL/APR/FAB units attacked the Kanganiro camp at Luvungi with heavy weapons, killing an unknown number of refugees, including around twenty in the camp’s hospital. On the same day, they also killed an unknown number of refugees who had been hiding in the homes of Zairian civilians at Luvingi. The solders then forced local people to bury the bodies in mass graves.

Walungu and Kabare territories

In 1996, UNHCR estimated that there were 307,499 refugees spread over the 26 camps in the territories of Walungu, Kabare and Kalehe, commonly known as the “Bukavu camps”: Kamanyola, Izirangabo, Karabangira, Nyangezi (Mulwa), Nyantende, Muku and Mushweshwe to the south of Bukavu, Bideka, Chimanga (Burhale), Bulonge (non-UNHCR-recognised), Nyamirangwe and Chabarhabe to the west of the town, Panzi, Nyakavogo, Mudaka/Murhala, INERA (Congolese Institute for Agronomic Studies and Research), ADI-Kivu (Action for Integrated Development in Kivu), Kashusha, Katana, Kalehe and Kabira north of Bukavu and Chondo, Chayo, Bugarula, Maugwere and Karama on Idjwi Island. As they advanced towards Bukavu, the AFDL/APR troops destroyed the makeshift camps created by refugee survivors of the massacres committed in the Ruzizi

North Kivu 

From mid-October 1996 onwards, infiltrations from Rwanda intensified and AFDL/APR soldiers began to fire sporadically at the three camps along the Goma to Rutshuru road, with heavy and light weapons.The Kibumba camp, twenty-five kilometres north of Goma, was the first to fall. In the night of 25 October to 26 October 1996, AFDL/APR soldiers bombarded the Kibumba camp with heavy weapons, allegedly killing an unknown number of refugees and destroying the camp’s hospital. Around 194,000 refugees fled Kibumba and headed towards the Mugunga camp. On 26 October 1996, AFDL/APR soldiers attacked the Katale camp with heavy weapons, allegedly killing several dozen refugees and a Zairian soldier from the CZSC (Contingent zaïrois pour la sécurité des camps). They also reportedly killed an unknown number of refugees with cold weapons. 

Maniema 

On the morning of 1 March 1997, AFDL/APR units entered the Tingi-Tingi camp and indiscriminately killed its remaining occupants. Although most of the refugees had already left the camp, several hundred of them remained, including many sick people who were being treated in the dispensary and unaccompanied minors. According to witnesses, the AFDL/APR troops are thought to have killed most of the victims with knives. The bodies were then buried in several mass graves by volunteers from the Lubutu Red Cross

Executions and forced disappearances of refugees in and around the town of Kisangani 

Around 15 March 1997, AFDL/APR units forced the disappearance of around thirty refugees detained at the Prison Centrale in Kisangani. When they entered the prison, which had been abandoned by the Zairian security services, they sorted the prisoners according to their ethnic group. The Tutsis were freed and their repatriation to Rwanda arranged. The Hutus were taken outside the prison and their fate remains unknown to this day. Around twenty Hutu women and children were also led out of the prison under the pretext of being repatriated to Rwanda. However, their return has not been confirmed.

Équateur 

The AFDL/APR soldiers reached Équateur province in April via Isangi and Djolu. In this context, the Mapping Team documented the following alleged incidents: On 22 April 1997, as they entered Boende, a town 560 kilometres from Mbandaka on the left bank of the Tshuapa River, AFDL/APR soldiers shot dead an unknown number of refugees at the ONATRA  port. Many refugees tried to escape by jumping into the Tshuapa River but they drowned. The refugees in Boende had been waiting for a boat for Mbandaka for several weeks. A first boat carrying refugees had set sail a few weeks before.  Towards 24 April, under AFDL/APR military escort, the refugees who had survived the killings of 22 April boarded canoes and began to cross the Tshuapa River. During the journey, the soldiers killed an unknown number of refugees at the dyke between the right bank of Boende and Lifomi, a village 14 kilometres from Boende.

Congolese population 

As they advanced towards Kinshasa, in addition to vast swathes of refugees, the AFDL/APR soldiers allegedly massacred a large number of Hutu Banyarwanda. They also eliminated many civilians suspected of assisting the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and Burundian Hutu armed groups, participating in the killings of Tutsis/Banyamulenge, helping the refugees as they fled or supporting President Mobutu’s regime. After President Laurent-Désiré Kabila came to power in Kinshasa, the new security forces reportedly committed serious violations of human rights against civilians viewed as opponents of the new regime and of the continued presence of APR soldiers in the Congolese territory. 1. North Kivu Goma city 270. On 29 October 1996, having captured the Rumangabo military base between Goma and Rutshuru, near the Rwandan border, AFDL/APR troops launched an attack on the city of Goma. In this context, the Mapping Team documented the following alleged incidents: After the capture of Goma, on 1 November 1996, AFDL/APR troops killed or forced the disappearance of an unknown number of civilians, including many influential members of the Hutu Banyarwanda community. They also killed several FAZ units that were out of combat, including soldiers undergoing treatment at Goma General Hospital.In the week of 2 November to 9 November, Équipe d’urgence de la biodiversité (EUB)319 removed 776 bodies from the streets of the town. Some of the victims had been killed by stray bullets but others had been deliberately executed. The AFDL/APR troops also proceeded to systematically pillage the town, even attacking the stores and offices of aid agencies such as the ICRC and those of UN organisations like WFP and UNHCR.

Goma

After the capture of Goma, on 1 November 1996, AFDL/APR troops killed or forced the disappearance of an unknown number of civilians, including many influential members of the Hutu Banyarwanda community. They also killed several FAZ units that were out of combat, including soldiers undergoing treatment at Goma General Hospital.318 In the week of 2 November to 9 November, Équipe d’urgence de la biodiversité (EUB)  removed 776 bodies from the streets of the town. Some of the victims had been killed by stray bullets but others had been deliberately executed. The AFDL/APR troops also proceeded to systematically pillage the town, even attacking the stores and offices of aid agencies such as the ICRC and those of UN organisations like WFP and UNHCR.

Bunagana

In the night of 5 June to 6 June 1996, at Bunagana, a village on the Ugandan border, armed units identified as APR and UPDF soldiers allegedly killed. between 28 and 36 civilians. According to some sources, Tutsis from Bunagana are thought to have been used as scouts, pointing out the houses of people to be killed to the commandos. AFDL/APR soldiers began to infiltrate the Bwisha chiefdom in October 1996. Towards mid-October, AFDL/APR units launched their first attack on the FAZ military base at Rumangabo. In the days that followed, additional AFDL/APR soldiers infiltrated the southern part of Rutshuru territory via the Virunga National Park and the Kibumba camp. The new infiltrators cut off the road between the Katale and Mugunga refugee camps and the FAZ military base, with a view to launching a second attack on Rumangabo. From the start of the infiltrations, AFDL/APR troops allegedly massacred civilian populations in the Bweza and Rugari groupements,

Masisi

On 7 December 1996, elements of the AFDL/APR killed around 310 civilians, including a large number of women and children, in the village of Kinigi in the Masisi territory. The soldiers had accused the local people, most of them Hutu Banyarwanda, of sheltering ex-FAR/Interahamwe. When they arrived, however, the ex-FAR/Interahamwe had already left the village. First, the soldiers tried to reassure civilians by telling them that they had nothing to fear. They then asked them to assemble in several buildings, including the Adventist church and the Rubona primary school, to attend a meeting. In the afternoon, the AFDL/APR soldiers entered the buildings and killed the villagers with hoes and hatchets to the head. They also killed some civilians in their homes. The bodies were buried at Kinigi in several mass graves. On 9 December 1996, elements of the AFDL/APR killed around 280 civilians in the village of Katoyi, in the south-west of the Masisi territory. When they arrived, the soldiers asked the tribal chief to gather the people together for a meeting. They then surrounded the civilians who had gathered in the village centre and bound them before killing them with cold weapons and small axes. Those who tried to escape were shot dead. The victims included a large number of women and children, as well as Rwandan refugees.

Territories of Beni and Lubero (Grand Nord) 

 In 1997 and 1998, the AFDL/APR soldiers (known as the Forces Armées Congolaises (FAC) from June 1997) and those of the APR committed massacres in the territories of Lubero and Beni. As the local population is 95% Nande and few refugees attempted their escape via these two territories, these massacres fulfilled a different logic to that observed in the territories of Masisi and Rutshuru. The main massacres took place in 1997 after the breakdown of the alliance between the AFDL/APR soldiers and the numerous local Mayi-Mayi groups. Denouncing the constant interference of Rwanda in the region and the brutal methods used by the AFDL/APR soldiers towards refugees and local people alike, many Mayi-Mayi groups distanced themselves and then entered into conflict with them. In response, the AFDL/APR soldiers carried out several attacks on populations suspected of collaborating with Mayi-Mayi groups.

Analysis

The mapping report was not authored by DRC but by a UN appointed special commission and it is overtly impartial; the Rwandan rejection is part of lies which have always characterized this regime.

The sprinkler now sprinkled! 

When soldiers of Hutu regime fight the enemy, they automatically commit genocide and crimes against Humanity but when RPA fought, I did not kill anybody, it was just liberating innocent people or they passed bibles in hands and they weapons were not hurting.

Unfortunately for the Kigali regime, reports elaborated by independent international observers establish that they made pogroms not only of Hutu refugees they were considering globally as genocide authors but also Congolese citizens; raping women and girls and torturing others so that the number of lives took away is estimated at more than 6 million including Rwandan refugees and Congolese the latter being overtly more numerous than the latter. The RPF negotiated the qualification of crimes committed in Rwanda as genocide and won but as it is now involved in the killings of Congolese innocent citizens it does not want the international community to condemn these ignominious acts fearing that the double genocide be recognized. Isn’t there a double standard?

Reversal of diplomacy

The diplomatic relationships between the new president of DRC and the Rwandan president were very good compared to the former presidents and better still the former had allowed Rwandan troops to interfere in his fight against FDLR whose many commandants were assassinated officially by FARDC but really by RDF elements already in the field. 

However with the controversial declarations of president Kagame rejecting those massacres committed against the Congolese people during the two successive wars; Felix Tshisekedi did retain his reaction before such a cynic criminal and all the past friendly relationships between them seem starting declining to the extent that the future of the bilateral diplomacy is not promising in terms of their joint fight against armed rebellions having elected military bases in the eastern regions of his vast country.

The mapping report establishes facts constituting horrific crimes committed in the eastern DRC by the different foreign troops which intervened in this country from 1996 including Rwanda defence forces and strives to determine criminal liabilities which among others imply Rwandan army not only against ex-FAR soldiers and Hutu refugees but also against innocent Congolese citizens. Given the report and designated authors of the crimes, the UNSC should think of qualifying them and ask the international criminal court to press charges against the involved suspects or establish a special criminal court for DRC. Time will tell.

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