ISHAKWE-RWANDA FREEDOM MOVEMENT
Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations New York,
Ambassador Jonathan Allen
The Chargé d’Affaires,
United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations
One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (885 Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10017
May 28, 2020
I am writing on behalf of the RWANDA FREEDOM MOVEMENT-Ishakwe to publicly note the positive Explanation of Position that the US and UK governments have undertaken with respect the United Nations General Assembly’s draft resolution, “International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda”.
The United States Explanation of Position states, among other things:
As such, the United States is concerned that changes made to the text – starting in 2018 and extended today – narrow the focus of the resolution to the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and fail to fully capture the magnitude of the violence that was committed against other groups. Many Hutu and others were also killed during the genocide, including those murdered for their opposition to the atrocities that were being committed. Failing to honor and remember these victims presents an incomplete picture of this dark part of history.
The United States firmly believes that respect for all human rights, including freedom of expression, is critical in the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities. We reiterate that any efforts to counter incitement and hate speech should respect freedom of expression.
Revising the language used to describe past genocides sets a dangerous precedent and risks leading to revisiting other days of reflection. We support the resolution’s overall aim to reflect on the genocide in Rwanda, but also must underscore that our understanding of the circumstances of the genocide in Rwanda has not changed (US Explanation of Position on the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Rwandan Genocide; https://usun.usmission.gov/explanation-of-position-on-the-un-general-assembly-resolution-on-the-rwandan-genocide/).
On its part, the Explanation of Position of the United Kingdom states, in part:
These reservations relate to the substance – we disagree with the framing of the genocide purely as the “1994 genocide against the Tutsi”. As noted in previous resolutions, we believe that Hutus and others who were killed should also be recognised. Our concerns also relate to the process – we note that there were some shortcomings in regards to transparency in the negotiation and adoption processes (Explanation of Position by the United Kingdom on draft resolution entitled “International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda” (A/74/L.40.); https://www.un.org/pga/74/wp-content/uploads/sites/99/2020/04/UK-EOP-on-Rwandan-genocide-resolution-20-April.pdf),
The position that has been taken by the United States and the United Kingdom is very noticeably welcome by the majority of Rwandans, particularly the Hutu community who cannot remember their own dead and to whom the Kigali regime has imposed collective guilt, and many in the international community. For many Rwandans, challenging Rwanda’s dominant logic of “Tutsi, and Tutsi alone, are the only victims of genocide” carries a hefty price, including but not limited to death, disappearance, imprisonment, exile, or marginalization. Rwanda and her neighbors live in a permanent state of war as the Kigali regime seeks to impose its revised, incomplete, largely false narrative that drives policy in all national, regional and international matters. There are many voices in the international community who have voiced similar concerns as you now articulate, only to attract vicious attacks from President Kagame’s well-financed national and global repressive machinery. For many, a sense of self-censorship, fear, resignation and silence are the safest modes of living.
It is therefore right, fitting, refreshing and timely that President Kagame’s closest friends now put on record their disagreement with the prevailing logic, a narrative that your governments have previously helped to entrench. Your governments should expect the usual harsh but inappropriate public indignation from Kigali. Fortunately, unlike Rwandans, you do not have to pay any price for getting on the right side of history.
To shed light on the context , let me take this opportunity to share with you the full content of a joint open letter of concerns I wrote to US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron on September 19, 2014:
In 1994 both of you were still young in distinguished political journeys that eventually placed you at the pinnacles of power in the United States and the United Kingdom. You recall that 1994 was a watershed moment in Rwanda that gave birth to a national tragedy-that of genocide- of unimaginable magnitude.
It has been 20 years since then, and one would have hoped that the most important lessons of that period would have been learned, and that history would never have to be repeated. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself in Rwanda, and our nation is yet again on the brink of another national disaster. In the prelude to the 1994 genocide, all the signs for the impending gloom and doom were visible, and yet the world community, your countries inclusive, chose to ignore them. As mayhem descended on ordinary Rwandans, the world community, your countries included, chose to abandon Rwanda. It was the United States that initiated the shameful policy of abandonment which the rest of the international community had to follow, leading to the guilt-laden behavior of the international community in post-genocide Rwanda.
Post-genocide Rwanda under President Paul Kagame has betrayed the expectations of the majority of Rwandans, despite their hard work and resilience. Responding to the crushing needs of Rwandans, and of late, to geopolitical interests, the United States and the United Kingdom emerged as the chief benefactors and protectors of the Kagame regime. It is this unquestioning support to one of the most undemocratic and brutal regimes of this age that has fueled Kagame’s arrogant intransigence with impunity; politically motivated assassinations, disappearances and imprisonment of political opponents, journalists and human rights activists; total closure of political space; war-making and gross human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since 1994, the United States and the United Kingdom have overtly and covertly sheltered President Kagame and officers under his command from accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including those documented in the United Nations Mapping Report of 2010. As we speak, several dead bodies, presumably of Rwandans, have been discovered in a lake at the Rwanda-Burundi border. South African police has completed investigations in the assassination of Colonel Patrick Karegeya at the beginning of this year, and the perpetrators are now known. The court case in the attempted assassination of Lt. General Kayumba Nyamwasa was concluded in August, and four agents of the Rwandan regime found guilty and sentenced to long prison terms. Within Rwanda, Kagame’s ruling party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front, and its twin brother, Rwanda Defence Forces, both of which had always claimed to be the only defenders of Tutsi against recurrence of genocide are unraveling in ways never seen before, as top Tutsi military officers and civilian cadres are arrested or harassed on trumped-up charges. Yesterday it was the Hutu. Today it is the Tutsi. The circle of illegitimacy is now complete. President Kagame and a narrow band of sycophants must rely on brute force to survive.
Rwanda is on the brink of civil war. The world is once again silent. The policies and actions of the United States and the United Kingdom in Rwanda will, unless stopped and reversed, sooner than later prove to be the fuel that will ignite Rwanda into another war. And, with war, there is greater likelihood of humanitarian catastrophe, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Historically, your two countries have had much to say about freedom, democracy, and war in their defense. From the Magna Carta, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, the Second World War, the Civil Rights Movement to modern times, your countries have made claims to champion universal values of peace, freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Currently you are rightly outraged by the sight of American and British citizens being beheaded by extremists, and you are engaged in mobilizing the whole international community against them. Shouldn’t you be equally outraged by Rwandan dead bodies floating in lakes, and politically motivated assassinations that you lightly condemned? What moral values do you hope to derive from a close relationship with a rogue ally who publicly gloats in killing citizens? If there are legitimate U.S and British interests in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, aren’t they much safer when you collaborate to foster freedom, democracy, and the rule of law?
In such times as these, when the countdown to violence and chaos in Rwanda is a question of “when” rather than “if”, you could possibly avert the flare up of civil war and its regional and international implications.
First, use coercive diplomacy. Talk to President Kagame candidly, and let him understand that his behavior has consequences and that you, and the rest of the international community, will hold him accountable for human rights abuses and the break out of war.
Second, stop military cooperation and security assistance to Rwanda. Though the Kagame regime tempts your defense and intelligence establishments with various services, peacekeeping being one of them, a semblance of military power is the only card that the regime uses against the population. The perception among Rwandese people, and many Africans, is that the Rwandan military and intelligence are tools of U.S and British military and intelligence for covert operations against Rwandans and Africans.
Third, unconditionally engage all Rwandans, first and foremost President Kagame, to pursue a path of dialogue rather than war. Your recent effort to pressurize Africans in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to push for the unconditional surrender of FDLR, under the threat of a military option to fight and defeat them is a recipe for failure and disaster. It may turn out to be the trigger that will trip Rwanda onto a point of no return as it accelerates to war.
I urge you to see the urgency of the Rwandan situation and strive to be on the right side of history this time. Will you continue on the pro-Kagame path that inevitably leads to war? Alternatively, will you help all Rwandans on a path of dialogue, peace, freedom, democracy, justice for all, genuine reconciliation, shared prosperity, and regional stability? It is time to choose. A stitch in time saves nine, the English proverb wisely counsels.
Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
Six years later, the situation in Rwanda has agonizingly moved from bad to worse.
Since then, more Rwandans have been victims of assassinations, disappearance, imprisonment, and exile. Lack of transparency, coercion and impunity have established the absolute rule of President Kagame until 2034 and beyond if he wills it. The Kigali regime survives and thrives by driving the extreme polarization within and between Hutu and Tutsi communities, making the terms “unity”, “reconciliation”, “healing” and “never again” convenient but largely empty slogans. There is an inflammatory mood in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, portending a repeat of violent conflict as well as genocide.
While thanking your governments for taking a bold and courageous step to speak truth to the Kigali regime, our movement will still encourage you to revisit the Democratic Republic of Congo Mapping Report of 2010 which clearly documented war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even possible acts of genocide by Rwanda.
It is unfortunate and deplorable that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda should have closed chapter without investigating the full context of the genocide, including the shooting down of the plane in which President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda, President Cyprian Ntaryamira of Burundi, and all their entourage perished.
Furthermore, reckless impunity of the Kigali regime has found solace in the fact that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda closed chapter without holding accountable even a single agent of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) and its army, the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) for crimes committed against the Hutu community.
In the interest of giving a full and unbiased accounting of history to make “never again” an attainable goal, it would be more logical that the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals mandate include pursuing the unfinished work of investigating crimes committed by RPF/RPA, and the circumstances of the shooting down of the plane that triggered the 1994 genocide.
While justice delayed is justice denied, truth does not have an expiry date. Nor is it bound by the statute of limitations. Transparency, accountability, rule of law, and truth are so indispensable requirements as all traumatized Rwandans confront their dark history to build a brighter shared future of healing, restoration and sustainable prosperity.
We invite the USA and UK to join all Rwandan people on this long and difficult journey to co-create this shared future. In light darkness perishes.
Please accept, Excellencies, my highest regards.
Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
ISHAKWE-RWANDA FREEDOM MOVEMENT
Washington DC, USA
Contact: [email protected]
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President of the United Nations General Assembly
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The United Nations
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