You can download the response of the Rwandan government to the mapping report here, and the Congolese government’s response here.
As you can see, they don’t like it. Two hundred and twenty Congolese Civil Society Organisations, however, do.
The criticisms of the Rwandan government deserve a detailed response. As such, I’m going to go through it line by line. Here it is:
“The timing of the leak of this draft report is quite revealing; it appears that the UN is attempting to divert international attention from its latest failure in the Great Lake Region where recently hundreds of Congolese women were savagely raped under the watch of its peacekeeping force MONUSCO”This is irrelevant. It should not alter one iota what we think of the content of the report. It is also unlikely to be true. Firstly, this report was not by MONUSCO, but by the UN Commission for Human Rights, who do not answer to MONUSCO. Secondly, this report was leaked. Which undermines the case for conspiracy somewhat. Colum Lynch has a much more plausible account of the internal politics of the UN here, in which he suggests that it was leaked because someone on Ban Ki Moon’s team was trying to get the g-word removed. The idea that the UN is in some was ‘out to get’ Rwanda (or Israel, or North Korea, or Iran) is a familiar trope of conspiracy theorists, and one of those delightfully unfalsifiable arguments which is ready-made for all occasions. Peter Gourevitch does exactly the same thing here, insinuating (amongst other things) that because Kofi Annan was a sponsor of the report, that undermines its credibility (because Annan wanted to spread blame after his disastrous handling of the genocide). For a start, this is pretty shabby tabloid tactics from someone who should know better, i.e. this is a shameless ad hominem attack offered with no evidence whatsoever. So can we please stop attacking the authors?
CORRECTION: well, sort of. Something I should have added, probably. It is pretty clear from the methodology of the report that they would have needed to rely on MONUSCO quite considerably to write this (setting up the interviews, locating survivors, etc). To that extent, it is plausible to contend that the report had biased access to information. Furthermore, it means that the UN Commission would have had extensive links with MONUSCO going back years, would have been in fairly constant contact with them, and to that extent the claim that they would have leaked the report to take the heat off them is slightly more credible.
“It is immoral and unacceptable that the United Nations, an organization that failed outright to prevent genocide in Rwanda and the subsequent refugees crisis the is the direct cause for so much suffering in Congo and Rwanda, now accuses the army that stopped the genocide of committing atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo”False. That would be collective responsibility gone insane. A similar logic would make it impossible for any German government official ever to criticise Israel. Stop anthropomorphising: the UN is not one monolithic bloc, but a huge, diverse organisation, and whilst several people in the UN should probably be publicly shamed for their conduct in 1994, that does not mean that other people who now work for the UN are under some strange Great-Lakes gag rule.
“The report is a dangerous and irresponsible document that under the guise of human rights can only achieve instability in the Great Lakes Region and undermine ongoing efforts to stabilize the region, particularly at a time when unprecedented progress is being made in establishing peace, security and economic collaboration.”This is the most plausible rebuttal offered. It is credible to suggest that this report is destabilising. There are two potential replies the UN could offer: firstly, their mandate is investigative, and they have a duty to report the truth as they see it, regardless of consequences. Secondly, the long-term consequences of not bringing these abuses to light (i.e. a lack of closure, continuation of a culture of impunity, non-resolution of grievance, etc) are ultimately more cancerous for the region in the long run.
Broadly, however, nobody knows what the consequences of publishing this will be. We all know it is explosive, but nobody has a crystal ball. The Rwandan government could be right that this is destabilising, and the UN could be right that there is no future for the region without reconciliation and openness. Nobody knows, so to that extent, it shouldn’t be part of the debate unless someone out there is prepared to offer more than assertions in this regard.
“Given the gravity of its mission, the Mapping Team’s failure to consult with Rwanda even though they found time to meet with over 200 NGO representatives is shocking and shows complete disregard for fundamental fairness”No: there is no such thing as a right of response to a mapping report in advance of publication. You get your right of response now, in public, like everyone else. In any case, the Rwandan government were apparently shown a copy of the report a couple of days before the leak, and now have until the beginning of October to give ‘comments and advice’ on the final version.
“While NGOs are entitled to their opinions, their work should not form the basis of genocide or war crimes allegations against Rwanda or any other nation.”Why not? Often these are the only organisations in any position to observe such abuses. After all, the Rwandan government has never, to my knowledge, complained about Alison Des Forges’ monumental tome documenting the 1994 genocide for Human Rights Watch (with, of course, the exception of the section on RPF crimes), which would seem to be an exact parallel case.
“The report makes extremely serious allegations – of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – based on questionable methodology, sourcing and shockingly low standard of proof. By its own admission, the Mapping Team was not concerned with pursuing in-depth investigations or gathering evidence of sufficient admissibility to stand in court, meaning that they employed the lowest evidentiary standard to investigate these allegations”It is correct to point out that this report is not trying to fulfil the evidential burden of a court. The point of this document, if you recall, is to offer advice as to the direction of the transitional justice process in the DRC. Therefore, its purpose is not to try and convict anyone, but to indicate the appropriate scope of such a justice process, and how it might proceed. As such, this criticism misses the point. All the report was supposed to determine is whether or not there is a case to answer. If the Rwandan government feel that this evidence is insufficient to meet a legal burden of proof, they should be the first in line to support an independent judicial process into human rights abuses in the DRC.
Apart from anything else, as things stand, that would be the only way to clear their name.
“It is a fact that Rwanda’s intervention in the DRC was a matter of survival and the direct consequence of the irresponsible and insensitive management of the refugee camps by the UN and the international community subsequent to the genocide.”It is true that the former government of Rwanda were re-arming in the camps (Read Médicins San Frontières’ reports on this from the time for all the evidence you need), the UN was utterly hopeless at doing anything about it, and Mobutu was (probably) helping them for his own reasons. There were also attempts to ignite an insurgency in the areas round Gisenyi and Musanze in the North-West. That, to my mind, establishes a strategic justification for intervention in the DRC to forcibly close down these camps (whether or not it is a matter of survival doesn’t matter – this alone is enough for me).
However, it is clear that the RPA was able to establish almost total military dominance very quickly after their entry into what was then Zaïre. From that point, it should have been possible to return the refugees to Rwanda, or to disarm them and leave them in the Congo. Every genocidaire in Rwanda got a trial, or an approximation of that through Gacaca. It would be extremely difficult, as far as I can see, to make the argument that the military situation in the Kivus was so desperate that the normal protections extended to either combatants or non-combatants (I don’t want to get into that particular fight) don’t apply.
So I’m really hoping the Rwandan government say bring it on. I would really like a world in which these allegations are false. Will Jones