Ever since the UN report detailing horrific war crimes and probable genocide against the Hutu in DRC made international headlines, there has been unprecedented outcry within the international community and the media as if this is a new discovery. But in fact, these crimes have been Kagame’s most poorly kept secrets.These crimes are no Watergate; many of us knew this, and the international community that is simply exploding now, knew but pretended not to know. Actually, many covered up these crimes; mostly the US.
The only surprise is the timing of the report (when Kagame and his government are all over in the global mainstream news largely for wrong reasons), the comprehensiveness of the report and how it has been received in mainstream western media. Otherwise, the report is just another piece in many other similar reports before it. Beginning with what was called liberation war, dissident former army officers like Major Alphonse Furuma and Lt Abdul Ruzibiza have given
testimonies of how Kagame’s troops systematically massacred defenseless Hutus during the 1990-94 war that brought President Kagame to power. Only two months after Kagame’s forces captured power in Rwanda, in October 1994, Robert Gersony, a U.S. expert hired by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), accused the RPF regime of having killed at
least 30,000 Hutus in Rwanda since coming to power. As soon as the report was released, the regime in Kigali threatened to terminate the operations of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) if the report was validated. The U.N. then succumbed to the combined pressures of Kigali and its international lobbies and demanded that the UNHCR put the Gersony Report under embargo while promising a counter investigation.
Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General Shaharyar Khan refused thereafter to confirm the existence of the Gersony Report to the UNHCR. The report has simply disappeared from the archives of the United Nations, according to a communication made to defense counsel at the ICTR.
In October 1994, in the wake of the controversy around the Gersony Report, Irishwoman Karen Kenny, whom the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had appointed to head the U.N.’s Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda, resigned. This should have been an eye opener at the time, but the international media failed to pick up the story.
After the Gersony Report, Amnesty International, a London-based human rights watchdog, released a report exposing human rights violations committed by the Rwandese Patriotic Army in the period of April-August 1994. Amnesty International pointed out that many defenseless people had been killed by the RPA and its supporters. AI said violations included hundreds of
deliberate executions, as well as abductions or ‘disappearances’ of captured combatants and unarmed civilians suspected of supporting the former government. For reasons best known to them, the international community and the mainstream media looked the other way.
On April 22, 1995, under the nose of UNAMIR, the Rwandan Patriotic Army massacred and displaced Hutu people in Kibeho refugee camp. The U.N. did nothing to make sure that the mastermind of these massacres be brought to court and punished. Instead, they simply asked the Rwandan government to follow up on the matter. First hand reports and accounts by the International Committee of Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders put the blame entirely on the RPA. Many international news media buried the story.
In 1997, Roberto Garreton, the Special Rapporteur of the U.N. commission in charge of human rights in the DRC, released a report on crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Army against the Hutu refugees there. The Kigali regime immediately launched an intense effort to suppress the report and block a U.N. mission requested by President Laurent Desire Kabila that was aimed at confirming the results of the U.N.’s Garreton Mission. The Garreton Mission had to give up.
Carla Del Ponte, former ICTR Prosecutor General, emphatically stated, on more than one occasion, that there is evidence pinning the RPA for war crimes, and she made public how she was frustrated in her efforts to prosecute the RPA for those crimes. As was the case with such reports, the UN, the major powers and many international news media had other ‘serious’ issues to look to.
Summing it all, what has been described as ‘damning revelations’ are just a confirmation of what has been reported over time but remained shelved because Washington and London wanted them to be. The only difference is the internal power play and dynamics in the White House and the Downing Street. What remains to be seen is whether justice will follow; and the world is eagerly waiting.
The author is the Deputy Managing Editor of the Newsline
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