Leaked UN report: Rwanda 'genocide' in Congo
Updated on 27 August 2010
A UN Office for Human Rights spokesman tells Channel 4 News that the leak of a draft UN document accusing Rwanda of genocide in Congo has created "confusion", insisting the report is "geared towards improving law and order in the future".
The United Nations report, by the high commissioner for human rights, was leaked to French newspaper Le Monde and strongly suggests human rights abuses carried out by Rwandan soldiers between 1996 and 1998 in Congo could constitute a second genocide.
The UN has not denied it wrote the report but a spokesperson stressed the version given to newspapers is a draft and not final.
Le Monde's story comes from an early version of the report which was circulated to governments in the region. The final report, which sources say differs in nuance and legal terminology but not in substance, is expected to be released in Geneva next week.
"It's a shame about the leak to Le Monde because it creates confusion," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN Office for Human Rights.
Five years in the making, the report which cost US$3m, documents 600 atrocities during a decade of war in the DRC starting in 1993. Thirty-three UN staff spent eight months carrying out research in the DRC, and no incident was included unless verified by two independent witnesses.
Although the focus on alleged "acts of genocide" by Rwandan soldiers and Rwandan-backed forces has drawn headlines, atrocities by many different groups and governments are documented.
"This report is about the past, but it's geared towards improving law and order in the future. The motivation is to tackle impunity, and the first step is to describe what happened," said Mr Colville.
The Rwandan government has stoutly dismissed the findings, with a spokesperson calling the report unhelpful and an "amateurish NGO job".
The motives for the leak have also been questioned by other commentators in Africa.
Journalist Rama Isibo who is based in the east African country, told Channel 4 News he believed the leak was strategic and a politically motivated move by the UN: "There's just a stunned silence here.
"At the time, there were several countries involved in that war, so why have they focused on Rwanda?
"My personal opinion is that (the report) was a counter-leak to take pressure off the UN which has been under a lot of scrutiny because of the rape story in Congo."
Earlier this week, stories emerged of mass rapes in eastern Congo only 20 miles from a UN base which it is claimed the organisation did not hear about until a week after they happened.
The "systematic" assaults on over one hundred women in North Kivu province have prompted the UN to despatch a senior peacekeeping official to investigate.
Channel 4 News international editor Lindsey Hilsum on the significance of the report for Rwandan president Paul Kagame
The forthcoming UN report, which according to Le Monde will accuse Rwandese Patriotic Front forces of committing genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1996 and 1998, has been strongly refuted by the authorities in Kigali. Not surprising – the legitimacy of the RPF government derives from their role in stopping the genocide in their own country in 1994. Any suggestion that they might be 'just as bad' as the forces which carried out mass murder of the Tutsis dents their image as the saviours of Rwanda.
I was in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994, and made repeated trips to eastern Congo between 1996 and 1998 when Rwandan forces and their proxies were fighting the remnants of the Hutu genocidaires who had fled over the border. We at Channel 4 News, like scores of other journalists, documented appalling war crimes carried out by all sides in the DRC.
In 1994, I went to eastern Zaire (as it was called then) and confronted Rwandan genocidaires, who were hiding in refugee camps and who were later indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal. When Rwandan forces (disguised as Zairean rebels) over-ran the camps around Goma two years later, we found evidence that the Hutus had been planning sabotage in Rwanda.
I still have a school notebook that I picked up in an empty camp, which details Hutu extremist ideology and has instructions for laying landmines and detonating bombs. Those Hutus who went back to Rwanda in 1996 were for the most part allowed to resettle – Rwanda was peaceful. But the RPF government mercilessly pursued those who stayed in DRC, sparking a vicious war which at its height involved seven countries, and killed an estimated five million people. Rwanda's conflict had effectively been exported.
The forthcoming UN report apparently suggests that the atrocities committed by Rwandan forces and their proxies against those Hutus who fled further into the DRC amounts to genocide, which is defined as, "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group."
I have no doubt that the RPF tried to destroy the Hutus in DRC. But it accomodated those who returned to Rwanda. So is this morally equivalent to the Hutu extremists' attempt to wipe out the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994? Should "in whole" and "in part" be regarded as equally heinous?
It's a problem for philosophers, lawyers and politicians. The Rwandan government, meanwhile, will not publicly accept any responsibility for atrocities in the DRC, even though they kept their own country peaceful by dint of continuing the war in someone else's.
Africa's world war
The leaked UN report on Rwanda focuses on two periods: one in 1996 and one in two years later in 1998.
The first was just two years after 800,000 mainly Tutsi Rwandans were killed during a genocide orchestrated by the Hutu government of Juvenal Habyarimana.
The second period covers a time when many more countries became involved in a series of inter-linked conflicts which have been called "Africa's world war".
Rwanda's 1996 incursion into the east of neighbouring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC) to flush out Hutu soldiers from UN refugee camps, has come under scrutiny.
Hutu fighters were believed to be using the camps as cover for a continued assault on the new Tutsi-led government.
The UN report says some of the killings (including those of women and children) that took place during this period were tantamount to genocidal acts.
It says that Hutus who fled further into Zaire were systematically hunted down and killed by forces of the Rwandan government.
The report says that in effect: "the systematic and generalised attacks (against the Hutus in DRC) reveal several overwhelming elements which, if they could be tested in front of a tribunal, could qualify as crimes of genocide."
The second period covered a further Rwandan invasion of what had become DRC, with Rwanda having accused Congo of supporting Hutu rebels.
Should the accusation of a double Rwandan genocide appear the final version of the leaked report, international pressure could mount on the country's recently re-elected president Paul Kagame.
Rama Isibo thinks this would have serious repercussions for the region: "Whatever happens in Rwanda happens in Congo one hundred fold, so this is bad for the region because Rwanda is a stabilising influence here.
"Any pressure on Rwanda will start reflecting on Congo."
The finished report is due to be published in the next few months. Channel 4 News asked the Foreign Office for a statement but we were told: "The FCO doesn't comment on leaked reports."