29th January 2005
While this has gone on for sometime, it has come into the public light more with the leaking of a proposal in the UN to formally condemn Paul Kagame and the Rwandan government for their involvement in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The UN report deals with two phases of Rwandan involvement in DR Congo. The first was its invasion, along with Uganda and Burundi, of Zaire under the pretext of chasing Hutu forces that carried out the Rwandan Genocide and fled Rwanda after Paul Kagame's capture of the government. The Hutu's were backed by Mobotu Sese Seko's government. This culminated in the so-called Congo War that began in late 1996.
Working with the resistance forces in Zaire (AFDL), the Rwandan and Ugandan forces overthrew the government and Mobutu Sese Seko fled the country.
It is alleged that during this phase that the APR (Rwandan forces) and their allies carried out genocidal acts against Hutu refugees who gathered in the eastern parts of Zaire. The UN report highlights some instances that went beyond the claims of collateral damage in Hutu refugee camps, which various forms of intimidation, killing of civilians, rapes, and so on that often signifies a sign of ethnic cleansing. In some cases the local populace was encouraged to take action against Hutu refugees.
Some highlights of this part...
Kinigi, 7 December 1996 "Elements from the AFDL/APR killed nearly 310 civilians, many of them women and children. The troops had accused the local population, mostly Hutu, of sheltering Interahamwe [Hutu paramilitaries, who] had already left the village. At first the troops sought to reassure the civilians [whom they gathered together] in several buildings, including the adventist church and the primary school. In the afternoon, troops entered these buildings and killed the villagers with hoes or axes to the head."
Luberizi, 29 October 1996 "Elements from the AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundi's armed forces] killed around 200 male refugees. The victims were part of a group of refugees told by the troops to regroup so that they could be repatriated to Rwanda. The troops separated the men from the rest of the group and killed them with bayonets or bullets. The bodies were then buried in mass graves [near to] the church."
Bwegera, 3 November 1996 "They burned alive 72 Rwandan refugees in Cotonco (cotton company) headquarters, one kilometre from the village."
Mutiko, December 1996 "Special units from the AFDL/APR started to hunt down refugees, killing several hundred. Once they had been intercepted at barriers put up by the troops, the victims were given food and told to get into UN lorries waiting at the exit of the village. The victims were then taken out on to the road, then killed with blows to the head with canes, hammers and axes. The troops encouraged the local population to take part in the killings."
The second part of the report concerns the Second Congo War and events following it to this day. The Second Congo War started in 1998 and was a very large conflict between the government of the newly formed DR Congo by the leader of the AFDL, Laurent Kabila (assassinated later in 2001, his spot taken by his son Joseph Kabila), and his former allies Rwanda and Uganda, who he accused of attempting to take over Congo. It was a large war, with the Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Chad backing DR Congo. Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi went to war against DR Congo under the pretext of harassment of Tutsi in eastern fringes of the DR Congo.
In the midst of this, with militias backed by both sides, many atrocities took place. Even the Lord's Liberation Army, pushed out of Uganda, began to operate in DR Congo. This was mostly due to the fact of the vast natural resources, particularly minerals, of the DR Congo open for exploitation by the respective nations. The Rwandan forces however seemed to be more active in this The war is believed to have taken at the least 2 and a half million casualties. While it engaged in warfare with the DR Congo, Rwanda encouraged militias in their activities and directly began to extract minerals from the land.
The formal end of the war was in 2003, which is up to where the UN report details. It is however notable that Rwanda continued to back militias in the eastern provinces. These militias created an atmosphere of fear in the eastern provinces and took over mining operations. The DR Congo also did the same with its own opposing set of militias and the military.
What do these provinces posses that caused Rwanda to take up so much interest in the failing Zaire, and later DR Congo? Through ethnic cleansing and putting in more loyal Tutsi's, mining towns were taken over by miltias backed by the Rwandan military during the Second Congo War, and this is still continuing today. This region of DR Congo is rich in gold, cassiterite, wolframite, and coltan (these minerals are essential for electronics, particularly laptops and cell phones), and it is believed these are extracted and then taken over to Rwanda where it is sold on the international market (Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda act as middle-men between the DR Congo and eastern African states, notably Kenya, for the pathway of conflict minerals to ports). A cut of these operations go to the Rwandan government and military.
Up until recently, Paul Kagame's regime in Rwanda was painted by the West as a stable democracy that has moved on beyond its experience in the Rwandan Genocide for "reconciliation" and providing a model for the rest of Africa. Rwanda's western backers were more than eager to overlook the Kagame regime's actions against political dissidents. Disappearances of journalists and opposition politicians have become common place. Both of the "free" elections in Rwanda, 2003 and recently in 2010, were carried out with intimidation and repression of opposition parties and both times Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front easily won the election. The 2010 election saw the exclusion of opposition parties, banning of newspapers, and prevention of rallies by oppositions.
When the election came, people were given a choice of Kagame and his RPF, only opposed by candidates and groups friendly to Kagame. It has gotten to the point that the "democracy" in Rwanda is no more different from the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, yet this is not highlighted much due to Rwanda's position.
A notable case is that of General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, an opponent of Kagame who was forced to flee the country to South Africa. In South Africa Nyamwasa was nearly murdered. A journalist from Rwanda who reported on the assassination claimed to have found evidence suggesting a Rwandan connection to the murder. Said journalist was later found murdered in the Rwandan capital.
Rwanda receives considerable western aid and it is appreciated for its ability to extract minerals from the DR Congo and sold to western mining concerns at a much more cheaper rate than it would have been to go through the legitimate owners of the mines, the DR Congo (which had originally made overtures to mining firms in the second war). The Rwandan government also made the move of joining the British Commonwealth, odd considering that Rwanda was never a British subject.
Relations between Rwanda and its western allies has begun to deteriorate over the past few months. Not over the increasingly totalitarian actions of Kagame however, but his courting of Chinese interests in the region who are the biggest competitors to western firms in Central Africa. Initially three main countries led the import charts- Belgium, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
For what ever reason Kagame's former backers began to get weary of his involvement in the so-called "Conflict Minerals". An initial attempt was embodied in the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009, which required electronics producers to say where they have gotten their minerals from. This bill failed but was a component of HR 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law last month, under Title XV (Miscellaneous Provisions, Section 1502), which introduces its aims and is followed by a lengthy procedure for companies to declare that their minerals has not come from "conflict minerals"
SENSE OF CONGRESS ON EXPLOITATION AND TRADE OF CONFLICT MINERALS ORIGINATING IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO.
It is the sense of Congress that the exploitation and trade of conflict minerals originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is helping to finance conflict characterized by extreme levels of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly sexual- and gender-based violence, and contributing to an emergency humanitarian situation therein, warranting the provisions of section 13(p) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as added by subsection (b).
While not pointing to Rwanda, it was a concern for Kagame who began to court east Asian countries instead, further irking his allies, who had formerly been silent on Kagame's grossly undemocratic actions and his military's role in DR Congo to this day.
The main source of criticism of Rwanda, both in its internal actions and its role in the eastern DR Congo, come from NGOs and other groups. Global Witness has this to say about Rwanda and its action-
From the summary:
The illicit exploitation of natural resources is not a new phenomenon in eastern DRC. It has characterised the conflict since it first erupted in 1996 and has been well documented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations Panel of Experts and Group of Experts, journalists and others. Twelve years on, the patterns remain the same, and despite abundant evidence of these activities, no effective action has been taken to stop this murderous trade. On the contrary, the warring parties have consolidated their economic bases and have become ever more entrenched....
The majority of the minerals produced in North and South Kivu leave the DRC through Rwanda or Burundi. The governments of these countries have effectively provided the warring parties in eastern
And from the report's case on Rwanda:
Rwanda has long been one of the main routes through which minerals leave eastern DRC. Weak controls on the Congolese side of the border have been compounded by Rwanda’s unwillingness to ensure that the minerals it imports have not been produced by or benefited any of the warring parties in the DRC. These factors have meant that Rwanda has effectively provided these warring parties with access to export routes and international markets.
The armed groups profiting from the trade with or through Rwanda have included not only those actively supported by Rwanda, such as the CNDP, but even the FDLR, Rwanda’s fiercest enemy.
During the earlier phases of the war, from 1998 onwards, when Rwandan troops were present in the DRC, the Rwandan government and army profited directly from illicit mineral exploitation in North and South Kivu. Rwandan government and military officials took advantage of the chaos to plunder the DRC’s resources and to enrich themselves. In more recent years, Rwandan government and military involvement in mineral exploitation in the DRC has been less visible, but the political and business elite has continued to profit through Congolese armed groups which the Rwandan government has backed – such as the CNDP and previously the RCD-Goma – and through Congolese businessmen who maintain close personal and business links with Rwanda.
Rwanda has its own mineral deposits, and a developing domestic mining sector which accounts for an increasing proportion of its exports, but it continues to import and re-export significant amounts of minerals from eastern DRC. Congolese minerals exported from Rwanda are not always distinguished from minerals produced in Rwanda.
Just recently there was a reported case of the UN mission in the eastern DR Congo not responding to reports of mass rape in the region by the militias, including in a village near the base. In the case of the village, the UN mission did not respond until some time later, claiming they were not "informed" by the villagers before hand of when the rapes occurred.
All the while however, no nation has seriously called out Rwanda for its role in the chaos of the DR Congo. It is still painted in many countries as a stable democracy that overcame its hardships from the genocide and worked towards reconciliation. However its role in the ethnic cleansing of civilians , of Hutus and other figures, to exploit minerals, paints a different image that is inconvenient to Kagame's former allies. Ultimately if Kagame's allies begins to take a different stance towards him, it won't be because of his humanitarian violations but rather his unreliable allegiance shown by his overtures to Chinese interests.
13th December 2009
They care more about minerals than humans, I guess... If they'd save some thousand nearly-victims, they wouldn't gain much profit. If they could save some thousand minerals, that'd make some good profit. It's this fucking hypocrisy again.
Remember the Bosniak War ? Where was the UN ? "Lay down your weapons, lay down your weapons !" while children were mutilated, women raped and above all (on my concerns) Muslims massacred.
Idem with the Rwanda massacre. I've read somewhere that the UN had some high chances of preventing the massacre by ... I don't remember, protecting a president who came with the plane or something like that, or was it by not pulling their troops ?
Anyway, you can see how "peace organizations" won't lift a finger when it comes to profit through massacres ...
29th January 2005
The problem is however is that Rwanda uses the spectre of its genocide, as did its allies overseas, to paint itself as a nation that has moved beyond such things and providing an example to the rest of Africa.
However as we've seen Paul Kagame was perfectly fine replicating what occurred in Rwanda in the Kivu provinces. The nations who are backing Kagame don't seem to care about this along as he created a route for the minerals out of DR Congo.
It's easy to blame the UN- it allows the nations who are backing Kagame to clean their hands of any involvement and act dumb.