2 October 2010 :: J.E. Robertson
A new report on the intricacies of regional involvement in the brutal civil war that was fought in the Democratic Republic of Congo, between the late 1990s and early 2000s, whose resulting chaos, factionalism and scarcity, continue to take huge numbers of lives every month, has found that other nations contributed to the hostilities and that some alleged atrocities might constitute war crimes or genocide. Rwanda, Burundi and other nations, say the report is flawed and they were not involved in any such crimes.
The UN reports:
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released Friday a 550-page report listing 617 of the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law over a ten-year period by both state and non-state actors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Tens of thousands of people were killed, and numerous others were raped, mutilated or otherwise victimized during the decade. The report also examines in detail various options for truth and reconciliation, as well as for bringing those responsible for serious crimes to justice, thereby ending a climate of near-total impunity and setting the foundation for sustainable peace and development in the DRC.
The report is the product of a “Mapping Exercise” that took more than two years to research and produce, including eight months work on the ground in the DRC by a 33-strong team charged with interviewing witnesses and examining other information from a wide range of sources. Many of the attacks were directed against non-combatant civilian populations consisting primarily of women and children, the report says. Over 1,280 individual witnesses were interviewed to corroborate or invalidate alleged violations, including previously unrecorded incidents, and more than 1,500 documents were collected and analysed.
The government of Rwanda has warned the report could contribute to deterioration in security conditions across the region and warns it could inflame ethnic tensions and lead to calls for vengeance and retribution. Rwanda, in particular, is cited as having supported genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, even after the catastrophic genocide inside Rwanda was halted.
The Kagame government has been credited by some with ending the Rwandan genocide, in 1994, and has been praised for efforts to achieve reconciliation and root out the ethnic extremism that led to the killings. There are concerns that if the government is associated with ethnic killing between Hutus and Tutsis in the DRC, the nation could be destabilized.
Rwanda has threatened to pull out of the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, which has been deployed with the specific mandate to prevent genocide. Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, has flown to Kigali, to do the work of high diplomacy to diffuse tensions relating to the findings of the draft report.
According to Reuters:
“The Burundi government has asked the U.N. Secretary General to take Burundi off the list of countries accused of involvement in killings in D.R Congo from 1993 to 2003,” government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba, said on State Radio and Television late on Tuesday.
Echoing evidence of what is today alleged to be the most extreme atmosphere of sexual assault and impunity for such crimes, the report finds that “Violence in the DRC was, in fact, accompanied by the apparent systematic use of rape and sexual assault allegedly by all combatant forces”. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report “also suggests that other countries have a role to play in assisting a transitional justice process in the DRC”.