Eclectic Rant: Kagame's Rwanda: Myth and Reality

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday April 12, 2011 - 09:01:00 PM

On April 7, 2010, President Barack Obama marked the 17th anniversary of the "unimaginable slaughter" of Rwanda's 1994 genocide, saying it reminded the world of its duties to civilians in places like Libya. President Obama made no effort to dispel the myth used by Rwanda President Paul Kagame about the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the role played by the U.S. leading up to the genocide. 

I used the word "myth" to describe the 1994 genocide. Yes, the 1994 Genocide was horrible, but it was just one episode in a long history of violence in that part of the world. The U.S. and Kagame keep focusing on the 1994 Genocide, but neglect to put it in context. If they did, their complicity in the genocide would be revealed. For a version of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide closer to the truth, I recommend the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, dated December 15, 1999.  

What actually happened in Rwanda? Kagame was trained at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College in Leavenworth, Kansas. Major-General Kagame returned from Leavenworth to lead the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) shortly after the October 1990 invasion of Rwanda by Ugandan forces. This has been misrepresented as a "civil war" or "war of liberation" by a Tutsi-led guerilla army. 

The so-called civil war was in reality a brutal struggle for political power between the Hutu-led coalition government of Juvénal Habyarimana supported by France and the RPF-backed Tutsi forces backed financially and militarily by the United States. The Hutu-Tutsi rivalry was used deliberately in the pursuit of U.S. strategic and geopolitical objectives by establishing a U.S. sphere of influence in Central Africa, a region historically dominated by France and Belgium. What was at stake? The region's vast geostrategic mineral wealth, i.e., cobalt, oil, natural gas, copper, uranium, tin, coltan, cassiterite, gold, and diamonds, 

In April 1994, according to French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière and many others, the RPF shot down the plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, which was the catalyst for the Genocide. 

By July 1994, the RPF completed its coup d’etat and consolidated its power in Rwanda. 

Kagame's government has maintained political power and manipulated public sympathy by promoting a highly politicized ideology of the 1994 genocide. Anyone who challenges the official story is branded a "genocide negationist," a "genocide revisionist," or "killers of remembrance" by the Kagame regime. Even the Genocide Memorial Centre, which my wife and I visited in 2004, promotes his version of the genocide. As I remember, there was a banner or sign with Rwanda's motto: "never again." 

In September 2010, a draft report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was leaked. The leaked OHCHR Report caused outrage in Rwanda after it was revealed that the UN intended to accuse Rwandan troops of having killed and raped Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then known as Zaire, between 1993 and 2003. According to the draft leaked Report, the Hutu militia along with Hutu civilians fled across the border into the DRC. Rwanda, aided by Congolese rebel forces, pursued them. These combined forces systematically massacred hundreds of thousands of Rwandan and Congolese Hutus, the majority of which were children, women, and the elderly. According to the leaked OHCHR report, it could be said that a second genocide occurred. 

This makes a mockery of Rwanda's "never again" motto. 

Rwanda threatened to pull its 3,000 plus UN peacekeeping troops out of the Sudanese region of Darfur if the draft report were endorsed for publication. Uganda made a similar threat. 

In October 2010, the official report entitled Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003: Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003, dated August 2010 ( countriesdrc_mapping_report_final_en.pdf) was released. But rather than categorically state that genocide had been carried out by those armies, groups and governments, including Rwanda, the official OHCHR Report inserts the words "allegedly," "possibly" or "apparently" into the final version of descriptions of violations. These amendments could be linked to claims by Rwanda and others mentioned in the Report that the OHCHR Report was based on unsubstantiated documentation and testimony. Did the UN caved in to pressure from Rwanda and other countries named in the OHCHR Report?(/ 

The U.S. should endorse Amnesty International's request that the UN create a structure in which the cases can be heard and trials conducted. In addition, the U.S. should reexamine its relationship with the Kagame, well on his way to becoming another president-for- life.