Troubling developments in the Great Lakes region

It has been difficult to fully understand the nature and causes of conflicts in the Great Lakes region because much information is kept away from public view or distorted in favor of Nilotic Tutsi and against Bantu Hutu.

A combination of geopolitical conflicts over Great Lake’s resources in collaboration with Tutsi, anti-sectarian laws in Uganda and Rwanda and reporting the region largely since 1994 in the wake of Rwanda genocide has left many things unsaid like the fact that Tutsi committed genocide against Hutu in Burundi in 1965, 1972, 1988 and 1993 as recorded by Lemarchand (1994) and reported by Patrick Duport in the undated paper titled “The Sub-regional context of the crises in Rwanda and Burundi”.

Evidence is turning up that RPA (Rwanda Patriotic Army) committed atrocities against Hutu people since 1990 but as Amnesty International has reported “The international community appears to be making excuses for the new Rwandese authorities and turning a blind eye to human rights violations committed by RPA soldiers on the ground that they are not as serious as those committed by its predecessor” (New Africa December 1994).

Yusufu Bangura has warned that “In a context of ethnic divisions and social tensions, militarism may fan the flames of genocide as all parties to the conflict may be forced to operate in terms of ethnic survival. … It is important to note that elements within the ranks of the militarists are the same ones that committed genocide against Hutu refugees and rebuffed all efforts by the UN to investigate the crime. … Militarism breeds a culture of violence and empowers those with guns at the expense of civic groups and pro-democracy political parties [as is happening in Uganda now]”(West Africa 19 October-1 November 1998).

It is important to note at this juncture that some governments hesitate to declare genocide because “Genocide is a crime that, under international law obliges certain responses from states and organizations with a commitment to human rights”(Current History April 1995). You also need to note that “Initially, the Rwandans [RPF government] requested the formation of an international court. But when the UN Security Council decided to locate the tribunal outside the country and not to allow the tribunal to use the death penalty, Rwanda, which then held one of the security council’s seats, cast the lone dissenting vote against the court”(legalaffairs September/October 2002).

It is also believed that Rwanda cast the lone vote against the establishment of the international tribunal because in establishing the tribunal the Security Council decided that it should “prosecute persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in that country [Rwanda] and Rwandese citizens responsible for such acts committed in neighboring states between 1 January and 31 December 1994”(Chronicle March 1995). Rwanda government cooperation with the tribunal has been less than satisfactory. Wendy Davis has observed that “… Rwanda is disrupting cooperation for political gain, to prevent the tribunal’s chief prosecutor Carla de Ponte from indicting Tutsi members of the Rwandan army for war crimes allegedly committed against Hutu in 1994”(legalaffairs September/October 2002).

The international community has turned a blind eye to protect Rwanda government and soldiers. Here are some examples.

1. The Gersony report which concluded that “… there was a prevalence of systematic and sustained killing and persecution of civilian Hutus by the RPF” (Sadako Ogata 2005) was never published.

2. Sadako Ogata also reported that in southern and southeastern regions of Butare, Kibungo and parts of Kigali “Large scale and indiscriminate killings of men, women, children including the sick and the elderly, were consistently reported. Particularly random and violent were mass killings at meetings”. These killings took place after Hutu soldiers and militia had left and “Ten thousand Tutsi returnees from recent and old times armed with spears and bow and arrows were present” (Sadako Ogata 2005). The report wasn’t acted on.

3. Jean N. Gahururu reports that the late Sendashonga former minister of the interior in RPF government who was assassinated in Nairobi, Kenya had agreed to testify before the International Court on Rwanda. “This former dignitary of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, who had documented the genocide and massacres of Hutu and democratic Tutsi committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Front from 1990 to today[1998], was determined to dismantle the myth of the good liberator [RPF], who went to war to stop the genocide of April 1994. Might that not be not the reason he was assassinated?(EIR June 5, 1998). The international community kept silent.

4. Catharine Newbury writes “After taking power in 1994 the RPA [Rwanda Patriotic Army] engaged in massacres of Hutu in some regions. In 1995 dramatic cases of army brutality sent shock waves of fear through the camps. During the Kibeho massacre in April, at least 2000 and perhaps as many as 8000 persons were killed when RPA moved to close a displaced persons camp in southwestern Rwanda; in September more than 100 villages and their mayor were massacred at Kanama in northwestern Rwanda”(United States Institute of Peace. Zaire: Predicament and Prospects 1997).

5. The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano pointed out that Rwanda in reality has suffered a ‘double genocide’. This second genocide … was a genocide of Hutu … continued in the forests of Zaire, where Hutu fugitives were massacred for months, without protection from the international community”(EIR June 18, 1999).

6. In an interview with Daniel N. Kalinali during the Commonwealth Summit in Kampala Uganda boasted while responding to a question about hunting down and killing genocidaires and Interahamwe in DRC “We did that very very successfully, absolutely” (The Africa Report 2008). But how did Kagame and his soldiers distinguish genocidaires and Interahamwe from civilians since the three groups mixed and wore the same clothes?

That Uganda and Rwanda have managed to destabilize the region for so long and without condemnation is because they have external support. Lakongo Bafalikike reports that “It is hard for anybody to believe that Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, three small and poor countries which produce coffee, tea, cotton and bananas, but no mineral exports can afford to attack an immense country such as the Congo, so rich in minerals … One wonders how they have managed to sustain the war for over three years now. They have dared to do so because they are looting Con go’s wealth and enjoy the backing of external forces (West Africa 30th September-6th October 2002).

It is also reported that during the pursuit of genocidaires and Interahamwe a foreign country “… provided the Rwandans [RPF/A] with information about refuge movements obtained from satellite surveillance of the area, thus helping them track those who left the area” (Debra Liang-Fenton 2004).

Hutu continue to be treated by foreigners as the ‘bad guys’ who should be hunted down and punished severely. But we now know that RPF participated in the killing of Tutsi and moderate Hutu during the genocide period in 1994. The killing of Hutu by Tutsi in genocide style began in Burundi in 1965, 1972, 1988 and 1993. The genocide in Burundi is the first in the world after the holocaust.

While many people in the Great Lakes region want peace and security, it is increasingly becoming difficult to imagine when that situation will arrive. There are still threats and the culture of impunity is still very much alive. The Hutu people have suffered disproportionately beginning in Burundi when the first pre-independence prime minister designate was assassinated by Tutsi rivals through a hired Greek gunman shortly before independence in 1962.

The Social Revolution of 1959 in Rwanda was sparked by Tutsi youth when they attacked a Hutu who had just been appointed a local chief by Belgian authorities. It was the Tutsi that began attacking the newly established Hutu led government of Rwanda from Uganda shortly after independence.

In spite of these facts about Tutsi aggression, Hutu people continue to be condemned for problems in the region. By and large, Hutu have been more victims than perpetrators of conflict. It is the Tutsi people since they met Bantu Hutu in the region in the 15th century that caused instability and insecurity, not Hutus. Unless Tutsi culture of violence with impunity is uprooted, the region won’t enjoy peace in many years hence. A permanent mechanism needs to be put in place so that another M23 doesn’t emerge.

United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) is trying to bring about peace in the region by non-violent means. We call on peace-loving countries and organizations around to extend a helping hand in this worthwhile endeavor.