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Rwanda: An Exchange

In response to:

Big Gamble in Rwanda from the March 29, 2007 issue

To the Editors:

Stephen Kinzer’s hagiography of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda [“Big Gamble in Rwanda,” NYR, March 29] is troubling for several reasons, but none more so than its almost total omission of Rwandan policy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). To suggest that Kagame’s invasion of the DRC was merely a result of the failure to crack down on génocidaires is highly misleading, especially considering that the Rwandan army and the Hutu militants rarely ever met in battle. Rather, as noted in several UN reports, Rwandan forces were heavily involved in the exploitation of the DRC’s mineral resources, including diamonds, coltan, and gold. Rwandan forces and their local allies were responsible for mass rape, torture, theft, and killings, and fought the Ugandan army several times in the city of Kisangani, effectively destroying the city—the third largest in the DRC—in the process. The result of all of this was the mass displacement of Congolese civilians, including 1.5 million in March 2001 alone, and the subsequent deaths of several million people.

In light of the above, it is ironic that Kinzer writes that “Kagame believes Rwanda can rise to prosperity by becoming the trade and commercial hub of East and Central Africa, regions awash in economic resources including gold, diamonds, and a spectacular variety of minerals but plagued by inefficiency, corruption, and poverty.” Rather than turning to Kagame to provide regional stability, many Congolese might correctly blame the “inefficiency, corruption, and poverty” in their country on Rwanda.

Elliott Green

Tutorial Fellow

Development Studies Institute

London School of Economics

London, England

To the Editors:

Stephen Kinzer, in his thought-provoking review of books on Rwanda, observes that Judge Bruguière’s charges against President Kagame and his colleagues “have been admitted as evidence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.”

I would be grateful if you would let me add a gloss on that statement. In fact, the judges admitted the French judge’s report into evidence on a limited basis. The Chamber said that in view of the fact that extracts from the report were being used in examination of witnesses in the trial, the full report would be “admitted” as a document in the case to give context. It is one among many thousands of documents admitted. Admitting a document for context involves no decision on the merits of the document. The truth or not of the conclusions of the report are not at this stage in issue in the Chamber. It is by no means certain that the Chamber will finally find it necessary to express an opinion on the truth or accuracy of the judge’s report.

In admitting the report for context, the ICTR judges were following the precedent in the Delalic case at the ICTY when on January 19, 1998, a Chamber said:

The Trial Chamber wishes to make clear that the mere admission of a document into evidence does not in and of itself signify that the statements contained therein will necessarily be deemed to be an accurate portrayal of the facts [full report: www.un.org/icty/celebici/trialc2/decision-e/80119EV21.htm].

Everard O’Donnell

Acting Deputy Registrar

Spokesperson

Senior Legal Officer

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Arusha, Tanzania

Stephen Kinzer replies:

The Rwandan army intervened twice in the Congo during the 1990s to attack tens of thousands of soldiers and militiamen who had fled there after committing the 1994 genocide, and who were organizing a counterinsurgency. If this threat to Rwanda’s stability had not arisen, there would have been no interventions.

Once in the eastern Congo, according to many investigators, Rwanda prospered by exploiting the region’s mineral wealth, as armies and warlords have done for generations. The Congo had descended into chaos, however, long before the 1990s. It began to emerge from its long nightmare only after the overthrow of the Mobutu dictatorship, which was a product of Rwanda’s 1996 invasion.

Contrary to what Mr. Green asserts, Rwandan forces in the Congo repeatedly engaged military and paramilitary units from the defeated genocidal regime. Some of those units fought independently, but others were integrated into the Congolese army. Rwandan leaders took this alliance as proof that a potent threat was developing across their border. That threat provoked their interventions.

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