10 August 2012

Rwanda: Survivors Petition UN Over Lead Expert on Congo

Photo: Martine Perret/UN
UN peacekeepers in DR Congo (file photo): The Rwandan government has contested the report's finding that several graves belonged to rebel forces and asserts that they were UN peacekeepers.

Ibuka, an umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors' associations, has petitioned the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, over the coordinator of the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, who they say, openly supports a terrorist group with links to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Ibuka's open letter to the UN Secretary General raises concerns over Steve Hege, a man survivors consider to be an ideological warrior and supporter of perpetrators of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Prof. Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the head of IBUKA, told The New Times yesterday that the petition which he signed on Wednesday was copied to 20 foreign diplomatic missions based in Kigali.

"Based on the concerns we have highlighted, such as bias against Rwanda and his open sympathy for the FDLR, we first of all wish that he is removed from the group of experts as he is not fit to be there," Dusingizemungu told The New Times.

The group recently accused Rwanda of backing DRC's M-23 rebels, an allegation Kigali has since rebutted.

"We also would like to see the reports he previously contributed to not given any value as he has demonstrated serious bias."

In the petition, Ibuka stresses that even though Hege describes himself as a "specialist" or "Consultant" on DRC, in his writings, especially a fact sheet entitled; 'Understanding the FDLR', he advances arguments in favour of the genocidal forces who escaped into the then-Zaire after killing a million of their fellow Rwandans in 1994.

Some of Hege's sympathies for FDLR are expressed in a February 24, 2009 document, he wrote while working as an associate for Peace Appeal Foundation.

"Mr. Steve Hege shows that the FDLR are not perpetrators, but victims of violent atrocities. This is textbook revisionism: victim is violator," reads part of Ibuka's petition.

"Mr. Hege has also been working on Kivu conflict settlement since around 2000 during which he has authored or contributed to various disturbing works that undermine the suffering the Tutsi have endured."

Ibuka also brings to the UN Secretary General's attention the fact that in the same document, Hege left nothing to imagination when it comes to his prejudice and negative views on modern Rwanda.

"It should be noted that this document was online until it was uncovered on July 31, 2012. Within a day of the revelation, the article was removed," reads part of Ibuka's petition.

The government has also requested the UN to investigate circumstances under which Hege was appointed as coordinator of the UN Group of Experts on DRC despite his open support for the FDLR militia.

Speaking on the sidelines of the just concluded meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on the current Congo crisis, Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, early this week told The New Times that Kigali expected the UN to investigate Hege's questionable impartiality on Congo and regional realities, particularly his alleged FDLR sympathies.

Ever since fleeing into eastern DRC after perpetrating the 1994 Genocide, elements in the former Rwandan regime's military and political leadership who masterminded the killing of over one million Rwandans reorganised and formed an armed wing with the intention to forcefully return to Rwanda.

The FDLR also counts among its ranks the original members of the Interahamwe death squads during the 1994 Genocide.

Sylvestre Mudacumura, the overall military commander of Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi (FOCA), FDLR's military wing created in 2003, was deputy commander of the Presidential Guard in Rwanda in 1994.

He was recently indicted bye the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed in the Congo.

The militia group has maimed, looted, raped, killed with impunity and dispersed hundreds of civilian communities in eastern DRC.

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