opinionBy Albert Rudatsimburwa
The Coordinator of the UN Group of Experts on the conflict in Eastern Congo, Steve Hege, has of recent been on a roll when it comes to pulling out rabbits out of his hat of tricks, making revelations after revelations about Rwanda's alleged support to the M23 insurrection in Eastern Congo.
In fact, he just might find his place in the Guinness Book of World Records if ever such a category existed. All jokes aside though, the recent low blow he has dealt to Rwanda is no laughing matter.
In his latest addendum to the addendum the UN "Experts" noted "during its own visit to Kanombe Military Barracks on 25 July, the Group observed several fresh graves in the cemetery behind the hospital. When the Group inquired about the graves, RDF officers stated that peacekeepers had recently been killed in Darfur. The Group notes, however, that there have been no deceased RDF peacekeepers in Darfur since March 2012."
If these so-called experts had bothered asking for a detailed account of the deceased, here is what they would have found out:
On the Eve of their visit there, July 24th 2012 to be exact, a funeral service was held for Lieutenant Vincent Mirenge who served in Darfur.
On July 13th 2012, Sergeant Jean Claude TUBANAMBAZI, deployed in Darfur, was buried in Kanombe
On June 30th 2012, Sergeant-Major Muhanguzi Jackson, who served as a peacekeeper in southern Sudan was also buried in the area visited by the experts at Kanombe.
Notwithstanding the number of RDF soldiers who die of other cause, natural or otherwise, like the Sergeant who recently drowned in river Nasho, or the one who was attacked by hippopotamus at the shores of the Akagera River.
All these experts needed to do was ask, and they would have received a detailed account of the deceased and the circumstances of their death. However little esteem I hold for Mr. Hege and his underhanded ways, I can hardly imagine him being that incompetent at his job. In fact, I believe him to be a very smart guy, in a sad, twisted, conniving kind of way... but to stoop so low as to dance on actual people's graves, that's just plain wrong! Not since the fall of Nazi Germany had the world witnessed such disregard to human dignity beyond the grave.
On a lighter note, this one should make you chuckle if there is any sense of humor left in you after the first part; according to Mr Hege and his colleagues, an Rwanda Defense Forces ID was recovered on the battlefield, written in French of all languages, with the word defense spelled with a 'c' instead of an 's' (defence)! For God's sake! Hasn't the world learnt anything from Mike Fuhrman and the OJ trial? If it don't fit, you must acquit? And to top it off, here comes the smoking gun in the form of an alleged M23 combatant claiming to have been forcibly enrolled along with 300 others and loaded and shipped off to the DRC in five RDF trucks... on July 1st at Amahoro Stadium when the whole Nation was celebrating the 50th Independence Day at the same location! Are you kidding me?
Back to the report, it concludes that the M23 under the military command of Sultan Makenga could never have captured Rutshuru and Bunagana from the FARDC and therefore the allegation from the Congolese Intelligence stating that 2000 RDF troops crossed to support the rebels MUST be true. How they would have gotten there doesn't seem to matter in the eyes of our experts. Did they just casually walk in front of the MONUSCO and the FARDC or through UPDF (Uganda) territory? Interestingly enough, all the UN reports since 2008 have documented the many times the CNDP has defeated the FARDC under the command of the same Sultan Makenga in the same region. Moreover the M23 had already a very large quantity of weapons that used to belong to CNDP (see 2008/9 UN reports), and has significantly increased their weapon stocks through a series of successful ambushes specifically aimed at capturing weapons and ammunition throughout May and June 2012.
From reliable sources we know that the "Experts" are aware of the existence of an intelligence unit from the FARDC (called T2) tasked to come up with evidence on Rwanda's involvement. Some parts of the report mention direct participation of RDF troops (Special Forces, elements of the 305th Brigade and the 99th Battalion) under Lieutenant Colonel Kitoko Kadida and RDF General Emmanuel Ruvusha. Despite the Group of Experts' pledge to take advantage of the invitation (reiterated several times) by Rwandan officials to access any individuals and location in order to verify allegations obtained in the DRC, no verifications whatsoever were carried out by them to establish the whereabouts of the mentioned officers and their units. Probably because they are convinced Rwandan soldiers are moonlighting.
The icing on the cake is the part where the 'experts' blatantly use out of context remarks from Generals Kabarebe and Kayonga to buttress allegations that preceded them. Just because Gen. Kayonga acknowledges that the 305th is deployed in Kinigi does not corroborate the allegation that RDF operate in Bunagana. Just because Gen Kabarebe says RDF forces can clearly be distinguished from M23 forces does not corroborate allegations from eyewitnesses in Congo who say the RDF is present.
Steve Hege, the man in charge with a freshly disqualified authority, is on a mission. This latest appendix is the sequel of his disqualification from the job. In order to re-qualify he believes he needs to prove his stand and impose his vision of the scenery by any means necessary.
His position won't change so the UN must take a decision. Is it ready to jeopardize its fragile reputation in the region and offer a perch to revisionists, genocide deniers, FDLR supporters and anti-Rwanda activists? Or is time to go back to the blackboard and reaffirm the values of the World Institution by supporting the fight against terror, racism and genocide? More than time, the Eighth Secretary General of the United Nations needs to take a clear stand on the report and revoke the Group of Experts.
The author is a media owner and manager in Rwanda.