The New Times (Kigali)

29 September 2012

Africa: Rwanda Scholars Speak Out On DRC

Several Rwandan university dons have castigated a report by United Nations Group of Experts on Congo that linked Rwanda to the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In a two page brief availed to the media, the academics argue that under normal circumstances UN could not have relied entirely on Congolese government as the primary source of evidence to prove that Rwanda was aiding M23 because in this case, Congo is an accuser and cannot be a witness in its own case.

"If DRC brought a charge against Rwanda....why then should the bulk of evidence be generated from within its territory?" the group asks in the brief.

Chaired by Prof. Paul Rutayisire, Director of the Centre for Conflict Management at the National University of Rwanda, the 10-member group chronicled DRC crises from the Berlin Conference of 1884 which partitioned Africa, putting some Rwandan communities in the Congo territory.

They say that the credibility of individual members of the UN group of experts, particularly its coordinator, Steve Hege, whom they accuse of being an FDLR sympathiser, was highly questionable.

In several articles prior to his UN appointment, Hege made the case for FDLR, while questioning the legitimacy of the Rwandan leadership.

FDLR is a militia outfit based in eastern Congo whose ranks are composed of mainly participants of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

"Not surprisingly, Steve Hege and his team focused their research on sources sympathetic to FDLR," the dons charge.

A UN group of experts report released recently accused Rwanda of aiding M23 rebels who mutinied against Kinshasa government citing the latter's failure to fulfil its part of the bargain in a 2009 agreement that had brought a semblance of peace in eastern Congo.

Rwanda denied the allegations in a subsequent rebuttal.

And the academics say that Rwanda, a member state of the UN, was not treated fairly because it was denied the right to be heard as provided for under the UN Charter.

"It is unacceptable to conduct an investigation of such magnitude on a UN member state behind its back," the group talks of the clandestine manner in which the experts carried out their investigation.

In reference to DRC's Rwandophone community, the academics note that although some Rwandans were forced into Congo during the colonial demarcation of borders, they have never contested any of the successive governments, yet they have continously been a target of systematic discrimination and mistreatment.

The team seconds the roadmap provided by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) as the way forward for peace in the Congo.

"Publishing of reports aimed at divisiveness rather than unity will only succeed in further inflaming the relative stability being experienced in the Great Lakes region," they warn.

They also advise Congo government to look into accusations of discrimination levelled against it by the Banyamurenge population residing in the eastern part of the country as part of the effort in search of peace.

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