Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

Rwanda: Group of Experts Opposed to Solving DR Congo Crisis - Mushikiwabo

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/UN Photo
Displaced girl in DRC (file photo).

Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo has said the methodology employed by the United Nations Group of Experts is 'wholly flawed'. In an interview with the Metro newspaper published yesterday, Mushikiwabo noted that above all, what is at hand is a moral disgrace committed in the name of the UN.

"A sympathizer or, more accurately, apologist of genocide perpetrators has been put in a position to sit in judgment of the victims, the Rwandan people," she said of the group's coordinator, Steven Hege.

According to Mushikiwabo, fact-based evidence, which was vetted by Washington, D.C law firm Akin Gump and submitted to the Security Council is damning in the extreme and should have disqualified Hege from taking the position as coordinator of the Group of Experts in the first place.

"First and foremost, Hege has served as an out-and-out apologist for the remnants of the very genocidal forces who, after committing their genocidal crimes, became known as the FDLR after taking refuge into the eastern DRC when they were chased out of Rwanda in 1994," Mushikiwabo told Metro.

The foreign minister also says the UN process for the appointment and vetting of 'experts' is broken and in desperate need of repair. "The failed expert selection on Congo, which has somehow turned into an indictment of Rwanda, is but one of a number of recent miscarriages of justice of the same kind hurting African countries, including expert panels on Cote d'Ivoire and Somalia-Eritrea. The time has now come for the international community to know about the treatment being meted out to powerless countries like Rwanda through unjust, outdated and punitive international mechanisms such as the UN Group of Experts when it falls into the hands of individuals with a personal political agenda," she says.

Mushikiwabo's interview with the New York newspaper was published before a 'leaked' UN report alleging that defense minister General James Kabarebe is commanding a rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo together with Uganda.

According to the report that was due to be released tomorrow, Rwanda and Uganda have continued to support M23 rebels who have gained control of the eastern part of DR Congo. The report was also conveniently leaked a day before the UN votes on Rwanda's security council bid today.

"Both Rwanda and Uganda have been supporting M23. Rwandan officials exercise overall command and strategic planning for M23," the 44-page report said. The report adds that while Rwandan officials coordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations, Uganda's more subtle support to M23 allowed the rebel group's political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations.

Yesterday, both Kigali and Kampala denied the claims with Mushikiwabo expressing disappointment that the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo continued to engage in a determined political campaign to indict Rwanda.

"The leak of the final report of the Group of Experts confirms what Rwanda has maintained ever since Steven Hege's incendiary anti-Rwanda writings came to our attention: he is pursuing a political agenda that has nothing to do with getting at the true causes of conflict in the eastern DRC," Mushikiwabo said in a statement.

Mushikiwabo also pointed out that any effort to engage constructively with Hege has been twisted out of context and used against Rwanda. "Rwanda will not allow itself to be dragged any deeper into this farce by responding to the Group's far-fetched but fact-free assertions," she said.

In Kampala, Uganda's Foreign Affairs State Minister Okello Oryem said the leaking of the report can only be in bad faith and intended to cause mischief and undermine the regional efforts to find a durable solution to the conflict in Eastern DRC.

"Uganda as the Chair of ICGLR and neighbor remains fully committed to spearhead the regional efforts to ensure security and stability in Eastern DRC as mandated by the ICGLR Heads of State and Government under the 2006 Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region," he said.

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