On January 5, 2015 the United Nations announced that offensive operations by its forces, known as MONUSCO, along with Congolese army elements, are being prepared against the Democratic Forces For the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) based in the east of the Republic of Congo (DRC). This follows a Security Council statement of October 3, 2014 calling for the neutralization of the FDLR if they did not surrender, which itself followed a demand by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, and the South African Development Community made on July 2nd last year that the FDLR demobilise.
The Security Council “rejected any call for political dialogue” and went on to call the FDLR a group of war criminals. This rejection of dialogue based on a false characterization of the FDLR and on a false history of the events in Rwanda and central Africa for the past twenty years is itself a violation of Chapter 1, Article 1 of the UN Charter that states that the purposes of the United Nations are to “maintain peace and security …and to bring about by peaceful means…settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”
It is also surprising since the UN’s own Mapping Exercise Report of 2010 which examined crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Hutu refugees in the DRC between 1996 and 2003 described countless mass atrocities and massacres of those refugees by Rwandan, Burundian, Ugandan and allied forces, amounting to genocide against the Hutus. Those massacres have not stopped since 2003 as several proxy forces of the Rwandans and Ugandans, using various names, and claiming to be Congolese rebels, have continued attacks on Hutus in the DRC as well as on Congolese who got in the way of their objective of looting the resources of the region.
The FDLR is the only force trying to protect Hutu refugees in the DRC from being totally exterminated by the Rwandan and Ugandan forces, the same forces that attacked and pillaged Rwanda between 1990 and 1994 and that have slaughtered several million more Hutus and Congolese since. Because the FDLR is the only effective armed political opposition to the military dictatorship of Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), it is a clear threat to the countries that have mining and resource interests in the DRC and who have been using Uganda and Rwanda as local enforcers to carry out their effective division of the country that makes it easier to control and exploit those resources.
All the countries in the pan-African groups that called for the demobilisation of the FDLR have interests in the resources of the Congo region. All have an interest in continued war in the DRC, its continued division and weakness, and the destruction of any effective opposition to the forces assigned the role of carrying out that policy. This includes the DRC itself whose President, Joseph Kabila, is known to be a partner and agent of Kagame and rules the DRC not in the interests of the Congolese but in the interests of Kagame, Musuveni and their western masters.
It is shocking that some members of the Security Council have not taken seriously their obligations to understand the facts upon which they make their decisions. The Americans and British have been at the heart of the problem from 1990, when they supported the invasion of Rwanda by units of the Ugandan National Resistance Army (NRA), calling themselves the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and commanded by a senior ranking intelligence officer of the NRA, Paul Kagame. They supported 4 years of terrorist attacks against Hutus and local Tutsis by the RPF that included the attack on the town of Ruhengeri in February 1993 in which the RPF massacred 40,000 Hutu civilians before the government forces were able to recapture the town. The evidence of mass atrocities by RPF forces, of assassinations and bombings against civilians and genocide against the Hutus in their final offensive in 1994, has been in the hands of the UN prosecutor at the International War Crimes Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR) since the tribunal was created in 1995. The further witness testimony of these crimes in the trials at the ICTR is extensive and compelling and is echoed in the UN Mapping Report.
These facts have also been in the hands of the UN High Commission for Refugees that was given a report in October 1994 on the systematic and sustained massacres of Hutu civilians in Rwanda by the RPF from April 1994 to the date of the report. Robert Gersony, a USAID employee, attached to the UN provided his report to the UNHCR, which then proceeded to mark it confidential and then, along with the ICTR prosecutor, denied it existed.
This pattern of UN complicity in the mass crimes committed by the RPF, Ugandan and allied western forces in the Rwandan war, has been followed ever since. The evidence is compelling that the CIA, US military forces, and UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda in 1993-94, commanded by Canadian General Dallaire, were involved in helping the RPF overthrow the Rwandan interim government and in preparing the RPF’s final offensive launched on the night of April 6th when the Rwandan President’s plane was shot down by RPF missiles, killing two African heads of state, President Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Ntaryamira, of Burundi. That evidence has long been in the hands of the prosecutor at the ICTR and the western governments who control it. But the UN chose not to charge its own, or the RPF or its western allies for their crimes and instead adopted the RPF propaganda that the Rwandan interim government and armed forces were the guilty parties and charged only Hutus. The FDLR is tarred with the same brush. But complete impunity has been granted to Kagame and his friends. The cover up continues.
But then the UN has a lot to cover up. There was heartrending testimony by Hutu witnesses at the ICTR Military II trial describing the flight of 2 to 3 million Hutu refugees fleeing with the retreating Rwandan Armed forces into Zaire in July 1994, pursued by RPF units intent on exterminating them. The Rwandan government armed forces, disarmed by Congolese forces when they crossed the border, were unable to protect these Hutu refugees when, in 1996, and subsequently, the Rwandans and Ugandans attacked the Hutu refugee camps killing hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians.
The survivors were either forced into the forest or forced to return to Rwanda at gunpoint, on UN planes, only to be thrown into RPF prisons without charge, tortured, or killed en masse. Those who escaped through the forest told of being pursued day and night through thousands of kilometres of jungle and swamps by the RPF and stated that just before being shelled or attacked by those forces they saw spotter planes overhead with either US or UN markings. All the witnesses were consistent on this. Rwandan Army officers testified that they were surprised to see themselves under attack by UN forces in Kigali in support of the RPF in April 1994. A journalist testified that UN officers at Amohoro Stadium, in Kigali, where General Dallaire had his headquarters, stood by and did nothing as RPF soldiers, on a daily basis, selected Hutus seeking protection there, and shot them.
The ICTR prosecutor and the UNHCR also had in their possession a copy of a letter from Paul Kagame, written in August 1994, in which Kagame refers to a meeting with President Musuveni of Uganda and that their “plan for Zaire” was going forward, assisted by the Americans, British, and Belgians. The letter stated that the Hutus were in the way and must be removed at any cost. That letter says a lot and yet it was suppressed until 2009 when it was discovered in prosecution files. In fact that letter indicates that the wars in the DRC were planned long ago and the announcement of the new offensive against the FDLR is a continuation of that plan.
Now the only force that exists to protect the Hutus, the FDLR, is going to be attacked again, by the UN. Once again, the Hutus are betrayed by the international community. The UN has lots of things to answer for in Rwanda and Congo and elsewhere and has long been used to further the interests of the west in Africa in general. That certain members of the Security Council, who should know better, go along with protecting those really responsible for the tragedy that is central Africa and Africa as a whole, and for the crimes committed there, is an indictment of the entire UN system.
It is ironic that on December 11, 2014th the UN general assembly voted to reopen the investigation into the death of the UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold who was killed in then Rhodesia when his plane went down near Ndola. The report of the investigative commission that examined new information stated that there is evidence that the plane was shot down by another aircraft and that the US and British and Belgian governments were likely involved. The death of Hammarskjold is intimately connected with the murder of Patrice Lumumba that led to the installation of Mobutu as President of Congo. We now know that the Rwanda war was the first phase of the greater war for control of the resources of the Congo basin, which was beginning to slip from the west, as Mobutu began to turn towards China. That long and terrible war is not over and it is the UN itself that wants to keep it going.
Those who killed Lumumba, and, likely Hammarskjold, are responsible for all the wars and atrocities and millions of deaths since. Instead of a single investigation into the death of the UN Secretary General, there should instead be an international investigation of all the crimes committed in the Great Lakes region of Africa that followed upon the deaths of Hammarskjold and Lumumba and which continue today. Until then, the UN offensive must be stopped and a dialogue must be started between all the parties involved.
Indeed, the political wing of the FDLR, the Coalition of Rwanda political Parties (CPC) stated in a press release on December 31, 2014 that it protests the continued protection by the US and UN of the real criminals in the Rwandan and Congo tragedy, called on African leaders and freedom fighters to come together to resolve the conflict peacefully and stated that the only way forward was dialogue, peace and justice for all, the very thing the UN rejects.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.