MAC: Mines and Communities

Rwanda ex-commander facing trial over Congo massacres

Published by MAC on 2015-07-04

There's the prospect that a prominent former African military commander will soon be extradited to the International Criminal Court, to face charges of involvement in the torture and death of hundreds - if not thousands - of people, much of which caused by the mining of "conflict minerals".

That man is Emmanuel Karenzi Karake who was head of Rwanda's National Intelligence and Security Services between 1994 and 1997, during the
period when Rwanda forces invaded large parts of DR Congo's Kivu provinces, and plundered coltan. (See: Beyond "conflict minerals"; The Congo's resource curse lives on)

Mr Karake was arrested last month in London on indictments issued by a Spanish judge. He was promptly granted conditional bail by a UK court. The extradition request is likely to be decided one way or the other next October.

Meanwhile, Karake has appointed as his lawyer none other than Cherie Blair QC, whose husband is (of course) Tony Blair. The ex-British prime minister continues to unequivocally back Paul Kigame, president of Rwanda, for doing a good job in developing the country's domestic human and natural
resources. (See: One war criminal backs another in resources war)

The Beginning Of The End For Kagame?

By Justin Podur

28 June 2015

On June 22, 2015 it was reported that the director-general of Rwanda's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, was arrested in London. One report , by Judi Rever in the Digital Journal, refers to Karenzi Karake accurately as "Kagame's spy chief". Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, rose to power as an intelligence chief himself - working for Yoweri Museveni, the ruler of Uganda, during the 1980s Bush War in that country. Kagame would not choose a spy chief lightly, and Karenzi Karake is absolutely in Kagame's inner circle.

Interpol is responsible for the arrest, and was acting on indictments issued by a Spanish Judge, Fernando Andreu Merelles, in 2008. Merelles issued indictments for forty of Kagame's men, all of whom were in command positions of Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) at the end of the Rwandan Civil War and genocide of 1994. Having defeated and replaced the Rwandan government that committed the genocide, Kagame's RPF hunted and massacred Rwandan refugees during and after the Rwandan civil war, in the areas they controlled (and in the DR Congo).

The evidence of these massacres is irrefutable. In standard accounts of the genocide, including the basic Human Rights Watch book Leave No One to Tell the Story by Alison Des Forges, massacres by the RPF are presented, though no estimates are given on their scale. A famously buried report by UN investigator Robert Gersony, which has since surfaced, estimated the scale to be in the tens of thousands - during the civil war. Some of the largest, and best documented massacres by the RPF occurred after they had already won the war - the worst and most infamous being the Kibeho massacre of April 1995.

Scholar Gerard Prunier, who wrote one of the standard accounts of the Rwandan genocide and one of the major books on the Congo wars, Africa's World War (Oxford University Press 2009), was a long-time friend of the RPF since before the Civil War. In his book , he expresses considerable understanding and empathy for the RPF, arguing that RPF violence "had to be seen in the context of the war and of the genocide", that there were going to be some "unavoidable revenge killings". But when one of the few Hutu members of the RPF, Seth Sendashonga, also a friend of Prunier's, tried and failed to stop the Kibeho massacre, after sending 400 memos over 13 months to Kagame to try to stop these killings (memos to which Kagame studiously avoided replying in writing), Prunier was forced to start changing his mind. Sendashonga went into exile and was assassinated in Kenya in 1998 - Prunier reports this murder as causing his final break with the RPF.

Prunier called the RPF's campaign of killings "coherent", with their "focal point" being "undivided political control". Targets included "friends and family of genocidaire, educated people, PARMEHUTU (from the Hutu political party), and opponents" - a broad and ever-expanding pool of potential victims. The RPF, Prunier wrote, viewed the Hutu majority population, whether they were involved in politics or not, whether they had anything to do with the the genocide or not, as a "permanent danger" to be kept at bay with “random mass killings to instill fear and defanged by neutralizing real or potential leaders”.

Merelles's indictments are based on testimony by ex-RPF soldiers, like the 2014 BBC documentary that stirred so much controversy. The 182-page legal document outlines specific charges against specific commanders for specific massacres in different parts of Rwanda. Like the BBC documentary, it has generated enraged responses from Kagame's supporters, both in Rwanda and in the West. The standard enraged response is to counter-accuse, and attack the source as being "pro-genocide". The idea is that Interpol and a Spanish judge are, in 2015, working on behalf of the Hutu forces that committed the genocide and were militarily defeated, scattered, hunted, and slaughtered by the RPF (along with hundreds of thousands of perfectly innocent civilians) two decades ago, during which some of their leaders were also convicted in the International Criminal Court.

The explanation might be somewhat simpler - that, according to this judge, the fact that Kagame and the RPF fought against a government that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians did not grant them the right to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Merelles's 2008 indictments are not the only documents sitting out there in the public domain that contain enough evidence to condemn Kagame and the commanders around him to jail. There are also a number of United Nations reports , including the UN Mapping Report on the Congo and a series of reports on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are also indictments from another judge, Jean-Louis Brugiere of France, from 2006. Most who know about Kagame's crimes assumed that these documents would mainly collect dust.

But slowly over the past five or so years, and especially since the BBC documentary was aired last year, even as Kagame seeks to change the constitution to remove term limits and stay in office beyond 2017, it does look like something has changed in the West's treatment of him. The automatic smear that anyone seeking accountability for the RPF's crimes must be a 'genocidaire' is not sticking as well it used to. The evidence that Kagame and the RPF are responsible for assassinations and massacres in Rwanda and Congo, as well as plunder and occupation in the Congo, is overwhelming and hard to ignore, as hard as Kagame's supporters try. The idea that the 1994 genocide gives Kagame and the RPF impunity to commit crimes against humanity holds so little weight that no one is willing to say it out loud. Now his spy chief has been arrested in one of the countries, the UK, that has supported Kagame the most unconditionally. If the UK is not safe for a war criminal, then where in the West is?

If Kagame can't shake off the stench of crimes against humanity, he may find himself becoming another one of the West's dispensable dictators. Joseph Kabila has, after all, demonstrated that he can fulfill Western interests in the DR Congo directly , without the need for Rwanda's middle-management - especially if the UN continues to provide soldiers to do it.

Kagame and his once-patron, Museveni of Uganda, were once touted by the US as the 'New African Leaders'. But perhaps they are approaching their shelf life If so, they may suddenly be ushered off stage and replaced some time soon. If the West remains the arbiter of what happens there, the people of the region can have little to hope for from their replacements.

Justin Podur is the author of Haiti's New Dictatorship (Pluto Press 2012). He has contributed chapters to Empire's Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan (University of Toronto Press 2013) and Real Utopia (AK Press 2008). He is an Associate Professor at York University's Faculty of Environmental Studies.

A shameful miscarriage of justice


12 August 2015

On Monday, 10 August 2015, General Karenzi Karake, the head of Rwanda's notorious National Security and Intelligence Service, was acquitted by a British court. Rwanda's spy chief had been arrested at London Heathrow Airport on June 20 2015, on a European arrest warrant, in connection with deaths of Spanish and other European citizens. General Karake, represented by Cherie Blair among others, had been released on bail of UK £1 million pending extradition hearings in October of 2015. The acquittal of General Karenzi Karake by the British Court today is a shameful miscarriage of justice. Here are ten reasons why:

First, it is a demonstration that the nexus of money, power and big interests can override the quest for justice. Only President Paul Kagame, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie Blair are the winners at the expense of Rwandans, Spanish and European citizens who perished at the hands of Rwanda's brutal regime.

Second, it runs against the fundamental tenets of European Union Law, the basis of which is the sanctity of the lives of European citizens. General Karenzi Karake was arrested on a European arrest warrant, on charges of being implicated in the killings of European citizens. He has now been acquitted on the basis of a simple technicality.

Third, it is against the general thrust of British law. If one assumes that British law seeks to protect British citizens and British institutions, within a larger context of European and international law, there are indeed fewer parallels than Karenzi Karake's. Not surprisingly, as in the case of General Pinochet, the powerful and monied interests in the British establishment have exploited a clause in British law to get their way.

Fourth, it runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes that: "everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."

As well, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, which recognizes: "on the one hand, that fundamental human rights stem from the attitudes of human beings, which justifies their international protection and on the other hand that the reality and respect of peoples’ rights should necessarily guarantee human rights."

Fifth, it fuels the impunity that has characterized the Kagame regime since the genocide days of 1994. Built on a false narrative that since it stopped genocide nobody should question its human rights abuses, the regime thrives on international guilt, as it piles war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even potential acts of genocide. The United Kingdom political establishment has been consistently shielding president Kagame from repeated calls by Rwandans and some in the international community for accountability. General Karake's acquittal is the latest and most dramatic demonstration that gives President Kagame a nod to continue killing with impunity.

Sixth, it polarizes Rwandan society. The most enduring and yet pernicious dichotomy is the Hutu-Tutsi ethnic divide that has always been manipulated and exploited by the ruling elites. The current situation in Rwanda is characterized by the rule of a tiny armed clique within the minority Tutsi community. None of the members of this clique has been brought to account for the thousands of crimes committed against members of the Hutu community in Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On the contrary many members of the Hutu community have been charged, convicted and punished in relation to the crime of genocide against the Tutsi. No true reconciliation is possible without truth telling that sheds light on the crimes committed against members of both communities.

Seventh, by rewarding President Kagame's threats, and narrow considerations of British interests in him as their champion, the acquittal sends the usual message to Kagame that it pays to insult, threaten and throw tantrums. In the current state of affairs in the Great Lakes regions where Kagame has played a perpetual neighborhood bully, the British signal is to go ahead as planned, change the constitution to become life president, and do as you wish in Burundi and DRC. After General Karenzi's arrest, President Kagame had the most unkind things to say against the British people. Eye to eye, the British establishment has winked. An emboldened Kagame will now move ahead with more internal repression and external aggression towards 2017 and beyond.

Eighth, it is immoral. The action to acquit General Karenzi Karake on a legal technicality without considering the greater interests of society and those who lost their lives shakes the moral foundations of law. British law has been conveniently managed to serve the interests of few against those of the powerless majority.

Ninth, because the British justice system has failed to provide justice to those who demand and deserve it, it is unfair. The famous American scholar John Rawls, in an often quoted idea in his A Theory of Justice reminds us about the requirements of justice as fairness:

"Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests."

The British political class has bargained away justice and handed a political concession to President Kagame.

Tenth, and finally, it fuels conflict in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. The framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were troubled by humankind's propensity to rebellion and war when, in the preamble, they stated: "Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law."

British courts have failed to exercise the rule of law fairly to protect the human rights of ordinary Spanish, European, Rwandan and African people. In doing so, they have served war-makers rather than peacemakers. It is an action that will forever be remembered as one of the most shameful miscarriages of justice in the annals of British and international jurisprudence.

* Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa was ambassador of Rwanda to the United States, and former Chief of Staff to President Kagame. He is the author of  ‘Healing A Nation’.



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