The recently leaked United Nations report has generated much debate. The report maps ten years (1993-2003) of human rights abuses in the Congo. The most damning aspect of the report says that Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) committed atrocities in the Congo that “could be classified as crimes of genocide.”
Rwanda has responded fiercely to the accusation of genocide and has threatened to withdraw its soldiers from UN peacekeeping efforts in Darfur and elsewhere. The contents of the report are not necessarily new; similar charges were made in the 1997 United Nations led study by Roberto Garreton. The difference is that the United Nations is now poised to put its imprimatur on the charges of genocide, and Rwanda’s primary backers, the United States and Britain, do not appear to have blocked, discouraged or subverted the report as was the case in the late 1990s.
Due in part to pressure from the Rwandan government, the report that was supposed to be released last week has been delayed until October 1st.
Human Rights Watch researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg says the report is of “immense historical importance.” Over 200 Congolese human rights groups, many of which collaborated with the UN investigative team on the report, have called on the United Nations to endorse and publish the report.
The report has the potential to restructure the manner in which Western governments deal with the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa. Eyes are on the United States and Britain in particular. Both countries have covered for Rwanda and given Paul Kagame carte blanche, in spite of existing US law (PL 109-456) that would hold Rwanda accountable for its destructive and destabilizing actions in the Congo.
The call from the Congolese people for justice has been consistent for the past fourteen years. Will the world finally listen and act? Today is the world’s Congo moment. The leaked UN report is a call to all justice seekers and fighters against mass atrocities and genocide to break the silence and stand for justice in the heart of Africa.