Congo: The UN Mapping Report & the Responsibility to Justice

Continuing my quest to catch up on Congo-related conference blogging, I wanted to share some notes from the December 2010 Great Lakes Policy Forum discussion of the UN mapping report.  The GLPF’s official summary can be downloaded here, and Laura Seay has her own summary here.

One commentator took on the political economy of the report’s publication, noting that many Congolese found psychological and emotional value in seeing the UN provide proof of crimes they had long known to have occurred.  However, the report’s existence also complicates peacebuilding efforts in the region.  “There’s blood on almost everyone’s hands,” as almost every government in the region has some members who’ve been guilty of massive human rights abuses at some point.  This is clearly visible in Rwanda’s treatment of Laurent Nkunda, who will “probably never go on trial” because he knows too much about the crimes committed by all sides during the wars.  In the end, she believes that transitional justice is unlikely to happen unless outside donors put strong pressure on regional governments.

Another commentator provided a bit of historical perspective on both violence and justice in eastern Congo, pointing out that political and social coalitions around justice in the DRC are very weak and fragmented now compared to 5 or 6 years ago.  There has been a simultaneous growth in the entrenchment of violence with economic interests, especially trade and mining.  Part of this entanglement was due to the desire of foreign armies to “do war on the cheap” by getting locals to do their killing for them, which provided space for “sophisticated entrepreneurs of violence” to use access to weapons to their own commercial ends.

Whilst the report itself only covered the period 1993 – 2003, the ensuing discussion also touched upon more recent developments in both Congo and Rwanda.  As one speaker pointed out, there’s been a welcome increase in Western attention to gender-based violence in the eastern DRC of late – but it’s important to avoid reducing issues of justice to the prosecution of rape and war crimes.  What the Congo ultimately needs is a “massive institution-building project” on the scale of decades, in order to rebuilt judicial systems that might handle everything from property rights and contracts to war crimes.  The international community has also largely elided the issues of land rights and citizenship for Rwandaphone Congolese in the Kivus, which remain at the heart of the ongoing conflict in the region.

That said, the “idea that the Congolese are doomed to fight each other is ridiculous.”  There are spaces in the DRC that are relatively well-governed, such as Butembo and Katanga.  More attention is needed to the factors that enable better governance in the Congolese context.

Finally, a number of interesting points that didn’t quite fit in elsewhere in the above narrative also came up:

  • Rwanda was described as “a boiling cauldron under a surface that looks calm,” with Hutu resentment running high, and ethnic identities remaining highly salient despite official attempts to ban their use.
  • The US values stability over all else in the region.  Kagame and Mobutu both contributed to stability, as did Museveni, and the US is willing to turn a blind eye to many other abuses because of this.
  • Africa more generally is “kind of the neglected stepchild of diplomacy,” with some dedicated diplomats, but others who got dumped there with little previous knowledge of the region.

Did anyone else attend this meeting of the GLPF, or the one that took place on March 24 on human security in the DRC?  Would love to hear thoughts if so!

14 thoughts on “Congo: The UN Mapping Report & the Responsibility to Justice

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  1. “do you think that would fill in for the pain of having has your relatives slaughtered by the RPF? Why is so difficult for you to understand that Hutus want justice just as Tutsis?”

    Well first however many people were killed by the RPF, HRW, no friend of the govt estimates about 30,000, this is not equivalent to the genocide of a million people. So have the survivors of the Genocide got justice? You say you know a lot about grassroots opinion in Rwanda, have you asked them? I think you need to put yourself in their shoes first. Most killers have been released haven’t they? Survivors live alongside them. Has Gacaca given justice to the survivors? It is not perfect but there it is.

    “fewer men wielding AK-47 could restore my confidence”

    well this is in response to men throwing grenades into groups of people waiting for a bus. “fewer men (Hutu?)throwing grenades” might lead to fewer men with AK47s.

    “I want freedom of speech, to write , read and speak without fear of government reprisal.” Fine I agree with that but not to include ethnic politics (which Ingabire seems to want to bring back) or garbage journalism. The fibre optic network is in we just await the link ups in Uganda and Tanzania. When you get online you can read what you like? A govt that seeks to put everyone online must be aiming in the right direction.

    “I want the unconditional release of political prisoners starting with Mme. Victoire Ingabire.”

    She came back from Europe. “I am the candidate of the majority” she said. Ethnic politics are illegal and she knew that. What did she expect? And is that agenda you want? You know why she is in prison and we will have to see what happens when she is tried.

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  2. Mr. Patrick et blues,

    “The most vocal critics of the recent elections acknowledge that, despite all the problems that marred the pre-elections campaign, Hutus within Rwnanda and in the diaspora voted overwhelmingly for Kagame and would have most likely done so even if Mrs Ingabire had run for president.”

    Which “vocal critics?” If elections are fundamentally flawed, what can we learn from the? we can certainly learn, which is actually a confirmation that the regime is tyrannical and that the people respond positively to fear. Not surprising, researchers such as Filip Reyntjens have long noted that Rwandans have deep respect for authority.

    Blue writes,

    “OK so they would like to dispense with all the progress would they? Or is this just a so-called ethnic issue? Would they prefer Ingabire, the self-declared “candidate of the [i.e. ethnic] majority”, someone who has only been in Rwanda for one year out of the last 17? What is their problem exactly?”

    I wonder whether you realize how simplistic and naive your argument is. Suppose we provide 100% of Rwandans with “mituelle de sante” which in your view counts as progress, do you think that would fill in for the pain of having has your relatives slaughtered by the RPF? Why is so difficult for you to understand that Hutus want justice just as Tutsis?

    Besides, in my earlier post, I pointed you to the fact that the benevolent dictatorship model is losing currency. As is the case of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, development cannot substitute for freedom.

    What reforms do I seek?

    I don’t ask for much. I believe that some fundamental rights are not negotiable. I want RWANDA to be less of a police state, fewer men wielding AK-47 could restore my confidence. I want freedom of speech, to write , read and speak without fear of government reprisal. I want to vote for my preferred candidates, not RPF imposed stooges. I want the queuing voting system used during parliamentary elections abolished in favor of secret ballot. I want accountability for RPF crimes, in Rwanda and in DRC. It is crucial that Hutus feel represented in power circles. We can think of a number of ways, but this certainly needs to happen. I want the unconditional release of political prisoners starting with Mme. Victoire Ingabire.

    Given that the RPF is too busy ensuring “progress”, the may, much like the middle eastern regimes, ignore these demands.

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  3. Hi Rachel,
    So Blue should be the one to provide evidence. Interesting…
    You don’t seem to do much of that yourself except by citing individuals who don’t live in Rwanda but have apparently “researched” the country very thoroughly. Shouldn’t the burden of the proof be on your shoulders and those of those “experts” who, after a couple of years of research, always seem to understand the country’s realities much better than those who live there for generations?
    Shouldn’t they be the ones to provide compelling evidence as to why Rwanda is “a boiling cauldron under a surface that looks calm,”.

    And this, admittedly, is no small task…

    The most vocal critics of the recent elections acknowledge that, despite all the problems that marred the pre-elections campaign, Hutus within Rwnanda and in the diaspora voted overwhelmingly for Kagame and would have most likely done so even if Mrs Ingabire had run for president.
    How about the much criticized (ie criticized by the very same experts who always seem to speak on behalf of the entire people of Rwanda) Gacaca ? Most surveys that were carried out in Rwanda concluded that, despite all its imperfections, the large majority of Rwandans (Hutu and Tutsi) agree on the basics: Rwanda is no worse off with Gacaca and would have been considerably worse off without it, particularly in the absence of viable alternatives.

    The World values Survey (carried out in 2007) found that out of 55 countries surveyed (including Western democracies) Rwandans have the second highest proportion of the population saying that they have ‘a great deal of confidence’ in their government and the third highest proportion in their Parliament.

    Did your “highly knowledgeable experts” provide data on the current ethnic composition of the army, the police, the government and other public institutions?
    Or will they continue to ignore the facts on ground, focus on isolated incidents of their choice and press the alarm button until their dark predictions become self-prophecies?

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  4. “Mr. Blue above is typical of government propagandist and beneficiaries of the Kagame regime who think that if life is good for them, it MUST be good for everyone else.”

    Have you read my post or is yours just a standard generic reply? I have given examples of development that benefits everybody. “beneficiaries of the Kagame regime” are not just Tutsi, they are the people who benefit from those initiatives – that is everybody.

    “Even assuming that the statistics you give are true, which they aren’t,” for example which ones?

    “Instead of saying that Many govt ministers are “from the majority”, which again is not factual, it would count if you substantiated the claim.”

    So let me get this right you come on here and say you know about Rwanda enough to tell us that what is what but you do not know who is in the cabinet and whether they are Hutu or Tutsi?

    “I am more in favor of reforms” fine, what exactly?

    “I am Hutu myself, and I know from my family and friends, that nothing would make them more happy than Kagame’s decline.”

    OK so they would like to dispense with all the progress would they? Or is this just a so-called ethnic issue? Would they prefer Ingabire, the self-declared “candidate of the [i.e. ethnic] majority”, someone who has only been in Rwanda for one year out of the last 17? What is their problem exactly?

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  5. Ms. Strohm, Thanks for writing this blog. As a blogger, I know for sure that it takes a lot of time to make such coherent, engaging and thoughtful writing. I will definitely add your site on my blog roll.

    Mr. Blue above is typical of government propagandist and beneficiaries of the Kagame regime who think that if life is good for them, it MUST be good for everyone else.

    First, the whole developmental dictatorship theory is facing increasing scrutiny that will soon render it worthless. Even assuming that the statistics you give are true, which they aren’t, they would make Libya look like a paradise. In Libya, under Gadaffi, there is no shortage of the public goods you mention. Yet protesters are going to the extreme of losing their lives to dislodge the tyrant. Clearly, if we are to learn anything from Libya, clean roads, “mituelle de sante” cannot be a replacement for democracy. In a recent panel, Peter Uvin, certainly a distinguished scholar on Rwanda, said that “during the genocide the majority of the killers were vaccinated.” He was responding to a fellow panelist, Josh Ruxbin who kept insisting that all Rwanda needs is development.

    Gacaca has had some successes in prosecuting genocide offenders but it can’t be wrong to highlight its weaknesses. A major one being that crimes committed by Tutsi individuals have been ignored, creating another version of victors justice. In a highly charged ethnic environment, the consequences of such an action, intended or otherwise, should not be underestimated.

    In stead of saying that Many govt ministers are “from the majority”, which again is not factual, it would count if you substantiated the claim. Just recently, the authors of the Rwanda Briefing report, all of them members of the Tutsi community stated that, “the Hutu and Twa are systematically excluded from the power and authority mantle of Rwanda.” While such a complain has been made by Hutu leaders before, it is much more serious coming from Tutsi individuals. Again, given the history of Rwanda, the seriousness of such a statement can neither be exaggerated or wished away.

    Lastly, “do Hutu support Kagame?, Do they want rule by Ingabire?”

    This is a question whose answer we will probably never know. There are two major reasons:

    1. Elections in Rwanda are deeply flawed and cannot be a good measure of public opinion.

    2. Ingabire and many other presidential contenders were not allowed to run. This makes your questions way too hypothetical to analyze.

    I am Hutu myself, and I know from my family and friends, that nothing would make them more happy than Kagame’s decline. For me, I don’t necessary support regime change. I know that the absence of Kagame will not necessary result into freedom. I am more in favor of reforms, but it seems impossible for Kagame to accept compromises–not surprising for a dictator.

    Of course some of the demands are too fundamental that they challenge the essence of his power. Think about the tens of thousands that the RPF is alleged to have killed (Garreaton report), if prosecutions were ever pursued, it would flat out challenge Kagame’s autonomy.

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  6. Hi Rachel,

    Working in the region for about a decade does not make any difference to me.That’s the problem of the so called ”expert”. One needs to be more than an expert if he wants to understand people over there. I’m from the area and I know what I’m talking about. Good luck.

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  7. Well the key words are “Hutu resentment running high”. Is it? If so, why? The conference you mentioned I think was due to be addressed by some of the “usual suspects” – so called experts many of whom have not been in Rwanda for years.

    Development is focused on everyone and in particular the rural poor. 9 years’ free education, mutuelle de sante health insurance to which over 90% subscribe, improved roads and communications, the popular one cow per family programme, peace and security, reduction in malaria, greater availability of clean water and hospitals, more girls in school and performing better in exams etc. These are things which benefit everyone.

    Gacaca courts have tried people accused of Genocide crimes. Much of the “trying” has inevitably been done by persons from the majority so-called ethnic group. One writer who has actually studied it in detail and for a long time IN Rwanda gives it a good write up although nothing is perfect.

    Many govt ministers are “from the majority”. Do they have high resentment? They are getting on with developing the country for everyone. Yes, there is much to do but if you actually go there you will see.

    So while it is easy I am sure to find someone – even a so called expert – who will tell you that “Hutu resentment [is] running high” I think you need to go further and ask what the grounds are for this? And what are they? Maybe you can ask the person?

    Do Hutu support Kagame? Yes, they do. Do they want rule by Ingabire? Don’t be silly, of course not.

    Do “[so called] ethnic identities remaining highly [important to people] despite official attempts to ban their use”? Well what do you expect after what happened? Will it take time for the country to put it behind it? For people to drink in the same bars and inter-marry more? Yes. You have to start somewhere. Although outsiders continue to think they know best – Rwanda is not a “boiling cauldron” – Rwandans are making amazing progress.

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  8. “Rwanda is “a boiling cauldron under a surface that looks calm,” with Hutu resentment running high, and ethnic identities remaining highly salient despite official attempts to ban their use.”

    This is nonsense and presumably written by someone who has not been in Rwanda for many years.

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    1. Hi Blue – do you have evidence as to why the above statement is nonsense? It was made by someone who’s been studying and working in the region for about a decade, so it seemed worthy of consideration to me. But I am interested in hearing more of your take on this.

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