Monday, August 30, 2010

Rwanda threatens to withdraw peacekeepers

By The Independent Reporter
August 29, 2010

Rwanda threatened to withdraw its troops from United Nations peacekeeping operations if the world body publishes a report accusing the Rwandan army of committing possible genocide in Congo in the 1990s, Rwanda's foreign minister said in a letter sent to the UN.

Addressed to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the letter from Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo describes the report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as "fatally flawed" and "incredibly irresponsible".

The letter is dated August 3 and was obtained by The Associated Press.

A draft of the report leaked this week accuses Rwandan troops and rebel allies tied to the current Congolese president of slaughtering tens of thousands of Hutus in Congo.

The attacks allegedly came two years after those same troops stopped Rwanda's 1994 genocide that killed more than half a million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus.

"The report's allegations - of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity - are extremely serious. However, the methodology, sourcing and standard of proof used to arrive at them most certainly are not," Ms Mushikiwabo's letter says.

The letter asks why the investigators spent six weeks in Congo but never came to Rwanda or asked for meetings with Rwandan officials, who were given the 545-page draft two months ago.

Investigators said they required two independent sources for each of the 600 incidents documented.

The draft says the systematic and widespread attacks "could be classified as crimes of genocide" by a competent court.

In the letter, Ms Mushikiwabo criticises investigators for not seeking evidence that would stand up in court.

She said the report's weakness is that its goal was "not of being satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that a violation was committed but rather having reasonable suspicion that the incident did occur".

This, her letter says, means "UN investigators employed the lowest evidentiary standard" in making such serious allegations.

She suggests that the timing of the report is being driven by people within the UN who seek to damage recently renewed diplomatic ties between Congo and Rwanda. The rapprochement between the neighbouring countries contributed to greater stability in Central Africa.

"The timing of the report only heightens these suspicions as it is being circulated on the eve of Rwanda's presidential election and at a time when Congolese officials are calling for (the UN Mission in Congo) to close up shop," the letter says.

Congo, which also denied the allegations, also questioned the timing of the report, but suggested it was being used to deflect attention from UN peacekeepers' failure to protect civilians in a recent mass gang-rape atrocity.

The Rwandan letter said "attempts to take action on this report - either through its release or leaks to the media - will force us to withdraw from Rwanda's various commitments to the United Nations, especially in the area of peacekeeping".

Rwanda contributes thousands of troops to peacekeeping missions in Chad, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan.

Ms Mushikiwabo's letter was written before the report's leak this week.

The draft report said the Rwandan troops and their Congolese rebel allies targeted Hutus and killed tens of thousands over months, the majority of whom were women, children, the sick and the elderly who posed no threat. Most were bludgeoned to death with hoes, axes and hammers.

"Upon entering a locality, they ordered the people to gather together ... Once they were assembled, the civilians were bound and killed by blows of hammers or hoes to the head," it says.

Rwanda invaded Congo in 1996, saying it was going after those who committed the genocide.

Many were in refugee camps in Congo, which they used as a base for attacks on Tutsis in Congo and for cross-border raids into Rwanda. Rwandan rebels remain in Congo and have been terrorising the population ever since.

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Listen- where Kagame proudly says his army shot refugees

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DR Congo: The Genocide aigainst the Hutus?

Rwanda Rejects Report Alleging Role In Possible Congolese Genocide

Bombshell UN report leaked: 'Crimes of genocide' against Hutus in Congo

Tensions emerge between Rwanda and Western backers

U.N. Congo Report Offers New View on Genocide

Rwanda threatens UN over DR Congo 'genocide' report

Rwanda: Why optimism is declining even more

By The Newsline Reporter
August 28, 2010

A visit to, a local Rwandan news website gives you a picture of how optimism among Rwandans over the future of their country is fast waning.

The website which carries simple stories with very lucid headlines is allegedly funded by the ruling party, the RPF. This, observers say, is the reason it has never had trouble with the Kigali authorities like other media outlets; Umuseso, Umuvugizi and Newsline among many others.

But, the real taste of the pudding is in the comments posted by different people visiting the site: there are hot exchanges, thanks to the fact that the visitors will not be identified - they use pseudo names.

“Where is this country heading? With people being decapitated for uttering a word, the situation we are in, is worse than the one we endured under Habyarimana..,” one person wrote in response to a statement made by the army Spokesman, Lt. Col. Jill Rutaremara.

The writer of the above comment is complimented by hundreds of other Rwandans who chip in with all sorts of evidence to suggest that the future is bleak for Rwandans, given the escalating human rights violations, suppression of people’s freedoms and lack of political space.

“How long can this comedy of elections go on…but, well, a war has been declared, so, yes, we are to endure another war, after the one that brought the present dictators to power…that’s where we are heading,” another discussant, writing under a pseudo name, Bea, says.

Further, hundreds of commentators on the Website indicate that the grenade attacks in Kigali have become a major cause of pessimism in Rwanda , with several people saying they believe the attacks are stage-managed by the Kagame regime as a tool to hunt for his perceived enemies.

Outside Rwanda , things don’t look different either, not even with Kagame’s allies. After the recently concluded much-criticized elections, the United States expressed concern on about ‘disturbing events’ that surrounded presidential election in which incumbent Paul Kagame drew 93 percent of the votes.

"We remain concerned, however, about a series of disturbing events prior to the election, including the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights researcher, the barring of two opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.

Hammer also noted; “The land-locked African country's stability and prosperity will be difficult to sustain without broad political debate and open political participation”.

Several political commentators on Rwanda have criticized the election campaigns, saying they were marred by repression orchestrated by government. Indeed, human rights groups pointed to mounting violence during the run-up to the election after the fatal shooting of a local journalist and the killing of an opposition official who was found beheaded in July.

The government denied involvement, but citing politically motivated murders, lack of political space, suppression of people’s freedoms, Rwandans are getting increasingly pessimistic, never mind that the regime doesn’t show signs of allowing meaningful democracy to enable people debate such issues openly.

So, while some people like Fran Makken, the Dutch Ambassador to Rwanda, still talk of Rwanda being a young democracy, the reality on the ground indicates that, politically, what is in place is a mature dictatorship, and the views expressed by people who on sites such as suggest that Rwandans don’t see a process leading to that desired democracy.

As a consequence, it is said that voices of discontent (though limited inside the country for obvious reasons), are on the increase as is the exodus of people opting to seek asylum in all parts of the world.

And Kagame, whose promise after taking over power in 1994 was the cause of optimism in Rwanda, is to blame for its fall!

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U.N. Congo Report Offers New View on Genocide

The New York Times
August 27, 2010

A forthcoming United Nations report on 10 years of extraordinary violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo bluntly challenges the conventional history of events there after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, charging that invading troops from Rwanda and their rebel allies killed tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, including many civilians.

The 545-page report on 600 of the country’s most serious reported atrocities raises the question of whether Rwanda could be found guilty of genocide against Hutu during the war in neighboring Congo, but says international courts would need to rule on individual cases.

In 1994, more than 800,000 people, predominantly members of the ethnic Tutsi group in Rwanda, were slaughtered by the Hutu. When a Tutsi-led government seized power in Rwanda, Hutu militias fled along with Hutu civilians across the border to Congo, then known as Zaire. Rwanda invaded to pursue them, aided by a Congolese rebel force the report also implicates in the massacres.

While Rwanda and Congolese rebel forces have always claimed that they attacked Hutu militias who were sheltered among civilians, the United Nations report documents deliberate reprisal attacks on civilians.

The report says that the apparently systematic nature of the massacres “suggests that the numerous deaths cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage.” It continues, “The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces.”

The existence of the United Nations document, titled Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993-2003, was first reported by the French daily newspaper Le Monde. But participants in the drafting of the report have described its progress and difficulties over a period of seven months to The New York Times, which obtained the most recent version of the report.

The Rwandan government responded angrily to the report, calling it “outrageous.” The topic is extremely delicate for the government, which has built its legitimacy on its history of combating the genocide in Rwanda. Political figures there have been accused of perpetuating a “genocide ideology” for making claims that are similar to the report’s.

“It is immoral and unacceptable that the United Nations, an organization that failed outright to prevent genocide in Rwanda and the subsequent refugees crisis that is the direct cause for so much suffering in Congo and Rwanda, now accuses the army that stopped the genocide of committing atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Ben Rutsinga of the Office of the Government Spokesperson.

The release of the report appears to have been delayed in part over fears of the reaction of the Rwandan government, which has long enjoyed strong diplomatic support from the United States and Britain. There is concern in the United Nations that Rwanda might end its participation in peacekeeping operations in retaliation for the report.

“No one was naïve enough to think that inspecting mass graves in which Rwandan troops were involved would make Kigali happy, but we have shared the draft with them,” said a senior official at the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, which oversaw the investigation. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the findings had not been officially released.

He said: “Voices have said, ‘Can’t we just delete the genocide references? Isn’t this going to cause a lot more difficulties in the region?’ But these voices have not carried the day.”

The United Nations document breaks the history of 10 years of violence in Congo into several periods. It begins with the final years of the three-decade rule of President Mobutu Sese Seko, marked by attacks on a Tutsi minority in the country’s far east, and violent raids on Rwandan territory from United Nations-administered refugee camps that housed roughly a million Hutu who had fled Rwanda after the genocide. These raids were conducted by elements of the defeated Hutu national army, and the Hutu Interahamwe militia, both principally involved in the genocide in Rwanda.

The report also covers two other time periods: the Second Congolese War, from 1998 to 2001, when the armies of eight African states vied for control of the country, and 2001 to 2003, when foreign armies partially withdrew, leaving a tentative peace. Congo continues to suffer major atrocities, including the rape of thousands of women by armed groups.

The report contains a chilling, detailed accounting of the breakup of Hutu refugee camps in eastern Zaire at the start of the war in October 1996, followed by the pursuit of hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees across the country’s vast hinterland by teams of Rwandan soldiers and their Zairean rebel surrogates, the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo. Those forces were led by Laurent Kabila, who took over as president the next year, and who was the father of Congo’s current president, Joseph Kabila.

The report presents repeated examples of times when teams of Rwandan soldiers and their Congolese rebel allies lured Hutu refugees with promises they would be repatriated to Rwanda, only to massacre them.

In one such episode, advancing Congolese rebel fighters and Rwandan troops summoned refugees to a village center, telling them they would be treated to meat from a slaughtered cow to strengthen them for their trek back to Rwanda. As the Hutu began to register their names by prefecture of origin, a whistle sounded and soldiers opened fire on them, killing between 500 and 800 refugees, the report said.

In other instances, as survivors scrambled desperately through thick rain forest in a country as large as Western Europe, extermination teams laid ambush along strategic roadways and forest paths, making no distinction between men, women and children as they killed them.

Although the report does detail attacks when there were military targets, notably at Tingi Tingi, a Hutu camp in Maniema Province, such targets are extremely rare in the report.

An element of the report that could help determine any judgment of genocide concerns the treatment of native Congolese Hutu. The report suggests they were singled out for elimination along with Hutu refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. The report asserts that there was no effort to make a distinction between militia and civilians, noting a “tendency to put all Hutu people together and ‘tar them with the same brush.’ ”

Pascal Kambale, a prominent longtime Congolese human rights lawyer who was consulted by the United Nations investigators, said: “The ex-F.A.R. fighters were said to be hiding behind the refugee populations, but the truth is that the attackers were targeting both the Rwandan Hutus and the Congolese Hutus,” referring to the Hutu-led Rwandan militia, F.A.R. in its French initials. “Entire families were killed, whole villages were burned, and in my view this remains the most heinous crime that happened during these 10 years.”
Timothy Longman, the director of the African Studies Center at Boston University, said that people in eastern Congo had long charged they were victims, too. “The reason it didn’t get more attention is that it contradicted the narrative of the Rwandan Popular Front as the ‘good group’ that stopped the genocide in Rwanda,” he said.

As early as 1997, the United Nations began investigations into reports of possible crimes against humanity involving extermination of Hutu populations by the Congolese rebel forces and their Rwandan backers, but Laurent Kabila, as president, refused access to areas where atrocities were believed to have been committed, and the investigation was abandoned. A senior United Nations official said that the investigation was given new life when three mass graves were discovered in North Kivu Province by United Nations workers in 2005.
“Yes, this is stupendously overdue,” the official said. “But Laurent Kabila had been killed, there was a peace process and a new government in place in the Congo, and I guess you could say that’s when the U.N. woke and said, ‘Hmm, we can accomplish something here.’ ”

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Rwanda: UN Report on Genocide Against Hutu Gives Hope for Genuine Reconciliation

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rwanda: UN Report on Genocide Against Hutu Gives Hope for Genuine Reconciliation

By Nkunda Rwanda
The Cry For Freedom
August 28, 2010

Most of us have a past life we never wish to remember. For some, it could be an incident of embarrassment or a scene from the teenage years when we struggled to fit in. But to many genocide survivors, these would-rather-be-forgotten incidences are truly horrific, as they include images of mass murder and rapes mixed with the desperate, all too human, struggle to survive. Overcome by a thirst for healing, amnesia is often the only option for the victims trying to lay haunting pasts to rest.

Towards the end of 1996, the Rwandan Patriotic Army having gained credit for putting an end to the Rwandan Genocide invaded the Congo (then known as Zaire). It would soon become apparent though that the new Rwandan army was on a killing spree, targeting mostly Hutu civilians.

When under scrutiny, the new Rwandan government (GOR) defended its mission always citing the difficult nature of the operation. They (GOR) said it had been difficult to distinguish civilians from the EX-FAR and Interahamwe. Indeed, this school of thought prevailed for the last decade and outside of academic circles, remained unchallenged. However, one striking question remained unanswered: “why were Hutu-Congolese murdered?” to this day, the government of Rwanda has been unable to provide a convincing response.

The first serious inquiry was blocked by the war lord turned into president, Laurent Kabila. However, after he fell out with Rwanda, he would later remark “I never understood how people (Tutsi soldiers) having suffered Genocide would kill like this”.

That Congolese-Hutu were targeted is not the only evidence for Genocide. Excerpts from the “leaked report” reveal how children and women were deliberately targeted. Accused of no other crime but for being Hutu. Consider this chilling report by US journalist French Howard writing for the New York Times in September 1997:

In Loukolela, the Hutu survivors who have gathered across the Congo River from the former Zaire, 200 miles northeast of Kinshasa, say they know little about the conflict that pits the United Nations against Mr. Kabila's Government.

What they do have, however, are consistent accounts of the murderous attacks that they suffered in the Mbandaka area, as well as at several other stops during their westward trek of more than 1,000 miles across the country.

Mrs. Mporayonzi remembers wandering the woods after the attack had subsided, and said she was taken in by a Zairian family to whom she owes her survival. They told her that she looked enough like the local people to pass undetected, gave her a white bandanna to wear, in the fashion townspeople had adopted as a sign of support for Mr. Kabila, and urged her not to talk to people.

The next day, while she stood in front of the house where she had taken refuge, Mrs. Mporayonzi said a truckload of solders drove by and then stopped. She had feared they were looking for her, but instead they grabbed a Hutu boy on the street.

She said they yelled, ''Here is another son of Habyarimana,'' referring to Juvenal Habyarimana, the Hutu former President of Rwanda. ''Right there in the road the soldiers swung the boy by his feet and beat his head against a tree trunk until he was dead.''

Mrs. Mporayonzi said she turned away in horror but had to bite her hand to keep from screaming for fear of giving herself away.

And from the “The Guardian”:
A soldier brought an eight-month-old (Hutu) baby so we could bury him," said a Red Cross worker. But we said, "We can't bury someone living". He took a stick and he hit the child on the head until he was dead.
Important to note is that some of the killing happened as far as Mbandaka which is approximately 758 miles from the eastern border of Congo where the refugees initially camped. The exhausted and hungry refugees having walked all these many miles were finally captured by the Rwandan forces and slaughtered, their bodies dumped into river Congo. This was witnessed and reported by international humanitarian organizations as well as Congolese communal groups.

While killings close to the Rwandan border could perhaps be justified, it is especially difficult to understand why the Rwanda forces would kill civilians on the opposite end of the country (Zaire). Also, by this time, Kabila forces had triumphed marking an end to the civil war. The killings do point to a deliberate and cruel attempt at extermination.

Also, in some noted cases, Congolese civilians were forced to participate in the massacres and were rewarded with cash.

However in certain instances, only males were targeted, while women would be allowed to repatriate to Rwanda. Here is an account from Professor Boyer:

They [Tutsi soldiers] separated the little boys from the girls...And they started killing the boys. First they shot them, and then they cut them in half. So that...if they came back to life they wouldn't be able to escape.

Of course this is just but the beginning of another difficult battle. Although the “leaked report” is a major victory for us as survivors, the struggle is far from over. There needs to be a mechanism to prevent “retributive genocide” from taking place. Counter-Genocide needs to be acknowledged (just like Genocide denial) as another step of Genocide. This will help not only Rwanda but many conflict ridden nations around the world.

Equally important is that the report can be instrumental in fostering genuine reconciliation in Rwanda. One of the key challenges of present Rwanda is that western analysts are stuck in the “bad guys vs. good guys” mentality. They forget that the majority of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa are good people trying to overcome extremely difficult realities. The notion becomes a stumbling block as the present regime is given a green light (Genocide credit) to repress its Hutu citizens who are considered Genocide perpetrators. This has provided huge political capital for former rebel Paul Kagame—and the recent elections is just but another confirmation.

My genuine hope is that Rwandans will find this report as an opportunity for reflection that in would be transformed into action. The government reaction towards the report though predictable is very unfortunate. Simply attacking the researchers and methodology used will not do away these crimes. Threatening to pull out peace-keepers if the report is released will only prove your guilt.It would be more beneficial to respond to the specific allegations--and tell your side of the story.

For once, as Rwandans, let's not squander another opportunity for national healing.

Related Materials:
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DR Congo: The Mugunga Genocide

Mbandaka Terminus: The Path of Rwandan Refugee Mass Graves in Congo

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UN mapping report leaked: Crime of genocide against Hutu center of controversy

UN probes 10 years of Congo slaughter

Refugees From Congo Give Vivid Accounts of Killings

Rwanda: Western backers of Paul Kagame turning their back

Rwanda: Western backers of Paul Kagame turning their back

By Ambrose Nzeyimana
The Rising Continent
August 27, 2010

Again this final week of August 2010 the "leaked" UN report on the Congo is at the centre of all news savvy seekers who are interested in the politics of the Greatlakes region, and particularly its strongman Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

Kambale Musavili, a Congolese activist, was among rare people to announce that he had already in hands a copy of the apparently leaked report “Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993–2003: Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003.“

As he reads through the pages, he momentously informed his contacts on what he was finding. After his reading he shared this comment about the report:

"… the Garreton report documented the killings done by Kagame and his troops in Congo. 200,000 Rwandans, most of whom women and children, were massacred and buried in Congo. The mass graves still exist. Don’t tell me Kagame stopped the investigation… The United States government did. They blocked that report from being published. But it is available online. We have linked to it in many articles. This is not a new report, nor a leaked report! This is a report that the West decided not to publish or talk about to protect their African fall guy Paul Kagame!"
For those interested in the Garreton report, please click here.

Kambale concludes, ‘My concern is this. I understand the West is turning on Kagame. But let’s not be fooled once again. The central issue here is US and UK foreign policies in Africa supporting dictators in the name of profit. When Kagame is gone, we still have to deal with reconciliation within Rwanda.

Some in the West seem surprised as popular opinion in the West was never really focused on the crimes going on in the Congo. They have always been distracted by American-led hype about Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. Whereas more people have died in the Congo in the past 15 years than in all three of those conflicts put together.

This is many years after these crimes were committed, covered up for greedy interests which don’t value lives in their ways. There have been International Criminal Tribunals, one for Yugoslavia and another for Rwanda. Since there is now public massive evidence to stop impunity of the perpetrators, can the memory of the victims be honored by the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for Democratic Republic of Congo?

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Mbandaka Terminus: The Path of Rwandan Refugee Mass Graves in Congo

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rwanda Rejects Report Alleging Role In Possible Congolese Genocide

By Korva Coleman
NPR News
August 27, 2010

The long reach of the Rwandan Genocide will not leave us. We can watch 'Hotel Rwanda' and read 'We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families' and still we do not fully perceive the connection to the lengthy and unspeakably bloody Congo Wars.

A draft United Nations report, leaked by French paper Le Monde, shows one million Hutus were slaughtered in the aftermath of the Rwanda carnage in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, at the hands of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Army and Congolese fighters. Rwanda calls the report 'offensive', saying army members were never involved in atrocities, even though Rwanda, under President Paul Kigame, invaded eastern Congo in 1996 (known as Zaire) to overthrow then-President Mobutu and Rwandan troops attacked camps where Hutu fighters were hiding. The conflict escalated into the Congo Wars, sucking in several countries and killing as many as four million people.

From the Executive Summary, Section E, Article 31:

The scale of the crimes and the large number of victims, probably several tens of thousands, all nationalities combined, are illustrated by the numerous incidents listed in the report (104 in all). The extensive use of edged weapons (primarily hammers) and the systematic massacres of survivors after the camps had been taken show that the numerous deaths cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage ... the majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or mental integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten ... Thus the systematic and widespread attacks described in this report reveal a number of damning elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide.
Below please find the link to the UN Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003.

Drc Rapport Final Eng_18062010

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Congo butchery resembled Rwanda genocide: UN lawyer

By AFP Reporter
August 27, 2010

MONTREAL (AFP) - Hutus in the Democratic Republic of Congo were butchered in a pattern of targeted, widespread and systematic attacks that resembled the Rwandan genocide, the head of a new UN probe said.

Luc Cote, a war crimes prosecutor from Montreal, told AFP that Rwandan Tutsi troops and their rebel allies targeted, chased, hacked, shot and burned Hutus in the DRC, from 1996 to 1997, after the outbreak of a cross-border Central African war.

"For me it was amazing," Cote, who also investigated the 1994 Rwandan genocide and ran the legal office of the UN International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda from 1995 until 1999.

"I saw a pattern in the Congo that I'd seen in Rwanda," Cote said, referring to the Rwandan genocide where Hutu extremists butchered an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

"It was the same thing. There are dozens and dozens of incidents, where you have the same pattern. It was systematically done," Cote said ahead of the official release next month of a UN report on atrocities committed in the central African nation.

His probe did not list a death toll but found evidence suggesting tens of thousands of Hutus had been killed. UN and other aid agencies said in the 1990s that 200,000 Hutus were unaccounted for.

The possibility of genocide forms only a part of a 600-page UN report co-authored by Cote that is a nightmarish inventory of murder, rape and looting that took place in the DRC from 1993 until 2003 as it was torn apart by more than half a dozen plundering armies.

The most damaging element in the report, a draft of which was obtained by AFP, says that Rwandan Tutsi commanders and their rebel allies may have committed genocide.

"The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report ... reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide," stated the probe.

The 34-member UN team under Cote's direction found evidence that the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) and their rebel allies at the time -- known as the AFDL -- used hoes, bayonets and axes to butcher Rwandan and Congolese Hutus, often rounding them up beforehand.

In many other cases, the victims were raped, burned alive or shot dead.

The vast majority of Hutus who were killed were "women, children, the elderly and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces," according to the report, which was ordered by the UN High Commission for Human Rights.

Cote, who was also chief of prosecutions for the UN-led criminal court in Sierra Leone, said the DRC probe attempted to legally classify crimes but was not a judicial investigation that an internationally backed criminal court would require.

But he said "all this (evidence) put together, submitted to a court of law, this may constitute elements from which you can infer the intent to destroy a group as such, which is genocide."

The evidence, he said, includes speeches in which Hutus were targeted for elimination, systematic and repetitive killings, the burning of corpses, and attempts to bar outsiders from visiting massacre sites.

The UN findings are expected to lay the groundwork for the potential prosecution on war crimes or lesser charges of senior Rwandan figures such as Colonel James Kabarebe, who led Rwanda's military operations in the Congo and now heads the Rwandan forces.

Charges of genocide would need a higher standard of evidence than that contained in the report.

The report also does not identify the perpetrators, but cites Kabarebe as having led the successful drive to oust Congo's then president Mobutu Sese Seko.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was Rwanda's de facto leader and defense minister at the time of the atrocities, is also referenced in the UN probe as having planned the Congolese rebellion and supplied weapons, munitions and training facilities for the Congolese forces.

Kagame has long been backed by the US, British and Canadian governments and is largely viewed as a brilliant military tactician who helped stop the Rwandan genocide.

In the aftermath, an estimated one million Rwandan Hutus left their homes and set up in UN-run refugee camps inside the Congolese border. Some of the refugees were guilty of genocide and secured weapons and training in the camps, but most of the refugees there were simply Hutus who feared violence and retribution in the homeland.

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Tensions emerge between Rwanda and Western backers

By Linda Slattery and Ann Talbot
World Socialist Web Site
26 August 2010

Tensions began to emerge between President Paul Kagame and his Western backers in the course of the recent elections. Media reports criticised the exclusion of opposition parties from the poll and physical attacks on Kagame’s opponents.

Kagame has received extraordinarily high levels of aid from the West since he came to power in 1994 and has previously been virtually immune from criticism in the press. The shift in attitude can best be traced to the welcome that Kagame has extended to China’s growing investment in Africa. A warning is being delivered to Kagame’s regime that the tolerance he has enjoyed to date will not continue if he aligns himself with interests hostile to those of the United States and other Western powers.

Writing in the Financial Times on August 19, Kagame acknowledged the changing attitude that emerged in the course of the election and defended his brand of politics, claiming that it was essential if Rwanda was to be stable:

“Some in the media and the international community seem uninterested in fact-checking, and simply invented stories that play to damaging historic prejudices. It is a shame that some so casually disregard the views of the majority of Rwandans and prefer to elevate the dangerous opinions of fly-by-night individuals, which in turn threaten to reverse our hard-earned stability”.

Rwanda has become the gateway through which the strategic mineral resources of the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo reach the international market. A United Nations Panel of Experts found that Rwanda was responsible for the illegal trafficking of gold, coltan and cassiterite from areas of the DRC controlled by Rwandan-backed militias. All these minerals are vital for mobile phones and other modern electronic devices.

In the year 2000 alone, the Rwandan army is thought to have made $250 million out of this trade. Despite the evidence that the civilian population of the Congo has been abused, the US has made no criticism of Rwanda’s role in the DRC. The Congo Conflict Minerals Act passed by Congress in 2009 with the ostensible aim of putting an end to the looting makes no mention of Rwanda.

Following Kagame’s re-election, however, the National Security Council (NSC) failed to congratulate him on his victory and issued a press statement expressing concern about “disturbing events” that had preceded the election. “We remain concerned, however, about a series of disturbing events prior to the election, including the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights researcher, the barring of two opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists”, it declared.

“Democracy is about more than holding elections”, said Mike Hammer, spokesman for the NSC. “A democracy reflects the will of the people, where minority voices are heard and respected, where opposition candidates run on the issues without threat or intimidation, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are protected”.

Kagame’s response came in the Financial Times. He rejected the US criticism of his election and insisted that he was pursuing a form of government suited to Rwandan cultural traditions.

“For decades, one-size-fits-all development and democratic prescriptions have been imposed on Africa, with unsatisfactory, sometimes tragic, results”, he wrote. “Yet to break from the cycle of underdevelopment we must seek innovative, home-grown solutions. Rwanda is one of the countries that have chosen to apply unconventional mechanisms to solve daunting challenges. And it is working”.

Hinting at Rwanda’s importance for the export of minerals, Kagame said that those who accepted his methods would reap the economic benefits. He knows that he has the support of the major mining companies and can look to China as an alternative source of aid. In January 2009 Kagame signed a new trade deal with China, and a new Chinese embassy was opened in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Speaking to the German business paper Handelsblatt, Kagame praised the role of China in bringing investment in infrastructure to Africa. He recognised the potential for playing off one potential investor or donor against another. “There are new players, developing countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia”, he said. “That opens new possibilities for new relationships. Suddenly, the Americans and Europeans discover that they don’t want to be left out”.

At the China-Africa summit Kagame pointed out that trade between Rwanda and China had quadrupled over the previous four years.

Kagame has been sharply critical of the new US Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, which contains a clause obliging companies to demonstrate that their minerals have not come from the DRC. Major electronics companies such as IBM, Motorola, Hewlett Packard, Intel and Apple will be hit by this provision. Kagame may hope to bypass this legislation by turning to the Asian market and Asian electronic companies.

Kagame supposedly won 93 percent of the votes in the election on August 9. International observers reported no overt sign of violence or voter intimidation, but all the opposition candidates were former allies of Kagame. Three potential candidates were barred from standing. Leading oppositionist Andre Kagwa Rwisereka of the Democratic Green Party was found dead shortly before the election. The party is linked to Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who is in intensive care in South Africa after being shot. Nyamwasa fled to South Africa earlier this year after accusing Kagame of using an anti-corruption campaign to frame his political opponents.

Reporters have been subject to intimidation. Jean Leonard Rugambage was gunned down in Kigali after his paper Umuvugizi was closed by the government. Its editor Jean Bosco Gasasira had already fled to Uganda.

In June, American lawyer Peter Erlinder, who is representing defendants at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on trial for their alleged part in the genocide, was arrested. He was accused of denying the 1994 genocide on the basis of remarks he made at the tribunal, although the defence lawyers are supposed to be protected by diplomatic immunity. Other lawyers at the ICTR responded to Erlinder’s arrest by asking for postponements until their safety could be guaranteed.

These are the “disturbing events” that have caused concern in Washington. But they are hardly new.

In 1995 the journalist Manesse Mugabo disappeared in Kigali, followed in 1996 by the first post-genocide Minister of the Interior Seth Sendashshonga and businessman Augustin Bugirimfura, who was shot dead in Nairobi. In 1998 journalist Emmanuel Munyemanzi disappeared from Kigali, and Theoneste Lizinde, MP and government intelligence chief before the genocide, was assassinated in Nairobi. In the year 2000, first post-genocide President Pasteur Bizimungu’s adviser, Asiel Kabera, was shot dead in Kigali. In 2003 top judge Augustin Cyiza and magistrate Eliezar Runyaruka disappeared from Kigali, as did opposition MP Leonard Hitiman.

The US has been prepared to turn a blind eye to Kagame’s record of repression until now because it has been useful to American interests. The Financial Times Africa editor William Wallis acknowledged the impact that the presence of China has had on Western influence in Rwanda. But he also blamed the West for the lack of democracy in Rwanda.

“With one hand the US”, Wallis wrote, “the [European Union] and other donors encourage and finance elections. With the other, they routinely accept the outcome regardless of how dubious the manner in which it is achieved”.

The process of formally democratic elections merely added a semblance of legitimacy to “a contemporary form of one-party rule, in which incumbents use patronage, oppression and control of electoral machinery to maintain power”.

Rwanda will receive an estimated $208 million in aid from the US this year. This includes the cost of military aid—the Rwanda army is US trained. Britain contributes £46 million, or $73 million, in humanitarian aid. Unusually for a country that does not have a history as a British colony, Rwanda joined the British Commonwealth this year. Membership will allow Rwanda to play a more prominent role in East Africa, where most of the large states are former British colonies and give its political and business elite access to the English-language education that is vital for the global market.

Kagame has been advised by ex-President Bill Clinton, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and has developed close relations with Bill Gates. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon even appointed Kagame to co-chair a committee of “superheroes to defeat poverty” to help push for progress in achieving the UN’s Millennium Development goals. Activists from the British Conservative Party regularly visit Rwanda to take part in aid projects. The country has been held up as a role model for other African countries to follow.

Despite the massive influx of aid into Rwanda, more than half of its 9.7 million population live on about 43 cents a day. Malnutrition is endemic. Almost half its children are malnourished, according to the World Food Programme. Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world and ranks 167 out of 182 countries on the UN Human Development Index.

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Bombshell UN report leaked: 'Crimes of genocide' against Hutus in Congo

The striking conclusion of a new draft UN report is that violence perpetrated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame's and Congolese President Laurent Kabila's forces against Hutus could constitute 'crimes of genocide.'

By Jason Stearns
Guest blogger
The Christian Science Monitor
August 26, 2010

Rwandan troops marched through the village of Pinga in eastern Congo, during a joint Congolese-Rwandan operation to hunt down Hutu extremist rebels in February of 2009. Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters.

Over a year after its completion, the UN mapping report has finally been leaked to the press. The report was mandated by the UN to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo between 1993 and 2003 in the hope that there could be accountability for the violence. To date, almost nothing has been done to bring those responsible to justice.

The report is huge, spanning 545 pages, and deals with war crimes committed by the security forces of Angola, Mobutu's Zaire, Uganda, Chad, Laurent Kabila's government, Joseph Kabila's government, Zimbabwe, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe (and later the FDLR), the Mai-Mai and the many other rebel groups. I will speak at length about the massacres carried out by these forces in later postings. Here, I will speak about the most controversial claim: the massacres carried out by the Rwandan army (RPA) together with the AFDL rebellion (led by Laurent Kabila) against the Hutu refugees in 1996-1997.

The striking conclusion is that the crimes committed by the RPA/AFDL against Hutu refugee and Congolese Hutu could constitute a crime of genocide. This will be a bombshell for Paul Kagame's government, which prides itself of having brought an end to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and have built their reputation and their appeal to donors on their promotion of post-genocide reconciliation. This report will rock the internet for months and years to come, its political improtance is hard to overstate.

A few words of caution. The report was not based on the same high standards of a judicial investigation, it was intended to provide a broad mapping of he most serious human rights abuses between 1993 and 2003.

Indeed, the report says that an international court will have to be the final arbiter whether the RPA/AFDL did commit acts of genocide. Verbatim: "The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide."

Nonetheless, it was their mandate to documents crimes of genocide, and they were rigorous: In total, the team gathered evidence on 600 incidents of violence (not just on the genocide allegations). Their standard was two independent sources for each incident. They interviewed 1,280 witnesses and gathered 1,500 documents. Many of the reports of killings of Congolese and Rwandan Hutu civilians were corroborated by eyewitnesses. While we always knew that there had been large massacres of Hutu refugees in the Congo, this is the first rigorous investigation, and the first time an international body has thrown its weight behind charges of genocide.

Another word of caution: This is the preliminary draft. The report is due to be released on Monday, but it has been leaked, I gather because the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has pressed for the charges of "acts of genocide by the RPA/AFDL" to be removed. The Rwandan government has reportedly threatened to withdraw its troops from the AU mission in Darfur and I have even heard that they will withdraw from the UN all together, becoming "associate" or "observer" states. I imagine that it is to prevent such editing that the report was finally leaked.

On to the conclusion of the report:

Paragraph 512. The systematic attacks [...] resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundian army] forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, in particular in Orientale Province, depriving them of assistance essential to their survival.

Paragraph 513. At the time of the incidents covered by this report, the Hutu population in Zaire, including refugees from Rwanda, constituted an ethnic group as defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Moreover, as shown previously, the intention to destroy a group in part is sufficient to be classified as a crime of genocide. Finally, the courts have also confirmed that the destruction of a group can be limited to a particular geographical area. It is therefore possible to assert that, even if only a part of the Hutu population in Zaire was targeted and destroyed, it could nonetheless constitute a crime of genocide, if this was the intention of the perpetrators. Finally, several incidents listed also seem to confirm that the numerous attacks were targeted at members of the Hutu ethnic group as such. Although, at certain times, the aggressors said they were looking for the criminals responsible for the genocide committed against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, the majority of the incidents reported indicate that the Hutus were targeted as such, with no discrimination between them. The numerous attacks against the Hutus in Zaire, who were not part of the refugees, seem to confirm that it was all Hutus, as such, who were targeted. The crimes committed in particular in Rutshuru (30 October 1996) and Mugogo (18 November 1996), in North Kivu, highlight the specific targeting of the Hutus, since people who were able to persuade the aggressors that they belonged to another ethnic group were released just before the massacres. The systematic use of barriers by the AFDL/APR/FAB, particularly in South Kivu, enabled them to identify people of Hutu origin by their name or village of origin and thus to eliminate them. Hundreds of people of Hutu origin are thus thought to have been arrested at a barrier erected in November 1996 in Ngwenda, in the Rutshuru territory, and subsequently executed by being beaten with sticks in a place called Kabaraza. In South Kivu, AFDL/APR/FAB soldiers erected numerous barriers on the Ruzizi plain to stop Rwandan and Burundian refugees who had been dispersed after their camps had been dismantled.

Paragraph 514. Several incidents listed in this report point to circumstances and facts from which a court could infer the intention to destroy the Hutu ethnic group in the DRC in part, if these were established beyond all reasonable doubt. Firstly, the scale of the crimes and the large number of victims are illustrated by the numerous incidents described above. The extensive use of edged weapons (primarily hammers) and the systematic massacre of survivors, including women and children, after the camps had been taken show that the numerous deaths cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage. The systematic nature of the attacks listed against the Hutus also emerges: these attacks took place in each location where refugees had been identified by the AFDL/APR, over a vast area of the country. Particularly in North Kivu and South Kivu but also in other provinces, the massacres often began with a trick by elements of the AFDL/APR, who summoned the victims to meetings on the pretext either of discussing their repatriation to Rwanda in the case of the refugees, or of introducing them to the new authorities in the case of Hutus settled in the region, or of distributing food. Afterwards, those present were systematically killed. Cases of this kind were confirmed in the province of North Kivu in Musekera, Rutshuru and Kiringa (October 1996), Mugogo and Kabaraza (November 1996), Hombo, Katoyi, Kausa, Kifuruka, Kinigi, Musenge, Mutiko and Nyakariba (December 1996), Kibumba and Kabizo (April 1997) and Mushangwe (around August 1997); in the province of South Kivu in Rushima and Luberizi (October 1996), Cotonco and Chimanga (November 1996) and Mpwe (February 1997) and on the Shabunda-Kigulube road (February-April 1997); in Orientale Province in Kisangani and Bengamisa (May and June 1997); in Maniema in Kalima (March 1997) and in Équateur in Boende (April 1997). Such acts certainly suggest premeditation and a precise methodology. In the region south of the town of Walikale, in North Kivu (January 1997), Rwandan Hutus were subjected to daily killings in areas already under the control of the AFDL/APR as part of a campaign that seemed to target any Hutus living in the area in question.

Paragraph 515. Several of the massacres listed were committed regardless of the age or gender of the victims. This is particularly true of the crimes committed in Kibumba (October 1996), Mugunga and Osso (November 1996), Hombo and Biriko (December 1996) in the province of North Kivu, Kashusha and Shanje (November 1996) in the province of South Kivu, Tingi-Tingi and Lubutu (March 1997) in Maniema Province, and Boende (April 1997) in Équateur Province, where the vast majority of victims were women and children. Furthermore, no effort was made to make a distinction between Hutus who were members of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and Hutu civilians, whether or not they were refugees. This tendency to put all Hutus together and “tar them with the same brush” is also illustrated by the declarations made during the “awareness-raising speeches” made by the AFDL/APR in certain places, according to which any Hutu still present in Zaire must necessarily be a perpetrator of genocide, since the “real” refugees had already returned to Rwanda. These “awareness-raising speeches” made in North Kivu also incited the population to look for, kill or help to kill Rwandan Hutu refugees, whom they called “pigs”. This type of language would have been in widespread use during the operations in this region.

Paragraph 516. The massacres in Mbandaka and Wendji, committed on 13 May 1997 in Équateur Province, over 2,000 kilometres west of Rwanda, were the final stage in the hunt for Hutu refugees that had begun in eastern Zaire, in North and South Kivu, in October 1996. Among the refugees were elements of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, who were disarmed by the local police force as soon as they arrived. In spite of everything, the AFDL/APR opened fire on hundreds of defenceless Hutu refugees, resulting in large numbers of victims.

Paragraph 517. The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide. The behaviour of certain elements of the AFDL/APR in respect of the Hutu refugees and Hutu populations settled in Zaire at this time seems to equate to “a manifest pattern of similar conduct directed against that group”, from which a court could even deduce the existence of a genocidal plan. “Whilst the existence of such a plan may contribute to establishing the required genocidal intention, it is nonetheless only an element of proof used to deduce such an intention and not a legal element of genocide.” It should be noted that certain elements could cause a court to hesitate to decide on the existence of a genocidal plan, such as the fact that as of 15 November 1996, several tens of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees, many of whom had survived previous attacks, were repatriated to Rwanda with the help of the AFDL/APR authorities and that hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees were able to return to Rwanda with the consent of the Rwandan authorities prior to the start of the first war. Whilst, in general, the killings did not spare women and children, it should be noted that in some places, at the beginning of the first war, Hutu women and children were in fact separated from the men, and only the men were subsequently killed.

Paragraph 518. Nonetheless, neither the fact that only men were targeted during the massacres, nor the fact that part of the group were allowed to leave the country or that there movement was facilitated for various reasons, are sufficient in themselves to entirely remove the intention of certain people to partially destroy an ethnic group as such. In this respect it seems possible to infer a specific intention on the part of certain AFDL/APR commanders to partially destroy the Hutus in the DRC, and therefore to commit a crime of genocide, based on their conduct, words and the damning circumstances of the acts of violence committed by the men under their command. It will be for a court with proper jurisdiction to rule on this question.

--- Jason Stearns, an expert on politics and security in Central Africa, blogs at Congo Siasa.

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Rwanda: General Paul Kagame is painting a grim picture of democracy

By Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
UDF-Inkingi, Chair
August 24, 2010

On August 19, 2010 I was surprised to read in the Financial Times the apology of the so-called Rwandan democracy by General Paul Kagame in his “Rwanda’s democracy is still the model for Africa”. This irony is exactly what Franz Neumann said some time ago: "If the concepts 'enemy' and 'fear' constitute the 'energetic principles' of politics, a democratic political system is impossible, whether the fear is produced from within or without. If freedom is absence of restraints, the restraints to be removed are many, but the psychological restraint of fear ranks first."

We are all aware of the tragic recent history of Rwanda, the war and the genocide. The reconstruction of the society is not a secret of a one man's rule. In Rwanda, the alternance in power has been bumpy and bloody, therefore an all inclusive dialogue between all stakeholders is a must to set equal access regardless of their origins and ethnic backgrounds. Democracy is a universal value with quality content, tools and necessities of ordinary life that the state must protect. It is not just an expression shaped according to the ruler, his interests and his understanding of the recent history. General Paul Kagame does not really need to invent or advocate his kind of democracy. There is no need to invent a “counter-genocide concept” of democracy. There is Democracy, Free State or not. This is a process but all the time the need to level the playing field, the opening of the political space, the protection of freedoms should remain the guiding hallmarks. We should all enjoy equal rights and accept the diversity of ideas. You can't just promote your own type of democracy and shy away from any meaningful free and fair competition. It is just a pretext to keep power.

Another serious issue is the confusion between a leader and the country or the population. For example, when the author of the article says “Rwanda is one of the countries that have chosen to apply unconventional mechanisms to solve daunting challenges”, it is clear that the demarcation line between the incumbent and the country has shrunk to exhaustion. Rwanda existed centuries and centuries before him, and it will exist after him.

His apology or argument are not different from the democracy theories in known modern dictatorships where in many cases the military leaders or other “strong men”, “the saviors of the nation” impose their own values of democracy. For international consumption, they organize expensive polls with the highest colorful turnouts and are lauded as living-gods loved and adored by all the population, at least 90%, criticized only by blind or short-sighted people. We have all heard about Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Joseph Stalin (USSR), Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania) or Marshal Presidents Idi Amin Dada (Uganda) and Jean Beder Bokassa (Central Africa Republic). We all know the turnout in their elections or the results. Yes, they speak volume.

What is strange enough is to belittle the whole African continent up to this unthinkable extent that “Rwanda's democracy is still the model for Africa”!

In general, the essential process that characterizes representative democracies is the ability to hold competitive elections that are free and fair both substantively and procedurally. Unfortunately, this value was crucially lacking during the 2010 Rwandan election. The whole world questioned a series of disturbing events that characterized the period leading up to the election. These include the assassination of a key opposition leader, the murder of a journalist, the suspension of two independent newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights researcher, the barring of three real opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists and political opponents.

One may boast for massive attendance at campaign rallies, huge turnouts, Rwanda’s economic success, and country’s apparent stability, but the reality on the ground is that Paul Kagame is a more ambiguous figure. How does it feel to enjoy such a Stalinist popularity and keep the opposition leaders in jail?

Whatever today’s level of Rwanda’s economic recovery, reconciliation and stability, it would be hard to sustain them in coming years with current political environment. If Paul Kagame really cares about a better future for all Rwandans, he should without delay release all political prisoners, restore censured independent newspapers, register all political parties and allow without any further delay a free and fair competition. Otherwise his so much acclaimed landslide victory will keep Rwanda on the brink of chaos.

Related Marterials:
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Rwanda: RPF’s election rigging tactics exposed

U.S. expresses concern about Rwanda election


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rwanda: RPF’s election rigging tactics exposed

By The Newsline Reporter
August 25, 2010

The recently held presidential election in Rwanda has been given a clean bill of health by different international observers, including the Commonwealth Observer Group. But one international observer brings us the story that was never told- a firsthand account of RPF’s systematic electoral frauds in Musanze District. It is against such fraud that Kagame is riding back to Village Urugwiro.

Field observation during Election Day

During the week before Election Day, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) informed all local (Rwandan) observers that they would have to vote in the cell (Akagari) where they registered as voter and would not be entitled to vote elsewhere in the country (unlike the military personnel or journalists on duty) as it had been announced previously. As a result, an important portion of local observers whose deployment had been planned (or who had been deployed as long-term observers) in the countryside made sure to be back to the capital Kigali the day before Election Day in order to vote in the Kigali area on August 9.

Considering the impact which a massive ‘desertion’ of local observers from the countryside would have on the rigour and credibility of the election monitoring, the last minute decision of the NEC is suspect. On August 9 (at least during the first hours of the day) mainly (the few) international observers accredited by the NEC could be present in remote/rural areas in order to monitor the electoral process.

I acted as an Election Observer for the non-governmental organization LDGL. On August 9, I moved around on a motorbike (with local rider) the whole day in Musanze District. In total, I visited 7 polling centers situated in 3 sectors of Musanze district: Shingiro, Kinigi and Gacaca. All polling centers visited were situated in rural areas.

Field visits’ assessment

In 4 of the 7 polling centres visited, I was the direct witness of numerous major electoral code violations such as ballot stuffing, secret of vote not guaranteed, vote in lieu of, and made-up results sheets. The election process in the three sectors I visited seems to have been largely infiltrated and influenced by local authorities loyal to the RPF party of president-candidate Paul Kagame. All violations which I observed during my visits are listed below. Transcribed below is also the vibrant testimony of a polling room coordinator who accepted to meet me on August 10. It can be deduced from all these elements that electoral fraud was systematic in most rural areas of the country on August 9.

At each place visited I felt a largely spread sentiment of embarrassment among the electoral agents and noticed an atmosphere of "too much perfection". All places were very calm; a group of women would be chanting or some young men playing football near the polling rooms. Observable voters' presence was little throughout the day. It seemed like all citizens had voted during the two first hours of the day.

From 8 am onwards, I did not observe anymore line of voters in front of polling rooms; during the time I spent visiting the last 6 polling centers of my programme (57 polling rooms = 57 umudugudu), i.e from 9:20 am to 3 pm, I recorded only six citizens voting.

In the same 6 polling centers, i.e from 9:20 am onwards, participation rates according to the marks in the voters' lists varied from 94,1% to 100%, with the exception of one polling room showing 84,1%. At Mugari cell (Shingiro sector) polling center, all 6 polling rooms presented a participation rate of 100% at 10:40 am. By the end of the day, Karwasa cell (Gacaca sector, 5 polling rooms, 2 pm) and Kabirizi cell (Gacaca sector, 7 polling rooms, 2:50 pm) polling centers showed a participation rate of 100%.

I did not notice any presence of concurrent political parties (PSD, PL, PPC) in the polling rooms nor in the polling centers' proximity throughout the day. Inversely, a representative of the RPF party was present in every single polling room visited. The absence of concurrent parties at the poll locations questions their unwillingness (inability, impeachment?) to monitor the electoral procedure. Had they been present in the locations listed below, could they have filed several appeals considering what followed.

Observations summary

a) Visit to polling center E.P. Gikoro (9 polling rooms) from 5:40 am to 8:30 am / Musanze district, Shingiro sector, Gakingo cell

Major violations of electoral code observed:

Ballot boxes stuffing. Prior to the beginning of the poll scheduled at 6 am, three polling rooms (probably more) had their ballot boxes stuffed with several hundreds of ballots stamped in favor of candidate Paul Kagame. All 9 rooms presented voters' lists with between 40 to 80% of the electors' names already marked as "having voted".

Ballot boxes unsealed. Logically, no disclosure of the empty ballot boxes was made to the public at the opening of the poll. As I left the polling center at 8:30 am, several rooms had their ballot boxes unsealed or sealed with only one tag.

Secret of vote not guaranteed. Several rooms had poorly located polling booths. In many cases, the RPF representative was sitting in a position where he could observe the voters' action. As I entered one room, the RPF representative was standing close to one voter. As some rooms only had one booth, 2-3 citizens would queue right behind a voter casting his vote.

Minor violations observed:
Indelible ink was missing in certain polling rooms; presence of five (not four) electoral agents in the polling room

b) Visit to polling center E.P. Kibwa (6 polling rooms) from 9:20 am to 9:40 am / Musanze district, Shingiro sector, Kibuguzo cell

Major violations of electoral code observed:

Vote in lieu of registered voters plus illegal voting. Three women had come to cast their vote but were first prevented to do so. Consultation of the voters' list showed that their names had already been marked as "having voted". One woman was finally invited to vote with a supplementary ballot.

Minor violation observed:
Indelible ink was missing in certain polling rooms.

c) Visit to polling center E.P. Nyamurimirwa (6 polling rooms) from 10:40 am to 11 am / Musanze district, Shingiro sector, Mugari cell

No apparent violation of electoral code observed. (At 10:40 am, 100% of the voters had already cast their vote according to the voters' list...)

d) Visit to polling center E.P. Bisate (17 polling rooms) from 11:20 am to 12 pm / Musanze district, Kinigi sector, Kaguhu + Bisoke cell

Minor violation of electoral code observed: indelible ink was missing in certain polling rooms.

e) Visit to polling center E.P. Kampanga (7 polling rooms) from 1 pm to 1:15 pm / Musanze district, Kinigi sector, Kampaga cell

No apparent violation of electoral code observed.

f) Visit to polling center E.P. Karwasa (5 polling rooms) from 2 pm to 2:20 pm / Musanze district, Gacaca sector, Karwasa cell

Major violations of electoral code observed:

Vote in lieu of registered voters + illegal voting. It had been planned that the rider/motorcyclist taking me around would cast his vote in his cell/umudugudu polling room between 2 and 3 pm. As we arrived in E.P. Karwasa, he was first prevented from voting. After some questioning and insistence, I could briefly notice that his name had already been marked on the voters' list. He was finally invited to vote with a supplementary ballot. A another citizen was also prevented from voting although he owned a voter card; the polling center's president and a dozen of local citizens argued that the man had a mental deficiency (it seemed that he indeed had a light mental deficiency).

Secret of vote not guaranteed. When casting his vote, the motorcyclist was accompanied inside the polling booth by an electoral agent.

Access to information denied to election observer. The polling center's president refused categorically to let me access the voters' lists.

Confiscation of personal legal documents. The polling center's president confiscated the voter card of the citizen with alleged mental deficiency, hid it and then declared that he did not possess it.

g) Visit to polling center E.P. Rungu (7 polling rooms) from 2:50 pm to 6 pm / Musanze district, Gacaca sector, Kabirizi cell

Major violation of electoral code observed:

Making-up of final electoral results. Just before the ballot boxes could be unsealed, as the polling staff was getting ready to proceed with the ballot counting, I requested to see the minutes sheet (PV) of the polling room opening (6 am).

After some hesitation, the polling room coordinator pulled out the polling room opening minutes’ sheet from an envelope and, accidentally, the minutes’ sheets of the results too. The latter was totally filled up with anticipated results showing a 100% vote in favor of candidate Paul Kagame.

The minutes’ sheet was signed by all electoral agents. A quick check proved that all 7 polling rooms of the polling center presented the same scenario. Embarrassment was general among the polling staff. All electoral agents proceeded in the counting of the ballots in a theatrical manner due to my presence. In the polling room I was observing, the total number of ballots counted corresponded exactly to the number of pro-Paul

Kagame votes transcribed on the minutes sheet (not one single alternative or invalid vote). In all polling rooms candidate Paul Kagame scored a 100% vote.

Minor violation observed: in one polling room, two representative of the RPF party - one man, one woman - were present. The latter did not possess an official document issued by the NEC.

B. Testimony of a polling room coordinator, Musanze district

On August 10, 2010, I privately met a polling room coordinator active at one of the polling centers I had visited the day before in Musanze district. The day before I had interacted with him (as with many other polling staff) and had implicitly expressed my interest to understand what was really happening. On August 10, he accepted to meet me as an election observer in order to denounce the electoral frauds organized by the RPF party. He revealed the chronology of the events which had taken place around the Presidential Election, and gave his point of view on the matter. I naturally guaranteed him total anonymity, and I am calling him Gilbert for this purpose.

His story

"It is a real drama", Gilbert said and added that on Sunday August 8, all the electoral agents were summoned by the Sector coordinator to attend a preparation meeting.

“There, the sector coordinator requested us to be present at our respective polling centers at midnight prompt during the night from Sunday to Monday," and recollected how the electoral agents were treated.

"The sector coordinator insisted on timely presence and added that he did not want to see one single cast against the RPF during the election...", Gilbert said.

He further said that at about midnight between August 8 and 9 all electoral agents met at the polling center, with several representatives of the RPF and the chiefs of the umudugudu (villages) also present.

"The chiefs of the umudugudus were requested to bring back the voter cards of their umudugudus' inhabitants. So they woke up households during the night in order to gather a maximum of voter cards. They came back to the polling center at around 2 am," Gilbert said

Between 2 am and 5:30 am, he added, the electoral agents, RPF representatives and chiefs of the respective umudugudus ticked the voters' lists against the names of the voters they had collected the voter cards from, and systematically stamped the corresponding number of ballots.

"In our polling room they had collected around 120 voter cards (on a total of 350 registered voters) and they stamped as many ballots. The strategy used to make the finger prints appear different was to incline the thumb in various manners as the ballots were stamped," Gilbert explained.

Gilbert estimated that no more than 4-5 individuals stamped all ballots in the polling room where he was.

Also, according to Gilbert, several citizens had refused to give their voter cards away. "In their cases they showed up at the polling center from 6 am onwards. But they all were pressurized to vote in favor of the candidate Paul Kagame. The authorities had urged us to control each ballot cast. After the voter would drop his ballot in the box, we would open it in order to verify which candidate had been voted. If it was not candidate Paul Kagame, we would take the ballot out and replace it with a ‘new ballot’."

In Gilbert's polling room, between 15 to 20 citizens chose to vote for "the second candidate in order of appearance on the ballot, i.e. PL's candidate Prosper Higiro", Gilbert recalled. These ballots were systematically replaced by ballots in favor of candidate Paul Kagame, he said.

Subsequently, at the particular polling center which had 9 polling rooms, all returned a 100% score in favor of the candidate Paul Kagame at the end of the election day.

Gilbert revealed that, in this context of massive electoral fraud, the unexpected appearance of a foreign observer in the polling center and the observations he performed on the spot had a negative impact on the polling staff. All agents were very surprised and many panicked. One political activist of the sector, present at that time, suggested that "we stop the election" as it seemed that the observer was noticing several elements of massive fraud, said Gilbert. "We were shaky as you were approaching our polling room. We thought to ourselves: “The Muzungu will discover everything.” As you would enter our room, we would stop following the voters in the polling booth."

Confronted with my observation in E.P. Gikoro (Shingiro sector, Gakingo cell), Gilbert revealed that in the polling center where he was involved not all polling rooms decided to drop the illegal ballots stamped before the poll opening in the ballot box. Gilbert's polling room preferred to hide the stamped ballots in the pockets of an electoral agent's jacket. "The agent then gave his jacket to an accomplice citizen; the latter entered the room repeatedly during the morning in order to progressively drop all ballots in the box."

According to Gilbert, a majority of electoral agents were the victims of the actions and strategies discussed and decided by the political authorities at the sector level. "Before the closure of the poll, at around 2 pm, the sector's coordinator came to us repeating that all of this shall be kept secret." Even the police present at the polling site intervened. "After you left, police urged us not to talk to the Muzungu at any time anymore" , Gilbert informed.

Gilbert assumes that what happened in his polling center was not at all unique, that the majority of polling centers situated in rural areas had gone through a similar electoral fraud. "Actually, a majority of the population did want none of the four proposed candidates; therefore, a majority of citizens would have preferred not to vote had they had the choice to do so", Gilbert analyzed. According to him, the Presidential and Parliamentarian elections of 2003 and 2008 also involved major fraud.

In order to meet me on August 10, Gilbert traveled a long distance on a motorcycle. Gilbert informed me that he had taken a huge risk by giving such sensitive information to an outsider.

"I may lose my life doing this, but I wished to tell you what I have witnessed so that the world knows what happens in Rwanda. Here, there is no democracy. I request you to be the best possible transmitter of what I confided to you," he implored me.

During our conversation, Gilbert spontaneously indicated that he had voted with his conscience for the RPF party during the Parliamentarian election of 2008. This element, as well as my perception of Gilbert's deep genuineness, shall exonerate him from any partisan (anti-RPF) opportunism. "To vote for the party in power is one thing, the other is the discreet and individual nature of a democratic vote. That is what we lack in Rwanda", Gilbert concluded.

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By Karekezi Eduard
Kigali, Rwanda
August 24, 2010

According to what I saw on August 9th 2010, it looks as the only free and fair elections in Rwanda are those which have not yet been conducted or imagined. The recent election in my country, Rwanda of which I experienced personally, left all and sundry astounded. This election left every one asking a single question related to the role of elections monitors/observers. When they came here in Rwanda, they were chauffeur-driven to expensive hotels, their role was to eat and drink eye closed, and then off to the airport chauffeur-driven to their capitals. That was the end of their businesses. In real terms it was electoral fallacy. I always wonder if these observers are given basic training in matters pertaining to their crucial missions and moral responsibilities. One of them was Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), who headed the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG), a body that was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General at the invitation of our unrepentant National Electoral Commission (NEC). The COG had a mandate to observe the preparation for the elections, the polling, the counting and the overall electoral environment. If I remember well this man he might be the one who left nought on OAU score card. The next was former President of Burundi H.E. Sylvestre Ntibantunganya. After witnessing the Burundi electoral saga on 28 June 2010, he came to observe elections here in Rwanda!!!! Any way, from a political angle, we are going where Burundians are coming from. When elections ended, to my uttermost surprise, however, when asked (Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim) by a New Times (Government supported Newspaper) journalist about his own assessment of the process, he replied “We are extremely impressed by the determination of Rwandans to exercise their democratic rights”. This was patently an insult to the people of Rwanda. But here are intriguing and thoughts provoking questions: why resources are spent where elections’ outcomes are already known? Why do we like these symbolic electoral gymnastics? Imagine millions and billions of dollars, and pounds spent on this electoral charade. Why can’t we use these resources and strengthen the most RPF infiltrated institutions such as our ever weak and political enduring civil society, parliament, the judicial system, etc?

1. Elections per se: Tools used by the National Electoral Commission

It is when this electoral comedy ended that I tried to collect different testimonies from different voters. Collecting these testimonies was a trouble-free exercise as my relatives head some villages. As it appeared, there is no difference to what happened during the 2003 presidential elections. When National Electoral Commission Facilitators were told that the former Premier Minister Faustin Twagiramungu was going to defeat General Paul Kagame a decision was taken to bring extra-ballot papers. Those who were there remember well how it took almost six months for ink to get off their fingers. Imagine submerging your finger in ink and fingerprint at least one thousand ballot papers. This was done despite the fact that in many villages, village heads had already taken all voting cards on eve of the elections day and the next day (of voting) what they did was to collect their cards marked “YATOYE” meaning “HE HAS VOTED”. This emphatically corroborated with what FDU-INKINGI committee made public soon after this treacherous exercise of August 9th 2010, stressing that “in many areas of the north and west of Rwanda such as Busasamana, Cyanzarwe, Bugeshi Kanzenze and Nyabihu, the population had their voting cards seized by local authority. They were ordered to show up and collect their cards at poll stations as early as 4 o’clock in the morning. At the polling station, their voting cards were returned to them with “VOTED” stamp mark already on”. This vividly is also supported by the League for Human Rights in the Great Lakes Region (LDGL) report which criticized the electoral process alleging that “in some parts of the country where their observers monitored, people did not exercise their rights to vote but rather others (local leaders) voted for them”. On all these allegations, the government has decided to remain silent.

In fact most parts of the country people were told to come as early as 4:00 AM. But this was not an act of generosity, rather to collect their already stamped voting cards. All in all elections started, and ended when observers were almost still asleep in their lavishly hotels. This was done under what is known as “performance contract”. Leaders whatever they do, under any circumstances, and through any mechanisms, proper or dubious they must achieve the ruling party’s goals. Thus as an assessment was to be done latter after elections, the top performer has to be trusted and the poor performers to be investigated. Fear scratching their brains, village heads collected all voting cards from their subjects and on elections day, instead of casting their votes, they went (people) to collect their stamped voting cards. In addition to that, in most rural areas there was no secrecy in voting. People were shown were to put their fingers, and nowhere else but on President Kagame’s picture. This daylight robbery and unchristian act was done all over the country but excessively in the Northern and the Western parts of the country. This human rights violation succeeded because all villages were equipped with at least a single polling station. Equipping each and every village with a polling station was a barbaric strategy crafted by the RPF through its arm-NEC- to ensure that villages where RPF is lowly supported are caught red-handed. But to observers, they wrongfully thought this was a good strategy which allows people to cast their votes on their door steps. Additionally, soft contenders willingly chosen by the ruling party, did not want to be represented at all polling stations, except those seen as being closer to the so-called ‘Foreign Observers’ led by Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim and the former President of Burundi H.E. Ntibantunganya. All these dirty tricks were used in most cases by village heads because voting against the ruling party is tantamount to political assassination. Hence village heads had to prevail and avoid such political calamity.

2. Analysis of peoples’ attitudes towards elections in Rwanda

The overall analysis of the impact these elections might have on the ordinary citizen is somehow catastrophic. This results from the fact that by virtue of being a bogus exercise, people don’t see or intuitively think the intention, motivation and the value added when elections are conducted under this disheartening environment. People regard this as a perfunctory exercise. But for how long people of Rwanda, still struggling to make ends meet will continue financing political parties’ campaigns? During all electoral processes we always sit on the fence because we are not given an opportunity to choose amongst different contenders. This normally leaves us in a political orphanage. Here are some few factors that characterized the electoral/political apathy I personally observed:

2.1. Peoples’ reaction after casting their votes

I observed that soon after casting their votes most people did not even wait the counting exercise. In fact, when a voter believes his or her voice counts; that his/her voice can drive the country in a different direction, in most cases she/he waits until the verdict is pronounced. I saw this during the constitutional referendum in Kenya when people were asked to choose Yes or No. Most people passed their unforgettable night on polling stations. Their intention was to guard jealously their decisions (their Votes). But we (Rwandese) knew our voices meant less, hence leaving a polling station was as good as leaving a graveyard after a burial ceremony. This was a major preoccupation of local journalists on different radio stations across the country during "live" vote counting exercise. All in all, this is due to the fact that the whole process was seen as a political gimmick that amounts to nothing but renewed dictatorship.

2. 2. Lack of voters’ names on voters roll despite NEC mobilization

This also shows how people were not interested by this electoral charade. Despite persistent calls by the commission, requesting people to go and check their names on voters roll, many people did not heed NEC’s call. This is because people know that the current regime does not value the most cherished; the most fundamental; and God-given right of choosing our Leaders. In addition, people do not believe in our NEC.

2. 3. People’s fear of not having cast their votes

A great number of people did not vote. This is because they were no where on the list. To my surprise when people were asked to comment on what may follow after missing the exercise (Journalists suggesting to even wait the next decade (2017)) most of them shed tears. They expressed fear saying they might be victimized if their voting cards were not stamped. They said if they were to be arrested they could find themselves in a compromising position as they do not have anything to show local authorities? From these testimonies it is beyond reasonable doubt that people voted against their will because there was no choice. Thus one votes because he/she wants her/his voting card to be stamped. And this was also done for the sake of satisfying the current force-backed regime. If you don’t know how this government operates, please use Google and read the article "The Paul Kagame I know" by Robert Krueger.

3. Congratulatory messages

Today the most heated debate among Rwandan intellectuals and ordinary people revolve around congratulatory messages. Leaders have refrained from sending these messages to the re-elected President. We strongly believe it is due to galvanized efforts by civic organizations, and other activists and peace lovers who continue to show the international community the unfolding politics of our leaders. Politics of politicking is unfolding here. Different leaders have been very cautious, vigilant, and careful due to political mayhem we went through as a country until elections date and thereafter. The first message came from his so-called challengers, those whose motivation and intention was to legitimize the process and be rewarded government posts. Hon. Ntawukuriryayo Jean-Damascene who represented PSD is touted to become the Rwanda Premier Minister in the next government. As I told you long ago, this formula is a calculated move, deliberately crafted by these political vultures so as to entrench political power within their circle. The name of the President of the Liberal party (PL), now the President of the Senate, Dr. Biruta Vincent, circulated in the corridors of power for a while, but was latter discarded because of his weaknesses as well as low political profile. The unexpected and bitter messages came from The Bush House and the Canadian Government. Both messages were not in fact ordinary messages, but a clear warning to Kigali that a new political dispensation is indeed needed. Other highly expected message came from the remaining worst authoritarian leader and his closest friend Kim Jong IL of North Korea. Undoubtedly, this situation has been an acid test for the re-elected President. Consequently, he has recognised the best side of the media and has started a long tirade against critics through the Financial Times. But I wonder!!!!! Why a media predator, be allowed a free ride in media industry?

Finally, dear leaders, we have to work together to weave the threads that will see us celebrating a nation which is not ethnically, regionally divided, a nation that is dedicated to pushing back the frontiers of poverty for all of us. A nation whereby the sun shines for everybody. Otherwise a nation whereby a single clique holds the total economy of the country may lead us to believe that a tsunami of whatever sort is nearby.

Allow me to congratulate you ALL (especially the Africa Faith and Justice Network, Friends of the Congo, Human Right Watch, and all of you) who played unparalleled role during this time of need!!!!!
However, Dear Brothers, Dear Sisters our Brothers and Sisters are still languishing in prisons under awful and unspeakable conditions!!!!! So please, your help is now, today, not tomorrow, the most needed. Most needed especially in this time of darkness. Let’s unite and throw away the yoke of dictatorship. The regime is too ruthless. The President and Founder of PS-Imberakuri and others are still languishing in prison for no reason; others are on security surveillance due to fabricated charges such as Victoire Ingabire of FDU-INKINGI!!!! So please make a pledge and save the entire humanity starting now. “Together we will prevail!!!!!!”

Mr. Karekezi Eduard can be reached via Email at "".

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