"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


the mapping report release

Today marks the long-awaited release of the official version of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Democratic Republic of Congo Mapping Report on human rights abuses committed in the country between 1993-2003. Most of the fireworks on this have already passed given the leak of a draft version of the report over a month ago, but the significance of today cannot be overstated.

According to the Associated Press, the final version of the report is largely unchanged, although apparently the genocide language has been tempered to something more cautious. That it remained mostly unchanged huge, not only because the draft version accused the Rwandan government of perpetrating large-scale abuses against Hutus in Zaire/Congo during the first DRC war, but also because it implicates a number of DRC's neighbors in very serious human rights abuses.

A few key points as the discussion takes off today:
  • Rwanda has provided comments on the final draft, including seven objections to the report's claims about its role in the DRC. These range from disagreements about historical context, the report's methodology, evidentiary standards, the use of anonymous sources, and contradictory reports regarding the presence of Hutu fighters in the Zaire refugee camps, and that the genocide charge is contradictory to Rwanda's repatriation of Hutus into Rwanda.
  • I would note that none of the above are valid claims. That the Rwandan government did repatriate Hutus does not mean they did not also slaughter Hutus in Zaire. Additionally, the fact that Hutu militants were using the refugee camps as a base to attack Rwanda (a claim no one disputes) did not give the Rwandan army the right to hunt down and slaughter those individuals, especially when they clearly could have arrested and put many of those genocidaires on trial. The methodology and standards for admission of evidence were solid, and the use of anonymous sources is standard (and the only ethical way to do it) in cases involving human rights abuses.
  • Uganda is angry over the report as well. All countries implicated in the mapping report were given the chance to respond, and it's important to remember that almost every group involved in the DRC wars is responsible for human rights violations at one point or another. Taking a page from Rwanda's playbook, Ugandan government officials have attacked the report's methodology and sources.
  • Not surprisingly, Burundi has also objected to its inclusion in the report.
  • To reiterate, nothing in the mapping report was really unknown. There were witnesses to almost all of the violence at the time and humanitarian actors in the region were acutely aware of what was going on, but previous efforts to provide a comprehensive accounting of human rights abuses in the DRC wars were stymied by various parties over the years. This happened most notably with the never-released 1994 Gersony Report - see Howard French and Jeffrey Gettleman's piece on it here. UN bureaucratic wrangling aside, the central point stands: none of this is new.
  • (By the way, I'm with Wronging Rights: Howard French deserves an award for not writing, "I told you so" in his current work on the story he covered as it happened. French reported most of these events from the field at the time and is at long last getting some validation for his excellent work. Give him a Pulitzer already.)
  • Claims like those of Raymond Bonner, writing at The Atlantic a couple of weeks ago, that suggest that the abuses were the work of rogue soldiers defy all the evidence. Bonner implies that all is really needed is for the involved soldiers to be punished. But Rwanda's activities in Zaire/Congo were very deliberate, and were clearly conceived and coordinated at the very highest levels. This is not My Lai.
  • At some point, Rwanda's most vocal defenders, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Philip Gourevitch, and Rick Warren, are going to have to deal with the reality reflected in the report. There are ways to help Rwanda's people that don't involve supporting the antidemocratic, authoritarian RPF regime. And if anyone is creative enough to figure those out, it's these guys.
  • Jason Stearns has analysis with an eye to possible legal scenarios here. Keep in mind that outcomes on this question will be contingent on what actors throughout the region have to lose from a tribunal. Since many, many, many, many, many, many politicians throughout the Great Lakes region would be in trouble were witnesses to take to the stand, I'm pretty cynical that any tribunal will really be able to deal with the abuses outlined in the mapping report. But stranger things have happened.
  • Wronging Rights covers the legal issues surrounding this in great detail here.
  • It appears that Rwanda will not withdraw its peacekeepers from Darfur as threatened. I'd be interested to know what role Clinton played in mediating between Ban and Kagame on this issue.
  • Acknowledging that the RPF is responsible for horrible crimes in the Congo is not the same as wanting Rwanda to be destroyed. I feel like any reasonable person would agree with that, but some commenters on this blog will claim otherwise, so I feel a need to get that out of the way. No one wants Rwanda to fall apart again. No one.
I'll have more on the final report and reactions to it after its release. It's very likely that the New Times will run an hysterical editorial dictated to their staff by some high-level government official in the next 24 hours or so; I'll keep an eye out.

(BTW, you should totally read today's New Times editorial, which is a paean to the RPF, which invaded Rwanda from Uganda twenty years ago today. Oh, the irony.)

UPDATE: The full report, comments from Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and the press releases are available here.

UPDATE #2: Human Rights Watch statement on the mapping report is here. "Human Rights Watch supports the establishment of a mixed chamber, with jurisdiction over past and current war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Congo."

UPDATE #3: Reed Brody, a member of the 1997 UN team that investigated these atrocities and whose report was suppressed, weighs in. Money quote: "By seeking to quash publication of the report, the Rwandan government is raising further questions about what it may be trying to hide."

UPDATE #4: Jason Stearns weighs in here. Official DRC response here.

UPDATE #5: A great roundup and personal reflection from @sonjasugira is here. Amnesty International's statement is here.

UPDATE #6: Colum Lynch parses the differences between the leaked draft and the final report here. MSF France has a statement (in French) on the report here. This is important as MSF is named several times in the report as a source; the statement as I read it is aimed at clarifying the fine line MSF (like many other organizations) walks in remaining neutral while drawing attention to serious human rights abuses.

UPDATE #7: Rwanda's New Times government daily weighs in with a hissy fit of an editorial that, while not exactly factual, is mighty entertaining. A choice quote: "There are several reports that were sponsored by unfriendly countries that always falsely accused the Government of Rwanda of exploiting DRC minerals. Rwanda is rich in mineral deposits and there is no need of illegal exploitation of minerals in other countries." Sure. Except for the fact that it is a well-established fact that Rwanda is not rich in mineral deposits, but that's just a detail, right guys?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are obvious reasons why the likes of the US and the UK do not want to look at this too closely, assuming the allegations can be proved.

In the Falklands War British troops shot prisoners on the grounds that to do otherwise would slow their advance. Ex-soldiers exposed this afterwards. There was also the case of the Belgrano, sunk while allegedly heading away from the conflict zone.

Older readers may also recall "the road to Basra" during Gulf War 1 when the US told Iraqis they could surrender but then slaughtered them from the air as they headed back towards Iraq.

And today if the US launch a drone attack in Afghanistan or Pakistan there are no interrogations, no trials, no separation of combatants and civilians, anyone in the area just gets vaporised.

But of course if Africans get accused, fingers get pointed and people say their badly needed Aid, badly needed often because of the unlevel playing field of trade tariffs and subsidies which result in the deaths of many Africans as it is, should be stopped.

If allegations can be proved beyond reasonable doubt using proper evidence then let us hold people accountable but only if that policy is going to be consistently applied to everyone who acts like this and not just Africans who seem to have offended the "anti-imperialist left wing lobby" and their mouthpieces in the press and NGO sector.

Friday, October 01, 2010 6:25:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I'm irrepressibly curious about is who's gonna pull up their sleeves and do the heavy lifting of invading Rwanda in order to overthrow the RPF and arrest Kagame?

Whoever volunteers is gonna get a heck of a bloody nose -- history can testify to that.

So who's gonna do it?

All talk? No action? Forever sniping away at the sidelines but never quite having the courage of your convictions? No African country's allowed to develop without your permission?

So who's putting up their hands to invade Rwanda, overthrow the RPF and arrest Kagame and his officers? I suppose the Gang of Four has already volunteered. But they're only four. Will that be enough? Maybe the RDF really is a pushover.

What about if all the NGOs pool together and make a mechanized division consisting of their white SUVs? That might do it. Though the white would be a pain as regards camouflage.

I'm waiting ... War is being declared on Rwanda ... so cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war! (And stock up on plenty of tissues to stem bloody noses.)

Friday, October 01, 2010 7:36:00 AM

Blogger Nkunda said...

The anonymous writers are missing the point. The purpose of the report is not to declare way on Rwanda, neither is it an imperialistic agenda.

A lot of people and civil society in the Great Lakes region support these findings; in the hope that they will provide the foundation for a genuine truth and reconciliation process.

Although, it might be a little tougher for Kagame who has built his reputation around a "saintly" persona and has labeled all his opponents as killers and Genocidaire.He is no different.

Lastly, Rwanda needs democracy and genuine reconciliation. While it is unlikely that the current leaders will be prosecuted, this report offers them an opportunity for a change of heart. They could accept reform or remain defiant.

Friday, October 01, 2010 8:15:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


So exactly what (i) "reform" and (ii) "democracy" (we have just had an election) do you want?

Friday, October 01, 2010 8:54:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Good lord. Nobody wants war in Rwanda. What the international community is beginning to demand is justice - for everyone in the Great Lakes region, not just some.

Friday, October 01, 2010 9:54:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first anonymous poster brings up a good point. There are western war crimes from WWII onward that have not been the subject of international justice. But many, perhaps most of those crimes have been documented and most of the people calling for some form of justice for what has happened in the Great Lakes region over the past decades would argue that similar justice should be, or should have been (in the case of WWII crimes like the fire-bombing of Dresden) handed out.

You can't lump western leaders who refuse to investigate or prosecute crimes that might implicate them with western-based groups who call for justice. The 2 aren't the same. Bill Clinton and HRW are not necessarily friends.

All that said, it is interesting that most of the international justice crowd spends most of its time on sub-Saharan crimes. Of course the fact that some of us may be hypocritical does not mean that large-scale massacres were not perpetrated in the Eastern DRC.

Friday, October 01, 2010 11:13:00 AM

Anonymous Mark Makers said...

Thank you, Laura, for this comprehensive posting.
To a large extent, this is old wine in a new bottle. Howard French and others long ago called attention to the 'second genoide' in Congo, and to the fact the Congo wars were international wars led by Rwanda and Uganda, not civil wars as many political scientists and economists continue to proclaim.
Here are my questions:
How long will Gourevitch and other pro-Rwanda deniers of the 'second genocide' continue to defend and explain away Kagame's actions?
How long will Western governments prop up the Kagame regime with political and financial assistance, while pretending Rwanda is a success story?
Is US support of Kagame and Museveni any different in form and substance than US support of the region's previous hegemon, Mobutu?

Friday, October 01, 2010 12:19:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Whatever the rebel forces may have done in Zaire, there was clearly no genocide. Millions went back into Rwanda, have been reintegrated and many must have voted for Kagame in the recent election.

Mobutu was corrupt, ran the country into the ground and filled his bank account. The development of Rwanda IS a success story and the opposite of Mobutu who Rwanda did everyone a favour by deposing. Suggestions to the contrary are no more credible than a "second genocide". And if Rwanda had sat back and let the interahamwe keep attacking Rwanda the development of Rwanda would not have been possible. It acted in self-defence. No one else, including the UN, did anything. To compare Mobutu and Kagame, and the help received from the West, is pretty ridiculous, in my view.

Friday, October 01, 2010 12:45:00 PM

Anonymous Mark Makers said...

The new UN report confirms earlier accounts by journalists (e.g. Howard French) and the 1997 and 1998 UN reports--there was clearly an intent by the Rwandan army to destroy, in whole or in part, the Rwandan refugees present in eastern Congo. This was the second genocide in the region after the first one in 1994. Suggestions to the contrary are not credible.
I am not saying Rwanda didn't have a right to deal with the genocidaires across the border in 1996, but the manner in which they did so was excessive and clearly resulted in tens of thousands of murders of innocent people.
I think Mobutu and Kagame are alike in the sense of getting massive support from the US and other Western governments, who look the other way at the excesses, crimes, and stifling of dissent by those leaders. They are not two peas in a pod, but there are many striking similarities between Kagame and Mobutu.

Friday, October 01, 2010 12:53:00 PM

Anonymous angelica said...

I just hope the report on the Palestinian Flotilla gets as much press...

Friday, October 01, 2010 2:06:00 PM

Anonymous H. said...

Oh yes, because Lord knows media coverage just constantly favors Central Africa over Israel/Palestine.

Friday, October 01, 2010 3:58:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is somewhat unrelated, but another report that came out yesterday is the final report of Burundi's "Amatora mu Mahoro" election monitoring. I have some questions about methodology and sample size after the presentation, but have yet to read it in detail:


Saturday, October 02, 2010 1:23:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of these people advertise themselves as the solution for Africa. Kagame and Rwanda mustn't sit very well with them. I think there was an article by a Ugandan academic a few days ago that explained this phenomenon.

Oh, well. If this is the price paid for embarrassing these people and going ahead and developing without them, then so be it. Such is life.

"All that said, it is interesting that most of the international justice crowd spends most of its time on sub-Saharan crimes."

And who do you think controls, or at least manipulates, this crowd? Ever stopped to wonder why this crowd is *all of a sudden* being listened to, even though they've always been around? Doesn't that *at least* make you *a little* suspicious? Kind of ... all of a sudden, isn't it? Just as the powers that be can suddenly give you all the attention you want, they can *just as quickly* condemn you to obscurity and utter irrelevance -- as has indeed been the case for the last 16 years or so. You're only as useful to them for as long as you're useful to them -- I assure you. Don't kid yourselves for one second that you're anything other than cynically being used. But being a rather unsophisticated and naive lot, with a simplistic black-and-white view of the world and the nature of things, you may not wake up to that fact and may continue being cynically manipulated by forces of financier capital who, for the moment, have some use for you. For the moment. And then like that ... you get no more media coverage. Just like that.

Saturday, October 02, 2010 2:04:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is important to note that Reed Brody is from HRW.

Tellingly he describes the RPF as having [only] a "crucial" role in ending the genocide as if there was anyone else who ended it.

Also he states that Kinyarwanda speakers were said by alleged witnesses to be responsible for killings failing to point out that it is a language spoken by many non-Rwandans e.g in the Kivus.

Finally, in the usual way of many foreigners, he seems to have drawn his conclusions in Kinshasa, a long way away.

Saturday, October 02, 2010 6:57:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Nice try, anon @6:57pm, but Brody is a very credible investigator who spent time all over the country investigating this mess in 1997. And the Kinyarwanda-speakers in the Kivus weren't nearly that well-armed at the time. It was (and is) obvious to EVERYONE there that RPF troops were responsible for these particular crimes. That said, there is plenty of blame to go around - just about everybody fighting in the region during the wars engaged in heinous acts.

Saturday, October 02, 2010 7:44:00 PM

Blogger Rich said...

@ Texasinafrica

Ref # "That said, there is plenty of blame to go around - just about everybody fighting in the region during the wars engaged in heinous acts."

Exactly! Why is it that some capitals seem more nervous than the others?

I can understand why some people struggle to digest facts about what has been an open secret for a long time. It is similar to the case of an abused child who grew up to become, himself/herself, a child abuser.

Thank God the context is changing and pressure seems to be delivering some semblance of viable options. There is still a long way to go though.

Just an opinion and not seeking to be treated with outrage if that's fine!

Sunday, October 03, 2010 6:57:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


We all know, or should, how difficult it is to get to the truth in such places. As with the recent report about the Kivus, everything is always blamed on Rwanda (or "someone else" anyway).

HRW have had it in for Rwanda for years now. The fact that Brody cannot even bring himself to credit the RPF for stopping the genocide on its own shows this just sounds like more of the same from HRW.

The origin of the rebellion was amongst the Banyamulenge who are Congolese living in the Kivus. They speak Kinyamulenge, a variation of Kinyarwanda. No doubt for the purposes of the witnesses referred to (and the recent Kivu reports) they are Rwandans when in fact they are not. Kinyarwanda is also spoken by many other Congolese in the east by the way.

On the one hand Brody said he "was there" but on the other "stuck in Kinshasa". Which was it?

Sunday, October 03, 2010 7:29:00 AM


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