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


More on the Group of Experts interim report

The UN Group of Experts on DRC formally submitted the interim report to the Security Council on Tuesday, but without the controversial annex on Rwanda's alleged involvement in supporting the M23 rebel movement. Here's the latest from the few sources that are covering this strange story:
  • Jason Stearns discusses the reasons the annex is being blocked, noting that it might be submitted at a later date. He also makes the important point that we don't know what is in the annex.
  • The Guardian's Pete Jones and David Smith have a detailed article on the alleged blocking of the report by the U.S., with extensive quotes from Congolese officials who believe the annex accurately reports Rwandan involvement in the crisis. 
  • Human Rights Watch released a quote on the situation (sent to me by email, also quoted in the Guardian story):  "The US government's reluctance to allow the publication of the UN Group of Experts' findings of Rwandan military support for Bosco Ntaganda's rebels is counterproductive. Stifling information will only hinder attempts to put an end to the atrocities committed by ICC war crimes suspect Ntaganda and other abusive commanders who have joined his mutiny. The US and other Security Council members should be doing everything they can to expose violations of UN sanctions and the arms embargo, including by Rwanda, and not attempt to cover them up."
  • Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth on Wednesday tweeted a link to the Guardian story, along with the comment, "US Amb Rice, over opposition of State Dept colleagues, seems to put loyalty to Kagame over concern for #Congo victims."
Roth's comment aligns with the story most reporters and observers are putting together. It suggests that the Africa Bureau at the State Department favors allowing the publication of the annex while US UN Ambassador Susan Rice wants to block it. The reasons for this are unclear. Rice served in the Clinton administration in several capacities; at the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, she was a member of the National Security Council staff. Rice has expressed deep regret over her and other Clinton administration officials' failure to effectively respond to the genocide.  

I am not among those who believe that Rice's guilt over Rwanda has blinded her to the realities of the RPF' regime's authoritarianism or that she is allowing personal feelings to override best practices in diplomacy, though this idea is circulating among some knowledgeable observers. She visited Rwanda in 2011 and there made pointed public comments about the country's lack of political freedom. So I am not really sure what is going on, if indeed it is Rice herself who wants to keep the GoE annex from being published at this time. Stearns - who does not mention the US, but refers to Security Council members in general terms - suggests that "UN member states are worried that these allegations could further sour relations between Congo and Rwanda, and that they are best dealt with behind closed doors."

That makes more sense to me as a viable explanation for what is motivating Rice or whoever is trying to block the annex's inclusion in the report.  However, I don't think it will work as a means of maintaining regional peace. The fundamental issues underlying the M23 conflict - the citizenship status of Congolese Rwandaphones and their land rights vis-a-vis other Congolese - have never been resolved and this and similar fights will not end until they are. Moreover, we know that the effects of the UN withholding or delaying factual evidence on Great Lakes conflicts has always backfired; the Gersony Report being but one example. That we did not get detailed documentation of atrocities committed by the RPF in Zaire in 1997 until the release of the 2010 UN Mapping Report certainly denied Congolese who died in the interim the chance to have any kind of justice, and made it easier for Rwanda's leaders to escape international sanction for their crimes.

Suppressing information did not help to bring peace to the Congo then, and it won't help now.  That whether there should be free and open exchange of data collected by experts that could help us to understand the causes and consequences of conflict is actually being debated - as though not sharing facts will keep people from behaving as though things they know to be true are not true - depresses me to no end. If the Obama Administration is serious about its new Africa strategy's third pillar - to advance peace and security - officials at the highest levels should intervene to ensure that full, correct information about the M23 crisis is freely available to all.


Blogger blaise said...

That was obvious to me that with Rice at the UN any issue regarding Congo will be diluted. Two weeks delay will obviously make the finding less pertinent hence less damaging to Rwanda.
I will always remember Rice and Albright's visit to Laurent Kabila, how their bias was so obvious. It's logical to me that in their mind a enlighten dictator is better than a corrupt democrat.
I hope that China and Russia will get back to her about Congo if she dare give them lessons about Syria. She lost the little credibility I had for her.( it wasn't much anyway).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 2:16:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We live in a world where people are often less than what they claim. The words "expert" and "scholar" are used often. We all know that goings on in Africa are usually difficult to get to the bottom of. How do we know that the so called experts know anymore than the rest of us or those commentators honest enough to say they do not know?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 2:24:00 PM

Blogger Rich said...

"How do we know that the so called experts know anymore than the rest of us or those commentators honest enough to say they do not know?"

Because when experts laud our dictatorships for being 'the new generation of African leaders' 'exemplary leadership'; 'lifting thousands out of poverty' etc... we take the compliment and ask for more.

Morality: you cannot always have it both ways.

At the end of the day, their report will be public and people are free to demonstrate how bad or wrong these reports are.

Some people are truly allergic to criticism!

Thursday, June 21, 2012 12:55:00 PM


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