Global Policy Forum

Rwanda Threatens to Pull Peacekeepers from Darfur

Rwanda is threatening to withdraw thousands of its peacekeepers from Darfur if the UN publishes the recently leaked draft report that accuses Rwandan forces of massacring civilians in the DRC in the mid-nineties. The report cites numerous cases in which Rwandan forces allegedly slaughtered Hutu refugees after promising them repatriation. In Sudan, a Rwandan general is currently in charge of all 21,800 UN-AU peacekeeping troops, which includes 3,300 Rwandan peacekeepers. This shows how vulnerable the UN is to pressure from member states and how creaky the peacekeeping system has become.


By Jeffrey Gettleman

August 31, 2010
New York Times

Rwanda stepped up its threats on Tuesday to withdraw thousands of peacekeepers from Sudan if the United Nations published a report that accused Rwandan forces of massacring civilians and possibly committing genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo years ago.

Rwanda appears to be trying to play hardball with the United Nations and is using the fact that the country plays a linchpin role in the troubled Darfur region, in western Sudan, for maximum leverage. Rwanda has 3,300 peacekeepers in Darfur, and a Rwandan general is in charge of the entire 21,800-strong United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission there.

The United Nations report that Rwanda is trying to block, which was leaked last week to several news organizations in draft form, charges that in the mid-1990s invading troops from Rwanda and their rebel allies killed tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, including many civilians.

The report presents repeated examples in which squads of Rwandan soldiers, led by Tutsi commanders, and their Congolese rebel allies lured Hutu refugees with promises they would be repatriated to Rwanda, only to massacre them.

Until recently, Rwanda had been celebrated as one of the most promising success stories in Africa, a nation that had rebuilt itself after genocide in 1994, boasting impressive economic growth rates, low crime and innovative ways of fighting poverty.

But donor nations have steadily increased their criticism of Rwanda's brand of democracy, especially after the country's president, Paul Kagame, won re-election in August with 93 percent of the vote. Rwandan officials have been trying in private to persuade the United Nations not to publish the Congo report - or at least to take out the most damning accusations. But now it seems the pressure has spilled out into the open.

Jill Rutaremara, a Rwandan military spokesman, said in a statement that the Rwandan army "has finalized a contingency withdrawal plan for its peacekeepers deployed in Sudan in response to a government directive in case the U.N. publishes its outrageous and damaging report."

The presence wanted Sudanese President Omar al Bashir at Friday's promulgation of the new constitution continued to elicit condemnation on Saturday with city lawyer Paul Muite bashing the government's defence.

Mr Muite claimed the invitation of President Bashir was a wider plot by the government to undermine the work of the International Criminal Court and protect masterminds of the post election violence.

He said he suspected the government was riding on the resistance of the African Union towards the ICC as a way to have the court barred from investigating high profile politicians against the violence.

"It's rubbish. They are the ones who have been campaigning within the African Union because they want to protect the masterminds who are to be found across the political divide," said Mr Muite.

The senior counsel said it was wrong for the country to invite a wanted president after affirming that it would co-operate with the ICC on the ongoing investigations on the post election violence.

"The government appears intent on protecting the perpetrators not the victims as it should be," he added.

President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for gross violations of human rights in Darfur. He left Kenya immediately after a luncheon at State House under tight government security.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Friday dismissed those criticising the government for inviting - and failing to arrest - Mr Bashir saying he African Union had asked the ICC to defer his arrest warrant to avoid compromising regional security.

However Mr Muite read malice in the action and asked the court to act fast on the Kenya case to avoid any mischief.

"They should proceed and issue the warrants of arrest against the masterminds immediately so that if the government doesn't hand them over then the international community will know that the culture of impunity is operating in the country despite the new Constitution," he said. "Let them issue the warrants so that they can also remain here and be able to travel only to places like Sudan."

The chairman of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Albert Kamunde too condemned Mr Bashir's presence and said the consequences could be disastrous for Kenya. Mr Kamunde pointed out that Kenya could face international sanctions due to its invitation of the Sudanese leader.

"The worst case scenario is of course the UN has the discretion even to issue sanctions against the country," he said.

He agreed with Mr Muite that President Bashir's presence in the country further undermined the work of the ICC.

"International community may choose not to cooperate with Kenya in certain areas which means that Kenyan people are the one to lose out in the end," he explained.

Mr Kamunde stated that Kenya should now cooperate fully with ICC in its post poll chaos cases in a bid to save face and not to be seen to support impunity.

"This is an insult to the people who lost their lives and the people who lost their loved ones."

The government was however defended by former Institute of Surveyors of Kenya Chairman Mwenda Makathimo who stated that Sudan is a member of the African Union and as such its head of state could not be excluded from the momentous occasion.

"The African Union has taken a position to respect Bashir as the head of state of Sudan and respect him as a member of that union. So in terms of relations between Kenya, African states and Bashir, there is no problem," he said.

Speaking to Capital newsbeat, Mr Makathimo said that the issue was being blown out of proportion.

"People are trying to make a mountain out of an anthill and that is not necessary and al-Bashir is the leader of a nation that is our neighbour, a nation that we have had no problem with," he said. "I think we could not have spited Al-Bashir. ICC has got its duties as ICC but Kenya is not synonymous with ICC," he said.




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