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The East African : Dec 22nd 2014
14 FACING MILITARY ACTION The EastAfrican NEWS DECEMBER 20-26,2014 Rwanda p≥esses fo≥ ICTR ≥eco≥ds By EDMUND KAGIRE The EastAfrican AS THE International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) prepares to close on December 31, the focus has shifted to who gets to keep the records of the cases tried at the court. Minister of Justice John- ston Busingye said on Friday, during the country’s 12th National Dialogue meeting, that Rwanda should keep them. “As the tribunal closes, The Congolese army FARDC and the UN mission Monusco, deployed in the DRC, are set to launch a military offensive against the FDLR. Picture: File As deadline expires, Kinshasa pledges to finally disarm FDLR The ≥ebels a≥e estimated to numbe≥ between 1,500 and 2,000; Rwanda says the≥e could be 3,000 o≥ mo≥e A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT The EastAfrican A s the deadline for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to disarm or face military action approaches, questions remain over whether the rebels, who are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide, will be finally rooted out from the jungles of eastern DR Congo. The rebels, who in the past two weeks havepledged to surrender to the United Nations and government forces ahead of the deadline, could face military action, with only just over 600 having surrendered ahead of the January 2 deadline. The rebels are estimated to number between 1,500 and 2,000; Rwanda says there could be 3,000 or more. Last week, President Paul Kagame met his Angolan counterpart and chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Eduardo Dos Santos to discuss “matters of regional concern.” The FDLR issue dominated the meeting. “During their meeting, held at the Presidential Palace, the two heads of state discussed regional security and committed to stepping up bilateral co-operation in various sectors, including investment,” said a statement released by the President’s Office. Political observers say Ki- gali is drawing Luanda to its side as pressure gathers on regional countries and the UN to end the FDLR menace once and for all. Rwanda and Angola were previously rivals in the Congo conflict but the two countries have since strengthened bilateral ties, with each country promising to open a diplomatic mission. But the FDLR, which Rwanda says continues to harbour the genocide ideology, remains very much a threat, with the latest developments suggesting that the rebel group could still have collaborators inside Rwanda, which could complicate the process of eliminating them. During a major crackdown on FDLR collaborators between May and July 2014, several local leaders were arrested on suspicion of abet- ting the rebel group. Recently, one of the 15 sus- pects charged with working with FDLR to cause insecurity in Northern Province said their activities were bankrolled by the Governor of the province Aime Bosenibamwe. Mr Bosenibamwe has dismissed the allegations as “wild and baseless.” But this week, Prosecutor General Richard Muhumuza when asked whether Mr Bosenibamwe would be arrested simply said, “No one is above the law.” The Northern and West- ern Provinces were famous in the period between 1994 and 1998 for harbouring “infiltrators” known as Abacyengenzi, remnants of the former government and Hutu militias. Some residents of Northern Province offered safe haven to them, which required military operations to wipe them out in 1998. Sources within the military said two provinces remain “sensitive operation areas.” Both the DRC government and Monusco say that the deadline for FDLR to disarm voluntarily and repatriate will not be extended and military strikes will follow. “Upon the expiry of the “There will be no more time to talk.” DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende ultimatum, there will be no more time to talk. Our armed forces and partners will launch a military offensive to forcibly disarm the FDLR,” DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende told IRIN news agency last week. As military action looms, humanitarian activists warn that strikes should be the last option as they would come DANGEROUS Early this month, a German court convicted three men for links to an ethnic Hutu militia involved in killing Congolese citizens. The court found that in 2011 and 2012, the two main suspects had posted rebel propaganda on the Internet. The regional high court in Düsseldorf found the men guilty of membership in the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR. The FDLR is a “well-organised, extremely powerful and, therefore, especially dangerous terrorist organisation,” the judges said in their verdict. with loss of civilian lives. “Any military operation risks creating a humanitarian fallout. In eastern Congo, one of our biggest concerns is increased displacement in areas that are already overwhelmed by the needs of displaced people,” Frances Charles, advocacy manager with World Vision DRC, told IRIN. He said the planned offen- sive comes with a high level of risk, particularly to civilians. “Every effort must be made to reduce and monitor human-rights violations,” Mr Charles said. Mr Mende said the gov- ernment has already warned people, through radio announcements, to move away Demonstrators in Kigali protest against the acquittal of former ministers Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza by the ICTR last year. Picture: File our position is unchanged. Our plan is to have the archives back in Rwanda because they are ours,” he said. “We are aware that many other countries wish to have them.” The issue of the tribu- nal’s archives is contentious, with Tanzania being favoured to retain them. However, Rwanda, having provided the most evidence and documents to the UN court feels it has a legitimate right to claim them. Mr Busingye said Kigali is also looking at obtaining 13 remaining files, including those of suspects yet to be arrested. Several files and two suspects have since been transferred to Rwanda as part of the tribunal’s residual mechanism. In April last year, the East African Legislative Assembly passed a motion in favour of the archives being relocated to Rwanda. Many Rwandans, particu- larly genocide survivors, feel the UN court did not meet the expectations that welcomed its establishment, by handing down what they saw as controversial acquittals and non-befitting sentences to genocide masterminds. The tribunal, which has spent almost $2 billion over the past 20 years, made only 61 convictions. President Paul Kagame is among those who criticised the work of the tribunal, which tried less than 100 cases despite its huge budg- et, compared with the traditional Gacaca courts. Naphtali Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of Ibuka, the genocide survivor’s umbrella association, said the ICTR had only a few achievements worth celebrating. “Our position has always been that the court let us down on many fronts. We have been on record about some of the acquittals of key genocide masterminds that happened over the years, which left survivors utterly disappointed,” Mr Ahishakiye said. “That is not to say that there was nothing positive. The tribunal helped track down key genocide suspects at a time when Rwanda did not have enough capacity to arrest and try them,” he added. The court also hepled to confirm that what happened in Rwanda was indeed genocide. “This was a vital step in the pursuit of justice,” Mr Ahishakiye said. On Thursday, the Mecha- nism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which was set up in 2010 to handle remaining the cases, reduced the sentence of former planning minister Augustin Ngirabatware from 35 to 30 years on appeal. Mr Ngirabatware, the son-in-law of wanted businessman and alleged genocide mastermind Félicien Kabuga, remains in MICT custody pending his transfer to a country where he will serve his sentence, said presiding judge Theodor Meron. While this ruling did not annoy survivors, previous decisions made by Judge Meron were met with anger. Last year in February, the decision by the ICTR appeals chamber, presided over by Meron, to acquit former ministers Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza sparked outrage.
Dec 15th 2014
Dec 29th 2014