With details having been leaked to members of the press and the public, it was clear that no amount of sabotage, pressure or blackmail from anyone would hold back the publication of what has turned out to be the most incriminating report ever, about the activities inside DR Congo, of the many foreign forces who occupied that country from 1997-2003.
But as innocent Congolese tried to come to terms with revelations on the international scene, of what they had previously known for so many years and tried to explain albeit with no success, politicians and state propagandists set out to find ways of toning down the words used. It should be noted that while there has been talk of efforts by the leading suspects in the crimes mentioned in the report, this was never about proving genocide. The UN, following years of suffering meted on Congolese people by marauding foreign armies and local militias thought it important to investigate what many had reported as deteriorating human rights abuses in that part of Congo, a spell dating back to the days when foreign armies entered the country.
So I will not go into arguments of whether the report has been successful in exposing the fact that there was genocide in Congo, who committed it, who the victims were or whether those responsible should be brought to book. The report is clear on these four aspects. For purposes of continuity and justice to those who lost lives or loved ones in the said atrocities (or war if you may) it is important that we dwell on what next, after this.
That the report was leaked to the press and later to members of the public before its publication has its own interesting bits. Speaking to a high profile source in the Rwandan government last week, he told me and I quote “I must say that to us, it is even better the report was leaked. I am not sure if any government whose forces are mentioned in this report, would have felt comfortable finding answers to the press the morning after the report’s publication. It would have been a nightmare”.
To this official the leaking of the report gave the accused governments enough time to plan a rebuttal. The scare mongering and professed threats that we saw from countries like Rwanda and Uganda for instance (threatening to withdraw forces from UN peace keeping missions) was devised as a means of giving the “offenders” room to think about what to say “and if possible to try and through friends in the UN, reach a compromising decision on how to phrase some of the contentious phrases in the report”.
At the end of the day, when the report finally got published on October 1, the damning accusation of a possible genocide committed against Hutus by the Rwandan forces as highly linked to in the draft report, was rather given a very soft dimension and the Rwandan army was not singled out but instead the report chose to use the word “foreign forces”.
Accordingly, it is now up to the DRC to try and seek prosecutions for those implicated if it feels and wants to. And this is where I take issue with international justice. Here, you have innocent civilians (including the young, sickly and elderly) being systematically murdered by the so called “foreign forces” in what can be argued as a deliberate attempt to finish them off, and all you get is a “you can go ahead and press charges if you want” sort of thing.
It gets irritating when you consider that the DRC is led by a gentleman who many know has no underlying intention to upset those who have helped him become who he is, by accusing their armies of the most heinous crime known to mankind. And the other option? Reparations, yes you read that right, reparations?
Did these foreign forces not go into Congo partly to carry out their mission (which is a subject of this report) and to loot? Reparations would be alright if they were what the innocent Congolese who lost their family members and loved ones needed. These people need no reparations; they are more interested in justice, an end to the savagery and the unending many wars that have ravaged their livelihoods. They want to be able to return to their homes, live in peace and be able to go about their daily lives without worrying about unexplained deaths of their sons and daughters or the rape of their wives and children.
The idea of reparations would be not very bad if it did not spell more misery for the Congolese. A country like Rwanda for example whose budget is part sponsored through foreign aid can not, in anyway, get the amount DRC will need to settle the atrocities committed by its (Rwanda’s) army in Eastern Congo. So what would that mean? It means if DRC insisted on reparations, Rwanda would instead find some other reason to go back into Congo, take control of the mineral rich parts of Katanga region, loot as much, sell that (assuming the US and Europe buys it without asking where it came from) to be able to raise enough to settle the reparations bill. We are talking of a good 5 more years of more misery. And who wants this? Certainly not the Congolese people, they have had enough.
There is a clear line between illegal and legal. It is clear that whatever the motive (intent) foreign forces (or Ugandan and Rwandan forces) committed crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes which ought to be punished for. The culprits are well known, these forces were not commanded by some supernatural object, but officers and men who may or may not still be serving in the said armies. For the sake of lasting peace, the world ought besides calling on the DRC to prosecute, insist that if President Joseph Kabila’s government keeps dithering about justice, the international community through and internationally recognised court, should take over the case.
The people of Congo and the innocent Rwandan who had sought refuge in that country deserve to be treated humanely and accorded all the rights that we humans have come to enjoy as per the universal declaration of human rights. Impunity bleeds conflict and a sense of betrayal; it should and must be fought.
…now over to you my little monsters