Rwanda Condemns U.N. Report On Congo 'Genocide'

The United Nations has delayed the release of a report detailing a decade of gruesome attacks against civilians in the Congo after Rwanda protested the findings. Drafts of the report leaked to the media last week and accused Rwandan troops of slaughtering Hutus in Congo in the 1990s.

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The story of the Rwandan genocide is a familiar one. But now, a leaked United Nations report has accused troops from Rwanda, along with their Congolese rebel allies, of also committing possible genocide. The scene is across the Rwandan border in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.N.'s Human Rights Commission's draft document has caused a political storm in Rwanda, which is now threatening to end all cooperation with the U.N. if the report is published.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has the story.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: The draft report on Congo covers the period 1993 to 2003. Now, that period also includes the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda of 800,000 mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, massacred by the extremist Hutu regime.

The West failed to stop the slaughter, which ended only after a Tutsi-led rebel group, headed by the current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, swept to power. Ever since, experts say, Kagame has used the guilty consciences in Washington, London and other Western capitals to his advantage. So the accusation that the same Rwandan army may be responsible for the gruesome mass killings of exiled Rwandan Hutus and Congolese Hutus across the border in Eastern Congo in 1996 and 1997 is explosive.

Professor STEPHEN SMITH (African Studies, Duke University): This report talks about tens of thousands of Hutus - both Hutus from Rwanda but also Hutus from Congo - being killed and being targeted. So in U.N. terms, it would make perfect sense to use the genocide word.

QUIST-ARCTON: Author and journalist Stephen Smith covered the genocide in Rwanda and its aftermath, as well as the civil wars in Congo. He's currently a visiting lecturer at Duke University.

Smith says that while the word genocide was used in the draft report, it remains unclear whether the U.N. will retain that word in its final version.

Prof. SMITH: And then there is still the question: Which international tribunal would actually investigate these accusations? So there's a lot of ifs and whens and hows.

QUIST-ARCTON: Rwanda has reacted swiftly, describing the report as malicious. Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo warned that if it was published as-is, Rwanda will pull out of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Now, Rwanda currently commands the U.N. African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan.

Minster LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO (Foreign Ministry, Rwanda): This is not a decision we've taken without reflection. We are considering pulling our troops out of peacekeeping operations starting with Darfur, and we have instructed our force commander to start making contingency plans.

QUIST-ARCTON: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, yesterday praised Rwanda's participation in peacekeeping missions, saying the U.N. was very grateful for such strong support. The U.N. says the report's release will now be delayed until October 1, to allow countries cited in it the time to append their comments.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

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