|Posted by Jacob Jacob on August 29, 2010 at 1:03 PM|
When I conducted field studies in South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo at different periods between 2008 and early 2010, I met and discussed with several Rwandan Hutus. They repeatedly told me (across four towns in Uvira, Mwenga, Fizi and Walungu) that a genocide has been and was still being committed against Hutus by the Rwandan army and the Tutsi-led CNDP, generally believed to be backed by the Rwandan Government. A number of Congolese autochthons in those towns felt the same way. I was told about several cases of civilians being deliberately targeted by the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front after the 1994 genocide and by several other armed assemblages ever since. My PhD thesis, which will soon be available online (after my viva) contains detailed transcripts of focus group comments by Rwandan Hutus on this subject.
Now, a leaked UN draft report has more or less corroborated this claim. The draft report has accused the Rwandan Tutsi dominated army of killing tens of thousands of ethnic Hutus that fled into the DRC (then Zaire) after the genocide. I have seen extensive excepts of the leaked report and to say the least, I am not very surprised because I have heard the stories in detail several times from about a hundred Rwandan Hutus in Congo. But the worrying aspect of it is that it would be a huge blow to a Rwandan Government that has recently been struggling to defend their human rights policies before some of its biggest donors. They have now threatened to withdraw their soldiers from international peacekeeping engagements because of the leaked document.
I think when published, it would be the most extensive report yet to document the events of 1993 - 2003 in the great lakes region which was sadly ignored by the international community. It documents 600 separate incidents of violence, interviews with 1280 witnesses and 1500 documents. The report states that the massacre of Hutus was "not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons". It adds that the majority of victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick who posed no threat to the the attacking forces. The draft report also documents cases of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee long distances to escape, the report adds. In Congo I met with at least 15 Rwandan Hutus that said they ran through jungles from Goma in North Kivu to forests in Shabunda - think of running from Leeds to London! Unfortunately, they said, many did not survive the journey.
Section 513 of the report will make an interesting reading:
"At the time of the incidents covered by this report, the Hutu population in Zaire, including refugees from Rwanda, constituted an ethnic group as defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Moreover, as shown previously the intention to destroy a group in part is sufficient to be classified as a crime of genocide. Finally, the courts have also confirmed that the destruction of a group can be limited to a particular geographical area. It is therefore possible to assert that, even if only a part of the Hutu population in Zaire was targeted and destroyed, it could nonetheless constitute a crime of genocide, if this was the intention of the perpetrators. Finally, several incidents listed also seem to confirm that the numerous attacks were targeted at members of the Hutu ethnic group as such".
I fervently hope that this report, when published will bring the world's attention to the plight of Rwandan Hutus in the Congo. Granted a horrible crime of genocide against Tutsis was committed by Hutu extremists in 1994, but two wrongs never make a right. Till date, Hutus are still being hunted as preys in eastern DRC by the Congolese army and Tutsi-led militias. But despite joint military efforts against them, the Hutu-led FDLR has endured and are increasingly forging stronger alliances with local Congolese Mai Mai militias in the Kivus to commit horrifying atrocities such as the recent rape of over 200 women and boys. This unwholesome alliance with local Mai Mai groups suggests the FDLR are increasingly enjoying the support of some members of the local Congolese population - either out of sympathy for their course or out of fear. The FDLR claims to be fighting to protect Hutus in the Congo and local Congolese populations from raids by Tutsi-led militias. These and more, I believe combine to make the DRC conflict one of the most complex and intractable conflicts in recorded history.
I believe the UN needs to engage more with the Hutu situation and make concrete efforts to understand if and how a genocide has been committed against them. That can be a starting point for the creation of a restorative and retributive justice mechanism and a process of healing for the great lakes region.