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UN Congo Report Released Amid Protest from Uganda, Rwanda

  • Michael Onyiego

The United Nations on Friday released a controversial report documenting massive violations of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report has sparked protests from both Rwanda and Uganda, whose armed forces are implicated in the crimes. The African countries of Angola and Burundi have also disputed aspects of the report.

On Friday the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released the final version of a report documenting crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The report documents over 600 major crimes including mass rape, targeted killings of civilians and other crimes against humanity from 1993 to 2003. The report implicates armed forces from Uganda and Rwanda in many of the crimes, suggesting that some may have amounted to genocide.

An initial draft leaked in late August sparked a diplomatic crisis, with Rwanda threatening to pull troops out of peacekeeping operations in the Darfur region of Sudan. While Rwanda has since withdrawn its threats, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo called the final report "flawed and dangerous" and said it was a "moral and intellectual failure" aimed at "reigniting conflict in Rwanda and the region."

But the United Nations is standing by the report. The Director of Field Operation and Technical Cooperation for the UN Commissioner on Human Rights, Anders Kompass, said the research was held to the highest standard and conducted impartially.

"We have absolutely no interest in fabricating things that are so serious, so sad like the ones that are in this report," said Anders Kompass. "What is important to say is that the report does not make and definitive legal conclusions. What is in this report has then to be brought to a competent court where the evidence is then presented by both sides. What the report does is to provide a preliminary assessment of the facts."

After the initial outcry from Rwanda and Uganda, the United Nations invited the countries mentioned in the report to submit comments, which have been published along with the final version. There were fears the Rwandan threats might compel the U.N. to dilute the report's findings but the final version maintains its initial conclusions, with some changes to the language.

The report refers to many of the attacks as systematic in nature, and suggests they could possibly be characterized as genocide before a court of law.

The report has essentially challenged the narrative of the Rwandan genocide which left over 800,000 dead in 1994. Much of President Paul Kagame's legitimacy has been based on his role in ending those killings. But the report implicates Rwandan forces under Mr. Kagame's command of similar crimes just across the border.

In the wake of the 1994 genocide, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front pursued Hutu forces responsible for the genocide into the Congo. While Rwanda maintains it was pursuing military opponents, the report finds many instances of Hutu civilians being deliberately targeted.

But the Rwandan government says the report is aimed at promoting the theory of "double genocide."

The report also met with fury from the government of Uganda, similarly accused of serious crimes in the report.

Following in Rwandan footsteps, the government issued a statement earlier this week saying the report could undermine its commitment to international peacekeeping operations. Uganda makes up a large portion of peacekeeping troops currently stationed in Somalia and there were fears the report would provoke their withdrawal from the troubled region. But the spokesman of the Uganda People's Defense Force, Felix Kulayigye, told VOA Uganda remained committed to the AMISOM mission in the Horn of African nation.

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