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Rusesabagina Welcomes Congo Report, Warns of Another Genocide in Rwanda

Rwandan peace activist Paul Rusesabagina (2008 file photo)
Rwandan peace activist Paul Rusesabagina (2008 file photo)
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Michael Onyiego

Rwandan peace activist Paul Rusesabagina has welcomed the release of a controversial report detailing crimes against humanity committed by Rwanda in Congo.  

On October 1, the United Nations released a highly anticipated and highly controversial report that suggested the Rwandan army may have committed genocide in eastern Congo, following the Rwanda genocide in 1994.  Initially leaked in late August, the report's findings set off a diplomatic storm.

The report details major crimes including mass rape, the killing of civilians and other crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1993 until 2003.  The 550-page document describes majority Tutsi forces, under the command of now Rwanda President Paul Kagame, committing reprisal attacks on Hutu civilians as they pursued Hutu forces into the Congo after ending the genocide in Rwanda.

A Hutu who sheltered more than 1,200 Tutsi during the genocide, Paul Rusesabagina, says the report revealed unspoken truths about the region's history.

"At long last, for the first time, the United Nations have not yet abandoned Rwanda and my fellow Rwandans," said Paul Rusesabagina. "Because, at least now we can see that both sides committed atrocities.  The only way to reconcile a nation is to bring everybody around the table.  And then around the table, give an opportunity to each and everyone to talk, to bring the truth.  Then through the truth, equal justice, equal rights and then reconciliation and a lasting peace."

Rusesabagina, who is the subject of the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, says the long history of conflict in the Congo is due in large part to conflict minerals.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo is rich in minerals such as coltan, cobalt and gold, all of which are essential in many of today's electronics.  

Groups such as the Washington-based Enough Project say the control of mines that produce such metals has long fueled instability in the region.

A U.N. Group of Experts report in 2008 found evidence that Rwanda had collaborated with armed groups controlling those mines.  Rusesabagina said Rwanda's exports of conflict minerals must be monitored and controlled to prevent further violence.

"We do not produce any single pound of those metals," he said. "So we need now to get the international community as a whole to get involved so that these minerals are extracted - but extracted in a fair way and reasonable way.  Our main objective is not to prevent multinationals from getting minerals.  So why don't they buy these minerals from the right people, from the people of the Congo."

Rusesabagina is a well-known critic of President Paul Kagame, and has accused him of ruling the country against the people's wishes.  

Rusesabagina calls the Kagame government a clique of Tutsi elite.  He says the simmering ethnic tensions that triggered the 1994 genocide have returned to present day Rwanda, and warns the country is heading down the same path.

"In Rwanda it was a justice of the winner," said Rusesabagina. "Rwanda has become a dictatorship.  The winner had silenced everybody.  So Rwanda is more or less like a dormant volcano, which can erupt any time.  If the international community is not involved, definitely another genocide is likely to happen.  We are heading to another disaster."

Rusesabagina says dialogue between Hutu and Tutsis in Rwanda is necessary to avoid such a future.  He says "no one is 100-percent innocent" and advocates an airing of the country's terrible history in order to move forward.  But Rusesabagina is also calling for President Kagame to be brought to account for his role in those brutal events, before that process begins.   

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