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Rwandan President Lashes Out at UN Over Leaked Report

Rwandan President Paul Kagame disputes a UN report alleging war crimes by Rwandan soldiers while giving the prestigious Oppenheimer lecture at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame disputes a UN report alleging war crimes by Rwandan soldiers while giving the prestigious Oppenheimer lecture at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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Henry Ridgwell

Rwandan president Paul Kagame has again lashed out at the United Nations after a U.N. report suggested Rwandan soldiers were guilty of mass killings and rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Making a speech in London, Mr. Kagame suggested the report's authors had deliberately given a false account. As the dispute worsens, the Rwandan leader has threatened to withdraw Rwandan peacekeepers from Sudan.

Hours before Paul Kagame was due to give his speech, his supporters had arrived outside the venue in central London to show their love for the president and celebrate his recent re-election with songs, dances and plenty of Rwandan flags.

The esteem in which they hold Mr. Kagame is matched in Britain where he was invited to give the prestigious Oppenheimer lecture at London analyst group, the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"It is a pleasure to be here at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and an honor to speak on the challenges of nation-building in Africa," he said.

President Kagame was re-elected in August with 94 percent of the vote, amid allegations that he'd intimidated and in some cases locked up political opponents.

But it's a simmering row between Rwanda and the United Nations that's now threatening to tarnish his image.

Paul Kagame's forces took power in 1994 after bringing an end to the genocide of his Tutsi people by Hutus.

A leaked U.N. report accuses his troops of carrying out mass killings and rape as they pursued the Hutus into the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s.

After his speech, the president rebutted the allegations.

"They are baseless and totally untrue and flawed in many ways. To accuse Rwandan forces of committing genocide in the Congo or wherever for that matter, other than what happened in our own country, is just absurd," he said.

As the row intensifies President Kagame has threatened to withdraw the 3,500 Rwandese peacekeepers from Darfur in Sudan. He says the UN's failure to stop the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994 invalidates any criticism of his forces.

Asked about the now improving relations between Rwanda and the DRC, Mr. Kagame said he believed that could be the motivation behind the U.N. report.

"While some people seem to acknowledge it is very good, other people feel threatened by it and want to undermine it. It's like 'Oh - if Rwanda and the Congo come together then what?'... there are people's jobs that are threatened by that," he said.

But Carina Tertsakian from Human Rights Watch says the Rwandan government should take the report seriously.

"The very serious abuses carried out by Rwandan troops as well as by Congolese groups in Congo in the '90s were well documented already at that time not only by U.N. teams but by different Non-Governmental Organizations, so to deny the accusations in that way is simply not credible. The Rwandan government should treat these allegations with the seriousness that they deserve and at the very least commit to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes."

Back in central London, Paul Kagame's supporters aren't letting the U.N. report change the way they view their president.

"He's full of democracy, full of achievements, development and prosperity," says one supporter. "I appreciate everything he does and he's genuine. We've seen a lot of people going and coming, but he's a genuine," another supporter said.

The U.N. report into the alleged war crimes by Rwandan forces in the DRC is due to be officially published on 1 October. Parts of it have already been leaked - and provoked a fiery response. When the full details emerge, the growing tension between President Kagame and the United Nations is only likely to get worse.

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