Rwanda: Too Popular To Punish


January 26, 2010: A key leader in a Rwandan opposition party, the United Democratic Forces (UDF), recently raised the issue of the ethnic composition of Rwanda's government. This has been a no-no since the 1994 genocide. The UDF leader, Ms. Victoire Ingabire, who is a Hutu, intends to run for president. Ms. Ingabire has been accused with inciting ethnic discontent (or, put in another way, exploiting tribal rivalries or “playing the tribal card” in Rwandan politics). The Tutsi-dominated government has made the accusation, but so have several survivors of the Tutsi genocide. Ms. Ingabire replies that the genocide was a crime but Hutus have also been victims (which is true).

January 21, 2010: A year after Rwanda and Congo launched a joint offensive against the FDLR, Laurent Nkunda is back in the news. A Rwandan court has postponed a hearing on a request by Nkunda's lawyers that he be released from house arrest in Kigali, Rwanda. Nkunda was arrested by Rwandan forces inside the Congo on January 22, 2009. The Rwandan Army and the Congolese Army were conducting a joint offensive against rebel militias in the eastern Congo. Nkunda was head of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a Congolese Tutsi militia operating primarily in the Congo's North Kivu province. The Congolese government still says it wants Rwanda to send Nkunda to the Congo for trial on war crimes charges, but a number of observers are not so sure that the Congolese government really wants to put Nkunda on trial. The Congolese government does not want to antagonize Congolese Tutsis who still think Nkunda is a hero. Nkuna's lawyers contend that the general's arrest was by Rwandan forces operating in the Congo was illegal and his detention in Rwanda is illegal. Some commentators suspect the Congo and Rwanda are working out a diplomatic deal. On January 18 the Congo's minister of information said that the Congo and Rwanda would solve the problem of extraditing and presumably trying Nkunda this year.

January 14, 2010: The Rwandan government said that it had investigated three grenade attacks that occurred in December 2009 and a fourth attack that occurred in early January. The government report said the actions were criminal involving thefts and personal feuds. However, one attack was related to an impending genocide trial. Two potential witnesses were murdered in that attack. The string of attacks had led to speculation that a rebel group was launching attacks in Rwanda. Sub-Saharan Africa has a lot of weapons floating around, dangerous leftovers from the various wars afflicting the region. The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and Burundi have both run major weapons turn-in programs, but media constantly report that Kalashnikov assault rifles, land mines, and grenades can be quickly acquired by anyone with cash. Rwanda has had a similar program and in 2009 the government claimed it destroyed 30,248 small arms that it had confiscated or acquired.

January 12, 2010: The Rwandan government released a long-awaited report on the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana. Habyarimana was murdered in 1994 when a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile struck his plane as he was flying into Rwanda's capital, Kigali. His assassination was used by Hutu extremists as a reason to launch their anti-Tutsi genocide. Habyarimana was himself an ethnic Hutu. The government report (which according to one source included interviews with almost 600 witnesses) concluded that Hutu extremists were responsible for Habyarimana's death. A number of Hutus claim the report is a fraud.

January 11, 2010: A key member of the Peace and Democracy Union (UPD), a Burundian opposition party, was murdered north of Bujumbura (Burundi's capital). Sylvere Niyonzima was reportedly standing in a bar when a man wearing a mask came into the bar and fired eight shots at him at close range. Burundian opposition groups accused the government of plotting the assassination.

January 10, 2010: A UN advisory panel reported that Burundi's intelligence agency has been providing “military support” to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a radical Hutu militia operating in eastern Congo.

December 28, 2009: An anti-corruption NGO in Burundi alleged that the government stole $1.6 million from the 2009 budget.




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