UN chief in Rwanda to discuss threatened peacekeeper pullout over UN Congo genocide report

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

UN chief in Rwanda over threatened Sudan pullout

KIGALI, Rwanda — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Rwanda’s president Wednesday after he threatened to withdraw thousands of Rwandan peacekeepers if the United Nations publishes a report accusing Rwanda’s army of possible genocide in the 1990s.

The joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur is commanded by a Rwandan, Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, and Rwanda has more than 3,200 troops and 86 police in the nearly 22,000-strong force.

U.N. officials and diplomats have said a Rwandan pullout from Darfur would be a major blow at a time of increasing violence and fresh efforts to end the seven-year conflict.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Ban made the unannounced trip to the Rwandan capital of Kigali on Tuesday to speak directly with Rwanda’s leaders about their concerns. He was meeting with President Paul Kagame Wednesday morning.

A draft of the U.N. report leaked in late August accuses Rwandan troops and allies tied to Kagame of slaughtering tens of thousands of Hutus in Congo. The alleged attacks came two years after those troops stopped Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, which killed more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Mushikiwabo described the report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights as “fatally flawed” and “incredibly irresponsible” in a letter to the U.N.

Last week, Rwanda Defense Force spokesman Lt. Col. Jill Rutaremara said the country has finalized a contingency withdrawal plan from Sudan’s Darfur region and from southern Sudan if the U.N. publishes its “outrageous and damaging report.”

Rwanda also has nearly 300 troops and police serving in the more than 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in semiautonomous southern Sudan. They are enforcing a 2005 agreement with the government that ended Africa’s longest civil war — a key mission ahead of a January referendum on independence for South Sudan.

In addition, Rwanda has small contingents in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Chad, Haiti and Liberia.

The report says the Rwandan troops and their Congolese rebel allies targeted Hutus and killed tens of thousands over months, the majority of whom were women, children, the sick and the elderly who posed no threat. Most were bludgeoned to death with hoes, axes and hammers, it said.

Rwanda invaded Congo in 1996, saying it was going after those who committed the genocide. Many were in refugee camps in Congo, which they used as a base for attacks on Tutsis in Congo and for cross-border raids into Rwanda. Rwandan rebels remain in Congo and have been terrorizing the population ever since.

Last week, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay delayed release of the report until Oct. 1 to give Rwanda and other countries mentioned in it more time to comment on the draft. She offered to publish any comments alongside the report if the country wished.

Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

will not be displayed