afrol News, 25 October - The Rwandan government states its shock and disbelief in its official answer to the UN panel of experts' report about illegal resource exploitation in Congo Kinshasa (DRC). The reply outlines grave errors in methodology and facts and challenges the "so-called experts" to produce concrete examples.
The government and army of Rwanda were among the main accused in the long UN report, along with Uganda, Zimbabwe and the proper government and army of the Congo. According to the report, Rwanda was not addressing its security concerns in the Congo but, on the contrary, only present to exploit the neighbour economically. The so-called withdrawal of Rwanda troops was bogus and the continued illegal resource exploitation was already assured of.
The very well written reply by the Kigali Department of Information concludes that the UN report "lacks credibility" but,"because of the gravity of allegations contained in the report, however outrageous," needed an official reply.
The Kigali information officers are not at all impressed by the standards of the report, which is to be presented to the UN Security Council to decide whether sanctions are to be imposed. The "does not make any attempt to explain the legal basis for categorising business carried out in eastern DRC as illegal," according to the fundamental critique of the report. No place in the report, the authors had bothered to define what they meant by "illegal" and "legal" resource exploitation.
Thus, the Rwandan government - which does not deny widespread trade over the border - has an easy task in dismantling the UN report. "Trade between Rwanda and the DRC is permitted by the laws of, and bilateral and multilateral agreements, between our respective countries," the Rwandan reply therefore easily notes on the principal question the UN experts were to study.
The "30-year-old Interahamwe combatant" interviewed by the UN experts had said the Rwandan army was "tired of this war" and that there had not been much fighting "in the last two years." The Rwandan army was not in the Congo to chase the Interahamwe "like they pretend," but to engage in "gold and coltan mining" and to "rob the population." The UN experts fully endorse this view. Rwanda had not occupied the Congo for security concerns; the Panel had "extensive evidence to the contrary."
- The authors of the report certainly know that this absurd assertion is inconsistent with widely acknowledged facts, the Rwandan government answers. The Chairman of the Panel had documented the contrary on earlier occasions, the reply says, quoting his earlier report, documenting illegal sales of arms to Interahamwe and ex-FAR rebels based in Congo and planning to attack Rwanda and finish the genocide they had started.
The Rwandan reply goes on quoting assessments from the UN Security Council, Human Rights Watch and other credible sources, documenting the threat made by these genocidal troops across the Rwandan border during the last eight years. Since 1998, the Rwandan army had been "engaged in daily battles with these genocidal forces as illustrated by the over 6.000 captives who can bear testimony," the reply says.
Illegal army businesses
The Rwandan reply dismantles all these accusations. First, a "Congo Desk" did not exist. Kigali on several occasions challenges the UN panel to name only one example of the accusations made; "a single Rwandan businessman ... appointed to positions [in Congolese] public enterprises;" "the location of even one mine" operated by Rwanda's army; or one Rwandan army member integrated into the RCD rebel troops.
The Kigali government is especially provoked by the allegation that Rwandan prisoners had been moved into the Congo, where they are used as forced labour in the coltan mines, calling it "baseless, unfounded, and malicious." Rwandan prisoners at "all detention centres" were visited by family members and Red Cross representatives. "In the circumstances, the disappearance of prisoners from Rwanda's prisons could never be kept a secret," and Rwanda "challenges the authors of the report to identify by name a single prisoner who has been taken from a detention centre to work in the mines in the DRC."
-The withdrawal of Rwandan troops was conducted in broad daylight, in the presence and under the supervision of the Third Party (which includes the UN Secretary General) as well as representatives of the DRC Government, the Kigali government replies. Further, no panel member had been in the region for the last four months, as opposed to the UN peacekeepers, who had supervised the withdrawal.
- Rwanda withdrew its troops from the DRC voluntarily before it was legally obliged to, the answer goes on. "There would have been no point hiding the presence of Rwandan troops in the DRC, had their continued presence there been considered necessary."
Based on all these "fundamental shortcomings of the report," the Rwandan government was of the opinion that "the report is not worthy of the serious consideration of an organ such as the Security Council." It should therefore be rejected "in its entirety."
Sources: Based on Rwandan
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