Bishop Augustin Ahimana Murekezi Defending Rwanda’s Actions in the DRC

In 2006, Andrew Paquin wrote an article in Christianity Today, part of which said this about Pastor Rick Warren’s connection to Rwanda:

Warren’s relationship with Rwandan President Paul Kagame is also of concern. Kagame was the leader of the rebel Tutsi forces that brought an end to genocide in 1994. Yet as president, he has overseen a military that continues to occupy parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Human-rights observers such as Amnesty International and even the U.S. State Department accuse Kagame of not only stripping Congo of its natural resources, but also of mass rape, burning villages, and murdering civilians. Rwandan leaders reject these claims, yet the human-rights community maintains their accuracy.

Years of African corruption in the wake of colonial puppetry have created rifts of distrust between those who are suffering and those with friends in high places. Although Kagame is an improvement from past leaders, his connection to former regimes and to ongoing human-rights concerns should trouble anyone seeking to work with him.

Coming to the defense of Kagame, current Anglican Bishop Augustin Ahimana Murekezi of the Kivu diocese wrote a response in Christianity Today. He said:

It is also our duty to inform American Christians that there has been a malicious campaign to demonize Rwanda’s leaders, distorting the political situation. This distortion emanates from people often hiding behind so-called humanitarian organizations. Some have a hidden agenda of distracting the international community so that their own role in Rwanda’s tragedy cannot be exposed.

When Rwandan troops decided to pursue the genocidal forces and their sponsors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1996 and 1998, they did so in the light of day. The peace we enjoy today in our country is mainly a consequence of that action. When our troops pulled out of DRC in 2002, it was under the intense gaze of international observers and media. So accusing Rwandan troops today of continuing “to occupy parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo” is simply mind-boggling.

Bishop Augustin attributed all the multitude of reports pointing out Kagame’s evil actions to “a malicious campaign to demonize Rwanda’s leaders.” Would he say the same of all the former Rwandan leaders who have defected and told the same stories? They are all liars to a man as well? In fact, his attack on Paquin’s accurate article follows a pattern clearly elucidated by Filip Reyntjens in this paper.
As history has shown since 2006, Rwanda has continued to stir up death and mayhem in the DRC, particularly in the Kivus. In fact, as this week’s Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says:

The advance of M23 towards Goma started in earnest on 15 November with an attack on Kibumba, approximately 20 km north of Goma. After some success in pushing back M23 on the first and second days of the offensive with significant and robust support by MONUSCO, which is estimated to have resulted in high casualties to M23, the Congolese armed forces later succumbed to a larger, well-organized and well-supplied force. Following the setback of its first attack on Kibumba, the subsequent speed, efficiency and success of the renewed M23 offensive were rendered possible by a sudden increase in the group’s combatants, coordinated multi-pronged attacks and attacks with coordination between infantry and fire support, all capacities that are not characteristic of former integrated CNDP elements. Furthermore, MONUSCO observations of the command and control ability of the attacking force, the effective coordination of its fire support, the quality of its equipment and its general fighting ability, particularly during night- time, all suggested the existence of external support, both direct and indirect.

Let’s be clear, “external support” means “the Rwandan Army.”
The wars that Bishop Augustin defended involved horrific atrocities, as outlined in the Mapping Exercise report of the UN. Wikipedia says that the Second Congo War “and its aftermath had killed 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation, making the Second Congo War the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II.”
In fact, the Mapping Report says that the Armée patriotique rwandaise (APR – the Rwandan Army), went after ethnic Hutu’s regardless of their lack of involvement in the 94 genocide:

Several of the incidents listed appear to confirm that multiple attacks targeted members of the Hutu ethnic group as such, and not only the criminals responsible for the genocide committed in 1994 against the Tutsis in Rwanda and that no effort had been made by the AFDL/APR to distinguish between Hutu members of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and Hutu civilians, whether or not they were refugees.

30. The intention to destroy a group in part is sufficient to constitute a crime of genocide and the international courts have confirmed that the destruction of a group can be limited to a particular geographical area. It is therefore possible to assert that, even if only a part of the Hutu population in Zaire was targeted and destroyed, it could nonetheless constitute a crime of genocide if this was the intention of the perpetrators. Several incidents listed in this report point to circumstances and facts from which a court could infer the intention to destroy the Hutu ethnic group in the DRC in part, if these were established beyond all reasonable doubt.

The incidents of horror from this war could be enumerated at length, but here is a sample of what the Rwandan Army did:

  • On 21 October 1996, units of the AFDL/APR/FAB attacked Lubarika camp and village, killing an unknown number of Rwandan and Burundian refugees, as well as Zairian civilians who were trying to flee the village after the departure of the FAZ. The soldiers forced local people to bury the bodies in four large mass graves. On the same day, soldiers also burned thirty refugees alive in a house in the village of Kakumbukumbu, five kilometres from Lubarika camp.
  • On 24 November 1996, in the village of Mwaba, units of the AFDL/APR/FAB burned 24 Burundian Hutu refugees from the Biriba camp alive. On their arrival in Mwaba, the soldiers arrested those present in the village. After questioning them, they freed the Zairian civilians and imprisoned the Burundian refugees in a house which they then set on fire.
  • On 22 October 1996, in the Rushima ravine between Bwegera and Luberizi, units of the AFDL/APR/FAB killed a group of nearly 550 Rwandan Hutu refugees who had escaped the Luberizi and Rwenena camps a few days before. Soldiers inter- cepted the victims at the checkpoints set up in the surrounding area. Between 27 October and 1 November 1996, under the pretext of repatriating them to Rwanda, units of the AFDL/APR/FAB led an unknown number of additional refugees into the Rushima ravine and executed them.
  • In January 1997, AFDL/APR units killed at least thirty Rwandan and Burundian refugees, mostly with knives, on the Bukavu to Walungu road, around sixteen kilometres from the city of Bukavu. The victims had been arrested as part of a combing operation. Before killing the victims, the soldiers often tortured and maimed them.
  • Between 15 November and 16 November 1996, AFDL/APR units arrested an un- known number of Rwandan Hutu men from the Lac Vert camp and Mugunga and executed them. Some were bound and then thrown alive into Lac Vert, where they drowned. Others were shot in the head and their bodies dumped in the lake. 

This could go on and on. Suffice it to say that these wars and those who instigate them should not be defended, but decried. Going after the humanitarian organizations instead is astonishing.

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