The government of Rwanda has confirmed to Metro that it may pursue legal action against a United Nations-appointed Group of Experts that has accused the small central African nation of stoking a military rebellion in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in an exclusive interview yesterday that the expert panel has been “hijacked” by the political agenda of its coordinator, Steven Hege, who Rwanda says has a long history of opposition to the nation’s government.
“We will not take this kind of treatment lying down,” Mushikiwabo told Metro.
You have vigorously criticized not only the U.N. reports compiled by the Group of Experts accusing Rwanda of supporting the M-23 rebel militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also the methodology employed in these reports — and, above all, “bias” on the part of the group’s coordinator.
We have endeavored to be objective in our assessment of Mr. Hege. To this end, we employed the Washington, D.C., law firm Akin Gump to review Mr. Hege’s prior writings on Rwanda as well as the genocidal army and militia which killed more than 1 million people in a veritable Holocaust over three summer months in 1994. The fact-based evidence, which was vetted by Akin Gump and submitted to the Security Council, in the case of Hege, is damning in the extreme and should have disqualified him from taking the position as coordinator of the Group of Experts in the first place.
What has Hege written prior to taking up his position as coordinator?
First and foremost, Hege has served as an out-and-out apologist for the remnants of the very genocidal forces who, after committing their genocidal crimes, became known as the FDLR after taking refuge into the eastern DRC when they were chased out of Rwanda in 1994. Hege characterizes the FDLR militia, whose leaders are either under indictment at the International Criminal Court at the Hague or on trial in Germany, as if its members are somehow victims, and not perpetrators, of mass atrocities. In this “fact sheet” written in 2009 and entitled “Understanding the FDLR,” Hege also described, falsely, the current Rwandan government as made up of illegitimate outsiders, a “Ugandan Tutsi elite,” and that peace in our region is only possible “when international opinion eventually sours on the Rwandan regime.” With this objective in mind, Hege’s hatchet job, on the platform which the UN report has accorded him, becomes frighteningly clear. The reports which he and the Group of Experts have submitted to the UN Sanctions Committee wouldn’t pass muster in the lowest imaginable court of law. As Akin Gump concluded, “The lack of transparency, the reliance on questionable sources and the complete lack of analysis of witness bias, motivation or contradictory evidence in the conclusions reached [make] those conclusions highly unreliable.”
Are you saying Mr. Hege isn’t entitled to his point of view?
Of course, Mr. Hege is entitled to his views as a private citizen. But his extremist views are now well known in Africa because of the platform he has been given by the United Nations. Referencing Hege’s call, in a 2010 issues paper, for ethnic minority groups to preference their economic and other interests in favor of the majority population, regardless of circumstance; according to perhaps the leading newspaper in East Africa, Hege’s writing that certain ethnic groups “must clear a higher bar of citizenship is central to racial ideology everywhere, whether in the form of anti-Semitism of the persecution of Japanese Americans in World War II.”
Hege knows that he is exposed on the matter of his prior writings. When this publication was discovered by the media in July, Hege pulled it from the Internet.
I want to put the entire matter with Hege into its proper perspective. Yes, the methodology employed by the Group of Experts is wholly flawed. But, above all, what we have here is the moral disgrace committed in the name of the U.N. A sympathizer or, more accurately, apologist of genocide perpetrators has been put in a position to sit in judgment of the victims, the Rwandan people.
Are you suggesting a bigger U.N.?problem here?
Yes, I am. It is clear that the U.N. process for the appointment and vetting of “experts” is broken and in desperate need of repair. The failed expert selection on Congo, which has somehow turned into an indictment of Rwanda, is but one of a number of recent miscarriages of justice of the same kind hurting African countries, including expert panels on Cote d’Ivoire and Somalia-Eritrea. The time has now come for the international community to know about the treatment being meted out to powerless countries like Rwanda through unjust, outdated and punitive international mechanisms such as the U.N. Group of Experts when it falls into the hands of individuals with a personal political agenda.
What is the status of the conflict in the eastern Congo?
Eleven countries of the region, including Rwanda and the DRC, are joining forces to bring about a lasting solution to the crisis. This includes deploying a neutral force to monitor the borders between the eastern DRC and its neighbors. It also includes a “joint verification mechanism,” which is a way to test the truth or otherwise the many claims and counter-claims that circulate during periods of instability. The regional peace process has led to a two- month cease-fire, and there is overwhelming consensus that the only way out of the mess is a political solution, not a military one. It is a complex part of the world. There are dozens of armed groups running riot, and the state of governance is weak. The problems didn’t emerge overnight and can’t be fixed overnight, but there is a strong belief that a regional solution is not only the best way forward — it is the only way forward.
Metro contacted the U.N. for comment. The organization’s official statement is: Until all of Steve Hege’s findings on Rwanda are final and published, the U.N. has no comment on the matter.