Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Arresting Callixte: Does it Matter?

Yes, it does.

I have gone on the record saying that Callixte's arrest is probably not going to have a huge impact on FDLR demobilizations from the field. My reasoning was the following: Callixte, along with the rest of the political leadership, was appointed by the FDLR military leadership in order to gain greater legitimacy long after the group had developed its military structures in the field. While they influenced military operations, they were no Joseph Kony or Jonas Savimbi. Arresting them will hurt the group's morale, but will not seriously damage the military chain of command. Even the morale may not be so important: Most soldiers have long since given up the hope of returning victoriously to Rwanda and are interested more in survival than in ideology.

Take, for example, the arrest of FDLR president Ignace Murwanashyaka and vice-president Straton Musoni in Germany in November 2009. It has been a year since putting them in the clink and most experts in the field seem to think it is the military campaign against the FDLR that has led to the 30-50% reduction in troops, not these arrests.

Of course, we may never know. One could argue, for example, that the arrest of Ignace and Straton affected leadership dynamics within the military, allowing the divisions between northerners and southerners to fester further.

So why do I think the arrest is a good thing?

First, because it sets an important precedent: For years, armed groups in the Congo have been relying on Diaspora members for propaganda, diplomacy and financing. For groups like the CNDP and the FDLR, this was very important - they maintained outreach coordinators in several foreign cities. Mai-Mai groups have antennae in Tanzania, while Ituri armed groups are often present in Kampala. These armchair rebel leaders deny knowing about the crimes their troops commit, while lobbying for them and looking for finances. Shutting these networks down is a good thing if the group are as abusive as the FDLR.

Secondly, this is an important legal precedent, although I'm not entirely sure if this is the right tactic. The prosecutor won the arrest warrant based on Article 25 (3) (d) of the Rome Statute, the so-called "common purpose" argument:
a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if that person: In any other way contributes to the commission or attempted commission of such a crime by a group of persons acting with a common purpose. Such contribution shall be intentional and shall either:
    (i) Be made with the aim of furthering the criminal activity or criminal purpose of the group, where such activity or purpose involves the commission of a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court; or

    (ii) Be made in the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit the crime;

This is the first time the court issues a warrant based solely on the common purpose argument. Some legal experts think this is a bridge too far, as no other international tribunal has argued such an expansive mode of liability before. It could be good, as it would be a serious deterrent for any sort of support to abusive armed groups, including financing or perhaps even propaganda, but is could also be too wide a net that will bog the court down in long legal battles.


Rich said...

Hey Jason,

Just to say, I agree with you on more than one level. However, I do wonder how much efforts are being made in the sense of getting Kigali to open up a bit more its political space?

I hope people will understand that when I say to open up the political space in Kagili I don't mean, in any way, to open it up to criminals or those with an explicit or an implicit genocidal ideology.

If results at the recent presidential election, in rwanda, were genuine – meaning more than 90% of Rwandan voted for the current president – why would anyone fear to open up the political space to competing or opposing ideas?

Alienating part of the population on the basis of unjustified suspicions and stereotypes can only contribute as a recruitment tool for extremists. The same applies for the DRC in the sense that the so called 'army' needs to be completely restructured and allow institutions to play their constitutional functions without interferences from the executive.

Afaire à suivre...

Nkunda said...


Would the "so-called "common purpose" clauses be used to prosecute members of the Tutsi diaspora known to have supported the CNDP? Probably not. While the arrest of Mbarushimana is a positive sign, double standards abound. Criminals continue to maraud and are untouchable partly due to the fact that they belong to the "right" ethnic group.

Also, as Rich has pointed out, it will be near impossible for Rwanda to completely eliminate the threat of armed groups while operating an autocratic government that marginalizes a section of the population.

Think of Burundi where the an armed victory failed to materialize.

andrea.trevisan said...

Wky Kagame do not open? Because he has already too many open fronts, expecially internally to the governement and the tutsi community. Is there any credible hutu opposant that does not base his politics on ethnical revendications? Is there any hutu politician that won't play the same game that kagame is playing? Well, I don't think Victoire is the good person for that role.
Is there any other political leader that could achieve same results as Kagame (in terms of development and ECONOMICAL wellbeing of the country)?
Is there any other leader that could have the same importance in front of International community? No, at the moment I don't think.
It is true that I'm not a great expert of rwandan politics but for short/middle term I really don't see any other figure better than Kagame for ruling the country for another 3-5 years.
In fact Kagame's (and rwanda) fate could be influenced and maybe decided by DRC (and Uganda of course).
And, after all, I am not a supporter of Kagame but I believe the region is not yet at the moment for a change

Nkunda said...


I do agree with you on one thing: Removing Paul Kagame from power is not that important. What is important is that he begins to liberalize the political situation. Ingabire might not be a "good person" but she deserves her right to contest for elective politics.Victimizing her and other members of the opposition, is not an acceptable part of a democratic political culture.

So, yes, Paul Kagame can continue to rule (for as long as he wants). He just needs to respect human rights and basic freedoms. I believe this is an area that the international community could apply more pressure.

Rich said...

@ Andrea,

I do share some of your concerns. However, why is it that when it comes to thinking about kagame working with other Rwandans who do not share his world views, we only do so in exclusive or incompatible terms?

How come we can only trust Rwandan people when they elect kagame with a staggering 93% but not allowing them (Rwandan people) to have a say as to whether or not they trust those (Rwandan elite) who do not share kagame’s world view?

What if kagame happens to die today (which i do not wish), will that country cease to exist or there will be other rwandan who will be ready to lead?

As far as I'm aware kagame is not God and 'godifying' him as some people tend to do by suggesting that he should be left alone despite a poor human right record, can only put the future of that country in severe jeopardy.

Failing to address these simple questions is a testimony that the regime in Kigali operates on the basis of undemocratic practices; yet we all know that you cannot bring about democracy through the use of undemocratic tactics.

andrea.trevisan said...

@ nkunda, Rich: I agree that Ingabie deserves the right to contest but after that? I see her as a mask for a mouvement. In my opinion what should be good for a democracy (and an alternance so) is not to attack kagame on a personal and ethinical base as most of rwandans does. Because this won't open a democracy but only reversing the situation on the other flag.

I'm pretty sure that with all the mess Kagame built in and outside the country (especially DRC) if he dies today there will be another war for succession, I don't think that all "contenders" for power in rwanda can find a deal.

That is why I don't think that is not the moment for an alternative;

It is evident that you cannot bring democracy with undemocratic practices.

I agree when you said that IC should put more pressure on the respect of human rights and freedom but I think they can do more. How would you feel if you worst enemies are just in the bushes 300 km from you and still have connections and activities in Europe and Usa?
Why not finally putting real pressure on FDLR for example in excange of more press liberty in Rwanda?

Nkunda said...

"Why not finally putting real pressure on FDLR for example in excange of more press liberty in Rwanda?"

I think the IC is cooperating in bringing the FDLR problem to an end. The stability in the region is not just because of Paul Kagame. The international community has played a crucial role.

If Ingabire is a "mask" then it should be proven with evidence. So far, there is nothing that even remotely shows that Ingabire is driven by genocidal ideology. Her claims that Hutus were killed by the RPF, though sensitive, is a fact that the RPF has to deal with.

Lastly, "In my opinion what should be good for a democracy (and an alternance so) is not to attack kagame on a personal and ethnical base as most of rwandans does. "

Yes, but Mr. Kagame has perfected in personal attacks against his opponents. Often, he relies on ethnic stereotypes.

I think the I.C can wise up and realize that Mr. Kagame is a temporary solution, and that he will not democratize Rwanda. Supporting the civil society might help ensure a more peaceful transition. Otherwise, the uncritical legitimacy that the international community accords Mr. Kagame is, considering his many shortcomings, unwarranted.

andrea.trevisan said...

"I think the IC is cooperating in bringing the FDLR problem to an end."

Maybe, but this is happening really slowly only in the last 2 years. FDLR leaders lived and had connections supporting their mouvement for 15 years especially in Europe, and a lot has to be done.

"The stability in the region is not just because of Paul Kagame". Clear, but he played a major role in last 5 years at least.

"Yes, but Mr. Kagame has perfected in personal attacks against his opponents. Often, he relies on ethnic stereotypes. " This is in my opinion one of the core problems in Rwanda. I bring you a stupid example but that suits perfectly: in Italy all opposition parties attack MP Silvio Berlusconi for what he hasn't done for the country and got for himself. No one is able to propose a new programme, new ideas, new people, new faces, bref ... the next election in italy will be considered, more or less like in rwanda, as a referendum for the reigning leader.
Any new ideas that aren't based on ethnical base for rwanda? Are people in the rwandan opposition ready to make a step forward? Anybody that tries to play with rules Kagame imposed will finish badly, this is clear; do we have at the moment a mixed opposition party that is composed by major hutu and tutsi exponents?
Why Ingabire does not coalize whit the tutsi part that is now in contrast with Kagame? Are they able to share power for the wellbeing of the country?
If yes a new era begins.

And until the moment this doesn't happen Kagame has all the interest in keeping all fields separated, pushing on undemocratic methods for ruling the country.

"The international community has played a crucial role." Before everything, I.C is a little bit too generic. UN and bilateral cooperations had differents impacts (with differents purpouses) on Paul Kagame. Look at the reaction after the Group of experts report late '08 and the result of the mapping report;

"Mr. Kagame is a temporary solution, and that he will not democratize Rwanda." I agree with you, but at the moment is the best solutions for everyone, even for rwandans (that I think a good part of them are aware of what is going on in the country).

Lisa Clifford said...

Hey Jason,

Here's the piece I wrote for IRIN on the arrest of Callixte.

Posted on my blog.

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