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, May 8, 2011

Rwandan ups and downs

I'm back finally after almost two weeks of absence from Congo Siasa.

While I've been missing, there have been several news stories on Rwanda. First, the trial of FDLR rebel leaders Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni kicked off in Germany last week. They have been accused with 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 counts of war crimes under  new legislation that gives German courts universal jurisdiction. German prosecutors have visited the Kivus region to conduct investigations into the crimes and have spoken to FDLR victims. From what I know of the proceedings, it should be possible for the prosecutors to find at least Ignace guilty of some form of command responsibility - he was in frequent contact with FDLR commanders in the field, including during periods when FDLR troops carried out widespread abuse, and did nothing to bring those responsible to justice. There are some indications and documentation, as well, that Ignace gave concrete military orders that lead to reprisal attacks and abuses, although this might be harder to prove. Straton is a bit of a cypher - other than proving that he was the vice-president of the organization since 2005 it might be difficult to prove that he was very much involved in its day-to-day management.

In general, I think the trial could set a good precedent in terms of prosecutions under universal jurisdiction, in particular for diaspora leaders of armed groups. I doubt, however, that it will have much of an impact on the FDLR's operations other than denting their morale even further. The leaders were arrested a year and a half ago and their function have since been taken over by other FDLR members in the field.

In other news about Rwanda, a new book called Remaking Rwanda was published by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf. In response, the Rwandan government has set up a webpage to criticize the book and several editorials have appeared in the press. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article here on the book and the Rwandan response.

One cannot help but both admire and cringe at the Rwandan government's steely efficiency at times. Two articles this week elicited this mixed reaction from me: One, in Le Monde, recounts how President Kagame slapped the ambassador to South Africa in public at a government retreat, reprimanding him for poor performance. Another, by IPS, looks at the government's reforms in the housing sector, suggesting that the president's directives to replace grass huts with sturdy structures has lead to an excess of zeal on the part of local administrators who have torn down hundreds of houses - especially belonging to pygmies - without providing adequate substitutes.

Summarizing, Reuters put up a Factbox of key political risks to watch - but also some sunny economic indicators - here.


Anonymous said...

My French isn't up to translating the Le Monde article but my understanding is that the former Ambassador to SA was "reprimanded for poor performance" (revealed in fact by his own verbal intervention) but the suggestion that he was "slapped [by Kagame] in public at a government retreat" is wrong ("slapped down verbally" perhaps is what you/the writer intended). The identity of the new ambassador to South Africa was confirmed in the reshuffle announced last Friday.

Jason Stearns said...

Maybe I missed a nuance in the French, but this is the literal translation: Severely blamed for his performance, the diplomat decided to leave the room. Ordered to come back to the lobby, he was slapped there in front of numerous witnesses by President Kagame.

(Sévèrement mis en cause pour ses performances, le diplomate avait décidé de quitter la salle. Sommé de revenir dans le hall de l'hôtel, il s'y est fait gifler devant de nombreux témoins par le président Kagamé.)

Jason Stearns said...

I double-checked with the author. Indeed: physically slapped.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing suprising about Kagame slapping a diplomat who is falling out of favour. Actually it is his normal style of registering his disatisfaction with his government members. He slapped several of his generals and government ministers before. It is not for nothing that is a well known dictator. His entourage fears him more than it fears wild lions.

Anonymous said...

presumably because there are no lions, wild or otherwise, in Rwanda.

Anonymous said...

"It is not for nothing that is a well known dictator."

How is he a dictator? Are you attempting to use the denotative meaning of the word or are you just being hyperbolic?

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