TIME the Democratic Republic of Congo

African Foreign Ministers Give Rwandan Rebels Six Months to Disarm

United Nations peace keepers record details of weapons recovered from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militants after their surrender in Kateku
U.N. peacekeepers record details of weapons recovered from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda militants after their surrender in Kateku, a small town in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 30, 2014. Kenny Katombe — Reuters

The rebel FDLR group has been accused of massacring civilians in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo for nearly two decades

In a meeting in Angola on Wednesday, foreign ministers from African nations announced a six-month suspension of military intervention to allow the dissident Rwandan group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), to disarm and end years of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The FDLR, a rebel group that opposes the Rwandan government and is based along Congo’s eastern border, includes members who initiated the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The rebel group has been accused of massacring civilians in Congo for nearly two decades. The Rwandan military has also regularly entered Congo to fight the rebel group, causing additional turmoil in the country.

Although the FDLR agreed to disarm and engage in dialogue on May 30, it is estimated that only about 200 out of around 1,500 rebels have put down their weapons. U.N. officials said in a report on Thursday that the FDLR was continuing to train new recruits despite promises of peace.

Angola’s Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti told the Angola Press News Agency that the rebel group’s efforts would be reassessed in three months. “The results of this surrender (of FDLR arms) are not sufficient,” he said. Lambert Mende, Congo’s government spokesman, said the army was prepared to continue military operations if the rebels did not honor the disarmament agreement.

Rwandan officials are meanwhile angered that the FDLR has continued to be admitted to international talks as a separatist group — representatives were recently at a conference in Rome with U.N. officials. “I am completely bored and disgusted by this (rebel) problem,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at a news conference on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Although over 25,000 members have left the FDLR since 2002, the group has maintained stable numbers over the past few years. If the disarmament and demobilization of the FDLR is successful, it could allow Congo — a country rich in gold, copper and diamonds — to regain much needed stability.

[Reuters]

TIME Rwanda

An Apology for the Rwandan Genocide, 20 Years Later

Colin Keating
Former New Zealand ambassador Colin Keating addresses an open session of the United Nations Security Council on April 16, 2014. He apologized for the council's refusal to recognize that genocide was taking place in Rwanda and for doing nothing to halt the slaughter. Evan Schneider—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The New Zealand diplomat who was president of the Security Council in April 1994 admits the U.N. "utterly failed" to prevent the slaughter of up to one million people in Rwanda. He was speaking at a council meeting held to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide

The New Zealand diplomat who was president of the U.N. Security Council at the start of the Rwandan genocide in April 1994 has apologized for the council’s refusal to recognize and halt the slaughter, in which up to one million lives were lost.

Colin Keating’s apology was issued at a council meeting Wednesday, held to both commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the genocide and review what had since been done to prevent similar atrocities.

Keating recalled that “most” veto-empowered nations, including the United States and France, rejected a call to condemn the killings, and that warnings sounded by U.N. Human Rights Commission on the possibility of genocide never came before the council.

“The genocide against the Tutsi highlighted the extent to which the U.N. methods of prevention utterly failed,” he said.

The U.N.’s increased commitment to human rights work was noted during the session, but the organization was also widely criticized for its failure to prevent current atrocities in Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

[AP]

TIME Africa

France Pulls Out of Event to Mark Rwanda Genocide

Rwanda Prepares For 20th Commemoration Of 1994 Genocide
Rwandan President Paul Kagame looks on at his office in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 6, 2014 Evan Schneider—UN/Getty Images

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira canceled plans to attend events after Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused France of playing a "direct role" in the genocide 20 years ago that killed 800,000 Rwandans

The French government has withdrawn from Monday’s 20th-anniversary commemorations for the genocide in Rwanda, after the country’s President accused France of participating in the 1994 mass killings.

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira canceled plans to attend the events in Kigali on Monday following Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s denunciation of the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide,” the BBC reports.

President Kagame’s remarks were made to the French-language weekly newsmagazine Jeune Afrique in an interview on March 27. The French Foreign Ministry said Kagame’s remarks hurt the reconciliation process between France and Rwanda.

More than 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda — mostly ethnic Tutsi, but also moderate Hutus — after the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, on April 6, 1994. The violence only ended after Kagame’s Tutsi-led group defeated government forces in July 1994.

Kagame’s faction, which has held the government since, has long blamed France for aiding the genocide. France was an ally of Habyarimana’s government, and a Rwandan commission found France helped train ethnic Hutu militias, who prepared in the mass killings, and was aware of preparations for the genocide.

France has acknowledged serious errors it made during the genocide, but has said its forces protected civilians during the violence.

[BBC]

TIME Africa

U.N. Chief Visits the Central African Republic

CAFRICA-UN-FORCE
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves as he visits a camp for internally displaced persons in the Central African Republic on April 5, 2014 Miguel Medina—AFP/Getty Images

The quick visit on Saturday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during which he detailed atrocities that have divided the conflict-torn Central African Republic for months, came one day before he planned to mark two decades since the genocide in Rwanda

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Central African Republic on Saturday amid an uptick in deadly street violence in the capital, Bangui, pledging to focus global attention on the conflict that has killed untold thousands and pushed much of the country’s Muslims into neighboring countries.

The visit, which lasted just a few hours, was Ban’s first since street attacks in December left about a thousand dead, many at the hands of the mainly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka that seized power in a coup in early 2013. Thousands of foreign peacekeepers were sent to stabilize the chronically poor state, wracked by decades of corrupt governance, but the retreat of Séléka and step-down of the President resulted in a power grab by largely Christian militias called anti-balaka, who have heavily targeted the Muslim minority. Hundreds of thousands have since fled to Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ban traveled outside the secure area of the main airport, which is guarded by French troops and adjacent to a mass-displacement camp, to meet with interim President Catherine Samba-Panza and visit one of the capital’s last operational mosques. He also spoke to the transitional council tasked with preparing the country for elections by next February.

“There is a hole in the heart of Africa. Every day, I wake up thinking about your trials and troubles,” he said. “Everywhere, I have called on leaders to step up their efforts. Some say this is a forgotten crisis. I am here to help make sure the world does not forget.”

The U.N. chief forcefully spoke of hearing “horror stories” from those who have been uprooted, warned of food insecurity and the risk of malaria ahead of the rainy season and detailed atrocities that have gripped the landlocked, mineral-rich country for more than a year. “The security of the state has been replaced by a state of anarchy,” he said, mentioning a rise in sexual violence and instances of lynchings and decapitations. “There has been total impunity — zero accountability. This must change.”

Aid groups that frequently criticize the U.N. for not doing enough to stem the violence say words have little impact and more troops are needed to both restore order and help the government implement the rule of law. Former colonial power France has 2,000 soldiers on the ground, and the African Union has contributed 6,000 peacekeepers, but regional power broker Chad began pulling its contingent of 850 troops after being scolded for recent clashes that left about 30 civilians dead.

Ban commended foreign troops for their work but said they’re “underresourced and overwhelmed” given the enormity of their daily challenges. He applauded the E.U. for its impending deployment of the hundreds of peacekeepers it promised months ago and said he hopes the U.N. Security Council approves the 12,000-member peacekeeping and police force he recently proposed.

His visit came one day before he marks two decades since the genocide in Rwanda. “The international community failed the people of Rwanda 20 years ago, and we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of CAR today,” he told lawmakers. “It is your responsibility as leaders to ensure that there are no such anniversaries in this country.”

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