United NationsRwanda 

There can be no impunity for those who violate human rights

By: Jennifer Fierberg, MSW

Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told members of the press that Rwanda is expecting to be voted as the African representative at the 2012 United Nations Security Council election to be held on 18 October 2012 during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly, to be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.   With the support of East African Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU), Rwanda has put its bid out for the 2013 -2014 rotating seat at the United Nations Security Council to replace South Africa in January 2013. Rwanda joined the United Nations (UN) on 18 September 1962 which marks Rwanda’s 50th year as a member.

This move should raise quite a few red flags for anyone who follows politics in Central Africa or human rights violations.  President Paul Kagame has a very long list of violations that should immediately cancel his bid for South Africa’s seat but their application was still accepted.

So what are the duties of being a UN Security Council Member? According to UN.org the following is the basic framework:

Under the Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:

  • to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
  • to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
  • to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
  • to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
  • to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
  • to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
  • to take military action against an aggressor;
  • to recommend the admission of new Members;
  • to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”;
  • to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.

Now, one would assume that each member should be measured against these standards as individuals who have acted politically in their own countries and their historical record should speak for itself.  If this is the case then why was Paul Kagame’s application accepted?

Earlier this week the UN held their General Assembly and President Paul Kagame addressed the gathering discussing how conflict robs nations of security, increases poverty and robs people from feeling included in their country. He also made cursory mentions, without using names, to groups over generalizing conflicts; read “we are not involved in DRC nor do we support the M23.”

With overwhelming evidence that President Paul Kagame has played a key role in destabilizing the Congo over the last 16 years how can he possibly be considered for a member of a council that seeks peace and actions needed in the world’s nations? The UN Group of Experts report in June 2012 should be enough evidence to prove that this applicant does not deserve a seat on the UN Security Council. So why is he still being considered? Wouldn’t his appointment to this council be a contradictory appointment when the primary role of the UNSC is to maintain international peace and security?

The lastest report from Human Rights Watch on Rwanda and their concerns about World Bank Financing in Rwanda can be found here: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/09/05/letter-world-bank-vice-president-africa-rwanda

During the UN General Assembly Paul Kagame attended many meetings most prominently the one with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton where she sat down with President Kagame and President Kabila of DR Congo and asked them to work out a solution to the issues the two countries are facing. Despite Kagame’s continued denial of any involvement in the DRC it was noted by someone in the room that: Despite Rwanda’s denials, a senior U.N. diplomat has said that privately Kigali was “a bit embarrassed, to say the least, and this could be one of the reasons behind the lull (in fighting) in the Kivu.” Yet why would they be embarrassed if they have nothing to do with the M23 or the ongoing crisis in the Congo?

In a second meeting that was widely reported in the media, Paul Kagame stood up and left a meeting on that was covering issues of Central Africa after Minister Didier Reynders called out Rwanda specifically for supporting rebel groups in the DRC that continue to displace hundreds of thousands as well as use of force to keep this county destabilized. It is not uncommon for UNSC members to leave a meeting when someone is speaking whom they don’t agree with and it is not typically a news worthy situation. Yet, this one seemed to get the attention of the world.

When questioned about why he left the meeting so early and after being called into question by the Belgian delegate someone in Kagame’s camp stated: “it was not a diplomatic incident but that he had to be at a meeting.” I don’t know anyone who bought that excuse.

Why would an active applicant to the UNSC walk out on a meeting about his own region specifically? This bad choice in behaviors will surely come back to haunt Paul Kagame.

The UNSC needs to consider this application very carefully. They need to read the many reports on Rwanda’s current government and their actions in the region as well as the reports by Human Rights Watch that carefully and explicitly define President Kagame’s behavior towards his own people and the neighboring countries.

Paul Kagame does have strong support for a seat on the UNSC through the African Union as well as India and Australia but what is their reasoning for supporting Kagame? Have they also drunk the Kool-Aid that he “stopped” the 1994 Genocide and has brought peace, tranquility and equality to Rwanda? Are they buying the stories that Rwanda is the “Singapore” of Africa when it really looks more like Myanmar of yesteryear? Are the peacekeeping missions that Rwanda has deployed around Africa enough for the UNSC to overlook the reality that is Paul Kagame?

How can his appointment to the UNSC be a step forward for world peace? The UN is considering on sanctioning Rwanda due to the many reports that detail what it is doing in the region so how can he be considered for a UNSC seat when his government is currently under the speculation of the world for crimes his government is committing?

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