Co-authored by Linda Milazzo and Georgianne Nienaber
Dear Secretary [Hillary] Clinton and Ambassador [Susan ] Rice;
The humanitarian situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is disintegrating and it is time for the United States to intervene publicly and forcefully. According to report after report from human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), the violence is escalating, and the United Nations does not have enough peacekeeping troops to contain the violence. Already more innocents have died than in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The world cannot say again that it had no idea of the scope of this disaster. Rwanda can no longer be given a free pass because of its suffering during the genocide, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame must be held accountable for the alliance he has formed with Congolese President Joseph Kabila who is turning a blind eye to the crimes committed against innocent Hutu civilians in eastern Congo.
In an urgent communiqué to independent media, the Congolese National Congress for the Defense of the People (French acronym, CNDP), is asking to meet with you precipitously regarding the Rwandan government’s unwarranted detention of CNDP leader, General Laurent Nkunda, and the corresponding increase in massacres of Congolese civilians since his January 22nd arrest. As documented by Human Rights Watch on February 13, 2009:
“The rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which includes elements of the Interahamwe responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide) brutally slaughtered at least 100 Congolese civilians in the Kivu provinces of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between January 20 and February 8, 2009.”
“The FDLR have a very ugly past, but we haven’t seen this level of violence in years,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior researcher in the Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “We’ve documented many abuses by FDLR forces, but these are killings of ghastly proportions.”
In addition, Human Rights Watch has accused Rwandan Tutsi elements of the joint “peacekeeping” forces of “having raped several women since the start of operations against the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda).” HRW also said the joint force’s “information-sharing has been scant and too late to permit the UN forces to be able to plan for providing the needed protection” of civilians.
“The Congolese government nominally leads the joint operations against the FDLR, but the coalition troops that attacked the FDLR in Ufamandu were largely soldiers from the Rwandan Defense Forces. These Rwandan soldiers were allegedly responsible for having raped several women since the start of operations against the FDLR,” HRW said.