Agathon Rwasa

Ce site web publie les atrocités des rebelles FNL du Burundi et mène une campagne pour traduire en justice le dirigeant des FNL, Agathon Rwasa. Nous essayons aussi de mettre à nue la question d'impunité en génerale. This website aims to highlight atrocities by the Burundian FNL rebels, and campaigns to see FNL leader Agathon Rwasa brought to justice. We also aim to highlight the issue of impunity worldwide.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

HRW urges arrest of RCD-Goma war crimes suspect Laurent Nkunda

From Human Rights Watch

D.R. Congo: Arrest Laurent Nkunda For War Crimes

Military and U.N. Should Act to Protect Civilians

(New York, February 1, 2006) - The transitional government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and U.N. peacekeeping troops must immediately arrest Laurent Nkunda, a former officer in the Congolese army who has been charged with war crimes and whose rebel forces have renewed military operations in eastern DRC, Human Rights Watch said today. Nkunda’s whereabouts have been well-known to the Congolese authorities and U.N. peacekeepers since the warrant for his arrest was issued in September 2005.“An arrest warrant was issued against Nkunda for war crimes, crimes against humanity and insurrection months ago but the police and army have done nothing about arresting him,” said Alison Des Forges, senior advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. “So long as Nkunda is at large, the civilian population remains at grave risk.”

On January 18, rebel forces attacked and occupied several towns in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, after routing Congolese government soldiers stationed in the area. After a brief period of calm, combat resumed during the past weekend. The rebels were said to be under the orders of Nkunda, an allegation confirmed by the provincial governor in a communiqué issued January 26. Local sources report that both rebel forces and Congolese army troops have raped and otherwise attacked civilians and looted their property. Tens of thousands of Congolese have fled to neighboring areas or across the border to Uganda. In September 2005 the government issued an international arrest warrant for Nkunda, who had been implicated in numerous war crimes and other serious human rights abuses during the past three years. In past investigations, Human Rights Watch has documented summary executions, torture, and rape committed by soldiers under Nkunda’s command, in Bukavu in 2004 and in Kisangani in 2002. Nkunda was a senior officer in the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma), one of the main rebel groups fighting in DRC from 1998 to 2003. In 2004 he was named general in a new national Congolese army created from troops of the dissident forces at the end of the war. He refused the post and withdrew with hundreds of his troops to the forests of Masisi in North Kivu. In August 2005 he announced a new rebellion but launched no military operations at that time.

Nkunda has remained at large even though provincial government authorities, the Congolese army and U.N. peacekeeping forces knew of his whereabouts. Local journalists and civil society sources reported his frequent visits to Goma, seat of the North Kivu provincial government, and a major operations center for Congolese soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers. In October General Gabriel Amisi, a former colleague of Nkunda from the RCD-Goma and commander of the 8th military region of North Kivu, told Human Rights Watch researchers that he knew where Nkunda was but gave no explanation why he did not arrest him. On October 21, 2004 the Security Council in resolution 1565 directed the U.N. troops to cooperate with Congolese authorities “to ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are brought to justice,” a directive it repeated with added emphasis on December 21, 2005 (resolution 1649). Asked by Human Rights Watch researchers why U.N. peacekeepers had not assisted in arresting Nkunda, one senior U.N. official mentioned possible repercussions from Rwanda as one reason. “The U.N. and the Congolese government need to muster the political will to take action. Every civilian who was the victim of war crimes during the recent fighting paid the price of continuing impunity in the DRC,” said Des Forges. “It’s long past time to arrest Nkunda.” Background on Laurent Nkunda Laurent Nkunda (known also as Nkundabatware), born in North Kivu, joined the RCD-Goma rebel forces in 1998. He received military training in Rwanda, including at Gabiro military camp, and became the commander of the Seventh Brigade of RCD-Goma forces.

Laurent Nkunda: wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Congolese government. © 2004 Reuters

In May 2002 Nkunda, together with General Amisi, was among the RCD-Goma officers responsible for the brutal repression of an attempted mutiny in Kisangani where more than 160 persons were summarily executed. In one incident, forces under Nkunda’s command bound, gagged, and executed twenty-eight persons and then put their bodies in bags weighted with stones and threw them off a Kisangani bridge. After the U.N. began investigating these crimes, Nkunda and several armed guards entered the U.N. premises and abducted and beat two guards. At a Security Council briefing on July 16, 2002, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called on Congolese authorities to arrest those who ordered or were involved in the massacre, and warned of further bloodshed if they were not brought to justice. Despite the supposed end to the war and the establishment of a transitional government in 2003, dissident soldiers loyal to RCD-Goma clashed with other Congolese army forces in South Kivu in May 2004. Nkunda and troops loyal to him took control of the South Kivu town of Bukavu on June 2, claiming his action was necessary to stop a genocide of Congolese Tutsi, known locally as Banyamulenge. During the fighting, Nkunda’s troops carried out war crimes, killing and raping civilians and looting their property. In one case on June 3, 2004 Nkunda’s soldiers gang-raped a mother in front of her husband and children while another soldier raped her three-year-old daughter. After U.N. peacekeepers negotiated Nkunda’s withdrawal from Bukavu, he and some of his forces headed into the forests of North Kivu while others, commanded by Col. Jules Mutebusi, found safety in Rwanda. The Congolese government has issued an international warrant for the arrest of Mutebutsi, charged like Nkunda with insurrection, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Congolese Foreign Minister also wrote to Rwanda, requesting Mutebusi’s return to Congo, but Rwandan authorities have not handed him over. In August 2005 Nkunda declared the current government corrupt and incompetent and said it must be overthrown. In September 2005 a large number of Rwandaphone soldiers belonging to the former RCD-Goma deserted the national army in North Kivu and some of them went to join Nkunda in the forests of Masisi. On January 18, forces loyal to Nkunda took several North Kivu towns, including Tongo, Bunagana and Rutshuru. After a lull following a show of force by the U.N and national troops combat resumed on January 28 in Rutshuru town, causing the remaining residents to flee.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Will the UN finally call time on the Lord's Resistance Army?

From the Sudan Tribune, a comment by Steve Paterno

There is no doubt that the activities and the presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), presents untold human misery to the civilians of Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. Throughout its history, the arm band LRA is notoriously known for killing, torturing, kidnapping, and raping innocent civilians. The shockwave of terror that the LRA sends across its area of operation requires a clear analysis to determine whether the LRA is merely a guerrilla movement fighting for a legitimate cause or it is indeed fits the definition of twenty-first century terrorist outfit that the global war on terror covers in all its aspect of dislodging terrorism.

To begin with, one has to consult with the classical theories of guerrilla warfare that have been used by successful guerrilla movements from around the world so as to understand the circumstances surrounding the LRA. The theory starts by stating that when there is unjust society and all peaceful means of affecting changes are exhausted, then the launching of a guerrilla movement is justified. Uganda, the country whereby the LRA originates is no exception from the other of its African sisterly countries that produces right circumstances for the existence of the guerrilla movements. The history of Uganda is characterized by guerrilla warfare. The present regime of Yuweri Kaguta Museveni made its way into power through guerrilla warfare just as the ones before it, and it is not surprising that there is an urge to topple this regime in a guerrilla fashion. The pretentious democratic practice in Uganda, which demolishes all the democratic principles through elimination of political opponents by means of arrest and banning of multi-political party have almost exhaust the peaceful means of affecting changes in the system. Therefore, the launching of a guerrilla movement in such a system is the most likely option left for those who care in affecting changes.

Even though the atmosphere in Uganda presents justification for the guerrilla warfare as the most likely alternative for change, however, the emerging guerrilla movement has to meet certain criteria to qualify as a formidable force that affect changes in the system. The criteria a guerrilla movement has to meet include; gain the support and sympathy of the masses mainly from the rural population, launch successful attacks on government garrisons and installations, capture and occupy strategic locations, create a parallel structure of the government, and ultimately overthrow the existing government to change the system. While these will determine the success and the definition of a guerrilla movement, the arm band LRA on the other hand never meets these criteria and yet it earns the name of a guerrilla movement throughout its nineteen years of existence.

Instead of the LRA to gain the support and the sympathy of the masses, it embarks on killing, torturing, rapping, kidnapping, and gradually driving the rural masses to resettlement camps far from their homes. As oppose of creating a parallel structure of government, the LRA instead allies itself with a brutal regime of Khartoum acting as its proxy to terrorist the population of the South Sudan and those of Northern Uganda. Instead of attacking the government targets, the LRA indiscriminately targets the innocent civilians. And, instead of fighting for a better change, the LRA fighting is resulting into the misery of the population-a change for the worse just to be exact.

Given these facts and explanations, the LRA is obviously then not a guerrilla movement, hence, it is a terrorist organization as it premeditates its attacks, it is designed to change a political system, its aim is to target civilians so as to intimidate and coerce, and it acts as a subnational-all the attributes of a terrorist organization.

So, one will expect the U.S.A. government, which is taking a lead on global war on terror would have launched an all out war against the LRA and the government that harbors it. Perhaps the U.S.A. government agencies that fight and coordinate the global war on terror varies in their definitions of terrorism, but this can strike someone as odd because the definitions of all those agencies qualify the LRA as a terrorist organization. For example, the U.S. State Department, the most diplomatic wing of U.S. government defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” The U.S. Department of Defense definition of terrorism is: “the calculated use, or threatened use, of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.” And the Federal Bureau of Investigation definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The Bush’s doctrine on global war on terrorism is even more blunt, as it states, “the U.S. war on terror begins with Al-Qeada, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated. The U.S. will direct every resource at its command-every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war-to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network. This is not, however, just America’s fight. This is the world’s fight. And the U.S. will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.”

So if this is the case, why then does the U.S. State Department not use its diplomatic influence to pressure the regime in Khartoum to at least cut its support for the LRA? Why should the U.S. Department of Defense then not help to equip and train the forces such as the Uganda People Defense Force, the Sudan People Liberation Army, and the military from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are fighting the LRA, if it is really willing to fight the global war on terror and even at a cheap cost on U.S. military casualties? And why should the Federal Bureau of Investigation, then not use its valuable intelligence resources to track and capture the LRA leadership, and if there is no clause in the U.S. Constitution to prosecute the LRA leadership, at least, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will hand them over to the International Tribunal for prosecution. The LRA leadership has already been indicted by the International Tribunal and a warrant for their arrested is out. The only thing left is for the LRA leadership to be captured and brought to the world’s justice. Besides, the United Nation will support any capture or killing of LRA, because its definition of terrorism is: “any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act,” which are clear descriptions of the LRA activities. Perhaps the United Nations personnel and other aid workers affiliated to the United Nation who have been the victims of the LRA terroristic activities will make a better case against the LRA than the innocent civilians who are constantly being terrorized by the LRA.

It will also be good for a change, if President George W. Bush will at least make a reference or two on LRA terroristic activities in one of his many speeches on global war on terror. These are the least and bare minimum the world can do to those who are constantly being terrorized by the LRA activities in Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda, and soon will be in Democratic Republic of Congo. But the problem sometimes is that those who are in real need of help do not get real help, and who can say it any better other than a film maker and journalist, Cullum Macrea, who has witnessed the horror of LRA activities, and sadly concluded, “it is tempting to think that if the LRA had been stealing oil rather than children, the rest of the world would have paid more attention.”

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

New discussion website: "Rwandan survivors" - giving a voice to those who survived the genocide of 1994

A new website,, has been set up to give a voice to the survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and promote a discussion of the issues arising from one of the worst man-made catastrophes in modern history. The project is linked with the release of the forthcoming film "Shooting Dogs", which tells the story of what happened at Rwanda's Ecole Technique Officielle.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Rwasa... has surrounded himself with 'prophets'... who have convinced him that God has made him omnipotent"

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N. (name withheld), a 48-year-old resident of Muyira in the province of Bujumbura Rural, knows what it feels like to live in a rebel-controlled area.

Every morning, he leaves his home village to go to work in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, 10 km away. Yet he rarely spends his meagre monthly salary on his family alone, as he has to contribute some of it to the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL), the country's only remaining rebel group.

"FNL combatants do not even have to come personally. Committees to collect food and money have been set up on each hill," N says.

Residents of Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza - the two strongholds of the rebel movement - feed and sustain FNL combatants, just as they did the fighters of the Conseil National pour la Defence de la Democratie-Forces de Defence de la Democratie (CNDD-FDD) when they were fighting in the bush.

The CNDD-FDD is now Burundi's ruling party. In November 2003, it signed a peace accord, paving the way for its participation in the country's institutions and its registration as a political party.

N says local residents have no choice but to support the FNL. "With a weapon, arguments become convincing," N said.

Failure to contribute to the FNL has resulted in some people being beaten by the combatants. Some people are even said to have died as a result. The presence of the FNL combatants in Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza has meant residents of the two provinces have had to be constantly alert.

Volker Schimmel at the Burundi UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told IRIN that residents of these provinces were the victims of short-term displacement throughout 2005.

"They spent the nights near key towns or military positions, but returned home the following days," Schimmel said.

More people were displaced when the Burundian government cracked down on FNL combatants in October 2005, after the rebel movement rejected the government's call to negotiate.

Schimmel says the displacement of the population continues, with the situation worst in the communes of Bubanza, Musigati, Mpanda, Gihanga and Rugazi, where insecurity has meant humanitarian agencies have been unable to gain access to people who need help.

Ironically, when Remy Gahutu and other members of Burundi's Hutu majority founded the original Hutu movement, Palipehutu, in a refugee camp in Tanzania in 1980, their main objective was the liberation of Hutus such as N and other residents of Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza.

Sylvestre Niyungeko, spokesman for Jean Bosco Sindayigaya, the leader of one wing of the now divided Palipehutu-FNL, says Palipehutu was established to end the oppression of ethnic Hutus by ruling members of the country's Tutsi ethnic minority.

Niyungeko said Hutus were not only excluded from power, but were also victims of massacres in 1965, 1969 and 1972. "We wanted to bring the Tutsi to accept the existence of Hutus, for power-sharing and to form a democratic regime that is respectful of human rights," he said.

However, Niyungeko maintained that originally, Palipehutu was not an armed movement. Its armed wing, the FNL, was only set up in 1983. The cause the FNL initially embraced of liberating Hutu has, however, changed with new political developments in Burundi.

According to Elias Sentamba, a political analyst, Palipehutu-FNL has no reason to continue fighting now. "Even the slogan of a Tutsi-dominated army does is no longer valid," Sentamba said.

This changed with a peace accord that Burundian parties signed in August 2000 in Arusha, Tanzania, which provided for power-sharing between Hutu and Tutsi in all Burundi's institutions and the army.

After a three-year transitional period, the former Hutu rebel movement turned political party, the CNDD-FDD, won general elections and took power in August 2005.

This political change prompted some within the Palipehutu-FNL leadership to adjust to the new situation by proposing to lay down weapons and start negotiations.

"We cannot say there is no more cause to fight for, but all can be reached now through negotiations. Fighting now is nothing but banditry," Niyungeko said.

This difference of opinion led to a split within the FNL, dividing it into one wing led by Agathon Rwasa, and another by Sindayigaya.

Sindayigaya, 50, is a founding member of the FNL. A native of the western Cibitoke Province, Sindayigaya was secretary-general of the movement in Cibitoke until 1991 when he was forced to flee to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He later fled to France, where he became a journalist.

Sindayigaya was vice-president of the FNL movement until 2003, when he resigned following a disagreement with Rwasa. His spokesman, Niyungeko, describes him as an introverted, hard-working man who does not like to show off.

At a meeting in Bujumbura Rural in December 2005, Sindayigaya declared he was ready to lay down weapons and begin unconditional negotiations with the Burundian government - a divergence from Rwasa's stand, which excludes negotiations with the Burundian government, currently led by CNDD-FDD's Pierre Nkurunziza.

Rwasa's spokesman, Pasteur Habimana, recently told IRIN that the only option was negotiations with the minority Tutsi, to reach what he called "a social contract to end the ethnic problem in Burundi".

For Habimana, both the CNDD-FDD and the former ruling party, Front Pour la Démocratie au Burundi (FRODEBU), have betrayed Burundi's mostly Hutu population by seeking political posts instead of improving living conditions for the majority.

However, some observers believe these to be simple pretexts.

According to political analyst Sentamba, the FNL has rejected the government's offer of negotiations simply because it has no combatants. "The majority of its combatants are either children or Interahamwe [Rwandan Hutu] militias, nothing to boast of," Sentamba said.

Sentamba believes the FNL is a spent force, "but this does not mean it has no striking capacity."

In August 2004, the FNL was held responsible for the massacre of some 100 Congolese Tutsi who were living in a refugee camp outside Bujumbura. After this, heads of state from Africa's Great Lakes region branded the group a "terrorist organisation".

The FNL's capacity to attack civilians and disrupt the peace is enough to cause concern. Palipehutu-FNL is the only rebel movement still active in Burundi.

Touré Penangnini, spokesman of the UN Mission in Burundi, known as ONUB, said the FNL remains a threat to Burundi's security as long as it remains outside the peace process.

"When you are in an environment trying to restore peace, if one single element in that environment remains outside that peace process, it can represent a threat to the society. This can well illustrate the FNL case in Burundi," Penangnini said at a news conference recently.

Some observers say the FNL's refusal to negotiate stems from Rwasa's personality. According to those who have worked closely with him, Rwasa is very secretive and stubborn, someone who neither listens to advice, nor takes quick decisions.

The single, 42-year-old Rwasa is a native of the northern province of Ngozi. He left the University of Burundi in 1989 to join the FNL. After several years as its head of operations, he assumed the rebel movement's leadership in 2000.

Spokesman Niyungeko believes Rwasa has a skewed vision of the geopolitics of central Africa. "He believes Hutus should take power to counter a Hima [Tutsi] regime in the region," Niyungeko said.

Rwasa, he said, has surrounded himself with "prophets" from the DRC and Burundi - prophets who have convinced him that God has made him omnipotent and that, therefore, all he has to do is wait.

"Rwasa firmly believes in this obscurantism and so waits for the power," Niyungeko said.

If, for Sentamba, the FNL continues to exist simply because it forces the local population to sustain it, Niyungeko has a different view. To him, the FNL had a truly popular ideology, based on supporting all Hutu - the masses - not just a Hutu elite.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

ONUB finally responds to request for update on progress of corruption investigation

Click here to support the call for a war crimes trial for Aloys Nzabampema and independent investigation into the UN Burundi corruption scandal
From Reuters, November 2005:

A senior FNL combatant, Aloys Nzabampema, and an aide were captured in Bujumbura on 8 November and helmets and uniforms belonging to ONUB's South African contingent seized from them. Other FNL combatants were also captured in Gihanga, in the northwestern province of Bubanza, with uniforms belonging to ONUB's Nepalese contingent.

Nzabampema, who was paraded before reporters on Thursday, said his aide got the uniforms from a Burundian working for the South African contingent.

During ONUB's weekly news conference on Thursday, ONUB spokesman Penangnini Toure said although the uniforms belonged to ONUB's South African and Nepalese soldiers, "how the uniforms got into the hands of the FNL combatants needs to be clarified".

Saying that the uniforms alone could not prove ONUB's collaboration of with the FNL, Toure said the UN had begun investigations to identify the UN personnel through which the uniforms passed to the FNL.

This was not first incident linking ONUB troops to the FNL. Niyoyankana said in July 2004, the army seized munitions made in South African from FNL combatants it had captured, "but the South African contingent denied any involvement".

From ONUB, January 11th 2006:

"As for the issue of the ONUB uniforms, it is true that we have been informed by the Burundian Armed Forces that they recently seized a couple of Troop Contributing Country (TCC) uniforms in the possession of alleged FNL rebels. We are still to obtain possession of these uniforms, which is a critical element in our investigation. It is, of course unacceptable that TCC uniforms be found with non-ONUB members, let alone FNL rebels. One or two old and unserviceable uniforms might have fallen into the wrong hands. This, I repeat is unacceptable and even condemnable, but it is unthinkable to conclude from that, that ONUB force has been deployed to Burundi to assist in preserving peace and security would envisage any kind of collusion with the FNL." - Nureldin Satti, Principal Deputy to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Burundi."

Comment: This response raises far more questions than it answers. Why has the UN not yet gained possession of the uniforms? Have they actually asked for them? If the UN hasn't yet gained possession of the uniforms, on what grounds do they suggest that they are "old and unserviceable"? If they were "old and unserviceable" why would the FNL be using them? Who allowed the uniforms to fall "into the wrong hands", and what steps are being taken to hold them accountable? The tone of the response now seems to suggest that ONUB only has the word of the Burundian army that these uniforms even exist. Are they saying that this might be a "fit up job"?
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