According to JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association, in a study covering 2005-2007, Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the soldiers of the DRC, the FARDC, were responsible for 56% of rapes and crimes of sexual violence reviewed in the study. JAMA has just released a more extensive study: Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The new study lists the main perpetrators of crimes of sexual violence, but the FARDC and state military have disappeared from this list of perpetrators. They are completely missing from the tables of results.
What happened between 2007 and the present? Have the DRC state military ceased entirely committing the crimes that caused the citizenry throughout the eastern DRC to fear them.
In October 2008 The United States stood up its Africa Command, which has begun partnerships and training with the FARDC, the DRC state military. The pictures included here are from recent training exercises in which the US Africa Command is training DRC soldiers, the same state military implicated in much of the massive sexual violence that has taken place in the Congo’s civil wars since 1995.
Did the FARDC stop committing rape and crimes of sexual violence? Or did the fact that they are now US allies cause them to disappear from the list of perpetrators in the JAMA report: Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. How did that work?
Here is the portion of the table of results that lists the named perpetrators from the 2005-2007 study:
And here are the perpetrators as listed in the study from the August 4, 2010 issue of JAMA:
Is hiding this association and granting impunity those who commit gross abuses of law and human rights the best way to deal with the problem? Will pretending “our” side didn’t do this stop the crimes? The reason the crimes have continued and escalated is because of the almost complete impunity of the perpetrators. I don’t know why the FARDC was not listed among the perpetrators in the recent JAMA report. But it is difficult not t0 conclude that the US relationship with the FARDC, the DRC state military, has something to do with it.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice in early September following a meeting discussing recent incidents of mass rape in the DRC:
“From the U.S. point of view, we will take up the mantle of leadership… in ensuring that the perpetrators of the violence are held accountable, including through our efforts in the sanctions committee – to add them to the list that exists and to ensure that they are sanctioned,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after the meeting.
Over 500 rapes have now been confirmed in the North and South Kivu provinces since Jul. 30, with scores more unconfirmed and still others certainly unreported
For there to be peace and reconciliation, there must be truth. People must be able to both tell and hear what actually happened. Obscuring or skewing the description to omit certain parties or perpetrators will hide truth and encourage the impunity that permits and perpetuates this level of violence. It is most certainly not holding people accountable.
“Very few Congolese and foreign civilians living on the territory of the DRC managed to escape the violence, and were victims of murder, mutilation, rape, forced displacement, pillage, destruction of property or economic and social rights violations,” underlines the report.Among those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide in the report are Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, three countries whose armed forces were involved in the different wars that racked the DRC between 1995 and 2003.The Rwandan government, which had threatened to withdraw its troops serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Sudan if the report was published, characterised the document as dangerous. According to the country’s foreign affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo told the press, the report is “a moral and intellectual failure, and an insult to history.”
Rwanda, which suffered a genocide in 1994, refuses to accept that its army could be accused of having committed acts of genocide in eastern DRC just a few years later. The report’s methodology, with human rights officers drawing on meetings with more than 1,200 witnesses from across the country, and excluding incidents that could not be corroborated by at least two independent sources, cannot be easily dismissed.
Alan Stam, a political science professor at the University of Michigan in the United States, who has done extensive research on the Rwanda’s civil war violence and its aftermath in the Great Lakes region, believes the report will change how the government of Paul Kagame is perceived.
“This is the largest, most systematic effort to catalogue the abuses that have taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to link them back to people [connected to] the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front].”
The events documented by the Mapping Project are well known he says, but the report presents them in a systematic way that INDICTS the perpetrators.
Stam says that President Kagame has been praised internationally for his role in ending the 1994 genocide and stabilising Rwanda since the RPF took control in 1994; and for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. In Stam’s view, Kagame and the RPF won the war rather than ending the genocide.
But human rights groups have accused his administration of suppressing independent media and his political opposition, most recently in elections held in August.
“History may look back at this as the tipping point in the international community’s perception of the Kagame government.”
Uganda rejected the report in an official communiqué released on Sep. 30, saying its findings are based simply on the statements by NGOs and that Kampala should have been consulted before publication.
Rwanda and Burundi have also rejected the report. Statements by their respective foreign affairs ministries said the United Nations was risking gains of integration and reconciliation in the heart of the Great Lakes region.
“Aside from its historical contribution to documenting these serious violations and fact-finding during this period, the ultimate purpose of this inventory is to provide the Congolese authorities with the elements they need to help them decide on the best approach to adopt to achieve justice for the many victims and fight widespread impunity for these crimes.”
The pro-government Rwandan press has been busy attacking the researchers who drew up the report as part of a mapping project to pinpoint the sites of military actions and massacres of civilians in Congo and Rwanda. Rwanda’s media defenders have been especially frantic in their attacks on Christopher Black, [author of] “Who Was Behind the Rwandan Genocide?” … Mr. Black is also a lawyer for a Hutu general on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Based largely on the UN’s research into the times, places and victims of mass murder in Rwanda and Congo, Mr. Black concludes that Rwandan Tutsi rebels, attacking from Uganda, initiated the slaughter in Rwanda that left hundreds of thousands dead, and then invaded the neighboring Congo to exploit its mineral resources.
Black’s version of the conflict gives context to the UN’s report that Rwanda’s Tutsi army in the Congo slaughtered Hutu civilians, both Rwandan Hutu refugees and native Congolese Hutu. And he further charges that Uganda and Rwanda coordinated their invasion of the Congo with their military and political ally, the United States, for the benefit of multinational mining corporations.
Rwanda and Uganda are major active partners of the US Africa Command.