16 May 2008

Hell goes round and round

This is an extract of an article from today’s Guardian. The article speaks for itself

The boy with the shaved head and Kalashnikov slung across his legs is uncertain about a lot of things, even his age. He pulls at the long, dry grass around him and in a quiet voice says he thinks that he might be 13 years old because he was a baby when his mother wrapped him with the last of her possessions and made her escape across the border. Asked where he is from, he gestures toward the lush hills rippling to the east. Somewhere among them is an unmarked frontier with a country the boy calls home, although he has no memory of the last time he was there.

What's over the hills? Rwanda, he says. Where are his parents? He doesn't know. Dead, he thinks. He doesn't remember them, only what some people told him. And what was he told? He was very small when everyone ran away from those they called the inyenzi - the cockroaches. His mother carried him across the border, out of Rwanda. But then something happened to her. Perhaps she was among the multitudes who died then or in the ensuing years; he was left alone and the other people in the refugee camp looked after him. His father was a soldier. He just disappeared. No one said anything about him.

Child soldiers can be found across Africa. Sometimes they are responsible for appalling atrocities; sometimes it is because their minds have been twisted by powerful drugs. But nowhere on the continent are they as driven by hate and ideology as among the Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern Congo. Here, after more than a decade of invasion, civil war and slaughter - rooted in the genocide - a second generation of killers is being imbued with the mind-altering ideology of extermination and reared to hate and murder Tutsis.

Some of the children learn it from fathers who were responsible for the mass killings the first time around, back in Rwanda. Others, like the boy, are raised by the extremist Hutu rebels who control large areas of eastern Congo and are among the most important causes of the conflict there that has claimed an estimated five million lives or more over the past decade and continues to kill about 45,000 people each month in Congo through the effects of war - principally starvation and disease.

These children are led by men with multimillion-dollar rewards on their heads offered by the United States for their capture to stand trial accused of the murder of thousands in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. America has listed their armed group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), as a terrorist organisation, but some of its political leaders have found safe haven in Europe. And while their army is fighting, the leadership is raking in millions through the smuggling of gold and diamonds, and extortion.

The FDLR boasts about 7,000 fighters, hundreds of them children or youths, and is the largest of the militias in eastern Congo. It controls about one-fifth of the two vast provinces that border Rwanda - North and South Kivu - but its influence ranges considerably further as it hunts down Tutsis who live in Congo, and continues to threaten nearby Rwanda.

The boy, with his straightforward beliefs, sees no reason not to say aloud that the path to a better life lies over the graves of Tutsis. It is a philosophy based on the "Hutu 10 Commandments" that underpinned the genocide. The commandments call any Hutu who marries a Tutsi a traitor, and say that the Tutsis' "only goal is ethnic superiority". "Hutu must stop taking pity on the Tutsi," says the eighth commandment. "Hutu must stand firm and vigilant against their common enemy: the Tutsi," says the ninth.

Jerubaal Kayiranga fought with the FDLR. One of his responsibilities was to recruit children to its ranks, many of them forcibly, before he fled back to Rwanda last year. In a demobilisation camp there he describes how the philosophy of the Hutu 10 Commandments lives on in the hills of eastern Congo and how some of its most enthusiastic adherents are the FDLR's youngest fighters. In the Congo fighting, "many FDLR soldiers died, so that's why these boys are recruited at 10 years old to fight," he says. "They're worse than the older ones because they don't even know how Rwanda is. They don't know any Tutsis. They just hate them as the enemy. It's the same as they [extreme Hutu leaders] were telling us during the genocide. They told us what we should do is kill all the Tutsis in the country."

Countless extremist militiamen and soldiers joined the million Hutu refugees who, in July 1994, struggled from Rwanda into what was then Zaire (the country changed its name to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997) fleeing the consequences of genocide. Their arrival set in motion a cycle of civil war and invasions that engulfed eastern Congo, as foreign armies, rebel groups, warlords and militias rooted in mystical tradition carved up the region.

No one knows how many died here but the most widely accepted estimate is of more than five million, mostly from disease and starvation, although massacres were commonplace enough that mass graves are still being unearthed. The living suffered too, enduring the rape of entire towns and villages. Through it all, the broken, defeated but unrepentant murderers from Rwanda carried their ideology of hate. The old organisations that led the genocide - the notorious interahamwe militia and Hutu army - gave way to new groups that then emerged as the FDLR.

A number of the FDLR's leadership were heavily involved in the Rwandan genocide. They include some who are wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which was set up by the UN Security Council to try those responsible for the massacres in Rwanda, and two men who are also on the US government's "most wanted" list of those it wants to see captured and handed over to the tribunal. Among the wanted FDLR leaders is Callixte Nzabonimana, the Rwandan minister of youth and sport during the genocide who, according to an international tribunal indictment, "played a major role in the massacres of the Tutsis in Gitarama. He visited the bourgmestres [mayors] frequently to organise the massacres in their communes with them. Further, he personally travelled through the hills along with peasant farmers to be certain the farmers were carrying out properly their orders to kill the Tutsis". The US has offered a $5m (£2.5m) reward for his capture to be put on trial by the tribunal.

The tribunal has named another FDLR leader, Ildephonse Nizeyimana, as among its six most wanted. He headed military intelligence operations in southern Rwanda and set up special units of soldiers that led massacres at the country's main university. He also gave the order for soldiers to surround a school as the interahamwe murdered 1,300 children and adults. The US is also offering a reward for Nizeyimana's capture.

The FDLR's overall military commander, Major General Sylvestre Mudacumura, is wanted by the Rwandan government to face trial for his role as deputy commander of the presidential guard which flew across the country to begin the mass murder in April 1994. Today he is a primary mover behind the killing of Congo's Tutsis. He is also under investigation by the international tribunal. Among others listed as "most wanted" by the Rwandan government is an FDLR colonel, Faustin Sebuhura, who, as a captain in the Hutu army, oversaw the massacre of about 50,000 Tutsis, and Déogratias Hategekimana, who, as a mayor, coordinated the killing of 65,000 people.

The FDLR's political leadership is less directly implicated in the genocide but is wanted in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, for atrocities against civilians by the rebel group. While their organisation is also officially listed as a terrorist group by the US government, the rebels' political chief, Ignace Murwanashyaka, lives largely untroubled in Bonn, Germany. His deputy, Musoni Straton, is in Brussels. The FDLR also maintains some presence through representatives in other parts of Europe - France, Switzerland, Holland - and in South Africa, Canada and the US.

Much of the FDLR'S money goes to buy weapons and to run the training camps, which include infantry and artillery schools, and one for the rebels' commando unit that goes by the acronym CRAP. But there is worse than plunder. Systematic rape of hundreds of thousands of women has been a hallmark of the conflict in eastern Congo, and the FDLR is not the only group involved. In South Kivu alone, tens of thousands of women have been treated in health clinics after being raped, and many more will have gone untreated.

While the rank and file of the FDLR survives by plundering, their leaders are involved in altogether more lucrative ventures. A 2007 World Bank-funded study estimates that the FDLR leadership makes millions of dollars a year from taking over mines in parts of North Kivu, such as Masisi and Walikale, or from those doing the hard labour through levying "taxes" of gold, , diamonds and other minerals on mine owners. The study estimates that the FDLR controls half of the mineral trade in the Kivus outside of the main towns, and oversees the smuggling of gold and diamonds for sale in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Burundi. It is not alone in this. The Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundi armies, as well as warlords and militias, have also carved up the mineral plunder and smuggling rackets.

The poison against Tutsis has spread beyond the Hutu exile population and infected many ordinary Congolese, largely driven by anger at the invasions of Congo by Rwanda's Tutsi-led government and at the actions of the renegade general Nkunda, who says he is fighting to protect Congo's Tutsis from the FDLR. Many Congolese believe that Nkunda, aged 40 and a former intelligence officer in the Rwandan army, is still secretly serving the Rwandan government. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese have been driven from their homes in Nkunda's attacks; his forces are guilty of mass rape and he too has forcibly recruited children to fight.

Many Tutsis see Nkunda as their only means of protection. Many Congolese see the Tutsis as the problem. Anti-Tutsi vitriol can be heard from Congo's leaders down to the residents of eastern towns such as Goma. Congolese politicians have called on people to "exterminate the vermin", meaning Tutsis. Amid such entrenched hatred, the future for the boy in the oversize uniform is bleak. Colonel Ngarambe has three children of his own now, the eldest just eight years old, all born in exile. He would like to see them settled in Rwanda but only on the terms he has in mind - a Rwanda where politics is defined by ethnic domination and the Tutsis recognise the rule of the Hutu majority. If not, Ngarambe says his children will carry on the fight. "The children born here are FDLR," he says. "The children born in Rwanda will be FDLR. My children will be FDLR. The conflict between Hutu and Tutsi is based on power. It's not that we have to develop an ideology of hatred against the Tutsis. It's just that people should see what's happening. Just because the Tutsis were victim of a genocide doesn't give them the right to take power.


Sean Jeating said...

Reflecting on (uncountable) 'stories' like this one, I do feel / know that complaining about the world and all my gouts is / would be just ridiculous.
Did not find the right words, Jams, but it is good to know you'll understand me, anyway.
The peace of the night.

Nunyaa said...

Very sad that billions are spent sending man to the moon and this still continues.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Interesting that the article doesn't even mention the historic roots of the enmity between Hutu and Tutsies. Namely the years of Belgium ruling the place - and other places around, where the both killed millions and made sure that after they leave, the bloodshed continues.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Not to job at nunyaa, but this sort of problem isn't going to be wiped away with money.

jams- Your tag 'human misery' is dead on. :(

jams o donnell said...

I lokk at utter dismay at these sort of stories Sean. It does not matter where in the world, the same pointless emnities cause the death of millions.

Colonialism has set up so many emnities all over the world Snoopy. Call me a dreamer but it would be heartening to see people transcending those emnities rather than consigned to fight them over and over again.

I wish less was spent on enormous weaposn stockpiles and on peaceful develop-ment Nunyaa. The talent that goes to waste for the want of clean water.

There is more to it than just money, that's true EWBL. I really wish for more good news stories

elasticwaistbandlady said...

That should have been "jab."

Nothing like correcting a typo a whole week later.

Anonymous said...

The author is either biased or ignorant of the deep history of the great-Lakes region of Africa. Its very unacceptable that she build on controversial to incriminate hutus and demonize them.For example she claims that the poison against Tutsi people have spread to Congolese people living in exile without explaining the cause. Congo has twice been invaded by Congo casusing the worst conflict since second world war. The war (no doubt a genocide) has claimed over 5,000,000 people. Worst, the war continues to contribute to environmental degradation, mass rapes and death of primates. Human rights watch and other humanitarian organizations have recorded these abuses.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/world/africa/04congo.html?ei=5070&emc=eta1

While its true that the Tutsi have been victims of Rwanda genocide, I find it totally unacceptable and abusive to put the blame on the people of Congo. Its like blaming Jews for their own misfortune. Rwandan (Tutsi and Hutu) are both resposnible for the death and suffering of Congolese people. Its time to speak up and say the truth.