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Backlash mounts as UN unveils DRCongo massacres report

The UN pressed ahead Friday with the release of a report which accuses armies and rebel groups of committing massacres and rapes in the eastern Congo, despite a chorus protest from African governments.

Hours before its publication, Rwanda’s government slammed it as “flawed and dangerous” and an “insult to history,” while Uganda threatened to review the deployment of its troops in peacekeeping missions.

The final report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, suggests that war crimes and even genocide may have been committed by foreign armies and rebel groups over two wars from 1993 to 2003 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The apparent systematic and widespread attacks… reveal a number of inculpatory elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be characterized as crimes of genocide,” the report said.

It added that “it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo)/APR (Rwandan Army)/FAB (Burundi army) and executed in their hundreds.”

The report’s language was, however, less assertive than in an earlier leaked draft compiled by a team of investigators since 2008.

Words like “allegedly” or “apparently” have been inserted into the final version of descriptions of violations, as well as references to the involvement of the Ugandan, Rwandan and Burundi armies during the 1996-1998 first Congo war.

On the massacre of Hutu refugees said to have been carried out by Rwandan troops, an earlier draft read: “The systematic and widespread attacks …, reveal a number of damning elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide.”

The report also included several more paragraphs explaining the difficulties of proving genocide in court.

As a result, it said, a full judicial inquiry is necessary to “shed light on” serious crimes committed during the 1996-1997 period.

“Only such an investigation and judicial determination would be in a position to resolve whether these incidents amount to the crime of genocide,” it added.

The report is based on data collected by UN investigators from July 2008 to June 2009 and documents violations over 1993 to 2003 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN rights chief Pillay said this week that the “overarching objective” of the report is to “enable the government of the DRC to identify appropriate transitional justice mechanisms to deal with the legacy of these violations in terms of true justice, reparations and reform.”

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has dismissed the report’s claims as “absurd”.

Kagame himself was at the vanguard of the Rwandan force which drove the Hutu militias behind the 1994 genocide in his homeland across the border into eastern DR Congo.

“Rwanda categorically states that the document is flawed and dangerous from start to finish,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement released overnight.

“Our comments to the UN … center around seven specific areas of objection that clearly demonstrate how the Mapping Exercise has been a moral and intellectual failure as well as an insult to history,” Mushikiwabo said.

The country’s threat to pull its troops out of peacekeeping forces in Sudan prompted UN chief Ban Ki-moon to fly to Kigali last month to mend fences. Rwanda has since assured the UN that its peacekeepers would stay.

But on the eve of the report’s publication, Uganda, the mainstay of an international peacekeeping force in Somalia, threatened to review its deployment.

In a response seen by AFP Thursday to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the draft report, Uganda said the document was “a compendium of rumours, deeply flawed in methodology, sourcing and standard of proof.”

Uganda leads an African Union force in Somalia where it has some 4,300 men and much smaller numbers of military and police personnel in south Sudan, Darfur, Ivory Coast and East Timor.