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“Rwanda remains a country that arouses strong political and media debates”

TV5MONDE: Since this Monday and until the end of the week, Rwanda hosts the meeting of heads of government of the Commonwealth which is held every two years in one of the 54 countries of the organization. What do you think are the challenges of this summit where Boris Johnson and Justin Trudeau are expected in particular?

Christopher Vogel: The overall challenge of this summit is certainly that it is the very first time that Rwanda, a recent member, welcomes the countries of the Commonwealth. Following delays related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the summit marks an important milestone for Rwanda’s efforts to establish itself as an international diplomatic hub. At the same time, Rwanda remains a country that arouses strong political and media debates on the international scene. While some glorify the country’s trajectory since 1994, others vilify it.

(Re)see: “Rwanda awaiting the Commonwealth summit”

TV5MONDE: This summit comes at a time when Kigali is notably accused by Kinshasa of supporting the M23 rebellion. For its part, Rwanda accuses the DRC of firing rockets on its soil. What is it exactly?

Christopher Vogel: The political and military escalation around the M23 quickly turned into cross-border disputes between the DRC and Rwanda. Attacks have been reported vice versa by both governments. Nonetheless, direct Rwandan support for the M23 remains difficult to prove independently, although Congolese analysts have established cases of Rwandan army incursion on Congolese soil in the context of raids against the Rwandan FDLR rebellion. [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, NDLR].

For its part, Kigali accuses the Congolese army of subcontracting military operations to Congolese armed groups as well as the FDLR. This situation arouses grievances through the Congolese population, which fears a repetition of the successive wars of the last 25 years, marked by widespread impunity, which, among other things, the United Nations Mapping Report demonstrates.

Thus, even if the humanitarian impact of the current escalation remains low, compared with the RCD wars [Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (groupe rebelle, NDLR] and the CNDP [Congrès national pour la défense du peuple, groupe rebelle, NDLR] – predecessors of the M23 supported by Rwanda at the time – the current conflict is accompanied by enormous symbolic weight.

MONUSCO blue helmet, deployed near Kibumba, north of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on January 28, 2022.

This is illustrated in particular through a deterioration of the media and public discourse. When some are spreading messages of hate that have led to attempted lynchings, others have started broadcasting fake videos in order to discredit the Congolese protests as a whole.

How to investigate human rights violations in eastern DRC?

Following the discovery of three mass graves in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the end of 2005, the United Nations first announced in a report to the Security Council in June 2006 its intention to send a team of human rights specialists in the DRC to draw up an inventory. In May 2007, the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon approved the terms of reference of the Mapping Project following a series of consultations with the UN agencies and partners concerned as well as with the government of the DRC. , including former President Joseph Kabila. The Mapping Project, led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with voluntary contributions of nearly US$3 million, had three objectives:

  • Draw up an inventory of the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed on the territory of the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003.
  • Assess the existing capacities of the national justice system to deal appropriately with such human rights violations, which may have been overlooked
  • Develop, taking into account the continued efforts of the DRC authorities and the support of the international community, a series of options aimed at assisting the Government of the DRC in identifying appropriate transitional justice mechanisms to deal with the aftermath of these violations in matters of truth, justice, reparations and reform.

A mapping is based on a certain number of methodological premises. A mapping exercise as such should look not only at violations but also at the contexts in which they were committed, either at the level of a specific region or, as in the case of the DRC, across the whole country. expanse of a country.

Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

TV5MONDE: The DRC has requested the meditation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to the detriment of their French-speaking partners such as France and Belgium. What political significance can we give to this initiative?

Christopher Vogel: This call is contextualized through the holding of the Kigali summit. Nevertheless, Boris Johnson has demonstrated an erratic and deceitful style of governance, as well as an authoritarian rebound in the UK, and it is therefore highly uncertain whether his government can serve as a reliable and serious player in any crisis. international politics at present, including that involving the DRC and Rwanda.

TV5MONDE: In addition, Rwanda is also criticized by some regarding the agreement signed last April with the United Kingdom, which provides for the deportation to Rwanda of migrants who have crossed the Channel illegally. How do you view this Rwandan initiative?

Christopher Vogel: Indeed, it is surprising that Rwanda entered into this illegal agreement with the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, in good colonial fashion, the international and British media seem to mainly target Rwanda when the primary responsibility, as noted by the European Court of Human Rights recently, remains that of a British government which appears to be in denial of any international convention or treaty.

TV5MONDE: French-speaking countries such as Togo, Morocco and Gabon are showing their interest in the Commonwealth. Last May, Gabonese President Ali Bongo announced, during a visit to London, his country’s desire to join the organization. How can this enthusiasm for French-speaking countries be explained?

Christopher Vogel: By joining the Commonwealth while maintaining a strong position in the OIF [Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, NDLR]Rwanda demonstrates that it is possible to appropriate these intergovernmental organizations instead of remaining in the neocolonial logics that once shaped the relationships within these organizations.

In the context of a more widespread fed up, it is therefore not surprising that other states are thinking about it in order to counterbalance the French preponderance; and at the same time, some English-speaking states are questioning their attachment to the Commonwealth. In the best of cases, all of this augurs a greater diplomatic transformation towards more equitable and less racist and discriminatory relations than before.

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