Managing Paul Kagame, Africa’s Enfant Terrible

Image: Flickr

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 30 March 2014.

South Africa is conducting a fairly delicate struggle with Rwanda, trying to choreograph and coordinate complex moves to manage the difficult and dangerous President Paul Kagame – on the hard streets of Johannesburg, in the polite halls of diplomacy, in the courts of law, and, by proxy, on the field of battle.

On Tuesday this week the terrain of this struggle moved to multilateral diplomacy in Luanda, where President Jacob Zuma once again attended a summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). South Africa is not a member of this body, but Zuma has become a sort of country member, having been invited to the last few summits as a special guest.

The Elusive Quest for Peace with the M23 in the DRC

M23 troops in Bunagana. Photo: Al Jazeera/Wikimedia Commons

The current conflict in the Kivu Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) threatens to linger on despite an international effort to broker a truce between the M23 rebellion and the Congolese government. The 2012 version of this conflict is difficult to grasp, particularly because the M23 is a shifting armed movement, both geographically and politically. Its leadership is interchangeable among commanders, and the movement is supported by foreign influences with an eye on the geological riches of the region.

The evolution of the M23 Rebellion

Who exactly are the M23 rebels? This is the question the Rift Valley Institute’s Usamala Project tries to unpack in its recent report “From CNDP to M23: The evolution of an armed movement in Eastern Congo” (PDF). While the armed branch of the rebellion is easy to define, its political leadership is more elusive. The report explains further:

Justice in the North

Justice, finally? Courtesy of Scott Chacon/flickr

A week ago, a landmark case in Finland against a 59-year-old Rwandan preacher concluded with a life sentence for mass murder (the Finnish legal term joukkotuhonta actually roughly translates as ‘mass/group destruction’). The man, Francois Bazaramba, had sought asylum in Finland in 2003 and was arrested in 2007 in Porvoo, Finland, accused by the Rwandan authorities of involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Although not unprecedented, Finland’s exercise of the so-called universality principle in public international law, has revived the controversy surrounding the principle which, in theory and if codified in national law, allows national courts to prosecute individuals suspected of involvement in genocide or other grievous and systematic attacks against civilian populations, regardless of the location of the crime or the nationality of the suspect.

More importantly, however, it has marked another step in the torturous road toward justice and reconciliation in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s Mutsinzi Report: A Diplomatic Coup

hundreds of skulls and bones on a shelf
Genocide memorial in Nyamata church, Rwanda/ Photo: hoteldephil, flickr

Could it be that sometimes historical truth and political gain really do go hand-in-hand? It appears so for Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

A Rwandan investigative committee has just issued a massive new report on the 1994 assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana – a murder that sparked the genocide of nearly one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the hellish hundred days that followed.

Drawing on extensive research and nearly 600 interviews, the report concludes that Hutu extremists in Habyariman’s own government took him out to curtail the power-sharing peace agreement he was about to implement with Kagame’s Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

Habyarimana’s plane was shot down in his own backyard on the fateful night of 6 April 1994 by a pair of surface-to-air missiles. The role of the plane crash in launching the small central African country into a swift and shocking spiral of violence has been well documented. The question of ‘who done it?’, however, has remained in dispute.