Sources at the United Nations in New York inform AfroAmerica Network that the Rwandan government has mounted a forceful lobby campaign targeting UN Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The relations between Rwandan Government and UN Experts on the DRC have soured since last year after the experts published a report documenting the recruitment, support, arming, and reinforcing Congolese rebels know as M23 by Rwandan military and political leaders. M23 rebels have been accused of mass murders, war crimes, systematic rapes, and recruitment of child soldiers. Their leader, General Bosco Ntaganda, is wanted by the International Criminal Court at the Hague.
According to the sources, in its lobbying campaign, Rwandan Government has enlisted a US prominent lobby group. The Rwandan government wants the UN Group of Experts to be disbanded and be replaced by experts friendly to Rwandan leaders’ interests. Previously, Rwanda government unsuccessfully tried to squash the reports by UN Experts by mounting a campaign of personal attacks against the UN Group Coordinator, Steve Hege (see our article Rwandan Government Delegation Attacks UN Expert Steve Hege at the UN Security Council of AUGUST 28, 2012).
Instead of getting Steve Hege dismissed, Rwandan Government managed to draw the ire from most Western donors who eventually cut aid given to Rwanda, representing about 50% of the Rwandan government’s budget. Since then, The Rwanda government has been struggling to regain its standing in the international community and eventually get the aid restored. The cuts in aid have created tremendous hardship for regular Rwandans. Rwandan government civil servants and the military have progressively experienced increasing delay in the payment of the salaries, NGO have laid off employees or relocated to other countries, poverty is rampant, and Rwandan franc has lost significant value (see our articles Rwandan President General Paul Kagame Broke It; He Has to Own It of December 5, 2012 and NGOs Leaving Rwanda Due to Cuts in International Aid?of January 16, 2013 ).
The Rwandan government’s campaign efforts especially target two experts: the Belgian Bernard Leloup and the Moldovan Marie Plamadiala. The sources at the United Nations have informed AfroAmerica Network that during her recent trip to Newyork City in late January to early February 2013, Marie Plamadiala was closely watched by an agent of the Rwandan government. The agent followed all her movements and recorded her contacts at the United Nations. To hide its true motives, the Rwandan government accuses Marie Plamadiala of incompetence and having been part of the previous UN Group of Experts on DRC who published the report documenting the support of Rwandan government and military to M23 rebels. Observers at the United Nations contacted by AfroAmerica Network question Rwandan allegations, wondering how the Rwanda Government, just a few weeks on the UN Security Council, has evaluated the qualifications of the expert who works across continents and has been with the UN Experts for a while, getting her contract renewed by the UN Secretary General on several occasions.
Bernard Leloup, like Steve Hege, is accused by the Rwandan government of having authored several academic and opinion articles criticizing Rwandan leaders and of being close to the Rwandan opposition. Two of the articles, one published 10 years ago in 2003 in a Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor, and titled “Time to Turn the Heat On President Kagame” criticizes the Rwandan dictator General Paul Kagame of being a tyrant and warmongering. The other,an academic paper titled “LE RWANDA ET SES VOISINS” published in 2005 in Annuaire L’Afrique des Grands Lacs, argues that Rwandan President General Paul Kagame, faced with mounting challenge from his former Military Chief Of Staff, General Kayumba Nyamwasa, and dissensions within his clique, will attempt to invade the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to deflect the attention of his troops and rally the Rwandan military around him, and hence prevent a potential coup against him.
Sources have also pointed to the collaboration of Bernal Leloup with a Belgian Professor Filip Reyntjens, regarded as a critic of the Rwandan government. An early staunch supporter of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) Government and having played an instrumental role of getting the Belgian Government to support RPF rebels in early 1990s, Professor Filip Reyntjens fell out with the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front Government after he raised concerns about grave violations of human rights after the RPF seized power. He was eventually banned from travelling to Rwanda by the Rwandan government. Finally, according to the sources, through its opposition to Bernard Leloup, Rwandan government seeks to send a message to the Belgian government. Relations between Rwandan and Belgian government have deteriorated after the Belgian minister of foreign Affairs accused Rwanda Military leaders of supporting M23 rebels.
In September 2012, Rwandan Dictator General Paul Kagame stormed out of the room during a meeting organized by the UN Secretary General in New York City when the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders started piling accusations on the Rwandan government and military (see New York: DRC Joseph Kabila Shines; Rwandan Paul Kagame’s Star Wanes of SEPTEMBER 30, 2012). Rwanda has recently expelled the Military Attaché at the Belgian Embassy in Kigali, accusing him of espionage.
Observers contacted by AfroAmerica Network doubt that the Rwandan Government will succeed to get the two UN Experts removed from the group. They believe that the money spent in hiring lobby groups may be wasted, especially in this time common Rwandans need it. They added that the Rwandan Government also knows it, but would like to put pressure on the UN Experts so that they water down the tone of the interim report due in March or April 2013. Meanwhile, sources close to the Rwandan government have informed AfroAmerica Network that the Rwandan security services intend to provoke incidents and then arrest Bernard Leloup and Marie Plamadiala, if they travel to Rwanda.
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