The Rwandan genocide 20 years later – Living with the irreparable

April 7 marked to official launch of a hundred days of events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. I spent two days at a conference titled “Growing up with the irreparable”, which features panels of academics and survivors. The stories of survivors are certainly what affected me the most.

Those who survived say that it is impossible to put words on their experience. However, I found the way they described the horrors of the genocide extremely powerful. Each of them has their own way of describing it and I want to transcribe them here in order to emphasize our responsibility to prevent future genocide.


Testimony 1: Atanasie

We don’t know how to explain the pain we live with and carry. There are no words to describe the genocide against the Batutsis. I carry the seal. The word “irreparable” is like a rope that has been broken into several pieces and cannot be repaired. There is no service for that. The shock exists, persists and will always persist. At every shock, I fall to the ground. The month of April destroys me. It would be better if there were no month of April.

God has given me the chance to survive so I must try to live like others. I try to live like others but it is difficult to feel like the Atanasie I was before the genocide. There are two people in me: the Atanasie before the genocide, who is strong, and the Atanasie after the genocide, who has been ripped apart. I try to live with both. I must reconcile the past, the present and the future.


Testimony 2 (13 years old in 1994)

I’m not a survivor because I lived abroad at the time but in a way I am a survivor because my mother’s entire family has been killed. For me the irreparable is the people I have lost…I should not even use the word “lost” because they have been exterminated.

I do not want to accept that there is something broken in me. I’m part of the second generation and I want to believe in reparation. I feel divided between what my parents had to endure since the 1960s and the new generation today. I carry the wounds but I want to make the transition between my parents’ live story and the new Rwanda.

In the diaspora, we are divided. I grew up with Tutsis and the division is still there. In the diaspora, we have a tendency to put the Good on one side and the Bad on the other side. I want to go further and have reconciliation. I think reconciliation can happen in my generation but you cannot force my mother to accept reconciliation, especially since a lot of the killers have no regrets. Reconciliation is personal. I feel that I can do it.


Testimony 3 (28 years old in 1994)

For me, being a survivor is emptiness, absence. I have no images, no picture. This is the irreparable. All I have left of my father is loincloth. When April comes, I wash it, iron it and put it away.

Anxiety is my companion. I wake up in the middle of the night to make sure that my child is still breathing. This is the irreparable

We are violent towards ourselves in order to repress our sentiments, in order not to expose ourselves, in order not to bare ourselves and cry. We don’t want to get these feelings out. This is the irreparable.

I could not act. This is the irreparable

The irreparable is living with the smell of rotting human bodies for the past 20 years.

The irreparable is having to live with the culpability of having survived when others have not. I feel guilty that the last words I said to my father were not more tender. I wish I could have found something nicer to say.

Sometimes I hear “How come you were not killed in 1994.” As if would be more convenient if I had. Hearing this from Tutsis make me want to go on. I have a responsibility towards my family and towards the survivors.



Testimony 4 (8 years old in 1994)

April is the season of sadness, the season of memory, the season of courage.

The irreparable are the smells, the scenes, the words that come back unannounced, for no reason.

I remember the sound of the plane crashing. We thought it was a grenade and went into hiding.

I remember the first person I saw being killed, the first person I saw being raped. I remember seeing by mother among dead bodies searching for my father’s body.

I remember the words of those who committed these acts. They seemed relieved to live in a world where Tutsis would no longer exist. Even those who did not kill were relieved. This is the essence of genocide.

The irreparable is not being able to say the words “dad.” The sad truth is: when we are survivors we wish we could be like everybody else.

I wish we had been given as space to speak clearly about what we went through. When we speak about the genocide, it’s like speaking about a complex subject. But for us, it is qui simple to explain. We just want to be given a space to tell about our truth.

Your challenge now is to take up a pen and to write your story as you know it and feel it. To repair the irreparable we must change our way to think and speak. Nobody can take our truth from us unless we tell them.

Testimony 5

The irreparable is definitive. It’s not like a fracture one can weld. I have a scar where the machete struck. This wound accompanies me. When I see it, I’m immediately back where I was on that day. I lived in Bisero where only 800 out of 60 000 Tutsis survived. My father survived but today he can barely speak. The day I saw my father again after being separated, I did not recognize him and I promised myself that I would live. We tried to reconstruct ourselves. I carried my father’s misery, his pain, his despair. He used to be a dignified, upright man but I became like his mother. I carried him on my back or held him by the hand, and tried to be strong in front of him.

Living became our vengeance. Studying became my vengeance. I move to Canada and earned several degrees. I wish you the best and most beautiful vengeance. They failed. Live continues. We are the proof. This is the challenge: to raise you head and stand upright.

Testimony 6

Those who lived in the diaspora at the time also carry the irreparable. My Rwandan friends in Rwanda and where I lived, kept counting the dead while my entire family here was safe. I felt guilty that I cannot find the words to comfort them. It was like a reproach “Your parents are doing well”

What I want to transmit to my children is that we did not respond to hate by hate. Instead we continued to live and are proud of who we are.

Testimony 8: Eugène (26 years old at the time)

The irreparable is having to knead my pain every morning with tears that are struggling to fall. It is also the smell of rotting carcasses that impregnate my clothes.

The genocide for me are these moments of complete absurdity where one ceases to be human. One just becomes the product of a slaughter.

I debated for a long time whether I had the right to live because all my friend had been exterminated, all my family had been exterminated. I didn’t think I had the right until the day I realized that by refusing to live I agreed with the murderers. I agreed with the murdered who assassinated my family. I had to stand up again. We must accept that life continues. That it does not stop because one génocidaire decided that it had to.

“Forgiveness” is not part of my vocabulary. I will forgive if someone asks me for forgiveness but I cannot forgive in the void.

The members of United Nations have to change to way they protect humanity, if this is indeed their mission. If they intervene, if they act or if they simply give up and we will say “We let evil triumph –“

Testimony 9: Arlette

The plane crashed in the night and the next day we had become snakes, insects to eliminate. When you wake up in the morning and you’re looking for the next person to kill, you are no longer human – you’re an animal. Usually when somebody dies, you are sad and you cry. But death had become so trivial that we would see a person die and it had become something normal. We could not cry because we did not have the right to. We though “I’ll be next”

My biggest fear is how to tell that story to my son. How do I transmit it so as to keep the memory alive but without transmitting the hate?

I think there’s no reconciliation because we do not have to reconcile. There are two communities who live in separate corners but there is mistrust, great, great mistrust.



Génocide Rwandais – Vivre avec l’irréparable

Le 7 avril marquait le début de 100 jours de commémoration du 20ème anniversaire du génocide rwandais contre les Tutsis. J’ai passé deux jours à une conférence sur « Vivre avec l’irréparable » qui comprenait des présentations données par des chercheurs et des survivants ou familles de survivants. C’est ces témoignages qui m’ont le plus touché.

Les rescapés expriment souvent l’impossibilité de mettre des mots sur le génocide, sur leur expérience. Mais j’ai trouvé la manière dont ils décrivaient l’horreur très percutante. Chacun avait sa manière d’en parler et je veux retranscrire leurs paroles ici afin de souligner notre responsabilité à faire plus d’efforts afin de prévenir de futur génocide.


Témoignage 1 – Atanasie

Nous ne savons pas comment décrire la douleur qui nous habite. Il n’ya pas de mot pour décrire le génocide contre les Batutsis. Je porte le cachet. Le mot irréparable c’est une ligne continue qui a été coupé en morceau par morceau de telle manière qu’on ne peut pas reconstruire la corde. Il n’y a pas de service pour réparer ça. Le choc existe, persiste et persistera pour toujours. Au moindre choc je suis à terre. Le mois d’avril me détruit. Si il n’y avait pas le mois d’avril, ce serait mieux.

J’essaie de vivre comme les autres. C’est difficile de me sentir comme l’Atanasie d’avant. En moi il y a deux personnes, l’Atanasie d’avant le génocide qui est forte et l’Atanasie d’après qui est déchirée. J’essaie de vivre avec les deux personnes en moi. Dieu m’a donné la chance de survivre alors je dois essayer de vivre comme les autres

Il faut concilier, le présent, le future et le passé


Témoignage 2 (13 ans à l’époque)

Je ne suis pas une rescapée, je vivais en Suisse mais d’une côté je le suis car toute la famille de ma mère est décédée. Moi je n’ai jamais vécu là-bas. Pour moi l’irréparable c’est tous ces gens que j’ai perdu. Je ne devrais même pas utilisé le mot perdre car ils se sont fait exterminer.

J’ai vite appris qu’il y avait Hutu et Tutsi, mauvais et gentils. C’est comme ça que je l’ai vécu en Suisse. Je ne veux pas accepter que j’ai quelque de briser en moi qui ne peux pas être réparer. Je fais partie de la deuxième génération et je veux croire en une réparation. J’aimerais que mes enfants aient quelque chose de plus. On est partagé entre ce que nos parents ont vécu depuis les années 1960 et la nouvelle génération. Je porte les blessures mais j’aimerai pouvoir faire la transition entre son vécu et ce nouveau Rwanda.

Dans la diaspora, on est très divisés. J’ai grandi avec des Tutsis et la division est toujours là. Dans la diaspora on a tendance de mettre les mauvais d’un côté et les bons de l’autre. Je veux aller plus loin faire la réconciliation. Je pense que la réconciliation peut se faire plus à notre génération qu’à la votre. On ne peut pas forcer ma mère à la réconciliation. Surtout que beaucoup ne le regrette pas. C’est personnel. En ce qui me concerne je peux le faire.


Témoignage 3 (28 ans à l’époque)

 Pour moi être rescapé c’est le vide, c’est l’absence. Je n’ai pas d’image, pas de photos. C’est irréparable. Tout ce qui me reste c’est un pagne de mon père. Quand avril approche, je le lave, je le repasse et je le range. C’est ça l’irréparable.

L’angoisse est mon compagnon. Je réveille au milieu de la nuit pour voir si mon enfant respire encore. C’est ça l’irréparable

L’irréparable c’est se faire violence chaque jour pour réprimer ce sentiment afin de ne pas s’exposer, de ne pas se mettre à nu, de ne pas pleurer. On ne veut pas sortir ces sentiments. Ça c’est l’irréparable.

Je ne pouvais pas agir. Ça c’est l’irréparable

L’irréparable c’est aussi vivre avec la culpabilité. Coupable de vivre alors que les autres ne vivent plus. Coupable de savoir que la dernière parole qu’on a eu avec son père n’ont pas été les plus tendres. J’aurai voulu trouver quelque chose de plus tendre à lui dire.

C’est aussi entendre dire « comment ça se fait que tu n’as pas été tué en 1994 » ? Comme si, si j’avais été tué, cela aurait arrangé quelqu’un. Entendre cela de la part de Tutsi, ça me donne la force d’avancer. Que vaut la vie après le génocide si elle n’est pas vécue dans l’amitié. J’ai des responsabilités envers ma famille, les survivants


Témoignage 4 (8 ans à l’époque)

Avril c’est la saison de la tristesse et de la mémoire, une saison de courage.

L’irréparable c’est les odeurs, les scènes, les mots qui reviennent sans préavis sans raisons particulières.

Je me rappelle des bruits de l’avion qui est tombé. Mes parents nous en réveillé, on a cru que c’était un grenade.

Je me rappelle la première fois que le première personne que j’ai vu une personne abattue, une personne violée. La fois ou j’ai vu ma mère au milieu de corps à la recherche du corps de mon père. Je me souviens des mots de ceux qui commettaient ces actes. Ils semblaient en paix dans un monde dans lequel les Tutsis n’existaient pas. Même ceux qui ne participait pas au génocide. C’est ça l’essence du génocide.

L’irréparable c’est ne pas avoir la chance de dire le mot « papa ». Quand on est rescapé on aimerait être comme tout le monde et ça c’est la triste vérité.

On aurait du créer un espace dans lequel on aurait pu parler clairement de ce qu’on a vécu. Quand on parle du génocide en Kinyarwanda c’est comme parler de dossier complexe. Hors pour nous c’est simple à expliquer. On veut simplement énoncer ma vérité comme on l’a vécu. Notre défi c’est de prendre un stylo et d’écrire l’histoire comme on la connait au fin fond de votre cœur. Pour réparez l’irréparable il faut changer notre façon de penser et de parler. Personne ne peut nous prendre notre vérité à moins qu’on ne leur dise.


Témoignage 5

L’irréparable c’est définitif. C’est pas comme une fracture que l’on peut souder. J’ai une cicatrice là où la machette m’a blessé. Cette blessure m’accompagne. Quand je la regarde, je replonge là où j’étais ce jour là. Je vivais à Bisero où 800 parmi 60 000 tutsis ont survécu. Mon père a survécu mais aujourd’hui il ne sait pas parler plus de deux minutes.

Quand j’ai revu mon père après avoir été séparé de lui, je ne l’ai pas reconnu.  Quand j’ai vu mon père je me suis promis que j’allais vivre alors qu’avant je ne voulais pas.

On a essayé de se reconstruire. Je portais mon père avec sa misère, sa douleur, son désespoir. Il avait été un homme digne, droit. Maintenant j’étais devenu comme sa mère. Je le portais parfois sur mon dos, je le prenais par la main. Devant lui je me montrais forte. Vivre était notre façon de se venger. Je gardais la tête haute. Mes études c’est ma vengeance. Je vous souhaite la vengeance la plus belle. La vie continue, nous en sommes la preuve. C’est ça le défi : de lever la tête, se tenir debout.


Témoignage 6

Ceux qui n’étaient pas au Rwanda en 1994 portent aussi l’irréparable en eux. J’avais des amis rwandais là où je vivais qui chaque jour apprenaient que leurs familles, leurs amis avaient été tué. L’irréparable, c’est la culpabilité que l’on ressent quand on n’a pas de mots pour réconforter les gens. C’était comme un reproche « Toi tes parents vont bien »

Ce que je veux transmettre à mes enfants c’est de ne pas avoir répondu à la haine par la haine mais par la vie et la fierté de ce qu’on est


Témoignage 7 (26 ans à l’époque) – Eugène

L’irréparable c’est pétrir ma peine chaque matin avec des larmes qui peinent à couler. C’est aussi l’odeur de la charogne humaine qui envahi mes vêtements.

Le génocide pour moi c’est tous ces moments d’absurdité où on cesse d’être humain. Tout simplement un produit de boucherie

J’ai débattu pendant longtemps si j’avais le droit de vivre parce que tous mes compagnons avaient été éliminés, toute ma famille avait été éliminée. Je pensais que je n’avais pas le droit. Jusqu’au jour où je me suis rendu compte qu’en refusant de vivre je donnais raisons à on assassin. Je donnais raison à ceux qui ont assassinés ma famille. Il fallait me remettre debout. On doit accepter que la vie continue. Qu’elle ne s’arrête pas juste parce qu’un génocidaire l’a décidé

Le pardon n’est pas un mot qui existe dans mon vocabulaire. Je pardonnerai si on me demandait pardon mais je ne peux pas pardonner dans le vide

Il faut que les Nations Unies changent leur manière de protéger l’humanité si ils se donnent la mission. Si ils interviennent, si ils agissent ou bien tout simplement ils renoncent et on dira « On a laissez le mal triompher »


Témoignage 8 (18 ans à l’époque) : Arlette

L’avion est tombé la nuit et le lendemain on est devenu des serpents, des insectes à éliminés. Quand on se lève le matin à la recherche de la prochaine personne à tué on n’est plus humain, on devient un animal. D’habitude une personne meurt et on a de la tristesse, on pleur. Là c’était devenu tellement banal qu’on regardait une personne mourir  et c’était la chose normale. On ne pouvait pas pleurer parce qu’on avait plus le droit. On se disait « c’est moi la prochaine personne qui vais être tuée. »

Ma plus grande crainte c’est comment je raconte ça à mon fils. Comment on lui transmet ça pour qu’il puisse quand même garder la mémoire mais sans lui transmettre la haine.

Selon moi il n’y a pas de réconciliation parce qu’on n’est pas obligé de se réconcilier. Il y a deux communautés qui vivent chacune de leur coin mais il y a une méfiance, une grande, grande méfiance



Links round-up

Reporting on African conflicts

In “In defence of western journalists in Africa” Michela Wrong defends journalists against those (usually academics) who are quick to criticize the way they report on a conflict, especially in Africa. I think it is pretty well argued. Journalists are not academics and do not pretend to be. They write for a very different, in a different environment, under different restrictions, and for much larger audience.

“More fundamentally, the writers seem to have lost sight of the definition of news, which aims to convey distant events to a non-specialist audience as succinctly as possible. That’s a lot easier to say than do.”

To academics who complain that journalists aren’t more “like them”, presenting the complexity of conflicts in 20 page articles, she answers “We don’t have time, we don’t have space, and anyway, that’s why you guys exist, remember?”

On the same topic: “South Sudan: are western journalists getting it wrong?”, Sterling Carter, The Guardian


Clinton Documents reveal more on US response to Rwandan genocide

The Clinton Presidential Library released new documents shedding light on the Administration’s response to the Rwandan genocide. The memo offers various responses to potential criticism of the US’ lack of response to the Rwandan genocide. The Guardian explains the background story behind the memos.


 America’s most dubious allies

Politico Magazine has an interesting long piece up its website “America’s 25 Most Awkward Allies” which stems from a phrase uttered by Susan Rice ““Let’s be honest,” she said, “at times … we do business with governments that do not respect the rights we hold most dear.” The Obama Administration made it clear from the beginning that it would privilege quite diplomacy to silence or confrontation. The magazine has therefor put together a list of America’s most dubious allies with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia making it on the top of the list. Of course there is also Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar but also on the list are lesser-known relationships with Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Obama was also the first president to visit countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia.

One of the interesting analysis is the relationship between the US and Rwandan president Paul Kagame. He has been a donor darling ever since he came to power, who commanded the RPF rebel forces during the 1994 genocide. The West, who certainly has reasons to feel guilty about not intervening during massacres, has responded by hailing Kagame as a visionary leader and commending him for allowing Rwanda to start recovering from the genocide in quite a remarkable way. Compared to its neighbours, Rwanda has taken quite an impressive economic and political turn. At the same time, Kagame’s fans are quick to forget that the Rwandan military killed civilians in the DRC and is still providing help to rebel groups, making the Congo one of most dramatic humanitarian crisis today. Kagame will also not hesitate to get rid of his opponents and dissidents in the most brutal ways. He is even very open about it: “betraying Rwanda brings consequences”, he says. He is a dictator but the West keeps portraying him as a progressive leader. As Condoleezza Rice (Former United States Secretary of State) apparently once said “The only thing we have to do is look the other way.” I wonder how long it will last but Kagame is certainly not leaving anytime soon.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo from the perspective of an Ambassador

The United States Institute for Peace hosted Ambassador Roger Meece who shared his perspectives on the DRC, a country that has experienced violent conflict and humanitarian crisis for two decades. As the former head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) Meece is in a good position to comment. In this presentation and Q&A, he shares his view on the conflict, the challenges, the regional implications, the UN’s engagement, and what lies ahead for the country.



 Where to with the Responsibility to Protect?

In “R2P: A Norm of the Past or Future?”, Simon Adams, the director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect reflects on the normative acceptance of R2P and the future of the doctrine. Adams acknowledges that the norm remains controversial and sometimes misunderstood. Some see it as an excuse to change a regime or “colonize” a territory, others regard the intervention in Libya and lack of intervention in Syria as a failure of R2P, and yet another group believes that the doctrine is “the fastest developing international norm in history” (emphasis on developing). What it is clear that “the circumstances that gave rise to the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect at the 2005 UN World Summit” have not ceased to exist. Contrary to what many might believe, there is growing acceptance for R2P: four UN Security Council Presidential Statements, more invocations in resolutions since 2011, and 30 countries have now adopted R2P Focal Points. Adams is good at reminding us that it takes time for norms such as R2P to be accepted, for sovereignty not to be seen not only as a right but as a responsibility. He reminds us that it took time to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and there are still challenges 60 years later. “The Responsibility to Protect, like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is still only as strong as the determination of the international community to uphold its principles. We cannot let future normative progress be a prisoner of the past.”


African Solutions to African Problems

In Long road to an African rapid reaction force, IRIN looks at the African Union’s idea to create creation of a military capable of rapidly deploying to African countries experiencing crisis. “African solutions to African problems,” as one would say. The idea of an African Capacity for Immediate Responses to Crises (ACIRC) came a response to lack of progress made on the creation of the African Standby Force (ASF), which should have been set up by 2010 but was pushed back to 2015. It also came as a response to the fact that France has had to intervene in Mali and in the African Republic to support African troops already on the ground. African states see this as a humiliation. Yet the creation of the ACIRC is very challenging. South Africa and Algeria are all for it but Nigeria, another big power on the continent, isn’t exactly an active supporter. Then there is also the problem of meddling and partisanship (Chad supporting Seleka in CAR? Uganda and Rwanda in the DRC? Uganda’s involved in South Sudan). However, there is hope. In 2013, 75,000 African peacekeepers took part in UN and African missions. What is needed is leadership, organization, coordination and cooperation among the members of the AU.

For another article on the subject: “Africa can solve its own problems with proper planning and full implementation of the African Standby Force” – Institute for Security Studies


A génocidaire in the dock: is France ready to face its responsibilities?

Here is an article I originally published in French in the Huffington Post but that I have translated for this blog


Twenty years after the tragedy, is France finally ready to confront its role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide?

Two weeks ago, the trial of Pascal Simbikangwa opened in Paris under much media scrutiny. Captain in the Rwandan gendarmerie until a road accident in 1986, Simbikangwa is accused of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. Although he minimizes his role, Simbikangwa was a member of the « akazu », the inner circle of Hutu power who organized the extermination of almost one million Tutsi and Hutu moderates. On the eve of the genocide, Simbikangwa was the director of the intelligence services in Kigali and allegedly armed militias who filtered out Tutsis at roadblocks, and encouraged them to kill. There is ample evidence against him and several witnesses will testify in court. 

Simbikangwa is not the first génocidaires to face justice but this trial is historical because, for the first time, it occurs in France, a country that has long been accused of serving as a safe haven for génocidaires. Indeed, Simbikangwa had found refuge on the French overseas département of Mayotte before he was arrested in 2008. He is not the only one. Twenty-seven alleged culprits have rebuilt their lives in France, sometimes as working as doctors or pastors. Not one of them has ever faced justice – until today.

Why the heavy silence?

In reality, it is the French political class of the era who is at risk of being in the dock. Seeing how talkative Simbikangwa is, his trial will shed light on the way the genocide was planned and thus perhaps on the ambiguous relationship between Paris and Kigali in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed, the French government then headed by François Mittérand was one of Kigali’s closest allies. 

In October 1990, when a rebel movement called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) attacked the Rwandan army (FAR), France came to the help of the government in Kigali because it argued that Rwanda was the victim of an external aggression (France omitted to say that the RPF was mainly composed of Rwandan Tutsi who had found refuge in Uganda and whom the Hutu government in Kigali did not want back). In the end, Paris financially and military assisted an authoritarian regime that maintained mono-ethnic policies and was planning a genocide.

Following the assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, the well-planned genocide began within a few hours. Instead of helping the Tutsi, France recognized the Hutu interim government responsible for ongoing massacres and even evacuated some of Habyarimana’s entourage and other local notables. Several of them were even received at the Elysée shortly after. At the end of June, when France finally deployed a humanitarian operation (Operation Turquoise) in order to protect the Tutsi, French soldiers failed to systematically disarm militias and did not arrest perpetrators of the massacres, and certainly not the main authors. Many of génocidaires managed to escape to the Congo (then Zaire).

The absence of political will to bring perpetrators to justice, condemned by the European Human Rights Court in 2004, is likely caused by a fear that France’s role may soon be fully out in the open. Yes, the genocide was planned and committed by Rwandans but as the main ally Paris was in a good position to prevent the killings instead of providing resources to what was to become a genocidal regime. The situation was complex, but French leaders had been warned about the Hutu regime’s plans. Instead, like the rest of the international community, they refused to listen and turned their back on the Tutsi community. Graver still, once the massacres started France took two months to act and when it did, the intervention had contradictory effects. France must therefore assume part of the responsibility.

Simbikangwa’s trial is an important step for the victims who are finally being recognized. It is also a victory for the human rights activists, journalists and academics who have been fighting to bring perpetrators to justice. However, there is still a long way to go. In a recent interview, Alain Ngirinshut, a genocide survivor and vice-president of an association for victims, explained that the Paris city hall still refuses to establish a proper memorial for the victims of the genocide. Twenty years after the massacres, the duty of remembrance remains a difficult task to do. 

Update and interesting reads

I great lack of update on my part. I have been writing but in French! I’ll post a new piece soon

In the meantime, here are some interested links

Responsibility to Protect:

“Into the Eleventh Hour: R2P, Syria and Humanitarianism

Here is a series of article on R2P and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.It brings together some of the most important voices on R2P and humanitarian intervention to examine the doctrine’s validity in the context of Syria’s civil war and humanitarian emergency. Does the Responsibility to Protect have a future?

Also on the same subject “The Responsibility to Protect and the Use of Force in Syria” written by Eamon Aloyo from The Hague Institute

Finally, in “R2P4: The Unsung Fourth Element of Humanitarian Intervention” Mark Lagon calls for a fourth pillar for R2P: ”

“So actually, rather than too much focus on Pillar 3 in place of Pillar 2, what is truly being neglected is an as yet unmentioned “Pillar 4.” If R2P is such a solemn norm, to save the livelihoods of targets of atrocities, then Pillar 4 would represent unilateral or, better, collective action when the Security Council’s approval is not forthcoming.”

The idea of Pillar4 is certainly controversial.


A lot is being written about Syria, torture committed in Syrian prisons, and Geneva II. But at the end of the day, this is what we have come to: “The politics of starvation: Syria’s civilians go hungry after months of sieges”. Eating rats, dogs, and cats to survive. All Syrians there want is peace and food.

Central African Republic

Civilians in CAR are facing extreme violence at the moment. The images are daunting and remind me the Rwandan genocide. Although the French have sent troops to help African troops, the task is enormous and more help is needed. The European Union will sent in peacekeepers as well but, as always, it is taking a long time. Only 10% of the humanitarian aid has been funded. The African Union, whose members have not shown the capacity to appease tensions, have also discussed establishing a Standby Force. But what is needed is a UN mission – something the new interim president of CAR has also requested. Why is action always so slow?

Human Rights Watch’s researcher Peter Bouckaert is doing an incredible job reporting on the situation and documenting crimes committed by both sides. You can follow him on Twitter or see his Twitter live feed for real time news. Also read his latest report “Riptide in the Central African Republic”. Also published in Foreign Policy, the article is fittingly titled on the main page as “The war nobody wants to see”.

I’m very much admirative of the work these humanitarians and activists are doing on the ground. They are simply reporting and documenting mass atrocity crimes, they also try to speak to those who want or have committed violence in attempt to appease them.

Aid Leap and Irinnews  offer overviews and analyses of the conflict


Peter Bouckaert in CAR

Occasionally, you’ll read something more positive about the situation there and those who are trying to make a difference. This is the case of two men, one Muslim, one Christian, who are trying to appease their respective communities. Christiana Amanpour managed to interview them for CNN. They want to emphasize that the conflict in itself is not religious but that religion is being use to fuel violence. “In my childhood at the time of the Christmas holidays, we shared our toys with Muslim friends. At the time of Ramadan, we played. In the past we have never been enemies. We were brothers.”

South Sudan

There was hope when South Sudan acquired independence in 2011 but the upsurge of violence in December proves how difficult it is to build a new nation. The two conflicting parties are holding peace talks but are also accusing each other of trying to derail them. New satellite images by U.S.-based monitoring group, the Satellite Sentinel Project, suggest that at least 210 tukuls (houses) have been burned down in  Malaka, a town the rebels and soldiers are fighting over. Pillage is  widespread as well – the World Food Program’s warehouses have been completely looted, which hinders their efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the 863,000 South Sudanese who have fled their homes.

Want to see a timeline of the conflict in South Sudan? Read it this one put together by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect



2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Commemorations have already started. People reflect on the inaction of the international community, on lessons learned, and on the effectiveness of reconciliation efforts in Rwanda.

– Foreign Policy Magazine “How Tradition Remade Rwanda. The secret ingredient in Rwanda’s efforts to rebuild its nation after the violence of genocide.”

– Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Open Letter to All UN Member States “The ‘Genocide Fax’ and the 20th Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994”

– Videos and reports from conference Genocide – A preventable crimes. Understanding early warning of mass atrocities
On 14 January, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect organized two event at the United Nations with Lt. Gen. The Hon. Roméo A. Dallaire and H.E. Eugène-Richard Gasana, Permanent Representative of Rwanda. The press conference marked the anniversary of Dallaire’s sending a fax warning of the impending threat of a genocide perpetrated by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi population of Rwanda. Policymakers then refused to listen.

On 15 January, Roméo Dallaire then delivered a keynote speech at the UN. Also present on the panel were  Dr. Simon Adams, H.E. Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States,  Mr. Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Eugenie Mukeshimana, Executive Director of the Genocide Survivors Support Network, and Dr. Stephen Smith, Kwibuka and Executive Director of the Shoah Foundation.

An interesting point that also came out of the conference is Romeo Dallaire idea that the recruitment of child soldiers can be used a a warning sign of internal warfare. Militia men who want to build-up an army focus on children because they are easy to recruited or kidnapped, cheap, easily influenced or subdued. In short, children are used a weapons of war.


There has been more violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The government denies the allegations. The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention published a new article on the systematic violence and patterns of ethnic cleansing.

Some History: Heinrich Himmler

If you are interested in the Holocaust, German newspaper Die Welt is published recently discovered letters and diaries written by Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the German Police and the Reich’s Commissioner for the “Festigung des deutschen Volkstums” (Consolidation oft he German Race). The material offers a view of the man who is responsible for the death of millions of Jews. This article is in English but for German speakers Die Welt is also publishing the material on a daily basis. An incredible and daunting view of one of the man behind the Holocaust.

Framework Agreement and Intervention Brigade: an illusion or a road to peace?

I have been studying conflicts in the Great Lakes Region for several years and even visited the region but I would not consider myself a specialist of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the reasons is that this one of the most, if not the most complex, conflict in the world today. We are talking about a long-existing war, nearly twenty years, involving a multitude of countries, armies, armed groups (20 and 30 armed rebel groups), and a large UN peacekeeping force. I am not even talking about the number of NGOs and UN agencies also present on the ground. The UN mission in the Congo, known as Monusco, is the largest existing UN mission in the world today. It has been on the ground for more than a decade but despite the presence of this 20,000 strong force, peace in the eastern DRC remains illusive. In November, a rebel group known as the M23 successfully invaded Goma despite the presence of the national army, the FARDC, and Monusco. Intense international forced the rebels to withdraw to northern areas but considering their success, it would be legitimate to believe that the population has stopped expecting anything from the FARDC or Monusco. Having been to Goma myself, though only for a day, the sense of insecurity is always present.


The outbreak of the new rebellion in May 2012 prompted the signing of the Framework Agreement (Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework – PSCF) on 24 February 2013. This UN-led agreement was signed by the President of the DRC and ten other African heads of state, under the eye of the UN and three African regional bodies. The objective is to tackle underlying problems and core drivers of violence in the region: armed groups, weak Congolese institutions and governance, poor development, and foreign interference in the DRC’s internal affairs. The agreement highlights the need for concrete reforms in the DRC as well as increased regional cooperation, particularly between the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda (the latter two have both been accused of supporting rebellions in the eastern DRC).



(Ban Ki-moon with President Joseph Kabila and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim – Junior D.Kannah. AFP)
Political strategies and political will

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Jim Kim (World Bank), and UN envoy Mary Robinson visited Kinshasa, Goma, and Kigali last week in an attempt to show their support for the new agreement. “We are determined to do more for crisis-stricken countries,” Ban said in Kinshasa and described the agreement as “best chance for peace in years.” Whether the Framework Agreement will actually contribute to peace depends on many factors, most importantly, I think, on 1) genuine commitment to Agreement 2) additional political strategies (national and regional), c) and political will to implement reforms and strategies once and for all.

With its large number of natural resources, the DRC could be a thriving, prosperous nation. But the corrupt government combined with hungry rebels and neighboring countries (Rwanda and Uganda long waged proxy wars in the DRC, and may still do so today according to several reports) make this impossible. Since the PSCF was signed, the government has set up a plan for national reforms, which includes dealing with impunity, reconciliation, decentralization, the justice system, and, most importantly, Security Sector Reform. But the government has a history of being slow to implement reforms. Enough pressure must therefore be put on the regime Kinshasa to genuinely execute these reforms and to engage in political dialog with various political and non-political actors. This pressure could come from the opposition (although it is currently divided), Congolese civil society, donors and NGOs, and from the international community.  

Another major challenge remains the commitment of key countries in the Great Lakes region to actually work together. The Framework agreement pushed for regional cooperation on the extraction and export of minerals, and on security issues. There has been increasing international pressure on neighboring countries, especially Rwanda, to commit to this. Recently, several donor countries, including Great Britain, froze then unfroze or reduced their aid to Rwanda when Kigali was suspected of backing the rebels. Rwanda has always been a donor darling but the relationship is changing. However, I have always found it hard to believe in the will of the DRC and its neighbors to cooperate in a transparent and legitimate way instead of illegally interfering in each others’ affairs. Perhaps international and regional pressure can force them to do so but these country had better understand that cooperation on political, security and economic issues is more beneficial for development in the long term.



(M23 rebels in Bunagana, near the Ugandan border)

Special Intervention Brigade: can a more robust mandate work?

The Framework Agreement also cleared the way for a new UN intervention force. With Resolution 2098 (2013), the UN has embarked on an unprecedented military approach to deal with armed groups by setting up an Intervention Brigade with an offensive mandate. The 3.069 soldiers from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi will reinforce troops already on the ground but will also be responsible for neutralizing and reducing the threat posed by armed groups. The new brigade is therefore authorized to engage in offensive military action.

The reaction of the M23 was immediate. After months of truce, fighting with the FARDC erupted again around Goma last week. The rebels have also been trying to dissuade Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa from providing peacekeepers by appealing to their parliaments. In areas under their control, the M23 is holding rallies, and conducting propaganda campaigns against the Intervention brigade in order to turn the population against the force. Furthermore, the leader of the rebels stated that the M23 would fight back if attacked. Whether the rebels will actually fight back is difficult to say. They could eventually disarm or at least negotiate. The M23 has been in talks with the Congolese government since December 2012 but talks have stalled since the DRC agreed to the deployment of the brigade. The rebels clearly see the new force as an aggressor, not as a peaceful mediator.

Will the Intervention Brigade be able to carry out its mandate? At the end of April, a Mai Mai self-defense group attacked the town of Pinga despite the presence of Monusco peacekeepers responsible for protecting civilians. This is not the first time Monusco has failed to intervene. Just think about what happened in Goma last November. The passivity of Monusco seems in part due to a minimalistic reading of its mandate, which emphasizes that it is the “primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for ensuring security in its territory and protecting its civilians (…).” As a result, Monusco often appears to hide behind the inefficiency of the FARDC. Second, the mission seems more inclined to protect their own staff first rather than civilians. This kind of pasivity leads me to question the efficiency of the future brigade.  Is it actually ready to fight or will it stand by again?

This leads to another problem. The brigade should not simply focus on the M23 and the FDLR. This would be too restrictive. But let’s also not forget that there are about twenty to thirty very armed groups in the DRC who use different tactics and have different interests. How can one Brigade composed of 3000 men possibly neutralize them all? Finally, what will become of those rebels who decide to lay down arms? Will they be reintegrated into the FARDC again? This plan has proven widely detrimental to peace and is part been part of the problem. I think the new mandate is too large for the small brigade and only constitutes a short-term solution. The objective should not be to simply manage the problem of armed group but to actually solve it – thus my emphasis on the need for a genuine political strategy.

All previous national and regional peace-building efforts have more or less failed and lasting peace can only be reached through a multi-faceted and holistic approach (political, economic and security) to peace building. This strategy needs to tackle the political and structural nature of the long-lasting conflicts in the region. But it also mean involving multiple actors with diverse and agendas and approaches. The Framework Agreement may be a step in the right direction but the DRC still has a long way to go. As Ban stated “I think this framework agreement could be a landmark one, but it’s the minimum which we are doing. I think we should do more.”