Monster behind genocide and rape squads

Published in the Daily Mail (July 27th, 2011)

Women and children – desperately sick and weak after months on the run – were finally caught by Rwandan army commander Papy Kamanzi. He told them he would give them food and then send them home. But he now admits he was lying and says: ‘We took them instead into the forest and killed them with a small hatchet.’

Kamanzi despatched scores with a blow to the back of the skull. As the bloodbath went on, his soldiers’ methods became cruder. ‘We could kill more than 100 a day,’ he said. ‘We used ropes – it was the fastest way and we didn’t spill blood. Two of us would place a guy on the ground, wrap a rope around his neck once, then pull hard.

The reason this young commander in an elite unit and father of two young children carried out these horrific massacres of Congolese is simple. In a chilling refrain, so familiar from the darkest deeds in history, he says: ‘We were ordered to do it.’

Kamanzi’s story should be heard by all Western apologists for the suspected architect of these atrocities, Rwanda’s brutal autocratic ruler, President Kagame. This includes Britain’s International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell.

For while world leaders and the aid lobby fawn over Kagame the reality of his repressive regime is becoming clearer by the day.

This is a man who launched a war with neighbouring Congo in 1996 which led to more than five million deaths and tore Congo apart – and has used British taxpayers’ money to silence his critics.

Papy Kamanzi’s death squad was operating in the Congolese jungle, where it was guilty of acts of genocide. His story is told in Dancing In The Glory Of Monsters, a brilliant new book about the collapse of the Congo by an American author who has spent ten years in the country.

A United Nations investigation found Kagame’s army and its allies killed tens of thousands of innocent refugees. This is a terrible indictment of the Rwandan president who came to power by ending his own country’s bloody civil war in 1994 between the Hutus and Tutsis.

Following the slaughter of a staggering one million mainly Tutsi civilians in less than a year, Kagame led the army which overthrew the Hutu militias responsible for the genocide and seized power.

At the time he was seen as a liberator. Ever since, he has skilfully exploited international sympathy for Rwanda’s tragic recent history to stifle dissent at home and win friends, influence and money abroad.

As huge amounts of foreign aid poured in, he has overseen impressive economic growth, promoted the interests of women and eradicated corruption. This is the Rwanda that so beguiles visiting Western politicians and aid agencies – the lush land of a thousand hills, of gourmet coffee, gorilla tourism and hi-tech ambitions.

They believe this nation’s ‘success story’ could be the answer the swelling chorus of critics who question what has been achieved for all the billions of aid money.

But this desperate desire for good news out of Africa has ensured that for too long, too many people who should know better have ignored grotesque human rights abuses. The whiff of hypocrisy hangs heavy in the air.

First and foremost on the charge sheet is Rwanda’s long involvement in neighbouring Congo. It has twice invaded, fought proxy wars with brutal militias and profited from the proceeds of stolen minerals.

Mass rape was commonplace. The gruesome lexicon now includes words such as ‘re-rape’ – for women who have been repeatedly raped – and ‘auto-cannibalism’ – where victims are forced to eat their own flesh.

President Kagame should no longer be able to avoid blame despite protestations that his regime was merely tracking down remnants of mass-murdering Hutu militias. Kagame has created what one observer calls ‘a well-managed ethnic, social and economic dictatorship’. People speak of a climate of fear, where the wrong words can lead to incarceration – or worse.

Last year’s election was a sham, with the regime jailing political rivals and closing newspapers, using institutions shamefully funded by British aid to win with 93 per cent of the vote. One opponent was beheaded shortly before the election.

Despite widespread international concern, Tony Blair – who advises the Rwandan government and uses Kagame’s private jet – sent the president a note of congratulations.

As for the Tories, they invited Kagame to address their party conference four years ago after Mr Mitchell had taken a group of party volunteers to Rwanda. Now, as international development minister, he remains among the regime’s most fervent supporters.

What makes Mr Mitchell’s visit so shocking is that it comes just weeks after Scotland Yard warned two Rwandan dissidents living in Britain that their lives were in danger from hit squads sent by Kagame’s government.

One of those targets is Rene Mugenzi, a Liberal Democrat activist. He says the Rwandan government ‘wants to kill’ him and he feels betrayed because the British government both refuses to condemn the threat to his life and continues to send aid. ‘Now Mr Mitchell goes out there as if nothing has happened,’ he says.

Meanwhile, there have been persistent reports of murders and assassination attempts of people who have fallen out with Kagame.

Paul Rusesabagina, a heroic Rwandan hotel manager who saved 1,268 people amid the hell of genocide, is one of those who has been declared ‘an enemy of the state’. He says: ‘I’ll continue to speak out about the need for genuine reconciliation and real peace in our country.’

Brave words that shame Andrew Mitchell as he is the guest of a man accused of sending death squads to kill British citizens.

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