The UN Mapping Report on mass killings, rapes and displacement in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a milestone in documenting crimes against humanity.
On Friday, October 1st, 2010, the United Nations published a groundbreaking report on the mass killings, rapes and displacement in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It was one of those seminal snapshot moments of history you remember forever. You remember it, and its self-explanatory title “The UN Mapping Report,” don’t you?
The summary findings were bleak. Over a 10-year period, between 1993 and 2003, a total of 617 war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide were committed in Congo by 21 rebel groups and eight foreign armies.
Just this alone set my heart racing; much more in fear than in hope or in expectation. How many deaths or rapes does each of the war crimes, crimes against humanity or crime of genocide equate to? One day a judge in an international tribunal will tell us during sentencing. I hope.
As if to underscore the consequences of doing nothing the authors added, “the Congolese justice system lacks the capacity to prosecute the crimes it documented.”
In other words, the UN Security Council should establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Congo to try these crimes and end impunity fuelling violence, if Congo is to avoid the worst effects of these crimes and crises, including more killings, mass rape and mass displacement, famine and widespread hunger.
I had just completed my undergraduate at Queen Mary in London — and I was working more or less full time on the Congo — and seeing the UN call for accountability in Congo was a welcome jolt to the heart. I remember thinking “there has never been a more important time to fight for justice, at home and abroad alike.”
Certainly, for the first time in history, the UN established a database of people responsible for the worst atrocities, with solid evidence for future convictions. Their names are held in Geneva but we know it includes President Paul Kagame of Rwanda as well as dozens of senior military and political leaders in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo.
According to the report, President Kagame’s troops committed some of the terrible mass killings of Congolese civilians; including in Kasika, Makobola, Kisangani and elsewhere in Congo. The Congolese hero and Nobel peace laureate Dr Denis Mukwege is currently under UN protection after Rwanda’s top general, Maj. Gen. James Kabarebe, ordered his killing on state TV because he dared to mention these facts and call for justice.
However, in my opinion, there is nothing to celebrate — not until an International Criminal Tribunal for Congo is created. Indeed, for the past 10 years, the killings have continued, the type of mass killings the report was supposed to prevent; receiving scant attention in the media — and for 10 years, the world has only done nothing.
With world leaders gathering virtually in New York on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Mapping Report for their annual General Assembly, this is perhaps the best time to mobilise support for the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for Congo — and to dent the mood of impunity and indifference.
In my view, there are at least three reasons why the International Criminal Tribunal for Congo hasn’t been established. Even after over 5.4 million Congolese people have been killed.
First, the UK and the US continue to oppose it. The Mapping Report shows clearly that ending the killings and raping in Congo was possible and within reach. The final tick box for justice, however, is the UN Security Council.
A thoughtful UK minister once said to me “we’d support a Special Chamber but not the International Criminal Tribunal for Congo.” The difference between the two? A Special Chamber, like that of Cambodia or Bosnian war crimes chamber, is at the mercy of national leaders, and may not have the mandate to prosecute foreign nationals- or force their government to hand them over.
In other words, by opposing the International Criminal Tribunal for Congo, the international community is denying Congolese people justice in order to protect Paul Kagame and his criminal networks in Congo.
Second, it's about the minerals destined for the London and New York Stock Exchange. If you fly low over Congo, especially the Kivus and Ituri region, all you will see are huge mining concessions producing cheap, slave labour minerals via Rwanda, Uganda and Mombasa for the Stock Exchanges in Europe, US and Asia. Peace will kill this lucrative market.
Third, because Black lives do not matter. Bob Kruger, a former US Senator and Ambassador to Burundi, once lamented to me “You are not just African. You are a dark skin Black. This is why the international community does not care about your deaths.”
In spite of this, or precisely because of this, we should not permit this crucial moment to pass unacknowledged, because doing so invites the comforting delusion that the mass killings, raping, looting and displacement of Congolese people has ended.
The report is in my opinion the last gasp of a dying people. Justice for war crimes, and the benefits it provides, is fundamental to peace, stability and a healthy society. But the UN civil servants alone cannot deliver it. Only media and public protest can force the UN Security Council to – and that is what is we want to achieve.
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