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UN report on Rwanda genocide threatens stability in Central Africa

The leaked report accuses Rwanda's leadership of mass murdering Hutu refugees in Congo. Once seen as heroes for ending the 1994 genocide – they're now billed as villains. But oversimplified claims don't serve justice, and may have dangerous consequences for regional progress.

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Until recently, President Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were the international community’s aid darling, heralded for their role in stopping the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of as many as one million Rwandans. They now stand accused of a long list of crimes.

A recently-leaked UN report accuses the RPF of atrocities “that could be classified as genocide” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1996-1997 – mass murdering tens of thousands of Hutu refugees. The regime’s legitimacy and its leaders’ individual criminal responsibility are now being contested.

But how wise is it to swap one set of dangerous simplifications for another? Is Rwanda the model of progress and reconciliation, or is Kagame’s RPF the genocidal eye of Central African storms? And what does this tell us about international intervention in a region with an immensely troubled past?

Historical context

Rwanda has long suffered from powerful imagery projected onto it by self-declared friends of the country. The analyses of socio-political trends often reveal more about the “expert” expounding his truths than about what actually happens to Rwanda’s people.

A century ago, Belgian colonialists, biased by the Flemish-Walloon cleavage that undermined nation-statehood back home, portrayed the complex Hutu-Tutsi relationship as fundamentally irreconcilable, mixing racist theories with political expediency.

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