U.N. peacekeeping pick for Darfur tied to war crimes
NEW YORK — The Rwandan general selected as deputy commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur is suspected of committing war crimes related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, U.N. officials say.
Maj. Gen. Karenzi Karake, 46, was accused by Belgian-based United Democratic Forces-Inkingi, an umbrella group of Rwandan oppositionists, of ordering political assassinations before the 1994 genocide, and afterward, of ordering or overseeing massacres of Rwandan refugees in Congolese camps.
The U.N. peacekeeping department, which is trying to put together a $2 billion mission in Sudan’s western province of Darfur by December, has asked Rwanda to withdraw Gen. Karake’s name until the general can be properly vetted. Rwanda has refused. Gen. Karake, a high-ranking member of the Rwandan army’s military and intelligence units, was nominated to the post by Rwanda’s government and approved as the No. 2 official for the joint mission by the African Union (AU) and United Nations.
Rwanda is currently led by a Tutsi political movement which came to power after the 1994 genocide by the then-ruling Hutu. The early 1990s in Rwanda featured a civil war be- tween the ruling Hutu and Tutsi exiles seeking to return to power.
“We are talking to other parties [. . . ] international organizations dealing with human rights to find out if there is any basis for the allegations,” U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas told reporters last week.
U.N. officials have also been talking to the Rwandan government, which says the charges against Gen. Karake are unfounded.
Rwanda’s U.N. Ambassador Joseph Nsengimana dismissed the accusations as a dissident effort to discredit his nation’s military.
“General Karake is a very good soldier. [. . . ] I know that personally,” he told The Washington Times. “And that is why [African Union Chairman Alpha Omar] Konare of Mali recommended him for this job.”
Mr. Nsengimana said that the general had not been accused of anything until now.
The Rwandan ambassador also warned that Gen. Karenzi’s removal could jeopardize the mission in Darfur, the parched region of western Sudan where an estimated 250,000 civilians have been killed in a civil war.
“Before they remove Karenzi they have to think about the consequences of saying to Rwanda ‘you have no place in UNAMID,’ “ Mr. Nsengimana said, using the acronym for the U.N. mission, called the U.N. Assistance Mission in Darfur.
The Rwandan exile group accuses the general of ordering an assault against Rwandan refugees in the Kibeho region of Rwanda on April 2, 1995.
Human rights groups say they are investigating his role in a massacre at Ndere, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
One of several human rights groups — which did not wish to be identified for the security of individuals who are working with them — said it had its own concerns about Gen. Karake before the exile group went public.
“We do find credible the accusations,” said an official with an international group. “We all know opposition groups are quite capable of coming up with insane and slanderous allegations. But we had heard of this.”
Rwanda is contributing some 3,000 soldiers and police to the 7,000 African Union mission currently in Darfur, and is expected to be a backbone of an expanded AU-U.N. effort.
Its soldiers are among the best trained and equipped in Africa.
“It’s not really the numbers, but the quality,” said one U.N. peacekeeping official.
In Geneva on Aug. 21, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a grim report detailing the abduction, rape and sexual violence imposed on women and children of south Darfur by Sudanese soldiers and militias.
The report also says the Sudanese government has not mounted an investigation of U.N. complaints.
Millions of civilians have been driven into squalid refugee camps by the fighting.
Residents of Otash internally displaced people’s camp on the outskirts of Nyala town, the capital of southern Darfur, listen to an Aug. 17 speech by Rodolphe Adada, African Union-United Nations Joint Special Representative for Darfur and Head of Mission for the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS).