International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Rwanda and UN Security Council

Last week, it has been reported that Rwanda will hold one of the five non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. In his interview for NPR with the Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, one of the things brought up by host Michael Martin is that a “firm hand” is necessary in government to stave off ethnic conflict. Mushikiwabo’s response is that yes, in fact, it is and that President Kagame has been one of the better leaders to help Rwanda gain its current success. I find this to be somewhat of a conflict of interest, especially when viewed side by side with Victor Peskin’s account of victor’s justice in the case of the ICTR. Fearing indictments of the officials of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s government banned travel for the witnesses asked to testify in the hearings. According to Peskin, “The government’s decision to bar witness travel was one of the most damaging acts of noncompliance in the history of both ad hoc tribunals” (225, Peskin). Rwanda’s actions received little criticism and the UN Security Council was slow to respond to the official appeal of the government’s actions.

How is it, that a country so set on working against the UN-sanctioned Tribunal meant to help fix the terrible wrongs that occurred, is welcome with open arms into the UN Security Council?


4 responses to “Rwanda and UN Security Council

  1. cshipton October 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Karolina brings up Minister Mushikiwabo’s NPR interview with host Michael Martin. In that interview, Mushikiwabo was asked to address claims that Rwandan President Paul Kagame is becoming a “strongman who is very interested in suppressing any dissent”. Martin also asked Mushikiwabo why there are so many former Kagame supporters that end up in jail or have left the country to which she said, “ Would you think it’s unusual that people fall out with their former employees and their employers and leadership gets people who are not happy about – what’s happening in Rwanda is no different from what would happen in any other country. I just think sometimes Rwanda is held to standards that are not realistic.”

    Rwanda has made great progress toward healing ethnic conflict since the 1994 genocide. However, it is obvious through President Kagame’s treatment of his former staff and the travel restrictions placed on those that were to testify in the Rwandan tribunal, that the country is not ready to handle a level of political discourse seen within most state members of the UN Security Council and on the Council itself. If Rwanda cannot facilitate an environment to openly discuss political disagreements, how will they be able to participate in discussion concerning the insurgency in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in which their own Minister of Defense, General James Kabarebe, has been accused of directing? The DRC has asked for targeted sanctions against the Ugandan and Rwandan officials who have been backing the M23, the rebel group within the DRC according to a leaked UN report. This is bound to exacerbate tensions between the two countries once the DRC insurgency is brought up again with Security Council members. While already seeing UN support through peacekeepers on the ground, how will the DRC react to future UN aid and intervention with Rwanda on the council? Rwanda has much to share with the international community regarding societal healing post-conflict, but perhaps they are not ready to assist and advise in these conflicts from a position on the UN Security Council.

  2. Micaela October 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Another point of interest in the NPR interview that leads me to a similar question is something that the Rwandan Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo said regarding international intervention:

    “There is a role to play by the international community and our partners. The problem is they’re not always supportive of what we want to do, what we think would serve our citizens better. The solutions that we think would be appropriate is what we should be discussing with our partners, not them coming with their own way of trying to solve our problems, which in the end serves them and doesn’t serve us. That’s really where the problem is.”

    Mushikiwabo brings up a good point that national sovereignty and interests should be respected. However, often the reason the international community is intervening is because the solutions that a national government thinks would be “appropriate” are the solutions that are failing in implementation or prove to be insufficient. If a country in need of external help is unwilling to accomodate and listen to the solutions that other countries or leaders have come up with, and views the attempts at solutions that other countries suggest as self-serving, then why are they being allowed to join a council that “calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle [a threat to peace or act of aggression] by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement”? (Link provided below) How will a country with such a view attempt to provide solutions for conflict for other countries? Will this perspective of focusing on internally-produced solutions and goals bring more success to the UN Security Council or will it have a detrimental effect on its goal through not producing a third party/external solution?


  3. brandon459 October 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

    While the prior three posts combined, put together a legitimate argument for why Rwanda should not hold one of the five non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, there are some issues on the opposite side for why they were given the seat. Rwanda did receive 148 out of 193 votes in the U.N. General Assembly. This is not to say that I necessarily agree with the decision, but I am simply going to take more of an opposition than the prior three posts. I want to give a different perspective.

    It is worth noting that while Rwanda was elected a seat, they are not the sole decision maker. They are simply one of the countries that will provide input. Rwanda in fairness to them, they were Africa’s representative as elected by the African Union. They are involved in a number of situations around the world. The point that is hard to neglect is how Rwanda harshly denies help from the UN for help with their problems. However, if we look at the situation from Rwanda’s standpoint, it is more than just asking for respect with sovereignty and interests. Rwanda is the best judge of the unique situation taking place right now, both in their own country and the eastern DRC. Outside countries, with their own outside interests should not always push their own views on a country because each situation is distinctive. The fact that Rwanda vehemently denies help should be argued against them, because it shows a “guilty conscience”. Not necessarily that they simply do not want help.

    Like it or not, the 1994 genocide still plays a factor in how controversial Rwanda is looked at in this decision. If not been for the history, the country would have been avoided any controversy. In my opinion, I cannot possibly see how the detrimental effect Rwanda could potentially have would make a significant impact simply because it is only one of five non-permanent seats. The UN simply wants a perspective a country with a lot of connection to the DRC.

    • dpu26 October 27, 2012 at 1:12 am

      While the last post make a good point for why Rwanda might deserve the seat, I want to point out that even though Rwanda is only one voice, its vote is important especially in dealing with the ongoing rebellion in Congo. “Carina Tertsakian, senior researcher on Rwanda for Human Rights Watch, said before Rwanda’s election that its membership would present ‘a clear conflict of interest’, saying the country had ‘for several years undermined initiatives of the security council, for example the arms embargo on Congo’.” It would be difficult then to get unanimity among the 15 council members on Congo’s rebellion with Rwanda present.

      Tertsakian adds to this that “Our fear is that having a seat on the security council will enable Rwanda to protect its own officials from sanctions. For the victims – Congolese or Rwandan – of violent abuses by M23, this is a real affront.” If these officials can get off free, where would the justice for the victims be? I think this is a huge potential issue with Rwanda having a seat on the Security Council.


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