International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

“Kagame pushes his luck”

On Wednesday South Africa warned Rwanda that it would not “tolerate ‘criminal’ attacks on its soil against Rwandan exiles that have drawn international criticism of President Paul Kagame’s government.” This warning comes on the heels of an attack on the Johannesburg home of former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, an exiled critic of the Kagame regime. Critics of the regime claim that President Kagame has taken advantage of Western guilt over the genocide to increase persecution of opponents, especially as the 20th anniversary of the genocide approaches. President Kagame has also faced criticism from the international community after a U.N. report showed that his government supported an insurgency in eastern Congo last year. The U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region has expressed concern over the South Africa-Rwanda situation, as they are both important influences in the region.

Recently Rwanda has criticized the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for ineffective and incompetent handling of the 1994 genocide trials, but I wonder if possibly the greatest example of the ICTR’s mistakes is the very fact that Paul Kagame is president? With the ICC and international tribunals there is a tendency for victor’s justice, in part because often the side which ‘rebels’ did suffer statistically more atrocities, but also because the tribunals need state cooperation in order to function. President Kagame led the Tutsi rebel movement that ended the 1994 genocide, and in the process presided over an army that did carry out retribution killings. Though the situation in Kenya does prove that even international indictments don’t keep war criminals out of office, Paul Kagame was never even indicted. The Rwandan government’s involvement in the attack detailed above is still unsubstantiated, but President Kagame has publicly said that “’traitors’ should expect consequences.” With the increasing violence in the Central African Republic, it is important for Rwanda and South Africa to act as stabilizing forces, but as an editorial in a South African newspaper said, it remains to be seen if Kagame will continue to “push his luck,” and I suspect he will.



One response to ““Kagame pushes his luck”

  1. pstichnoth March 14, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    While I agree that Kagame’s regime does some very questionable things, I’m hesistant to blame the ICTR. Yes, the tribunal can be faulted for victor’s justice, but to much less of an extent than the gacaca system, and for reasons (like lack of state cooperation) that are largely out of the prosecutor’s control.

    Instead, here I can’t help but look to the international community and the influence of large international NGOs. Britain and the U.S. have given Kagame a ton of support and international organizations often point to Rwanda as a success story, both of which give Kagame’s government a ton of legitimacy–and money.

    As some of our earlier readings pointed out, justice can’t solve all problems. As Kenya has shown us, even international indictments don’t necessarily keep war criminals out of office.

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