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As French M23 Draft Awaits Araud, DRC Group of Experts Hege Scrutinized for FDLR Views

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, July 31, updated Aug 1, below -- When Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo visited the UN in New York last month, Inner City Press asked her to respond to charges that the M23 mutineers in the Congo are assisted by Rwanda.

   Inner City Press specifically asked about Defense Minister James Kaberebe, chief of defense staff Charles Kayonga, and General Jacques Nziza, a military adviser to Kagame.

  Minister Mushikiwabo denied that these officials have assisted the mutiny, saying that in fact they had urged the mutineers not to break away, but rather to press the government in Kinshasa to live up to its commitments of March 23, 2009.

As Inner City Press reported, so far without response by Human Rights Watch other than deputy director Jan Egeland calling Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo Rwanda's "Ambassador," Ms. Mushikiwabo said that Human Rights Watch has "no credibility," that they think "because it's Africa, anything goes... a few exotic names and acronyms [then] fundraising dinners."

   Now the questions raised extend to the chairman of the Group of Experts, Steve Hege. And, upon assessment, the questions as others should be answered.

   Referring to two articles under Mr. Hege's byline, one entitled "Understanding the FDLR," among the questions raised is whether Hege's views on Rwanda, the FDLR and events post-genocide known to the Security Council at the time of Hege's appointment?

Click here (for now) to view Hege's "Understanding the FDLR," and here for the other article.

Update of Aug. 1, 10:08 am -- the first article has taken offline, click here for "deleted" message. But copies exist. Inner City Press now posts it again: "Understanding the FDLR." Will the second article now come down?

   On what basis do they assess that Mr. Hege is still qualified to serve in a capacity that allows him to pass judgment on Rwanda on behalf of the international community?

   Tuesday marked the transition of the Security Council presidency from Colombia to France, which has promised but not yet circulated a draft press statement on the M23 and, some say, Rwanda. Council sources speculate that France wanted its Permanent Representative Gerard Araud, and not Colombia's Nestor Osorio, to be the one to read the statement out on camera.

   There are historical tensions between France and the current Rwandan leadership, including that France most notably in 1994 supported the Hutu government that ordered the mass killing of Tutsis. It is repeatedly noted to Inner City Press that the current head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, was France's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in 1994 and defended the Hutu government.

   In a way, the questions are similar to those Somalia and Eritrea are raising about the Coordinator of "their" Monitoring Group, Matt Bryden, who gave select media copies of his own report along with quotes, before the countries at issue even saw it.

But Bryden, at least, is said to be leaving his post. Watch this site.

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