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Human Rights Watch in Democratic Republic of the Congo … Watchdog or Master Puppeteer?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The New Times | Rwanda’s First Daily

by Albert Rudatsimburwa

September 14, 2012

Anneke Van Woudenberg is a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

HERE we go again… Human Rights Watch, true to its mantra of “Hating Rwanda Much” has come up with yet another damning report accusing Rwanda, alongside the M23 mutineers, of a “horrific trail of new atrocities in Eastern Congo” defined as large-scale war crimes. This, of course, reeks of déjà vu… an ‘encore’ of some sort! We have indeed already witnessed the same methodology and media relays with the UN Group of Experts (GoE) report on the matter. Interestingly enough, the author of the HRW report and Senior Researcher in its Africa Division, Anneke Van Woudenberg, was omnipresent in mainstream media, vouching for a report she didn’t author… or did she? The similarities are too striking to ignore.

On May 31, 2012, Radio France International (RFI) had the civilian and military spokesmen of MONUSCO, Mr. Toure Penangnini and Lt. Col. Mactar Diop, both downplaying the importance of the GoE UN report and highlighting the lack of evidence on Rwanda’s alleged involvement.

Just three days after MONUSCO cleared the air on the issue, Kinshasa-based Reuters journalist, Jonny Hogg, pushed ahead with the same allegations, this time quoting HRW in the following terms: “… Officials within the Rwandan military have provided up to 300 fighters as well as weapons and ammunition to rebels battling government forces in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch said on Monday…”

No less damning and not far behind was the Financial Times, quoting Anneke Van Woudenberg in the following terms: “…We have documented that Rwandan military officials at senior levels are clearly involved in support for the M23…”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all it took for HRW to turn the World against Rwanda. But how did they manage such a remarkable ‘tour de force’?  How can the UN mission, with all its military and logistical capacity, be taken to lesser account than a regular human rights organisation with questionable access to information? This is a skillfully executed mass media lobbying campaign on the part of HRW through one of its most valuable players, Anneke Van Woudenberg, present on all fronts every step of the way. According to nanojv.wordpress.com, “HRW provides International Press Agencies diverse incitements against Kigali in order to fuel THE New Politically Correct Narrative on Congo”.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess the desired outcome of this NGO; if the UN report was about getting Rwanda to be sanctioned by the International Community, as wanted by Steve Hege since 2009, this latest ‘salvo’ was clearly designed to achieve what it (HRW) had unsuccessfully tried for years with the Arusha tribunal: indict Rwandan officials!

This HRW’s obsessive quest against Kigali, though new to us, is all too familiar with another state, not unlike Rwanda… the state of Israel!

It hardly took any digging on my part to find out the scandals of yesteryears involving HRW and the Jewish State. Founded as Helsinki Watch in 1978, HRW is based in New York, headed by Kenneth Roth, its unchallenged Executive Director since 1993. According to ‘NGO Monitor’, a ‘watchdog organisation’ watching the ‘watchdogs’, here are a few interesting facts worth noting about Human Rights Watch:

•    Its annual budget was $48 million in 2010; in September 2010, HRW announced a 10-year, $100 million donation from billionaire George Soros. With the grant, HRW plans to increase its staff by one-third and “to shape the foreign policies of these emerging powers, much as we have traditionally done with Western powers.”

•    Many HRW officials have a history of ideological bias.

•    In October 2009, HRW founder Robert Bernstein published an article in the New York Times (“Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast”), strongly criticizing the organisation for ignoring severe human rights violations in closed societies, for its anti-Israel bias, and for “issuing reports…that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” Bernstein could easily rephrase it using Rwanda and the Great Lakes.

•    In 2009, HRW held a fundraising in Saudi Arabia using HRW’s anti-Israel bias and the specter of “pro-Israel pressure groups” to solicit funds from “prominent members of Saudi society.” At the event, Whitson boasted that HRW allegations of human rights violations were instrumental in the Goldstone mission.

•    In September 2009, “senior military analyst” Marc Garlasco was revealed to be an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia. He was suspended and then dismissed, but his reports were not withdrawn. As shown in a Sunday Times (UK) article, “Nazi scandal engulfs Human Rights Watch” (March 28, 2010), the Garlasco issue was indicative of far deeper problems at the NGO.

•    HRW holds a portion of its budget from the para-governmental organisation Oxfam Novib Dutch funded through Dutch Government Funds.

In light of this information, does it surprise anyone that Kenneth Roth is carrying on the age-old traditions of the organisation he heads, by any means necessary?

On September 11, 2012, as much of the World joined in remembering the terrorist attacks against the US, which hit particularly hard the city of New York from which he operates, Kenneth Roth was busy tweeting the following: “Rwanda military still in eastern Congo, could be aiding & abetting the war crimes of the M23 rebels, @HRW finds.”

I would have shrugged off this one as bad timing on his part if he had not already performed a similar stunt on the first day of the 18th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda; feels like incitement to me!

In light of all this, it becomes clear to many an observer that HRW is a behind-the-scene stakeholder fueling the war in Congo in sync with the likes of Steve Hege to make Rwanda a pariah state…shame and shame again for their blind supporters.

 

[Contact email: alberuda[at]gmail.com]

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