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Rwanda has not healed: Rusesabagina

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'Tribalism, state sponsored abuses continue'

RWANDAN genocide hero and inspiration behind the film Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, says the east African country has neither healed from the 1994 genocide nor learned any lessons from it, as he accused the Rwandan government of continuing human rights abuses through the alleged arbitrary arrest and transportation of Hutus to work illegally in mines in the Congo.

The former hotel manager, who risked his life and saved 1289 people from machete wielding militias and armed forces by hiding them in a Kigali hotel during three months of extensive ethnic conflict, had no kind words for the United Nations system either, which he still sees as flawed.

"It's ironic that I am standing here today addressing a Model UN conference, when 15 years ago, the United Nations abandoned me and many others in a genocide, a madness that took away a million out of seven million lives."

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Rusesabagina addressed nearly 1500 political science and humanities students from universities in the U.S., Belgium, Nigeria, Venezuela and China at the just ended American Model UN Conference in Chicago.

Congo produces, Rwanda sells

The Rwandan government, he said, was forcing Hutu prisoners to work in Congolese mines, where the UN has accused Rwanda of stealing thousands of tonnes of coltan, gold and other minerals over the past decade.

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"We saw Rwanda raiding the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) for minerals and now, the Rwandan Army is taking Hutus to prisons without charges and then taking them to Congo to work in mines," said Rusesabagina,

"Rwanda is exporter number one of coltan in the region and yet we do not produce a single pound of coltan in Rwanda. Congo produces minerals and Rwanda sells the minerals."

The UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo established in 2001that the Rwandan government was exporting minerals stolen from the Congo.

The UN Security Council this week extended the mandate of the Group of Experts that has been working on plugging mineral leaks from the DRC and facilitated the creation of recommendations to control the buying and processing of lucrative mineral products that originate from the DRC.

Between 1994 and 2000, the period during which the Rwanda genocide and its aftermath stirred up the security situation of the entire Great Lakes region, Rwanda exported more than 1,500 tonnes of coltan against a local production of zero tonnes, according to the UN report.

"In the mining sector, SOMINKI (Socie'te' minière et industrielle du Kivu) had seven years' worth of columbo-tantalite (coltan) in stock in various areas. From late November 1998, Rwandan forces and their RCD allies organized its removal and transport to Kigali," the UN experts established,

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"Between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of cassiterite and between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of coltan were removed from the region between November 1998 and April 1999. It took the Rwandans about a month to fly this coltan to Kigali."

The UN has since imposed a regime of sanctions barring arms imports by certain groups and organizations into the DRC, but no significant action has been taken against Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, countries implicated in the mass looting of minerals during the war.

Recounting the genocide

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Tawanda Kanhema is an investigative journalist studying political science and communication at Truman State University. Kanhema is involved in independent due diligence research and production of news documentaries on a wide range of subjects (more...)

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