Was there the Congolese genocide

Is it genocide?

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A forgotten genocide with 5 million dead? The dispute between some Congolese and international organizations over the death toll in the conflicts over the Democratic Republic of the Congo is coming to a head.1 The debate was initiated by a highly respected aid organization, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) founded by Albert Einstein in 1933, which has spoken of 4 million deaths and “genocide” since 2006.2

Since then, a kind of outbid competition has developed in terms of the number of victims, with the figure of 5 million being the most likely. With macabre, only seemingly neutral surveys, estimates of 3.5 to 6 million deaths circulate; On some websites the number of 12 million victims is even mentioned, but in the opinion of most experts this is completely out of thin air.

In view of the strong political, legal and emotional strain, the term “genocide” is anything but neutral here. Rather, it is an instrument in the regional power struggle, especially between the Congo and Rwanda, over the immense raw material deposits in the east of the DR Congo. The persecution of those responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, which is actually undisputed, served the government in Kigali as a pretext to send troops to the Congo, to stay there for years and to exploit the Congolese raw materials.3 The dispute over the "genocide" in the east of the DR Congo, on the other hand, is not least about relativizing the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis and weakening President Paul Kagame.

So far, as I said, the international organizations have only recognized one genocide in the Great Lakes region: that of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, in which between 800,000 and 1 million people were murdered. Nevertheless, Kagame's opponents prefer to speak of “double genocide” and by that mean the massacres that Kagame's troops carried out on the Hutu in the course of the conquest of the country from the spring of 1994. This dubious thesis is gratefully taken up in the DR Congo by militant Hutu and Congolese ultra-nationalists - to the annoyance of Aldo Ajello, the former EU special envoy for the Great Lakes region: “The genocide of the Tutsi and the massacres of democratic people that followed Lumping Hutu together prevents one from understanding what happened then, before, during and after. "4

In this case, too, the exact temporal and spatial delimitation of the alleged genocide depends on the respective interpretation. Essentially, it affects the DR Congo during the "African World War"5 between 1993 to 2003. The scene of the killing was mainly the Kivu region, and the victims were mainly Hutu who had fled Rwanda (whom Kigali referred to as “genocide”), but also normal Congolese.

According to the proponents of the genocide theory, most of the victims did not die in military clashes. Rather, they were pushed into the forests in the west of what is now the Congo, where they died of hunger and disease. It should be noted that the death rate in the DR Congo with 2.1 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants a month is 40 percent higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa.6

Were these victims counted or possibly even autopsied? In fact, only a few cases have humanitarian organizations or international observers found mass graves or other graves. The two Belgian population statisticians André Lambert and Louis Lohlé-Tart therefore put the figures cited by some of their colleagues and the IRC into perspective, which they themselves estimate to be significantly lower: taking into account general life expectancy and the documented struggles, the two assume an estimate of 183,000 Fatalities "as a result of fighting" in the DR Congo.7

As cynical as it sounds, genocide does not depend on the sheer number of victims. What matters is the intent of the perpetrator. According to the Geneva Convention of 1948, genocide is considered to be genocide if the perpetrators intended to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such”. The Hutu refugees and Congolese civilians are innocent victims of a conflict that by no means targeted them as a group. It was one of those mass murders about which little is known and which is precisely why it lends itself to ideologically motivated attempts at manipulation.

Michel Galy

Footnotes: 1 See for example: www.digitalcongo.net. 2 "Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An Ongoing Crisis “, IRC, New York 2006: www.rescue.org. 3 See Colette Braeckman, “War of the Looters, War of the Losers,” Le Monde diplomatique, April 2001. 4 Courrier international, Paris, December 2010. 5 Filip Reyntjens, “The Great African War. Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996–2006 “, Cambridge (University Press) 2009. The following countries were involved: Angola, Burundi, the DR Congo, Namibia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Chad and Uganda. 6 Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A nationwide survey, The Lancet, Vol. 367, London, January 7, 2006. 7 Le Monde, December 31, 2008. Translated from the French by Nicola Liebert Michel Galy is a political scientist and editor of the anthology “La Guerre au Mali. Comprendre la crise au Sahel et au Sahara ”, Paris (La Découverte) 2013.

Le Monde diplomatique, 01/10/2014, by Michel Galy