Page 2 of 2   <      

U.S. Backed U.N. General Despite Evidence of Abuses

Frazer's spokesman, Russell Brooks, declined to comment on Silverberg's memo. But he said the State Department complied with its obligations under the Leahy Amendment. "The general was vetted through a variety of agencies within the U.S. government, and they concluded that there was no evidence that he was involved in those allegations," he said.

The Rwandan government says the charges are baseless, and President Paul Kagame warned Frazer on July 15 that he would withdraw his troops from Sudan if Karenzi was forced out. "For me, it's very clear," Kagame said in an interview this month with the Congolese publication La Conscience. "If Karenzi goes, the entire Rwandan contingent will leave Darfur -- the same day."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently rallied behind Frazer, a former student of hers at Stanford University, instructing U.N. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to urge the U.N. leadership to keep Karenzi in the peacekeeping post.

Meanwhile, the U.S. deputy ambassador to Rwanda, Cheryl Jane Sim, oversaw the delivery of more than $20 million worth of peacekeeping equipment -- including military trucks and radio communications kits -- to Rwanda this month, in a ceremony Karenzi attended.

The case against Karenzi dates to Rwanda's troubled past. In 1994, Rwandan Hutu extremists linked to the government killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Africa's bloodiest genocide. Kagame's Tutsi-dominated rebel army drove the government from power. The Rwandan leadership considers Karenzi, who served as military intelligence chief from 1994 to 1997, a war hero.

But Karenzi's appointment to the peacekeeping post immediately sparked criticism from rights groups, which link the general to the indiscriminate killing of hundreds of Congolese civilians in 2000. The deaths occurred during a battle between Rwandan and Ugandan troops for control of the city of Kisangani, according to a U.N. inquiry.

A December 2000 U.N. report found that troops on both sides had committed "systematic violations of international humanitarian law and indiscriminate attacks against civilians," including killing more than 760 civilians, wounding 1,700 and driving 65,000 into hiding.

Karenzi told the Associated Press at the time: "I am not proud of this. But we were fired at."

The State Department questioned human rights advocates and representatives of the Rwandan and Spanish victims. But the matter was still unresolved when Frazer traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to press African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare to speed the deployment of peacekeepers in Darfur.

During the Sept. 7, 2007, meeting, Frazer assured Konare that the United States "had done vetting and would like to see the appointment confirmed," according to a U.S. government cable describing the meeting.

The United Nations defended its decision to hire Karenzi, saying it had insufficient evidence to prove that he had committed crimes against humanity. But the group later reversed course and pressed Rwanda to replace Karenzi after his indictment by the Spanish magistrate, D. Fernando Andreu Merelles. The indictment cites several criminal charges against the general between 1994 and 1997, including the assassination of political opposition figures and the approval of massacres of ethnic Hutus in the provinces of Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Cyangugu.

Rwanda's U.N. ambassador, Joseph Nsengimana, dismissed the U.N. appeal, responding in a letter to the organization that the allegations are groundless.

Nsengimana did not respond to requests by e-mail and phone for comment. Karenzi declined to comment.

<       2

© 2008 The Washington Post Company