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NYC Congolese protest Paul Kagame, Elie Wiesel

On the evening of Sept. 29, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel joined Rwandan President Paul Kagame on a panel sponsored by This World: The Jewish Values Network at New York's Cooper Union entitled "Genocide: Do the Strong Have an Obligation to Protect the Weak?"—with the obvious context being the crisis in Syria. But outside a small group of local Congolese protested, holding banners reading "KAGAME IS A CRIMINAL OF MASS MURDER" and "PROTECT THE WEAK FROM KAGAME." Said protester Kambale Musavuli of the group Friends of the Congo: "He should be on the terrorist list and instead he's being invited to speak about genocide. This is really sick."

Musavuli said over 6 million have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996, and charges Kagame with responsibility for fueling the wars through proxy armies. "Instead of going to The Hague to face the International Criminal Court, the person responsible is speaking for intervention in Syria," he said.

He pointed out that last month Rwanda, as a member of the UN Security Council, blocked a resolution to impose sanctions on senior commanders of the M23 guerilla army in eastern Congo. (Reuters, Aug. 28) The M23 is held responsible for ongoing atrocities, and human rights groups have repeatedly protested the support and direction it receives from Rwanda.

Musavuli called for an "end to impunity" in Central Africa. Recalling President Obama's statement during his Africa trip four years ago that the continent needs "strong institutions not strongmen" (AFP, July 12, 2009), Musavuli pressed: "The US should stop supporting strongmen in Africa!"

One supporter of the protesters, going by the name of Robert Konrad, attended the panel. In response to Wiesel's admonition to his audience not to be silent in the face of massive crimes, Konrad stood up and loudly stated, indicating Kagame, "This man beside you is responsible for millions of deaths." He was promptly cut off and ejected from the hall by security guards.

According to coverage in Washington Square News (which does not mention this disruption), both Kagame and Wiesel called for US military intervention in Syria.


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