The genocide in Rwanda, which claimed the lives of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, and the role of international aid organizations during and after it have become the source of recent antagonism between Central African leaders and the United Nations, said Wolpe. Democratic Republic of Congo president Kabila's resentment of the U.N. investigation of human rights abuses in his country stems, at least in part, from the failure of the international community and the United Nations to stop the genocide and its subsequent failure to separate the genocidal killers from the refugees in the Hutu refugee camps.
This massacre triggered a massive refugee crisis in eastern Congo, where Hutu extremists backed by Mobutu Sese Seko, former president of Zaire (now the Congo), used the refugee camps supported and supplied by the U.N. as a base to organize attacks on Rwandans (mostly Tutsis) who had seized power of the country. "Effectively, the international community through the U.N. ended up feeding and sustaining military bases throughout the Congo that were used to carry on the war against the Tutsis in Rwanda," said Wolpe. The abuse became so flagrant that a number of aid agencies, including the International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders, and World Vision, felt morally compromised and pulled out of the region.
Wolpe felt so strongly for the need to shed light on the reasons for the hostilities and distrust of a number of Central African leaders, including Kabila, toward the United Nations that he encouraged Bill Richardson, America's ambassador to the U.N., to rebuild international trust by addressing the issue last summer. Richardson gave the speech at a refugee camp in Rwanda, but none of the media picked it up.
Wolpe's effort to give context to the current events in the Congo does not preclude his concern about reports of serious human rights violations committed by forces loyal to Kabila. He makes no concessions for any person or group. Rather, he is all too aware that no parties involved are innocent.
As a special envoy, he spends little time at his office on the second floor of the State Department and instead can be found in Rome, Brussels, or Africa, working on the Democratic Republic of the Congo's political transition under Kabila or the Burundi peace process. Much of Wolpe's work as a negotiator for a peace process involves coordinating and organizing with other facilitators. Ques-tions about how meetings between leaders should be brokered or how an impasse might be broken take on heightened importance when the parties involved are paranoid and suspicious of each other, said Wolpe.