(Originally published at http://www.awate.com, Christine Umutoni In Eritrea: Another Abuser of UNDP Mission)
The global mission of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is aimed at: poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, democratic governance, energy and environment, social development, crisis prevention and recovery, encouraging the protection of human rights and the empowerment of women. Such noble mission is none existent in Eritrea. Thanks to a resident UN Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP-Eritrea country representative Ms. Christine N. Umutoni, since her first appointment, she worked against UNDP’s mission by acting as an agent of the dictatorial regime of Asmara.
A short Profile
A lawyer by her profession, Ms. Umutoni Nyinawumwami Christine was born and educated in Uganda. She did her first degree in Mekerere University from 1983 to 1987. In 1987, she joined a clandestine organization mobilizing support for the return to Rwanda. In 1990, she engaged actively with Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) that was fighting against the Hutu controlled Rwanda government. After the war ended she held public position as “Director of Cabinet and the Assistant Minister for rehabilitation and reconstruction”. In 1998, she pursuied her Master’s degree. After she finished her studies, she started her diplomatic career first as Ambassador to Belgium and in charge of The Netherlands, Luxembourg, The Vatican and the European Union. In 2002, she became Ambassador to Uganda. After serving two unsuccessful diplomatic years (2002-2004), she was recalled back to home. After serving in different domestic and international affairs, in 2009, she was appointed as a UNDP’s country’s representative to Zimbabwe and then reassigned to Eritrea in 2012. She is member of Rwanda Women Leaders Caucus.
Here sixteen years diplomatic career are nothing but full of failures. Since her appointment in Eritrea, she indulged herself as a diplomatic envoy of a dictatorial regime by breaking her organizational legal framework of work ethics and standards (1). Before detailing what she is doing against her diplomatic mandate, it is wise to see her over-all background so that the conclusion about her as abuser of UN office can be simpler to figure it out.
Ms. Christine N. Umutoni as a Rwandan Government Envoy
Before detailing the diplomatic relationship developed after Ms; Umutoni’s arrival in Asmara, let me highlight the political highlights of modern Rwanda.
Rwanda and 1994 are two faces of the same coin. Anyone who mentions Rwanda, 1994 flashes immediately. In 1994, Rwanda had experienced extreme genocide where more than 800,000 people were slaughtered by Hutu extremists just within 100 days. The genocide terminated only when RPF forces, now the ruling party in Rwanda, controlled Kigali under the leadership of Paul Kagame. More than two million Hutu people fled to Congo as a result and thousands died in the course. After holding power, Rwanda started to heal its wound by focusing on mainly on economic developments while suppressing dissidents and freedom of speech. Talking on ethnicity also became illegal.
Although what happened in 1994 could be a strong reason not to let ethnic talks to surface again, absolute interdiction is increasingly hindering honest reconciliation. In addition, the complexity of Rwanda genocide both within Rwanda and outside is increasingly creating tensions across the region. Once ought to be in the right direction of democratization process, tyranny through legal procedure is developing. Recently, Rwanda has extended a president’s mandate to a third term which will give another opportunity for Kagame to stay in power. Different reasons can be created for this phenomenon nevertheless it can be simply generalized as “President Kagame is successful leader without a successor”. He either sacked or chased away any capable leader around him except the minions.
Fear is the ultimate ruling strategy in Rwanda. The dispute between Hutu rebel groups in Democratic republic of Congo and Rwandan government, the proxy war in Brundi and increasingly negative peace in Rwanda are fertile grounds for the ongoing instability of central government. President Kagame is not shy to tell any opponent openly for the actions to be taken against. Most importantly Rwanda’s official accusation for France as a guilty country in the 1994 tragedy is creating unfavorable condition.
Political developments inside Rwanda are therefore going from bright hope to darkness. President Kagame is transforming himself from one of modern and capable leader to the list of dictators in Africa. As President Obama said for the African Union Leaders in his 2015 speech, “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife…” (2)
Rwanda and Eritrea strengthened their diplomatic links since 2013 when Osman Saleh visited Rwanda (3). This coincides with the arrival of Ms. Umutoni, a member of RPF, implying that her arrival in Asmara has opened an opportunity for a political mission beyond her official mandate. She acted as a bridge to create a link between RPF and PFDJ which have now many common political strategies.
If we dig further for details, both countries follow almost similar military strategy, going after dissidents and humanitarian abuse, engagement of proxy war with neighboring countries and keeping hostages their Diasporas community (4). Recently, Rwanda has introduced mandatory Military Services. Systematic and widespread arrest is increasingly becoming common and thousands of citizens are put in secret prison centers.
What is worrisome most is in connection with Rwanda-Eritrea relationship, Rwanda has made a secret arrangement with Israel to accept deployed Eritrean refugees from prison camps of Israel (5). The fate of these refugees is unknown in the Rwandan soil.
Ms. Christine N. Umutoni in Zimbabwe
Before coming to Eritrea as UNDP officer, Ms. Umutoni had the same job post in Zimbabwe. As humanitarian record shows, Zimbabwe is unfortunate country to be lead by one of the oldest and president for life Robert Mugabe. President Mugabe is a typical dictator who put Zimbabwe in the list of poorest countries with all its abundant natural resources. His absolute authoritarian leadership and suppress of individual freedoms has created on the failed and fragile state. Ms. Umutoni’s failed UNDP mission to this country has brought no tangible achievement except her cosmetic annual reports and to no effect international engagements that cost millions of dollars. The same as she tried in her early years in Eritrea, her main activities were targeting mainly on youth empowerment, strengthening women’s role and to some extent creating conducive environment of international engagement with Zimbabwe.
Ms. Christine N. Umutoni in Eritrea
Though Eritrea and Zimbabwe have different paths, they share common trends. Because of their absolute dictatorial system, both countries have created a failed economic system. While youth unemployment is extremely high in Zimbabwe, Eritrean youth are engaged in a “forced labour – aka slavery”. As a result, youth, women and children are the principal victims in both countries. Thinking the same principle could be applied, Ms. Umutoni initially immersed her failed strategy of pouring UNDP’s financial resources towards youth and women empowering programs. As smart as she is, she didn’t spend to understand what please Eritrean officials if she is going to maintain her post. As a result, she deviated her energy in line to the dictatorial system requirement of creating a platform called “Development Partners’ Forum” to engage interest motivated diplomats. Mainly composed of individuals, like the South African Ambassador to Eritrea, Prof. Iqbal Jhazbhay and Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann, Head of the EU Delegation, its mission is to create uninverted and opaque image of Eritrea for the world. Every attendant of the forum has its own objective. For example; the South African Ambassador is on creating conducive environment for South African Mining Industry and his professional expert on Somalia’s mission. EU’s delegation interest is to halt youth fleeing from the country as EU is the principal target of immigrants.(source: http://rwandarugali.tripod.com/rwanda/id210.html)
To work for that end, Ms. Umutoni has perfectly mastered for gathering experts that talk on behalf of PFDJ and use their official status to deny human rights accusation coming from UN Human Rights Council. If successful, her main objective is to provide an opaque atmosphere on the actual situation of Eritrea.
Parallel to that she participated in a number of UN meetings and conferences to give her testimony on PFDJ’s sanity. She talked on behalf of Eritrean Women’s Union on a number of occasions when Eritrean officials were accused on “Rape and Sexual abuses”. She participated in New York and Geneva when Commission of Inquiry (COiE) produced a report that later on accused Eritrea for its systematic and widespread human rights crimes, and very recently, she was in EU conferences along with her similar minded diplomats talking on behalf of government regular officials on the so called “registered developments”.
To stop her and her friends campaign for the dictator in Asmara, a group of Eritrean Activists wrote an article targeting Ms. Umutoni and her friends a formal complaint addressed to United Nations (UN) organ: the Department of Political Affairs, the Head Offices of UNDP, UNFPA and UN Women in New York (6) and very recently Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (7)
Ms. Christine N. Umutoni as a Capable Dictators’s Servant
You might wonder why I am bringing all these issues here. Hold on: my objective is to create Ms. Umutoni’s world view on dictatorial systems and the way it deals with dictators by abusing her UNDP office. As a Rwandan who might share the world view of President Kagame, and as a UN failed diplomat to bring any tangible developments in Zimbabwe and now in Eritreq, the whole picture that can be drawn is not different from one who is well capable candidate of “Servant of Dictators”.
In her 2016 Human Rights Day statement, Ms. Umutoni wrote,
“Providing support on human rights in the above areas [Eritrean human rights institutions, line ministries, non-state actors and national civil associations] to the GoE is an essential element in supporting a long-term commitment to human rights in Eritrea. (8)
Here what she forgot while she put this line is that the current GoE’s power house, PFDJ, stands for People’s Front [FOR] Democracy and Justice. The word “FOR” is purposefully highlights as it has significant meaning on the way PFDJ’s manipulative strategy of keeping Eritrean people as if everything will be fine tomorrow when every passing day is full of agony and crimes against humanity. Observing Human Rights does not need delay. There is no justifiable reason to be blind on what is happening today.
It is inhumane to draft programs for the future that ignores the present. Today, Eritreans are suffering both at home and abroad due to the totalitarian regime in Asmara. If Ms. Umutoni was courageous, she could have used her office in exposing the crimes against humanity committing in her door steps. Instead of producing artificial reporting on twinkling images of officers, she could at least visit prison centers within the heart of Asmara, no need to visit those outside and be the voice of the voiceless youth.
Looking back to her background, as member of RPF, and analyzing the current status of RPF political implications, Ms. Umutoni is nothing but working for the interest of the dictatorial regimes of Rwanda and Eritrea.
- UNDP. UNDP Legal Framework for ADDRESSING NON-COMPLIANCE with UN STANDARDS OF CONDUCT. 2010.
- The White House. Remarks by President Obama to the People of Africa. 2015.
- Tesfa News. Eritrea Seeks Strong Ties with Rwanda. 2013.
- Africa research Institut. http://www.africaresearchinstitute.org/newsite/publications/briefing-notes/princes-progress-reconstruction-and-authority-in-eritrea-and-rwanda/. 2011.
- Aljazeera. Eritrean refugees in Israel sent to Uganda and Rwanda. 2016.
- Eritrea: Formal Complaint about Certain Controversial Statements Attributed to Some Senior UN Officials. Asmarino.com. 2015.
- Open Letter to Mr. Brian Hayes (MEP), Regarding the EU Relations with Eritrea. Human Rights Concer-Eritrea. 2016.
- Statements delivered by Ms. Christine N. Umutoni, UN resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident representative in Eritrea, on HUman Rights Day 2016. UNDP. 2016.