Fighting Genocide denial
Eighteen years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, denial and trivialising of the tragic events that befell Rwanda remain prevalent, an international conference on Genocide, underway in Kigali, heard yesterday.
The two-day conference, held under the theme, 18 years after the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi: Testimonies and Reflections, attracted top scholars, researchers and historians from various parts of the world.
Several Western nations stand accused of blocking justice with regard to the Genocide, by dragging their feet in arresting and extraditing to Rwanda or prosecuting
well-known indicted fugitives
It was organised as part of the activities to commemorate one of the worst genocides ever, which claimed the lives of more than a million people in just a record 100 days.
Speakers sought measures to counter Genocide denial and revisionism, which they said is normally the last phase of a genocide campaign.
The Chairman of the National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG), John Rutayisire, said Rwanda needed to do more to inform the world about the truth on the ground, warning deniers were not about to relent on their mission.
“Old habits die hard, so is genocide revisionism. It took dozens of years to plan and successfully execute the Genocide, dealing with issues of revisionism would not be instantly successful,” said Rutayisire.
Rwanda starts a week-long Genocide commemoration period tomorrow, April 7.
Rutayisire, also a cleric, stressed the importance of clearly articulating and documenting the country’s history, especially how the colonialists sowed the seeds of hatred among a harmonious and intact Rwandan community.
Historians spoke of how the colonialists came up with all sorts of “ridiculous” theories to divide Rwandans along ethnic identities, including claims that the people of Rwanda originated from different parts of the world.
“There is nothing like Tutsi land or the Hutu land, these are theories that were made up by colonialists, and we have to fight it,” Rutayisire added.
The Mufti of Rwanda, Sheikh Abdul Karim Gahutu, pointed out that religions have a key role to play in fighting Genocide revisionism.
“The only way to deal with this problem is to educate the world about Rwanda, what happened, who did it and what should be done to change it; but the biggest responsibility we have is educating ourselves and our children,” said Gahutu.
Prof. Faustin Rutembesa, a researcher and historian, gave the chronology of the events that led up to the Genocide, from the days of the Bahutu Manifesto of 1957, which played a significant role in dehumanising the Tutsis, till the climax – in 1994.
“The document categorised the Tutsi as equal to feudalism and the Hutu to democracy. This kind of propaganda worked by instilling fear and hatred against the Tutsi...a case in point is Leon Mugesera who gave a fiery speech in 1992 that further aggravated hatred against Tutsis.”
In January, Mugesera lost a two-decade legal battle in Canada, resulting in his deportation to Rwanda. His trial is expected to commence next month.
Opening the conference, Prime Minister, Dr Pierre Damien Habumuremyi said that since 1994, the Genocide against Tutsi had been an important subject of research for its social impact at family and individual levels.
“We can’t reach a level of dissemination if we don’t focus on reflections and testimonies… International involvement in prosecution of Genocide perpetrators has done little to restore dignity of the victims. A lot still has to be done,” said Habumuremyi.
Several Western nations stand accused of blocking justice with regard to the Genocide, by dragging their feet in arresting and extraditing to Rwanda or prosecuting well-known indicted fugitives.
And, an international criminal tribunal set up to try the key architects of the Genocide, the ICTR, is set to leave behind it a legacy of underachievement and disappointments (at least among Rwandans), owing to the slow pace of its trials and highly controversial rulings – despite using funds that run into billions of dollars.
Contact email: edwin.musoni[at]newtimes.co.rw