Rwandans have been angered by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for allowing Genocide revisionists and convicts to use the network’s radio programme to “mock” victims of their crimes.
The bitter reactions follow last weekend’s 30-minute interview on Gahuzamiryango, a Kinyarwanda-Kirundi BBC programme, in which the president of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Dr Ignace Murwanashyaka claimed that there was no Genocide.
The rebel leader, whose FDLR operates in eastern DR Congo, also revealed that former Congelese president Laurent Kabila supplied ammunition to his group.
“It is absurd for a media house like the BBC to give floor to revisionists of the Genocide, I wonder whether they reckon the fact that this is a crime in itself,” Senator Odette Nyiramirimo said.
She said that the House is concerned over the persistent prominence the BBC has been giving to people like Murwanashyaka.
“We recently reviewed several programmes aired by the BBC for the past one year and it was shocking to establish that the biggest percentage of airtime was given to Genocidaires and their sympathizers, government should do something about this,” she said.
Francois Ngarambe who is a former president of IBUKA, a Genocide survivors’ umbrella organisation, said: “I think the BBC was not neutral on this issue because this man was given airtime to propagate his ideologies without anyone countering him. There should be balance of information.”
Benoit Kaboyi, the Executive Secretary of IBUKA, remarked that Murwanashyaka is simply wasting time because the Genocide took place in Rwanda against Tutsis and the subject is not debatable.
“The United Nations already took legal notice on this….there is no way people like Murwanashyaka can start denying the Genocide,” Kaboyi said.
Murwanashyaka is currently based in Germany. He traveled out of Congo in April last year via Uganda in violation of a UN travel and financial embargo.
The Government was also angered by the FDLR leader’s statements.
President Paul Kagame’s Special envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Dr Richard Sezibera, called for his arrest.
“Murwanashyaka should be in prison now and someone needs to explain to the Rwandan community why he is given airtime on BBC,” Sezibera said.
Rwanda accuses Murwanashyaka of leading a negative force responsible for the 1994 Genocide and subsequent massacres across the region.
The Rwandan and German constitutions prosecute anyone who denies that Genocide happened. Murwanashyaka, who has sought legal residence status in Germany was arrested by German police for alleged state immigration law violations but is currently on bail.
The German ambassador to Rwanda, Christian Clages, said that the issue is delicate and didn’t have the official position from Berlin. He said he is not aware of the conditions given to Murwanashyaka when he was released.
‘But to me I think the problem is that the allegations on which he had been detained were petty. He had just been detained for illegal entry into the country. It was not for grave crimes like terrorism or any big crime,” he said.
The UK Ambassador to Rwanda, Jeremy Macadie, said: “I understand why the people in Rwanda can become angry to hear the man being given airtime on BBC to condemn himself that there was no Genocide yet they are surrounded by Genocide memorials.
“But it can also be an opportunity for everyone to prove that the man denies the Genocide.
“It is a delicate position but I don’t think the UK government can interfere with the editorial policy of BBC,” he said.
He said that it is quite appalling that people in Rwanda can hear the FDLR leader given such long time to speak whatever he wants.
Ambassador Macadie continued: “But you should know that BBC is a reputable and independent media organisation although partly funded by the UK government.”
“What I think is that, if people think that BBC did something wrong, they write to them asking for an explanation.”
But some of the listeners on the other hand say it was an opportunity to hear Murwanashyaka reveal that the DRC supplied arms and that the current Congolese leadership still supports the FDLR.
This is not the first time that Rwandans have been angered by the BBC and other international media houses. In June 2004, Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, criticized the BBC for allowing Rwandan Genocide convicts serving life sentences in Mali for using the station to ‘mock’ victims of their crimes back home.
Makuza was referring to former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda, Obed Ruzindana and Omar Serushago, who were convicted for Genocide and related crimes against humanity by the Arusha-based UN tribunal, ICTR.
Makuza remarked that, prisoners have rights of access to minimum basics but wondered why those rights should not have limits.