Part 3 cont’d
So much energy, so much thinking in the cause of genocide! What could the victims have done to deserve such a fate?
The immediate answer that many of the killers would have given to this question is revenge. Mass murderers are apt to give this answer from the Russian steppes, to North American Rockies, to Rwanda’s hills.
The men, women and children who were hunted down and brutally killed, are blamed, that they somehow brought it on themselves. That they started the cycle of violence and very often the killers make the charge that they were defending themselves.
To destroy human life requires such elaborate misdirection, as much sometimes for the killer as for the far-off witness whose moral empathy he seeks. Yet there are those who even without the bloody blade in hand, trot out the ‘revenge’ theory.
They are the unfortunate complement of revisionists who appear on the heels of every human atrocity to claim that the brutalised are to blame.
The Rwanda genocide produced many such revisionists, some out of a kind of willed, disingenuous ignorance and yet others from actual malign intentions to support the killers to keep their genocidal project alive.
The question is, which of these two categories does Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach (who until 2008 was the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, -Jesuits) belong to.
In his 2004 book, titled: Faubourg du Saint-Esprit (Suburb of the Holy Spirit), Kolvenbach wrote that the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda was an act of revenge. A mass example, of the Old Testament law of the Talion, that called for ‘an eye for an eye.’
To Kolvenbach, it was a Hutu action against Tutsis in response to a real and not perceived grievance – an instance of justice realized. The objective of the genocidaire was to make the victims suffer, the same or greater pain, than that originally inflicted by them.
Going by his logic, since this genocide was state sponsored, justice was done. He is telling genocidaires they managed to recover their sunk costs. We thus arrive at equivalence: the men standing at the opening of the mass grave with spades in hand are as much victims as the dead bodies waiting to be buried.
There is obscenity in such an accounting and it is one of the major tools of the friend of the genocidaire. Another one is to avoid using the word genocide.
From someone with a high profile like Kolvenbach, the idea of genocide as revenge is so offensive. He exonerates the genocidaires and tells the victims and the survivors that they got a fair pay-back.
A clear example of this was evident as the killings went on. As reported by the Egyptian MENA News Agency, on April 30, 1994, Justin Mugenzi, Rwanda’s Minister of Trade, in the genocidaire government, visited Egypt and consulted with President Hosni Mubarak.
At a news conference in Cairo Mugenzi said he had appealed to the president to use his influence and relations to end “the war.”
On what was happening in the country Mugenzi said his government was doing all it could to “restore stability and calm” to a country where “people were dominated by a spirit of revenge.”
He claimed the war had turned into “a tribal and ethnic one.” Adding, “It was difficult to control a people willing to apply their own law of revenge who were confident that their primary enemy was the RPF and its Tutsis tribes.”
Mugenzi urged the International Community to intervene to stop the fighting and persuade all sides to abandon arms, so that the people of Rwanda can be persuaded to halt the war.
Our image of war is of two rivals, both armed and determined to attain their aims through the military conquest of the other. It is age-old, it evokes a sense of fairness even if we all know how much suffering it brings.
Around the same time, the government spokespeople in the White House and in other capitals were also desperately trying to avoid using the word genocide. It would have shown that it was not a war, that instead defenceless people were being murdered by the hundreds of thousands.
The terms came pouring out: ethnic war, tribal conflagration, civil war, savages at war, tit-for-tat… This language continues to this day, utilised by the genocidaires and their friends.
How hard the language must be twisted to get us all away from the horrifying reality. Even the sacred spaces and words were recruited to this effort.
The Catholic Church’s solidarity with the Hutu was appreciated by the genocidaires. They felt that they had support from the Holy family. On May 20, 1994 Valerie Bemeriki, an infamous announcer on RTLM, said, “In fact, the Virgin Mary is with us, we are with her, she knows that we are innocent victims, because she knows that we are innocent victims, she will encourage us.
She (the Virgin Mary) told them about her churn, look they have broken it, they have broken it when that churn contained milk that has nourished many people, but those who were nourished with that milk will regret the absence of the churn (...). There are those who long for the churn while they caused it to break it.”
This rhetoric of genocide having heavenly support emphasized the revenge of the Hutu against the Tutsi. The “churn” referred to is President Habyarimana.
The “innocent victims” were the genocidaires, like Bemeriki. Those who broke it are the Tutsi who were accused to have killed Habyarimana and therefore deserved to suffer a dire consequence.
Serge Desouter is among the very few known Europeans to have played a key role in creating the genocidaires’ RDR. From his writings, he is a devoted anti-Tutsi. He talks about the Tutsi as a “warrior caste.”
Desouter argues that a culture of war and spear “can never be the culture of a civilization.” Mimicking a moralist, but remaining a racist he says: “One cannot define what the culture of war is in reality. It’s a way of living. It’s like love or beauty. We don’t know what it is but we recognise when it appears.”
In April 2007, his book entitled “Rwanda: Le procès du FPR. Mise au point historique”, was published in France. This book is a summary of many of his writings, including his defence expert reports to the ICTR.
His convictions are clearly expressed. The overall responsibility of the genocide against Tutsi lies with the RPF: “If there has been the planning and orchestration of genocide, find it with RPF which is ultimately responsible for it”. The “RPF warriors were the architects”, one of his reports to the ICTR insists.
Desouter, is just like RTLM’s editor in chief, Gaspar Gahigi who, on May 31, 1994, denied that “RTLM never told Hutu to kill Tutsi.... I deny in the name of RTLM for I am its editor in chief. I maintain that on the waves of this radio, no one has told Hutu to kill Tutsi.”
The two institutions, Interahamwe and RTLM, remained inseparable in the grand Tutsi extermination plan in Rwanda.
Ananie Nkurunziza, RTLM commentator, on June 21, 1994 had this to say: “What we know at RTLM, the radio loved by the Interahamwe, file radio that supports the Interahamwe, the radio that supports the youths of all Republican parties ... These youths are united under the umbrella of a single group commonly referred to as Interahamwe and, as General Bizimungu says, the youths are in the frontline.”
Some genocidaires have demonstrated remorse in court than this Catholic priest. I witnessed this in the Gacaca tribunals and the ICTR.
Joseph Serugendo was one of the members of the Interahamwe militia’s executive committee, and a board member of the RTLM. He pleaded guilty before the ICTR that from early 1992 through 1994, as a member of the Interahamwe, “he planned with other leaders of the MRND, and the Interahamwe militias, political meetings and rallies aimed at inciting members of the Interahamwe to kill or cause serious harm to members of the Tutsi population with the goal of destroying the Tutsi ethnic group.”
Serugendo, also admitted that he and others “planned to establish, fund and operate the RTLM as a radio station which disseminated an anti-Tutsi message, intended to foment racial hatred and ultimately to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group.”
He admitted something of a common knowledge that their incendiary Radio’s broadcasted messages “aimed at disseminating an anti -Tutsi message and that such broadcasts in fact incited the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilian Tutsi throughout Rwanda.”
David Gushee, in his paper “Why the churches were Complicit: Confessions of a Broken-Hearted Christian” has this to tell:
“But long study of the holocaust, and now fresh study of the Rwandan genocide, has led me to the heartbroken realization that the presence of Churches in a country guarantees exactly nothing. The self-identification of people with the Christian faith guarantees exactly nothing.
All of the clerical garb and regalia, all of the structures of religious accountability, all of the Christian vocabulary and books, all the religious titles and educational degrees, they all guarantee exactly nothing.
The desecrated churches and parish houses and seminaries and church schools and prayer books and Bibles of Rwanda will survive (unlike the murdered people who once used them) as the enduring memorial to this fact.”