Members of the senatorial Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, today, start a month-long tour of the country to assess the Government’s efforts in fighting genocide and fighting its ideology and denial.
The senators yesterday met Justice minister Johnston Busingye, and Prosecutor-General Jean-Bosco Mutangana ahead of the trip that will take them to about 20 districts across the country.
The Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, Jeanne d’Arc Mukakalisa, said much as the general perception is that genocide ideology has been decreasing in the country, it is of interest that cases reaching courts have been increasing.
“It’s a big challenge,” she said, explaining that the fact that cases are increasing might be hard to explain at the moment.
Estimates by the Ministry of Justice indicate that of about 1,300 cases of genocide ideology were reported to the prosecution authorities and courts since 2011 up to June 2017.
The smallest figure is 143 recorded in 2011 while the highest figure is 319 and was recorded in the fiscal year 2016/17.
Minister Busingye said the increase in numbers about reported cases of genocide ideology could be a result of increased awareness about the crime and ability to report it rather than an evidence for increased prevalence of genocide ideology and denial.
“To indicate the real reasons for the increase, we might want to conduct comprehensive research but it looks like the higher numbers indicate there is more awareness about this crime than in previous years,” the minister said.
Under Rwandan laws, genocide ideology is a crime that is defined as an aggregate of thoughts manifested by conduct, speeches, documents and other acts aiming at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate people based on their ethnic group, origin, nationality, region, colour, physical appearance, sex, language, religion or political opinion.
Whether it’s in ‘normal’ periods or during war, the crime of genocide ideology can be committed through marginalising, laughing at one’s misfortune, defaming, mocking, and boasting.
Other manifestations include despising, degrading, creating confusion aiming at negating the genocide, stirring up ill feelings, taking revenge, altering testimony or evidence for the Genocide, killing, planning to kill or attempting to kill someone for purposes of furthering the ideology.
Mutangana commended the senators’ initiative to check the status of genocide ideology in the country, saying it was in line with protecting citizens from harm, especially Genocide survivors.
“It would be a big challenge if we are talking about taking care of Genocide survivors while there are a few people out there still targeting them,” he said.
Minister Busingye encouraged the legislators to raise awareness among the people they will meet on their trip about the crime of genocide ideology because Rwandans need to keep up vigilance against it.
“The best way to deal with this issue is to invest more in prevention than in punishing the cases themselves. Efforts have to be made to ensure that those cases don’t happen in the first place,” he said.
The senators’ assessment on genocide ideology is being done in line with the Senate’s mandate to monitor how fundamental principles guiding Rwanda’s transformative journey are being promoted by both the Government and the civil society.
Promoting unity among Rwandans and fighting genocide ideology and any other types of discrimination in society are among such principles, which the Senate has a specific mandate to advance.