The suspension of the BBC’s Kinya-rwanda programme, Imvo n’Imvano, also called Gahuza Miryango, by the government, has sparked wide commentary. I had previously been an ardent listener of the programme but I was not surprised by the government’s actions.
Early this year, I listened to their interview with some hardliners from Kibati refugee camp, who had earlier visited Rwanda to assess the situation before they could make up a decision to return. But after the programme, I asked myself why the interview was aired in the first place.
I wondered because, the men who had roamed Rwanda freely, and met their friends, went back to DR Congo and urged their colleagues to stay put in exile, claiming there was no freedom in Rwanda.
Let us look at some background. Since 2007, the BBC has been giving platform people who specifically launch verbal attacks on government and its programmes aimed at fostering unity and reconciliation.
A few notable fellows interviewed included Ignace Murwanashaka, the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Paul Rusesabagina of Hotel Rwanda and Deo Mushayidi, a former president of the Rwandan Journalists Association, who fled Rwanda in 2000, after allegedly swindling millions of francs belonging to the Association
Most recently in the wake of the joint Rwanda-DR Congo military offensive against FDLR rebels, the rebel leaders used the same platform to reassure their conscripted fighters that they would resist a drive by the joint forces.
Seen in another way, the BBC, through Imvo n’Imvano programme, could be accused of helping FDLR and other Rwandan rebel outfits to draft Rwandans into rebel activities.
Therefore, their latest interview with former Prime Minister and 2003 Presidential candidate, Faustin Twagiramungu, that triggered the Rwanda government’s decision to suspend the programme from airwaves, was just the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Many people believe the government decision was over due long.
Some of the Radio’s programmes were a chilling reminder of the notorious RTLM radio station- which played a significant role during the genocide.
They posed great danger to reconciliation initiatives in the country, while giving revisionists a platform.
The head of IBUKA Théodore Simburudali, has criticised ‘Gahuza Miryango’ programme describing it as ‘Gasenya Miryango’ (breaking families) and Tom Ndahiro, an independent media consultant in Kigali recalled that he has tried to advise the programme moderator, Mr Ali Yusuf Mugenzi, to screen their programmes.
Those who argue that the decision is a denial of freedom of speech should know that freedom has certain limits.
The government has laboured to assure people living in self exile, that with the government of national unity, they are at liberty to return and taking the action of confessing their past crimes and seeking forgiveness.
So, disparaging all these reconciliation drives, as Twagiramungu had done on the programme, was not to be taken lying down. .
He had insisted that genocide perpetrators were under no obligation to apologise for their past crimes. He and others of his ilk have kept denying that the Genocide happened; this despite knowing just how much emotional pain they were causing the survivors.
The danger here is that survivors, some of whom are still being harassed and subjected to constant threats, end up being tempted to seek vengeance.
Over the years the BBC has been giving a platform to people who keep ranting on and on about everything that has happened in Rwanda since 1994 including the successful Gacaca Courts.
However, ensconced in self imposed exile, the best option for such people is to meditate on why they went there, and what they can do to put themselves together –before joining the people they wronged.
Twagiramungu’s insistence that one cannot bow down to ask forgiveness is unhelpful because it doesn’t add anything postive to the healing process.
Instead, those who had thought of Twagiramungu as presidential material will have to be sceptical because a president is supposed to unite all citizens.
If up to now he has not understood the scale of damage the Genocide left to this country, then probably he is living on another planet.