Earlier this month, Rwandans petitioned the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, Australia, urging him not to give a platform to Genocide deniers in the state situated in northeastern Australia. Their online petition expressed “strongest objection” to the use of the Queensland Parliament Hall by a group that refers to itself as “Rwandan Association of Queensland Inc [RAQ]” for the event themed “Never Again, Annual Rwanda Genocide Commemoration” set for Saturday, May 7. Niwegaju Sinzi Greiner, the Rwandan activist who started the petition has talked to The New Times’ James Karuhanga and shed light on, among others, the dangers rogue groups such as RAQ pose to the Australian community. Excerpts: What danger do you think groups such as RAQ pose to the community in Brisbane, Australia where you live or beyond? For many Rwandan-Australians’ living in Australia, this has been an issue we have had to contend with, largely on our own, for a decade or more. This is not the first time we have contacted the Queensland government in relation to events or activities that contradict and contravene the UN acceptance of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Do authorities ever get back to you on the matter? What has the Queensland government always told you, or what is their position? The position of the Queensland government is that they did not endorse the event, and that it was simply booked in the parliamentary hall which is freely available for public booking. And what do you make of such a response? Many in the local community find this response underwhelming and unsatisfactory. Would a white supremist group promoting vile hate and distorted ideology be permitted to book an event in the parliamentary hall? What would be their response if it was a similar group intending to run a similar event in relation to denying the Jewish holocaust? This wouldn’t happen, and rightly so. Why then are we not being heard? Tell us about your first experience with such situtions. When did you first encounter such problems in Australia? My first introduction to the Australian-Rwandan community was some nine years ago, when I attended an event run by Multicultural Australia; formerly Multicultural Development Australia. They were showcasing and sharing stories of refugees, and stories of Rwandan refugees featured heavily on the program. Naturally, I was excited to see this. Initially, I was excited at the prospect of meeting my people and introducing my children and family to our culture and history. Then how did things go? Wasn’t it a good Rwandan diaspora community get-together of sorts? Sitting in the audience, I was crestfallen as the stories portrayed were rife with falsehood, double genocide ideology lies, and essentially an alternative false narrative. I couldn’t help but ponder how blatant was the attempt to erase the sins and generational guilt of these story tellers and their parents. They depicted the perpetrators of the genocide as the victims, claiming, that they ‘ran away when the RPF which killed their families.’ I found this a startling departure from the truth! I was shocked. They claimed that all died in the ‘double genocide’ which just doesn’t make sense at all! So, if that was the casae, who planned the genocide against the Hutu, which they claimed happened too? Genocide is always planned! Many Hutu saved some Tutsi neighbours and friends, because they were safe in their homes. A genocide by definition is the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group. It was a campaign of genocide. During the Genocide against the Tutsi, all my family members who lived in Rwanda, save for one little girl, were murdered by the Hutu militia, the Interahamwe, the same people these groups here are always trying to portray as victims. After the event run by Multicultural Australia, I met the Australian lady who helped create the production and she shunned me since she was made to believe that I was from the group of people [the Tutsi] who were the villain in the stories they shared. This was nine years ago and it’s not a unique story to me. My best friend is a genocide survivor who watched her entire family get killed by Interahmwe at a tender age of nine. She only survived because they also thought she was dead. What the members of RAQ are doing, family when they say that there was a double genocide, is like a second genocide to the memories of her beloved. And she is not alone in bearing this pain and suffering. Tell me more about this RAQ group; how are they able to manipulate Australians? This rogue group, who peddle double genocide, have sought to influence, and infiltrate the local and national government and their respective leaders. They have been very clever at manipulating people and promoting a false narrative in a bid to seek some misguided sense of justice for their parents’ sins. Some who took direct part in the genocide against the Tutsi and others who were complicit. They have even taken positions of advisors to the department of foreign affairs to lobby the current government of Rwanda for permanent residence for their families abroad. In a sense, they are preying on the good nature of Australia and Australian people, a country committed to a ‘fair go.’ Please shed some light. Do you have particular examples of how they do this manipulation? For example, the lady who helped put together a play at the MDA had no ill intention. Instead, she was wholeheartedly demonstrating her commitment to the spirit of the Australian “fair go”. The RAQ and people like these know how to manipulate their story, playing victim. For example, journalists of the ABC have been manipulated and swayed by these false narratives. People who are unaware of the history and not educated or aware are easy prey for these false heart-rendering stories, because they want to help. Sadly, this is counteractive, as it does little for the true victims of genocide who are still healing. It also does little to help create a strong and positive relationship between Rwanda and Australia. Above all, it does not help Rwandans, who the world knows, have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of genocide to be among the fastest developing country in Africa. What do you believe should be done to stop this group’s bad design? The vast majority of Rwandans want peace, and are negotiating ongoing healing, and are moving forward to create a flourishing country. These are facts. There is an urgent need to create more awareness and understanding in Australia and with Australians to counteract these insidious lies that cause fractures among communities. Some of the genocide perpetrators must also be brought to justice. We as a community in Queensland can learn valuable lessons from the Jewish community, who have unified, organised themselves, and engaged in robust advocacy, including the use of legal channels. For example, genocide denial whilst immoral and unethical is not illegal. However, the Australian Racial Discrimination Act provides that it is unlawful for a person or group to publicly ‘do an act’ that is reasonably likely to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ a person or group of people, if ‘the act is done because of the race, colour, or national or ethnic origin’ of the person or group. This is something Australian Jews have actively pursued in Australian courts. Any similar endevours done by Rwandans there? For many years Emmanuel Karekezi, the former Chairperson of the Rwandan Diaspora in Queensland, tried to address this issue with the local governments. For his efforts, he was bullied and slurred. Members of these groups went to the ABC news agency fabricating lies about him and carried out a smear campaign on social media in an effort to silence him. But we can’t fear backlash from them. If we Rwandan-Australians’ stay silent, these insidious ideologies will not only grow but potentially fracture the positive emerging relationship between Australia and Rwanda. The victims of genocide residing in Australia will continue to be victimised, humiliated, and harmed. Haven’t they gone through enough? The mere fact that they have to walk down the streets and face the murderers of their families is not enough? They must also face insult, albeit unintentional from the same government that offered them safety. One essential way for greater awareness, understanding and empathy to be generated is by us, the Rwandan-Australian community, standing up together and speaking the truth and getting heard.