Genocide ideology cases on the rise – Chief Justice

Chief Justice Prof. Sam Rugege says people should use ICT more than ever to counterattack genocide ideology being spread through social media. Emmanuel Kwizera.

There was a sharp rise in genocide ideology cases in courts in the fiscal year 2017/2018, as they increased to 311 from 126 in 2015, Chief Justice Prof Sam Rugege has said.

However, he said, a drop in such cases in courts was observed especially from 2010 to 2015 where they went down from 301 in 2010 to 126 in 2015.

Rugege made the observations on April 12, while speaking as the judiciary honored its staff killed during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, which claimed lives of more than a million people in 100 days.

The slain employees include 47 employees of the judiciary (including the High Court), 16 in the Ministry of Justice, and 34 in the prosecution.

“These numbers convey a message. They remind us that we should not relent in the fight against genocide ideology,” he told members of the judiciary who had gathered for the commemoration event.

“Apart from CNLG which, in particular, has that mandate in its responsibilities, fighting and preventing genocide and its ideology is a responsibility for all of us as institutions making up the justice sector,” he said.

According to the law on the crime of genocide ideology and related crimes that was enacted in 2018, a person who, in public, either verbally, in writing, through images or in any other manner, commits an act that manifests an ideology that supports or advocates for destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, commits an offence.

Upon conviction, the law provides, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than seven years, with a fine of not less than Rwf500,000 and not more than Rwf1 million.

He pointed out that the level of unity, reconciliation and good governance which has been achieved in Rwanda is the foundation for development and better future.

However, he warned that Rwandans should not be complacent as there are still people who harbor genocide ideology who are weakening efforts that should build the country.

It is the responsibility of everyone to fight genocide ideology, hatred, discrimination or anything based on divisionism which can make us backslide into the dark times, which can destroy current achievements,” he observed.

Isabelle Kalihangabo, Deputy Secretary General/Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) said the strategies to prevent the genocide ideology, encouraging people to fight it as well as report it sometimes has an impact on change in the numbers of reported cases.

Giving example of genocide ideology, Kalihangabo said that in June [last year], a certain Théoneste Manibyibereyemo told a survivor identified he will kill her and throw her into a toilet headfirst like what had happened to her relatives who were killed and dumped in toilets.  

“He went on to say that he will definitely kill her so that only Hutus remain,” she said.  

She said that the man was arrested, tried and court sentenced him to four years in prison.

Using social media to counteract genocide ideology

Genocide ideology and other divisive content, Rugege said, is disseminated using diverse media channels including radio, publications, as well as social media, indicating that social media is the most used currently.

“As a country that has committed to utilising technology (ICT) in all possible means for development, we should use it more than ever to challenge the genocide ideology, denial and minimisation, the lies intended to tarnish the image of Rwanda as well set us back,” he said.

“All of us, especially the youth, should take the lead in use of social media to put forward to shun the lies of those seeking to destroy the country,” he observed.

She indicated that genocide ideology still exists both in Rwanda and outside the country, especially among Rwandans who escaped justice, and those who seek to destroy Rwanda as well as those who are accomplices.

Many are supported by some countries, politicians, and institutions and schools that give them platform to spread that genocide ideology, she explained.

The 2015 Rwanda Reconciliation Barometer’s findings showed that, on average, reconciliation among Rwandans was at 92.5 per cent in 2015 from 82.3 per cent in 2010.

However, it exposed the existence of genocide ideology, as voiced by 25.8 per cent of citizens.