“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” – 19th Century African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman
A friend drew my attention to an article that appeared last October in The New York Times, reporting a ‘scandal’: ‘A broadcasting organization backed by the [American] federal government has used Facebook to target ads at United States citizens.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as the Voice of America, are only permitted to broadcast to audiences in outside of the United States. This is in virtue of the so-called: ‘Smith-Mundt Act’, a 1948 law that banned American-funded media outlets from disseminating their content inside the United States.
Reading the story, I could visualize ‘experts on Rwanda’ being up in arms to such ‘blatant violation of freedom of the press’. I cringed at the thought that some Rwandans would actually do it for free.
Elsewhere in the article, a spokeswoman for the agency that oversees state-funded media organizations stated that they had compelled ‘Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to cease the practice of targeting ads at people in the United States.’
Let me remind once again, that these are American-funded channels being barred from broadcasting American propaganda in America.
Holding us to different standards than themselves.
Many criticized the decision by the Rwandan Parliament to ban the Kinyarwanda programs of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Rwandan airwaves, after they had aired ‘The Untold Story’, a documentary on revisionism of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi’. The arguments used to criticize the decision did not move the Rwandan parliament, because they sounded all too familiar; Why? Because the same arguments were used during the genocide to oppose the blocking of the infamous ‘Radio – Television des Milles Collines’ (RTLM) a ‘media of hate’ radio, which was giving instructions to the public to kill and directing them to where Tutsi were hiding.
Predictably, the Article in the New York Times worried about the consequences of American Propaganda – on the American people and said nothing about the effects of the same propaganda on ‘other’ people: Us.
Normally, this story should have caused global outrage and lead to the shut down of such channels deemed ‘toxic’ to the very people who push them. It is known to every drug dealer never to get high on their own supply. However, how addicted are we, to accept such supply compulsively without resistance?
But it is ok, it seems, that we should be fed ‘poison’ and happily drink it without complaint. This is the same logic applied to hand-me-down garment (locally known as caguwa). American traders were shocked that an African country could refuse to wear their leftovers. They threatened and executed an embargo on Rwandan products, should we remain ‘stubborn’ and reject their junk.
In their minds it is perfectly fine for Africans to grow cotton, use African labor to manufacture brand new clothes, send them to America so their people can wear them, then once they are fed up or the clothes are worn-out, send them back to us. And we are supposed to smile in gratitude.
Alas! we have rejected second-hand clothing and our made in Rwanda industry is booming as a result. We have shut down BBC-Gahuzamiryango and the sky hasn’t fallen on our heads.
While I am not issuing a fatwa on all foreign media in Africa, I am just reminding our people to remain vigilant, and bear in mind that all these channels designed for African audiences, would not be accepted to air in the countries where they originate from, due to their toxicity.
Again, this is one more article to young Africans: we have a saying in Kinyarwanda: ‘Sibomana’. (They are not God). As long as the decisions you take aren’t impulsive or ‘ill-intentioned’, you must stand your ground. You must not tolerate nonsense. The consequences of a virtuous, decision are infinitely less devastating as those of a coward one! All it takes is courage.
When Rwanda first cut ties with France and expelled the French Ambassador, it was on the very grounds of genocide revisionism. I hear at the time; fellow Africans were calling their Rwandan counterparts to warn of the terrible consequences to ensue. But we are still here.
And we need not even look further than the origin of the nonsense. When ‘Russia Today’ (RT) opened a channel in the United States, it was forced to register as a 'foreign agent' under a 1938 law created to counter Nazi Germany’s propaganda. U.S. intelligence agencies qualified RT as ‘Russia’s state-run propaganda machine’, further accusing the channel of interfering with America’s presidential election in favor of their incumbent. In October last year, Twitter suspended advertisements from RT on the same accusations.
So next time anyone hands you a chalice, you must ask them to drink first, to ascertain that it is not poison; and you must do so, regardless of the amount of respect and fear that you have for them.
We Rwandans like to dialogue and reach consensus on matters that concern us, without alien interference. We are unable to achieve that in serenity and concord, because foreign voices keep buzzing in the background, voices, which are not even tolerated in their countries of origin. It is no secret that the remaining sources of genocide ideology in Rwanda are foreign media and intelligentsia. In Kinyarwanda we call it: ‘kuducura umwuka’. Our air is being usurped by those with whom our interests diverge. We can’t have that, or as the Chinese saying goes, ‘we must not allow others to snore next to our beds
The views expressed in this article are of the author.