American legislators and genocide deniers: Is ignorance a defence?

An American Congressional representative from Oregon takes it upon herself to lend weight to claims that Rwanda is an oppressive state. Most Rwandans who know next to nothing about her state, a little more than the Congresswoman does about Rwanda, are bemused by the bizarre intervention, which seems to come out of the blue.

But the Congresswoman, Suzzane Bonamici (Democratic Party), is blameless, and she isn’t the only member of the American legislature, who has been duped by a group of Rwandans, who have made it their life’s mission to pervert the truth about their native homeland.

In late November 2018, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC)—a bipartisan body in the US House of Representatives, held a congressional briefing on Rwanda.

According to Randy Hultgren, the commission chair, the objective of the hearing was to “raise awareness of serious human rights issues occurring in Rwanda”.

In holding the hearing, the commission was responding to a sustained long standing campaign against Rwanda, and its leadership in particular. Those doing the lobbying are either Rwandans, or non-Rwandans influenced by Rwandans to depict the country in terms the American legislators now seem to believe as true.

The legislators are therefore simply doing what the commission was set up to do, and are responding to concerns from their constituents, about the alleged abuse of what are universal values, especially on human rights.

In this campaign, on Twitter, Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said is “troubled by what appears to be highly questionable charges against Rwigara for seemingly running for office peacefully.” Other American legislators who joined the campaign on Twitter accounts are Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont; Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California.

The legislators are however blissfully ignorant of the fact that those who go to them, waving the flag of freedom, Democracy, and the rights of man, have been campaigning against Rwanda since 1994, in protest against the overthrow of a genocidal establishment to whose ideology they remain wedded, for which they remain adherents.

In terms the legislators will best understand, listening to these Rwandans, and their enthusiasts, is exactly like listening to neo-Nazis defending Nazis and Nazism, questioning the historical facts of the Holocaust, and calling the allied powers, who defeated Nazism, abusers of Human Rights, with the perverted logic that denying Nazism freedom of expression is abuse of Universal rights.

The anti-Rwanda campaigners include a man like Professor Charles Kambanda, who styles himself “a human rights defender”.

Kambanda teaches at St John’s University in New York. He is a plausible figure with impressive credentials, much like many of his ilk. But, if the legislators understood his true beliefs, they would be holding a hearing on why such a man is allowed to pollute young minds, in an American University, with his poison.

One of Kambanda’s grotesque assertions, was that the Government of Rwanda, “is subjecting the Hutu, especially in rural areas to forcible vasectomies”, twisting the government’s efforts to develop family planning and reproductive health in Rwanda, by establishing health centres where every citizen can access both education about reproductive health and family planning, and different kinds of contraceptive methods.

Kambanda’s outpourings are straight out of Kangura Magazine, a genocide era hate publication, which together with Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), called for the extermination of Tutsis. Now as is common with these advocates of genocide and their supporters, they project the exact same hate language they used during the genocide on the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), which brought their murderous reign to an end.

And no one attracts more hatred from the likes of Charles Kambanda, than Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. “Kagame” Kambanda shouts for anyone that will listen to, “is professional at exterminating Hutus like flies, because of deep seated hatred of Hutu as a race”. Rwanda he declares in his hate speech, “…is an apartheid-like junta, which has excluded the Hutu from participating meaningfully in the country’s social, political and economic life…it has created a second class citizenry of the Hutu with no rights with no rights and freedoms…it has killed Hutu consciousness” and he insists, “this is obvious to the world”.

It is in this way that everything that happens in Rwanda is twisted ironically into the very malignancy that was the norm in pre-1994 Rwanda, and to which these genocide supporters look back nostalgically. If you substitute Hutu for Tutsi, and mirror accusations they used to mobilise hatred against Tutsis, Prof. Kambanda’s diatribe becomes the truth of pre-1994 Rwanda that he and his like had fashioned. Of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, we are informed by Kambanda that “the so-called 1994 Tutsi narrative is probably the most stinking hoax of our time…”

Astonishingly, many otherwise decent people give credence to this kind of poison. Kambanda undoubtedly influences the legislators and others, and even bodies like Amnesty International.  In another in December, the TLHRC held another hearing, during which deputy director for advocacy and government relations for Amnesty International USA, Adotei Akwei described the Rwigara case as “a chilling expose and the culture of fear and repression that exist in Rwanda”.

It is in this way that Congresswoman Suzzane Bonamici declares, with all the conviction of an ardent convert that the conviction of Diane Rwigara “was politically motivated”. Now that Rwandan judges have quashed her conviction, scathingly criticising the prosecution’s failure to prepare their case properly, one wonders which way all these people will jump.

The Rwanda Prosecution Authority is to appeal the judgement, so Ms Rwigara may not be out of the woods just yet. In the meantime, ever alert for an opportunity for self-promotion, Ms Rwigara thrown herself into the arms of the likes of Victoire Ingabire and her supporters. Ingabire’s conviction for among other crimes, genocide denial, would have been well understood by anyone who knows anything about her, and her genocidaire party, FDU-Inkingi. It is testament to her lust for attention that Rwigara shows no compunction in joining this genocidaires’ camp.

There is no question that the legislators’ interventions are in good faith. Indeed, in duping them, the likes of Kambanda cynically don the clothes of human rights advocates, because they know that it is a cause that will move some of the unsuspecting American legislators.

But, American legislators are powerful, well resourced, with enviable access to any information they could possibly wish to attain. It is pertinent to ask if they can continue to plead ignorance as a defence against lending their considerable influence to sympathisers, and in some cases perpetrators of what has been rightly called the crime of crimes.

Twitter: @TomNdahiro

The views expressed in this article are of the author.