Thousands of youth yesterday staged a protest to demonstrate their disapproval of a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary they say is an attempt to revise the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, demanding that government cancels the public broadcaster’s operation licence in the country.
The demonstration was organised by Association of Students Survivors of the Genocide (AERG), Association of former Students Survivors of Genocide (GAERG), Kigali Youth Forum, and Forum for Rwanda University Students Assembly (Fager).
The protestors presented a two-page declaration to a plenary meeting of senators and deputies before proceeding to the BBC’s bureau offices in Kimironko.
Denial & Revision
On October 1, BBC 2 broadcast a programme Rwanda: the Untold Story at prime-time, twisting the confirmed facts of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in a manner hitherto heard only in the feeble cries of the suspects of the ethnic killing. BBC alleged that only 200,000 Tutsi were killed, the RPF liberators orchestrated the killings, and gave elements wanted for orchestrating terror against the citizens of Rwanda airtime as the ‘credible’ sources for the documentary.
But the film has been met with criticism. A coalition of academics, scientists and journalists has written to the director general of the BBC accusing the broadcaster of being “recklessly irresponsible” in promoting “genocide denial” in a BBC2 documentary on the Genocide.
The letter by 38 experts on Rwanda expresses “grave concern” over the impression left by the film. The authors demand a BBC inquiry into how the documentary was made and call for the broadcaster to apologise to victims and survivors of the Genocide.
The petition was signed by heads of students associations and youth leaders, most of whom are survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We demand a full withdrawal and banning of the documentary and call on the BBC to issue an official apology, not only to Rwandans but also to the world. We demand the Government of Rwanda to withdraw BBC’s license to broadcast in Rwanda,” reads the declaration in part.
On October 1, BBC 2 aired a documentary titled, Rwanda’s Untold Story, that genocide scholars and survivors say negates the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Addressing journalists, Longin Gatanazi, the chairperson of Fager, insisted that BBC’s broadcasting rights should be suspended.
“The BBC knows the truth. If they cannot report the truth, then they should let Rwandans tell their own story. No one knows our history better than us,” said Gatanazi.
Alice Mukankusi, 25, a Genocide survivor and one of the demonstrators, told The New Times that she was angered by the documentary, which she said was biased and intended to deny the Genocide.
“The BBC documentary was an attempt to disrespect the memory of our parents and relatives who perished in the Genocide. BBC is undermining efforts of our organisations to build a peaceful and reconciled Rwandan community. We cannot keep quiet, they should issue an official apology,” Mukankusi said.
Jean de Dieu Mirindi, the national coordinator of AERG, said the documentary was an insult to Rwandans, “who still suffer from the trauma and pain caused by the Genocide against the Tutsi.”
The demonstrators were cheered on by legislators as they marched into the Plenary Hall to present their declaration to the sitting session, which was coincidentally engaged in a consultative meeting to find possible grounds to respond to the BBC documentary.
“You found us discussing the same issue; we take this so seriously and we will put your petition into consideration as we reach a common ground to respond to the documentary,” said Donatile Mukabalisa, Speaker of Parliament.
The demonstrators also demanded the legislators to liaise with their British counterparts to arrive at a common decision on the BBC documentary.
What they said
Jean de Dieu Mirindi, 24. ‘The documentary should be banned, and the BBC should be held accountable. We, Rwandans, know our story better than anyone else; we suffered the consequences of the Genocide and still carry the cross of reconciliation. No one should take us back and deny the Genocide against the Tutsi.’
Jean Niyonzima, 25. ‘The BBC documentary is cynicism of the highest order. Why would a foreigner report that only 200,000 Tutsi died, yet over a million were massacred? I can’t believe the motive behind their false documentary. They should pay the price for opening the wounds of Rwandans who have worked tirelessly to rebuild their nation from ashes.’
Alice Mukankusi, 25. ‘I had respect for BBC but that documentary is cynicism; giving voices to the people who deny the reality of the Genocide against the Tutsi and listening to individuals who do not share the vision of a united Rwanda hurts us so much. The BBC should apologise and stop airing the documentary.’
Felix Mutijima, 24. ‘I am not happy with the documentary; BBC claims that they reported an “Untold Story” yet they decided to distort historical facts and insulted Rwandans who still suffer from the trauma and other consequences of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It is a big shame to their media house. They should apologise and redo the story with objectivity.’
Odette Murebwayire, 30. ‘BBC acted as if they did not know the history of the Genocide in Rwanda yet they know the truth. It is a big shame. They should apologise to Rwandans. I can never listen to their news anymore. They are simply liars.’
Compiled by Athan Tashobya