Genocide denial is an attempt to deny or minimise statements of the scale and severity of an incidence of genocide.
With regards to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the tactics of denying the Genocide have come in many forms including but not limited to: questioning and minimising the statistics of the victims, attacking the motivations of the truth-tellers, and claiming that the atrocities do not fit the legal definition of genocide – even when it is obvious to most that acts had a clear intent to destroy in whole people classified as Tutsi.
In my modest opinion, Genocide deniers narrow-mindedly underplay the political organisation and extent of the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi because they believe that by portraying it as a spontaneous civil conflict which supposedly claimed the lives of all ethnic sides; the core element of intent is severely dealt a blow and allows those responsible for planning and executing the atrocities to continue walking scot-free in the streets of Africa, Europe and elsewhere.
Likewise, some members of the academia, especially from Europe and America, have gone to great lengths to deny, dent, or underplay the severity of the true events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi partly because most of them are motivated by past and even present political and personal ties with previous Rwandan regimes and their accomplices.
This is not a personal opinion; records have clearly highlighted these vested interests – helping to explain why the so-called academicians continue to underplay the events of the Genocide and the subsequent efforts to pursue and prosecute those responsible.
But, why should the rest of us stay muted at a time when we must stand up and stamp out any attempts by anyone to underplay the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi?
Why should we sleep on the wheel while others tell our story in a manner that is symbolic to bigotry? Although I credit many Rwandans and friends of our country for acting swiftly to remind deniers that there is no place for them anymore, sadly some still believe that remaining silent for whatever reasons is a way of keeping themselves from being involved in any conflict, but quite the opposite.
Silence is as much an active form of communication as speaking out. Anytime you are involved in a situation, people are aware of all the input and lack of it.
If you disapprove of those denying the Genocide and choose silence over speaking up, it will not help our society to achieve the greater good of ensuring that acts of genocide are not repeated at home and elsewhere.
Similarly, if you do not speak up, in many ways silence can be deemed approval of whatever is taking place.
Now is the time
The first step to defeating Genocide denial begins with documenting what happened in 1994 so that we are able to rely on facts to speak up for generations to come.
We Rwandans must take the lead in documenting the atrocities so that deniers cannot curve out their own prejudiced lies as we have witnessed recently.
Secondly, despite the difficulties faced by survivors when narrating what happened to them, it is absolutely paramount that as we continue to comfort them, we equally encourage them to speak up because as truth-tellers they are the key component of defeating those who wish to tell lies.
Together we need to speak up from wherever we are so that those who attempt to deny or simplify the events of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi find that this world offers no room for such irresponsible and totally despicable views.
Much like the platforms used by Genocide deniers, we should be able to use similar platforms to counter the lies they tell by proactively exporting the truth of the matter in print, digital and audio forms. Nothing should be left to chance.
Furthermore, all our institutions should utilise education as a key tool both within and outside Rwanda to offer people the opportunity to learn, debate, and undertake research into a range of issues which may not seem so obvious in the beginning so as to avoid frequent traps set by Genocide deniers.
Education programmes can help to raise awareness and understanding of the true events of the Genocide against the Tutsi because they facilitate the constant vigilance and opposition of all ideas that promote Genocide denial, revisionism, and other forms of bigotry.
A wide and full education on genocide is a key component in building the foundation for a more just and secure world. Without such education programmes, we learn too little too late, and too often with tragic consequences.
Ultimately, it is clear that Genocide deniers have sounded the alarm, of which action is demanded. Preventing denial requires political will first and foremost, but that will is already in place.
It is now up to us to speak up and demand that those who deny the true accounts of the Genocide be dealt with accordingly by their host nations. Perpetrators of Genocide and mass atrocities cannot succeed without the direct or indirect support of some institutions and governments.
For instance, in the case of the BBC’s ‘Rwanda’s Untold Story’, the Rwandan community, and especially those who went through so much during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, are still outraged by the airing of a biased documentary in October 2014.
As Rwandans we did not especially expect this from an otherwise reputable broadcasting institution, whose responsibility is to report accurate accounts.
How could the BBC misrepresent Rwandans to such lengths, and how could they be permitted to politicize the situation instead of sympathizing with the victims? Underplaying the Genocide has increased the pain of the victims and those who care about humanity.
However, now that we know which way the waters are flowing, we must speak up and tell our own story. It is over to you fellow countrymen and women to defend your country once again!