Kwibuka21: why Rwandans must stand for their rights

No other genocide, apart from the Jewish Holocaust, can be compared to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

No other genocide, apart from the Jewish Holocaust, can be compared to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

As we remember our departed ones twenty one years later, the horror that Rwandans went through in 1994 must never be left to be misinterpreted by people pushing for their own selfish interests and agenda.

A medieval scholar said that the apocalypse in Rwanda was prefigured in the works of Breughel and in the cast of characters consigned to the inferno in the Divine Comedy.

For Prof Linda Melvern, a British investigative journalist, the Rwanda tragedy represents the unraveling of the new international order built on the defeat of Nazism.

The convention on genocide was, as she points out, the world’s first human rights treaty and if the United Nations was founded with one aim, it was to prevent things like this.

The West has demonstrated, through the 1994 Genocide, politics of remote catharsis. Moral high ground is appropriated by showing signs of humility and contrition about sins which were not yours, about events safely concluded before you were born.

To America and the rest of the Western world, Rwanda was far away, obscure, in any case, it was only Africa. However, people like Melvern are determined not to let people like François Mitterand (RIP, former French President), Boutros Boutros Ghalli (former UN Secretary General) and others get off the hook.

As for Mitterand, his case was more abominable. No wonder his son and advisor on African Affairs, Jean Christophe Mitterrand, had been accused of taking his cut as he kept arms flowing into Rwanda.

It is no surprise because France’s Africa policy had always been run by a cabal operating out of a back door of the Elysee—remember Jacques Foccart under De Gaulle and Pompidou, orchestrating coups and mercenary interventions at will.

While Giscard discarded Foccart, he was equally underhand. He continued the pattern of military interventions. Africa was his true domain. He went shooting lions and elephants and ended up with diamonds.

France has not been alone in this Machiavellian enterprise. Now that the French Government has ordered for the declassification of documents in the Presidential archives relating to Rwanda between 1990 and 1995, it remains to be seen whether this time round France will genuinely take responsibility for the role played in this country’s murky history.

Stereotypes of Africa created by the West had formed a prejudice against the continent as an arena of war, poverty and corrupt governments, which in part, led to a lack of understanding as to why the continent can’t stand on its rights.

This prejudice had allowed a collective amnesia towards misfortunes that befell the continent’s countries.

While the west bears responsibility, we should not forget that the people of Rwanda were also betrayed by their own African kith and kin.

Neither did the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union, nor individual heads of State lift a finger accusing the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide for all the 100 days.
Perhaps they were deliberately invoking the famous principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other member states as stipulated then in the Charter of the OAU!

Of course this is not new to the African leaders.

During the late Idi Amin’s days in Uganda or Jean Bokassa’s in Central Africa, no head of state, apart from a few like Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, condemned the excesses of the two.

In this new era of unilateralist approach to global politics by the United States, the African countries must find ways to reposition themselves to be able to survive the unforeseen contingencies of the perilous world we live in.

It remains our hope that the United Nations’ “Never Again” mantra does not remain a wishful thinking!

Above all, the good Rwandan people must collectively continue to stand up for their fundamental rights.

It is through their work that the dark history of this nation has been overwritten, provided arrays of hope, great achievements and surpassing the expectations of many, including critics.

As President Kagame pointed out on Tuesday this week at the beginning of the Commemoration period; “the challenges Rwandans have had to contend with over the past 21 years have helped strengthen their resolve to stand up for their rights, and to a better future despite the efforts of those who deny the Genocide and would rather see Rwanda fail.”

The writer is a consultant and visiting lecturer at the RDF Senior Command and Staff College, Nyakinama.