Genocide ideology in Rwanda has been tremendously reduced over the last 20 years as a result of government efforts to punish crimes related to the ideology and teaching Rwandans about unity and reconciliation, researchers at the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) have said.
The commission’s analysts made the observation on Tuesday while launching a book from their research about the state of Genocide ideology in Rwanda from 1995 up to 2015.
They noted that Genocide ideology was rampant in the country shortly after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and during the period of massive trials of Genocide suspects by Gacaca courts especially from 2001 up until 2008.
It is around that time that crimes related to Genocide ideology such as killing Genocide survivors, witnesses who saw what happened during the Genocide, as well as local judges in Gacaca courts were rampant.
CNLG researchers reported that some 156 people, including Genocide survivors, witnesses who saw what happened in the Genocide, as well as local judges in gacaca courts were killed across the country between 1995 and 2008.
The researchers said that the killings were organised by Genocide criminals who wanted to hide the truth about their crimes and escape court sentences.
But since the completion of Gacaca courts in 2012, cases of Genocide ideology have significantly reduced even if the vice is not completely uprooted, the researchers said.
“It is still too early for the ideology to disappear because it was taught in Rwanda for a long time,” said Donatien Nikuze, a researcher with CNLG who worked on the study.
By interviewing about 180 people across the country, including ordinary people as well as local leaders and opinion leaders, CNLG researchers got insights that hatred and hate speech among Rwandans was reducing and they saw the figures about Genocide ideology related crimes going down.
But they also warned that the Genocide ideology is still a threat, with 16 per cent of the people interviewed, saying that the ideology is still common in the country.
“Genocide ideology is still found everywhere in the country and that’s why we are all concerned when it comes to fighting it,” Nikuze said, urging Rwandans to keep discouraging hate speech and crimes targeting specific groups of people.
He and fellow researchers at CNLG have urged the government and other stakeholders to strengthen education about unity and reconciliation in schools as well as in communities across the country in order to completely eradicate Genocide ideology.
They also recommended that those who are sued over Genocide ideology crimes should be tried in communities where the crimes were committed in order to discourage the ideology and serve as a lesson for other members of the community.
Public exhibition of the ideology is a crime under Rwandan laws and some 223 people were convicted of the crime by courts between 2011 and 2014 out of the 515 cases that were handled by Police and prosecution during that period, CNLG research shows.
Under Rwandan laws, Genocide ideology is a crime that is defined as an aggregate of thoughts manifested by conduct, speeches, documents and other acts aiming at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate people based on their ethnic group, origin, nationality, region, colour, physical appearance, sex, language, religion or political opinion.
Whether it’s in ‘normal’ periods or during war, the crime of Genocide ideology can be committed through marginalising, laughing at one’s misfortune, defaming, mocking, and boasting.
Other manifestations include despising, degrading, creating confusion aiming at negating the genocide, stirring up ill feelings, taking revenge, altering testimony or evidence for the Genocide which occurred, killing, planning to kill or attempting to kill someone for purposes of furthering the ideology.
CNLG researchers also confirmed what has been consistently reported by police that cases of Genocide ideology crimes tend to occur in April during the genocide commemoration week.
About 40 cases of suspected genocide ideology across the country have been reported to the Rwanda National Police during this month’s national commemoration week of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which was concluded last week.