Rwandans have been victims of disinformation about their own country and there are people out there deliberately trading wrong information about Rwanda, a misleading issue that can only be addressed by telling the real story about Rwanda, scholars have said.
The scholars were speaking on Monday in Kigali during “Café Littéraire,” an event that featured researchers and writers presenting books on the Genocide and its history, book readings, discussions and songs by artists.
The event was organised in line with the 23rd commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The occasion was graced by the First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame.
According to the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide (CNLG), Dr Jean Damascène Bizimana, the event was also aimed at inspiring Rwandans, especially the youth and foreigners, to read and take part in writing history about the Genocide.
Yolande Mukagasana, who has focused on testimonies from Genocide survivors in her research work, said it is unfortunate that some people listen more to foreign writers than they do a Rwandan who is talking about Rwanda and its history.
“It is for that reason that you, the youth, should awake, write your own history. Nobody should decry your history because you know it better than they do,” she said, adding that every youth aged above 30 and who was in Rwanda in 1994, witnessed the genocide and has evidence to show.
In 2015, Mukagasana published a book, “L’ONU et le Chagrin d’une Négresse,” in which she talks about the Genocide against the Tutsi and the retreat of the UN peacekeepers, leaving the Tutsi helpless in the hands of Genocide perpetrators.
She said that because of the Genocide, some people in Europe, held by the yoke of misinformation, continue to believe that Rwanda is still insecure.
Some people are not well informed about the country that has changed for the better into a well-governed state, where the rule of law is ensured and there is fully-fledged security, she said.
“We had been victims of disinformation on our own history by the West. But the Westerners also have been victims of such lies,” she said.
Dr Bizimana said writing is an essential activity because when there are no records, it might reach a level where people lack sources of information.
Young students who were present at the Monday event thanked the scholars for elucidating on the Rwandan history, particularly about the genocide.
Fleur Blanche Gihozo, a student at Independent University of Kigali, said the youth now have knowledge about the Genocide against the Tutsi “thanks to such history books and testimonies shared by elders, who lived during the genocide.”
“First we should read history so as to protect our country and develop it in order to prevent the recurrence of what happened,” she said.
The event was held by Kigali Public Library in conjunction with CNLG.
‘Disinformation costing lives’
Mukagasana said if the UN troops in Rwanda had given a different message from that which was being conveyed by RTLM, which was inciting Hutu to kill Tutsi, some Tutsi would have been saved and that the Genocide against the Tutsi would not have been committed at the magnitude it was.
More than one million people were killed during the Genocide in about 100 days.
Information from Ibuka, the umbrella of Genocide survivors’ organisations, show that, on May 1, 1994, RTLM announced the total extermination of all Tutsi before May 5, the day of Juvénal Habyarimana’s funeral.
But the Genocide was later stopped by RPF Inkotanyi.
Emeritus Senator Antoine Mugesera wrote a book about living conditions of the Tutsi from 1959-1990, where he also talks about the persecutions and massacres of the Tutsi from 1990s in the run up to the pogrom.
Mugesera said colonialists brought racist ideology in Rwanda where they divided Rwandans to serve their colonial interests through giving fabricated meanings to Hutu, Twa and Tutsi social classes to become ethnic groups.
He said some people changed social class from Twa to Hutu to Tutsi or went through a revered social classification depending on their possessions.
Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, the director of studies at Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, in Paris, France, wrote a book titled “Une Initiation Rwanda (1994-2016)”, in which he talks about personal memoir of the French historian coming to terms with failure to recognise the significance of Genocide against the Tutsi.
Audoin-Rouzeau said the Genocide against the Tutsi was particular compared to other genocides like that against Armenians and the Jews in that it was characterised by ‘murderous creativity’ of the neighbourhood.
Violence erupting from proximity (neighbours and former friends), but which was also endorsed by the former genocidaire state, made the Genocide rapid and complex, he said.