On April 8, 2004 as part of the 10th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsis, the President of the International Crisis Group (ICG) Gareth Evans and Stephen Ellis, ICG’s Africa Program Director published an article with a title: ‘The Rwandan Genocide: Memory Is Not Enough’
The article reminds us: “Each time such an atrocity [occurs)], we look back wondering, with varying degrees of incomprehension, horror, anger and shame, how we could have let it all happen. And then we let it happen all over again.” The two authors maintain that something more than memory is required if another cataclysmic genocide was not to happen, sooner or later somewhere in world.
They recommend “effective action” and also reiterate “the need for vigilance is nowhere greater than [it is] in Africa, where [the] genocidal ideology is far from dead, particularly in Central Africa.”
There are reasons why I think this is easier said than done. Philippe Gaillard was the head of the ICRC’s delegation to Rwanda from 1993 to 1994. In January 2002 he delivered a speech at a Genocide Prevention Conference in London, organized by the Aegis Trust and the British Foreign Office.
In his speech, Gaillard revealed that in mid-July 1993, his delegation met with Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana to discuss about the danger of anti-personnel mines on the frontline. Habyarimana told them that he was fully aware of it, but added: “The main danger is actually that the hearts and minds of the Rwandan people are mined.” Gaillard said.
In August 2010 some former Rwandan government officials and army officers published a mined 60-page document titled: “Rwanda Briefing”. The authors are Lt. General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Col. Patrick Karegeya, Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerald Gahima. Given the positions they held in government; without knowing their sources and driving force, the unsuspecting reader may be hoodwinked.
For the most part the document contains narratives inundated with hate speech and incitement to violence and genocide. My attention was drawn to some noteworthy discourse that embraces denial of the genocide, and genocidal ideology as shall be discussed in this article.
The content of the “Rwanda Briefing” is recycled material, mostly originating from ‘genocidaires’ organizations; mainly the members of FDU-Inkingi which will be extensively discussed, the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), individuals and NGOs.
The mission of genocide deniers is to kill the memory of genocide and to pave the way for loss of more lives. Pseudo-intellectualism, racism, ignorance and deliberate misinformation at the service of genocidaires have contributed to the befouling of more hearts and minds. Not of ‘Rwandan people’ only, but of the world.
In the west, the danger of poisoning people’s minds is a fact that is ignored and denied by people claiming to be erudite.
Legitimising genocidaires and “the people”
The narrative in the briefing is as follows: “Neither brute force nor the financial and material support of external backers can sustain a government that the people overwhelmingly consider to be illegitimate in power indefinitely.”(p.49) in the same vein, the Kayumba group asks: “Can Rwanda continue to be peaceful while the government continues to be repressive and the majority of the people consider the government illegitimate?” (p.2)
Whenever you read “the people of Rwanda”, and the illegitimacy of the government led by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which are concepts repeated in this document, the issue is who the people are and who provides the legitimacy. For a quick understanding read: Ethnic Stereotypes in the RDR’s Discourse
The leaders and key people in the interim government and its armed forces who perpetrated the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi were, from top to bottom, remorseless—and determined to pose as victims. As soon as they crossed the Rwanda border to the former Zaire, the military option had been decided and operations were ongoing.
They were convinced it was a matter of time. Stanislas Mbonampeka, who later became a minister in their “Government of Rwanda in Exile”, had estimated that the government which ousted the genocidaires would not last beyond April 1995.
As French journalist Laurence Simon reported in July 1994, there were “desperadoes” amongst the FAR who feared punishment for “the massacres they had committed against the Tutsis.” They wanted to go through to the bitter end, and “arm themselves in order to harass the RPF” and start a resistance movement, using Zairean soil as a rear base.
The language used by the leaders of the “government in exile”, the FAR, and the Rally for the Return and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR) in 1994-95, the “honourable manner of return,” the ‘legitimate representative’ and ‘real national army’ or ‘people’s army’, all meant the same thing: the genocidaires meant to return to power.
That is also what they meant when they spoke about “contributing towards a search for a durable peace, by addressing once and for all the root causes of the Calvary of the Rwandese people.” It also held the same meaning as the ‘Rwandese people’ have no trust in the RPF government or are ‘victims of the brutal force unleashed by the Kigali regime.’
In its press release to celebrate Rwanda’s Independence Day on July 1, 1995, the RDR said: “it will be a year since the RPF conquered the Rwandan territory but it still faces an uphill task to win the hearts of the Rwandan people.”
The RDR’s dogma was that “the Rwandan people” have never considered the RPF as its liberator, because the people who had retreated from its advance in the summer of 1994 were “a glaring example of the opposition of the majority of the Rwandan people to the Kigali regime.”
A malignant form of genocide denial is expressed in this document. The Kayumba group implicitly considers the genocidaires as victims and legitimate political actors to negotiate with. So they say:
“The majority of the Hutu middle-class ousted from power in 1994 remains in exile, un-reconciled to the new political order, biding for time and hoping for a change of regime. The externally-based unarmed opposition calls for dialogue on how to resolve the country’s continuing crisis...” (p.18)
“Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who fled the country in 1994 remain in exile because of the repressive environment that prevails in the country.” (p. 21)
“Rwanda lost much of its human capital during the genocide.
The vast majority of the intelligentsia who survived the war and genocide went into exile and has never returned, largely because of the unfavourable situation for which President Kagame and the RPF bear responsibility.” (p.30)
“The middle-class that ran the country prior to the genocide remains in exile. The Hutu majority feel marginalised and excluded.” (p.42)
Members and leaders of the RDR who happen to be “the middle-class that run the country prior to the genocide”, are categorical that “the true people of Rwanda will never back the RPF”, and that “no amount of intimidation or military support will deter Rwandese refugees and other victims of RPF repressive policy from claiming their inalienable rights to a homeland and a rule of law.” With this Rwanda briefing, the Kayumba group feels the “true people of Rwanda.”
The RDR insisted that the refugees would not return without their army, because: “They refuse to succumb to blackmailing whose aim is to bring them into surrendering to the RPF and meet the worst humiliation at its hands.”
Voluntary [repatriation] in response to UNHCR appeals were considered as “surrendering” to the RPF government and facing its wrath, or lending “legitimacy to RPF dictatorship.” The RDR regarded the regime set up by the RPF in Kigali as “not viable.”
This apocalyptic talk is exactly what the “Rwanda Briefing” propagates 15 years later. “What strategies would help Rwanda avoid violent conflict that appears inevitable...?” (p.2) Rwanda is portrayed as very “unstable and vulnerable to violent conflict.” (p.21) or “...perpetually insecure...” (p.32); they predict the likelihood of a recurrence of violent conflict, and that “even the possibility of genocide is very high.”(p.36) the gang of four allege that the situation “...exposes all Tutsi to the risk of violence, even violence of genocidal proportions...” (p.35) talks about “...renewed war and bloodshed...” (p.40); and the country being “on the brink of an abyss.” (p.50)
In the same frame of mind, on August 28 1995, the RDR blamed the UN Security Council for making peace with “the bloodthirsty regime of the RPF” at the expense of the “Rwandan people hurt by more than 5 years of war imposed by the RPF.” It hoped that peace-loving countries would maintain the arms embargo as a sign of “solidarity with the Rwandan people”
Five years later, in August 2000, some of the resolutions at the RDR’s Third Congress were to “allow the people to regain [their] sovereignty” and renewed commitment to co-operate with the other democratic forces struggling for the liberation of the “Rwandan people from the RPF bloodthirsty and bellicose dictatorship.”
It is standard discourse of extremist Hutus and their friends’ to gloss over the genocide against the Tutsi, to attribute to the RPF the kind of behaviour typical of Hutu extremism, and to assert as a statement of faith that the “Rwandan people” can only be loyal to Hutu extremism.
Thus, a 1995 RDR statement claims that “Since the 1st October 1990, date on which the RPF rebels invaded Rwanda, the people of Rwanda are going through the most tragic period of their recent history. Massacres, fear, grief, injustice, violence, repression and falsehood are part of the daily crises that the Rwandan people have to face. The RPF won a military victory, God knows at what human sacrifice, but fifteen months later it has not yet won the trust of the Rwandan people.”
The RDR blames the international community for consolidating or imposing a “Stalinist RPF regime on a people that hate it.” The RDR particularly faults the international community for denying it rearmament, and therefore asks on behalf of the ‘Rwandan people’: “who armed the RPF and financed its war and in whose interest?”
In one of their press releases in 2002, the RDR talks about the loathed “illegitimate government, dictatorial and controlled by warmongers of the RPF” a government which had been described before as a “permanent danger for peace in the African Great Lakes region”.
On August 27, 1998, in an open letter addressed to US President Clinton, the RDR states: “The oppressed people of Rwanda” represented by the RDR, appeals to the American people to stop spilling blood and fuelling chaos in the African Great Lakes region. Only the RDR, they claim can produce a national consensus, since on one side there is the “RPF military regime in Kigali,” and on the other the RDR as “representatives of refugees and Rwandese people.” Instead of the genocide against the Tutsi, the authors invoke “...the events of 1994” (p.50)
Authors of the apocalyptic briefing propose the creation of “The New National Partnership Government”. They seem to have had the RDR in mind whose president is Ingabire Victoire. This NNPG, so they say “... would, in particular, have to include leaders whom the Hutu majority consider legitimate as representatives of their community.” (p.45) to understand what they mean by legitimate representatives of the Hutu, one should go back and read several concepts developed. You have, for example “legitimate Hutu leaders” versus “fictitious and compromised leaders” (p.23) same as: “The Hutu who serve in government are only surrogates of the RPF who lack legitimacy in their community.” (p.16) Authors were disappointed by the banning of the MDR which they consider “...a credible challenge to the RPF” (p.11)
In early 1996, the current Government of Rwanda embarked on a program of issuing new identity cards which had no mention of one’s ethnic group. The RDR, with their racist ideology of considering the Tutsi as foreigners, described this as an RPF ploy to import from abroad more than half a million people, rewarding “aliens for their contribution towards [the] RPF war.”
The RDR consistently portrays the RPF and by extension, all Tutsi as outsiders and usurpers. Such distortion and reversal of historical reality that belittles the significance of the genocide, is common throughout the RDR’s documents. The RDR consistently refers to Hutu refugees as “Rwandan and Burundian” refugees, while Tutsi refugees are simply referred to as Tutsi.
The implication here is that the Tutsi belong to their ethnic group, rather than to their nation, and that the Hutu are the rightful heirs to power in Rwanda and Burundi. The governments in Rwanda and Burundi are described as “Tutsi-led” or “minority” regimes, implying a lack of popular credibility or an inherent injustice in anything but ethnic majority that is Hutu rule. Maintaining the argument that the RPF and all Tutsi are outsiders, Press Release No. 11 of 1 July 1995 states that the RPF’s high command “is exclusively made up of former members of a foreign army” and refers to “the so-called national assembly,” while another statement refers to “the so–called national parliament” in Rwanda, reinforcing the notion of the illegitimacy of the RPF rule in Rwanda.
Generally speaking, in the RDR’s press releases the terms “RPF” and “Tutsi” are used interchangeably and contrast with descriptions of Hutu as “true Rwandans,” “the Rwandan people” and “the population.”
The RDR continuously attempts to distance the RPF from the “Rwandan people,” implying that the RPF is not truly Rwandan; rather, a self-imposed and discredited government; “a clique of individuals, who are desperately trying to cling to power against the verdict of the people.” The Kayumba group replicates almost the same in many parts of the document.
Such statements echo the claim in the RDR’s Political Platform that the RPF government “has no political or social base; it is not representative of the population. It is a government that took power through military force by an ethnocentric oligarchy, which so far has not been able to win the hearts of the people over which it rules.”
The RPF is portrayed as an occupying force; an administration of non-Rwandans subjecting true Rwandans – Hutu - to repressive, minority rule.
The RDR’s Press Release No. 67 of 17 April 1996 describes economic migrants and foreigners who have been given legal rights to property in which they had been “squatting” since the genocide, allegedly as part of an attempt by the RPF to “enhance its political constituency.”
This implies that the RPF is not a party for Rwandans; that to maintain power it must buy support from outside of the country and can only govern with the help of foreigners. An RDR statement on 4 June 1996 accuses the RPF of needing to “pay a moral debt to Tutsi in Zaire who financed the RPF war,” alleging that the RPF relies on foreigners, especially members of the Tutsi Diaspora, to stay in power.
During the whole of 1996, RDR-led forces in eastern Zaire were preparing to escalate armed incursions into Rwanda, and the tone of the RDR’s press releases reflected this. In one of them, on April 17, 1996, the UN Security Council was blamed for consolidating “a mono-ethnic army that cannot inspire confidence among all citizens of the country”.
The RDR further described the RPF government as an “intrinsically unviable political system.” Without denying that the FAR and Interahamwe were rearming, the RDR claimed the issue was that “any human being will always find a way of resisting and getting rid of injustice meted out on him from any quarter however apparently powerful.”
This was repeated in another press release of September 29, 1996, where the RDR sought to reveal their hideous plans for the legitimacy of South African struggle against apartheid.
The communiqué states: “No amount of weaponry will deter thousands and thousands of Rwandese, victims of RPF repression, from claiming their inalienable rights to democratic governance. (...) After two years in power, the RPF has proved that it carries within itself seeds of self-destruction; the same way the military mighty of the apartheid regime did not prevent it from collapsing. As in South Africa, Rwanda needs a democratically elected government and a truly national army.’
The RDR accused the USAID of funding an RPF school of military science and political education, reminiscent of the communist era, at GISHARI in what used to be MUHAZI commune. Yet such a school has never existed. USAID was requested to fund more pro-people projects, instead of RPF ‘instruments of coercion and political indoctrination.’
To justify and confirm its readiness to use violence to recapture power, the RDR evoked genocide or a “deliberate attempt by the RPF to wipe out part of the entire population of Hutu refugees in Eastern Zaïre” something that would “ultimately compel the victims to resort to the use of all available means to resist the RPF regime as a way of reclaiming their dignity and other legitimate aspirations of any free human being.”
Towards the end of 1996, the successful repatriation of Rwandese refugees from Tanzania was seen by the RDR as part of a “wider conspiracy against Hutu refugees”. They renewed their threats saying this was not the beginning of the end of the crisis, but ‘the beginning of a new cycle of instability, and eventually a return to square one.’
To be continued…