On Saturday, September 25, a listener who only identified himself as Elysee called during the weekly Ibyiza Biri Imbere talk-show on City Radio.
I was a guest during the talk-show whose topic of the day was the leaked UN ‘Mapping Report’ which accuses Rwandan troops of possible genocide against Rwandan and Congolese ethnic Hutu populations inside the DR Congo territory between 1996 and 1998.
Like all the other callers, Elysee slammed the report, describing it as an insult on the army that did not only stop the 1994 Genocide against the Tustis, but went ahead to rescue millions of Rwandans who had been held hostage by Ex-FAR/Interahamwe in eastern DRC.
At that time, Elysee was no ordinary refugee. He was a combatant of ex-FAR, which, together with the Interahamwe militia, is largely responsible for the 1994 Genocide. As the Genocidal regime fell in Kigali, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia fled across the DRC border, taking along with them millions of civilians.
During the call, Elysee, now a resident of Bugesera District, said he was arrested by the then RPA forces on the frontline in Walikale region. Since he had sustained injuries during the battle, the RPA took him to a hospital, where he was treated and recovered, he said.
“They brought me back home and I was resettled along many of my colleagues,” he said during the talk-show. Many other callers, most of them former refugees in the said camps, were clearly incensed by the UN draft report, and called for mass street protests against the UN establishment.
Some also called for a comprehensive investigation into the failure of the UN system to prevent the 1994 Genocide and to document the responsibilities and corresponding failures of top UN administrators at the time.
Not a single caller backed the UN leaked report during the entire the entire two hours of the show.
Earlier on, several witnesses, most of whom were former senior Ex-FAR, now known as FDLR, were all over the country’s airwaves explaining the circumstances in which the rebels lost their grip on the refugees, and how the advancing and unstoppable units of the RPA and their Congolese allies, protected and repatriated Hutu refugees to Rwanda.
Among these witnesses include Maj. Gen. Paul Rwarakabije, the former overall commander of ex-FAR, at one time renamed Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi (FOCA), and his former senior rebel colleague, Maj. Gen. Jerome Ngendahimana.
The latter revealed how, at the height of the war, he advised his family, including his wife, children and parents, to cross over to the RPA-controlled areas and be repatriated to Rwanda. His family was indeed welcomed by the RPA, as were millions of other Rwandans.
Gen. Ngendahimana, who, by the time of his repatriation in 2003 was the rebel outfit’s spokesman, later found his family fully reintegrated in the society.
Several MPs, who lived in the DR Congo refugee camps, also gave testimonies of how they were facilitated, treated and fed by the RPA troops, and how they easily integrated in communities.
“We couldn’t believe what we found in the country; It was a different world from what we were being told while we were still in the camps,” said MP Francoise Mukayisenga. “Yet, at the moment I am a Member of Parliament.”
Another MP, Fortunate Nyiramadirida, argued that, if RPA had had any intention of targeting civilian Hutus, she wouldn’t have survived since she’s a wife of an ex-FAR soldier.
Many more ordinary people have been calling to different radios to share their experiences.
Rwandans are united in condemning the report and are firmly standing by their defence forces. Internationally, these allegations may have dented the image of RPA, now Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), but inside Rwanda, it has provided many with the opportunity to share memories of the RPA’s kindness to them.
Previously untold stories of the heroic and patriotic actions by RPA/RDF have been brought to the limelight.
These ordinary Rwandans may never see their testimonies reflected in the final UN report, expected on Friday, October 1, but their accounts have served to consolidate the reputation and respect the RDF commands among Rwandans.
The writer is a training editor with The New Times