Fr Carlos Rodriguez distorts the recent history of Rwanda

Recently I came across an article titled "Hakuna Matata," Rwanda’s darker side by Fr Carlos Rodriguez another self-styled regional expert who, after 17 years in Northern Uganda appointed himself an expert on political issues in Great Lakes Region.

Recently I came across an article titled "Hakuna Matata," Rwanda’s darker side by Fr Carlos Rodriguez another self-styled regional expert who, after 17 years in Northern Uganda appointed himself an expert on political issues in Great Lakes Region.

He pretends to have foreseen the current events in Kenya although he waited for the crisis to unfold before making his latest revelations. He then in his article decides to embark on prophesizing doom for future Rwanda. Although we do not know his real motives, it is quite obvious that ‘the man of God’ intends no good for beloved Rwanda.

"On a recent visit to Rwanda, I had a chance of noticing the contrast between the apparent order seen at the surface and some "unfinished business" kept in deepest silence," his articles reads in parts. Surprisingly in just one visit, the self-appointed specialist managed to have Rwanda’s issues by his finger. With all his bad intentions, the priest cannot but acknowledge the positive trend the country has undertaken. "Rwanda is an orderly country indeed. There is striking cleanness, thanks to good policies…, there is hardly any criminality to be worried about, public services function, people are remarkably disciplined…, most important of all, ordinary folks have made a tremendous effort to reconcile with their neighbors…" But let no one be fooled by this accurate reading of the new Rwanda because the priest’s intention is to appear objective until he starts describing what he calls "Rwanda’s darker side".

Indeed, after praising Rwanda for her good policies, the priest immediately undermines the achievements he noticed and in a contradictory move, brings back the old revisionist stories which make us believe that he either has been coached or is in close collaboration with the likes of Paul Rusesabagina or masterminds of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

The man proffers biased and inaccurate statements that have compelled me to react.

"The victims of 1994 Genocide are -rightly- honored and remembered everywhere. But there is the other side of the story no one talks about: the people killed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front…," the articles also reads. This is a well known stand of revisionists in their bid to dilute the Tutsi genocide into a kind of double genocide. The Hutus killed the Tutsis and the Tutsis killed the Hutus and all are to blame, so the illusion goes.

All this is being done to serve the grand scheme of denying the occurrence of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, or to explain it off as at best an inter-ethnic fight, and at worst, as a double genocide where the Hutus tried to exterminate the Tutsis, as much as the Tutsis tried toeliminate the Hutus.

Our expert however seems not to have heard about or just chose to shelve The report of the international panel of eminent personalities to investigate the 1994 genocide in rwanda (appointed by the Organization of African Unity in 1995) which states: "Accusations against the RPF for human rights violations, often of massive proportions, have been heard since the incursion of 1990… Hutu Power representatives consistently claim that the RPF have killed hundreds of thousands of Hutu in Rwanda in the past decade, constituting what they call a "second genocide"; the evidence, however, does not justify this accusation, which more plausibly should be considered simple propaganda…. The fact that there have been to date no eyewitness accounts of RPF killings by UNHCR or NGOs staff, proves that obviously RPF cannot be equaled to the genocide, either in scope or intent…"

In a malicious logic, the priest undermines the Gacaca courts saying that … "they tried the perpetrators of genocide (but) they were denied any mandate to deal with the "other" cases". In his ‘priestly’ thinking, Rodriguez finds Gacaca courts specially designed to try genocide crimes and not "other" cases!

The priest enjoys spreading the Hutu extremists’ propaganda mentioned above as he shamelessly sustains that "RPF started killing civilians in the area they controlled right from the beginning of their invasion from Uganda in October 1990, they went on retaliating during the 1994 Genocide and even years later…remember the more than displaced 3000 killed in the camp in Kibeho in 1996. He pretends to know better than Human Rights Watch’s Alison des Forges who cannot be accused of being in love with the current Rwandan government and even less with RPF when she states that "though RPF soldiers carried out some killings on civilians before and in 1994, they were not on ethnic basis. She explained that when the RPF soldiers attacked a place, they would even kill the Tutsis because they happened to be at the place of attack." In any case, during war as evidenced even by the bible, one will always expect human loss, the only question would be whether it is orchestrated killings.

Then the self-styled expert brings back the so much talked about Kibeho incident of 1996. Could the priest have been genuine enough, he would have avoided sticking by one side of the story that strives to demonize RPF and its cherished struggle; he would have learnt that people actually know that what happened is quite far from what he and his cohorts want us to believe. A witness and member of the then UN forces at the camp had this to say: "I was in Kibeho. The key of this place's tragedy is written in the 1994 Genocide. Killers stopped by Kibeho and kept hidden in a crowd of innocent IDP's, mothers and babies, abandoned by Turquoise in daylight. They were killing anyone who wanted to escape the camp and UN stayed "zen" as usual". Mark Froart, a veteran of international emergency response then Deputy Chief of the UN’s Human Rights mission in Rwanda, reached the same conclusion: "The principal reason that we failed to empty the camps and that the RPA operation turned into a disaster was…the inability to separate out those who were involved in the genocide, those who were guilty of crimes against humanity, from those who were innocent and who were not involved."

It is really strange to bring such an old story…. A year after Kibeho, in May 1996 when asked about the camps that ringed Rwanda’s borders which seemed to create more problems than they solved, the then Vice-President Paul Kagame had this to say: "I’ll give you an example. Perhaps it is a bad example in that it was tragic. But let’s talk about Kibeho, the famous Kibeho. There were hundreds of thousands of people in these camps. Well, unfortunately, in the process of closing the camps, some people were killed. Still we managed to resettle those hundreds of thousands of people. I’m not saying there should have been the cost. But we insisted. We said, ‘if you (the humanitarian agencies) don’t want to close them, then we shall close them.’ And that’s what happened. But the camps were no more, you see, and we could have had more trouble for the whole country by keeping the camps there…"

He strongly believe that it will be hard to convince the international community, let alone eight million Rwandans, working hard at reconciliation in a country that, in only a decade, has become an African beacon for stability, good governance and fast economic growth, that there exists another form of salvation in embracing the deniers, the `negationists', `rejectionists' or `apologists' of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Although the massacres have ended, the legacy of the genocide continues, and the search for justice has been long and arduous.

It is therefore disheartening to hear people, who did or said nothing or even at times sided with the masterminds of these atrocious events unfolding, going around telling distorted stories about what happened for dubious interests.


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