We will soon be entering the Cyunamo period, 17 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi and we find the number of genocide doubters and deniers is getting larger and more vocal.
Rwanda has become like Israel, it brings out strong emotions in people and you cannot sit on the fence, the internet promotes ignorance and facts equally, then they go to the memorial and see it is so much more complicated than the picture they saw on the internet.
It is somewhat comical to see when visitors, particularly academics come to Rwanda, a waiter comes up to serve them, when he goes they turn to you “is he a Hutu or a Tutsi?” they want to put all people in boxes as potential victims or killers.
Some will even be brave enough to ask people point blank, when they see a hesitation or bewilderment from Rwandans they say “ah oppression” but they fundamentally do not understand Rwanda.
These are the questions that always pop up from bewildered students and they show how far we have to go in matching our critics fact for fact.
Why are people being denied their ethnic identity? If you ask a German, or any Westerner what tribe they are, they can’t tell you. That is because they made a conscious decision to abolish them and seek a wider identity that was more inclusive and it has helped them develop.
In Rwanda, the words Hutu and Tutsi were epithets that were insults or compliments at different times, they are loaded terms but they are human creations that can be re-appropriated, or abolished altogether.
Hutu tribal violence has been convicted what about the other side? 17 years later we still have to convince the world that this was not random tribal violence but a planned and coordinated attempt to wipe out an entire portion of the population by a government.
A tribe did not kill another, the Hutu tribe was not responsible but specific individuals, Simon Wisenthal (a Nazi-hunter) always said that the Nazi high command was responsible for holocaust not the German people. The genocide against the Tutsi was designed to look like tribal violence but we have a grid of all those responsible for specific events.
How come RPF crimes were never heard in Gacaca, why was it one sided? The Gacaca court system was designed to perform several functions, to clear the massive backlog, to provide locally based justice, to provide a record and testimony of victims and killers, to begin a social dialogue about the way forward, and to provide restorative justice in our cultural context.
There has never been a military that has handed its soldiers to a civilian court in all of history, besides RPF fighters who committed crimes were convicted and some were executed for crimes but almost all who covered the war say the RPF was highly disciplined.
Why do people always bring up the double genocide theory? The Rwanda genocide has always been fact, anyone will tell you that, it was on TV, leaders all gave speeches, published hate pamphlets, radio recordings.
And yet it took almost a decade to get it internationally recognised as fact. The perpetrators denied that there had even been any such thing, until mass-graves popped up in every village, every town and city.
Then those perpetrators turned and admitted that it did happen but they were the principle victims of it, then they lumped the victims of genocide, victims of war, famine and disease together.
A genocide has to have a targeted victim, the name of the victimised group must be specified so it doesn’t happen again – we, therefore, had to specify Genocide against the Tutsi, that is not to ignore the Hutu who died for their sympathy towards fellow Rwandans and intellect rejection of genocide.
When will people be truly reconciled, why can’t Rwandans be more open about their emotions and what happened? Westerners come from a world of Freudian science where they unlock all the pain in the sub-conscious in order to have that cathartic redemption and finally CLOSURE.
Rwanda will never have that, you can never have closure for 1 million dead. I have seen a 25 year old have a stroke simply by recounting the harrowing experiences, it would be dangerous to open the Pandora’s box and let the emotions out because we wouldn’t be able to control them.
Until we can find a way to deal with them, we will keep them locked up. Till then we move on, Rwandans just got on with their lives, and don’t look back, that is what has got us this far.