Many writers who have published work regarding the genesis of the divisionism that resulted in the terrible 1994 Genocide, have pointed to the fact of the former colonial masters emphasizing the differences in appearance of Rwandans and giving them labels accordingly. One became a Hutu or Tutsi depending on this criterion, and this was promoted at the expense of Rwandan nationalism.
It is all the more surprising and shocking therefore that a great country such as Canada should continue with such highly discriminative practices. Rwanda’s Minister for Culture and Sports, Joseph Habineza, is on record criticising the Canadian government for ethnic and political profiling of Rwandans requesting visas to visit Canada.
Whether Canadian Foreign office functionaries think they are acting in very good faith, perhaps hoping that such probing, undignified and undignifying questions lead to finding out whether the interviewee is a former genocidaire and therefore grant or refuse to grant them a visa to Canada, is immaterial. The fact remains that in trying to plot a permanent, peaceful path of existence and development, Rwanda does not want to hear of any such sectarian labels, and has even legislated against it. Even when one genuinely fails to satisfy Canadian visa requirements, there is always a lingering sense of dissatisfaction and outrage, the kind that Minister Habineza manifested on being asked his ‘ethnicity’ – have I been granted the visa because I am what I said I am, or I have failed the interview because I am not the category of people they want?
Canadian authorities to revisit this visa policy urgently, as they stand to look like they are perpetuating the Belgian and French policies of discrimination that brought this great country to a bloodbath in 1994. Rwanda wants to promote a culture that does not bespeak of discrimination or sectarianism, and instead promotes a policy of peace and reconciliation.