“THERE IS a danger that we might not take the full measure of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and that with time the picture in the world’s collective memory could become blurry.” With those words of caution, Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, invited the world’s ‘people of goodwill’ to join Rwanda in remembrance at the 20th genocide commemoration next week April 7.
The Kwibuka20 Committee and the Parliament of Rwanda will also host an international conference on April4-6 that examines both the post genocide legacy and the extent to which the genocide against the Tutsi has been taken up as a collective responsibility at both local and international levels.
This much is clear: genocide is an international crime. Its immediate victims are the dead and the survivors. But it also has a secondary victim: humanity. In the unlikely event that humanity has failed itself, it is called upon to remember, take responsibility, and take lessons intended to guard against its recurrence. That’s why when genocide is invoked, it’s a time when national identities, let alone race, class, and ethnicity, take a back seat to the human identity.
It’s worth pointing out, therefore, that while the world has, to a large extent, developed both collective memory and outrage in relation to the Jewish Holocaust, the same has not been the case when it comes to Rwanda, thus posing the ‘danger that we might not take the full measure of the Genocide against the Tutsi.’
Readers will recall that in this same column I cautioned that on both domestic and international fronts, we are yet to fully grasp the moral elements around the genocide against the Tutsi and to account as well as take responsibility for the tragedy that befell us twenty years ago. At the time, I pointed out that perpetrators of genocide continue to roam Western capitals undisturbed, pointing out that efforts to nurture a collective consciousness around one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century were being undermined. Why?
There is only one way for me to say this: Disproportionate international hostility towards the Rwanda Patriotic Front, Rwanda’s current ruling party, is responsible for the indifference about on genocide against the Tutsi. Some of this hatred has been very deep rooted.
Take the French. The hostility that the Francois Mitterrand government had for the RPF, considered an Anglophone intrusion, is an open secret, an attitude that was largely inherited by the French regimes that followed, leading to all manner of economic, military, and diplomatic sabotage, where the French hand often underlain anti-Rwanda motions, resolutions, and expert reports at the United Nations.
At its most effective, this attitude helped to create conditions where hatred for the RPF was in vogue. As if in orchestra, it was able to gain ground among human rights organisations and in the international media, at times helping shape the conduct of some of Rwanda’s partners such as the Americans, British, Belgians, Dutch, Swedish, and Norwegians, among others.
To be sure, the RPF is no angel. Neither is it the devil. Indeed, that it’s a political party means that people have a legitimate choice to either hate it or love it.
What’s unfortunate is that the hostility towards the RPF has been conflated with the genocide. That it was and continues to be perceived as a ‘predominantly Tutsi’ party only worsened this conflation, something that has translated into responses that fall just short of genocide denial. For instance, the RPF stands accused of ‘milking’ the genocide for political reasons. Similar rhetoric amounts to double jeopardy for genocide victims and an attack towards all people of goodwill. It’s all simply unconscionable.
It gets worse. To this day, some are unsure whether to commemorate or sit it out because they fear being perceived as supporting the RPF. Therefore, as we mark the twentieth anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi, we are reminded that much too often politics is placed above humanity. And with that, solidarity with the Tutsi genocide victims, as well as with the country at large, has been lost in anti-RPF hostility.