Yes, Rwanda television should screen genocide images

In his monthly meeting with the media on Monday 5 April 2010, the President of the Republic of Rwanda H.E. Paul Kagame was asked by someone who said he was from the NEW YORKER Magazine the rationale of Rwanda TV screening images of the killings of 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and their effect on the “Survivors” considering the fact that the images may lead to relapses and trauma.

In his monthly meeting with the media on Monday 5 April 2010, the President of the Republic of Rwanda H.E. Paul Kagame was asked by someone who said he was from the NEW YORKER Magazine the rationale of Rwanda TV screening images of the killings of 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and their effect on the “Survivors” considering the fact that the images may lead to relapses and trauma.

I believe Rwanda Television should show even more of these images though with more consideration for the viewing public.

The problem with Rwanda TV is not the images but the programming and people behind it. Any public broadcaster worth the name considers the effect and feelings of the viewing public and will warn viewers in advance that, the images that follow might be “disturbing”, “unacceptable” or “not good for some viewers” and then viewers can make choice to continue viewing them or not.

Moviemakers worth the name will warn viewers through Parental Guidance (PG) and indicate that the movie contains Strong language, violence, or nudity.

Parents can then choose what their children watch. People at Rwanda television have no qualms during the news   broadcast without warning, when people are having meals, images showing doctors stitching disemboweled intestines of patients in hospitals or doctors separating Siamese twins complete with close-up images of bloody wounds.

The problem is not the images but the way they are presented; when a bus driver ‘flies’ over humps on the road to the discomfort of passengers; the solution is not to stop the service but to caution him. 

I may not know the name of the person who claimed to be from the NEW YORKER but I guess if he had talked to Philip Gourevitch whose insight and comments on Rwanda and its history feature prominently in the magazine and on the blog, he might have known that many people in Rwanda would tear down memorials and obliterate any reminder to the 1994 Tutsi genocide.

There have been grenades thrown at Memorial centres, survivors killed so that they do not give evidence and indeed denied that there was genocide in Rwanda.

Many feel it is a reminder to what they did or what they did not do. Others fear they might appear in the images among rampaging killers.

I wonder if the people who complained to the man from the NEW YORKER accept there was genocide and if they are really genocide survivors; after all how many real genocide survivors have the luxury of watching TV?

People have different levels of psychological and mental strength and the cause of relapse and exhibit of signs of Post Traumatic Disorder Syndrome vary.

There are different people who lived through similar situations but get affected differently. In an interview with Charles Onyango Obbo The Monitor, December 19, 1997, President Kagame was quoted on the issue of discipline in the Army as saying that, “We have discipline(d) many soldiers.

Initially we had members of our armed forces, some of whose families were killed in the genocide attempting to carry out revenge…We have even soldiers who have killed people whom they have thought killed their relatives.

After that, they kill themselves too. They commit suicide. Some have killed themselves, without killing anyone, out of despair and frustration.”

Not every soldier who lost relatives has tried to revenge and not all of them have committed suicide. Not every survivor and those who lost dear ones get affected by the images; in fact it is time for them to remember. When we see those images, we say with resolve, “Never Again” and not as hypocrites do.

To many criminals within and outside Rwanda the victims of the genocide remain mere statistics; figures that are “disputable”. By showing these “grim” images we put human faces to the statistics. We are not talking about numbers but human beings who had feelings and suffered pain like you and I.

It is one thing to hear and another to see; I have heard people exclaim, after watching the footage of the BBC’s Nick Hughes of killers murdering people at Gikondo (shot from French School –Rugunga) that they knew people had died but did not know the killers were that brutal.

By showing these pictures we are able to empathize and feel with the departed ones. Where possible, names of people who were brutally murdered by the criminals should be mentioned to keep the memory live.

There are no memorial grounds for the Bahima in Mutara, Bagogwe and Kibilira and the victims 1992 pogroms in Bugesera. 

Criminals, who carried out or supported the killers during the genocide, have twisted the truth so much that young people and foreigners wonder who killed who and who the victims were. Many times genocidaires and their supporters have used images of victims’ remains at genocide sites and superimposed in the photograph of President Kagame or his lieutenants and posted these on twitter, google and yahoo groups, blogs and websites to depict with messages that make readers unsure who the killers and saviours are.

Recently, a friend from Europe asked me what role Kagame and his group played in the Genocide against the Tutsi because Rwandan people in his home country say they carried out the genocide.

Consider the following from Victoire Ingabire’s Rassemblement pour le Retour des Réfugiés et la Démocratie au Rwanda (RDR), July 1996;
 “Ironically, despite the intensification of inter-ethnic killings pitching Tutsi RPF supporters against Hutu, RPF launched a campaign for the withdrawal of UNAMIR... When it was later discovered that the RPF had established its own military squads in all corners of the country, made almost exclusively of Tutsi, the latter became the target of popular outrage, as they were considered as accomplices of RPF... This is what ignited country wide massacres....

While the African culture is very particular in honouring the dead, the RPF has left many victims of massacres allegedly killed by the militia without proper burial just to use them for propaganda purposes....

It has been learnt that part of skeletons were transported to NYARUBUYE in KIBUNGO prefecture where they are exhibited to visitors as evidence of Tutsi massacred by Hutu militia.

It is disheartening to see the number of foreign dignitaries who have made the pilgrimage to Nyarubuye.” We need to explain to whoever cares to listen that the helpless victims of the genocide did not die in war, but were killed by their neighbours moving with machetes as is shown in films; lest we forget.

Before hundreds of Tutsi victims were butchered at Gikondo Parish in 1994, their identification papers were collected and burned! The killers wanted to wipe out the names, identities and memory of the victims.

The assumptions were that the world believe that a given number of “people died in Rwanda during the war”. Many Rwandans tell the youth that there was no genocide but “people died during the war” and genocide is all about politics.

Given chance many of these people would wipe out any trace of the reminder of what they did and images of what they or their relatives did. The images are evidence that they are telling lies. Let us see the images; we will not forget.

Let us see the images; others did not see the images; they lived it. It was the French philosopher, Voltaire, who wrote: ‘We owe respect to the living; to the dead we owe only truth.’