“The place which I speak in time and space, is none other than the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.Genocide is that place that exists at the final limit of destructive human experience… It is therefore we (all of us) alongside all those who have been to that place, who are now duty bound, for the sake of our children and our children’s children thereafter…duty bound, to keep alive an unadulterated, factual account of the events of the Rwandan Genocide without so much as a modicum of revision or negation.”(Dr Ian Paul Olwoch, 2009)
He further remarks on revisionism; “revisionism is a far cry from propaganda; propaganda appeals to the emotion and to the masses both of which are spent forces at this point in time.
Revisionism appeals to the intellect, and to the intellectual thereof, it advocates a point of view and its offerings are readily absorbed and appreciated by those who are not fully aware of the state of affairs in Rwanda.”
While academic Gerald Caplan categorises Rwanda Genocide revisionists in five groups namely;
1. Genocidaires who have never been caught or even bothered by justice.
2. Politicians and religious leaders who are sympathetic to the former regime, whom Caplan says; are willing to use whatever it takes to bring them back to power, “even if it takes another Genocide.”
3. Then comes the Diaspora community with an aversion for Kagame and the present regime who peddle their own version of the Genocide. The man brought to fame by the Hollywood movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Paul Rusesabagina is the most dangerous of them all.
4. France- many in the military and political establishment who had close ties to the former regime are also some of those propagating revisionism. These Caplan says are ‘dream’ of a regime change and reinstating their former protégées.
5. A strange group, who for some reason or another has found some vocation in denying and denigrating the Genocide.
According to Dr Olwoch; “denial is the final stage that follows the human catastrophe, Denial my fellow humans, is the most diplomatic stage of Genocide; it is the calmest, it is the most academic, it is the most imaginative and the most eloquent and yet it is by far the deadliest.’’
I add journalist Andrew Wallis’ views on some of these groups; “It is clear that since 1994, and more especially as Rwanda has, as a nation and government increased in self confidence and security, that its detractors have grown.”
Wallis continues, “They are a real cause of danger, using their status to set up websites, write negationist books, and articles and spreading their insidious untruths into the minds of governments, NGOs and other groups in order to destabilize and upset the new found stability in Rwanda.
The PR war is a very real one.”
These are analysts, academics, journalists with the courage of their convictions to keep writing on a subject many wish to erase from history one way or other.
In that ‘PR war’, one of the most oft-repeated accusations against the government of Rwanda is on media freedom.
At the time of writing this article, journalists from within the Great Lakes region, were meeting in Kigali, to mark World Press Freedom Day.
This is significant given the timing of the meeting 15 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi and in particular the role played by the media then.
The term ‘hate-speech’ in African media is mostly associated with the Genocide, because of the ‘pivotal’ role the media played in fanning the massacres.
The capacity for neighbour to turn against neighbour, for husband to turn against wife and children, can only be made possible by a very powerful force – the media.
The media has the power to build, it also has the power to destroy - - Rwanda is testimony to this. The Genocide ideology successfully manifested itself through the media, examples galore.
“... eh young men manning the roadblocks, I can see you; you are doing a good job killing those Cockroaches (read Tutsi nationals of Rwanda), they are the enemies of Rwanda; they are your enemies. Do not have any mercy, all Tutsis are snakes even babies; they are dangerous.
I can see you smoking that thing (marijuana) I have been smoking too. Let us sing, ‘all Inkotanyi are dead, all Tutsis are dead, God does not take sides’.” Radio presenters on Radio Television Mille Collin (RTLM).
The Arusha based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) subsequently tried three senior journalists on charges of genocide; incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity; these are Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza who were in charge of Radio Télévision Libre de Mille Collines, and Hassan Ngeze, director and editor of the newspaper Kangura.
This is the historical context that should inform any narrative on the state of the media in Rwanda today. One is challenged to start from the position that the media was massacred too during the Genocide, needing a rebirth.
The challenge for Rwanda’s leadership is to build the media informed by a historical context in which the media played a very retrogressive role, shying away from its mandate of informing, educating and entertaining.
The leadership has to put in place legislative guarantees so that what happened in the 90’s never happens again. The architects of the Genocide, many of those who propagated it, are still at large, habouring the Genocide ideology.
European countries have legislations in place against ‘hate-speech’, against revisionism, anti-terrorism laws, for their own personal and territorial security.
Rwanda is no exception, those who caused the Genocide, are still at large in some of the capitals of those who ironically would want them to be given the free will to continue on their murderous path.
Some of these include Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, they are both in France, and the recently unearthed Father Emmanuel Uwayezu, based in Italy. Or threats from just next door in the form of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
This is not some bogey man in the closet; they are real threats. Look at the rape, looting, killings in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Are those who have decided to legitimize these mass murderers by giving them a voice, taking a position that they are now willing accomplices in sustaining a culture of impunity? Food for thought.
In Rwanda some of the media reforms in place today include the soon to be adopted media law which will govern the operations of the industry, and the setting up of media regulatory bodies such as the Media High Council.
Debate on the operations of the media must never be treated as conclusive but ongoing, even countries that have enjoyed decades of peace, stability and prosperity, still face the challenge of setting parameters in the operations of the media.
Conclusion – Alice must never be forgotten
“The 1994 genocide committed against the Tutsi in Rwanda which claimed 1 million innocent lives, as the entire world watched still haunts our collective conscience and must never be forgotten.” Durban Review Conference 2009.
The ‘Never Again’ vow remains empty rhetoric if it is not followed by practical actions to assist those who suffered the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Alice’s experience should shake the core of our consciences, make us realize that humanity failed her once, it should not fail her again.
The onus is on all those concerned with the lack of action to stop the Genocide to rise above the lies, the emotional blackmail and support those still struggling with the aftermath of the Genocide.
There are many like Alice who still need a decent education, healthcare, food and housing. What they ask of the world is not much, they paid with the loss of their loved ones, the least anyone can do is vow ‘Never Again’ by doing something.
To be continued