The Executive Director of Human Rights Watch(HRW) Kenneth Roth has once again set his eyes on Rwanda. In my first letter to Roth I talked about the issue of arm chair human rights ‘experts’ who, in the case of Africa, are fond of issuing simplistic and naïve reports and commentaries from the comfort of their chairs within western capitals far away from the realities touching on our continent.
This is what Kenneth Roth has chosen to do once more about Rwanda. We all know pretty well that as the ‘czar’ of HRW, he pens reports and commentaries that touch on very many countries of the world. In my first letter I talked about how western eminent scholars trashed Roth’s report on Venezuela. This was proof enough that the czar’s reports and recommendations cannot always be taken as the gospel truth.
On the HRW website, Roth is listed as having ‘investigated human rights abuses around the globe’, with ‘special expertise’ on issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed in the quest for peace; military conduct in war under the requirements for international humanitarian law etc. He has a solid background in the study of and practice of law within the west. All these are very sound credentials.
But Kenneth has continued to fail us as humans, with his seemingly short-sighted ‘western lenses’ while going about his ‘job’ of supposedly redressing ills afflicting Rwanda. For Roth to order the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sitting in Arusha to ‘urgently indict senior officers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who are alleged to have committed war crimes in Rwanda in 1994’,is indeed simplistic and very sad.
He sums up the work of ICTR as bent on only delivering a ‘victor’s justice’. Lets us also not forget that Roth’s letter was delivered just days before the Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow and the Court President Judge Dennis Bryon were set to appear before the UNSC to give the council a report of the tribunal’s work for the last six months.
The timings of the letter exposes Roth’s hidden agenda. Precisely what is it that I am trying to bring to the fore on this issue?
Roth as a western human rights personality will always fail to understand the intricacies and complexities surrounding the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Wrapping it up simplistically the way he has done will only serve to undo the gains already registered in driving the very delicate process of bringing forth a new dispensation in Rwanda and by extension the African Great Lakes region.
With this in mind he needs to take his time to study the underlying facts in Rwanda prior to, during, and after the Genocide before opening his mouth next time. For the purpose of this letter I will shed some light on my advice to the ‘czar’.
I will offer a Pan African diagnosis of the tragedy. The Rwandan tragedy from the 1960s through to the 1990s is the outcome of colonialism and by extension western influence which entrenched a culture of exclusionism within this nation’s political and economic fabric.
This brought forth some sort of rot which enlarged and turned into a monster which grew by ripple with time. Each ripple effect brought into the fold more complications which ultimately degenerated into a paralysis of power as time passed.
Thus the root cause of the crisis is the political legacy of the colonial state which Pan Africanists would point out as being nothing other than western impositions.
Thus the upheavals that bedeviled the Rwandan state are closely connected to how colonialists constructed the Rwandan colonial state structures with its attendant political identities.
Mahmood Mamdani, an African social scientist writes that ‘this continued after independence principally due to the fact that there was failure of post independence leadership to transcend the colonial construct of Rwanda’s politico-economic fabric’.
This and some other related factors led to the Rwandan civil war and the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Thus anyone interested in the question of political reform after the Genocide just like Roth is trying desperately with little success, will need to keep in mind such salient features of the Rwandan situation.
The Genocide is a highly complex problem. I can firmly posit that western imposition is a prime guilt component of this great African tragedy. The consequence of the Genocide is another highly complex issue to grapple with.
A case in point is that Genocide, like molten lava, has overflowed the boundaries of Rwanda making it the epicenter of the larger more complex problem known as the African Great Lakes crisis.
To contain these tensions, Mahmood contends that this ‘will require drawn out cooling-off period and an all-African approach that puts reform in Rwanda in the context of a regional platform.
It will also require a commitment and responsibilities that is international too’. This is the eye lenses which Roth and HRW needs to adopt in order to understand the Rwandan situation.
Let Roth fit his eyes with such longer sights. He is taking us back here in Africa with such short sighted orders to ICTR. I beseech you dear Kenneth the ‘Czar’ of HRW to change your lenses.
Oluoch-Ojiwah Fred, a Kenyan journalist is the New Times Special Assignments Editor