The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Genocide Denial in the Name of Free Speech

opinion

I have deliberately chosen this subject in response to speeches and articles that deny the Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. These denials are intended to write an entire new History of Genocide while denying its reality.

One such denier is Francis Muhoozi, who has been taking international media, notably BBC (Imvo n'Imvano radio programme), and indeed their audiences for a ride.

He intentionally delivers a message full of hate and propaganda against the Governments and people of Uganda and Rwanda.

He attempts to justify the Genocide committed against Tutsi and relegates it to the status of a civil war purportedly as a result of the shooting of the plane that was carrying president Juvenal Habyarimana!

Linking the Genocide to the plane crash is a fabricated narrative, only devised to deny or at least diminish the Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the lives of more than a million innocent people.

It should be understood that genocide is not something that falls down like rainfall; genocide is a process that develops in eight stages that are predictable but not inexorable.

Genocide is always organised, planned with intent to exterminate an identified target group; yet at any stage preventive measures can stop it.

In Rwanda, the classification and identification of its people into "us and them" through ethnic groups of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa, was introduced during the Belgian colonial era and incorporated into the national identity cards.

This system forced all persons to be affiliated with one of the three artificial groups. It goes without saying that during the Genocide, this classification and identification greatly facilitated the targeting of persons on the basis of ethnic affiliation, making all the Tutsi readily identifiable for marginalisation, oppression and subsequent extermination.

Dehumanisation of the Tutsi had already facilitated massacres in 1959, 1962, and 1972. In 1990, the Hutu Power hate newspaper, Kangura, published the infamous "Ten Commandments of the Hutu". They included the injunction, "The Bahutu should stop having mercy for the Batutsi." The commandments called for continuation of the Habyarimana government's policy, and that military officers must be prohibited from marrying Tutsi women. Cartoons in Kangura referred to Tutsis as cockroaches and snakes, and regularly espoused the myth that they had invaded from Ethiopia. That the Tutsis were "devils" who ate the vital organs of Hutus! Twenty other extremist newspapers also published regular hate propaganda against the Tutsi. Radio Television Libres des Milles Collines amplified the hate propaganda from 1993 onwards, taking it to every corner of Rwanda using repeater antennae provided by Radio Rwanda.

The organisation, training and arming of extremist militias is a clear indicator of how Genocide was organised. In 1992, the Interahamwe, the militia of the ruling MRND party, was actively organised and prepared for "the job". They were soon followed by the Impuzamugambi, the militia of the CRD; the extreme Hutu Power party.

These militia groups were secretly trained in camps run by Rwandan army officers, armed with machetes, Kalashnikovs, and grenades from arms shipments ordered by the government. These few examples of process towards the extermination, escalated on the night of the 6th April 1994 and quickly became the mass killing legally called "genocide".

Therefore, any attempt to continue linking Genocide committed against the Tutsi to the sudden death of President Habyarimana (which, by the way, investigations have pinned on his own extremist inner circle) in a plane crash is an outright attempt to rewrite our sad past with a deliberate effort to manipulate the present and shape the future.

On her part, Madam Marie Esterie Murebwayire, the widow of the former FAR's Col. Rwandeye, who died during the war between the government troops and then RPA rebels, said that "denying the Tutsi Genocide is a mockery to the victims of the Genocide as well as all Rwandans as a people".

"The plan to exterminate the Tutsi was an open secret. It is not anything worth debating," she said emotionally, before adding that revisionists of Genocide were only working in the interest of Genocide perpetrators still at large, and indeed their sympathisers.

It is also done with intent to cause mental harm to the survivors.

Genocide against the Tutsi was a crime against humanity and, therefore, must be treated as such.

Denying the Genocide in favour of perpetrators' narrative should be qualified as a crime against humanity. Any attempt to invent or reshape the causes of the Genocide against Tutsi must be considered as distortion of our history; it's historical negationism, and must be stopped.

I will conclude with the words of Richard Cohen, "The last victim of any genocide is the truth"

The writer is a researcher and genocide scholar based in Kigali.

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