15 April 2018

Rwanda: 'Genocide Denial Will Not Change Historical Facts'

Rwanda says attempts by individuals and scholars to advance counter narratives of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi are worrisome, but will not alter historical facts.

Senate president Bernard Makuza said there are many people attempting to deny what happened in Rwanda and manipulating its history.

He was speaking at the closing of the 24th commemoration week at Mount Rebero in Kigali, where dozens of politicians who were killed for opposing the genocide are buried alongside over 14,000 victims of the genocide.

"But they forget one thing, you cannot alter the truth," Mr Makuza said.

He added the graves are a sign that what happened in Rwanda was planned and executed by its orchestrators.

Among the most prominent politicians killed include former prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, who is buried at the heroes cemetery in Remera.

She was killed on the first day of the genocide having expressed her opposition and relentlessly pushed former president Juvenal Habyarimana to respect the Arusha Peace Accord.

Before she was killed, she had expressed her concerns to the international community about the growing civilian killings in the country.

Military officers overpowered UN peacekeepers who had been guarding her home and killed her.

Other people killed include the former president of the Constitutional Court Joseph Kavaruganda, Landoard Ndasingwa, who was the president of the Liberal Party and Boniface Rucogoza, a member of the defunct political party Republican Democratic Movement.

"It is therefore not right for people to deny, trivialise or manipulate our history. This is something we experienced as a country, we lived it, and we must continue to remember and commemorate the genocide. The facts, which speak for themselves, are there for all to see," Mr Makuza added.

Rwanda continues to battle differing narratives on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, including theories that suggest that the downing of president Habyarimana's plane cause the killings.

Others claim that Hutus too were killed, something Kigali says is equivalent to saying that there was no genocide or attempts to espouse the double genocide theory.

Mr Makuza said that there are continued attempts to sow ethnic divisions, but Rwandans should reject and condemn them.

Under Rwandan laws, genocide denial and sowing the genocide ideology are punishable, and, according to the National Commission for the fight against genocide, there are growing cases of individuals or scholars who are deliberately denying the genocide and propagating its ideology.

New book

A recent book by Canadian journalist Judi Rever has been cited as one of the latest cases of denial and negating of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In her book In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Ms Rever claims there was a second genocide in Rwanda that has never been properly accounted for and at the same time denies being a genocide denier.

She however admits that she can be considered a "revisionist" because the official narrative of the genocide stipulates that there's basically one group of people who were targeted, yet she says Tutsis and Hutus were targets.

Rwanda is yet to give an official position about the book.

Rwandan genocide scholar Tom Ndahiro says that concerted efforts by scholars who deny the genocide in Rwanda have increased over the past 24 years, but that most of what they publish is recycled amongst them.

"Most genocide deniers like Judi Rever, Pierre Pean, John Philpot and his brother Robin Philpot have pathological hatred against truth about genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda," Mr Ndahiro said.


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