On the 7th of April 2021, as Rwandans were commemorating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, US and UK officials engaged in a sordid competition of genocide denial by issuing shameful statements found here and here in which the victims and the historical truth of what happened twenty-seven years ago were erased.
At the same time, the Washington Post published Gretchen Baldwin's "Rwanda's government now uses the annual genocide remembrance as a political tool." The Americans and British as well as their "independent" media appear to have decided that they will use genocide denial as a means of furthering Rwanda's reconciliation. Take a moment to think about that.
Baldwin, who cites her own "research" to back her pronouncements on Rwanda's journey towards reconciliation, begins her article with a blatant falsehood. "In the aftermath of a violent civil war that culminated in a 100-day genocide in 1994, Rwanda effectively outlawed ethnicity," she wrote, without giving any legal reference to her assertion.
The reason for this omission being that: there is no law in Rwanda that outlaws ethnicity as the Ugandan-Rwandan scholar Frederick Golooba-Mutebi has noted to be Hutu or Tutsi in Rwanda is not illegal.
"What is now no longer acceptable is for anyone to use any of the categorisations as a basis for marginalizing or discriminating any category of people. Nor is it acceptable for anyone to use their belonging to any social category as a basis for claiming privileges or special rights and denying them to others," Golooba-Mutebi rightly notes.
One of the many absurdities Rwandans have had to contend with includes ignorant intruders ascribing themselves expertise on their affairs and seeking to impose their uninformed perspectives upon a society they do not comprehend. But Baldwin is not done exposing herself.
She describes genocide commemorations and the testimonies of survivors as a betrayal to the "Ndi Umunyarwanda" motto for nation-building because "ethnicity is central to and explicit in testimonies, skits and speeches".
Again, this betrays a limited understanding of Rwanda."Ndi Umunyarwanda" was never intended to erase the past; on the contrary, it aims to foster a common identity around which Rwandans are to rebuild their nation.
Imagine the absurdity that Baldwin would wish for survivors to either give their testimonies without mentioning why they were targeted for extermination as a group or to remain silent for the sake of "reconciliation."
Moreover, Baldwin thinks there is something fishy about the deliberate choice by Rwandans to avoid "mentioning Hutus" and choosing instead to refer to "perpetrators". It does not occur to her that the choice to distinguish Hutus from perpetrators is a part of the clarity around genocide, which seeks to reinforces reconciliation because it ought to be evident to anyone that not all Hutu were perpetrators of genocide.
Neither does it occur to Baldwin that the governments whose absurd policies she justifies, the US and the UK, might have some level of responsibility in the attacks targeting genocide survivors during commemoration by fuelling and legitimizing genocide denial through their statements of "solidarity" as well as through media, especially BBC Gahuza for the UK and the Voice of America for the US.
Genocide is such a serious subject that those incapable of emotional intelligence ought to stay away from it and to recuse themselves from ignorant takes that, rather than bring clarity, confuse their audiences.
But most importantly, someone incapable of the emotional intelligence it requires to comprehend Rwandans' choices shouldn't be allowed to inform an ignorant audience.
When the truth is not on her side, Baldwin attempts to rearrange it. For example, she laments that "these activities [of commemoration] mention Tutsi as victims and survivors, often ignoring the 'once included moderate Hutus who were also killed in the genocide.'"
Of course a researcher, as she claims to be, would know about the rulings of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and UN resolutions on the nature and designation of the genocide based on who were the target of the genocidal intent and execution.
As recalled in the letter dated 28 April 2020 from the Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR, in the case of The Prosecutor vs Karemera, Ngirumpatse and Nzirorera (case No. ICTR-98-44-AR73 (C)), ruled that it was a "fact beyond any dispute and not requiring any proof" that "Between 6 April and 17 July 1994, there was a genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi ethnic group".
It should be, therefore, obvious to anyone who seeks to be taken seriously to observe that there exists no victims and survivors of the genocide outside the group that was targeted for extermination.
Moreover, the letter further underscores that "Rwanda devotes 13 April to the remembrance of politicians and others who, although not part of the targeted group, were killed for having opposed the extermination of the Tutsi."In fact, the two points being made here are complementary not contradictory.
Acknowledging the genocide was against the Tutsi establishes facts that prevent recurrence as do efforts to recognise these other actors that were not targeted for genocide but whose courage is worthy of recognition in the quest for reconciliation. The UK, US, and now Baldwin fail to understand this simple fact and instead their stubbornness ends up lending a hand to genocide deniers.
If the group Baldwin refers to as "Hutu moderates" had been recognized as a protected group under the genocide convention and had been targeted for extermination, there would be no Hollywood fiction to narrate how Paul Rusesabagina, a supposedly "moderate Hutu" at the time, negotiated for the lives of Tutsi hidden in the Hotel Milles Collines. He himself would have been killed at first sight. We don't believe that these people lack simple logic; we just don't know what they are after.
It is worth recalling that mirror accusations are known to be part of the last stage of genocide, which is denial. Just like genocidaires accused the RPF of the very crimes they were committing, Baldwin accuses the government of Rwanda of politicizing the genocide against the Tutsi when in fact all international actors - except the U.S, the U.K and their "independent" media - subscribe to the same imperative to uphold clarity around historical facts and collective memory as a means to avert the recurrence of genocide.
In other words, those whose position is rooted in denial are the ones politicizing a fact which is "beyond any dispute and does not require any proof" as international courts ruled. Indeed, those who are serious about "Never Again" recognise court rulings when it comes to genocide.
The irony is that even France -whose role in the genocide against the Tutsi remains a subject of heated debate-appears to have re-joined the community of civilized nations committed to fighting genocide denial. Since they are always eager to fill a void, perhaps the UK and the U.S feel compelled to take over the role of the villain.
Why they would choose this role should be Baldwin's next subject for "research".