Consequences of Racism in Rwanda: We Need To Get Out of Apathy

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By: Tom Ndahiro*

One of the many foreign journalists who were in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide concluded that there were no more devils in hell because they were all in Rwanda.

Thousands of years ago, in Mesopotamia, the evils of life were attributed to the evil influence of the demons.  Their number was almost without limit.  To counteract their malice effectively, the sorcerer had to first identify/know the name of the demon.  Similarly, the orgy of murder and bloodletting in Rwanda remains inexplicable to many. Yet, the causes are not difficult to identify. These are none other than the country’s post independence rule, with its foreign support and colonial heritage.

But, where were the Angels?  Who had invited the devils in Rwanda and locked-up the Angels in heaven?  What about the world, which ignored the cries and lives of more than a million people who had been victims of racist policies for over 35 years, that culminated into a genocide?

Millennia of human group migrations, which brought mixings of people, settlements, and cultural interactions, had made Rwanda a nation, hundreds of years before the advent of colonialism.  Like in many if not all societies, there were divides.  The difference amongst Rwandan inhabitants was based on modes of existence, which were on constant flow, but not on any notion of inferiority or superiority of any of the groups.

Role of Colonialism

After the Berlin Conference, in 1884, colonialists occupied Rwanda just as they did in many other parts of Africa.  Unlike those other parts of Africa however, the country’s society had a unique composition, with a lot in common. Rwandans shared a national language, lived in the same villages, intermarried, and believed in the same “Imana y’I Rwanda”, the national God.

Missionaries and explorers, who were scholars of the mid-19th century racist theories that justified slavery and Christian evangelization, did not spare Rwanda.  They developed myths that altered the national identity. Tutsis, whose occupation was said to have been cattle keeping, were labeled descendants of the Aryan or Caucasoid race; and Hutus as cultivators were designated Negroid or Bantu race. The former was a foreigner from somewhere in the north of Africa and the latter, the original inhabitant of the area.

Initially, emphasis was on group differences based on physical appearance, accompanied with notions of superiority and inferiority. According to their “establishment”, hereditary biology determined the two predominant Rwandan groups. It was alleged that behaviour, habits, attitudes and beliefs are determined before one is born. In colonial schools and administrative systems Hutus were excluded in favour of a few Tutsis.  These discriminatory policies were nurtured to suit the colonialists’ exploitative interests to the detriment of the future Rwanda.

Racism in Rwanda by the colonialists was not just a Hutu/Tutsi affair. Islamic faith was kept under containment and remained as such.  This Islamophobic attitude is made vivid in the letter Bishop Joseph Hirth wrote to the Superior General of the Congregation of White Fathers, on January 25, 1910 justifying the planning and establishment of a missionary post in the would be capital of Rwanda, Kigali. He stated clearly that he did not want there some people he considered to be the “worst elements”. According to his successor, Bishop Leon Classe, the “worst elements” were none other than Moslems. In his letter to the Superior General of the Congregation of White Fathers, April 28, 1911 he described Moslems as “immoral, and source of misery and instability to inhabitants of commercial and administrative centers.”[1]

In the early 1930, depending on the number of cows one had, new “ethnic” groups were introduced.  If one had less than ten cows on the census day he became ‘Hutu’, and if he had more, he automatically was taken as a ‘Tutsi’. This was the first invitation of the devils from hell.

In 1959 a new definition of Rwandans emerged.  In his pastoral letter, allegedly “in the name of love”, Catholic Bishop André Perraudin, manipulated, and grouped Rwandans into “races”, with all what the term race implies. Tropical Nazism had come. It was politically maintained, officially implemented in identity cards, glorified in schools and offices through quotas, and later justified as a symbol of democracy. Rwanda’s identity was thus transmuted, and the results are obvious.  The country was divided, ruined and destroyed.

The Catholic Centre at Kabgayi, the residence of Bishop Perraudin, was used to spread Hutu propaganda.[2] The report of the International Commission of inquiry on the unrest in Rwanda of November 1959, dated 26/2/1960 also clearly noted: “The Belgian authorities exercised a decisive impact on the evolution of unrest … in certain chiefdoms, in the north of Rwanda, practically no Tutsi household was saved.  The resistance organized by the Tutsi leadership was quickly suppressed by military action undertaken by the Belgian government”.  The revolutionaries’ slogan at that time was ‘long live Belgium’, and as of 1960 they wished 25 years more under colonial rule!

The racist mayhem in the so-called Hutu revolution, but assisted by missionaries and the Belgian administrators and the army, turned the events to the worst, and saw the first wave of African refugees in their thousands streaming from Rwanda to neighbouring countries which were all still under colonial administrations. What followed in the early 1960′s is a long, and agonizing history of the victims, and uncalled-for silence on the side of the International Community, despite its physical presence in Rwanda in form of the United Nations’ observers.

Rwandan Authorities and Intellectuals

Since then, and after flag independence, Rwandans were trained and forced to be submissive.  They went along with the colonial definition of who they should be, how they should behave and what they should think of themselves. Through schools, institutes of higher learning, Churches and the media, ‘intellectual’ ideologues (including priests) developed and multiplied all sorts of derisions and stereotypes inherited from colonialists to describe the Hutu and Tutsi.

A Hutu was tagged: Bantu, good Christian, pro-white, aborigine, authentic Negro, docile works, simplistic small-Negro, oppressed, slave, vulgar/lowly, indigenous, serf, cultivator, peasant and beast of burden… On the other hand, Tutsi was branded: Hamite, Communist, anti-white men, white-man’s rival, white-man’s cousin, lazy, cockroach, intelligent/cunning, giant, oppressor lord, noble, invader, feudal, cattle-keeper, aristocrat and born to rule…

And, this is why post-independence governments come second in rank as being crucially responsible for racism and division in Rwanda. Their first priority was the consolidation of hate and methods of eliminating their perceived enemies. The erroneous theory promulgated by the missionaries and colonial administration that the Tutsi had grossly exploited the Hutu for centuries continued to mould Hutu comprehension of Rwandan history and eventually became the primary ideological justification for genocide.

In agreement with this observation, the former president of Rwanda, Mr.Pasteur Bizimungu, says: “Quite interestingly, since 1959, when the cover-up strategy relegated the Tutsis to underclass status, some Hutus have developed an aristocratic mentality. It is in this connection that some leaders, today, consider co-operation with Tutsis a form of abasement since the Tutsis are perceived as the underdogs. Since 1959, the theory developed is that the Hutus are born to rule. All these stereotypes, which are still being repeated and which have had an unprecedented impact on the people of Rwanda, are rubbish…” [3]Certainly, like any racist theory, stereotypes are calculated to exploit and perpetuate dominance of one group over the other.

Indeed, the hate-schemes had become regular and systemic. It had become a virtue to make them public, as evidenced for example, in the “10 Hutu commandments”, published in Kangura magazine N°6 of 10 December 1990:  One, Every Muhutu should know that a Mututsi woman, wherever she is, works for the interest of the Tutsi ethnic group. As a result, shall consider a traitor any Muhutu who: ‘Marries a Tutsi woman; befriends a Tutsi woman; employs a Tutsi woman as a secretary or a concubine’. Two, every Muhutu should know that our Hutu daughters are more suitable and conscientious in their role as woman, wife and mother of the family.  Are they not beautiful, good secretaries and more honest?

The third commandment exhorted the Bahutu women, to be vigilant and try to bring their husbands, brothers and sons back to reason; and the fourth reminded every Muhutu “to know that every Mututsi is dishonest in business…his only aim is the supremacy of his ethnic group.  As a result, any Muhutu who does the following is a traitor: makes a partnership with Batutsi in business; invests his money or the government’s money in a Tutsi enterprise; lends or borrows money from a Mututsi; and, gives favours to Batutsi in business (obtaining import licenses, bank loans, construction sites, public markets, etc.)

The fifth, sixth and seventh commandments respectively advocated that: All strategic positions, political, administrative, economic, military and security should be entrusted to Bahutu; that the education sector (school pupils, students, teachers) must be majority Hutu; and the Rwandans Armed Forces should be exclusively Hutu.  The eighth eluded that, the experience of the October 1990 war had taught them a lesson. And therefore, no member of the military shall marry a Tutsi; and, the Bahutu should stop having mercy on the Batutsi.

The ninth commandment compelled the Bahutu, wherever they were, as a must, to have unity and solidarity and be concerned with the fate of their Hutu brothers. And for that matter, ‘the Bahutu inside and outside Rwanda must constantly look for friends and allies for the Hutu cause, starting with their Bantu brothers; must constantly counteract the Tutsi propaganda; and, must be firm and vigilant against their common Tutsi enemy.’

The tenth decree, affirmed that: the “social revolution of 1959, the Referendum of 1961, and the Hutu Ideology, must be taught to every Muhutu at every level.  Every Hutu must spread this ideology widely.  Any Muhutu who persecutes his brother Muhutu for having read, spread and taught this ideology is a traitor.”  This commandment was the inspiration in Bikindi Simon’s abhorrent song, “…nanga abahutu batibuka” (I hate Hutu who do not remember). A song that dominated the airwaves of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which was very instrumental, in inciting hatred before and during the genocide. The composer was recently indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The language used was intended to prepare for genocide in a predominantly “Christian” country. Such articles of faith-cum-instructions reflected an ethnocentric theory made public. Many were official policies for decades. From then, various state sponsored news media overtly called for the killing of Tutsi. There are many areas in Rwanda today, where you get very few or no survivors, because individuals killed their husbands/wives and children for lack of  “required purity”. Others were involved, or conspired in the killing of their parents, brothers, sisters and other close relatives thought to have betrayed some of the “Hutu Commandments.”

In his letter dated 21 September 1992, the Army Commander, Colonel Deogratias Nsabimana, was forwarding a document prepared and signed by a committee of ten officers giving a “contemporary” definition of the term enemy. According to this document that was intended for the widest possible dissemination, the enemy fell into two categories, namely, “the primary enemy” and the “enemy supporter”. The primary enemy was defined as “the extremist Tutsi within the country or abroad who are nostalgic for power and who have never acknowledged and still do not acknowledge the realities of the Social Revolution of 1959, and who wish to regain power in RWANDA by all possible means, including the use of weapons”.

On the other hand, the document clarified that the primary enemy supporter was “anyone who lent support in whatever form to the primary enemy”. It also stated that the primary enemy and their supporters came mostly from social groups comprising, in particular, “Tutsi refugees”, “Tutsi within the country”, “Hutus dissatisfied with the current regime”, “Foreigners married to Tutsi women” and the “Nilotic-hamitic” tribes in the region”.

This identification of “primary enemy” and “enemy supporter”, led to yet another way of categorizing an individual as a Tutsi. This time the Interahamwe militia, were to decide. As Prof. William Schabas says, without a shadow of doubt, “In Rwanda, the Belgian colonizers had defined ethnic Tutsis as those possessing a certain number of cattle.  The determinations were made sixty or seventy years ago, then inscribed on identity cards, and passed from parents to children according to customary rules.  In 1994, individuals were Tutsis if the interahamwe militia said they were.”[4]

Ordinary persons accepted the army’s definition of the enemy. A prosecution witness, who has confessed his participation in the genocide, recently told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that they killed Tutsis because it was ‘a period of war’. And, that, they were fighting against the Tutsi who were their ‘enemies.’  “We were fighting the Tutsi and also their accomplices. Civilians were the ones targeted but even Tutsi soldiers were killed,” he said.[5]

On the 22nd November 1992, Dr. Mugesera Leon, now a fugitive from justice, in Canada, made a speech in which he was equally less ambiguous on the targeted group, in the 1994 genocide. He publicly urged the Hutu to destroy the Tutsi and return them to their mythical ancestral home “via the short cut of the Nyabarongo River”, which feeds into the rivers of the Nile watershed.  Not only did he agree with the army headquarters’ definition of “the enemies”, but also agreed with the colonial racial theory. Killing “the people in question and dumping the bodies in the river was a usual practice in past massacres of Tutsi.”[6]

In that speech, Mugesera, a PhD graduate from Canada, who worked with the ruling party MRND and the Ministry for the Family and Promotion of Women, mobilized the business community “to finance operations aiming to eliminate the (Tutsi) people. And, he remarked, “…the fatal error of 1959…was in letting them get away.” He sounded like the Nazi Marshal von Rundstedt who regretted that, one of the “great mistakes of 1918, was to spare the civil life of the enemy countries.” The aim of this annihilator was “to always keep the number of Germans, at least double the numbers of the peoples of the contiguous countries!”

International Community’s Betrayal and the spread of racist ideology

Dissemination of vitriolic propaganda against Tutsis and the so-called “Hamitics in the region” had started long before the genocide of 1994. After the break out of the Rwanda civil war in October 1990, the planners and perpetrators of genocide embarked on and intensified moves to consolidate regional alliances.  The manipulated cliché of Hutu/Bantu was used in government propaganda.

Tanzania’s reaction to this call was evidence that the genocidaires’ propaganda got a prompt reception. The first Issue-March 1991 of a Tanzanian Newspaper, The Family Mirror published “A sponsored feature” by the Rwandan Government Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam. Its title was “The whole Truth on the October 1990 War”. On the word of the backers, it was in response to “requests to have more information on the war imposed upon Rwanda by aggressors from Uganda Armed Forces.” Unfortunately, gullible editors became agents of hate speech fed to innocent readers. The “sponsored feature” was a reproduction of a pamphlet of March 1991, authored by Leon Mugesera in collaboration with an organization, whose coined abbreviation in French was “AFAPADEM”.

The article was full of accusations in a mirror. Mugesera, the ideologue, referred to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) as aggressors who fear neither God nor man, butchers of civilians, people who take drugs and destroy environment. The true motives of the aggressors the spiteful article alleged, was to “restore the dictatorship of the extremists of the Tutsi minority which would subsequently pave the way to a genocide and the extermination of the Hutu majority, (…) and set up an extended Hima-Tutsi kingdom in the Great Lakes Region (…)” It should be recalled that in identification with the Aryan race …use the swastika of Hitler as their symbol,” he asserted.

Later, Burundi and the region of Kivu in former Zaire were the simple targets. No wonder some of them participated in the 1994 genocide. Testimony to that is the following notice at the border crossing from the Southwestern town of Cyangugu to Bukavu.  A form of “accusations in the mirror” propaganda that was used came to the attention of a British journalist. “Attention Zaireans and Bantu people! The Tutsi assassins are out to exterminate us.  For centuries the ungrateful and unmerciful Tutsi have used their powers, daughters and corruption to subject the Bantu.  But we know the Tutsi, that race of vipers, drinkers of untrue blood.   We will never allow them to fulfill their dreams in Kivuland.” [7]

This was another early warning on what would happen in Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo.(DRC) The French government’s “Operation Turquoise” with a mandate from the United Nations, must have anticipated the outcome! The government of France of course was not neutral, even before the Operation Turquoise. It is said that they supported the regime that committed genocide to protect French language in a friendly Francophone country. Sylvie Brunel told the 18th Franco-African meeting, held in Biarritz, France that the country “…continued to support and to arm President Habyarimana in Rwanda’ up until the current explosion (the genocide)… at developing stages, and this is why we say that France is guilty of genocide and of complicity in genocide.” [8]

France’s protection and support to the perpetrators of genocide, allowed them to make it a crime without borders in the Great lakes Region. There followed a forceful and pre-meditated killing and expulsion of perceived Tutsi Zaire citizens from their homes and the killers from Rwanda looted their property. All this was done before the eyes of government officials and the army, which should have protected the victims. Bigotry was embraced and enthused into actions.

As early as 1995, genocidal propaganda was live in Eastern Zaire. An article entitled “Zaire Threatened by Territorial Break-up: The creation of a Tutsi-Hima Empire Looking Ever More Likely”; was published in the Forum des AsN° 511, September 1995. Another publication, Tufikiri, of 2 October 1996, had in a way doctored speech fromKangura‘s “ten commandments”. For those who nevertheless remain skeptical, the paper said, “the posters on ethnic hatred against the Tutsi by other tribes…during demonstration marches organized recently in Southern Kivu provide additional convincing evidence. Posters carrying slogans such as ‘The difference between a dog and a Tutsi? None!’ ‘All Tutsi must go home’, ‘Don’t marry a Tutsi’, ‘Married to a Tutsi? Get divorce!’ ‘Unite to fight the Enemy!’” In the two years, thousands of perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda, who were fugitives from justice, in Zaire, had killed thousands of the country’s citizens falling in the enemy category, as per former army’s definition. Likewise, from their Zairean bases they killed hundreds of 1994 survivors of genocide inside the country.

The Tutsi-Hima Empire, though a fetish, turned into a political capital in the Great-Lakes Region. By means of such a “dangerous digression” the late president of DRC, Laurent Kabila, used the obsession to marshal more support amongst neighbours and allies including the “hutu”, in what Collette Braeckman called “anti-Tutsi diatribe”.[9] But Kabila was not the only one wholly absorbed in this.

In 1996, one aid worker from Oxfam-UK then in Zaire wrote to me asking: “Is it that the International community has become accustomed to the ethnic cleansing? Is the suffering it causes no longer criminal? If not, why is it condoned in Eastern Zaire? Are all these events allowed because the world wants the Great Lakes Region to blow so that it can show the capacity of its humanitarian charity? Has the world accepted the anomaly that lives are only savable after the crisis as in Rwanda in 1994, and not before?” More appalling than these complex questions, was the fact that the killers were being fed and supplied by the very international community supposed to give a riposte.

His preoccupations were indeed pertinent, but the way out was a bridge too far. At one time former UN-Secretary General Boutros Ghali found himself asking what he should do to give answers. In his article, Genocide: When Will We Ever Learn? He admitted, “the way had not yet been found to deal with the evil perpetrated in Rwanda.”[10]

Ghali further said: “Not long ago the world thought it could recognize and stop genocide if it happened.”Never again” was the watchword. But words were not enough. Genocide has come again…the standard excuse for failing to act against genocide is, “We did not know.” Genocide does not happen spontaneously, it is planned…and in most cases there are abundant danger signs long before the killing begins.”

He noted, this crime was “a test before us”. And, that phrases like “world order,” “international cooperation,” and “global community” can have no meaning until we meet the test.  “How can genocide be stopped at an early point?” He asked, and then added, “we cannot be content to see international intervention only when the worst is over. What will happen after the intervention?”

From a perceptual perspective, Raphael Lemkin, the first person to coin the word genocide put the world on alert. “The practices of genocide anywhere affect the initial interests of all civilized people.  Its consequences can neither be isolated nor localized.  Tolerating genocide is an admission of the principle that one national group has the right to attack another because of its supposed social superiority.”

But this has been the problem of the international community undergoing an unprecedented moral crisis. Referring to the genocide in Rwanda Mr.Kofi Annan articulates: “Nobody should feel he has a clear conscience in this business. If the pictures of tens of thousands of human bodies rotting and gnawed on by the dogs do not wake us up out of apathy, I don’t know what will.”[11] The UN-Secretary General also admits that “the fundamental failure in Rwanda was not the lack of information but the lack of political will.”[12]

According to Susan Rice, the United States’ former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs; there was such a huge disconnect between the logic of each of the decisions they took along the way during the genocide and the moral consequences of the decisions taken collectively. Expressing contrition Ms. Rice says: “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”[13]

In 1997, those who were responsible for the genocide in Rwanda were once again on air. Michael Griffin saw the shadow of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), the station that played a crucial role in inciting the Tutsi genocide “refuse to go away.” He says that, “the latest in the line of Great Lakes hate media is Radio Voix du Patriote(once known as Radio Kahuzi Biega), which has been operating intermittently in the Bukavu region of South Kivu. The radio is said to have the backing of ex-Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR), ex- Forces Armées Zairoises (FAZ) and the Hutu Interahamwe militia in the 1994 killings. …It tells the Bantu brothers (…) to ‘rise as one to combat the Tutsi described as ‘Ethiopians and Egyptians’ who do not belong in the region.”[14]

A British journalist took note of the hate message at the border between Cyangugu and Bukavu. The international community did not care about the upshots of such kind of communication. The message was bought and later owned by some people in the DRC who again used it continuously. In August 1998 for example, a broadcast on Radio Bunia, in Eastern DRC, became a command post of another genocide. It urged the people to “jump on the people with long noses, who are tall and slim” who allegedly want “to dominate” them. On what the “people” should do, the broadcast said: “People must bring a machete, a spear, an arrow, a hoe, spades, rakes, nails, truncheons, electric irons, barbed wire, stones, and the like, in order, to kill the Rwandan Tutsis”.

The then Foreign Minister in the DRC, Yerodia Ndombasi, drummed up the Congolese over the National Radio to commit yet another genocide: “Smash the vermin, the scraps, the microbes that have to be eradicated with method, with resolution… The Tutsi are under risk of living the same sad experience as the Jews did. They are perfidious, rancorous and bloodthirsty. Vermin, yes I call them vermin… who spoil and poison the body of our nation, which we must eradicate”. The message was clear, it meant to muster his compatriots, but alas, it fell on deaf ears of the indifferent international community.

The Zimbabwe state-owned print media played the same obnoxious tune. African Rights, in their new book The Cycle of Conflict: Which Way out in the Kivus? considers some Zimbabwean newspaper articles as “reminiscent to Kangura, which advocated and encouraged the 1994 genocide, …urging Bantu people to stand together and counter a Hamitic conspiracy to force them into subservience.”  The human Rights organization further quotes The Herald, December 13, 1998 as saying: “Tutsi imperialist tendencies were well-documented…”[15] But, which documentation does the author refer to?  If it is Kangura or similar media and literature by racist ideologues, the answer is yes! But then, though objectivity is not easy to enforce, are such sources objective and thus reliable?

Like a contagious disease, racism seems to have made its way even into the body of Tanzania, a country believed to have fought and defeated racial prejudices. Mr. John Chirigati, the country’s Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, told the parliament that it was advisable to avoid getting married to Hutu and Tutsi women because ‘there are still many Tanzanians who are beautiful.’ He said this was ‘important in maintaining peace and national tranquillity for many years to come’ because marrying the two “tribes” could introduce hatred elements ‘inherited from their grandparents and lack of proper upbringing’.[16] The Tanzanian Minister, consciously or unconsciously turned out to be another disciple of the pseudo-religion of racism.

Mr. Chirigati’s speech has a lot of similarities with Kangura’s first, and second “Hutu Commandments”, and also withAdolf Hitler‘s viewpoint. In his infamous book the Mein Kempf, Hitler said that in order to maintain Aryan racial purity and superiority, it was important to avoid becoming a victim to “defilement of the blood.” The racial (read Jewish) crossing, according to him, would lead to the “lowering of the level of the higher race; physical and intellectual regression and hence the beginning of a slowly but surely progressing sickness, …a sin against the will of the eternal creator.”[17]

Denial and Revisionism

In his book ‘We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families’, Phillip Gourevitch quotes a wacky American military intelligence officer he met in the Rwandan Capital Kigali, who equates genocide to “a cheese sandwich” and the Genocide Convention to something, which “makes a nice wrapping for a cheese sandwich.”[18]

The military officer is a non-Rwandan denier, who does not admit there was any crime against humanity committed in Rwanda. Sadly, there are many more, including Rwandans.

The hate dogma which was spread by the post-independence governments and intellectuals through the media, ‘definitions of the enemy’ and inciting speeches not only claimed more than a million human lives but also changed the national identity. According to a London based organization, African Rights, which has done a tremendous work on Rwanda, the aim of the Hutu extremists went beyond the physical extermination of every Rwandan Tutsi. “The aim was to transform the collective identity of the Hutu, by eradicating the moderate Hutu leaders, and all Hutus who tried to protect their Tutsi friends, neighbours and family members… more radical was the creation of a nation of people complicit in the genocidal killing; and wanted everyone to be tainted with the blood of those who died.’[19]The tenth ‘Hutu commandment’ was very much observed.

Major Pierre Habimana alias Colonel Bemera, is one of the recently captured senior commanders of the Armée de Liberation du Rwanda /Liberation Army of Rwanda (ALIR), an offshoot of the ex-FAR and the interahamwe militia, currently based in the DRC. ALIR enjoys full support of the government as one of the allies. Habimana claims their mission is to bring Hutus back to power, and believes God is on their side (sic!). But, he categorically denies there was genocide in 1994. To him, it was just massacres. ‘Tutsis were killed because of their possessions and because they were at war with the government’; and he argues that his role at the time was that of ‘a technician defending the government of the day’.[20]

Diverse theories and even confusions exist today, to explain and validate the Rwanda tragedy. The plane clash that killed President Habyarimana and the hypothesis of power struggle as the root cause of the cataclysm are two examples of such theories. Major Habimana represents disciples of Father Wolfgang Schonecke and his likes, as far as power struggle premise is concerned. To Schonecke, at the heart of Rwanda’s tragedy is “a relentless struggle to maintain or regain power, (…) so absolute as to justify any evil.” He says, “military successes of the RPF left the ruling party (MRND) with two options: a political solution of power-sharing, or an all-out war against the Tutsi including those within the country considered to indiscriminately as ‘fifth column’ of the RPF”.

Fr. Schonecke actually makes a clean breast: “from the beginning the Catholic Church had ‘cozy relations’ with both the colonial administration and the royal house. … The hierarchy of the Church remained too closely linked with the ruling regime to be a credible voice of protest. Their main declarations during the genocide were insignificant and inadequate. Church reaction was too late and too little.”[21] Fr. Schonecke did not care to explain why the first option of power sharing was rejected by the MRND. For him, the genocide is just ‘all-out war’.

War is a necessary evil, but something so formal that nobody can rule out its periodical outburst. The world has International Laws to govern armed conflicts, but it also has International Conventions on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide. After all, as Victor Condé says, “war can exist without any violent hostilities taking place. War is a legal status, not the fact of armed violence.”[22] The RPF defeated the genocidaire after declaring a legitimate war against them.

Father Yves Congar, in The Catholic Church and the Race Question, quotes Pope Pius XI saying that, “by transposing the great premises of Christianity into terms of race, racism was profoundly perverting them and becoming itself a pseudo-religion.” Racism, to Fr. Congar, is “incompatible with the tenets of the Christian faith as regards the unity and the dignity of human nature, and also with Christian spirituality…it has disastrous results which attack Christianity at its roots.”[23]

Fr. Congar’s quote of the Pope, and his own point of view reflect the true nature of Christianity and the designated role of the Church. On the contrary, Fr. Schonecke, his followers, and millions of statistic Christians advocate racism and even fascism.  It looks as if in Rwanda, many believers have never taken note of this. And today, not only do they keep on suffering the consequences but also denial of that reality persists.

Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, of the ex-FAR, is currently detained in Tanzania. He is accused of killing Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Agatha Uwilingiyimana together with her husband and some ten Belgian soldiers during the genocide. In his case, he is bitterly against extradition to Rwanda where he allegedly committed the crimes. Ntuyahaga’s defence witness, Father Juvenal Bamboneyeho, a Burundian Catholic priest, told a Resident court in Dar-es-Salaam, that if the suspect wants ‘to commit suicide’, he’d better do it in the country of detention, rather than be sent back to Rwanda where he will be “killed and cut into pieces.” Another defence witness Mr.Christian de Beule, a Belgian, said there was no guarantee that the suspect would be defended, and affirmed that there is “a Rwandan network of people forced to give false testimony.”[24]

The allegations of both witnesses in Ntuyahaga’s case are not only typical “accusations in a mirror” they are also hate speech and a reflection of revisionism. In April 1994, the ten Belgian peacekeepers were literally ‘killed and cut into pieces’ by some individuals close to Ntuyahaga. Seven years later the witness ‘chief priest’ insinuates that such horrendous crimes are attributable to the current government in Kigali. What an offensive communion!

By asserting that there is in Rwanda a network of people forced to give false testimony, Mr. De Beule negates the existence of survivors of genocide and its bona fide witnesses. For someone who has attended court sessions in the ICTR, in Arusha, the idea of a set-up of fallacious witnesses is no-news. It is a very common usage in the language used by people accused of genocide, their defence counsels and witnesses.

As Dr. Israel Charny of the Webster University’s Centre for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights says: “Denials of genocide make no sense unless one sees in them renewed opportunities for the same passion, meanings, and pleasures that were at work in the genocide itself, now revived in symbolic processes of murdering the dignity of the survivors, rationality, truth, and even history itself.

Historic Pointers

After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, on September 11, 2001, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that terrorism was the enemy of the entire civilized world. He should have added that racism and racial discrimination were the enemies of the entire world.  Both are the only cause of the crime of genocide.

In 1948 the ‘civilized world’ signed the International Declaration of Human Rights, and the Genocide Convention. Paradoxically, the same year saw the apartheid regime installed in South Africa. This malevolent system, which oppressed and killed many, could not have survived for forty-six years if there was an International coalition to fight it to preserve the spirit and aims of the UN.  To the contrary, successive apartheid regimes were supported by the very ‘civilized world’.

The preamble of the Genocide Convention considers the crime to be ‘contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world,’ because, at ‘all periods of history, genocide has inflicted   great losses on humanity.’ If genocide had been declared enemy of the world fifty-five years ago, and not just condemned by the ‘civilized world’- whatever the term ‘civilized world’ means- millions of human lives and dignity would have been saved and respected.

Schabas observes that, although the Genocide Convention was the first modern human rights treaty, some must have believed in 1948, that the unthinkable crime of genocide would never occur. “Perhaps the gaps in the convention are the oversights of optimistic negotiators, mistaken in the belief that they were erecting a monument to the past rather than a weapon to police the future.  Their naiveté may be forgiven.  A failure to learn the lesson of the fifty years since its adoption cannot.”[25]

There is a structural problem in international mechanisms, and even perceptions. “By and large the UN and most countries had built up over the years a perception that everything happening was merely evidence of on going and at times messy civil war.  More insidious and undeniably racist was the perception that such human rights violations were certainly horrendous but acceptable in the African context.”[26]

In the Draft Declaration and the Draft Programme of Action of the just-ended Third World Conference Against Racism-Durban-South Africa, 31 August-7 September, 2001, not the slightest reference was made to the crime of genocide in Rwanda. In contrast, similar but non-African and long dated cases were cited. Yet, logic would have it that, adding the most recent case to the old ones could have helped better the human memory. Was the omission accidental? The reader may draw a conclusion!

The former president of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela, reminded the participants at the said Conference that racism kills more than any contagion, and that it dehumanizes anyone it touches. He also said in his video recorded speech that the tragedy is that the cure is within our reach, yet we have not seized it. And, to conquer racism, “we must administer a treatment that is comprehensive and holistic.” Certainly, Rwandans especially the survivors of genocide understood and do agree with the statesman; perpetrators and deniers of genocide naturally do not.

Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that, ‘any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence must be prohibited by law.’ But even today, the “International media” finds amusement in promoting the stereotypes that fuelled genocide in Rwanda. Without considering what the outcome will be, there is no reason whatsoever to continually refer to “Tutsi-led” or “Tutsi dominated” government.

Besides the fact that it is wrong, it is also a racist approach, and indeed a preparation for future genocide. This trend should be reversed to help Rwandans and the region, which surely is catching fire. Do we ever hear about white dominated United States’ government or blonde-hair led Germany or Protestant dominated Australia or Egyptian Muslim dominated government?  Do we ever refer to Christian dominated United Kingdom? Ikaweba Bunting observes that, while we hear reports commence with “the extremist Hutu militia…” rightly asks: Why don’t we hear instead each report repeatedly begin with the lead-in ‘the French trained militia who carried out acts of genocide…’? [27]

In Rwanda a kind of in-depth “genetic or arithmetic democracy” has outgrown the virus of ethno-centrism. Some Rwandan people with the support of racists in the “International Community,” have swallowed the unspoken, and so-called “democratic rule” that identifies the political deliberation and participation with blind opposition and discrimination between ethnic groups.

Such “genetic-arithmetic-democracy” is as deadly as any fatal epidemic or pandemic. The “majority” groups, because of the Nazi theories will hold the “minority” groups into absolute subjugation that could lead the very groups to total war, if the status quo happens to be challenged. Unfortunately the very ideology is spreading in the region unconstrained.

What happened in Rwanda and later in Zaire should not be allowed to happen elsewhere. “The world’s nations must not say that the challenge is too remote, or too dangerous, or that it fails to meet the criteria for action. It may seem better not to know. It may seem safer not to act. It may seem easier to look away. But these are the acts of complicity. Common humanity places a duty upon us all, a duty we must fulfill.”[28]

Conclusion

The summing of preferences, regardless of the moral quality of those predilections, is not a necessary or sufficient justification for the use of force. Moreover, when some reasons and acts have culminated into a genocide, they automatically “cease” being moral or enjoying any moral or political support. The best we can do to nurse Rwanda back to health and resuscitate the region is to come out of apathy and tell the truth, expose the evildoers and hold them accountable. Is it not a shameful betrayal for a democratic and civilized country like Canada in the 21st century, to provide a hibernating den for genocide ideologues of the Mugesera type?  There is no other way to healing and reconciliation but to face the bitter truth, to condemn unambiguously genocide denial, to punish exemplarily the criminals and their allies and to establish a worthy political culture.


[1] P. Rutayisire, La Christianisation du Rwanda (1900-1945). Edition Universitaires Fribourg, 1987 p. 24

[2] African Newsletter – The Research Centre on Socio-Political Information in Brussels (CRISP) February 5, 1960.

[3] Opening Speech at a Seminar of Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda, September 10, 1996

[4] W. Schabas, The Genocide Convention at Fifty (Special Lecture, International Institute of Human Rights-Strasbourg, July 9, 1999)

[5] Internews, Cyangugu Trial, September 17, 2001

[6] Propaganda and Practice: Human Rights Watch Report-1999

[7] Leslie Crawford, “Hutus see France as their savior”- Financial Times, 27 June 1994)

[8] Howard W. French: Tense Times for France-Africa Tie (New York Times, November 9, 1994)

[9] Le Soir -November 17, 1998.

[10] International Herald Tribune-6th April 1995

[11] Gérard PrunierRwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (London, 1995), p.267

[12] Ann M. SimmonsU.N. Secretary General Defends Decisions On Rwanda, (Washington Times- May 5, 1998)

[13] Samantha PowerBystanders to Genocide: The Atlantic Monthly, September 2001

[14] M. Griffin, Rwanda: Familiar Drums, (Index on Censorship 3, 1998)

[15] The Cycle of Conflict: Which Way out in the Kivus?  African Rights, December 2000, p. 97.

[16] State owned DAILY NEWS, July 25, 2001

[17] Chapter XI of Mein Kampf, Vol.1, 1925

[18] Phillip Gourevitch, Picador 1999 p.170-1

[19] African Rights, Death Despair and Defiance, August 1995, p. 993

[20] Alex Duval SmithRwanda Warns Of Hutus Preparing Second Genocide: The Independent-UK, August 4, 2001

[21] W. SchoneckeWhat does the Rwanda Tragedy Say to AMECEA Churches (ADS 17/1994 N° 424, September 15, 1994)

[22] H.V. Conde, A Handbook of International Human Rights Terminology, University of Nebraska-1999

[23] UNESCO, Paris, 1953

[24] Internews, September 21, 2001

[25] op.cit;

[26] A report prepared for the Canadian government on The Rwanda Crisis of April 1994: The Lessons to be Learned

[27] The Mass Media in Rwanda: Stereotypes Revisited, Comhlámh-Conference Paper, February 16, 1996

[28] B. Ghali, op.cit;

* (1st published January 2002)

Also on: http://friendsofevil.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/consequences-of-racism-in-rwanda-we-need-to-get-out-of-apathy/

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