In August 2012, I participated in a “Conference on Armenian, Jewish, and Tutsi Genocides Held in Rwanda”. It was a gathering which brought together scholars of genocide from around the globe. Genocide denial was central. Some ideas to remember:
Peter Balakian later stated that “denialism is the final stage of genocide, as it attempts to falsify history and create a counterfeit universe for the survivors and their legacies, and it must be studied and analyzed in order to be exposed for the ethical problems it creates.”
“A French education manual for middle-school distant learners has wrongly identified Tutsis as perpetrating the 1994 Rwandan genocide instead of Hutu militias, sparking outrage among victims’ associations.
An estimated 800,000 people — mainly minority Tutsis — were slaughtered in Rwanda over three months in 1994 by extremists from the Hutu majority in one of history’s worst genocides.
But to the essay question “Is it important to recall to mind some particularly dark episodes of history?”, sent to some 3,000 middle-school students abroad, a manual published by France’s National Centre for Distance Education (CNED) cited as an example “the genocide of the Hutus by the Tutsis in Rwanda.”
“That an official document, used by many French schools abroad, and particularly in Rwanda, changes the truth to this extent is completely outrageous,” said the CPCR, a France-based organisation that campaigns for victims of the genocide.
“Of course, the authors will say it is a ‘mistake’, but still!”
A spokeswoman for the CNED, which depends on France’s education ministry, apologised for the mistake, telling AFP the centre had wanted students “to think about history.”
It will dispatch a new version of the text to students, along with a letter to the parents.
Alain Gauthier, a member of the CPCR, said a teacher at a French school in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, discovered the mistake last week.
“A lot of people were affected, especially victims of the genocide,” he said.”
In the conference I mentioned above, one of the participants and a known scholar, Deborah Lipstadt, emphasized that “Denial of genocide, whether that of the Turks against the Armenians, or the Nazis against the Jews, or the Hutu against the Tutsi, is not an act of historical reinterpretation. Rather, the deniers sow confusion by appearing to be engaged in a genuine scholarly effort. The abundance of documents and testimonies that confirm the genocide are dismissed as contrived, coerced, or forgeries and falsehoods. … Denial of genocide strives to reshape history in order to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators.”