By: Tom Ndahiro
In early March 2010, I attended a forum in Arusha, Tanzania, which discussed genocide prevention. My presentation, in the forum, was to raise the profile of the issue of genocide denial so that the global public is sensitive enough to deny cover to those who would try and finish what they started with such devastating effect in 1994.
I’m a steadfast believer that press freedom is an important right for any democracy. With conviction, that, it must be upheld and protected. But, I’m equally converted to the belief that genocide denial is not protected by this right, and, should be denied oxygen.
In his book “Rwanda genocide in the 20th Century”, Alain Destexhe says the word genocide has been abused to “a sort of verbal inflation, in much the same way as it happened with the word fascist”. Destexhe, the former secretary-general of Doctors without Borders, emphasises, “Genocide is a crime on a different scale to all other crimes against humanity…” It is all about the intention to completely annihilate the chosen group of people.
I unreservedly agree with him when he qualifies genocide as the “gravest and greatest of the crimes against humanity.” Genocide is the utmost expression of extreme dislike and cruelty.
There is no doubt, genocide denied anywhere is genocide denied everywhere. This is the essential point if we are indeed to accept that this is a crime against humanity. The same standards must apply. Rwanda is not merely a far-off country without money whose genocide is somehow of secondary importance.
Indeed, genocide denial is a precursor of genocide. Genocide denial magnifies this crime and increases the chances of its repeat. Like genocide, its denial is a crime against humanity since its denial in one country only emboldens the politics of extermination elsewhere.
Free speech does not allow anyone the right to call for the physical destruction of peoples. The limiting of these rights is widespread. A cursory internet search shows that Europe is particularly tough against holocaust denial.
But, the same Europe seems to allow and protect Tutsi genocide deniers. The perpetrators of the1994 genocide against the Tutsis have benefited from that inexcusable policy of doubled standards, to perpetuate and reinforce the world’s indifference about their victims through denial.
These perpetrators and their supporters, continue to operate under the perverse guise of opposition politics. To the extent that, some notorious genocide deniers, in some media and political circles in Europe and America, have attained a status of “genuine opposition”.
Apart from what I suspect to be the cause of European racism toward Africa, careful analysis led me to think of other contributing factors to this apathy.
I have noted, the media and policymakers in Europe and North America are not as aware as they should be that the perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda have always sought ways to use the press, especially international radios, print media, news agencies and the Internet, to propagate their genocide ideology and genocide denial. And, unfortunately, they have succeeded in this quest, both before and after the genocide.
It is very apparent that the international media continues to tolerate repeated denials of the genocide of the Tutsis. It grants space, and legitimacy, to commentators whose pronouncements are meant to cause mischief and cost lives. The VOA and BBC Kinyarwanda/Kirundi service are good examples. The discourse which was used by genocidaires prior to and during 1994 can still be heard issuing from these otherwise respected media.
In fact, it is the very legitimacy and prestige of the BBC and the VOA that make it so important that they, and their peers, should be careful about how they approach Rwandan politics. Their ignorance and their “good intentions”, when it comes to trying to practice “balanced journalism”, could very well lead one day to a new attempt at genocide in Rwanda.
Is there a way forward?
Fight against this scourge can be made undemanding, if any individual or any association which denies that there was the genocide of the Tutsis should have no right to have their views transmitted by the media. It may sound radical, but, it can be the most effective way to curb the spread of this form of hate.
More important, genocide denial, racism and hate speech do not deserve space in a newspaper, web link or to be aired publicly or to be given free air-time on any radio, especially those like the VOA, BBC and RFI, which are listened to by so many people in Rwanda, and neighbouring francophone countries.
Media practitioners, who provide a platform to hate mongers, genocide ideologues and genocide deniers, should always think about the harmful consequences on a national scale in country like Rwanda, but also in other countries which have a potential to explode.
Surely, no media house or practitioner should regard as news sources, people or associations who argue that the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda had neither perpetrators nor victims, and that no one put a stop to it. It provides no lesson, and, simply promotes bigotry.
It is imperative, that journalists and editors’ code of ethics have to specify that the denial of genocide constitutes a reprehensible (criminal) act, and should be condemned. If combating Holocaust denial is so important, and it surely is, then so is combating denial of the Rwandan Tutsi genocide. To achieve that, we need to ensure that the journalists, editors and those involved in genocide monitoring and early-warning are knowledgeable about the different strategies (especially when it comes to language) used by those who spread the ideology of genocide and by those who deny the genocide.
In Europe, and the Americas holocaust deniers often want to appear to be neutral academics, men and women who are merely seeking a disguised truth. The deniers of the Rwandan Tutsi genocide have almost the same methods. European and American journalists who often defend genocidaires and deniers need to be more aware of this, so that these vicious people can be recognized and not allowed access to fora, which lend their agenda an air of legitimacy.
In practical terms, I would suggest the creation of a small think tank in Kigali that is dedicated to studying the genocide and its denial. This institution would create a network of scholars and activists around the world, starting in Africa, Europe and the Americas, that would hold forums, and publish papers to challenge genocide denial and ensure that the global public is more aware of this scourge.
Also, we should also work to make the commemoration of the genocide a more important date throughout the world. In the interest of educating the public and ensuring that Rwanda and Central Africa is never again plunged into the bitter waters of genocide, we simply must raise the profile of 1994.
There is a great need for all States, party to the Genocide Convention (1948), and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), to legislate against genocide denial, like some European countries have done with Holocaust denial. European countries should have similar legislation with regard to Rwandan genocide.
The UN should take the lead
The United Nations should take stronger measures to further mechanisms to condemn genocide denial. Already there is a Resolution (A/RES/61/255) of January 26, 2007 by the UN General Assembly on Holocaust denial. This resolution adopted by consensus “Condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust; and Urges all Member States unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end.” Only Iran rejected the resolution.
Introducing the draft resolution, Ambassador ALEJANDRO DANIEL WOLFF, of the UnitedStates, denial of such a crime: “Was tantamount to approval of genocide in all its forms” and that deniers “revealed their ignorance and moral failure,” and people “masking a more dangerous agenda”. He reminded that “the black hole of forgetting was the negative force that resulted in future genocides.”
DAN GILLERMAN of Israel insisted the “Holocaust served as a warning to all people of the profound dangers of hatred, bigotry, and racism.” A reminder these are terrible ingredients to the genocide to happen.
Ambassador THOMAS MATUSSEK of Germany spoke on behalf of the European Union reiterated it was the duty of every member of the global community to prevent recurrence of genocide through prevention of its causes. But, he said: “the first and foremost prerequisite for taking up that duty was the readiness to face the truth, the resolve neither to evade the truth nor to distort historical facts. Such distortions were a shameful failure of the common responsibility to ensure a world free from such atrocities.”
On his part, VITALY I. CHURKIN of the Russian Federation said, that: “Any attempt to make heroic the henchmen of fascism must be rejected.”
But this is exactly what friends of genocidaires and some international NGOs have been doing. They legitimize genocidaires, as, credible political opposition.
Why not a similar and more holistic resolution with regard to the Rwandan Tutsi genocide?
After my presentation, Dr. Francis Deng the UN SG’ special advisor on genocide prevention approached me, and asked whether there were non-Rwandan genocide deniers.
The impression he gave me, was that only Rwandans, and particularly perpetrators, or their relatives, were in that hateable undertaking.
Do you want to know non- Rwandan Tutsi genocide deniers? I asked him, as I mentioned a few names which quickly came to my mind.
These were Pierre Péan, Keith Harmon Snow, Peter Erlinder, Serge Desouter, David Barouski, Chris Black, Juan Carrero, Colonel Luc Marchal, Jordi Palous, Tiphaine Dickson, Filip Reyntjens, Remigius Kintu, Helmut Strizek, John Philpot, Robert Philpot, Peter Robinson, Cynthia McKinney, Charles Onana, Allan Stam, Susan Thompson, Christian Davenport, Wayne Madsen, Mick Collins, Barrie Collins alias Barry Crawford, Ann Garrison, Luc de Temmerman, Uwe Friesecke, Dr. Stephen Smith, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Fernando Andreu Merelles etc…
I have spent years trying to know who is who in the genocide denial and to know various forms of denial narratives. I have also managed to easily detect their applied discourse of hate, and, channels of their communication. These outlets, mostly, are books and articles or essays, in print or on internet.
Methodical surfing and watchful reading will let one know who are more virulent deniers than others, and also seniority in the vocation.
This methodology, I believe, can assist anybody who is interested in the subject. Its proper use is like good software. I’m sure, following examples and illustrations provided in this article, will make it easy for any researcher or investigator, to get these deniers’ full description. Including gender, professions (on top of genocide denial), occupations, nationalities, publications (past and present), buddies in this heinous ideology, and sources of their quotations.
Just pay attention to their writings, and the people they cite or appreciate as knowledgeable or resourceful. Endnotes and footnotes, in these deniers’ books and essays, provides very good source of valuable information. Majority, if not all of their sources, will either be fellow non-Rwandan deniers, genocidaires or genocidaires’ covert and overt organisations.
Keith Harmon Snow is one of the most deleterious hater of the Tutsi and a vituperative denier of the genocide against them. In April 2010, his article titled: ‘The Rwanda Hit List: Revisionism, Denial and the Genocide Conspiracy’  was published in three parts in a Nairobi based magazine “The African Executive”. I picked Part II of his article, which tells the reader who he is and his sources.
He says the Rwandans (read Hutu) are dehumanized because they “are accused of ‘genocide’ or ‘complicity in genocide’ through fabricated evidence, coerced testimonies, bribery, and petty jealousies.”
He says the labels ‘genocidaire’ and ‘Interahamwe’ are freely applied by the RPA/F regime to demonize anyone they see fit, no matter the veracity or falseness of the claims against those they accuse.”
Snow also claims: “The terms ‘genocidaire’ and ‘Interahamwe’ are meaningless due to the constituency and fluidity of these terms. And that the RPA/F “had infiltrated and controlled the Interahamwe, and this renders the terminology, and its ideological force, meaningless.” That is Snow.
Part of the paragraph below has names the author admires:
“The criminal parallel structure behind the Rwandan government has been identified by numerous experts and investigations, …the high court indictments of Spain (Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles) and France (Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere); the exhaustive analyses by eminent Rwandan experts, including Dr. Filip Reyntjens; the work of investigative journalists like Charles Onana, Wayne Madsen and myself (Keith Harmon snow); the Michael Hourigan report assessing blame for the presidential assassinations of April 6, 1994; the Robert Gersony report documenting RPF/A atrocities against tens of thousands of Rwandans in Rwanda in 1994; the Helmut Strizek report to the ICTR titled Discredit the Hutu Population Forever; ICTR defence attorneys Chris Black, Peter Erlinder, John Philpot, Phil Taylor and others; the McKinney hearings; and research by academics; and by many credible sources, human rights documents, testimonies and other examples in the public record.”
A journalist or researcher, who, with determination wishes to track producers of gut-wrenching propaganda like Snow’s, is required to just trail each name mentioned in the above paragraph. The result will be more and more names of vituperative well-wishers of genocidaires. And, this should be done, on a regular basis, to expose these agents of hatred and mass murders.
Media vigilance is important to keep down the destructive ideologies and their symbols. Thursday morning, February 17, 2005, I was in London when I read in The Guardian a story from the royal family. The title was “Princess Michael defends breeding, Botox – and Harry”. It was Princess Michael of Kent defending Prince Harry over his Nazi fancy suit he wore in a party.
It was reported that she had told a German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, that she didn’t feel there was anything wrong with it. “If Harry had worn a hammer and sickle, nobody would have got excited. …The press has a different sensibility because of its ownership structure.”
Some observers, as was reported, accused her of being anti-Semitist, which prompted the princess’s spokesman to say she was not, and neither was she a racist. In any case, her statement was not anywhere nearer to logical thinking. It was a wrong and offensive comparison. Implicitly, the Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union were the same.
The princess, maybe, out of failure to know the difference between the two administrations, made her commit this error of judgment. It is good the royal family realized it was not fitting to be associated with such assessment.
It is true that our world has had horrible systems of governance, which committed serious human rights abuses. But none of those can in any case be compared to the one that carried out genocide, or had it as its official policy. Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazis were genocidaires. It was Hitler and his henchmen in the Third Reich who created and operated concentration and extermination camps like Auschwitz, while it was Soviet forces that liberated the remaining Holocaust victims from these Nazi camps.
Coincidentally, Nazi suit incidence came about as the world was commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Nobel peace prize-winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was among the people who were outraged by Prince Harry’s Nazi uniform admiration that he said was a reflection of “indifference.”
Insisting on indifference as evil, Wiesel told the United Nations special session he was convinced if the world had listened to some of them who tried to speak, “We may have prevented Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia, and naturally Rwanda.”
The 1994 genocide against the Rwandan Tutsis did not come as a surprise. The media had prepared the ground by sowing hatred. When you study the extreme forms of violence, especially genocide, it is important to know that it is a mental process. Victims are first killed with or by words.
In the United Kingdom the media, from the above example, was on the alert and indeed helped the society not to put up with anything closer to the Nazis.
In the genocidal planning process, the media and academia become cogs in the wheel of the extermination machine. What some journalists and academics do is to serve the interests of politicians, by taking up the examples from the country’s culture (beliefs, myths or religious) and mingle them into an ideology to prepare the victims and perpetrators before the physical killing. Those who wish to prevent organized violent crimes like genocide must be aware of this and be ready to tackle such heinous activities done by professionals.
 More of similar names are in Helmut Strizek, ‘CENTRAL AFRICA: 15 YEARS AFTER THE END OF THE COLD WAR. THE INTERNATIONAL INVOLVEMENT’ INTERNATIONALES AFRIKAFORUM, Weltforum-Verlag, Bonn (ISSN 0020-9430) Vol. 40, Issue 3/September 2004, pp. 273-288.