Rwanda: On Fighting Genocide Denial, CNLG Lambasted

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GENOCIDE DENIAL is not only on the rise but its shape and form are becoming more sophisticated. That is quite an admission from none other than the nation’s entity mandated to combat genocide.

There’s more bad news on the subject.

Around the same time the vice president of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) was making the revelation to Parliament, this news paper’s editorial warned that “genocide apologists are not done yet” pointing out that they are now operating with the argument that the ICTR courts “failed to prove that the genocide was planned” meaning that what happened was a “spontaneous fit of madness” by the people who were “mourning a ‘popular’ President.”

The editorial also rightly points out that this narrative is contrary to the established truth of an elaborate planning that went into the preparation of the genocide as confessed by the Prime Minister at the time of its commission, Jean Kambanda as well as countless testimonies during the gacaca proceedings.

The warning is this: genocide deniers are relentless. To have a chance, therefore, the government agency tasked with fighting genocide must also be relentless.

In other words, if the shape and form of genocide denial is becoming more sophisticated, the CNLG must also employ methods that match or supersede this sophistication.

Anything less than this and the deniers will eat the Commission’s lunch.

During the Parliamentary hearings Hon. Edouard Bamporiki made a revealing statement. The CNLG, he observed, “should have an upper hand,” referring to the tag of war between genocide deniers and the agency.

I think the Honorable was simply being diplomatic. In fact, he was raising a question why the CNLG was not having an upper hand in fighting genocide denial.

Several responses were in the offing. First, according to the agency’s vice chairperson, it is not as if CNLG was not doing anything.

They have, she pointed out, established “solid mechanisms to fight genocide ideology and denial.” The problem, she continued, was that “the battle was being undermined by negative forces.”

How about that! It is like members of a football team complaining that the opposing team is not allowing them to score goals. Well, if they are ‘negative forces’ then, of course, they are doing what they are supposed to do: undermine.

Moreover, one would wonder how “solid” the response “mechanisms” are if they are unable to do what they are supposed to do: fight genocide denial.

Thus, the challenge set on the table by Hon. Bamporiki’s statement. Or is it a question?

Secondly, genocide denial is on the rise because of “local and foreign perpetrators who do not want to be held accountable,” according to Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the Executive Secretary of the CNLG.  “We have set up a commission to probe and counterattack Genocide deniers,” he explained.

Mucyo is right and wrong. He is right when he says that efforts to deny genocide and revise history are part and parcel of a scheme by its authors to avoid responsibility and accountability.

But he is wrong on the antidote. It is not another ad-hoc commission that is needed to fight genocide. What is needed is what he has: a permanent agency – the CNLG.

All it needs is to have an “upper hand.” So why isn’t it?

Apart from its efforts being undermined by ‘negative forces,’ the vice president of the CNLG also told Parliament that their work was being “hindered by budgetary constraints.”

The first to disagree was Hon. Fortunee Nyiramadirida. The Honorable reasoned, “Insufficient funds should not be reason for not according the required attention to priorities … the available funds should be enough to finance priority policies.”

While also agreeing that the problem is poor prioritisation, Senator Jean-Damascène Bizimana he goes a step further towards the antidote.

The Senator thinks that genocide denial cannot be effectively fought without doing research, elaborating that, “You should support local researchers to come up with concrete Genocide facts so that there is no more denial from forces inspired by international researchers who know almost nothing about the country’s history.”

But the Senator is also being diplomatic. Likely influenced by his background in academia, what he is saying is that the CNLG made a mistake by not making the collection of ‘genocide facts’ or research, to be precise, the basis for its strategy for fighting genocide denial – by not making it a priority.

He, along with his colleagues, are warning that unless priorities are shifted towards placing value to strategic interventions, the CNLG can forget about having the “upper hand” in the fight against genocide denial.

Which takes us full circle to that statement that was in reality a question: Shouldn’t the CNLG have an upper hand?

By Lonzen Rugira

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