Nahimana’s Government in Exile, a path to oblivion for Rwanda

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By Vincent Gasana*

A Rwandan Catholic priest, a naturalised French citizen, declares, he is a President of a Rwandan Government in exile; so far so bemusing.

In a saner world, that would be the end of that piece of news. Instead, the most remarkable part of Thomas Nahimana’s announcement of his government in exile, is that any of the world’s media has paid him attention at all. That they are doing so, says much about the grossly off hand way much of the media reports Rwanda.

On the face of it, Nahimana’s government in exile is nothing more than a piece of absurd theatre, but, it would be a fatal error to dismiss him as any kind of buffoon. His publications and pronouncements not only denying the genocide of Tutsi, but calling for armed insurrection against Rwanda, so unnerved even the Rwanda Catholic Church, itself with questions to answer about involvement in genocide, that they disowned him. “We expelled him from Cyangugu diocese. He is no longer our priest and operates independently where he lives in self-imposed exile”, says Bishop Philip Rukamba of Butare.

Nahimana is a throwback to the very origins of the ideology on which the genocide he makes a point of denying is founded. His party Ishema, or Ishema ry’u Rwanda (the pride of Rwanda) to give it its full name is nothing more than a reprise of the Parmehutu Party (Party for the Emancipation of Hutu People) first launched in 1959. Both are extremist, purist ethnic parties. Ishema alludes to Hutu being the pride of Rwanda.

Ishema seeks to carry on where Parmehutu left off. In Ikondera, the radio of choice for Rwandan extremists, broadcast over the internet, Nahimana expounds his abhorrent views at mind numbing length.

Father Nahimana informs his audience that it’s regrettable the census in Rwanda is not conducted along ethnic lines. When he is in power he promises, all that will change. He is particularly exercised about the April genocide commemorations, or as he terms it, the “what they call genocide”. With Ishema in power he declares, those too will end.

And he does have a sense of history. It is no accident he chose to inaugurate his party on 28th January 2013. On this day in 1961, the so called Gitarama coup d’etat, by PARMEHUTU, to overthrow the Rwanda monarchy, and establish a “Hutu Republic” was declared.

For Nahimana and his fellow “Hutu Power” ideologues, every word has hidden meaning. Journalists who indulge him as he mouths the words Democracy, the majority, the Republic, can have little idea what he really means.

The hate Radio/Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), proclaimed itself the “voice of those who defend the majority…against the enemies of the Republic.” For the “majority people” read Hutu and “enemies of the Republic” read Tutsi.

With a little more research, a little more balanced reporting on Rwanda, the MailOnline for instance would have realised headlining their piece on Nahimana, ”Exiled opposition politician…” is as though they were to report about a Nazi fugitive who had set up a Nazi government in exile, styling him an “opposition politician”.  And BBC Focus on Africa which might have been expected to be more informed did little better.

They took as fact Nahimana’s claim that he was setting up his government in exile, among other reasons to allow Rwandans to return home. One might expect a programme called Focus on Africa to know that the government of Rwanda not only welcomes but expends great energy and expense in encouraging every Rwandan to return.

One might have expected the programme to ask Nahimana how he expected to contest elections in Rwanda, while remaining a French national. And even if here were to get a Rwandan passport, which he has been reluctant to do, the Rwandan constitution does not allows presidential candidates to hold any other nationality. In short one might have expected more rigorous journalism.

If the media lacked the thoroughness to be informative, Victoire Ingabire’s party, FDU-Inkingi (Union of Democratic Forces-the pillar) was more than a little disingenuous in response to their inclusion in Nahimana’s Rwandan Government on the Seine.  He may have done so without so much as a by your leave from them, but, in his defence, he did so knowing that they share his political DNA.

And Rwandans know only too well the path they both espouse. It leads to oblivion for Rwanda as a nation and as a society.

And what of France, Nahimana’s adopted country? It is one of a number of countries with laws against genocide denial. The story there should be: French police arrest Rwandan priest for genocide denial.

But, since the country has been a haven for Rwandan genocide perpetrators, expecting the arrest of a genocide denier might be perhaps a little too optimistic.

*Vincent Gasana is a freelance broadcast journalist and programme maker

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