Rwanda : Commemorating the Genocide or admitting failure ?

On 7 April 2023, as in the  previous years, Rwanda and the entire international community, once again, commemorated the genocide committed against the Tutsis in 1994. From April to July 1994 (100 days), the Tutsis were the victims of a horrific massacre that was quickly recognised as a genocide by the international community ,  unveiling  the darkest aspects of the genocide committed against the Hutus . This genocide also would deserve to be recognised by that same International Community.

 

Our purpose through this analysis is not to address the« whys » and « hows » of these two genocides in a country which, at the time of the events, was considered a haven of peace and national unity. More relevant authors have examined various motives behind the problem[1] . Given the current socio-political situation in Rwanda and in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, our concern is to understand the meaning of the commemoration of these two genocides.

 

In any case,  simple, poorly educated individuals (rubanda rugufi) did not plan  from beginning to end,  the strategies and implementation of these two genocides. Because, in Rwandans’ everyday life , Hutus and Tutsis live together in the same villages and towns and share the same culture. All this tragedy fell on their heads and  turned them into victims or executioners ! The responsibility for the wars and genocides it  caused rests squarely with their leaders.

 

By « LEADERS », we mean the leaders, those in charge, the ringleaders…, Tutsi and/or Hutu. These leaders bear the greatest responsibility for the Rwandan tragedy. In our humble opinion, it was a failure for the leaders who plunged the entire Rwandan people into genocide instead of leading them along the path of peace and prosperity that all peoples deserve.

 

What is genocide ? It is the most heinous crime that a human people or community can suffer. Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 (art. 2), and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998 (art. 6), define genocide as « any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group« .

 

In our search for the meaning of the commemoration of the Rwandan genocides, we will look successively at the genocide against the Tutsis, the genocide against the Hutus and finally at the responsibility of the International Community in this tragedy.

 

1. THE GENOCIDE COMMITTED AGAINST TUTSIS

 

In the case of Rwanda, the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis was foreseen before 7 April 1994, since the Tutsi leaders of the RPF-Inkotanyi (Rwandan Patriotic Front – Inkotanyi) and their sponsors had already published the figures before the cataclysm that befell the country from that date. In other words, the planners of the war against the Rwandan Republic that broke out in October 1990 already knew what would happen, even if their official programme and objectives were apparently noble[2] . Instead, it was a hidden agenda that was deployed throughout the country from that cursed date onwards.

 

As events unfolded, it became clear that the RPF’s aim was to seize power in Rwanda at all costs and without sharing ! According to the RPF’s initial scenario, power had to be handed over to the Tutsis without a drop of their blood being shed. This is why the war was to be short – 3 days – to rescue the Tutsis oppressed by the Hutus[3] . Some Tutsis in the interior of the country were aware of this and supported the plan.

For certain cynical leaders and fervent advisers of the RPF-Inkotanyi, the figure of 50,000 Tutsi victims had been announced and judged as an acceptable sacrifice[4] , the eggs that had to be broken in order to eat the omelette, according to Tito RUTAREMARA !!!!

 

A failure ! During the three years and three months of guerrilla warfare that evolved into conventional warfare (between armies) that preceded the attack on the presidential plane on 06 April 1994, the RPF-Inkotanyi family (political and armed branches) succeeded in arousing the suspicion of the Hutu population towards its ethnic Tutsi neighbours. Remember that in Rwandan society, everybody knows everybody ! On the Hutu side, three major events were to exacerbate « Tutsiphobia », a feeling of fear towards Tutsis[5] :

 

– Propaganda skilfully orchestrated by the RPF and its army (APR), which passed itself off as « liberators » of the oppressed Rwandans (Tutsis).

 

– Recruitment and mass departure of young Tutsis for the front. Recruiters scoured towns and villages, schools, convents and presbyteries to mobilise young Tutsis from Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC). Those from Uganda formed the spearhead and provided training and command. Those who could be called « the Hutu allies » were also involved body and soul in the RPF project[6] .

 

– Ethnic cleansing that specifically targeted the Hutus in the areas of northern Rwanda gradually conquered by the RPA, using practices (methods) that would be unimaginable for a human being to use against a human being[7] .

 

The assassination of the President of the Republic was the spark that ignited the fuse. On 6 April 1994, the President’s plane was shot down as it landed at Kigali airport. All the occupants of the presidential plane were exterminated[8] .

 

The perpetrator or perpetrators of this horrible attack thought they had solved the problem ! Instead, the people suddenly found themselves plunged into another form of war in which more or less organised groups under the control of the RPF[9] massacred part of the population, the majority of whom were Tutsi. During this murderous madness, the families of the Tutsis paid a heavy price. This was the failure of the RPF’s maquiavellian strategies, which consisted in massacring its own people and making the Hutus born or to be born bear the responsibility[10] !

 

On the Tutsi side, victims of this murderous madness included not only the RPF fighters who died on the battlefield, but also thousands of members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army who were « liquidated » by the same army because they were not pure (in blood or because they had fraternised too much with the Hutus) or because they were too « intellectual ». Any Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) fighter who tried to understand the meaning of this suicidal war or the reasons for the massacres of unarmed civilians was designated as an « intellectual ».

 

Even with the recognition and commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsis and the numerous compensation packages offered to survivors, nothing will be able to wipe away the tears streaming from their eyes.

As for Tutsi leaders, even if they happily eat « the omelette of broken eggs » (power, wealth, honours…), even if they had succeeded in having the genocide committed against the Tutsis recognised and in having memorial sites built with the human remains of « their fellow genocidae » as ornaments they would forever remain haunted by the souls of those hundreds of thousands of human beings, Rwandan citizens, whom they themselves led to the altar of genocide.

 

Despite appearances, the conscience of Tutsi leaders carries the heavy burden of  sacrificing their fellow human beings on the altar of power and material wealth. It is the blood of their fellow human beings, mixed with the blood of the Hutus they  massacred, that they drink from golden cups !

 

We are also thinking, with deep empathy, of all the Tutsis and their Hutu allies who, multi-survivors as they still are,had to flee the country they  once helped to conquer. Today, along with the Hutu survivors, they are painfully climbing the ordeal of exile – some of them for the umpteenth time !

 

Tutsi leaders, even with the heavy stripes on their shoulders and the titles of glory they proudly display, will forever be haunted by those millions of innocent civilians, those millions of human beings massacred because they were Hutu or because they were close to the Hutus.

 

All Rwandans are impatiently awaiting the day when JUSTICE will be rendered ! If « earth » fails to deliver, « heaven » will !

 

Clearly, for the Tutsi survivors, the commemoration of the genocide committed against their own people is ultimately a confession of their leaders’ failure to protect them, even though they had placed all their trust in them. For their leaders, it is an admission of failure to protect and ensure the right to life of all Tutsis and of  Rwandans  as a whole.

 

2. COMMEMORATING THE GENOCIDE COMMITTED AGAINST HUTUS ?

 

The genocide committed against Hutus was cynically concealed and is still awaiting recognition by the International Community, certainly in complicity with those who planned and supervised it.

In 2022 (28 years later !), an initiative was taken by Rwandan exiles to invite all Rwandans and all women and men of goodwill throughout the world to commemorate the genocide committed against the Hutus from 1st October 1990 to the present day[11] .

 

If the genocide committed against Hutus was also officially recognised by International bodies, its commemoration would be a genuine rehabilitation of the Hutus of Rwanda and the peoples of Africa’s Great Lakes Region as a whole, whose most basic rights, including the fundamental right to LIFE, have been systematically and tragically denied and trampled underfoot to this day[12] . It would be a dream come true to reclaim human rights and democracy in a world where, paradoxically, these values seem to be reserved for some and radically denied to others.

 

How many people died during this genocide against Hutus, which continues in many ways ? So far, no one can give an exact figure for this macabre count. What everyone does know is that the genocide against Hutus took place throughout Rwanda and the DRC[13] .

 

From October 1990 onwards, Hutu leaders watched helplessly and disillusioned as a coalition led by the ruthless RPF army systematically massacred the Rwandan people in general and more particularly their fellow Rwandans . The survivors of the extermination in Rwanda wandered into the forests of the DRC to be hunted down and slaughtered like game under the watchful eye  of the famous International Community[14] . Estimates put the number of civilians massacred at millions.

 

The guilty and deafening silence on this genocide perpetrated against Hutus, in addition to the genocide and war crimes committed against the other peoples of the DRC, remains humanly inexplicable[15] .

In Rwanda’s recent and tragic history, the Hutu leaders who led the 1959 revolution were proud to have enabled the Rwandan people, Hutu – Tutsi – Twa together, to hold their destiny into their own hands. Indeed, by proclaiming the Republic (28/01/1961), the people gained their independence from the monarchical power that had been in the hands of the Tutsis alone for centuries. This was followed by the proclamation of independence (01/07/1962) from the Kingdom of Belgium, which had inherited Rwanda as  a war booty at the end of the First World War (1914-1918).

 

The « calm » of around 30 years that followed allowed the Hutu leaders to rest on an apparent « brotherhood » between the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda[16] . The Tutsi leaders, for their part, had the time they needed to plan and  implement the apocalypse that covered the Rwandan nation without sparing the entire Great Lakes region of Africa.

During this long and endless crossing of the ocean of horror that the Hutus, abandoned by the whole of humanity, experienced, their leaders, stripped of everything down to the most basic human rights, were picked up in total humiliation. Later, they were thrown into the machines that crushed the Hutu elite in Rwanda’s prisons and the infamous « International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda » (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania.

 

But Hutu leaders had been warned when, on 1st May 1994, President Bill Clinton, President of the United States of America, through the mouth of Mrs Prudence Bushnell, then Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs at the State Department, sent this message to General Augustin Bizimungu, Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army : « And now, General, you should know that you are not fighting against the RPF, but against the United States of America »[17] .

 

Commemorating the genocide committed against Hutus (more than 2 million dead) is legitimate, as it is rightful to commemorate the genocide committed against Tutsis (around 500,000 dead[18] ).  Despite the deeply corrupted international context, this commemoration would also be an opportunity to become aware of the failure of Hutu leaders who were unable to protect the people they had sworn to lead along the paths of social peace leading to happiness and prosperity for all.

 

– Hutu leaders failed in the primary mission entrusted to them by the Rwandan people : to protect the integrity of the country’s territory and ensure the security of all Rwandans (Hutu, Tutsi and Twa). All the resources of a sovereign state (political and administrative institutions, the army, diplomacy, finance, intelligence, etc.) were at their disposal.

 

– They failed to anticipate the threat and dissuade the Tutsi leaders from embarking on this path of self-destruction of the Rwandan people.

– Hutu leaders have not succeeded in reconciling the Rwandan people in order to  reduce to silence the ethnic and regional antagonisms that still plague Rwandan society…

 

Once recognised by all, the commemoration of the genocide committed against Hutus will also allow the survivors to mourn their dead fearlessly. Even if nothing can erase the tears that flow from the eyes of Hutus for their deceased massacred in a nameless atrocity, at least this step, once taken, would facilitate progress towards true reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsis, not to mention the pacification of the entire Great Lakes Region of Africa.

 

3. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IN THIS TRAGEDY ?

 

By the International Community, we mean directly the Great Powers, more particularly the countries that were directly involved in the Rwandan tragedy : the United States of America, Great Britain, France and Canada, not forgetting the responsibility of the Kingdom of Belgium, the former colonising country. We are also referring to the UN and its specialised agencies, specifically the General Secretariat, the Security Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), not forgetting the OAU (Organisation of African Unity). The international community’s forces were stationed in Rwanda from 1990 to 1996, mainly to protect the civilian population and facilitate negotiations between the warring parties.

 

The failure of the international community is obvious in several respects. For example :

– From the start of the war in 1990 until 1994, international forces were present in Rwanda under various guises. Targeted assassinations and massacres took place before their very eyes, with their mouths sewn shut !

– Massacres at Kibeho in April 1995 were perpetrated in the presence of UNE force : more than 8,000 lives were slaughtered with weapons of war in the presence of UNE force that were supposed to be protecting them !!!

– Attack on and destruction of refugee camps throughout eastern Zaire at the time was organised and carried out under the complacent gaze of the UNHCR and other complicit bodies : the death toll ran into the hundreds of thousands.

 

– UNHCR’s inaction, not to say complicity, in the ordeal of Rwandan refugees pursued and massacred by the RPF through the forests of Congo : the macabre count is impossible to make.

-The  International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established by UN Security Council Resolution 995 (1994) of 8 November 1994 to « …try persons responsible for acts of genocide or other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for such acts or violations committed in the territory of neighbouring States, between 1 January and 31 December 1994« .

 

The ICTR radically failed to fulfil the mandate entrusted to it by the UN insofar as it has shown itself to be overwhelmingly biased in favour of the victors (the RPF Tutsis) and has validated the pillorying of all Hutus, both born and unborn.

 

Indeed, everything suggests that, for the Great Powers, genocide is good for Rwandans ! The means they put at the disposal of Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda to massacre each other are well controlled : at their whim, they deliver arms in profusion to some and impose  total embargo on others.

 

A failure ! Instead of spreading peace and democracy among all peoples, the Great Powers are handing out weapons of war in profusion to their accomplices and protégés of today, so that they can happily plunder the wealth of the peoples they take pleasure in slaughtering and keep the survivors in debasing poverty.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The conscience of Tutsi leaders and Hutu leaders, as well as the conscience of the International Community – if there is such a thing – even if clouded by hatred and/or the thirst for power and wealth, constantly point out to them the heavy responsibility of having massacred or caused to be massacred millions of human beings, innocent and unarmed civilians. Their conscience is certainly tormented and will remain tormented by the bloodshed, by the cries of distress and atrocious agony of children, old people, women and unarmed men who had a right to life. Even  human justice that will one day be delivered will never be able to repair the irreparable.

 

Our conscience, in due course, revives for each human being the images and actions taken and/or experienced in the past of his or her life. This sanctuary where every human being is alone with God, their Creator, is incorruptible. Socrates said in more concrete terms : « You can hide a reprehensible action from others, but never from yourself ». No one escapes this court !

 

You, Tutsi leaders, have won recognition of the genocide committed against Tutsis, and enjoy its legal, political and socio-economical repercussions ;

You, Hutu leaders, who are fighting desperately for recognition of the genocide committed against Hutus and are calling for them at least to be recognised as human beings with all the rights that go with that ;

Rwandan people, you who mourn your loved ones, victims of the murderous madness that has become a recurring theme,

You are all, together as a people, invited to take a leap of faith and find in the commemoration of genocide against Tutsis and in commemoration of genocide against Hutus, the salutary forces to sit down together and say first of all, in all humility, we have failed ! « To fail, according to Descartes or Kant, is quite simply to fail at being human« .[19] And we Rwandans have unfortunately succeeded!

 

So we can ask ourselves this fundamental question: how can we get out of this abyss together and make a fresh start in PEACE?

 

The etymology of the term commemorate (where the Greek prefix « cum » means « together ») emphasises the fundamental dimension of celebrating, of remembering together happy or unhappy events that an individual or a group of individuals have experienced.

 

In case of the Rwandan people, commemorating the genocide or genocides is not an honour, let alone a source of pride ; but this gesture, this event, should have meant remembering together horror of genocide against Tutsis and horror of genocide against Hutus. It would mean remembering together millions of human beings who were massacred because they belonged or were supposed to belong to Tutsi ethnic group or Hutu ethnic group – not forgetting Twa who were massacred with total indifference.

 

To commemorate genocide committed against Tutsis and to commemorate genocide committed against Hutus is to note with astonishment the wide and horribly deep gulf that currently separates the two ethnic groups. – Those who deny the existence of an ethnic problem in Rwanda at a time when one of the two ethnic groups does not even have the fundamental right to bury and honour its dead!

 

Women and men of goodwill, let’s unite!

Let us be aware that this chasm that separates Tutsis and Hutus will never be filled with the blood of our own people, nor will it ever be satisfied with our tears that constantly flood it. Instead, let us build bridges to enable united Rwandan people to cross this chasm from now on. With these bridges, Hutu, Tutsi and Twa will hold hands not only to mourn their genocidated loved ones, but also to build a new Rwanda together. A Rwanda in which no one will ever again be killed because they were born a Tutsi, or because they were born a Hutu, or because they were supposed to be one of the two. To build a new Rwanda where never again will anyone be deprived of the most basic human rights because of their ethnicity.

 

Let us dream together of the days ahead when the leaders of Tutsis and the leaders of Hutus, hand in hand, will finally be able to mobilise the entire Rwandan people to say together « NEVER AGAIN ».

 

TOGETHER, let’s take the road to PEACE!

 

Emmanuel HABUMUREMYI,

July 1st 2023

 

 

Traduction de :

RWANDA : LA COMMEMORATION DU GENOCIDE OU L’AVEU D’UN ECHEC ?
 

Du même auteur :


[1] I’m referring here to authors such as Jean-Marie-Vianney NDAGIJIMANA; Aloys NTIWIRAGABO; Charles ONANA; Pierre PEAN; Robin PHILPOT; Judi REVER; Michela WRONG, and others. In contrast to the official version of the Rwandan tragedy, they reveal the other side.

[2] To justify the October 1990 war against Rwanda, the RPF-Inkotanyi set out 8 objectives, a flagrant illustration of failure:

1) Restoring national unity ;

2) Building a true democracy;

3) The establishment of an economic system based on national resources;

4) The fight against corruption, mismanagement of public affairs and misappropriation of public funds;

5) Safeguarding the safety of people and their property;

6) Definitive resolution of the causes of the refugee problem ;

7) The social well-being of the masses

8) Reorienting Rwanda’s foreign policy.

(Cfr. Jean Mitari, in www.jambonews.net, 2 October 2015).

[3] See in particular Antoine MUGESERA, Imibereho y’Abatutsi kuri Repubulika ya mbere n’iya kabiri (1959-1990), Les éditions rwandaises, Kigali, March 2004, 445 p.

[4] As regards the number of victims of the genocide against the Tutsis, the figures differ according to the source: before the resumption of hostilities in April 1994, the CIA spoke of 500,000 dead « as a result of the war that was about to resume »; while General Kagame gave the figure of 50,000 dead and the UN finally decreed the figure of 800,000 dead, the majority of whom were Tutsis. (See: Aloys NTIWIRAGABO, Rwanda. Le mal de la région des Grands Lacs. De la guerre d’octobre 1990 au génocides des réfugiés 1996-2002, p. 18-20).

[5] Cfr Judi REVER, Rwanda. L’Eloge du sang, Ed. Maxi Mil, 2020, p. 147-165 ;

[6] Cfr. A. NTIWIRAGABO, op. cit. pp. 54-65; 329-331.

[7] See Judi Rever, op. cit. pp. 109-118 and 179-187; see also A. Ntiwiragabo, op. cit. pp. 287-288.

[8] The following were killed in the attack of 6 April 1994: Juvénal HABYARIMA, President of Rwanda and his entourage; Cyprien NTARYAMIRA, President of Burundi and his entourage; 3 French citizens who were members of the crew of the presidential plane: Major Jacky Héraud, Messrs Jean-Pierre Minaberry and Jean Michel Perrine (see in particular A. Ntiwiragabo, op. cit, p. 280.

[9] Cfr Judi REVER, note 7.

[10] Cfr. Judi REVER, op. Cit, pp. 167-178 : Le massacre des Tutsi de Bisesero par l’armée du PFR ; Cfr aussi : Edouard KAREMERA, Le drame rwandais, Editions Sources du Nil, p. 92-141 ; Read with attention : Jean-Marie-Vianney NDAGIJIMANA, Paul Kagame a sacrifié les Tutsi, Editions la Pagaie, 2018, 158 p.

[11] See : Declaration by the  »Bâtisseurs du Pont inter-Rwandais », Rwanda Bridge Builders (RBB) on the ceremonies in memory of the victims of the genocide committed against the Hutus in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, 9 June 2022.

[12] See the report by Judi Rever, op cit, for the territory of Rwanda and the overview of the situation in the Great Lakes Region of Africa in the UN Mapping Report, August 2010 [https://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africa/2010-drc-mapping-report].

[13] Cfr. Note 12.

[14] Cfr. A. NTIWIRAGABO, op. cit, pp. 341-439; E. Karemera, op. cit, from pp. 11-91.

[15] Read the recent book by Charles ONANA, Holocauste au Congo. L’omerta de la Communauté internationale…, Ed. L’artilleur, 12.04.2023, 504 p.

[16] Cfr. Stanislas BUSHAYIJA, Aux origines du problème Bahutu au Rwanda, in Revue Nouvelle, Tome XXVIII, No. 12 of December 1958, p. 594-597 [http://jkanya.free.fr/bushayija.html];

Read: Ibaruwa y’abagaragu bakuru b’ibwami, Nyanza, 17.05.1958 [http://jkanya.free.fr/abagaragubibwami250611.html] and Le manifeste des Bahutu, 24.03.1957.

Among the actors in the social life of Rwanda during the troubled years of 1959-1962, the official Catholic Church, the majority confession, regularly spoke out. See : TRUTH, JUSTICE, CHARITY,

LETTRES PASTORALES ET AUTRES DECLARATIONS DES EVEQUES CATHOLIQUES DU RWANDA, 1956-1962, PDF Document, 182 p.

[17] A. NTIWIRAGABO, op. cit, p. 332-333. See also: Remigius KINTU, Terreur incognito. La conspiration des E.U. derrière les guerres de Museveni, Speech delivered to the annual conference of Peace & Justice of Maryland, 19.04.97.

[18] See note 4.

[19] Charles PEPIN, Les vertus de l’échec, Allary Editions, 2016, p.119.

 

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