Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Mme. Victoire Ingabire Offers What is Best for Rwanda’s Future.
All Hutus are not genocidaires! Only a small percentage of us [Hutu] participated in the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. The majority of Hutu people are hardworking, kind and hospitable rural people, more interested in cultivating their fields than engaging in gang rapes , butchering people or participating in any other evils that have characterized the Great Lakes region’s recent history. In addition, Hutus living in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo have, on several occasions, been targeted in major genocidal waves of violence. They have witnessed their parents killed; siblings raped or have a testimony of miraculous survival.
Although anyone familiar with the region’s history might think the above statements are a “no brainer”, the current rhetoric by some academics and media practitioners compel me to remind the world; that, we Hutus are human beings. We are people who, quite unfortunately, inhabit a world that despise us and are ruled by a regime that continues to deny our humanity and to characterize us as the epiphany of evil. By doing so, the regime strategically denies us of all rights that are, elsewhere, accorded to human beings.
Certainly, most (though not all) Interahamwe members were Hutu. They were racist towards anyone they classified as Tutsi or suspected of having Tutsi sympathy. The former Rwandan military (FAR) was also a “rabidly racist” organization that in many cases, wrongly and collectively, treated every member of the Tutsi community as the enemy—instead of focusing on the RPA. The results were catastrophic, and culminated in genocide.
If we should learn anything from Rwanda Genocide, it should be that the collective incrimination of any group is not only dangerous but also a breeding ideology for a future genocide. Thus, when the Rwandan government quickly charges a Hutu politician with the crime of genocide, as they did with Mme Victoire Ingabire, being Hutu, I am naturally alarmed!
The untested logic that one group comprises of doves and another of hawks, the “good guys and bad guys” dichotomy is responsible for stifling dialogue in Rwanda and perpetuating violence. The influence of this school of thought is far reaching and undoubtedly shapes policy. For instance, the power struggle between Hutu and Tutsi prior to genocide is manipulated and downplayed. Paul Kagame is seen (by International Observers) as a hero who picked up arms to bring an end to genocide. The crimes perpetrated by Paul Kagame’s armed movement in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide are left unacknowledged. The subtle message is that Tutsi can kill with impunity and anyone who challenges or questions this version of history is branded a genocide denier or a revisionist. Both “crimes” punishable by over two decades in prison.
The same problem seems to have been exported to Congo. Congo is a home to all kinds of militias but the most well known are CNDP and the FDLR. The FDLR is a movement of Hutu and is composed of some members of the former Rwandan military. However, over time it has recruited from young Hutu refugees as well as Congolese Hutu. The CNDP is a Tutsi led movement that has also recruited Rwandan Tutsi among its ranks. Both groups have committed some of the most despicable atrocities in recent years. However, unlike the FDLR, the CNDP is often treated as a legitimate movement. Although its leaders are wanted for war crimes, they are allowed to roam around and even backed by the UN.
To use Genocide as a weapon to curtail democracy is simply unacceptable. Since Kagame justifies his dictatorship by arguing that Rwandans are naturally genocidal (a very dehumanizing assumption), it is important for us to keep reminding the world that Rwanda is not a safe heaven for demons. It is bad governance, more than anything else, that is responsible for the past tragedy. We overcome the past horrors, by building a new society based on democracy and respect of human rights. Economic development alone, will not restore Rwanda.
Victoire Ingabire, Rwanda’s Hutu presidential aspirant hopes to bring this “tug- of- war” to an end. She wants the history of Rwanda to be discussed in a frank and free atmosphere. She sees this as an opportunity for Rwandans to move forward beyond the legacy of genocide into institutional based democracy. But even then, it remains to be seen whether the RPF and the international community can see her beyond the “Hutu killers” prism that now shapes policy in Rwanda. All in all, her thoughts and desire for national healing and reconciliation are long overdue.