Standing in the Center is Spanish activist, Juan Carrero.
He has been standing at the Ralph Park for about two hours when I meet him. He arrived in New York from Spain a week ago, accompanied by a member of the Spanish senate. At first, it is hard to pick him out from the crowd of demonstrators gathered at the park.
He appears tired and uneasy but when I talk to him he opens up with relaxed calmness.
Juan Carrero Saralegui was proposed as a candidate for the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in denouncing Genocide in the Great Lakes region of Africa. He is the president of the S’Olivar Foundation in Estellencs, on the island of Mallorca. In 1999 he was given the Courage of Conscience Award by the Peace Abbey organization of Massachusetts.
Nkunda: Brother Carrero, it is a pleasure to meet you today.
Carrero: Yes, I am pleased to be here today too and join Rwandans and the Congolese in their rally for an end to impunity.
Nkunda: I guess I should start by asking what drew you to Rwanda?
Carrero: Like many other Europeans, I was drawn to Rwanda by the media. What was happening there in 1994 horrified many of us. In 1995, I was chosen by a group of NGOs to travel to Rwanda. I went back again in 1996. But something was not right. What I saw didn’t much what was being said. During my visit of some rural commune in 1995, the new army had just slaughtered 100 people.
Nkunda: What did you do when you went back to Europe?
Carrero: I tried to spread the message back home and around the world. But the response was not that fulfilling. In 1997, I fasted for 42 days outside the European parliament. I had met a supporter of Mahatma Ghandi and I thought that a non-violent struggle might be the best solution for the Rwandan problem.
After the fast, I wrote a letter which was signed by 19 noble peace prize recipients. The purpose of the letter was to explain the Rwandan problem and the new Genocide against the Hutu. In February 1997, one of the noble peace prize winners presented the letter to Bill Clinton. I personally presented the same letter to the then Spanish Prime minister. This was about 14 years ago.
Nkunda: Do you think your activism is paying off?
Carrero: 10 days ago the Gersony report which was previously suppressed by the UN came to the limelight. The report alleges that the RPF killed about 30,000 in three prefectures for three months. Navi Pillay, the UN commissioner for human rights has approved the report on Congo and it is coming out on the 1st of October.
Nkunda: There is a story of Rwanda that is told around the west, especially in Britain and the United States. What you are bringing out contradicts this conventional story. Aren’t you worried of being accused of revisionism or denial of Tutsi genocide?
Carrero: This is out of date. Information is coming out and will be public. We have never denied the Genocide committed against the Tutsi. What we have said is that there were two Genocides. And I think the truth is finally coming to light. I wrote an article for the English media recently.
Nkunda: You are a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Some people will argue that you are against Paul Kagame because of his position that the church is guilty of Genocide against Tutsi. They might say that you are advocating for Hutu power?
Carrero: Two weeks ago, an article “Catholic and Genocide” was released. Simply put, the church did not support Genocide in Rwanda. There were individual members from the church on both sides who did commit despicable acts and supported the mass murders.
But the attacks on the church are not fair. The truth is that the Catholic Church was very close to the Tutsi elites before the 1950s. Everything turned in the 60s and this was largely due the emergence of liberation church. Then the church led by Monsignor Perraudin, supported the revolution of Hutu leaders who were fighting for majority rule.
Nkunda: But the church in Rwanda is quiet today?
Carrero: Yes, but the church in DRC is very dynamic and passionate for social justice. In a way, everybody is quiet in Rwanda because of the RPF’s terror. When Rwanda invaded the Congo, the first thing they did was to kill the Bishop of Bukavu. He was a courageous man, unafraid to speak truth. What happened to him is similar to what happened to the bishops in Latin America.
Nkunda: What is your message to the people of Rwanda?
Carrero: the worst part is over, the future is of justice and peace. We all need to come together to fight for truth, including Madame Victoire Umuhoza who is currently in Rwanda.
Nkunda: I spoke to Gordon Brown earlier and I get the sense that UK’s support for Paul Kagame is not about to wane?
Carrero: The big powers have already decided that Kagame needs to get out of power. They realize that he is only causing more problems. They were going to do it at a later time but the Spanish Prime Minister faced so much pressure at home, and he helped accelerate the process. We made it clear that he [Zapatero] had to choose between being an accomplice or a supporter for freedom.
The media warmly received the leaked report implicating Kagame in Genocide against Hutu. What we’ve been saying for the last 14 years, will soon become public domain.
Nkunda: Thank you so much for your time.