Friday, December 31, 2010

Stephen Kinzer's Misplaced Attack on Human Rights Watch

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In Africa the contradictions espoused by western powers when it comes to human rights loom large. On one hand, you have regimes that are hard pressed to respect human rights. These currently include those in Kenya, Sudan and Zimbabwe. On the other, you have regimes that are given the blessing to violently violate them, or so it seems. The dictatorial regimes of Uganda and Rwanda fit the latter category. They form a special club of untouchables, whose members can openly rig elections, shoot journalists, even commit genocide and the international community, except for a few lukewarm statements, will stay mum.

In the case of Rwanda, the regime is too brutal that it is becoming difficult to present it as a “democracy in progress”. As a result, proponents of the regime are finding it increasingly difficult to defend the regime’s dictatorial tendencies.

For that reason, they now shamelessly argue that oppression is good for Rwandans because Rwandans cannot handle democracy. This thinking is akin to the one that supported the institution of slavery. During that time, it was believed that blacks were incapable of managing their own lives. Living under a “benevolent” slave master was seen as the only possible and reasonable solution.

This week, in his latest apologia for the Rwandan regime, Steven Kinzer laid out a poorly thought out attack on human rights watch. I need to remind my readers that human rights watch has been one of the most vocal defenders of democracy in Rwanda. The organization, through the late Allison Des Forge, was the first to raise the alarm on the killings that were taking place during the 1994 period. Ever since, they remained active in Rwanda until their officials were kicked out by the Rwandan government prior to August Presidential elections.

Kinzer argues that Human rights have become a “new form of imperialism”. He further argues that human rights are not universal and that he sees the current “human rights movement as opposing human rights.”

Kinzer’s view on Rwanda is misplaced and lacks an updated context. For instance, the fact that 13 heads of states attended Kagame’s inauguration is not proof that the Rwandan regime is endorsed throughout Africa. Since a greater number of African presidents attended the 50th anniversary of the DRC’s independence, does it mean that such leaders are impressed by the mass rapes taking place in the eastern region of that country? Certainly not.

Kinzer also needs to be reminded, that during the same period of the inauguration, a high level conference was taking place in Rwanda that was assessing the progress of the UN Millennium Goals. Hence, many of the leaders jetted in to attend this event, and Rwanda strategically arranged the summit around the date of Kagame’s inauguration. Even if we were to believe that the leaders came in to coronate Kagame, why would this silence human rights watch?

But it is Kinzer’s extremely arrogant and insensitive statement that completely drives me nuts. He says, “By my standards, this authoritarian regime is the best thing that has happened to Rwanda since colonialists arrived a century ago.” This statement is very problematic and reflects a very patronizing way of thinking. When is it ethical for a foreign journalist to praise an authoritarian regime that is killing its own people? And what standards are these? Is this not the most despicable form of “imperialism?” Don’t Rwandans have a voice?

Rwandans deserves the same right to pursue democratic values as any other country. Rwandans are not “thrilled” by an oppressive regime. If the people were happy as Kinzer wants us to believe, Kagame would not have had to rig elections (he “won” by 93%) and imprison opposition activists. If the people were happy, we would not be having an outraging number of government soldiers marauding with guns in our streets and villages on a daily basis.

Otherwise, he needs to explain why the media is  constantly harassed and never allowed to function? why opposition leaders are silenced through murder and unlawful imprisonment?

Rwanda is still a military dictatorship, and the world is right to support the growth of democratic movements. Otherwise, it is difficult, as Kinzer well knows, to defend a heinous and murderous regime.

9 comments:

ColoredOpinions said...

Kinzer is in sync with The New Times, great timing. I wrote about his role in Kagame's image building in 2008:

http://coloredopinions.blogspot.com/2008/11/stephen-kinzer-and-laurent-nkunda.html

onedeadbudgie said...

You say that HRW were thrown out. This is not true. HRW have had an office in Rwanda for years. When Tertsakian applied for her working visa she forged the signatures of HRW people in New York. She acknowledged this. In most countries this would result in a refusal and then prosecution.

HRW responded by saying that if Tertsakian's application was not granted it would "expose" Rwanda. As well as showing that HRW think they can just do what they like it exposed their bizarre belief that they thought Rwandea would give in to their threats. Does not say much for their familiarity with the region does it?

HRW have been free to apply for a visa for a different researcher but have failed to do so. They have never acknowledged the real reason for this. They have not been "thrown out".

In early 2010 when Ingabire's assistant was recognised as a man who had killed in the Genocide and been convicted in his absence HRW described his arrest as "politically motivated". Even after he confessed HRW gave no apology. This shows their contempt for the truth and for Rwandans.

You see HRW's agenda is to destabilise Rwanda and the region by telling lies and lobbying coutries to stop giving Aid to Rwanda. Yes, they care more about their own NGO and its budgets than the lives of poor Rwandans whose lives are being improved by the present govt despite HRW's efforts.

Nkunda why don't you go back and see for herself instead of printing lies?

Nkunda said...

@ onedeadbudgie,

Yes, Carina Tertsakian, a HRW official was kicked out of the country. It is just bizarre that you would expect anyone to believe Kigali’s view on this.

Why would Ms. Tersakian forge signatures of HRW officials in New York? Aren’t they her official employers? Clearly she was not masquerading as a HRW official, or was she?

I do not, for even a second, give credence to your hallucination that “HRW agenda is to destabilize Rwanda”. Man, where is the evidence for this? Please refrain from making such a careless and deeply flawed argument.

The government of Rwanda is oppressive, and that is really what concerns me the most. Here is a reference of Ms. Tertsakian being kicked out
http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-06-29-rwanda-accused-of-crackdown-as-elections-loom

@coloredopinions,

Thanks for the link. Good read!

Mamadou Kouyate said...

Why Kinzer is wrong about HRW==By Kenneth Roth
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jan/05/stephen-kinzer-human-rights-watch)

xcroc said...

I too was rather shocked by Kinzer's blithe dismissal of Kagame's crimes. You might be interested in this analysis by b real at Moon of Alabama:

(In 2 parts because of bloggers length requirements.)

Part 1

kinzer has always been problematic in that regard, defending u.s. clients, so his endorsement of the (brutal) kagame dictatorship is hardly surprising in that regard. you may recall that chomsky & herman highlighted his work as a textbook illustration of their propaganda model in the seminal book manufacturing consent.

for example, as chomsky writes

one of the things that Edward Herman and I did in Manufacturing Consent was to just look at the sources that reporters go to. In a part that I wrote, I happened to be discussing Central America, so I went through fifty articles by Stephen Kinzer of the New York Times beginning in October 1987, and just asked: whose opinions did he try to get? Well, it turns out that in fifty articles he did not talk to one person in Nicaragua who was pro-Sandinista. Now, there's got to be somebody -- you know, Ortega's mother, somebody's got to be pro-Sandinista. Nope, in fact, everybody he quotes is anti-Sandinista.

Well, there are polls, which the Times won't report, and they show that all of the opposition parties in Nicaragua combined had the support of only 9 percent of the population. But they have 100 percent of Stephen Kinzer -- everyone he's found supports the opposition parties, 9 percent of the population. That's in fifty articles.


ed herman put out a nice little book w/ david peterson in 2010 titled the politics of genocide that builds on a framework for analysis both herman & chomsky first put forth in their 1973 book counter-revolutionary violence: bloodbaths in fact and propaganda. that earlier book grouped bloodbaths into four categories - constructive, benign, nefarious and mythical - based on "how bloodbaths are evaluated by the U.S. political establishment and its media, depending on who is responsible for carrying them out." "Those bloodbaths carried out by the United States itself or that serve immediate and major U.S. interests are Constructive; those carried out by allies or clients are Benign; and those carried out by U.S. target states are Nefarious and (sometimes) Mythical."

this new book uses that same framework for analysis to look into the politics of genocide, and, though short, it's concise, well-documented, and has an excellent chapter on kagame and the genocides in rwanda and the d.r.c.

xcroc said...

I too was rather shocked by Kinzers blithe dismissal of Kagame's crimes. You might be interested in this analysis by b real at Moon of Alabama:

Part 1

kinzer has always been problematic in that regard, defending u.s. clients, so his endorsement of the (brutal) kagame dictatorship is hardly surprising in that regard. you may recall that chomsky & herman highlighted his work as a textbook illustration of their propaganda model in the seminal book manufacturing consent.

for example, as chomsky writes

one of the things that Edward Herman and I did in Manufacturing Consent was to just look at the sources that reporters go to. In a part that I wrote, I happened to be discussing Central America, so I went through fifty articles by Stephen Kinzer of the New York Times beginning in October 1987, and just asked: whose opinions did he try to get? Well, it turns out that in fifty articles he did not talk to one person in Nicaragua who was pro-Sandinista. Now, there's got to be somebody -- you know, Ortega's mother, somebody's got to be pro-Sandinista. Nope, in fact, everybody he quotes is anti-Sandinista.

Well, there are polls, which the Times won't report, and they show that all of the opposition parties in Nicaragua combined had the support of only 9 percent of the population. But they have 100 percent of Stephen Kinzer -- everyone he's found supports the opposition parties, 9 percent of the population. That's in fifty articles.


ed herman put out a nice little book w/ david peterson in 2010 titled the politics of genocide that builds on a framework for analysis both herman & chomsky first put forth in their 1973 book counter-revolutionary violence: bloodbaths in fact and propaganda. that earlier book grouped bloodbaths into four categories - constructive, benign, nefarious and mythical - based on "how bloodbaths are evaluated by the U.S. political establishment and its media, depending on who is responsible for carrying them out." "Those bloodbaths carried out by the United States itself or that serve immediate and major U.S. interests are Constructive; those carried out by allies or clients are Benign; and those carried out by U.S. target states are Nefarious and (sometimes) Mythical."

this new book uses that same framework for analysis to look into the politics of genocide, and, though short, it's concise, well-documented, and has an excellent chapter on kagame and the genocides in rwanda and the d.r.c.

xcroc said...

I too was rather shocked by Kinzers blithe dismissal of Kagame's crimes. You might be interested in this analysis by b real at Moon of Alabama:

Part 1

kinzer has always been problematic in that regard, defending u.s. clients, so his endorsement of the (brutal) kagame dictatorship is hardly surprising in that regard. you may recall that chomsky & herman highlighted his work as a textbook illustration of their propaganda model in the seminal book manufacturing consent.

for example, as chomsky writes

one of the things that Edward Herman and I did in Manufacturing Consent was to just look at the sources that reporters go to. In a part that I wrote, I happened to be discussing Central America, so I went through fifty articles by Stephen Kinzer of the New York Times beginning in October 1987, and just asked: whose opinions did he try to get? Well, it turns out that in fifty articles he did not talk to one person in Nicaragua who was pro-Sandinista. Now, there's got to be somebody -- you know, Ortega's mother, somebody's got to be pro-Sandinista. Nope, in fact, everybody he quotes is anti-Sandinista.

Well, there are polls, which the Times won't report, and they show that all of the opposition parties in Nicaragua combined had the support of only 9 percent of the population. But they have 100 percent of Stephen Kinzer -- everyone he's found supports the opposition parties, 9 percent of the population. That's in fifty articles.

xcroc said...

Part 2 from b real at Moon of Alabama:



ed herman put out a nice little book w/ david peterson in 2010 titled the politics of genocide that builds on a framework for analysis both herman & chomsky first put forth in their 1973 book counter-revolutionary violence: bloodbaths in fact and propaganda. that earlier book grouped bloodbaths into four categories - constructive, benign, nefarious and mythical - based on "how bloodbaths are evaluated by the U.S. political establishment and its media, depending on who is responsible for carrying them out." "Those bloodbaths carried out by the United States itself or that serve immediate and major U.S. interests are Constructive; those carried out by allies or clients are Benign; and those carried out by U.S. target states are Nefarious and (sometimes) Mythical."

this new book uses that same framework for analysis to look into the politics of genocide, and, though short, it's concise, well-documented, and has an excellent chapter on kagame and the genocides in rwanda and the d.r.c.

as they write in their introduction:

In an amazing "end of impunity" set of coincidences, it turns out that all fourteen of the ICC's indictments through mid-2009 had been issued against black Africans from three countries (the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and the Sudan), while carefully excluding Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda's Paul Kagame, perhaps the most prolific tandem of killers to rule on the African continent during the current era, but highly valued clients of the West. Indeed, Kagame especially is an adored figure throughout much of the West, feted as a great liberator and statesman...

xcroc said...

Part 3 from b real at Moon of Alabama:

Further into the book,

Very big lies about Rwanda are now institutionalized and are part of the common (mis)understanding in the West. In reality, Paul Kagame is one of the great mass murderers of our time. Yet, thanks to the remarkable myth structure that surrounds him, he enjoys immense popularity with his chief patron in Washington, the image of this big-time killer transmuted into that of an honored savior deserving strong Western support. ... A more recent hagiography by Stephen Kinzer portrays Kagame as the founding father of a New Africa. It is "one of the most amazing untold stories of the modern history of revolution," as Kinzer explains it, because Kagame overthrew a dictatorship, stopped a genocide, and turned Rwanda into "one of the great stars" of the continent, with Western investment and favorable PR flowing. In fact, what Kagame overthrew was a multiethnic, power-sharing, coalition government; what Kagame imposed was a Tutsi-dominated dictatorship; and what Kagame turned Rwanda and the whole of Central Africa into was a rolling genocide that is still ongoing - but it is true that he is a shining "star" in the Western firmament and its propaganda system.

In Samantha Power's view, and in accord with this same myth structure, "The United States did almost nothing to try to stop [the Hutu genocide]," but instead "stood on the sidelines" - "bystanders to genocide." But this is doubly false. What the United States and its Western allies (Britain, Canada, and Belgium) really did was sponsor the U.S.-trained Kagame, support his invasion of Rwanda from Uganda and massive ethnic cleansing prior to April 1994, weaken the Rwandan state by forcing an economic recession and the RPF's penetration of the government and throughout the country, and then press for the complete removal of UN troops because they didn't want UN troops to stand in the way of Kagame's conquest of the country, even though Rwanda's Hutu authorities were urging the dispatch of more UN troops.


and so on. we've written many times here over the years on this event and the following atrocities in the congo, so no need to rehash all of that now. relatedly, one of the other links b draws attention to - how wikileaks enlightened us in 2010 - points out the cable that collects all sites vital to u.s. national interests, w/ congo, the country, leading the list.

Posted by: b real | Jan 3, 2011 12:37:46 AM | 5

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(In 3 parts due to bloggers length requirements.)