Monday, December 3, 2012

Steve Hege Victim of Kagame Propaganda Machine for Daring to Speak Truth

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Over the last decade, Rwanda has reacted with hostility against a number of UN reports accusing Paul Kagame's government of human rights abuses. In deed, some of the most damning reports such as the 1994 Gersony report (which accuse Kagame's RPF of massacres during the genocide) were suppressed and never saw the light.

The latest controversy hinges on the latest UN Group of Experts report, which accuses Rwanda of using proxy militias to destabilize Eastern Congo. In particular, the report spotlights M23, a PR reincarnation of the murderous and Rwanda-sponsored CNDP.

So far, the report has been well received by the international community with the United Kingdom, Rwanda's leading bilateral donor describing it as " credible and compelling". The news, which seems to have been completely unexpected by Kagame's loyalists (blame it on their arrogance and terrible advice from Tony Blair) has caused panic overdrive in Kigali.

It is in such a context that Kagame and his thugs have launched sustained attacks against the report's lead author, Steve Hege. However, the accusations fall short in the sense that they are geared towards character assassination instead of refuting the particulars of the report.

Among the most lazily repeated lies is that Hege is a "genocide denier and a revisionist". To be sure, such attacks are aimed at distracting attention from Rwanda's culpability. So most careful observers of Rwanda will not be deceived by this machination. However, for the sake of those unsuspecting members of the Kagame fan club (still buying into the Kagame myth), I will discuss the issue further.

In an op-ed posted by the East African Standard, one Albert Rudatsimburwa describes Hege as a an "ideological worrier" with a "high-stakes vendetta against Rwanda".  Predictably, the author does not bother to explain such a sensational title, which is not his objective. The main goal is to destroy Hege's reputation. The rest of the article does exactly that by suggesting that Hege is guilty of lending sympathy to genocidaires--those who participated in the Rwandan 1994 genocide.

For the last 18 years since the RPF took over, genocide-related crimes have been the custom, ready-made charges for anyone even remotely critical of Kagame. Once accused, the individuals have faced the heavy arm of the government or are been sidelined into oblivion. Think about it, who would have the audacity to associate with an individual accused of genocide? Unfortunately, this is the logic that Kagame and his ilk have and continue to milk.

In this case, the government has built its case around an article that Hege published in 2009 with the title "Understanding the FDLR in Congo: Key Facts on the Disarmament & Repatriation of Rwandan Rebels". Kagame's government accuses him of being sympathetic to Hutu extremists based on his expression that, "FDLR are better understood in relation to the massive revenge killings of Hutu refugees in the eastern Congo from 1996 to 1999". 

Often, what people tell you is just as important as what they disclose. In this case, Kagame's cheerleaders have failed to point to Hege's claims in the same article that Kagame's army massacred about 300,000 Hutu civilians in revenge attacks following the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

So what exactly is controversial about Hege's claims (the full article here)? Can anyone detect a "plan to finish Tutsi people" in this writing as some fanatics continue to suggest? Nowhere!

Important to note, this shameful attacks against Hege and his character demonstrate the severe restriction of free speech in Kagame's Rwanda. If the government can dare silence such a senior UN consultant, imagine what they do to ordinary citizens.

The hard reality is that Rwandan propaganda machine is trying to build fire where there is hardly any smoke.That Kagame's army killed thousands of Hutu civilians in revenge atrocities has since been verified by numerous reports (consider this UN report released in 2010). Instead of attacking the messenger, it would be much more honorable for Kagame to accept responsibility and ask Rwandans and Congolese people for forgiveness.

Otherwise, Kagame's operatives like Rudatsimburwa may be eloquent but they are no miracle workers. They might succeed in deceiving outsiders but Rwandans know better. It will take much more than smooth-talk and well guarded narratives to whitewash Kagame's criminal past. Not even his panel of advisers, which includes Chicago businessman Joe Ritchie, Rick Warren and mercenary journalist Andrew Mwenda can save him.

Ironically, only Rwandans, the very people whose relatives, friends and neighbors Kagame's army has massacred have the ability to save him.

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