Thursday, April 3, 2014

Round-up of articles as we approach 20th commemoration of Rwanda genocide

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As we approach the 20th commemoration of the Rwanda genocide (the present government refers to it as the "genocide against Tutsi"even while denying the existence of ethnicity in Rwanda), there are several powerful stories that have emerged this week. These stories not only remind us of the utter horrors endured by many during this dark period but also reminds us that genocide and human suffering on a massive scale are not a thing of the past. They sadly continue to happen whether in Central Africa Republic, in Syria, Mali, DRC, Somalia or Libya.

  • Mark Doyle of the BBC has written a powerful article that revisits the 1994 horrors. Doyle was among a handful of journalists in Rwanda at the time. Its a difficult task to go back to a past you never wish to return to. He interviews the daughter of the former prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana (among the first high profile victims of the massacre along with her husband). Her name is Marie-Christine Umuhoza and perhaps due to the pain and anguish, the daughter hasn't uttered a word in the last 20 years. She is now speaking out remarkably to honor the life of a Senegalese peacekeeper Mbaye Diagne. He comments are very brief and one wishes for more. What does the daughter of this giant think of post-genocide Rwanda? However, some appear dissatisfied by the story. On Twitter, Werner De Poorter who was a Belgian paratrooper with the UN peacekeeping mission stated: "And there were many (good) people like him ( Capt. Mbaye Diagne)! That is the shame" 
  • Jonathan Tepperman of Foreign Affairs conducted an interview with Kagame. It is quite telling although there is little revealed that is new. Kagame portrays himself as a person whose life revolves around the genocide. He blanket denies participating in revenge killings. At the same time, the interview reveals that Kagame can be quite naive. For instance, he seems unaware of how expansive freedom of speech is in the United States. Contrary to his view, as Tepperman reminds him, one can start a party in the US to defend the rights/ interests of black people against the whites. This is one of those moment when I feel the Tepperman should have pushed harder. As US cable by Wikileaks reveal, Rwanda has become a Tutsi state in political terms. Moreover, Kagame picked up arms to rightly fight for the rights of the Tutsi. How could it be then that Kagame is so wary of group interests?
  • The Guardian is compiling stories of Rwanda's ""puzzling tale of growth and political repression". There are some astounding figures: the number of tourists has increased six times since 2000, rural to urban migration has skyrocketed, and the GDP has increased by a half since 1995. Other successes are in the dropping of infant mortality and the dramatic increase of women in parliamentary politics. Some of these undoubtedly represent some form of progress. However, some of the statistics such as the representation of women in parliament are extremely hollow and misleading. This is because focusing on elite women in parliament almost all of them belonging to the ruling party obscures the fact that (1) a lot of women (journalists, activists and politicians) are currently in jail for opposing Kagame's government, (2) that Rwanda's regime is run by a military elite that imposes an ethnocentric hegemony and that (3) such an analysis says little about rural women who widowed depend on small scale farming for sustenance. With their partners either dead or in jail, life remains almost unbearable.

I will keep updating the list as more article spring out. In the meantime, feel free to point me to other interesting write-ups.

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