Category Archives: Geoolitics

“Négationniste” au sens rwandais.

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Ceux qui ne savent pas ce que ce terme signifie, quand il désigne des écrivains, des artistes, des hommes politiques ou des journalistes qui analysent et s’expriment sur les événements de 1994 au Rwanda, peuvent écouter Kizito Mihigo.

Feu Kizito explique très bien l’origine de cette insulte populaire que le régime de Kigali, ses sympathisants et ses soutiens utilisent à travers les médias, les sites internet clandestins, les réseaux sociaux, les livres, les articles de presse, les conférences publiques, contre ceux qu’ils haïssent, qu’ils veulent tuer et qu’ils maudissent.

Pour Kizito, « A chaque fois que tu évoques les autres victimes, des gens qui sont morts, du FPR, tu es totalement traité de négationniste et de révisionniste. (…) Je suis au courant qu’il y a beaucoup de Rwandais qui ont connu pas mal de violences qui ne sont pas encore reconnues comme étant un génocide… Il faut que chaque souffrance soit reconnue… ».

C’est précisément ce que je fais depuis 20 ans en publiant sur la tragédie du Rwanda et le drame du Congo-Zaïre et qui est exprimé clairement dans mon dernier livre : « Rwanda, la vérité sur l’opération Turquoise » .

Faire entendre la souffrance et les massacres de tous les Rwandais, quelque soit leur ethnie ou leur religion est ma ligne constante depuis 20 ans. Idem pour les Congolais. C’est pour avoir eu l’audace de faire cela, et de le faire sur le plan scientifique, documents et preuves à l’appui, que le régime de Kigali et ses thuriféraires me vouent aux gémonies et me traitent avec d’autres chercheurs comme Allan Stam, Christian Davenport ou Judi River de « Négationniste ». Pierre péan, Patrick Mbeko et d’autres écrivains sérieux ont essuyé la même insulte.

Est donc « négationniste », aux yeux du régime de Kigali et de ses amis, celui qui ose dire et prouver que les victimes de crimes contre l’humanité ou de génocide se trouvent dans tous les groupes ethniques du Rwanda et même chez les Congolais.

Faut-il souligner que ces derniers n’ont jamais pris part au conflit du Rwanda mais qu’ils sont exterminés chez eux par les troupes de Paul Kagame depuis 20 ans ?

L’usage du terme « négationniste », totalement insignifiant sur le plan de la recherche scientifique concernant le Rwanda n’a qu’un seul objectif : étouffer la vérité et discréditer, disqualifier, marginaliser, ostraciser, ceux qui poussent au questionnement, à la réflexion, à la réconciliation par la vérité au Rwanda.

Il faut haïr et éliminer, physiquement, socialement, intellectuellement, économiquement, tous ceux qui refusent, comme Kizito Mihigo, de choisir un groupe de victimes parmi les différentes victimes rwandaises. C’est pour cela que le régime de Kagame et ses amis traitent sans arrêt les chercheurs qui remettent en cause leur version erronée de l’histoire tragique du Rwanda de « Négationnistes ». Ce terme est leur unique système de défense dès qu’ils sont face à des révélations. C’est aussi leur arme privilégiée quand ils n’ont rien à dire, rien à apporter dans le débat scientifique désormais ouvert au niveau international.
Quand ils n’ont ni faits ni preuves à opposer à la science, quand ils sont outrés de voir leur version mensongère s’écrouler comme un château de carte, quand plusieurs chercheurs compétents et exigeants refusent de se soumettre à la doxa, ils les traitent de « négationnistes ».

Espérant ainsi qu’ils ne seront ni écoutés ni entendus. C’est l’arme du totalitarisme et de ceux qui qui sont réfractaires au débat intellectuel et scientifique. C’est ainsi qu’ils mènent, dans les universités et dans les médias, une guerre sournoise et violente, une guerre psychologique contre le savoir.

Leur spécialité reste l’invective, la violence verbale et la terreur. C’est ce qu’ils ont fait en traitant Kizito Mihigo de « Négationniste » et même de « terroriste ».
Lui, le pacifique, le rescapé tutsi de 1994, qui voulait que la souffrance et les massacres de tous les Rwandais soient pris en compte. Lui, Mihigo, qui était contre la discrimination entre les victimes, donnait la migraine au président rwandais. C’est pour cela, qu’on l’avait emprisonné. C’est pour cela qu’on l’a « suicidé ».

C’est pour les même raisons qu’ils ont mis mon ami Déo Mushayidi en prison. Lui aussi, rescapé Tutsi de 1994 et défenseur de la vérité pour toutes les victimes rwandaises de 1994, a été traité de « terroriste ». Ils ont traité mon cher Déo de « Négationniste », de « révisionniste » et de divisionniste ».

Le « Négationnisme » est une maladie contagieuse au Rwanda. Tout le monde peut l’attraper. Tutsi, Hutu ou Twa. Il suffit de parler des Tutsi, Hutu et Twa comme ayant, tous, été l’objet de crimes contre l’humanité en 1994. On devient rapidement « négationniste » et il n’y a aucun médecin pour vous soigner. D’ailleurs, les journalistes commencent à vous éviter, vos amis aussi. Bref, on devient suspect, infréquentable et porteur du coronavirus-Négationniste.

Comme Kizito Mihigo, Déo Mushayidi a toujours prôné la réconciliation entre Rwandais et exigé la vérité pour tous. Ils ont tout fait pour l’incarcérer et pour le faire oublier. Le monde entier a aujourd’hui oublié Déo alors qu’il est vivant dans une prison sordide au Rwanda. Soyons clairs, Déo Mushayidi est en prison et il ne faut pas nous dire qu’il s’est « suicidé ». Non !! Il n’a pas d’envie de suicide.

Les organisations des droits de l’Homme courageuses devraient chercher à le rencontrer et demander le réexamen de son dossier. Il a été fabriqué comme celui de Mihigo.

Mon ami Déo résiste en prison, dans l’indifférence générale, mais il ne veut pas se suicider. Je demande donc à tous ceux qui ont à cœur Kizito et son combat de se mobiliser pour la libération de Déo Mushayidi. N’attendons pas l’irréparable. Levons-nous ! Levez-vous pour Déo Mushayidi ! Du fond de sa prison, il a besoin de vous, il a besoin de nous.

Déo est un prisonnier d’opinion, c’est un martyr de la liberté, c’est un héros de liberté de la presse et de la liberté d’expression au Rwanda. Il purge une peine de prison à perpétuité alors que toute sa famille fut exterminée en 1994 et qu’il avait soutenu Paul Kagame. Quand il a commencé à s’exprimer sur la nécessité d’une commission vérité et réconciliation au Rwanda comme ce fut le cas en Afrique du Sud, Déo est devenu dangereux… C’est pour cela que je vous prie de ne pas oublier Déo….

Ne le laissons mourir en prison comme Kizito. Du fond de sa prison, il espère un regard, un geste d’attention et d’amour, une aide si petite soit-elle. Il a besoin de nous. S’il vous plaît faisons quelque chose pour Déo, l’autre Kizito encore en vie !

Dr Charles Onana, Ph D

America’s secret role in the rwandan genocide

never againBetween April and July 1994, hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were murdered in the most rapid genocide ever recorded. The killers used simple tools – machetes, clubs and other blunt objects, or herded people into buildings and set them aflame with kerosene. Most of the victims were of minority Tutsi ethnicity; most of the killers belonged to the majority Hutus.

The Rwanda genocide has been compared to the Nazi Holocaust in its surreal brutality. But there is a fundamental difference between these two atrocities. No Jewish army posed a threat to Germany. Hitler targeted the Jews and other weak groups solely because of his own demented beliefs and the prevailing prejudices of the time. The Rwandan Hutu génocidaires, as the people who killed during the genocide were known, were also motivated by irrational beliefs and prejudices, but the powder keg contained another important ingredient: terror. Three and a half years before the genocide, a rebel army of mainly Rwandan Tutsi exiles known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF, had invaded Rwanda and set up camps in the northern mountains. They had been armed and trained by neighbouring Uganda, which continued to supply them throughout the ensuing civil war, in violation of the UN charter, Organisation of African Unity rules, various Rwandan ceasefire and peace agreements, and the repeated promises of the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni.

During this period, officials at the US embassy in Kampala knew that weapons were crossing the border, and the CIA knew that the rebels’ growing military strength was escalating ethnic tensions within Rwanda to such a degree that hundreds of thousands of Rwandans might die in widespread ethnic violence. However, Washington not only ignored Uganda’s assistance to the Rwandan rebels, it also ramped up military and development aid to Museveni and then hailed him as a peacemaker once the genocide was underway.

The hatred the Hutu génocidaires unleashed represents the worst that human beings are capable of, but in considering what led to this disaster, it is important to bear in mind that the violence was not spontaneous. It emerged from a century or more of injustice and brutality on both sides, and although the génocidaires struck back against innocents, they were provoked by heavily armed rebels supplied by Uganda, while the US looked on.

The RPF rebel army represented Tutsi refugees who had fled their country in the early 1960s. For centuries before that, they had formed an elite minority caste in Rwanda. In a system continued under Belgian colonialism, they treated the Hutu peasants like serfs, forcing them to work on their land and sometimes beating them like donkeys. Hutu anger simmered until shortly before independence in 1962, then exploded in brutal pogroms against the Tutsi, hundreds of thousands of whom fled to neighbouring countries.

In Uganda, a new generation of Tutsi refugees grew up, but they soon became embroiled in the lethal politics of their adoptive country. Some formed alliances with Ugandan Tutsis and the closely related Hima – Museveni’s tribe – many of whom were opposition supporters and therefore seen as enemies by then-president Milton Obote, who ruled Uganda in the 1960s and again in the early 1980s.

After Idi Amin overthrew Obote in 1971, many Rwandan Tutsis moved out of the border refugee camps. Some tended the cattle of wealthy Ugandans; others acquired property and began farming; some married into Ugandan families; and a small number joined the State Research Bureau, Amin’s dreaded security apparatus, which inflicted terror on Ugandans. When Obote returned to power in the 1980s, he stripped the Rwandan Tutsis of their civil rights and ordered them into the refugee camps or back over the border into Rwanda, where they were not welcomed by the Hutu-dominated government. Those who refused to go were assaulted, raped and killed and their houses were destroyed.

In response to Obote’s abuses, more and more Rwandan refugees joined the National Resistance Army, an anti-Obote rebel group founded by Museveni in 1981. When Museveni’s rebels took power in 1986, a quarter of them were Rwandan Tutsi refugees, and Museveni granted them high ranks in Uganda’s new army.

Museveni’s promotion of the Rwandan refugees within the army generated not only resentment within Uganda, but terror within Rwanda where the majority Hutus had long feared an onslaught from Tutsi refugees. In 1972, some 75,000 educated Hutus – just about anyone who could read – had been massacred in Tutsi-ruled Burundi, a small country neighbouring Rwanda with a similar ethnic makeup. During the 1960s, Uganda’s Tutsi refugees had launched occasional armed strikes across the border, but Rwanda’s army easily fought them off. Each attack sparked reprisals against those Tutsis who remained inside Rwanda – many of whom were rounded up, tortured and killed – on mere suspicion of being supporters of the refugee fighters. By the late 1980s, a new generation of refugees, with training and weapons supplied by Museveni’s Uganda, represented a potentially far greater threat. According to the historian André Guichaoua, anger and fear hung over every bar-room altercation, every office dispute and every church sermon.

By the time Museveni took power, the plight of the Tutsi refugees had come to the attention of the west, which began pressuring Rwanda’s government to allow them to return. At first, Rwanda’s president, Juvénal Habyarimana, refused, protesting that Rwanda was among the most densely populated countries in the world, and its people, dependent upon peasant agriculture, needed land to survive. The population had grown since the refugees left, and Rwanda was now full, Habyarimana claimed.

Although he did not say so publicly, overpopulation almost certainly was not Habyarimana’s major concern. He knew the refugees’ leaders were not just interested in a few plots of land and some hoes. The RPF’s professed aim was refugee rights, but its true aim was an open secret throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa: to overthrow Habyarimana’s government and take over Rwanda by force. Museveni had even informed the Rwandan president that the Tutsi exiles might invade, and Habyarimana had also told US state department officials that he feared an invasion from Uganda.

One afternoon in early 1988 when the news was slow, Kiwanuka Lawrence Nsereko, a journalist with the Citizen, an independent Ugandan newspaper, stopped by to see an old friend at the ministry of transport in downtown Kampala. Two senior army officers, whom Lawrence knew, happened to be in the waiting room when he arrived. Like many of Museveni’s officers, they were Rwandan Tutsi refugees. After some polite preliminaries, Lawrence asked the men what they were doing there.

“We want some of our people to be in Rwanda,” one of them replied. Lawrence shuddered. He had grown up among Hutus who had fled Tutsi oppression in Rwanda before independence in 1962, as well as Tutsis who had fled the Hutu-led pogroms that followed it. Lawrence’s childhood catechist had been a Tutsi; the Hutus who worked in his family’s gardens wouldn’t attend his lessons. Instead, they swapped fantastic tales about how Tutsis once used their Hutu slaves as spittoons, expectorating into their mouths, instead of on the ground.

The officers went in to speak to the transport official first, and when Lawrence’s turn came, he asked his friend what had transpired. The official was elated. The Rwandans had come to express their support for a new open borders programme, he said. Soon Rwandans living in Uganda would be allowed to cross over and visit their relatives without a visa. This would help solve the vexing refugee issue, he explained.

Lawrence was less sanguine. He suspected the Rwandans might use the open borders programme to conduct surveillance for an invasion, or even carry out attacks inside Rwanda. A few days later, he dropped in on a Rwandan Tutsi colonel in Uganda’s army, named Stephen Ndugute.

“We are going back to Rwanda,” the colonel said. (When the RPF eventually took over Rwanda in 1994, Ndugute would be second in command.)

Many Ugandans were eager to see Museveni’s Rwandan officers depart. They were not only occupying senior army positions many Ugandans felt should be held by Ugandans, but some were also notorious for their brutality. Paul Kagame, who went on to lead the RPF takeover of Rwanda and has ruled Rwanda since the genocide, was acting chief of military intelligence, in whose headquarters Lawrence himself had been tortured. In northern and eastern Uganda, where a harsh counterinsurgency campaign was underway, some of the army’s worst abuses had been committed by Rwandan Tutsi officers. In 1989, for example, soldiers under the command of Chris Bunyenyezi, also an RPF leader, herded scores of suspected rebels in the village of Mukura into an empty railway wagon with no ventilation, locked the doors and allowed them to die of suffocation.

Lawrence had little doubt that if war broke out in Rwanda, it was going to be “very, very bloody”, he told me. He decided to alert Rwanda’s president. Habyarimana agreed to meet him during a state visit to Tanzania. At a hotel in Dar es Salaam, the 20-year-old journalist warned the Rwandan leader about the dangers of the open border programme. “Don’t worry,” Lawrence says Habyarimana told him. “Museveni is my friend and would never allow the RPF to invade.”

Habyarimana was bluffing. The open border programme was actually part of his own ruthless counter-strategy. Every person inside Rwanda visited by a Tutsi refugee would be followed by state agents and automatically branded an RPF sympathiser; many were arrested, tortured, and killed by Rwandan government operatives. The Tutsis inside Rwanda thus became pawns in a power struggle between the RPF exiles and Habyarimana’s government. Five years later, they would be crushed altogether in one of the worst genocides ever recorded.

On the morning of 1 October 1990, thousands of RPF fighters gathered in a football stadium in western Uganda about 20 miles from the Rwandan border. Some were Rwandan Tutsi deserters from Uganda’s army; others were volunteers from the refugee camps. Two nearby hospitals were readied for casualties. When locals asked what was going on, Fred Rwigyema, who was both a Ugandan army commander and the leader of the RPF, said they were preparing for Uganda’s upcoming Independence Day celebrations, but some excited rebels let the true purpose of their mission leak out. They crossed into Rwanda that afternoon. The Rwandan army, with help from French and Zairean commandos, stopped their advance and the rebels retreated back into Uganda. A short time later, they invaded again and eventually established bases in northern Rwanda’s Virunga mountains.

Presidents Museveni and Habyarimana were attending a Unicef conference in New York at the time. They were staying in the same hotel and Museveni rang Habyarimana’s room at 5am to say he had just learned that 14 of his Rwandan Tutsi officers had deserted and crossed into Rwanda. “I would like to make it very clear,” the Ugandan president reportedly said, “that we did not know about the desertion of these boys” – meaning the Rwandans, not 14, but thousands of whom had just invaded Habyarimana’s country – “nor do we support it.”

In Washington a few days later, Museveni told the State Department’s Africa chief, Herman Cohen, that he would court martial the Rwandan deserters if they attempted to cross back into Uganda. But a few days after that, he quietly requested France and Belgium not to assist the Rwandan government in repelling the invasion. Cohen writes that he now believes that Museveni must have been feigning shock, when he knew what was going on all along.

When Museveni returned to Uganda, Robert Gribbin, then deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Kampala, had some “stiff talking points” for him. Stop the invasion at once, the American said, and ensure no support flowed to the RPF from Uganda.

Museveni had already issued a statement promising to seal all Uganda–Rwanda border crossings, provide no assistance to the RPF and arrest any rebels who tried to return to Uganda. But he proceeded to do none of those things and the Americans appear to have made no objection.

When the RPF launched its invasion, Kagame, then a senior officer in both the Ugandan army and the RPF, was in Kansas at the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, studying field tactics and psyops, propaganda techniques to win hearts and minds. But after four RPF commanders were killed, he told his American instructors that he was dropping out to join the Rwandan invasion. The Americans apparently supported this decision and Kagame flew into Entebbe airport, travelled to the Rwandan border by road, and crossed over to take command of the rebels.

For the next three and a half years, the Ugandan army continued to supply Kagame’s fighters with provisions and weapons, and allow his soldiers free passage back and forth across the border. In 1991, Habyarimana accused Museveni of allowing the RPF to attack Rwanda from protected bases on Ugandan territory. When a Ugandan journalist published an article in the government-owned New Vision newspaper revealing the existence of these bases, Museveni threatened to charge the journalist and his editor with sedition. The entire border area was cordoned off. Even a French and Italian military inspection team was denied access.

In October 1993, the UN security council authorised a peacekeeping force to ensure no weapons crossed the border. The peacekeepers’ commander, Canadian Lt-Gen Roméo Dallaire, spent most of his time inside Rwanda, but he also visited the Ugandan border town of Kabale, where an officer told him that his inspectors would have to provide the Ugandan army with 12 hours’ notice so that escorts could be arranged to accompany them on their border patrols. Dallaire protested: the element of surprise is crucial for such monitoring missions. But the Ugandans insisted and eventually, Dallaire, who was much more concerned about developments inside Rwanda, gave up.

The border was a sieve anyway, as Dallaire later wrote. There were five official crossing sites and countless unmapped mountain trails. It was impossible to monitor. Dallaire had also heard that an arsenal in Mbarara, a Ugandan town about 80 miles from the Rwanda border, was being used to supply the RPF. The Ugandans refused to allow Dallaire’s peacekeepers to inspect that. In 2004, Dallaire told a US congressional hearing that Museveni had laughed in his face when they met at a gathering to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the genocide. “I remember that UN mission on the border,” Museveni reportedly told him. “We manoeuvred ways to get around it, and of course we did support the [RPF].”

US officials knew that Museveni was not honouring his promise to court martial RPF leaders. The US was monitoring Ugandan weapons shipments to the RPF in 1992, but instead of punishing Museveni, western donors including the US doubled aid to his government and allowed his defence spending to balloon to 48% of Uganda’s budget, compared with 13% for education and 5% for health, even as Aids was ravaging the country. In 1991, Uganda purchased 10 times more US weapons than in the preceding 40 years combined.

The 1990 Rwanda invasion, and the US’s tacit support for it, is all the more disturbing because in the months before it occurred, Habyarimana had acceded to many of the international community’s demands, including for the return of refugees and a multiparty democratic system. So it wasn’t clear what the RPF was fighting for. Certainly, negotiations over refugee repatriation would have dragged on and might not have been resolved to the RPF’s satisfaction, or at all. But negotiations appear to have been abandoned abruptly in favour of war.

At least one American was concerned about this. The US ambassador to Rwanda, Robert Flaten, saw with his own eyes that the RPF invasion had caused terror in Rwanda. After the invasion, hundreds of thousands of mostly Hutu villagers fled RPF-held areas, saying they had seen abductions and killings. Flaten urged the George HW Bush’s administration to impose sanctions on Uganda, as it had on Iraq after the Kuwait invasion earlier that year. But unlike Saddam Hussein, who was routed from Kuwait, Museveni received only Gribbin’s “stiff questions” about the RPF’s invasion of Rwanda.

“In short,” Gribbin writes, “we said that the cat was out of the bag, and neither the United States nor Uganda was going to rebag it.” Sanctioning Museveni might have harmed US interests in Uganda, he explains. “We sought a stable nation after years of violence and uncertainty. We encouraged nascent democratic initiatives. We supported a full range of economic reforms.” But the US was not fostering nascent democratic initiatives inside Uganda. While pressuring other countries, including Rwanda, to open up political space, Uganda’s donors were allowing Museveni to ban political party activity, arrest journalists and editors, and conduct brutal counterinsurgency operations in which civilians were tortured and killed. And far from seeking stability, the US, by allowing Uganda to arm the RPF, was setting the stage for what would turn out to be the worst outbreak of violence ever recorded on the African continent. Years later, Cohen expressed regret for failing to pressure Uganda to stop supporting the RPF, but by then it was far too late.

For Habyarimana and his circle of Hutu elites, the RPF invasion seemed to have a silver lining, at least at first. At the time, Hutu/Tutsi relations inside Rwanda had improved. Habyarimana had sought reconciliation with the Tutsis still living in Rwanda by reserving civil service jobs and university places for them in proportion to their share of the population. This programme was modestly successful, and the greatest tensions in the country now lay along class, not ethnic, lines. A tiny educated Hutu clique linked to Habyarimana’s family who called themselves évolués –the evolved ones – was living off the labour of millions of impoverished rural Hutus, whom they exploited just as brutally as the Tutsi overlords of bygone days.

The évolués subjected the peasants to forced labour and fattened themselves on World Bank “anti-poverty” projects that provided jobs and other perks for their own group, but did little to alleviate poverty. International aid donors had pressured Habyarimana to allow opposition political parties to operate, and many new ones had sprung up. Hutus and Tutsis were increasingly united in criticising Habyarimana’s autocratic behaviour and nepotism, and the vast economic inequalities in the country.

When Rwanda’s ethnic bonfires roared back to life in the days after the RPF invasion, Habyarimana and his circle seem to have sensed a political opportunity: now they could distract the disaffected Hutu masses from their own abuses by reawakening fears of the “demon Tutsis”, who would soon become convenient scapegoats to divert attention from profound socioeconomic injustices.

Shortly after the invasion, all Tutsis – whether RPF supporters or not – became targets of a vicious propaganda campaign that would bear hideous fruit in April 1994. Chauvinist Hutu newspapers, magazines and radio programmes began reminding Hutu audiences that they were the original occupants of the Great Lakes region and that Tutsis were Nilotics – supposedly warlike pastoralists from Ethiopia who had conquered and enslaved them in the 17th century. The RPF invasion was nothing more than a plot by Museveni, Kagame and their Tutsi co-conspirators to re-establish this evil Nilotic empire. Cartoons of Tutsis killing Hutus began appearing in magazines, along with warnings that all Tutsis were RPF spies bent on dragging the country back to the days when the Tutsi queen supposedly rose from her seat supported by swords driven between the shoulders of Hutu children. In December 1993, a picture of a machete appeared on the front page of a Hutu publication under the headline “What to do about the Tutsis?”

Habyarimana knew that the RPF, thanks to Ugandan backing, was better armed, trained and disciplined than his own army. Under immense international pressure, he had agreed in August 1993 to grant the RPF seats in a transitional government and nearly half of all posts in the army. Even Tutsis inside Rwanda were against giving the RPF so much power because they knew it could provoke the angry, fearful Hutus even more, and they were right. As Habyarimana’s increasingly weak government reluctantly acceded to the RPF’s demands for power, Hutu extremist mayors and other local officials began stockpiling rifles, and government-linked anti-Tutsi militia groups began distributing machetes and kerosene to prospective génocidaires. In January 1994, four months before the genocide, the CIA predicted that if tensions were not somehow defused, hundreds of thousands of people would die in ethnic violence. The powder keg awaited a spark to set it off.

That spark arrived at about 8pm on 6 April 1994, when rockets fired from positions close to Kigali airport shot down Habyarimana’s plane as it was preparing to land. The next morning, frantic Hutu militia groups, convinced that the Nilotic apocalypse was at hand, launched a ferocious attack against their Tutsi neighbours.

Few subjects are more polarising than the modern history of Rwanda. Questions such as “Has the RPF committed human rights abuses?” or “Who shot down President Habyarimana’s plane?” have been known to trigger riots at academic conferences. The Rwandan government bans and expels critical scholars from the country, labelling them “enemies of Rwanda” and “genocide deniers”, and Kagame has stated that he doesn’t think that “anyone in the media, UN [or] human rights organisations has any moral right whatsoever to level any accusations against me or Rwanda”.

Be that as it may, several lines of evidence suggest that the RPF was responsible for the downing of Habyarimana’s plane. The missiles used were Russian-made SA-16s. The Rwandan army was not known to possess these weapons, but the RPF had them at least since May 1991. Two SA-16 single-use launchers were also found in a valley near Masaka Hill, an area within range of the airport that was accessible to the RPF. According to the Russian military prosecutor’s office, the launchers had been sold to Uganda by the USSR in 1987.

Since 1997, five additional investigations of the crash have been carried out, including one by a UN-appointed team, and one each by French and Spanish judges working independently. These three concluded that the RPF was probably responsible. Two Rwandan government investigations conversely concluded that Hutu elites and members of Habyarimana’s own army were responsible.

2012 report on the crash commissioned by two French judges supposedly exonerated the RPF. But this report, although widely publicised as definitive, actually was not. The authors used ballistic and acoustic evidence to argue that the missiles were probably fired by the Rwandan army from Kanombe military barracks. But they admit that their technical findings could not exclude the possibility that the missiles were fired from Masaka Hill, where the launchers were found. The report also fails to explain how the Rwandan army, which was not known to possess SA-16s, could have shot down the plane using them.

Soon after the plane crash, the génocidaires began their attack against the Tutsis, and the RPF began advancing. But the rebels’ troop movements suggested that their primary priority was conquering the country, not saving Tutsi civilians. Rather than heading south, where most of the killings were taking place, the RPF circled around Kigali. By the time it reached the capital weeks later, most of the Tutsis there were dead.

When the UN peacekeeper Dallaire met RPF commander Kagame during the genocide, he asked about the delay. “He knew full well that every day of fighting on the periphery meant certain death for Tutsis still behind [Rwanda government forces] lines,” Dallaire wrote in Shake Hands With the Devil. “[Kagame] ignored the implications of my question.”

In the years that followed, Bill Clinton apologised numerous times for the US’s inaction during the genocide. “If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost,” he told journalist Tania Bryer in 2013. Instead, Europeans and Americans extracted their own citizens and the UN peacekeepers quietly withdrew. But Dallaire indicates that Kagame would have rejected Clinton’s help in any case. “The international community is looking at sending an intervention force on humanitarian grounds,” Kagame told Dallaire. “But for what reason? If an intervention force is sent to Rwanda, we,” – meaning the RPF – “will fight it.”

 

As the RPF advanced, Hutu refugees fled into neighbouring countries. In late April, television stations around the world broadcast images of thousands upon thousands of them crossing the Rusumo Bridge from Rwanda into Tanzania, as the bloated corpses of Rwandans floated down the Kagera river beneath them. Most viewers assumed that all the corpses were Tutsis killed by Hutu génocidaires. But the river drains mainly from areas then held by the RPF, and Mark Prutsalis, a UN official working in the Tanzanian refugee camps, maintains that at least some of the bodies were probably Hutu victims of reprisal killings by the RPF. One refugee after another told him that RPF soldiers had gone house to house in Hutu areas, dragging people out, tying them up and throwing them in the river. The UN estimated later that the RPF killed some 10,000 civilians each month during the genocide.

Lawrence Nsereko was among the journalists on the Rusumo Bridge that day and as the bodies floated by, he noticed something strange. The upper arms of some of them had been tied with ropes behind their backs. In Uganda, this method of restraint is known as the “three-piece tie”; it puts extreme pressure on the breastbone, causing searing pain, and may result in gangrene. Amnesty International had recently highlighted it as a signature torture method of Museveni’s army, and Lawrence wondered whether the RPF had learned this technique from their Ugandan patrons.

In June 1994, while the slaughter in Rwanda was still underway, Museveni travelled to Minneapolis, where he received a Hubert H Humphrey public service medal and honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota. The dean, a former World Bank official, praised Museveni for ending human rights abuses in Uganda and preparing his country for multiparty democracy. Western journalists and academics showered Museveni with praise. “Uganda [is] one of the few flickers of hope for the future of black Africa,” wrote one. The New York Times compared the Ugandan leader to Nelson Mandela, and Time magazine hailed him as a “herdsman and philosopher” and “central Africa’s intellectual compass.”

Museveni also visited Washington on that trip, where he met with Clinton and his national security adviser, Anthony Lake. I could find no record of what the men discussed, but I can imagine the Americans lamenting the tragedy in Rwanda, and the Ugandan explaining that this disaster only confirmed his long-held theory that Africans were too attached to clan loyalties for multiparty democracy. The continent’s ignorant peasants belonged under the control of autocrats like himself.

Helen C Epstein

This is an adapted extract from Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda and the War on Terror, published by Columbia Global Reports. To order a copy for £9.34, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.

 

UK: MPs vote to recognise Palestinian state, adding to pressure on Israel

Palestine debate
Young Jewish men argue with pro-Palestinian supporters in Parliament Square as MPs debate the recognition of Palestine. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

MPs including the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, have voted to recognise Palestine as a state in a symbolic move that will unnerve Israel by suggesting that it is losing a wider battle for public opinion in Britain.

The vote of 274 to 12, a majority of 262, on a backbench motion has no practical impact on British government policy and ministers were instructed not to vote. Labour decided to impose a one-line whip, and the Liberal Democrats, like the Conservatives, gave their backbenchers a free vote.

In possibly the single most important contribution in an emotional debate, Richard Ottaway, the Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said the recent annexation of West Bank land by the Israeli government had angered him like nothing else in politics.

The Conservative MP said he had been a supporter of the state of Israel before he became a Tory and had close family connections with the generation that formed the Israeli state. He explained: “The Holocaust had a deep impact on me growing up in the wake of the second world war,” adding that he had been a strong supporter of Israel in the six day war and subsequent conflicts.

He told MPs: “Looking back over the past 20 years, I realise now Israel has slowly been drifting away from world public opinion. The annexation of the 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago has outraged me more than anything else in my political life. It has made me look a fool and that is something I deeply resent.”

He said he was not yet convinced that Palestine was fit to be a state due to its refusal to recognise Israel, adding that “in normal circumstances” he would have opposed the motion. But, he said, “such is my anger with the behaviour of Israel in recent months that I will not be opposing this motion. I have to say to the government of Israel: if it is losing people like me, it is going to be losing a lot of people.”

The former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said the vote was not simply a gesture, because if it were, the Israeli government would not be as worried by the vote.

The Israeli government, he said, wants the recognition of the Palestinian state only at the successful conclusion of any negotiations. But Straw said “such an approach would give the Israelis a veto over whether a Palestinian state should exist”. A vote for recognition would add to the pressure on the Israeli government, he said. “The only thing that the Israeli government, in my view, in its present demeanour under Bibi Netanyahu understands is pressure.”

Straw moved an amendment to the motion setting out that the UK government should recognise Palestine “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative foreign secretary, said it had been British policy for generations that a state is recognised when the territory in question has a government, an army and a military capability.

Conservative James Clappison spoke out against the motion, arguing it would do more harm than good. He said: “I believe that international recognition of a Palestinian state in the terms of the motion would make a two-state solution less likely rather than more likely.

“I don’t see Israel, having faced the challenges it has over the years, caving in to this backbench motion. It might be a gesture on behalf of this house, but it would take the process no further.”

He said Hamas had “set its face against any peace deal with Israel” and undertaken a “campaign of terror”.

The motion had been tabled by Labour’s Grahame Morris, who said it was right to take the “small but symbolically important” step of recognising the Palestinian right to statehood.

Tobias Ellwood, the Middle East minister, said the UK government was a “staunch supporter” of Israel’s right to defend itself, but settlement-building made “it hard for Israel’s friends to make the case that Israel is committed to peace”.

Ellwood said Palestinian statehood could only become a reality when occupation ends

and stressed that the UK believes “this will only come through negotiations”. He added: “The UK will bilaterally recognise a Palestinian state when we judge that it can best help bring about peace.”

SOURCE: The Guardian

Why Ferguson is the Congo ?

 By BK Kumbi

Picture of Ba Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, by Don't Be Blind This Time

The author of the article that follows starts from an assumption that we all know Ferguson. If I hadn’t been reading recent news feeds on that nth US police brutality case against black people in America I wouldn’t know. I omitted deliberately putting the date when that happened, because it happens every day. Now you know. But where is the link between Ferguson and Congo?

In March 1978 US President Jimmy Carter commissioned a report – NSCM/46 – put together by the National Security Council Interdepartmental Group for Africa. Zbignew Brezinski as National Security Advisor had been tasked with reviewing what was happening in Black Africa from the point of view of possible impacts on the black movement in US. The exercise had to consider:

  1. Long-term tendencies of social and political developments and the degree to which they were consistent with or contradicted US interests
  2. Proposals for durable contacts between radical African leaders and leftists leaders of the US black community
  3. Appropriate steps to be taken inside and outside the country in order to inhibit any pressure by radical African leaders and organizations on the US black community for the latter to exert influence on the policy of the Administration towards Africa

When the report was submitted in the same year it included among other findings these ones:

  1. The mineral resources of the area [Black Africa] continue to be of great value for the normal functioning of industry in the United States and allied countries
  2. If the idea of economic assistance to black Americans shared by some African regimes could be realized by their placing orders in the United States mainly with companies owned by blacks, they could gain a limited influence on the US black community

The recommendations from the report privileged the sanctified principle of divide and rule in order to weaken any emergence of a strong black opposition to dominant policies serving inside and outside US national interests.

  1. Special clandestine operations should be launched by the CIA to generate mistrust and hostility in American and world opinion against joint activity of the two forces [Black America and Black Africa], and to cause division among Black African radical national groups and their leaders
  2. To preserve the present [we were then in 1978 but looking at it today 36 years later the situation has not much changed] climate which inhibits the emergence from within the Black leadership of a person capable of exerting national [or global] appeal.
  3. To support actions designed to sharpen social stratification in the Black community which would lead to the widening and perpetuation of the gap between successful educated Blacks and the poor, giving rise to growing antagonism between different black groups and a weakening of the movement as a whole.

BK Kumbi, Congolese activist, historian and founding member ofDon’t Be Blind This Time, decrypts what such measures and probably many others similar taken over the years by US authorities and allies have had as consequences to black American community and black Africa. She starts her analysis with the intentionally engineered and differing perceptions of the other between the two groups. She moves on the inadequacies that such differences create and the behavior of the white in a well wheeled tragedy where all black as a race becomes a consistent victim. She finds the ultimate exit from the situation to be within the victim itself, or its own humanity.

As Africans our eyes are often turned towards America because for some of us there is the illusion that attracts but for others the eye focuses on how the black man is staged in the American reality. For many black Americans, as for the majority of Americans, Africa is a land of savages and this idea has a particular resonance among the Afro-American population because it shows how they were taught to hate themselves through the figure of a so to say original man, the one that is stored in the sub-humanity. However, when we look at things more closely, one has to ask if there is a real difference of treatment for us all? Imperialist policies affecting African populations are the same as those applied to the black population in the United States precisely because the principle states that the black body shall be exploited alive or dead, it must generate profit. I come from a country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 6 million people were murdered and where the killings continue so that the world benefits from the wealth of this country, namely from the coltan, a mineral that is used to make cell phones, but also to manufacture weapons which kill other blacks thousands miles away of my land.

This tragedy is absent from the majority of the American channels or if it is presented, it is to say that there are blacks who kill blacks. There are no questions raised as per the people or the countries who arms those blacks and for what purpose? The corporate media rather prefers to broadcast on the visits of the gang leaders of our region that the United States has hired to do the job and fuel the black on black theory at an international level. What is striking here is how the story is structured or the fact that there is no narrative at all about this issue, just silence. What I want to point out here specifically is the question of how our bodies became objects of spectacles. If there is generally silence that surrounds the Congolese tragedy, there is nevertheless one aspect of this conflict that is portrayed more than the others. The issue of rape used as a weapon of war is the beloved subject of a certain American ”intelligentsia” and it has helped forward the image of some American ‘celebrities’.

The mutilated bodies of Congolese women have become an image that is made pornographic and that it is diffused freely under the idea of a feminist fight and the narrative of this tragedy is assumed by white feminists who actually fight for their own rights in a capitalist environment. This is not done to help the Congolese women and it is also done to spread the idea that this is a femicide and not a genocide. The story of Congolese women is a way to raise funds for these organizations, to write and produce documentaries that will also generate money and, -and this is perhaps the most important, it’s a way to reaffirm the idea that the black man is a savage, a predator whose violence is atavistic, mad and he is therefore the sole instrument of the eradication of his own black being. Is not also the narrative that is served to explain to the Afro- Americans that they are the very instruments of their own annihilation and their own poverty? Is that not what is said when the corporate media uses false images to say that Brown had stolen into a store and that was the reason of his death?

We all need to have our eyes open about the way we are treated and portrayed, and I say we because the image that is conveyed of the African man in Africa necessarily affects the way the Afro-American man is perceived. For those who are looking at us, as if we were in a cage like Lumumba said, there is no difference between a black African or an African-American. We are the ones making this difference because we think that for the white man there are good blacks and there are bad blacks. We don’t look at us through our own eyes but through the eyes of another person who has defined us as not human. When Lewis said that Ferguson is not the Congo, he shows how he is very much inhabited by this idea, he shows that for him there are good and bad Negros. When one really reflects on what is happening in Ferguson, one sees precisely that Ferguson is the Congo. The lesson of this tragedy is how we all rebuild our own histories, how we teach our children to see their lives and the lives of those who look like them as valuable, how we teach them that they are human beings and that they are part of this world even though some want to deny them this right.

Source: http://therisingcontinent.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/why-ferguson-is-the-congo