Rejoinder To The Article “Will Ingabire Be Rwanda’s Saviour?”
On 24th February, Mr Andrew Mwenda (independent.co.ug) published an article titled “Will Ingabire be Rwanda’s saviour?”.
I do not share the view of Mr Andrew Mwenda on Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is a very responsible politician, keen to take the bull i.e. Rwandan tragic past, by its horns in order to forge a better future.
The line of argument developed by Andrew M Mwenda that Mrs Ingabire political stand is irresponsible, rests on questionable assumptions and wrong historical comparison, a false interpretation of the statements made by Victoire on her arrival in Rwanda and a limited understanding of the terms of the debate that Victoire presents as opposed to the political discourse imposed by the incumbent regime.
Questionable assumptions and comparisons.
The statement that it is irresponsible for Victoire to “say that those who ended genocide should stand with those who orchestrated it” and “that victims of genocide should be tried alongside its architects” is based on a misinterpretation of her statement and underlying denial of justice to all Rwandans irrespective of ethnic affiliation. As far as I heard and read Victoire stated that those who committed genocide against Tutsi should be brought to book according to the law and added that for genuine reconciliation to take place once each Rwandan’s pain need to be acknowledged and those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against Hutus be tried. I find this to be a normal demand to end impunity which is the root cause of the instability in the Great Lakes region. Denying justice to thousands of people who lost their loved ones is divisive, discriminatory and undermines reconciliation. Crime of genocide, however horrendous, should not give a blank cheque to commit other crimes with impunity especially when the crimes were committed in a coordinated, systematic and premeditated manner. It beats my imagination to equate the call for justice to thousands of Hutus to denying genocide against Tutsi.
What Victoire is saying is no different from what the public is asking, the international community and well wishers for stability in Rwanda have been advancing.
The UN Commission of Experts concluded in its preliminary and final reports (S/1994/1125 and S/1994/1405) on which the Security Council Resolution 955 that set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) point out that “during the war that followed the assassination of President Habyarimana
“Individuals from both sides to the armed conflict in Rwanda during the period from 6 April 1994 to 15 July 1994 perpetrated serious breaches of international humanitarian law, in particular of obligations set forth in Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions and relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts of 8 June 1977 and that Individuals from both sides to the armed conflict perpetrated crimes against humanity;”.
A report by UNHCR Team headed by Robert Gersony estimated that from April to August 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front systematically killed between 25,000 and 45,000 Hutus as it made its way toward Kigali.
According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International:
“The crimes committed by RPF soldiers were so systematic and widespread and took place over so long a period of time that commanding officers must have been aware of them.”
“RPF soldiers massacred unarmed civilians, many of them women and children, who had assembled for a meeting on their orders”
(Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/rwanda/Geno1-3-03.htm#P86_35545).
These killings are not just spontaneous anger because in doing so one would excuse the killings carried out by the presidential guard after learning that their President was killed by a Tutsi led rebel movement.
The RPF army is accused of having killed at least four thousand unarmed civilians in Kibeho camp for the internally displaced. See Witness to Genocide — A Personal Account of the 1995 Kibeho Massacre.
In addition, during its invasion of what was then called Zaire, it is estimated that the Rwandan soldiers killed more than 200,000 Hutu refugees. A report by a chillean Roberto Garreton who led investigation was diluted on orders of some powerful members of the Security Council, and forced to remove any suggestion that what happened was genocide, for fear that it would bring trouble to the RPF regime.
In a letter written to the Security Council on the 6th of June 2006, FILDH (Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme), Human Rights Watch, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, drew the attention of the Security Council to the fact that in 1994, the RPA killed thousands of civilians, in the process committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, crimes well documented, including by a U.N. Commission of Experts which concluded that the RPA had
“perpetrated serious breaches of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.” They warned that “only if the ICTR dispenses justice fully, impartially, and to all parties will it fulfil the purpose for which the Security Council established it, contributing to peace and reconciliation in the region”.
Calling statement made by Victoire Ingabire
Calling for the prosecution of elements of the RPF who committed crimes against humanity should not be construed as asking that “victims of genocide should be tried alongside its architects”. Victims of the genocide are different from criminals who killed Hutu in their thousands. RPF is a political military organisation with a political programme and those who committed crimes should answer them individually. Besides, though it was dominated by Tutsi elite it is not synonymous with Tutsi ethnic group, in the same way that the Hutu led government or the Hutu who killed Tutsi are not synonymous with Hutu ethnic group. Criminals are criminals independent of their ethnic affiliation and should face the law. The International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia has tried criminals from all sides. There is no reason why RPF should be an exception. Double standards based on ethnicity is unacceptable not whistle-blowing to end injustice.
The RPF does not deserve the moral high ground of having stopped genocide.
The UN report that set up ICTR pointed out that the shooting down of the plane that had on board the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and their suite triggered the genocide. Though nothing can justify the heinous crime of genocide, the person or persons who carried out that terrorist act are partly responsible for the genocide for they would have known the grave consequences of such a heinous act.
The former U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda, Robert Flatten, testified in June 2005 at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that he personally warned Gen. Kagame and Pres. Habyarimana that if either resumed war by breaking the Arusha Accords cease fire, they would be responsible for thousands of civilian casualties from retaliatory killings that U.S. State Department documents predicted should the war resume…similar to killings that swept Burundi/Rwanda in 1988.
There is a strong suggestion that the RPF is responsible for it and therefore shared responsibility in the genocide. A French anti terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière has confirmed this and issued international arrest warrants against the culprits. A Spanish judge, Fernando Andreu, has come to the same conclusion.
Even when the catastrophe struck, the RPF deliberately blocked all attempts to intervene to stop the genocide.
The RPF rejected the invitation made by the military crisis committee, set up on the 7th April 94, for a meeting on the 8th April 1994 with committee, through the UN troops Commander General Dallaire, to discuss how to handle the new crisis. RPF responded by starting a full-scale war on all the fronts, 4 hours before the planned meeting.
The former Deputy UN troops commander in Rwanda Col. Marshall made it clear when testifying before the Criminal International Tribunal for Rwanda on 2/12/2006 that the RPF main preoccupation was military victory at any cost and not to save Tutsi in Rwanda:
“From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves”,
”For me, it is the Rwandan Patriotic Front which has perpetrated the attack (shooting the presidential aircraft). Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus”.
On the 8th April 19994, the RPF asked all foreign troops to quit within 48 hours declaring they would be considered as enemy combatant if they stayed longer. The Security Council under the pressure of the US, the UK and Belgium, decided to reduce dramatically the UN troops.
On the 12th of April 1994 the RPF rejected a truce offered by the governmental forces in order to fight those who were carrying out massacres of civilian population. Army communiqué calling on RPA dialogue was signed by Ntiwiragabo, Muberuka, Kanyamanza, Murasampongo, Rwabalinda, Hakizimana, Rwamanywa, Kanyandekwe and Gatsinzi Marcel, now Minister of Defence in Rwanda.
On the contrary the RPF dispatched Dusaidi and Muligande to New York to prevent any foreign intervention.
On the 15th April, a meeting organised by Jacques Bobooh, UN representative, failed to broker a ceasefire because the RPF was deliberately putting forward impossible preconditions, one of which was to ask the army to denounce the interim government and to immediately prosecute those who had committed massacres.
According to Human Rights Watch, on the 30th of April the RPF made a statement opposing UN initiatives for a deployment of international forces in order to help curb the massacres of civilians. Human Rights Watch reveals
“When the Security Council discussed sending a larger peacekeeping force to Rwanda with a broader mandate to protect civilians, the RPF feared that the force might interfere with its goal of military victory. Its leaders may have been particularly concerned that the French might use the force to protect the interim government. Instead of welcoming the move and urging speedy implementation, the RPF spokesman in Brussels opposed it and asserted that there were no more Tutsi to be saved”.
But as HRW testifies thousands of Tutsi were still hiding or in churches calling for help (1999 annual report).
On May 5, 1994, The Washington Times wrote:
“The rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) commander said yesterday a U.N. force cannot bring peace to his blood-soaked country and only a guerrilla victory will end the massacres”.
It took another two months for the RPF to take over the country.
Gen. Dallaire, commander of the UN forces in Rwandan (UNAMIR), testified under oath before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, that Gen. Paul Kagame told him that those civilian killings are “collateral damage” for his war plan.
On 12 November 2005 the RPF spokesman Mr Severian Sebasoni told BBC Great Lakes radio that RPF objectives was not to be like Red Cross saving people but to take the power.
The issue of ethnicity in Rwanda
Andrew M. Mwenda points out that “given the emotive power of ethnicity especially in Rwanda, it is easy to rally a political following by making ethnic claims, something that is “also extremely dangerous”. If a claim to justice for all is “extremely dangerous” in a society, then there must be something fundamentally wrong that must be addressed for such society to survive.
My view is that the Rwandan society must take the bull by its horns by accepting its past looking at it critically and accept each one’s responsibility. Throwing the bucket at each other for what went wrong in Rwanda does not help nor does the story line of the good and bad guys portraying Hutus as “Hutus extremist killers, while the Tutsis of the RPF are portrayed as avenging angels, who swooped in from their bases in Uganda to stop the genocide”
I believe that ethnicity is not a problem in itself; the problem is lack of the rule of law, democracy and equal opportunity. Once the three conditions are present, the importance of ethnicity will disappear.
It is an open secret that the RPF has used the slogan on national unity to prevent any criticism of its policies and to stifle dissenting voices. This cannot augur well for the future of the country. It can only push dissenting voices underground.