How Britain’s leading institution has lent its services to the deniers of the genocide against the Tutsi
And so it was that after a couple of text messages I decided to spare
an hour to watch a documentary by the BBC titled “Rwanda: The Untold
Story”. Everything the documentary claims to “reveal” in this “untold
story” has been told before. Critics of President Paul Kagame and the
Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) have made these allegations for years. What
was intriguing was the audacity of the BBC to give a platform to these
BBC is expected to be fair and balanced – or at least pretend to. Yet
the documentary collects well-known genocide deniers and fugitive
former Rwanda government officials for its cast. There is Filip
Reyntjens, a Belgian academic who helped the Juvenal Habyarimana
administration write its constitution. He is presented as the “world’s
leading expert on Rwanda.” He is a well-known critic of Kagame and has
not been in Rwanda in 20 years.
Others in the cast include Kayumba Nyamwasa, a renegade general
living in exile in South Africa; and his friend Theogene Rudasingwa, a
former director of cabinet in Kagame’s office. Kayumba even says Kagame
“is a serial killer who enjoys killing his citizens.” Never mind that
this “serial killer” is the only president of a poor country that has
given nearly all his poor citizens medical insurance cover – oh, what a
way to enjoy killing your citizens! I know how BBC works. It would never
allow such a sentence to pass its editorial eye. So why did BBC allow
this to pass against Kagame?
Neither can BBC justify itself by saying that the woman who did the
documentary is not their employee. It is BBC that broadcast the
documentary and bares full responsibility for all its accusations, lies
and innuendoes. There is not a single person – whether a genocide
survivor, an official of the government of Rwanda, or the RPF who is
interviewed. It is a one-sided condemnation of Rwanda government, Kagame
and the RPF.
The documentary sinks to the abyss when it presents two Americans it
claims have done research on the genocide in Rwanda. One of them claims
that of the one million people killed by the interahamwe militias during
the genocide, only 200,000 were Tutsi. The other 800,000, this expert
insinuates, were Hutus killed by the RPF. In short, the BBC is saying
there were actually two genocides in Rwanda and the one against Hutus
was the worst. The documentary does not ask this so called expert the
basis of this wild claim.
The documentary has a man with a laptop who claims to have recorded a
“telephone conversation” with a “top Rwanda government official” who
offers him $1m to kill Kayumba. However, there is no effort to establish
the voice on the phone and link it to a “top government official in
Rwanda”. Why should anyone believe this is a genuine telephone
Another man claiming to have been Kagame’s bodyguard alleges it is
the RPF that shot down Habyarimana’s plane. He claims to have been in
the meeting where the decision was taken. But the documentary does
nothing to show that he is was actually part of Kagame’s bodyguard. His
claims are taken on face value. Is this journalism? As expected, Kayumba
and Rudasingwa support this allegation but none of them presents a whit
of evidence to support their position.
Everyone knows that Habyarimana had planned the genocide long before
he died. Militias had been trained. Machetes had been procured. A
propaganda campaign mobilising the general population had been on radio
and newspapers for years. Lists of people to kill had been drawn. In
January 1994, the UN Peace-keeping force commander in Rwanda, Gen. Romeo
Dellaire, had sent a cable to UN headquarters in New York seeking
permission to attack and destroy ammunitions depots that had been
stocked with weapons to kill Tutsis. The beginning of genocide was a
matter or time, not intent.
In that documentary, Kayumba and Rudasingwa represent the tragedy of
African elites when they have fallen out of favour with a government.
They allege that it is the shooting of Habyarimana’s plane that sparked
off the genocide. Therefore, they conclude, RPF is fully or partly
culpable for the genocide. First, even assuming (just for argument’s
sake) that this claim has merit, why did they serve in the RPF for over
ten years if they knew it was responsible for one of the worst human
tragedies of the 20th century?
Although their opportunism is blinding, we should not miss what it
reveals i.e. their political bankruptcy. Lacking a core message to sell
to Rwandans, they retreat to false and wild accusations to appease
interests that are prejudiced against Africa. Let us assume, again for
argument’s sake, that RPF shot down Habyarimana’s plane: does that
justify Hutu militants taking revenge on innocent Tutsi civilians –
including women and children?
Habyarimana’s government was at war with Kagame’s RPF. If he had a
chance to kill Kagame would Habyarimana have let it pass? In war, you
are justified to kill your enemy. All too often, the leader of the enemy
forces is the center of gravity and therefore a legitimate military
target. Take him out, and the resistance may collapse. That was the
reasoning behind President Barack Obama’s relentless pursuit of Osama
Bin Laden. It is obvious therefore that RPF had a strong interest to
kill Habyarimana. Even if they killed him, it would neither justify
Habyarimana’s state machinery massacring innocent Tutsis nor make RPF
responsible for the genocide.
The opportunistic claims of Kayumba and Rudasingwa thus amount to
saying that Britain and France be held responsible for the Jewish
holocaust because it is their declaration of war against Germany that
sparked off World War Two and led Hitler to kill six million Jews. This
tendency, to try and use the shooting down of Habyarimana’s plane to
make RPF wholly or partially responsible for the genocide, has been a
recurrent theme of the sympathisers of the Hutu supremacist government
that massacred innocents.
Every mass murderer has been driven by some grievance – Hitler by the
fear that Jews were taking over Germany. But you cannot massacre a
million people and then claim it was because someone else annoyed you
and he or she should therefore share your culpability. If we allowed
this twisted logic, every criminal would claim someone else drove
him/her to commit a crime.
The documentary itself is neither shocking nor surprising. What is
both shocking and surprising is that, it was broadcast by the BBC. We
need to know why BBC did this.