Rwanda 1994: Colonialism dies hardhttp://www.taylor-report.com/Rwanda_1994/
The Taylor Report is pleased to bring you Rwanda 1994: Colonialism dies hard, the english translation of Robin Philpot's book Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali
Text from the back cover:
Right thinking people would have us blindly believe the Official Story that the Rwandan tragedy was simply the work of horrible Hutu génocidaires who planned and executed a satanic scheme to eliminate nearly a million Tutsis after a plane crashed in the heart of dark Africa on April 6, 1994. On the other hand, former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali declared to the author that the “Rwandan genocide was 100 percent American responsibility. How can such contradictory interpretations coexist?
Robin Philpot’s vast and methodical research, extensive interviews, and close analysis of events and popular writings on the subject shows not only that the Official Story is false, but that it was edified in an aim to cover-up the causes of the tragedy and to protect the criminals responsible for it. What’s more, to make us believe that Story, the Story tellers have unfailingly reproduced those literary traditions, clichés, and metaphors that provided the underpinnings of slavery, the slave-trade, and colonialism.
Robin Philpot is a Montréal writer. He lived in Africa in the 1970s and taught English and History in Burkina Faso from 1972 to 1974. The original French version of this book entitled Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali has sold widely in Quebec, in Europe and in Africa.
Rwanda 1994: Colonialism dies hard is published on line by the The Taylor Report and Robin Philpot so as to ensure maximum readership, particularly in Africa.
Praise for Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali
“Explosive, very daring and solidly defended... a real bomb that rocks our interpretation of the Rwandan tragedy!” Le Devoir, Montreal.
“Philpot’s investigations show that behind all the words can be found an operation to destabilize and remodel the region.”Africa International, Paris.
“In this blistering exposé, Philpot makes the case that the genocide was a consequence of an Americano-British scheme to support a guerrilla movement (the Rwandan Patriotic Front) against the Rwandan government of Juvenal Habyarimana’s, assassinated at the same time as Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira.” La Presse, Montreal
Table of Contents
1 Invasion? What invasion?
2 In the name of peace and democracy
3 The power of a word
4 Scouts at her Majesty’s service
5 A coup by any other name…
6 It shall be called a plane crash
7 How is the empire?
8 Into the heart of dark imaginations
9 Power to those who have it! - Philip Gourevitch
10 The importance of being Canadian - Carol Off
11 The bottom of the cesspool - Gil Courtemanche
12 An avatar of colonial Europe - Colette Braeckman
13 An unattackable adjudicated fact
14 A wandering Rwandan, banished from his homeland
15 “Watch out for Africa!” Closing in on the Congo
Until lions produce their own historians
the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter
the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter
“The genocide in Rwanda was 100 percent the responsibility of the Americans!” Those are not the words of a political leader who has been marginalized like Robert Mugabe or a Fidel Castro. Nor are they the words of a nostalgic African activist bewailing the fall of the Soviet block. Former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali made that statement in July 1998, and he repeated it to me in November 2002. People in the White House liked to call Boutros-Ghali “Booboo Ghali”, or “Frenchie”, in preparation for and during his firing from the United Nations conducted by the then United States’ Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright, who vetoed his re-election on November 19, 1996.
His analysis flies in the face of all the clichés and accepted ideas about the Rwandan catastrophe whose effects have spread well beyond the borders of that small country in Africa. The story of Rwanda is so littered with clichés and blind beliefs that a modern Flaubertian would be well advised to draft a new dictionary.
Throughout his life, Flaubert wanted to compile a dictionary containing all that should be said in good company to be right and proper and to laud the things the right thinking agree upon. Similarly, what should and can be said about Rwanda at cocktail parties in Europe and North America - that Boutros-Ghali obviously did not say - in order to be well thought of among the right thinking? If your ears perk up at such events where Rwanda is mentioned, you are sure to here some or all of the following statements.
- Rwanda is a beautiful little country perched on a plateau in the heart of dark Africa where horrible Hutu génocidaires massacred a million defenceless Tutsis after a plane crash killed an African dictator on April 6, 1994.
- The UN and the international community hopelessly failed to respond in time despite the clear warning in a fax sent on January 11, 1994, by the valorous Canadian general Romeo Dallaire and the numerous warnings issued by devoted and neutral human rights workers.
- In a predictable return to its iniquitous and colonialist past, France flew to the rescue of génocidaires and dictators by deploying its army in the Opération Turquoise.
- The Rwandan Patriotic Front led by the brilliant military political strategist Paul Kagame, now President of Rwanda, put an end to the genocide when he marched into Kigali on July 4, 1994, and then took power on July 19, 1994.
- Pressured by impartial non governmental human rights groups and in light of the trustworthy information they provided, the international community got its senses back, established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, arrested and indicted the bloodthirsty génocidaires, and brought these big fish to justice in Arusha, thanks in particular to Canadian Prosecutor Louise Arbour, who later become judge on the Supreme Court of Canada and then head the UN Human Rights Commission.
- Thankfully after centuries during which rape has been a weapon of war and domination, a man has finally been convicted by an international criminal court of rape as a war crime. For that crime and other crimes against humanity, the brute is now serving a life sentence in a Malian jail.
- The génocidaires fled Rwanda and African dictators in the region continued to protect them. As a result, Rwanda rightly launched a defensive war of aggression in the neighbouring Congo that continues to this day. Nonetheless, thanks to Jean Chrétien, his nephew Ambassador Raymond Chrétien and Canadian General Maurice Baril, the international community came to the rescue of the Rwandan refugees, liberated them from the génocidaires, and made it possible for them to return freely to their country. Since some remained, however, Rwanda was justified in pursuing its defensive war of aggression. Unfortunately, some four million people have since been killed.
- On behalf of the international community, President William Jefferson Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright apologized for their timid reaction, and ours, during the genocide and promised never again to tolerate such crimes.
Who has not read or heard such descriptions. Is it possible that they are just clichés or fashionable misconceptions? Does the truth lie somewhere else? Was Boutros Boutros-Ghali right to lift the corner of the very heavy rock of American responsibility to see what lies beneath?
The problem with the Rwandan tragedy is that nobody dares to look. It’s like the tale of Blue Beard who sweetly hands his wife the keys to his castle but warns her that one door must not be opened. Unlike Blue Beard’s wife, we have all obeyed the tyrant.
The goal of this book is to disobey, to use that key or those keys to open the door and find out what lies behind. Reams of paper have been written on Rwanda and the African Great Lakes region. The space taken up in libraries and bookstores is measured in metres, but except for fine points, all these books and reports say the same thing.
As is often the case with unanimity, dissidence is not tolerated, factual omissions and errors signalled are simply drowned out, and silence about crucial events is imposed. In the case of Rwanda, these problems are compounded by a shameful servility towards those who wield real power in the world, as well as a profound contempt for Africa.
The unanimity begins with the cavalier and abusive use of the term “genocide” and all its derivatives, such as génocidaire borrowed directly from French, accent and all, thus making it even more sinister. The road map that led to its widespread use tells us more about the goals and policies of big powers and the parties at war than it does about the crime itself. The term is a bludgeon and a gag order for millions of Rwandans. Its continued blind use will do more to perpetuate war than to render justice.
The most deafening silence concerns the worst terrorist act of the 1990s, namely the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi on April 6, 1994. That tragic assassination of two African heads of state has become a “plane crash” in official international newspeak.
Why have Louise Arbour, Kofi Annan, Madeleine Albright, and their superiors from Jean Chrétien to Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, not insisted that the killers be identified and brought to justice? After all, the “international community” solemnly promised to do so on April 7, 1994. The answer is obvious. Any serious investigation of that assassination would destroy the narrative that has been so carefully crafted to explain the Rwandan tragedy.
Equally astonishing is the silence about the three and a half years of war in Rwanda, starting with the invasion by Ugandan troops on October 1st, 1990, leading up to the assassination of the two presidents. That war heralded other wars that have torn up and terrorized all the neighbouring countries, and particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The victors of the Rwandan war, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, have been the main aggressors in the Congo. They are also the unwavering allies of the United States and the United Kingdom - President Paul Kagame was the first African head of state to back the United States’ invasion of Iraq. Once again, a close look at the war conducted by the invading RPF army between 1990 and 1994 and thereafter, would effectively shatter the official narrative.
Since 1989, power in the world is concentrated as never before in the hands of a single country. One might have expected that, with the fall of the Soviet Union, criticism of what used to be called “American imperialism” would have become sharper and stronger, and that more people would be digging up information, and pointing out the interests, misinformation, manipulation and covert action of that superpower. That certainly has not happened with respect to Rwanda.
Whereas France has been portrayed as being riddled with motive and guilty of the worst sins, the United States and its faithful sidekicks, mainly Canada and the United Kingdom, have come through virtually unscathed, bathing in an appearance of moral authority and honesty.
Like all countries Rwanda has a complex history that is a source of much debate. Summaries of Rwandan history in recently published books are inevitably coloured by the authors’ own positions on the 1994 tragedy. In this book, very few references will be made to Rwandan history. This choice has been made not because Rwandan history uninteresting or unimportant, but rather because the authors of the official narrative of the recent tragedy use Rwandan history, or their own version of it, to hide the real causes of and thereby protect the criminals. These authors invariably explain the events of 1994 by referring to aspects of Rwanda history that they intentionally present as sinister and foreboding of sad events to come. It is as though the route towards “genocide” could be retraced in Rwandan history alone, and no other forces came into play.
A neutral overview of Rwandan history, geography and demography is nonetheless very helpful. Books recognized for their objectivity include René Lemarchandâ€™s authoritative work published in 1970 Rwanda and Burundi (Pall Mall Press, London).
Well before Europeans arrived, Rwanda was a feudal kingdom controlled by the Tutsi minority (Batutsi). The Tutsis were mainly cattle herders. Devotion to the king and poetry were highly regarded by the Tutsis who held agricultural work in contempt. The Hutu majority (Bahutu) were mainly peasants who worked the land and were serfs to the Tutsi aristocracy to whom they owed fealty and fees.
After the Berlin Conference of 1885 and the European scramble for Africa, Rwanda and Burundi came under German sovereignty but were ruled indirectly through the kings known as Mwamis. Germany also ruled what is now Tanzania, though much more directly as a colony until the end of the First World War in 1918. When the victorious powers divided up German possessions, Rwanda and Burundi were put under Belgian mandate. Belgium administered Rwanda and Burundi through the two kings (Mwamis), both Tutsis, and thereby exacerbated the division between Tutsis and Hutus, the latter representing more than 80 percent of the population. Rwanda and Burundi were economically integrated in the Belgian Congo whose administrative capital was Léopoldville, renamed Kinshasa in 1971.
In 1956, the Belgians took the initiative to organize elections that shook up the feudal and monarchist order. In Rwanda the Hutu majority revolted against the Tutsi aristocracy in November 1959. Many Tutsis fled to neighbouring countries, including Uganda, while others were killed. This social revolution culminated in a UN-conducted referendum in September 1961, the independence of Rwanda on July 1, 1962, and the redistribution of land among Hutu peasants.
The Rwandan Mwami (Kigeri V) fled before independence. Rwanda became a republic and Grégoire Kayibanda, leader of the Parmehutu party, became the first president. Burundi kept the monarchy after independence and the Tutsi minority continued to hold power especially in the Burundian army.
Between 1960 and 1967, Tutsi exiles calling themselves Inyeniz * launched many violent attacks against the new Rwandan regime, but were consistently beaten back. Each attack brought about reprisal killings within Rwanda. In 1972, Burundi was shaken by serious troubles. The Tutsi-dominated army of Burundi killed more than 100,000 Hutus, and many more fled as refugees to Rwanda. Shortly thereafter, on July 5, 1973, senior officers of Rwanda’s National Guard overthrew President Kayibanda. The leader Major General Juvénal Habyarimana became president. The Tutsi elite that had remained in Rwanda after the social revolution and independence supported the new President Habyarimana.
Rwanda lived in relative peace and prosperity between 1973 and 1990. It was considered as a model of economic development and was often cited as an example by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The Tutsi refugee problem, however, had not been resolved to their satisfaction. This then became the pretext for senior officers of the Ugandan army, including many Tutsis exiles born in Uganda or living there since 1959, to invade Rwanda on October 1, 1990. The Government of Rwanda and a vast majority of the Rwandan people saw that invasion as a counter-revolution aimed at catapulting the Tutsi aristocracy back into power. This book deals mainly with events that took place from 1990 on.
Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. In April 1994, it had a population of 7,600,000, about 85 to 90 percent Hutu. Rwanda has an area of 26,340 square kilometres, about the same as the State of Vermont whose population is about 550,000.
A few words are in order to explain where this book comes from. Though Montreal has been my home since 1974, I did not arrive from Ontario where I was born, but rather from Ougadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. More exactly, I was arriving from Koudougou, some 100 kilometres to the west of Ouagadougou, where I had lived and taught English and history for two years. Before, during and after my stay in Koudougou, I was lucky enough to travel through, and stay in, almost all West African countries, from Mauritania to Cameroon and to pursue my interest in African history that I had studied at the University of Toronto.
Settling in Montreal, Quebec was no accident. Leaving a French-speaking country in a French-speaking region of Africa for another French-speaking country, Quebec, was only normal. In addition to language, there were also political affinities. African independence was still fresh in the minds of Africans, as was colonialism, and the very many Quebecers in Africa at that time were talking about independence and Canadian colonialism in Quebec.
Bamako, Mali, and not Toronto or Thunder Bay in Canada, was where I first heard music by Quebec poet and singer Gilles Vigneault. N’djamena, Chad (formerly Fort-Lamy) and not Vancouver or Ottawa was where I learned who Félix Leclerc was. In Koudougou, I read Les nègres blancs d’Amérique (White Niggers of America) and found out what the 24th of June meant for Quebecers. At the same time and with the same enthusiasm I encountered Une vie de boy (Houseboy) by Ferdinand Oyono, in Yaoundé, Cameroon. In Dakar, I learned who exactly Léopold Sédar Senghor was and read Sembène Ousman’s God’s Bits of Wood, and in Nigeria, I read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
This personal history is presented only to show the link between this book and my commitment to Quebec sovereignty that led to my previous book entitledOka: dernier alibi du Canada anglais (Oka: English Canada’s Latest Excuse), published in 1991. 1 Though the books may seem unrelated, both aim to combat accepted ideas and blind beliefs that are based on prejudice and hidden political agendas. Moreover, my personal trajectory, and that of others who have enjoyed the wonderful international link provided by the French language, may also convince skeptics in a time of doubt that the Francophonie is, and should continue to be, a very important international institution.
Interest in Africa and particularly in French-speaking Africa led me to follow the events in Rwanda very closely in the early 1990s. After meeting a number of Rwandans at a demonstration, I published an article in the Montreal daily La Presse in September 1994 criticizing the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development then headed by Ed Broadbent. 2 The article started a polemic because it accused that organization and others of doing public relations for the invading army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in their March 1993 human rights report published following a fifteen-day visit to Rwanda in January 1993. The article also pointed out that the report and the media and lobbying campaign that accompanied it exacerbated the conflict. (More about this in Chapter 4.)
Following the publication of that article and the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in November 1994 by the UN Security Council, my brother John Philpot, a Montreal criminal lawyer, took a serious interest in the Rwandan tragedy and particularly in the people accused of, and arrested for, genocide. He published an important critique of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, located in Arusha, Tanzania 3, and was named counsel for a Rwandan before the Appeal Court in the Hague. Other well-known lawyers from Quebec, Canada and the United States, then became interested and were also retained as counsel by Rwandan prisoners in Arusha.
These lawyers and their imprisoned clients face a daunting challenge. First and foremost, they must convince the judges that there is a version of the events other than the one Flaubert might have described as “the right and proper tale”. As with all tribunals, the Arusha Tribunal, judges and all, is conditioned by an international public opinion that has already granted the right and proper tale the authority of an adjudicated fact.
If this book manages to cast doubt or break the unanimity in favour of that simplistic and simple-minded tale, then it will have been worth the effort.
The first section deals with rarely discussed events that brought Rwanda to the brink of catastrophe before Presidents Habyarimana and Ntaryamira were assassinated on April 6, 1994. First came the invasion of Rwanda by part of the Ugandan National Army in October 1990 and the deadly war it waged in that country for the next three and a half years. While that army pursued the war against Rwanda, foreign powers imposed a multiparty system that undermined the ability of the Rwandan Government and Army to fight off the invader. The same foreign powers, led by the United States and calling themselves the international community, then imposed a so-called peace process that effectively transferred power to the invader. Non governmental organisations then began slandering Rwanda, its leadership and its entire modern history. They effectively became a cat’s-paw for the invading army and American and British interests in Central Africa.
This section also examines how and why the assassination of two African heads of state has been trivialized by a vast cover-up operation. Who has gained from that cover-up? The section ends with a study of what exactly the United States did and did not do between April 6 and July 19, 1994 when so many Rwandans were killed. It will be shown that the number of dead in Rwanda was of little concern for the world’s only superpower. Washington’s priority was to see its boys from the Rwandan Patriotic Front win the war decisively - it took much longer than expected - and to bump France out of that part of Africa.
What about the genocide? What about the massacres? Everybody saw those images, the machetes, the bodies and skeletons. Nobody can claim that it did not happen. Of course not! However, the simplification of the Rwandan tragedy to a tale of “horrible Hutu génocidaires” massacring “innocent Tutsis” aided and abetted by France is aimed to hide the causes and protect the real criminals. Rwanda suffered a major human disaster. Like other such disasters, it had political causes. Any serious analysis will show unequivocally that that manicheen, good guy-bad guy, tale was developed by Western imaginations for Western public opinion. The fact that tale has so easily taken root bears witness to our blind subservience to real power and historic contempt for Africa.
Names must be named. Each Western country boasts its own journalist, its writer of fiction or non-fiction, its human rights activist or anthropologist who sprang forth to tell the right and proper tale. Pablo Neruda described him - or her - very well: “He’s the skulking coward hired to praise dirty hands. He’s an orator or jounrnalist. Suddenly he surfaces in the palace enthusiastically masticating the sovereign’s dejections.” 4 His name is Philip Gourevitch or Alison Des Forges in the United States, Carol Off or William Schabas in Canada, Gil Courtemanche in Quebec, Linda Melverne in the United Kingdom, Colette Braeckman or Alain Destexhe in Belgium, Gérard Prunier or Jean-Pierre Chrétien in France. Though each has his or her national subtleties, their message is identical: steer clear of the sovereign and his allies.
The second section looks at how the tale has taken root in books and other publications. Knowingly or not, writers of fiction and non-fiction about Rwanda have drawn their material from a popular literary tradition about Africa. That tradition abounds with metaphors, images and conventions developed at a time when Europe was enslaving and trading in African slaves or colonizing the continent. These metaphors, images and conventions have everything to do with European imaginations and almost nothing to do with African reality. They were developed to legitimate what was totally illegitimate, namely slavery, the slave trade and Europe’s domination and colonization of Africa. The more they were repeated the more they themselves became the message of the works they appeared in.
Four books on Rwanda by four different authors are examined to show not only that “That’s not how it happened in Rwanda” but also and above all that “It could not have happened like that in Rwanda”. The authors are the American Philip Gouvevitch, the Canadian Carol Off, the Quebecer Gil Courtemanche, and the Belgian Colette Braeckman. All four helped write the “right and proper tale”, and, wittingly or not, all four are products of a colonial mentality that is unfortunately making a comeback.
The final section examines the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, especially through the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu, the first person to be found guilty of genocide and rape as a war crime. Jean-Paul Akayesu has always proclaimed his innocence and, what’s more, he has solid proof of fabrication of evidence presented to the tribunal by the prosecutor’s office when former Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour, who became a judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, and who was recently appointed head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, ran it.
This section also investigates the 1996 refugee crisis in Eastern Zaire, now the Congo. It shows how the same Rwandan Patriotic Army that the United States had helped put in power in 1994 used the tale told about the Rwandan tragedy and made official by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to justify the invasion of the Congo. Washington took advantage of that refugee crisis to push France out of the Congo, a country that is coveted for its natural resources. In doing so, the United States got help from its trustworthy sidekicks in Ottawa. The Chrétien government was more than glad to play the role of the anti-French, pro-American, French-speaking country. Interviewed in Paris, Raymond Chrétien, Jean Chrétien’s nephew and Ambassador to France, admitted that the November 1996 operation he had been involved in as special envoy of the UN Secretary General resulted in at least one million deaths!
The never-ending war in the Congo began with that operation. It has led to the implosion of that country and the most deadly war since 1945.
Chapter 1: Invasion? What invasion?
The vanquished always has a better memory than
the victor who tries to make us forget.
the victor who tries to make us forget.
The “right and proper tale ” would have it that the Rwandan Patriotic Front under the brilliant military and political leadership of current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who along with many fellow officers was trained in the best American and British military academies, ended the genocide by taking Kigali on the fourth of July 1994 and by forming a new government on July 19, 1994. A patriotic liberation movement with the right friends puts an end to the worst crime imaginable, similar to the Holocaust, and all that happens on the fourth of July.
The first problem with this part of the right and proper tale is that Kigali was not taken on the fourth of July. The decisive battle that allowed the RPF to take the capital city of Rwanda was fought on July 2. Paul Kagame marched into Kigali on July 3. Wasn’t Paris liberated when Charles de Gaulle marched in on August 25, 1944? Nobody changed that date to make others happy. But for Rwanda, important people in influential positions preferred the fourth of July. So that day chosen. It was also important not to be too close to July 1, which was Rwandan Independence Day since 1962 and still a powerful symbol of the social revolution that now had to be erased from people’s memories. The victors then just had to declare the fourth of July the new Rwandan National Day and for the pipers to play the tune. Everybody knows of course which tune was to be played.
The second problem is that the massacre of civilians did not end with the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Civilians have been massacred in Rwanda steadily ever since and massacres have continued even more seriously in the neighbouring Congo.
The choice of the fourth of July may be a minor point, but in politics nothing is left to chance, especially not the symbols. Hopefully, it will be like an alarm bell that might lead people re-read the right and proper tale with an eye out for those optical illusions so often used to distort and misinform.
The army led by Paul Kagame was never a liberation army. Most people knew that from the beginning. The Rwandan Patriotic Front and its leader were more like the paid arsonist masquerading as firemen than the patriot who saved the people from the fire as the official story would have us believe.
Until October 1, 1990, the troops that invaded Rwanda were uniformed soldiers in Ugandan National Army who marched to the orders of Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda and commander in chief. The invading troops consisted mainly of Rwandans who had lived in Uganda since the social revolution and independence of Rwanda in 1962. They had been at war in Uganda since 1981 as part of the guerrilla forces known as the National Resistance Army until it took power in Uganda in 1986 and Yoweri Museveni became President.
On September 28, 1990, 4000 Ugandan soldiers and officers, including former army Commander and Ugandan Defence Minister Fred Rwigyema left their barracks fully equipped with weapons and vehicles. They travelled hundreds of kilometres in Uganda to the Rwandan border and attacked the few Rwandan border guards on October 1. They then advanced some 70 kilometres into Rwanda. By October 4, the invading troops were within 70 kilometres of the Rwandan capital Kigali.
Everywhere in the world, that attack on October 1 would be described as an invasion of one country by another. It was not an incursion, nor a civil war, nor an increase in ethnic tension. The word is invasion. In legal terms and according to principles established at the Nuremberg trials that are so often referred to in the Rwandan tragedy, that invasion is no less than the worst war crime because it is a crime against peace. However, that invasion has been at best trivialized ever since it happened, at worst omitted altogether from the tale of events. One of the worst examples was a long article in the New York Times Magazine on September 15, 2002, entitled The Minister of Rape. Not a word is mentioned about the invasion. We only learn that “tensions increased in 1990.” 5
A crime of that magnitude should normally have provoked a sharp international reaction, especially considering that when Ugandan troops invaded, Rwandan President Habyarimana and Ugandan President Museveni were both in New York for a UNICEF meeting. Moreover, two days earlier, on September 28, President Habyarimana told the United Nations General Assembly that his government would offer citizenship and travel documents to all Rwanda refugees wherever they were and that it would repatriate all those who wanted to return to Rwanda.
International reports on the invasion hinted that the invading army had taken or was about to take Kigali. American authorities jumped suspiciously quickly to offer President Habyarimana political asylum in the United States. Moreover, according to a story that is surely not very right and proper but still stubbornly tenacious, the late Rwandan president met the United States Ambassador in Kigali before leaving the country and asked him if the United States had any information about an invasion by Uganda. The Ambassador offered to make some intelligence inquiries–the CIA–and then informed President Habyarimana that there was no such information and that he could safely go to New York.
On learning of the invasion, the Rwandan president immediately returned home but stopped off in Belgium where, suspiciously, he also received an offer of asylum. Belgian news reports amplified the invaders’ military success. Meanwhile, Ugandan President Museveni remained in the United States even though his army had just suffered the worst mutiny in its history that involved troops, officers and military equipment. Though he is an army man to the very core and the champion of professional and disciplined armies that Africa supposedly needed so badly, the president of Uganda decided to sit back in New York while a whole section of his cherished army revolted and invaded another country wearing their Ugandan uniforms.
The same Yoweri Museveni had become the darling of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and United States Diplomacy since the middle of the 1980s. He was another of the former leftist guerrilla leaders who came over to the gospel of good governance, structural adjustment, privatization and, judging by the turn of events, the remodelling of African geography. The United States saw Uganda as a rampart against Islamic fundamentalism in Sudan, and its president Yoweri Museveni as a trustworthy ally to aid US covert operations in Southern Sudan. Former President Jimmy Carter described Museveni as “one of Africa’s most important leaders”. Madeleine Albright spoke of him as “a beacon of hope for Africa”, whereas the journalist with the New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch promoted him for years as the “éminence grise of the new leadership in central Africa”, before making a surprising flip-flop in May 2003 when he called him an “arsonist masquerading as a fireman” in a confusing article on the Congo. 6
President Museveni unconvincingly distanced himself from the invasion by pleading ignorance and surprise and by complaining about how his officers and comrades-in-arms, who became the commanders of the RPF, had tricked him in October 1990. Though totally disingenuous, Museveni’s excuses satisfied his friends in the “international community”. “The truth of the matter is,” he declared in a 1991 address, “that these people conspired, took us by surprise, and went to Rwanda, which was not particularly difficult…. We had some information that the Banyarwanda in Uganda were up to something, but we shared it with the Rwandan government. They actually had, or should have had, more information because, after all, it was their business, not ours, to follow up who was plotting what.” 7
The eminent President Museveni would like us to believe that the intelligence agency of one country–Rwanda in this case–should spy and monitor all the movements and actions of entire regiments of another country’s army–Uganda–and take the necessary action to prevent mutiny, revolt and aggression against neighbours. Let’s apply the infallible logic to other countries on other continents. What would happen if Cuba or Mexico did to the United States what Museveni said Rwanda should have done to Uganda? And what if they took action to protect themselves from U.S. interference? What if Ireland did the same in the United Kingdom? Or Algeria in France? France in Canada? India in Pakistan? China in Vietnam? It is obviously ridiculous. Are we expected to believe him just because it is in Africa?
Countries that spy on each other as Museveni suggested Rwanda should have done are asking for war. Yet we are invited to believe that the Rwandan government made a serious mistake by not spying on the Ugandan army and by not intervening to prevent it from invading Rwanda. That error was so serious that the “new éminence grise of Africa” Yoweri Museveni was justified in not punishing the mutineers in his army.
The man who refused to punish the senior officers who mutinied in his own army is the same man that US diplomacy, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund adored particularly because of his unbending leadership and his vision of a professional and disciplined army in Africa. All of Museveni’s speeches convey the message of a professional and disciplined army. He talked that way before and after he took power in Uganda, before and after the invasion of Rwanda in 1990, before and after the Rwandan Patriotic Front took power in Kigali. Museveni knew what he was talking about. He took power in 1986 after a long guerrilla war, and then, between 1986 and 1990, he mercilessly suppressed revolt in his army.
In his address five years after taking power and four months after the invasion of Rwanda, Museveni left no doubt about his views on military discipline. “As you know, we have dealt very harshly with discipline. There is a very strict code of conduct for the National Resistance Army and a mechanism for dealing with wayward soldiers. No soldier is spared, whatever his rank may be.” 8
One month before the invasion of Rwanda, in August 1990, President Museveni addressed Ugandan army officers including, undoubtedly, those who were already preparing to invade Rwanda. His subject was combating counterrevolutionary insurgency and his main message was the importance of discipline, loyalty, military training, unity and the size of the army. He also made a plea in favour of using military intelligence however it may be obtained. All these elements converge in the fight against insurgency. 9
A month after making this speech, the strict disciplinarian, raised and trained in a world of conspiracies and rebellion, sat passively watching his own troops mutiny and invade Rwanda, thereby threatening peace and security throughout central Africa. These were not a few low-ranking officers. Entire regiments invaded, led first by Uganda’s former Defence Minister Fred Rwigyema, killed in the invasion, and then by the Ugandan Chief of Military Intelligence, Paul Kagame, who quickly returned from the United States where Museveni had sent him for military training. The invading Ugandan troops that would soon be known as the Rwandan Patriotic Army comprised many senior officers, 150 middle level officer and even some of President Museveni’s own bodyguards.
In the next three and half years, Museveni continued to watch “passively” as his former troops went in and out of Uganda as they liked. Uganda became the conveyor of men, munitions and materiel to an army dedicated to overthrowing the Rwandan government. Despite Uganda’s obvious implication in this war, no imperial power ever once threatened to punish President Museveni or to cut off support to his country.
Yoweri Museveni’s August 1990 address to the officers of the Ugandan National Resistance Army on “How to fight a Counterrevolutionary Insurgency” reads like a blueprint for the invasion and war that some of his officers were soon to conduct in Rwanda against President Habyarimana. The difference is that Museveni’s officers would soon become be calling themselves Rwandan “insurgents” or “rebels”. 10
“We had to reject the concept of ‘a small but efficient’ army…” he said. “This notion is nothing but suicidal. Insurgents do not have to do much, but they will have succeeded in their devices if they simply terrorize the population, stop them from producing wealth for the country, dismantle the network of civil administration and block communications. Once the state does not stop insurgents from doing this on a large scale, the country will rapidly lose income and find it impossible to support the army… Insurgents will be in a position to create a situation of strategic stalemate or even to launch a strategic counteroffensive to seize state power.”
That is exactly what happened between 1990 and 1994. Moreover, shortly after the Ugandan officers led the October invasion of Rwanda, President Museveni demanded that Rwanda agree to a cease-fire and negotiate with the insurgents, now called the Rwandan Patriotic Front. That was the “strategic stalemate” he had talked about in his August 1990 address.
Rwanda is so tiny. What in the world would the United States want in such an insignificant remote place?
The notion that Africa is, at best, on the fringe of the international community, at worst, completely cut off from it, has been common currency for centuries. Africa is supposedly of no interest to major powers in the world, except as a means to soothe guilty consciences or to receive charity and benefit from the altruism of those powers. That idea is deep-rooted. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien echoed it in April 2002 shortly before the G8 Summit at Kananaskis when he announced that Africa would become part of the international community in the twenty-first century. It seems to have escaped Jean Chrétien that most African countries had been members of the United Nations since becoming independent in the 1960s.
In 1885, when Europe was set to pounce on Africa, the official British position was that of the “reluctant empire” that was compelled to leave the hallowed isles to look after Africa. Historians consolidated this idea. In a famous address first published in 1883, J.R. Seeley observed that the expansion of England in America and Asia was perceived to be almost accidental. It was “an empire acquired in a fit of absence of mind”. 11 Subsequently, historians showed that England was not as selfless as it let on and that expansion of the empire closely followed British commercial expansion – the flag followed commerce.
The same image of the “reluctant empire” prevails in all descriptions of the United States in central Africa at the end of the twentieth century, and now in the twenty-first. Moreover, the U.S. State Department carefully and successfully cultivated that image, which could be summed up as follows: We don’t want to be there, we don’t want to be forced to intervene, we have no interests there, we are only the honest broker working for the good of humanity.
The proof that the United States succeeded in imposing that image is the virtual absence of publications dealing critically with the United States’ strategic goals in Africa. Discussion of the American role is always couched in talk of democracy, human rights, good governance, trade, and the American determination not to repeat the Somalia fiasco during which 18 U.S. soldiers were killed. Washington has adopted exactly the same tack in its approach to Liberia.
Although former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was not convinced of the United States’ strategic interest in Rwanda – “I have no real information to that effect”, he told me in a November 2002 interview” – he has nod doubt about the Congo. “In the Congo, yes, absolutely! There’s tremendous wealth there.” Boutros-Ghali added that British intelligence services were very active in the region through Ugandan President Museveni. He also pointed out that the 1898 Fashoda incident, which is seen as a French defeat in Africa, “still dominates people’s minds”. 12
Facts contradict the image of the “reluctant empire. For the United States, Uganda as well as Rwanda and Burundi became increasingly important both for economic and strategic reasons in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The importance of building a front to counter the expansion of Islam in Africa through the Sudan cannot be underestimated. Uganda had a strong, experienced army and was led by a president willing to work for the Americans. U.S. support for the Christian rebellion in southern Sudan was funnelled through Kampala and with the help Museveni’s army. South Africa at that time was also unpredictable. Despite official American anti-apartheid position, South Africa remained an important ally and Washington was concerned about what might happen should that country be lost as an ally.
When Ugandan troops invaded Rwanda, the future leader Paul Kagame, who had been Uganda’s Chief of Military Intelligence, was training at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under the International Military Education and Training program known as IMET. In fact, the majority of Ugandan military personnel sent to the United States through the IMET program would soon become commanders of the Rwanda Patriotic Front.
IMET was established in the mid 1970s. It is described as an “instrument of influence” by which the United States is able to affect the internal and external policy behaviour of recipient military institutions and governments in a manner congenial with U.S. foreign policy interests. 13 The IMET program, and a modern version known as Enhanced-IMET, was also used to prepare Rwandan troops for the invasion of Zaire starting in 1996.
The United States obviously placed much hope in Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda. In addition to the military links, American non-military aid to Uganda between 1989 and 1992 totalled $183 million, which was twice what the United States granted to Rwanda during the same period.
It has been said that the invasion of Rwanda by Ugandan troops in 1990 was aimed at Kinshasa not Kigali. The war that has followed in the Congo and the scramble by Western corporations for control of the vast Congolese natural resources makes that interpretation very plausible. The British and the Americans have coveted resources in eastern Congo since the end of the nineteenth century. With President Mobutu’s health failing and his grip on power weakening, the void foreseen whet the appetite of an American empire giddy after fall of the Soviet Union.
Since the war began in the Congo in 1996, the rush of American, Belgian, Canadian, British and French corporations for diamonds and gold and other natural resources in the region has been widely documented and denounced. An internet search with the words “Congo AND diamonds”, “Congo AND gold mines” or “Congo AND coltan” produces numerous reliable studies with figures and details on the corporations that have snatched up Congolese wealth. Before the war, these resources belonged to Zaire and were a major source of income. Now they are under the direct control of foreign corporations protected by proxy armies set up since the 1996 invasion.
The economic determinism of these documents is their main weakness. Their eloquent and detailed descriptions of how American and European interests have taken over African wealth are undermined by credence they give to imperial cant that has allowed it all come about. That cant would have it that Western powers led by the United States are involved in Africa to defend human rights and democracy, to combat the evils of corruption, dictatorship, impunity and genocide, and to favour development. There is not much new under the sun. When England colonized Africa, people were supposed to believe the goal was to stamp out the Arab slave trade and uplift Africans through Christian civilization.
In spring 1993, the United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher declared to the African-American Institute that “The people of Africa know where their future lies: not with corrupt dictators like Mobutu, but with courageous democrats in every part of the continent. From Senegal to Benin, from Madagascar to Mali, African nations are building strong democratic institutions.”
What was Warren Christopher’s real message? First, the United States was staking out the areas it targeted. These just happened to be all countries with close ties to France - note that every country mentioned is a member of the Francophone Summit. Secondly, Washington had decided that Mobutu, who had faithfully served the United States for thirty years as an anti-Communist strongman, was now on his way out, and that the Africans’ desire for change and their revolt against Mobutu would be used to advance American pawns in Africa.
The anointed strongman in Africa would now be Yoweri Museveni, even though the Ugandan president thumbed his nose at the sacrosanct notions like human rights, democracy, multiparty systems and economic transparency. In retrospect, though a large number of Congolese wanted to get rid of Mobutu, were they to have a choice now, even the most militant among them would prefer Mobutu’s Zaire to the Congo killing fields that war launched in 1996 has foisted upon their country and their people.
The official position of the United States and of most European countries regarding Africa remained that of reluctance and disinterest. Nonetheless, their diplomatic, economic, political, legal and military involvement increased exponentially between 1990 and 2003. This involvement has became much more direct and very often bypasses the official recognized channels that should govern international relations.
The Rwandan government reacted sharply to the invasion and was supported by France, Zaire and Belgium, though the Belgians soon turned on the Rwandan government. The invasion pitted Ugandan troops that had been at war for years in Uganda against a small Rwandan army that had not seen in combat since 1969. President Habyarimana’s government also took action internally and, not surprisingly, arrested some 8000 Rwandan citizens, mainly Tutsis, holding them for periods varying from a few days to six months.
The intrepid representatives of the New York based Africa Watch (formerly Human Rights Watch/Africa) immediately claimed that the arrests provided verifiable proof of serious human rights violations. Later with their 20/20 hindsight, the arrests became the proof of the genocidal intentions of the Rwandan Government leaders. Africa Watch rang the alarm and it has not stopped ringing ever since.
Foreign diplomats from Belgium, the United States, Switzerland and Canada deplored the action of the government of Rwanda. The Belgian Ambassador Johann Swinnen rushed to the stadium in Kigali where the prisoners were held and, to the joy of those arrested, he condemned the Rwandan government for its human rights violations - would that they had been so prompt when Pinochet locked up thousands in a stadium in Santiago, Chile. Those Western powers obviously wanted to warn President Habyarimana that the going would be tough and that his days were probably numbered.
A few questions must be raised before we delve deeper into this story.
Is it normal in the search for justice to condemn one side in a war for human rights violations and not even question the morality of the aggressors, those who violated the principles of all the charters of rights humanity has ever drafted? Is it right to shout about how a government violates rights and turn a blind eye to the launching of an aggressive war?
The vast majority of Western human rights organisations and their representatives appear to consider it perfectly normal to whitewash the invaders and denounce the invaded country, its leaders and its people. At the top of the list is Alison Des Forges, an ubiquitous American Rwanda activist who has written reams of reports including the Africa Watch report on the arrests. In a statement made under oath in a 1995 Montreal hearing, Ms Des Forges declared that human rights activists “do not examine the issue of who makes war. We see war as an evil and we try to prevent the existence of war to be an excuse for massive human rights violations.” It is like an armed break and entry during which the homeowner defends himself. The Justice Department arrests the home owner for possession of arms and lets the robber off scot-free.
The refusal of human rights organizations to condemn the worst human rights violation, namely the invasion, invalidates all the reports they have published and weakens the foundations on which the “right and proper” tale has been built. It bears sad witness to the lightness with which many of theses groups undertake their work, and also reveals the tacit agreement between them and the big Western powers who wield much more influence than the Rwandan government could dream of having. Worst of all, however, is the blatant double standard they have in respect to Africa. The same groups would never dare apply the same criteria in cases of war in or by their own countries.
In his important Discourse on colonialism published in 1955, Aimé Césaire denounced a similar double standard observed among European humanists. Though many humanists were anti-nazis in the Second World War, they avoided taking up the fight against colonialism. “And that is the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism,” wrote Césaire. “For too long it has diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been - and still is - narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist”. 14
Eight thousand Rwandans were arrested by the Habyarimana government, but all were released within six months. For a country that has been invaded, neither the number of arrests nor their duration is excessive, especially considering the revelations of former leaders and collaborators of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. One such leader is Valens Kajeguhakwa, a business man and one of the RPF’s main financial backers. In 2001, his former comrade-in-arms Paul Kagame forced him to leave the country. Kajeguhakwa, who had also been close to President Habyarimana before he joined the RPF in 1990, published a book in which he described himself as the “bridge that clandestinely united the action of patriots outside and within Rwanda.” 15 He boasts of the invaluable role of his vast network of civilian and military informers that he had carefully developed and who were infiltrated throughout Rwanda up to the highest echelons of the Government of Rwanda.
“They were placed in the army, in the Gendarmerie, in government ministries, in all the main public and private companies, in the National Bank of Rwanda, in parishes, in markets in Kigali, Butare, Ruhengeri, and Gisenyi, in the University in Butare and Nyakinama, in the prisons in Gisehyi and Ruhengeri.” Valens Kajeguhakwa left Rwanda for Uganda just before the invasion in October 1990. He points out in his book that he ensured his network would continue working for him and the Rwandan Patriotic Front in his absence.
Leaders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front claim that they had 36 clandestine cells operating inside Rwanda on October 1, 1990. The number of cells grew steadily as the invaders gained ground and especially as they gained international recognition and support. The same sources boast that by 1993 the RPF could activate 146 clandestine cells in Kigali alone. 16 Ever since the Spanish Civil War, an expression accurately describes such cells: a fifth column. In Rwanda, however, that fifth column was and still is conveniently qualified as innocent human rights activists.
The number of arrests and their duration were limited. Since memory is always selective and always very poor in powerful dominating countries, a few comparisons would be helpful.
According to Professor Panikos Panayi who has studied the question of minorities in wartime, “Some of the most systematic persecution of racial and ethnic minorities in recent history has taken place during the two World Wars. Anyone studying the twentieth century cannot avoid this conclusion. In fact, the historian dealing with any period of human development would find that the years 1914-18 and 1939-45 witnessed unprecedented heights of intolerance towards outgroups.” 17 Professor Panayi also deplores the lack of research conducted about minorities in wartime.
In 1914, Canada was automatically drawn into the First World War by England when it declared war on August 4, 1914, but the country was not invaded. In fact, it has not been invaded since 1812. Nevertheless, two weeks after the war began in Europe, the Parliament of Canada adopted the War Measures Act granting the government power to arrest, detain, exclude and deport individuals. Under the Act, the government could refuse release on bail and suspend habeas corpus for any person suspected of being an enemy alien. Canada interned 8579 people in “concentration camps”–the term coined in the Boer War was still fashionable. Most were Ukrainians that Canadian officials mistook for Austrians.
As war progressed, naturalized German Canadians including many born in Canada soon went from being “among our best immigrants, white people like ourselves” as J.S. Woodsworth noted, to “sub-human” or “blood-crazed madmen”. 18 In 1917, to the applause of much of English Canada, the Parliament adopted the War-time Elections Act that took away voting rights from tens of thousands of naturalized Canadians, most of whom were Ukrainian.
During the Second World War, Canada interned 21,000 of the country’s 22,086 residents of Japanese origin. Ninety-one percent of those interned were Canadian citizens. Officially, Canada “evacuated” the Japanese Canadians, who were dispersed throughout Canada, sometimes up to 5000 kilometres from their homes. All their property was confiscated, farms, homes and fishing boats, never to be returned. When the war was over, none was allowed to return to British Columbia, and 3000 Japanese Canadians were deported to Japan.
The United States interned all Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Pearl Harbour, it should be noted, was not an invasion and did not touch continental United States. The 1940 U.S. census established that 116,947 American residents were of Japanese origin. Sixty percent were born in the United States. In 1942, that country interned - evacuated according to the official euphemism - all the 119,803 men, women and children of Japanese origin. 19
Countries are obsessed with the loyalty of their citizens in wartime. Every minority and every internal nation becomes suspicious. In 1917, Londoners rioted against Jews who were they accused of being opposed to conscription. In the United States, suspicious minorities were tarred and feathered or even lynched. In Canada, the loyalty of French Canadians was immediately questioned in both World Wars, as it was during the Boer War. French Canadians were called Zombies during the Second World War because of their opposition to conscription.
Former colonial possessions are inevitably among the first suspects of countries at war. Ireland, for instance, was independent from England since 1922 and remained neutral during the Second World War. When Winston Churchill suspected these former subjects of Her Majesty to be sympathetic to the Germans, he threatened to bomb all the ports in Ireland.
The treatment of minorities in wartime requires much further study. Suffice it to say that self-righteous human rights activists in Europe and North America would have been well advised to look closely at their own countries’ records before pouncing on Rwanda.
The invading army known by the “right thinking” as a liberation army, settled in for a prolonged guerrilla war when they realized that the Rwandan army was tougher than had been expected. At the end of October 1990, the RPF pulled partly back into Uganda which it used as a base to launch guerrilla attacks. In November, however, Belgium joined Uganda in calling on Rwanda to negotiate with the invading army. Here was the “strategic stalemate” Ugandan President Museveni had talked about on August 1990. The United States and Britain soon joined the chorus of calls for negotiations.
Though the RPF was talking liberation and human rights in all its international press relations in English and French, its writings in Kinyarwanda left no doubt as to its desire to return Rwanda to a pre-independence situation in which the Tutsi minority would dominate. 20 This was confirmed as the RPF behaved like all occupation armies do. They attacked and terrorized civilians, forcing them to flee in large numbers, and targeted the Hutu peasants rather than the Rwandan troops.
What liberation army can boast that it emptied one of the country’s, and the world’s, most densely populated areas? Two and a half years after the invasion, only 1800 people lived in an area of northern Rwanda that previously had a population of 800,000. As the “liberators” advanced, the Hutu peasants fled. By April 1993, Rwanda had more than one million internal refugees. That means one million farmers (one seventh of the total population) who are no longer producing on the most fertile lands in the country. It also means one million people to house and feed, and hundreds of thousands of children absent from school which caused great anxiety among parents.
The Rwandan Minister of Agriculture, Husbandry and Forests in 1992, James Gasana, described the situation in the war torn Byumba prefecture north of Kigali in a book published in 2002. “A prefecture that had been the country’s breadbasket now had the largest population in need of welfare and the highest mortality rate due to malnutrition.” 21
When have we seen a people flee from its liberators? It didn’t happen in France (1940-1945), nor in Cuba (1951-1959), nor in Algeria (1954-1962). The “right and proper tale” would have us believe, however, that the invading RPF army were “liberators”.
These “liberators” were also able to count on a powerful ally. That ally known as the Structural Adjustment Program or SAP was being imposed in unison by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and USAID. Acronyms have a canny way of transmitting messages, and in this case it is particularly eloquent, both in English, SAP, and in French, PAS (Programme d’ajustement structurel). The message could not be clearer: PAS d’argent (no money) unless you SAP the very foundations of the society you built since 1960. That means deregulating the economy, devaluating currency, eliminating agricultural subsidies, privatizing utilities and state-owned corporations, laying off civil servants and more.
The impact in Rwanda was felt immediately. Inflation increased from 1 percent in 1989 to 20 percent in 1991. Devaluation of the currency was even more brutal. In 1990, one U.S. dollar was worth 82 Rwandan Francs. In 1993, it was worth 183 Francs.
The taskmasters at the World Bank, the FMI and USAID knew exactly what was happening. They could see an offshoot of the army led by their friend Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni pitted against a government led by Juvénal Habyarimana. Whereas Museveni was calling on Africa to abandon its anti neo-colonial rhetoric and state loud and clear that Africa’s problems were of its own making, Rwandan President Habyarimana had a relatively prosperous and stable economy but was not as favourably disposed to the new dogma brought down by the by the Bretton Wood institutions.
Privatization and a totally free-market economy presented specific problems for Rwanda. The social revolution of 1959 and independence combined with the growth of a public sector had enabled Rwandan Hutus to gain some economic power and prestige. The private sector, where incomes were much higher, remained largely dominated by Tutsis. The aggressive privatization and deregulation imposed by the Structural Adjustment Program meant an inevitable return towards what had been rejected since the 1960s and a reinforcement of the Tutsis’ power in the economy.
Structural adjustment had another perverse effect on Rwanda. Funds would be given to countries for downsizing their armies. When Ugandan troops invaded Rwanda, the country officially reduced the size of its army. On paper all those Ugandan troops at war in Rwanda were no longer part of the Museveni’s army. Funding to Uganda therefore increased proportionally. Under the same policy, funding to Rwanda was cut since the Habyarimana government increased the size of its army threefold in order to fight the invaders. These were the funds used by Uganda to finance the war in Rwanda. James Gasana, who became Rwandan Defense Minister until he left the country in 1993, wrote a scathing criticism of that policy. “It is no secret that funds granted to two poor countries at war are used to procure weapons. That undercover funding by international development banks prevented international public opinion from understanding the international nature of the war.” 22
Each time the government of Rwanda hesitated to negotiate with the invader or showed reluctance during negotiations, the bankers in New York and Washington would put the pressure on Kigali by refusing to provide the funds the government needed and counted on. Each time the RPF would gain new international recognition, the moral of the Rwandan armed forces would plummet as they increasingly got the impression they were fighting against the whole world. As could easily be predicted by anyone who cared to look, the war aggravated latent hostility between Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority.
As could be expected, the expression “peace process” had quietly crept into the vocabulary of the international community led by the United States and Britain. The “peace process” was to be initiated at Arusha in Tanzania. Peace process essentially means war, a war in which the sponsors of the process choose the winner before the meeting they call takes place. They then pretend to be neutral during negotiations. Having bought time, they tighten the noose on the designated loser and prepare the ground to install a government that is totally subjected to their will. Peace process was on the lips of all the right thinking people, as of course was multiparty democracy.
Chapter 2: In the name of peace and democracy
L’occident tire les ficelles
Les marionnetttes font du zèle
Alpha Blondy, Politruc 23
Les marionnetttes font du zèle
Alpha Blondy, Politruc 23
In July 1990, President Juvénal Habyarimana announced his intention to introduce multiparty politics to Rwanda. This was two months before Ugandan troops invaded Rwanda. Habyarimana was answering François Mitterrand’s call made in June during a speech at La Baule, France. With the end of the Cold War that saw rich countries in Europe and America marching in lockstep with military leaders they had often put into power who ran one-party systems, the time had now come to adopt a new model that was touted to be the pinnacle democracy.
Pushed by her friends and rivals, France invited African countries to commit to applying that model post haste. In polite terms, French foreign minister Roland Dumas declared lyrically that “the winds of freedom blowing East must inevitably blow South too.” Diligently, Pope John Paul too bore that message when he visited Rwanda in 1990. The fact is that when invitations like that are sent from North to South they are the carrots, but the stick is always nearby. The real message was: “Do what you’re told or we’ll get together and cut you off, whether you are at war or not!”
Rwanda obeyed even though it was at war. On June 10, 1991, the Rwandan Constitution was amended to allow for multiparty politics. Rwandan leaders were nonetheless told continually that it was too little, too late, and altogether too slow. Each of these warning was accompanied directly or indirectly by reduced aid and a tighter funding and borrowing criteria. Adding insult to injury, the powers that be applied their new creed of multiparty politics selectively. During the same period in neighbouring Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, who shot his way to power between 1981 and 1986, held no elections and announced the creation of his specious no party democracy - a dictatorship by any other name is a dictatorship. Uganda and the country’s president just sailed along untroubled even though they blatantly bucked the “winds of freedom and democracy” that were supposedly blowing from North to South.
Opposition parties formed and, following international pressure, Rwanda’s first multiparty government was sworn in in April 1992. The government included members of all the major parties: President Habyarimana’s party, Le Mouvement républicain national pour le développement et la démocratie (MRND), Le Mouvement démocratique républicain (MDR), Le Parti social démocrate (PSD), Le Parti démocrate chrétien (PDC) and Le Parti libéral (PL).
These new parties were obviously seeking power. They had to define their positions with regards to President Habyarimana, but they also had to define themselves in relation to the occupying RPF army and its supporters throughout the world. They also had to appeal to diplomats from Belgium, the United States, France and Britain, who turned out to the most important stakeholders. Most of these foreign powers appeared to be siding with the invading RPF army were prepared to jettison President Habyarimana. Seeing the way the wind was blowing, these opposition parties began to establish direct ties with the RPF in the hope of gaining similar international support for themselves. As a result, leaders of opposition parties and the Rwandan Patriotic Front met in Brussels from May 29 through June 3, 1992, and issued a joint press release. It turns out, in fact, that those meetings were attended by opposition parties only at the behest of the US Assistant Secretary of State Herman Cohen. 24 In short, instead of building a national coalition to fight the invading army, the opposition forces formed a coalition that included and protected the invader under the approving eyes of the major Western powers.
Though linking up with the enemy to obtain concessions from a weakened President Habyarimana is a time-warn political strategy, especially considering that real power was obviously backing the RPF, in any other country in the world at war it would be treated has treason.
The army of Rwandan Patriotic Front would have lost the war in December 1990 if Western powers had not been on its side. Many observers have reached this conclusion. 25 By the end of 1990, the invading army could count on the solid support of the United States, Britain, Uganda and increasingly Belgium. What’s more, France was continually hedging its bets on Rwanda. The Socialist Party was in power and had many RPF supporters. The invaders were therefore able to prolong the war for three and a half years and provoke dissension, demoralization and division in all parts of Rwandan society.
None of the countries that forced Rwanda to negotiate during the war would have allowed such conditions to be imposed on them in wartime. All of them take and have always taken all necessary measures to rally the population against the enemy and eliminate all obstacles to full mobilization. They do so even whether they are directly attacked or invaded or not. Countries at war take a vast array of actions that include restrictions to freedom of opinion, freedom of the press and freedom of political activities, special laws and constitutional amendments. The latter may be touted as temporary but they often remain after the war is over. Some governments at war or threatened by war are known to outlaw political movements and parties. Generally speaking, the people of the country and the country’s allies understand and support these actions that are seen to be only in wartime.
Nothing would be easier than to list the violations to basic standards of freedom and democracy in each of the countries that criticized Rwanda during the war from 1990 to 1994. Historical amnesia has conveniently erased these violations from the active memories of most people in Europe and America. They have become footnotes to a self-congratulatory narrative of valour and bravery.
Modern-day violations of these basic standards are attributed primarily to terrorism and then generally curry support among the people because of the siege mentality that has been created and because the prevailing cultural superiority with respect to non Western countries who are blamed for the terrorism. The victims the modern-day violations (i.e., people locked up in the wake of September 11, 2001, prisoners in Guantanamo, Rwandan Hutu refugees) are often presented as people devoid of the culture of democracy and rights that we are led to believe we have and thus undeserving of basic democratic rights.
How many young people in Canada or elsewhere know what was done during the Second World War to Camilien Houde, Mayor of Montreal, Canada’s largest city? Under the War Measures Act of 1917, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested the very popular mayor and member of Québec’s Legislative Assembly on August 9, 1940. Mayor Houde was interned near Ottawa for almost four years. He was never charged nor brought to trial. For sixteen months his wife and children were not allowed to visit him. Mayor Houde was interned arbitrarily by the Canadian Government because he had stated in a conversation with newspaper reporters that he was opposed to the army registering all men over sixteen years old. The next day the Montreal Gazette made that statement its headline and Camilien Houde was immediately arrested. Montreal’s mayor was also interned because he had a number of Italians in his organisation. To this day people avoid talking about Camilien Houde fearing that they will be associated with the enemy.
During the Second World War, as in the First World War, if there were any suspicion that a Canadian political party was developing ties with political parties in any enemy country (i.e., Germany, Japan, Italy, Austria), Canada would have outlawed the local party and interned its leaders for the duration of the guerre and after the war. In comparison, for opposition parties in Rwanda, had become almost a point of honour and distinction for opposition parties to link up with the enemy. By 1993 and 1994 the pro-RPF circles within Rwanda were no longer hiding their political opinions. They boasted to anybody who was listening that no party so strongly supported by the United States could lose.
In the same vein, how many young Canadians, or Quebecers, denounce the use of the War Measures Act in peacetime in October 1970? What do they say about the 500 arrests, the 5000 homes entered and searched, and the occupation of Quebec? More than thirty years later, educators, political parties and politicians rarely dare to openly criticize the Pierre Trudeau and the Government of Canada for what they did in 1970. The reason is that they all fear that they will be associated with the enemy, in this case the Front de libération du Québec.
Countries in North America and Europe have recently passed draconian laws to combat some illusory terrorist enemy both inside those countries and beyond their borders. People are arrested, political parties and movements are prohibited. A dirty campaign of informing on suspicious neighbours has been deployed. Solidarity organizations are forced to disband in many countries even though these countries may never haveen been targeted by the terrorists. Few people dare contest these measures however since they fear that they will be associated with the enemy.
The truth and the details of the three events mentioned have been quietly and conveniently forgotten because of the fear of guilt by association.
In 1940, Canada had not even been attacked. In 1970, the FLQ had only a few active cells that kidnapped only two people. In 2002, many countries who have adopted strict anti-terrorist legislation were not even hit by terrorists.
In contrast, the invading RPF army that occupied a large swathe of Rwandan territory was operating 146 active clandestine cells in Kigali alone in 1993. Each time that President Habyarimana and others tried to mobilize the population against the enemy, they were immediately accused of being Hutu extremists with genocidal intentions.
In Rwanda between 1990 and 1994, RPF terror was the rule, not the exception. The so-called donor countries nonetheless continued to force the Rwandan president to negotiate with the terrorists and to include parties in the government who were openly allied with them. In addition to the RPF’s brutality and violence and political assassinations, which caused hundreds of thousands of peasants in northern Rwanda to flee southwards, RPF agents carried out terrorist activities throughout Rwanda in an aim to divide the newly formed political parties. The RPF’s targeting of civilians rather than the military illustrates the nature of an organization that resembled the European fascist parties of the 1930s, who targeted crowded popular places, more than it resembled any liberation army.
When I visited Jean-Paul Akayesu in his prison cell in Mali where he is serving life sentence he told me of an event that took place in the town of Taba just west of Kigali where he was burgomaster in 1993 and 1994. 26 “RPF agents put a bomb near a school. Seventeen school children were killed. Others were injured. They wanted to provoke a confrontation between my party (the opposition MDR) and the President’s party (the MRND).” How does Jean-Paul Akayesu know that the RPF was responsible for those deaths? “After the RPF victory, the criminals started talking openly about what they had done,” says Akayesu. “The person responsible was prosecution Witness D who appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha. His name is Ephrem Karengwa.”
The new multiparty system added to the war had a devastating effect on Rwanda’s civil service. Parties wishing to take power in Rwanda were more interested in their relations with the invader and with Western diplomats, who openly expressed sympathy with the RPF, than they were in the opinions and of the Rwandan people.
Rwanda’s Defence Minister James K. Gasana candidly described the situation in July 1993 just before the Arusha Accord were signed. “This transition period [starting in April 1992] was characterized by the disintegration of the civil service illustrated by the paralysis of government services. This was due to the excessive polarisation in the civil service. Most civil servants were looking out for their own parties’ interests instead of national interests… This all contributed to decimate the cohesion that should be a feature of public administration whose only raison d’être is the interest of Rwandan citizens.” 27
Such an admission is troubling when it is made by a government minister, but it is not surprising considering the pressure exerted on the political parties. If taking power depends on the people’s will as expressed in free elections, political parties wherever they are will make the healthy management of government affairs a top priority. On the other hand, if taking power depends on obtaining the blessing of diplomats from rich and powerful countries and from bankers from those same countries, and if that blessing is conferred in private meetings or during secret negotiations, political parties will do their utmost to show foreign diplomats and bankers that they already control the administration. By the same token, they will pay little attention to the needs and opinions of their fellow citizens, who are clearly not the source of power in the country.
If in addition, during negotiations sponsored by the same Western powers, the invading army obtains much more than the people would ever give it in free elections, that is political power over government, then not only the civil service is likely to disintegrate but the country’s whole social fabric. That is what happened in Rwanda between September 1993 and April 1994.
President Habyarimana and the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front signed the Arusha Accords on August 4, 1993. According to Faustin Twagiramungu, who was designated to be prime minister of the transitional government established by the Accords, the partie would never have reached an agreement if the American, British and Ugandan sponsors had not applied enormous pressure. “Neither the opposition parties nor President Habyarimana wanted an agreement like that”, said Twagiramungu in an interview in November 2002 in Brussels. Only the RPF and its army came away happy because they had “stripped President Habyarimana of all his power”. Former Prime Minister Twagirmungu was particularly angry about British participation in the Arusha negotiations. The British did not even have a consulate in Rwanda at that time. He also pointed out that the RPF army relied on the British intelligence network used by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The Arusha Accords were supposed to solve many problems. They included provisions for power sharing in a broad-based transitional government, return of refugees to Rwanda, and return of the people displaced by the war in Rwanda. They also called for the deployment of a neutral international force, the integration of the RPF in Rwanda’s national army and the deployment of an RPF battalion in Kigali. In fact, the Arusha Accords sealed the president’s loss of power and effectively handed power over to the invading army.
The transitional government was to have twenty ministers and secretaries of state. The invading RPF and the president’s party (the MRND) each had five ministers, an unbelievable and incomprehensible parity. The other opposition parties shared the other ten ministries. It should be noted that all but one of the parties had signed the joint press release with the RPF in June 1992. The RPF was thus in a position to control the government of Rwanda.
The most surprising provision of the Arusha Accords, especially in hindsight, is the one concerning integration of the RPF army in the Rwandan National Army. Here is the crucial clause: “Les forces gouvernementales fourniront 60 % des effectifs et celles du FPR 40 % à tous les niveaux à l’exception des postes de commandement décrits ci-dessous. Dans la chaîne de commandement, de l’état-major de l’armée jusqu’au niveau du bataillon, chaque partie sera représentée à 50 % […]” 28
An exhaustive list of military positions down to army school trainers follows. In addition to this formal division of power, the existing political allegiance of the Rwandan military must be factored in. According to Rwanda’s former Defence Minister, James Gasana, the opposition parties close to the RPF and the RPF itself enjoyed the support of 35 percent and five percent respectively.
In other words, if the Arusha Accords had been applied, the RPF would have controlled the government of Rwanda and the army without ever having run in an election. All it could boast was its army, the murderous war it had launched and the steadfast support of the Americans and the British. And to think this was accomplished in the name of the “winds of freedom and democracy” blowing from the North.
It is now known that the RPF army in alliance with the armies of Burundi and Uganda spearheaded the war in the Congo as of 1996. The military provisions of the 1993 Arusha Accords now leave little doubt that roadmap guiding the United States and Britain led do the installation of a regime and an army in Rwanda that would be loyal to them during the post-Mobutu era in the Congo. Rwandan peace and national reconciliation was nowhere to be found on that map. In a nutshell, if President Habyarimana, an ally of France and of Mobutu, were to remain, he would only be allowed to be a figurehead. The Rwandan army would be controlled by the RPF who was allied unconditionally with Washington and London.
Recent testimony converges on this point. From the moment the first multiparty government was established in April 1992, no important minister in Rwanda was appointed without prior consultation with the United States Embassy. James Gasana wrote that “with the breakdown of the Rwandan state, the country was in fact administered from beyond its borders.” The prime minister designated for the transitional government, Faustin Twagiramungu, told me essentially the same thing: “There was no longer any decision-making power in Rwanda.” In fact, the Arusha Accords only consolidated the transfer of decision-making power from Rwandans in Kigali foreign diplomats, mainly from the United States. The RPF was the dirty-handed go-between in this transfer.
A month after the Arusha Accords were signed the Rwandan Patriotic Front received a democratic kick in the face from the Rwandan people. Serious people should have taken note. In September RPF candidates ran in municipal elections in the demilitarized zone of northern Rwanda. Voters flatly rejected them. Though the Rwandan voters’ behaviour was predictable, since the RPF only represented the Tutsi minority and could never win an election based on one person one vote, Western support for the RPF did not flinch in the least.
Heavy international pressure was applied to bring Rwanda sign the Arusha Accords even though they were contrary to the interests of the Rwandan Government and the Rwandan people. Pressure dropped though when time came to provide troops for the neutral international force called for in the Accords that later became UNAMIR (United National Aid Mission for Rwanda). Neither the date of deployment nor the number of troops the parties had agreed upon were respected. The force was supposed to be in place thirty-seven days after the Accords were signed. In fact, it took four months to be deployed. The parties had agreed on 4500 troops. UNAMIR never exceeded 2500!
Many have blamed the UN’s delay on its bureaucracy and traditional lack of sensitivity. Similar reasons are advanced to explain the UN’s slow reaction during the killing that followed the shooting down of the presidential plane on April 6, 1994. It is much more likely that the UN Security Council was being paralysed by the Americans and the British who were vying to take control of the African Great Lakes region from France. The delay forebode others to come. What’s more, the UNAMIR force that resulted from this Security Council skirmish clearly represented a victory for the two English-speaking powers.
The Habyarimana government wanted French troops in the force, whereas the Rwandan Patriotic Front strongly objected, accusing France of the worst crimes. The RPF succeeded in having Belgium provide the largest contingent followed by Bangladesh. Another telling sign that the RPF and its sponsors in Washington and London won that bout is that the UN office in New York imposed English as the language of the mission. Here a French-speaking country had been invaded by an English-speaking army and UN forces are obliged to operate in the language of the invader. The use of English thus greatly undermined UNAMIR’s credibility, also because the interpreters who knew English, French and Kiyarwanda were inevitably Tutsis.
Canada chose not to participate in UNAMIR. The Security Council however appointed a Canadian, general Roméo Dallaire, as mission commander because the United States wanted a French Canadian. 29 General Dallaire was one of the first Canadians appointed to a senior position in the Rwandan crisis. Others would follow. The key to such nominations was to be French speaking, but not from France, and in no way politically or emotionally attached to France. On this question, Roméo Dallaire fit the bill perfectly and did not let those who appointed him down. Throughout the mission, Dallaire provoked and baited the French so much that Paris pressured Canada to have Roméo Dallaire removed as commander. 30
Rwanda had been paralysed by a Western-sponsored two-pronged attack aimed to consolidate the RPF army’s military gains and to transfer power from Kigali to that proxy army’s headquarters. Catchy phrases like “peace process” and “multiparty democracy” were used to justify the two pronged attack on Rwanda, but they led directly to their opposites, war and dictatorship. And the same Western powers that invented those catchy but totally deceitful phrases continue to claim that Africa lacks a culture of democracy and needs Western help to learn it.
Chapter 3: The Power of a Word
“In the current situation in Africa and the world,
when you play with words you play with lives.”
Aminata Traore, Le viol de l’imaginaire
when you play with words you play with lives.”
Aminata Traore, Le viol de l’imaginaire
Genocide - Thunder against.
Adapted from The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas, Gustave Flaubert.
Adapted from The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas, Gustave Flaubert.
Almost ten years after the assassination on April 6 1994 that triggered the Rwandan tragedy, the relentless hunt for those who have been tagged as “génocidaires” goes on. In the name of that hunt sanctified by the United States and other Western nations, we sat back and watched the army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front bomb the refugee camps in the eastern Congo and we applauded as hundreds of thousands of refugees were forced to return to Rwanda in flagrant violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention. We then watched passively as the same army accompanied by the armies of Uganda and Burundi invaded the Congo and inflicted a merciless war on that country that has left millions dead. The countries of Central Africa have been turned upside down in the name of hunt for “génocidaires”.
Rwandan prisons are overflowing with “génocidaires” waiting to be tried: more than 140,000 according to Paul Kagame. Some observers have remarked that the prison and the traditional “Gacaca” national justice system recently restored is being used to bring back a form of serfdom for the Hutu majority that had been abolished following the 1959 social revolution and Rwandan independence in 1962.
Whatever their political stripe or background, Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis live in constant fear of being accused of genocide, arrested and brought to court in Arusha or Kigali. Many fear assassination. Though Rwandans are now dispersed throughout the world, nowhere do they feel safe. Most astounding, and ridiculous, is that the two Rwandan Prime Ministers, both Hutus, who led the so-called post-genocide Rwandan governments between 1994 and 2000, that is after the RPF take-over, have been accused of being involved in genocide.
The first was Faustin Twagiramungu, leader of the MDR (Mouvement démocratique républicain), the main political party opposed to President Habyarimana. Twagiramungu was sworn in as Prime Minister of Rwanda on July 19, 1994, immediately following the RPF takeover. He remained in power until August 28, 1995, before fleeing to Belgium where he now lives. He returned to Rwanda in 2003 as the opposition presidential candidate.
In 2002, Mr. Twagiramungu applied for a visa at the Canadian Embassay in Paris in order to speak at a conference at the Université du Québec à Montréal where he had studied in the 1970s. After being interrogated at length at the Canadian Embassy, to his surprise he received a short letter from the Embassy denying him a visa. A few weeks later, the headline of the Canadian daily The National Post about war criminals in Canada referred to the Canadian Embassy’s refusal to grant a visa to the former Rwandan leader who, according to the Post, had been involved in the genocide. 31 In short, the Prime Minister of the government that supposedly ended the genocide had now become a “génocidaire” too. Canada had already received Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramngu with all the honours in December 1994 when he was looking for funding to rebuild Rwanda under the RPF. Either Canada’s institutional memory is short and selective, or the country has a policy of supporting the RPF government at all costs. Canada’s ambassador to France, Raymond Chrétien, refused to take responsibility for the Embassy’s actions: “The people responsible for visas here at the Embassy must have reasons that I am unaware of,” he told me in an interview. 32
The second Rwandan prime minister targeted was Pierre-Célestin Rwigema. Mr. Rwigema was sworn in immediately after Faustin Twagiramungu’s departure in 1995. He was a leader of the same party, the Mouvement démocratique républicain (MDR). Prime Minister Rwigema held office until February 2000 and diligently sought to bring the “génocidaires” to justice. Quite ironically, he represented the Rwandan Government at the solemn ceremony inaugurating the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha on January 8, 1996. His speech on the importance of capturing and judging the “génocidaires” was particularly eloquent. 33
At the end of the 1990s, relations soured between the Rwandan Patriotic Front and Prime Minister Pierre-Célestin Rwigema, who decided to emigrate to the United States. Shortly after he left, he learned that Rwanda had issued an international arrest warrant for him and that he was being charged with the crime of… genocide. Rwigema pointed out that even former Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu is now in prison in Rwanda. Bizimungu was president from 1994 to 2001 and always a loyal leader of the RPF since 1990. The former president was accused of “embracing a genocidal ideology”. “If you are Hutu and you dare criticize the RPF regime,” Rwigema told me, “you are treated as a genocide perpetrator with the consequences of being jailed or killed. If you are a Tutsi and you talk against the system, you are treated as a negative element and sidelined. The RPF uses the accusation of ‘genocide’ to silence influential Hutus.” 34
As long as the word “genocide” and all its derivatives dominate the description of events in Rwanda in 1994, national reconciliation in Rwanda and peace in Central Africa will be unattainable. Who would ever to sit down and negotiate with people suspected of having taken part in such a horrible crime? What international power could ever agree to broker a regional peace conference with African leaders accused of harbouring “génocidaires”? How can serious and credible representatives of the vast majority of Rwandans come forward and take their rightful place when everyone of them could be accused anytime and anywhere of having been involved in genocide or of embracing the ideology of genocide?
The term is a gag order. Obviously, that pleases Kigali. But it also very helpful for Western powers, and particularly the United States, who brandish it like a weapon of mass destruction aimed at any African leader or regime that bucks the current. “You see what happened to Habyarimana and to Rwanda? Be careful! It could happen to you too.” Though the official reason for launching the never-ending war in the Congo was the refugee crisis and the hunt for Rwandan “génocidaires”, it is obvious that war in the Congo has nothing to do with “génocidaires” and everything to do with domination of the post-Mobutu Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Following major crises like the one that shook Rwanda in 1994, other countries have reacted in different ways and have still benefited from the support and understanding of other nations. Not every major crisis has led to an International Criminal Tribunal. In an interview, former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who presided over the creation of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, hinted that he might have done things differently now.
“In some cases, we have created Truth Commissions,” noted the former Secretary General. “In South Africa, for instance, efforts were made to identify the criminals, but they were not punished. They are prevented from causing harm, but are not sentenced. Truth Commissions are based on what is probably the Christian principle that mercy and forgiveness are more important than justice. In fact, it is more important to maintain the unity of a country than to try to impose justice and tear the country up even more. We have to know how to forget and sometimes forgive or else we’ll find ourselves with a coup d’état, a prolonged war or a new war ten years later.” Are these prophetic words from Boutros Boutros-Ghali, or is it a simple observation of what has happened in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa?
Boutros-Ghali also recalls that following the Second World War General de Gaulle turned a blind eye to a lot of collaboration with the Nazis. He probably knew that justice at any cost would have obstructed any real national reconciliation in France. The former Secretary General also considers that Maurice Papon trial 50 years after the events took place was an error.
In both cases, South Africa and Vichy France, it is much easier to identify the systematic planning of discrimination, oppression resultant massacres based on race and religion than in the case of Rwanda under the Habyarimana government and after his assassination.
Why then did the United Nations not establish a Truth Commission in Rwanda as it did in South Africa, El Salvador and Guatemala? Boutros-Ghali’s answer to my question was curt and categorical: “Because the Tutsis wanted revenge”.
In other words, though justice is the antithesis of revenge, by creating the ICTR in November 1994, the United Nations astonishingly gave all the trappings of justice to what Boutros Boutros-Ghali says was the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s desire for revenge. Moreover, with the Security Council resolution creating the Tribunal and subsequent UN actions, international public opinion was led to consider the genocide itself to be like an “adjudicated fact” not to be contested. This of course jibed perfectly the RPF’s political strategy since well before 1994. The Rwandan Patriotic Front’s desire for revenge became the lofty and honourable justification for every military action taken since July 1994.
The Western powers who back the RPF claim that they are only seeking to bring justice to that part of Africa. Our knowledge of the history of European - and American - colonization and exploitation of Africa should protect us from believing such fairy tales.
Was there a genocide in Rwanda in 1994?
On September 14, 1994, on CBC’s French language magazine, Le Point, General Roméo Dallaire answered the following question from a Rwandan who lived in Quebec City: “In your opinion, was there a genocide in Rwanda, that is the carrying out of a plan to eliminate ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda?”
“I would say there was a national genocide, a genocide based on a political basis, not only ethnic,” replied Roméo Dallaire. “Many Hutus and many Tutsis were killed… I think that the explosion we saw could not have been planned. I don’t think that anybody could ever have planned an explosion of that magnitude.”
Roméo Dallaire unfortunately refused all my requests for an interview. Since his declarations after 1994 have been incoherent to say the least, I hoped to ask him if he maintained his September 1994 position. 35 General Dallaire’s interpretation of the events in Rwanda has clearly changed over the years, and it is not surprising since enormous pressure has been put on him.
In April 1994, Dallaire was military commander of the United Nations multinational force UNAMIR. Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh was the UN Secretary General’s special envoy responsible for political relations. His political attaché during the crisis was Gilbert Ngijol, from Cameroon. Ngijol’s view of events in Rwanda resembles Roméo Dallaire’s September 1994 position. Unlike General Dallaire however, Gilbert Ngijol has not altered his position one iota.
“There was no genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda,” Ngijol insisted when I met him in Paris in November 2002. “Among the rank and file population, there was little animosity between Hutus and Tutsis before the assassination of President Habyarimana on April 6. But after, it was another story”, he said shaking his head. “I remember one day just after the President was assassinated. I was on the third floor of the Meridien Hotel in Kigali. In one direction, I saw RPF soldiers killing women and children. On the other side, I saw militias doing the same thing. There’s no way that could have been planned.”
Former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu categorically rejects the idea that the killings were planned. “The RPF army may have killed more people than the Interahamwe militias did,” he declared. Under oath at the Tribunal in Arusha, Twagiramungu testified that probably more Hutus than Tutsis were killed. He pointed out that RPF soldiers took pictures of bodies of people in President Habyarimana’s party, the MRND. The RPF had killed those people. Obviously most were Hutus. They then used the pictures of Hutus as proof of the genocide against Tutsis. “We know they did it because some of victims in the pictures were wearing hats belonging to the President’s party.”
Even Justice Louise Arbour of the Supreme Court of Canada, who was Chief Prosecutor from 1996 to 1999, recently inferred that things were not as clear as the “terribles simplificateurs” would have us believe. Following a speech in Paris on the International Criminal Court in November 2002, the Kenyan journalist Ruth Nabakwe asked the former Chief Prosecutor why the Tribunal only indicted Hutus and no Tutsis. 36 “Do you foresee the Tribunal indicting Tutsis in the future”. Though Louise Arbour is a renowned hunter of “génocidaires”, her answer was troubling. “We must avoid seeing the world purely in ethnic terms,” she said. “It is not only a question of Tutsis and Hutus, but a question of political formations and alliances.”
After all these years, former Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour admits that the massacres were political in nature, and not only ethnic. Yet the sine qua non of a genocide is the that victims have a common ethnic, religious, racial or national identity? That is the fundamental characteristic of the only genocide that is fully agreed upon internationally, the genocide of Jews by the Nazis. If people who were so close to events or who were mandated to investigate them consider that the massacres were political, why are Rwandan Hutus still being burdened by this overwhelming and non-prescriptible charge?
Ramsey Clark was United States Attorney General under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He drafted and supervised the adoption and application of Civil Rights legislation in the mid 1960s. Since 1995, he has been counsel to Elisaphan Nkatirutimana, the 70-year old Seventh-Day Adventist pastor who was indicted by the ICTR for crimes of genocide, extradited from the United States to Arusha, found guilty in February 2003, and sentenced to ten years in prison. For Clark, crying genocide is like crying murder: it does not mean that a murder was committed.
“The use of the word genocide in such a pervasive undefined way as it is used in public discussion and media discussion about Rwanda is an attempt de demonize and dehumanize the Hutu peoples,” insists Ramsey Clark. “The insistence that there is only one ethnic group that is in conspiracy to destroy all the members of another group is contrary to possibility and to all experience. It’s an effort to simply manufacture consent of public opinion to condemn the great majority of the people of Rwanda. They talk of Tutsis and this thing called moderate Hutus, which probably means Hutus who supported the RPF. They don’t want to put it in a political basis, they want to put it strictly on an ethnic basis, which is a terrible falsehood.”
“It’s a political struggle, a political struggle that has been going on for years. Everybody knew that it was a political struggle since the colonial period. The exiled groups that had been colonial surrogates, the dominant Tutsi, had been trying to overthrow the government of post-colonial Rwanda. They invaded seven times between 1960 and 1967. Pretty dangerous too.”
It is particularly interesting to observe how the charge of “genocide against ethnic Tutsis” became part of the official narrative about Rwanda. Following the RPF victory in 1994, some people with fertile, elastic imaginations and hidden political agendas tried to prove that the genocide began in 1959 with Rwanda’s social revolution that resulted in the abolition of the monarchy and Rwandan independence in 1962. The accusation is about as subtle as a George W. Bush speech, but similarly it is not without method. Essentially, it is a convenient blanket rejection of everything Rwandans have achieved since independence and it sullies or compromises the reputation of everybody who has participated in any way in the development of Rwanda since then.
One striking example is the late Georges-Henri Lévesque, the Dominican priest from Québec City who founded the National University of Rwanda. Father Lévesque was also known as the mentor for those who led Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. Articles on Father Lévesque and his contribution to Rwanda unfailingly draw a causal relationship between his work and the “genocide”, even though he left Rwanda at the end of the 1960s. Shortly before he died, Father Lévesque wrote an article in the Montreal daily Le Devoir denouncing attempts to link him and his work to the people who were being blamed for the massacres.
If we stick to facts and leave imagination to poets and novelists, the first use of the “genocide” charge in the international narrative dates back to January 28, 1993. It was used at a meeting with the press organized by William Schabas who was a member of an International Commission that had just returned from a two-week mission to Rwanda to investigate human rights violations. 37 Schabas was aware that members of the Commission had not reached a consensus on the use of the term, but he jumped the gun and made the accusation immediately after he returned from Rwanda. Schabas repeated the charge in an international press release he drafted to accompany the final report issued on March 8, 1993. 38 The press release was entitled “Genocide and War Crimes in Rwanda”. The charge is absent from the final report because Kenneth Roth, executive director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, threatened to withdraw his organization’s sponsorship and signature report if it contained the charge. 39
Eleven days after the Commission left Rwanda, the RPF launched a massive attack in northern Rwanda in reaction to the revelations. They called it a “punitive” attack and it resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and brought the number of internal refugees camped in and around Kigali to more than one million. The RPF released a press statement explaining that it had broken the cease-fire in order to stop the “genocide” and to counter the presence of French troops. 40 The “punitive” attack doubled the territory occupied by the invading RPF army and put it within 30 kilometres of Kigali. The RPF withdrew only after a cease-fire was reached, but the territory it had taken was declared to be a neutral an demilitarized zone, thus effectively removed from control of the Rwandan Government.
According to former Malian Minister of Culture, Aminata Traore: “In the current situation in Africa and the world, when you play with words you also play with lives.” 41 Westerners who played with the word “genocide” were also playing dangerously with Rwandan lives. Following is a description of how the RPF “punished” the population of the Byumba region north of Kigali after the charge of genocide was released internationally.
“On Thursday morning the rebels [RPF] began rounding people up in the whole area. Everybody was brought together: men, women and children, supposedly for an informational meeting. People were confident. The rebels were courteous and the peasants had nothing to hide. Things apparently got worse when they reached the place where the meeting was to be held. The rebels had the people entered the surrounding houses and then locked them from outside. They then attacked the houses with grenades. Survivors were killed with knives. The man who told me the story miraculously survived the massacre because he ended up under the bodies of his dead friends.” 42
According to the “right and proper tale”, the RPF “rebels” referred to in that description were saviours and liberators who put an end to the genocide.
After January 28, 1993, the charge of genocide appeared in all RPF documents and was heard in all speeches and interviews made by the RPF and its friends and representatives throughout the world. For strategic reasons, the Anglo-American alliance did not support the charge immediately, but most of the so-called human rights and humanitarian workers from Europe and North America began using the term with an ardour somewhere between nineteenth-century Christian missionaries and modern born-agains.
Chapter 4: Scouts at her Majesty’s Service
“It’s difficult to understand the Rwandan drama when you depend only on a
short stay in the country and on informers who work for specific interests.”
Georges-Henri Lévesque, February 1, 1995 43
short stay in the country and on informers who work for specific interests.”
Georges-Henri Lévesque, February 1, 1995 43
“Before October 1990, there was not a single human rights organization in Rwanda. After the invasion they grew like mushrooms,” declared Faustin Twagiramungu who was Prime Minister of Rwanda in 1994 and 1995 and presidential candidate in 2003. “As for international NGOs, we really had no idea what they were up to. I met them all because I led a political party opposed to the Habyarimana government.” 44
Victories can loosen tongues and make people careless. We now know that the Rwandan Patriotic Front operated 36 active clandestine cells in Rwanda when it invaded on October 1, 1990, and that these cells worked through human rights groups. 45 The groups created after 1990 were supported financially and politically by the large European and North American human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch/Africa in New York (later to become Africa Watch), the Fédération internationale des droits de l’Homme in Paris, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Montreal (now Rights and Democracy), African Rights in London, and several others. During the Rwandan war from 1990 to 1994 these groups provided the invading RPF army with a veneer of respectability.
Former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu claims that the international human rights groups were terribly biased before they even arrived in Rwanda. “They were all in close contact with the Tutsi diaspora dominated by the RPF.” Gilbert Ngijol is even more emphatic. The political attaché to UN secretary general’s special envoy maintains that “Financial support for the Rwandan human rights groups was a way to launder aid to the RPF army.”
Though many human rights declarations and reports were issued during the war, one particular commission stands out because of its devastating influence on the course of the war and also because of its dishonesty. The report was published in March 1993 by three of the above human rights groups and one African organization. The very title of the report betrays its bias: “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in Rwanda since October 1, 1990.” 46
By limiting the investigation into rights violations after October 1, 1990, the Commission conveniently avoided investigating the worst crime in international law, namely the crime against peace and national sovereignty perpetrated by the invading RPF army. Such selectivity compromises the whole report. One wonders how so-called international human rights specialists could sign such a report with out feeling compelled, if only for their professional reputations, to ask the obvious first question on rights violations: who started the war?
In September 1994, two of the authors, William Schabas and André Paradis, showed how shoddy the Commission’s work was in a reply to an article I published in the Montreal daily La Presse criticizing the report. 47 “The date was chosen,” they wrote, “only because that was the date chosen by the Rwandan human rights organizations who sponsored the Commission”. 48
It is now known that the groups who sponsored the Commission were either directly founded by the RPF or infiltrated by it. One important sponsor, theAssociation rwandaise pour la défense des droits de l’Homme, just happened to be founded on September 30, 1990, the day before the RPF invaded Rwanda. Its founding chairman was Alponse-Marie Nkubito, who was seconded to the Commission during its visit to Rwanda in 1993. Nkubito was appointed Minister of Justice in the first government set up immediately following the RPF victory in July 1994. There is no doubt now that the RPF, the aggressor in a murderous war in Rwanda, was the driving force behind the Commission.
Even if the secret ties between the Commission and the RPF are disregarded, the report reeks of collusion since it barely mentions crimes committed by the RPF. Though Commission investigators spent two weeks in Rwanda, they only spent two hours in territory occupied by the RPF army. Moreover, William Schabas wrote in a self-aggrandizing article that the Commission went there only “to demonstrate our impartiality”. 49 Whereas the Habyarimana Government gave the Commission full freedom to investigate, the RPF only allowed Commission members to meet witnesses in the presence of armed RPF officers and soldiers. Under such restrictions and with so little time to look into RPF rights violations, the Commission should have refused to issue the report until it had thoroughly investigated RPF-controlled territory for the same length of time and under the same conditions it had enjoyed in government-controlled territory. The Commission chose however to sanction a selective, limited and partial inquiry, that was inherently unjust.
The report is a sham because of the time period chosen. It is a sham because of the commission’s collusion with the RPF. It is also a sham because of self-imposed limits to the Commission’s mandate. Schabas and Paradis claimed that their “Commission was in fact indifferent about the identity of the aggressor, because international law is not concerned about that question.” 50 Legalists may enjoy compartmentalizing international law to make it easier to understand, but common sense demands that the worst crime of all be investigated when the lives of millions are at stake.
Though the authors claim to be learned jurists working in the tradition of Nuremberg, they chose to reduce the scope of their work in a manner that nobody would have dreamed of doing in the first international criminal tribunal established in Nuremberg in 1945. The Nuremberg Tribunal looked first and foremost at the worst crime which was the crime against peace: the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of war of aggression. It then investigated how the war was conducted.
Schabas and Paradis are also mistaken about the relation between the right to self-determination and other human rights. The World Conference of the United Nations on Human Rights held in Vienna in June 1993 reaffirmed the spirit of Nuremberg. The Vienna Declaration and the Action Program specifies that the denial of the right of self-determination constitutes a human rights violation. Peoples have the right to legitimately engage in self-defence against all forms of foreign domination and occupation. Human rights are not limited to civil and political rights, nor to economic and social rights considered independently. They include the full right to self-determination, national sovereignty and independence, which encompasses the right not to be the target of foreign aggression as Rwanda was in October 1990. 51
To appreciate the importace of the crime that the Commission chose to ignore, it is particularly instructive to return to the judges’ rulings in Nuremberg. Judge Norman Birkett from the Nuremberg Tribunal wrote: “The charges in the Indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive wars are the charges of utmost gravity. […] To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from the other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
The Commission also erred by ignoring the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights that compels signatories to protect the national sovereignty of other signatory states and that prohibits the use of one country’s territory by subversive elements or by refugees to invade another country. Signatories of the African Charter must prevent subversive or terrorist activities from being launched from their territory. By its very title, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights proclaims that individual and collective rights are inseparable and reflects the concerns of those who devised the Charter, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor, to preserve peace in African countries whose borders had been drawn by European colonialists. If the Commission had used the African Charter it would necessarily have investigated the October 1990 invasion of Rwanda by troops from Uganda.
The Commission could have published its report with a formal disclaimer about its numerous and serious shortcomings. On the contrary, it chose to launch the report with a massive media and public relations campaign vaunting the scope, credibility and prestige of the Commission and its authors. A lobbying campaign followed. All the foreign embassies and ministries were called on, as were the major European and North American funding organizations. The international reaction was swift and devastating. Belgium recalled its ambassador from Kigali. Within months, citing the report, Canada suspended 20 million dollars of aid to the Rwanda’s national university in Butare. The report became the pretext for an arms embargo on Rwanda, whereas the invading RPF army had no problem obtaining all the weapons it needed. From March 1993 on, the Commission’s report was the backdrop to all international meetings about or directly involving the Habyarimana Government.
The collusion between Commission members and the RPF has been clearly established. As indicated in Chapter 3, the RPF army used the Commission’s “revelations” to justify its major “punitive” offensive in northern Rwanda in February 1993. An RPF leader however had already written a letter to the pro-RPF newspaper Isibo on December 26, 1992, in which he announced that the invading army would wait for the report to be published before launching its offensive and breaking the cease-fire that had held since July 1992. 52 The results of the report were obviously a foregone conclusion for the RPF.
Over and above the report’s limited scope and the unacceptable relationship between the RPF and Commission members, the whole operation leaves a bad taste. It reeks of colonialism.
A Commission comprising mainly American, Canadian and French nationals spends two weeks in an African country and a month later issues a report that becomes the gospel in Western Foreign Affairs departments. Six of ten Commission members admitted that they knew nothing about Rwanda before going there in January 1993. None spoke the national language of Rwanda.
In any other situation, candidates for such a powerful commission with no experience or knowledge of the country in question would be expected to decline to participate to avoid the disapproval of their peers and the public. The members of this commission members had no such qualms. Could it be because they were dealing with remote Africa? Some even vaunted their lack of knowledge of Central Africa, saying that they had to look for Rwanda on the map before getting on the plane. As will be shown, the habit of boasting about one’s poor grasp of Africa prior to going on a mission to that continent has paradoxically been a constant for centuries in popular literature. It is a way to emphasize the gulf that separates Europe and Africa.
For some commission members, the mission appears to have been a lark. For instance, in a macabre description of grave-digging in northern Rwanda, William Schabas has himself identified as “Humphrey Bogart, alias Bill”, obviously a reference to the adventurer Bogart played in the 1951 film The African Queen.
Imagine the outcry if an international commission of African jurists who had never been in Canada and spoke neither English nor French came to investigate the living conditions of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. What if the same commission went to the United States to look into prison conditions for African Americans or the treatment of Muslims in that country since September 11, 2001. Chances are that the commission would not be allowed to leave the airport in Africa.
The Commission’s report on Rwandan human rights became the cornerstone on which the “right and proper tale” was built. Every book on Rwanda refers to it. Every film and television report cites it as proof of the genocidal intentions of Rwandan Hutus. Commission members became the main source of information about Rwanda in their respective countries. Media and foreign affairs departments sought them out. Reporters no longer had to find Rwandans to explain what was going on in their country. New resident experts with some two weeks experience in the country could now explain everything simply… and simplistically.
Some of the authors of the report dropped all reserve and attempts to appear neutral immediately following the assassination of President Habyarimana, and especially after the RPF took power in July 1994. A serious commission should have demanded that members maintain a certain reserve or neutrality whatever the outcome of the war. One commission member, Jean Carbonare, began working directly for the RPF as early as July 1994. William Schabas travelled back and forth from Canada to Kigali and basically operated as an FPR flack. He managed to obtain considerable Canadian aid money for the RPF and regularly boasted about being the author of that government’s organic genocide law. Rwanda became a staging point for his international career.
Alison Des Forges has promoted herself as the expert of experts in all the major trials in Arusha as though she understands Rwandans better than they understand themselves. “Alison Des Forges behaves as if she is Rwanda’s honorary consul,” complained former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu. “When I met her for the first time in 1992, even though she had done her thesis on Rwanda, it was obvious she knew very little about Rwanda.” Supporters of the “right and proper” make much of Ms Des Forges’ vast knowledge of Rwanda and of her selfless dedication. They conveniently forget to mention that she was employed by the United States State Department in 1990 and 1992 and that she maintained close relations with the US National Security Council and the Pentagon throughout the 1990s. 53
With the zeal of a Javert hounding Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, Alison Des Forges and William Schabas have pursued Rwandan Hutus throughout the world. Other Commission membres, such as Éric Gillet and Philippe Dahinden, also became expert prosecution witnesses in a variety of trials, including those at the ICTR in Arusha.
Ten years after the Commission, important lessons can be learned about it and its impact on the unfolding events in Rwanda. Human rights are the unofficial religion and uncontested foreign policy of Western countries and particularly the United States. Like the environment, democracy and motherhood, everybody is obviously in favour of human rights. Who could think of being against them? Such unanimity is always dangerous. When the slightest doubt is raised about someone’s commitment to such motherhood issues, the unanimity mutates into intolerance and provokes an almost religious fervour that drowns out the facts. From that time on, the normal rules guiding international relations give way to the mentality of the lynch mob or the inquisition. “Aren’t we all just nice, reasonable and tolerant people? The problem is those people over there. We’ll stone them and everything will be fine!”
People in Quebec understand this problem. Early in the 1990s, they too were targeted by a international campaign that had many similar features following a series of crises (i.e., the Meech Lake constitutional crisis, Oka and James Bay hydroelectric development). Though the accusers knew nothing about Quebec, they claimed to be defenders of the Aboriginal peoples and the environment and did not hesitate to use heavy artillery that included accusations of genocide, racism and serious human rights violations, that all found their way into mainstream American media.
The RPF understood the nature of Western public opinion and particularly US opinion. They knew that they could easily find craven visibility seekers who would carry the ball for them in Western countries.
Imperial strategists in North America and Europe also undoubtedly looked favourably on the publication of a report that devastated the Habyarimana government and spared the Rwandan Patriotic Front. After all, the same powers had effectively sanctioned the military occupation of part of Rwanda when they launched the euphemistic peace process in Arusha. They were imposing a new economic model on the country, the so-called Structural Adjustment Program, as well as a new political model while war raged on. This new weapon provided by right-thinking experts form Europe and North America simply rounded out the arsenal at their disposal.