“One can hurt for a while but they cannot do so forever. So, we hope, we believe in the strength of Rwandans, in their love for Rwandans [and their country]. Yes we have to believe in that, and it will happen.” Marie Rose Habyarimana.
She is one of the remaining six children of former assassinated Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana. In the following interview she gave to La Gazette, a Canadian newspaper, this during the month of April, at the occasion of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, she expresses what the wide majority of Rwandans think of their national tragedy. She lost a father. Like millions of other Rwandans who lost their relatives, she is seeking justice. She does not want to forget though this is what Kigali has been doing to Hutu by forcibly pressurizing them to erase from their memory the suffering Paul Kagame caused and continues to inflict to their families.
What are your thoughts about the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide?
Firstly, I wish to reiterate my condolences to all Rwandans, because there is not a single member of the great Rwandan family that has not been touched by the unspeakable tragedy which affected Rwanda. And also to some foreigners who have been affected. What is deplorable is that there is still a lot of wounds that are not healed: many people who live traumatized the pain of injustice. I would also like to appeal to all Rwandans, wherever they are, that they sincerely seek truth and tolerance in their hearts. Because we were born with differences and therefore must have tolerance and respect for others to make sense of things and establish responsibilities.
What do you expect from the current authorities of Rwanda?
Openness and honesty, because we note that so far their policies are based on lies and failure to consider views from people who do not share theirs.
What do you mean by lies?
For example, they took the private home of my father and went to invent all kinds of stories saying that he was a bloodthirsty dictator who cultivated marijuana. So, they felt they could dispossess us from everything we had left. They took as well the house where we grew up, I ‘m not talking about the official house in Kigali. They maliciously announced that our family property belonged to the state and made it into a public museum. We saw an article in the newspaper Jeune Afrique although we had heard many stories about the house and the article said that my father was torturing people in there, there were motion detectors in the house so that if people intruded into my father’s room he could hear them; I do not know why they would put motion detectors in the house where we grew up. The article even mentions that there was a room where rituals were performed. They told a lot of fabricated stories that have nothing to do with the reality but are aimed at harming. It is unfortunate for the African people that a journalist worthy of such a title publishes such obscenities without even bothering to check the details of their story with the family who grew up in the concerned house. People can say what they like but truth will eventually come out.
20 years after, there has been no conclusive outcome from any investigation [in terms of responsibilities]. Some have accused RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front currently in power) and others thought it was Hutu extremists who were after their leader. Who might be responsible for the murder of your father, in your own opinion?
We have never imagined that it could be the Hutus who had done it because Rwanda had just spent four years in war and this is a part of the story that is covered up. Spirits had began to get angry because of the misery created by that war and my father had persistently tried to calm tensions. My father was murdered in full peace negotiations; therefore, there was the war, but a moment of respite was underway. Hutus could not do that because it would have been a suicide, it would have been like for them to cut off the head because there was also on board the aircraft the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan army. So it would have been fatal for them and it was fatal for them. And if we analyze calmly, anyway, we did not need to look far to know who benefited from the crime? It is crystal clear that it benefited people who are currently in power.
How far have you taken action [to seek justice]?
At the international level, we observe a situation of double standards as if someone wanted to cover up the assassination of my father through a mystery and or protecting someone. The way the attack has been dealt with is not fair because when I think of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri who was assassinated, the UN launched an investigation [almost immediately]. It was the same for Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. In the case of Rwanda, it is heads of states who were assassinated in office and we know where that led, namely genocide and the most horrific crimes of our time. And yet they do not want to launch an international investigation. My mother was evacuated in Europe and every year we wrote to the UN, but our letters went unanswered. [That is international racism in action towards Africans]
Today we commemorate the Rwandan genocide in general. What is the responsibility of your father in this tragedy, even if it took place after him?
When the RPF launched the war, it said it wanted to bring the Tutsi refugees who were abroad and, at the time, steps had already been initiated for Rwandans to return home without resorting to war . I must admit that one of the things that my father is accused of it may be that he has been slow in addressing the problem of refugees, because of the smallness of the country [RPF confronted with the same problem or for other sinister reasons started its war in 1990 by cleansing whole areas it conquered of Hutu by killing them. The policy was pursued and even intensively implemented after it took power in July 1994 that entire parts of the country record reverse proportionality between Hutu and Tutsi populations: for example this is the case in former prefectures of Byumba and Kibungo today part of the Eastern Province. When Paul Kagame indicates that he is not from a minority anymore he is probably referring to what his ethnic cleansing against Hutu has been doing]. But he [Habyarimana] had started the process. So that when the RPF attacked, it had no reason to do this because between the peaceful resolution and weapons, the choice is clear [RPF attack of October 1st, 1990 was aimed at sabotaging the process of peaceful return. In fact the following of November 1990, a delegation of Tutsi refugees was meant to come and visit Rwanda, and see by themselves and appreciate the situation]. We know very well what came to be the consequences of their choice. There have been displacements of populations by the war, tens of thousands died and then it raised tensions and hatred. But my father did everything to calm people down, even reaching out to those who had attacked with weapons and invented all kinds of things about him … (Sighs).
So you think things would have unfolded differently in Rwanda if your father was still alive at the time?
Sure. Never in his lifetime such abominable thing would have happened. Whenever there were violent tensions, he went to the scene and tried to calm the situation. Once in an area where he went ease tensions, I remember his words, he said: “Do not give in to the enemy [propaganda], who wants to divide you; that is what he is seeking, to create chaos. Do not lend him a hand by responding in the direction he desires. Stay united. Keep peace.” He would never have allowed such hatred and he had to be killed effectively for the irreparable to happen.
Some were angry against him to have accepted to negotiate …
There will always be intolerant people but it does not justify that they could go as far. My father still represented the authority of the Hutus and he had no intention of staying in power. I remember he told me he wanted to lead the country to elections, knowing that he had brought it out of war. It is true that Hutu could blame him [for things he might have failed to accomplish] but not to the point of committing such offense. The person who decided to kill my father in times of trouble necessarily knew very well the disproportionate adverse consequences and if it was the Hutus, they could’ve [at least] been a plan to replace him. It was RPF who had a plan and their only way to gain power was to kill my father, they have wreaked havoc to come put out the fire they themselves lit.
The memory of your father is not celebrated in Kigali. What image do you think Rwandans keep of their former president Juvenal Habyarimana today?
I’m sure those who lived in his time, if they are honest, they can celebrate his memory because I know he was a dedicated President for his country, a hard worker. Besides during his office tenure the country had experienced a net development. I remember the country where I grew up, as a country of peace. I remember he said it and it was repeated in the song: “In other countries, God gave them gold oil and rich subsoil but we God gave us peace.” I know he advanced Rwanda a lot and history will give him credit.
Mary Rose, you kept your family name Habyarimana. Are you planning to return to your country of birth?
Yes, I hope so, because falsehood and evil cannot prevail. We always have to live with hope. I have that hope that there will always be people of good will to make a difference. People are persecuted, they are put in prison, witnesses of crimes and other offenses are murdered. For example in relation to the murder on my father, there are witnesses who have been assassinated but we know that one day all this will end. I do not know how but I know that evil will never prevail. One can lie to people for a while but they cannot do it forever. One can hurt for a while but they cannot do so forever. So, we hope, we believe in the strength of Rwandans, in their love for Rwandans [and their country]. Yes we have to believe in that, and it will happen.
The translation from French to English is mine.
Source: La Gazette: http://www.lagazette.sn/20e-anniversaire-genocide-rwandais-marie-rose-habyarimana-si-mon-pere-etait-encore-vivant/
In this interview the journalist suggests to Marie Rose a hypothesis where Habyarimana wouldn’t have been killed, then the interviewee replies that things would’ve been different. I totally agree. Another hypothesis that me I suggest not to the interviewee but to every Rwandan who lived at that time and could understand the situation is this: would things had been different if the Chief of Military Staff, General Nsabimana, hadn’t been on that fatal plane that killed everyone on board including presidents Habyarimana of Rwanda and Ntaryamira of Burundi?
The question I still even today don’t find answer to is this: wasn’t imprudent from Habyarimana to take with him to Tanzania his army commander knowing that the country was at war? Or was he worried of a possible military coup, as people were speculating about at the time?
If president Mobutu who had been invited too to Tanzania for the same meeting, and had indicated to Habyarimana that there was a plot to assassinate him, then refused to go, could’ve the Rwandan president done the same? Was he more worried by a military coup than being killed by RPF, probably following information from his intelligence services? That would in some ways explains why he took with him his army commander to the Tanzania meeting. But all these being only speculations, those who were close to the Rwandan president and have survived so far, could inform us on this part of our history as Rwandans.
My condolences to the Habyarimana family. Despite everything, I am certain millions of Rwandans in-distinctively of all ethnic or regional backgrounds who have known his era miss him much. We all the survivors share the pain that Kagame and his Inkotanyi have inflicted on us and which unfortunately is far from ending, unless…