“Given a background of impunity for perpetrators of crimes, injustice, intolerance, unspoken, exclusion and social inequality, how could a population that has not yet mourned its dead engage in genuine reconciliation?” Marie Rose Habyarimana.
In this section of the interview given by Marie Rose Habyarimana of which the publication is ongoing in different parts, the daughter of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana highlights some of the practices under the regime of President Paul Kagame that contribute to irrevocably making difficult any effort of reconciliation among Hutus and Tutsis.
The interviewee describes the origins of those practices and the nature of their manifestation in the everyday life of Rwandans.
The Rising Continent [TRC]: What do you think to be the most divisive issue for Rwandans today under the regime of President Paul Kagame?
Mary Rose Habyarimana [MRH]: To answer this question, we must first have a perfectly clear [and objective – my addition] appreciation about the reason Rwanda was attacked on October 1st 1990, and the tragedy which followed because of the imposed war lasting more than three years plus the failure of the Arusha peace negotiations.
Indeed, without having a broader overview, it is difficult to get an idea on issues of national reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi. It would take long to explain extensively all the factors from assessing the context, but I want to only recall the political aggiornamento which had been launched and the fact that the problem of the Rwandan refugees of 1959 had in reality found a final solution through the agreements of Gabiro [Rwanda] held during the month of August 1990.
[It is worth highlighting that this was only two months before the fatal attack of October 1st 1990. This would imply that though the UNHCR, Uganda and Rwanda sat together to discuss the issue for its ultimate settlement – I ignore if the Tutsi refugees mainly based in Uganda were represented in the meeting -, whatever the outcome seemed not binding for them. This attitude would become the pattern for the Tutsi side for any negotiation thereafter. In fact, such tactic had been used by their master-minder Joweri Museveni over and over again in many of the wars he took part in the Great Lakes region – my addition]
What divides most Rwandans under President Paul Kagame is the [apartheid like] ethnic policy of his regime. Just as the regime seeks to proclaim in its propaganda that it rejects all ethnic labelling, as in reality, it is distinguished by ethnic underhand [or dubious – my addition] practices. Basically, once in power, Kagame has never stopped behaving as a faction leader as if he was still in the bush when he led the guerrilla war for the conquest of power. Even the openings he operates [from time to time – my addition] toward the Hutu majority, are made solely in order to disguise the rule of the minority Tutsi.
Upon taking power in Kigali, Kagame was faced with a difficult challenge. Having started his armed struggle with the main demand to be the return of Tutsi refugees of 1959/1960, Kagame had to demonstrate that he is a leader for the whole nation and not only for the Tutsi minority to which he belongs and of which fate was in his hands. It is this threshold that he failed to go beyond, either by his own ideological convictions, or because he was unable to free himself from his community group mentality. We can illustrate this with two examples, out of many, namely the repression of war crimes and crimes of genocide and national reconciliation
- The repression of war crimes and and crimes of genocide.
We must remember that the political takeover of the current regime in July 1994, came after a long and bloody war that began in October 1990; this war had caused a lot of casualties, especially in the [mainly Hutu – my addition] northern population of the country. In early 1994, nearly one million displaced, fleeing the horrors of the war, lived in makeshift camps just outside Kigali. With time and the arrival of new observers for the sub-region, it seems that the Rwandan drama begins with the genocide of April-July 1994. Given the intensity of crimes committed during this unique period in a burst of moral rejection, perhaps sincere, these specialists sweep under the rug the crimes previously committed by Kagame’s rebel group. It’s the same logic that drives them to separate the crimes committed against Hutus during the genocide from those that Hutu refugees were victims during their exodus through Congo from 1996 to 1998.
Yet this is the same continuity of crimes committed on Rwandan people for whom justice must be done. Paul Kagame’s regime is heavily involved in the crimes committed during this whole period, that is to say before, during and after the genocide of 1994.
[It is imperatively necessary to recall that ICTR – the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, from all the evidence the prosecutor produced over the years, in fact since the establishment of that court, nothing and strictly nothing was found to prove that what happened in 1994 was planned and particularly totally to be the work of those who were accused for the tragic events. As we know today, many of the convicts have been acquitted, but unfairly quarantined by the international community – my addition]
The reality is that instead of providing justice, Kigali’s regime practices the politics of double standards. It has never demonstrated any will to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by its fighters during the war of “liberation.” During the bloody pacification period following its seizure of power [during which entire regions have been cleared of their populations to give space to the new arrivals – my addition], in addition to the numerous massacres operated blindly, the regime carried out mass arrests [all over the country – my addition].
All these killings and arrests aimed exclusively at the Hutu segment of the population. Confronted with the impossibility to bring all those arrested before the judge in conventional courts, the regime established a system of traditional courts known as “Gacaca”. More than one million and a half passed by this expedient justice. All exclusively Hutu. Finally, with the backing of some major powers, the Kagame regime has done everything to avoid being pursued by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, though this court was specially set up to try crimes committed in Rwanda throughout 1994. Likewise, the Kagame regime still managed to avoid answering for despicable crimes committed by his henchmen on Congolese territory. These crimes, though well documented by the United Nations from 1993 to 2003, aimed at both the Congolese people and Hutu refugees and continue to be perpetrated with total impunity.
It goes without saying that this situation of a two-tier justice creates a lot of frustration among the Hutus.
- National reconciliation – A question then arises: how in this context of frustration and everyday humiliations we can talk about genuine national reconciliation? Is such reconciliation possible as long as the two main ethnic groups can not voice out the truth about what really happened all those years of horrific experiences that have befallen on them all indiscriminately? Of course, over time, people have learned to deal with reality and coexist. And that’s fine. But this is below expectations for a real social reconciliation.
A similar debate can be made about the evolution of the discourse on genocide and ritual that accompanies its commemoration. Initially, the term used to describe the massacres of 1994 was in Kinyarwanda “Itsembatsemba – itsembabwoko” which may well be made by the superposition of two concepts “extermination” and “genocide.” In the first version of the Constitution after 1994, this was the only qualifying “genocide” framework which was used. It was the time when the international media used, after we do not know from which “genius”, the expression “genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus” was invented.
The radicalization of the discourse has led to the consecration of the concepts of “Tutsi genocide.” This is a speech of singling out and excluding. This is not a unifying discourse. Moreover, it is a speech-like law enforcement, as evidenced in the following two examples: A) The conviction and sentencing of Ms. Victoire Ingabire on the ground for daring to declare before the Genocide Memorial in Gisozi that there was a part of the population, also victim of the  massacres, whose memory is not honored. B) More recently, the arrest of singer Mihigo Kizito, for the same reason he dared to say that there were not only Tutsi victims. C) The unspoken truth of “Ndi Umunyarwanda – [I am Rwandan]” campaign that saw Kagame personally encourage the generation of young Hutu born after 1994 to apologize for crimes [supposedly – my addition] committed by their parents.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the two ethnic communities in Rwanda, Hutu and Tutsi, have both suffered from crimes committed in the country. Even by considering the only limited period of 1994, it would not be surprising to learn that from the one million deaths than Rwanda regrets, it includes an impressive number of Hutus. [According to Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, US researchers who mapped the Rwandan war against the number of victims across the entire country found that the majority of the victims were Hutu and not Tutsi. When they first discussed publicly their findings in Kigali – Rwanda, they were given 24 hours to leave the country. Since then they have become persona non grata for the Rwandan government – http://www.whale.to/c/christian_davenport.html – my addition.]
Unfortunately, even now, 20 years after these sad events, only the Tutsi are considered the only victims while Hutu have no right to justice, nor even crying theirs who suddenly disappeared in the same circumstances of political violence.
Finally, genocide has become a business for the RPF, who however caused and prevented it being stopped so it could achieve its [political – my addition] aims. It uses the genocide to legitimize its power and to disqualify the other components of the Rwandan society.
Given a background of impunity for perpetrators of crimes, injustice, intolerance, unspoken, exclusion and social inequality, how could a population that has not yet mourned its dead engage in genuine reconciliation?
From the same interview: