Analysis: ABEL BUHUNGU
FOR one hundred days, from April 7, 1994, Rwanda suffered one of the worst genocides ever recorded in world history.
Over a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in killings that were planned and orchestrated by the regime of the time.
Rwanda’s darkest history is indeed stark evidence of the nuisance potential of bad governments and governance therefore. The crime of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis is recognised worldwide though some, out of choice, continue to propagate denial or at the least trivialise the same.
This is orchestrated mainly by individuals and groups living outside Rwanda. Unsurprisingly, notorious among the deniers are more than 70,000 people convicted of genocide crimes in absentia.
These include former ideologues and senior officials of the genocidal regime, who planned and executed the genocide but wish to protect themselves and the image of the government they served.
They are supported in this heinous scheme by their long-term international networks who they share a common objective of shifting blame for the genocide onto the very people who defeated the genocidal regime and effectively stopped the genocide.
Prevention of genocide demands that we uproot genocide ideology, genocide revisionism and denial since this is also a recognised phase of any genocide that has taken place.
As the worst crime against humanity, genocide and its related implementation phases can only be fought effectively with support of the whole international community.
Some of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis are scattered across the continent and beyond and, together with their support networks, are notoriously involved in denial and spreading of genocide ideology.
Rwanda commends and is grateful to countries that have either successfully tried in their national courts, deported and extradited to Rwanda or effected transfer of suspects to International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Zambia was among the very first African countries to contribute in fighting of genocide-related impunity by facilitating the arrest and transfer of genocide fugitives to the now defunct ICTR.
Relatedly, the signing of the Extradition Treaty between Zambia and Rwanda, which was in June this year overseen by Presidents Edgar Lungu and Paul Kagame, is further testimony of the goodwill and commitment to fighting all forms of crime and related impunity.
Rwanda has recently received fairly good collaboration from a number of countries with resultant Extradition and Deportation back to Rwanda or trial of genocide suspects in their national courts. These countries and respective number of genocide suspects in question are: (i) the US (04); (ii) Canada (04); (iii) the Netherlands (05); (iv) Sweden (02); (v) Norway (02); (vi) Uganda (03); (vii) Finland (01); (viii) France (01); (ix) Belgium (08) and (x) Germany (01). The now defunct ICTR did also effect three referrals to Rwanda before its closure.
The deported and extradited genocide suspects are facing trial in Rwandan courts while those successfully tried by host countries are already serving their sentences.
This level of collaboration with the international community does not only fight impunity and genocide ideology but reinforces global commitment to never again suffer another genocide anywhere.
After the successful stopping of the genocide by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), ensuring that this scourge never occurs again in Rwanda was of paramount importance. Institutions dedicated to achieving unity and reconciliation (NURC) as well as to fighting genocide: Commission National de Lutte Contre Le Genocide (CNLG) were established. Laws against impunity were also put in place to fight anything that could lead to another genocide.
Article 2 of the law N°18/2008 of July 23, 2008, relating to the punishment of the crime of genocide ideology, defines genocide ideology as: “An aggregate of thoughts characterised by conduct, speeches, documents and other acts aiming at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate people basing on ethnic group, origin, nationality, region, colour, physical appearance, sex, language, religion or political opinion, committed in normal periods or during war.”
The crime of genocide ideology, in Article 3 of the same law, “is characterised in any behaviour manifested by facts aimed at dehumanising a person or a group of persons with the same characteristics like threatening, intimidating, degrading through defamatory speeches, documents or actions, which aim at propounding wickedness or inciting hatred.”
By definition, genocide is a criminal act with the intention of destroying an ethnic, national or religious group targeted as such. According to Gregory H Stanton, the founder and president of Genocide Watch, genocide is split into eight (8) very distinctive phases: (i) classification; (ii) symbolisation; (iii) dehumanisation; (iv) organisation; (v) polarisation; (vi) preparation; (vii) extermination; and (viii) denial.
The genocide denial phase in particular is the phase that Rwanda is now working towards overcoming. Genocide denial is the last phase of genocide and it is again initiated and propagated by the very people who planned and executed the genocide, along with their support infrastructure. In the Rwandan context, they try to: (i) turn the victims into the villains; (ii) label themselves the victims; (iii) initiate and spread anti-Rwanda government propaganda; and (iv) kill genocide survivors, especially during the period of commemorating the 1994 genocide against Tutsis; and (v) orchestrating, lobby against government of Rwanda, among unsuspecting members of the international community.
There is need to continue documenting and enlightening the global citizenry on the factual history of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. Host countries that have been served with indictments against genocide fugitives need to act with urgency to curtail the suspects’ impunity that come with inaction. Prosecution serves as a lesson to others and helps stop the impunity that in the pre-1994 Rwanda was a major catalyst for executing the genocide.
Rwanda is thankful to Zambia for having declared the Cessation Clause in favour of former Rwandan refugees. The Cessation Clause aims at regularising the continued stay in Zambia of former Rwandan refugees who choose to do so or facilitating voluntary repatriation back to Rwanda for those who wish to do so.
The Rwanda High Commission in Zambia continues to give consular services, including passports, to our Rwandan compatriots in support of the full implementation of this Cessation Clause, particularly with the looming deadline of the Cessation Clause of December 31, 2017.
The invocation of the cessation clause by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other host countries, including Zambia, means that the refugee agency and respective host nations will no longer be responsible for supporting the former Rwandan refugees in any shape or form.
The refugees have up to December 2017 to either secure legal residency in host countries, return home to Rwanda or risk losing legality of their stay in the host country.
The Rwanda High Commission in Lusaka is aware of resistance to full implementation of the Cessation Clause by a small clique of individuals within the Rwandan community.
They have been intimidating the unsuspecting majority in the community and engage in a smear campaign against the Government of Rwanda.
The legacy of horror that followed the 1994 genocide against Tutsis did cast a long shadow on the capacity of the Rwandan society to reconcile and rise from its own ashes.
Today, however, Rwandans under the very able leadership of President Kagame have, against all odds, emerged out of the apocalypse by instituting and practising good governance to create one of the most secure countries across the globe, where safety has bred fertile ground for very fast and steady development.
Whereas the East African nation is resolved and committed to fight genocide ideology, this threat, which is the cause of the world’s worst form of crime against humanity, can only be defeated with support of all well-meaning nations. Indeed, concerted global efforts need to be mobilised to ensure genocide never recurs anywhere else.
The author is counsellor at the Rwanda High Commission in Lusaka.