A new BBC documentary has sparked international debate about the facts of the Rwandan genocide. This week legislators in Kigali voted to ban the BBC in Rwanda, outraged by the documentary, which deconstructs the official narrative. But the documentary actually tells the truth the Kagame regime suppresses.
In my masters thesis at City University, London, titled: ‘NGOs and the Media: Friends or Enemies? An Investigation into the Relationship Between NGOs and the Media in Trouble Spots’, I analyzed the critical importance of the media in preventing conflicts precisely because, taken together, the diverse mass media technologies, institutions, professionals, norms and practices constitute one of the most powerful forces shaping the lives of individuals and the fate of entire peoples and nations. I argue that, regarding the genocide in Rwanda and the subsequent outpouring of refugees into eastern Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), which later became the scene of another genocide committed by the Tutsi against all other ethnic groups in the region, the Tutsi continue to say they are victims of the genocide.
Throughout these events, a BBC team broadcasted in African languages, particularly in Swahili, to explain to the local people what was going on throughout what was then known as ‘the Great Lakes crisis’. Hence the name of the documentary, ‘Great Lakes Life Line’, part of the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.
As time went on, I realized that the BBC turned out to be the lifeline, if not the sounding board, of Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), whose hope for gaining power faded alongside the Arusha Peace Agreement, when the ‘final solution’ was adopted: Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was killed, together with his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira, when his plane was shot down while landing at Kanombe International Airport. His government was overthrown, and a civil war that plunged the entire region into a spree of mass killing, rapes and looting ensued.
Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, the BBC and other powerful Western media outlets, the United Nations, Western powers, the African Union, NGOs and the current Rwandan Tutsi government keep feeding us the same one-sided story since 1994, repeating the mantra, ‘The Hutus killed the Tutsis in Rwanda, period!’ And Western geo-strategic interests in the region (to include those with ties to Congo’s mineral wealth) oblige!
On 1 October 2014, as part of its Panorama program, the BBC broadcast ‘Rwanda: The Untold Story’, a one-hour documentary in which star journalist Jane Corbin and producer John Conroy demythologize the ‘Hutus killed Tutsis in Rwanda’ official line. We learn from this documentary that there was no planned genocide. In the program, American scholar Allan Stam points out that the massacres of Tutsis were spontaneous, and ended well before the RPF seized power. As explained in the documentary, war and occupation by RPF starting in September 1990 had led to mass killings of the Hutu civilian population. Thousands of mainly Hutu refugees, driven from their land, were clustered around Kigali, trapped in death camps where a hundred bodies a day were buried due to disease and hunger. In addition, a large number of refugees from Burundi had flocked to Rwanda in 1993 to escape the massacres of Hutus carried out by the army and Tutsi civilians there. To see their Burundian brothers persecuted this way did nothing to reassure the Hutus of Rwanda in the face of the advancing RPF Tutsi army.
When the plane carrying the two presidents was shot down, the already-martyred Hutus came to the conclusion that the RPF and its supporters did not want democracy. Some, desperate and enraged, took machetes and decided to kill those they perceived to be responsible for their suffering. This is confirmed by the BBC documentary and by many other testimonies.
On 8 October, Canadian writer Bernard Desgagné provided a very detailed commentary of this BBC documentary in his website, www.vigile.net His writing there clarified many things. According to Desgagné, the fact that Corbin called on two heavyweight witnesses, Ksagame’s former chief of staff Theogene Rudasingwa and former chief of the Rwandan Patriotic Army Kayumba Nyamwasa, makes the documentary even more credible because both had seen mass crimes orchestrated by their boss from the inside.
In the documentary, Nyamwasa does not mince words: ‘Kagame has never had the intention to stop the genocide. Never!’ he says. ‘His intention was to win the war to gain power. The fact that people died in the genocide or were killed was the least of his worries ... Without a shadow of a doubt, Paul Kagame is [the one who shot down the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on 6 April 1994">. I am well placed to know, and he knows that I am.’
Nyamwasa had himself participated in the conspiracy to commit the attack of 6 April 1994. He also led Kagame’s troops at the time when they were committing huge massacres, and later when the same troops invaded Congo. He claims that Kagame was fully aware of the dramatic consequences that would result after the attack. ‘If we are in the dry season and you throw a match in the grass, will you come to the idea to think that the grass will not burn?’ he asked.
Nyamwasa, who is under protection in South Africa, has been the subject of three recent assassination attempts, all committed by Kagame's henchmen. His friend Patrick Karegeya, another RPF military defector, has not been as lucky as him, according to Desgagné. He was killed on the night of 31 December 2013.
In fact, on 10 September 2014, the BBC reported that a South African court has sentenced four Rwandans to eight years in prison after being sent by Kagame to attempt to kill Nyamwasa. He was shot in the stomach in Johannesburg in June 2010, and soon after he fled Rwanda. The magistrate said the ‘main culprits’ (in Kigali) had not been arrested. The BBC observed that several attacks on Rwandan exiles in South Africa have caused diplomatic tensions between Pretoria and Kigali.
Describe it as genocide or not, argues Desgagné, but the massacre of Tutsis in April 1994 was not the result of a diabolical plan by the Hutu power. It was horrible, but it lasted only a few days, essentially stopping by the end of the month. By comparison, the massacres of Hutu political opponents, however, are systematic and well organized by the RPF. They have stretched over 24 years, and continue today under the indifferent eyes or complicity of Kagame’s sycophants and fooled national and international opinion.
Furthermore, according to Desgagné, those who still assume that there was a planned genocide against the Tutsis should rather look to the RPF, especially when it is well known that Robert Kajuga, the leader of the Hutu paramilitary organization Interahamwe, was a Tutsi and an agent of the RPF, as revealed by former Kagame bodyguard Aloys Ruyenzi in the documentary. It is possible that a minority of young Hutu rebels were driven to kill Tutsis by manipulators in the pay of Kagame who just wanted to provide their boss with an alibi for the massacres of Hutus. This hypothesis remains to be seen, but it is plausible, concludes Desgagné.
According to British journalist Gerard O’Donovan, what the BBC has conducted is a forensic deconstruction of both the official history of the genocide (which puts the blame entirely on the Hutus) and previous scholarly research on the complexity of the genocide in Rwanda.
American scholars Christian Davenport and Allan Stam worked for both the prosecution and the defense at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UNICTR), trying to perform the same task—to find data that demonstrate what actually happened during the 100 days of killing. They concluded that the accepted story of the mass killings of 1994 is incomplete, and that the full truth—inconvenient as it may be to the Rwandan government—needs to come out.
The current Rwandan regime considers such allegations outrageous. Scholars such as Brian Martin share its indignation.
However, Charles Kambanda, Rwandan American legal scholar, professor at St. John’s University in New York City, former professor at several East African universities and once a member of the ruling RPF, argued that there must be a difference between the ‘Rwandan genocide’ and the ‘Tutsi genocide’ because the latter tends to exclude the Hutu victims of the genocide.
According to Kambanda, people who call it the ‘Rwandan genocide’ are subject to prosecution in Rwanda. In fact, Victoire Ingabire, a Rwandan Hutu opposition leader, has been sentenced to 17 years in jail (she was initially sentenced to eight years) for saying that Hutus were also massacred in 1994. She was found guilty of ‘terrorism and denying the country’s genocide’. Her lawyer, an American attorney named Peter Erlinder, serving as Defense Counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), was also arrested in Rwanda in November 2010.
Surprisingly, in 2011 US President Obama, in his statement honoring those who died, did refer to the ‘Rwanda genocide’, not to the ‘Tutsi genocide’.
In 1994 the United Nations released the Gersony Report, detailing mass killings by the RPF, led by Paul Kagame, after their military victory in the civil war in post-genocide Rwanda. The report was allegedly suppressed for geo-political and strategic reasons. Kagame, the ‘most important war criminals still in office today’, according to Belgian historian Prof. Filip Reyntjens, is also a key player in Rwanda’s role in the deaths of eight million people in Congo.
Yes, Congo! The deconstruction of the official history of the genocide shows that the inter-ethnic killings in Rwanda were just a means to an end: Rwanda and Uganda invaded resource-rich Congo from 1998 onward under the pretext of fighting the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), which is made up of the rival Hutu ethnic group, according to the BBC. But in fact their true aim was to occupy Congo and loot strategic and precious minerals, to deliver them to American and other Western markets. It was a war by proxy waged by Western powers to cheaply exploit Congo’s abundant mineral wealth without putting white troops on the ground, notwithstanding the facts that eight million Congolese were killed, land was occupied and rape used as a weapon of war. It was this action that was planned for a long time, not the mass killings in 1994 in Rwanda.
Indeed, ‘what the world thinks and what really happened are two different things,’ Allan Stam states in the documentary. In fact, as Peter Erlinder wrote in October 2014, UN and State Department documents confirm that the US and UK sponsor impunity for Kagame’s brutal dictatorship and the RPF’s crimes in Rwanda and Congo from 1993 to the present.
If you consider even just the year 1994, and parse though the data provided by the UN and the government in Kigali, you will find that the number of Hutus killed is four times higher than the number of Tutsis killed. And if you calculate the number of people over the age of 24 years who between 1990 and today were massacred by exterminators under the orders of Paul Kagame or died of starvation or disease while trying to flee, you arrive at a toll higher than that of the Holocaust. Of that number, the vast majority are Hutus and Congolese. Tutsi deaths do not even reach 5% of the total, as Desgagné observes.
This means that perhaps only 5% of the human skulls in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre are Tutsi, the rest being Hutu and Congolese. With this in mind, one must remember that these two memorial centres are the highest symbols of ‘Rwanda’s untold truth’, and have attracted huge funds for Kagame from his Western sponsors. The UK alone is the largest contributor, with annual foreign aid nearing £500 million—or $800 million—to help keep Kagame in power.
In December 2004, a mortality study by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) found that 31,000 people were dying monthly, and 3,800,000 people had already died of hunger, diseases or wild animal attacks in the bush after fleeing conflict in Congo during the previous six years, making it one of the deadliest since World War II. Today the toll has climbed to eight million. If occurring in occupied territory, Rwandan and Uganda troops, along with the various Tutsi rebels that are still reigning havoc in eastern Congo, collected the skulls of these dead Congolese and put them in the ‘memorial centres’ throughout Rwanda. Yet the question remains, who on earth will be able to verify these remains? Who can distinguish a Tutsi skull from a Hutu skull, or that of a Congolese? Perhaps only Museveni and Kagame can.
In short, to say the skulls exposed in ‘memorial centres’ throughout Rwanda are only Tutsi is to tell the biggest lie nobody with a right mind can ever accept.
Further, it is important to remember that 80 Congolese youth were rounded up in Uvira, South Kivu and taken to Rwanda in January 2001; these children are still unaccounted for today, according to a report by the Missionary News Agency (MISNA). Is there a connection between this event and the source of many of the skulls? This is just one example of many events that should be investigated for ties to the ‘memorial centres’.
In late 2007, French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere indicted the assassins of Presidents Habyarimana and Ntwagiramira, both Hutus, and personally recommended to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that Kagame be prosecuted by the UNICTR, as reported by Peter Erlinder.
In February 2008, Spanish judge Fernando Andreu issued a 180-page indictment specifically charging Kagame and 40 other Rwandan military officers with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The document referred to the massacres of more than 300,000 civilians, as well as nine Spanish citizens, including six missionaries during the ‘genocide’. Kagame rounded up unarmed Hutu civilians by the thousands and machine-gunned them. Seasoned UN investigator Robert Gersony estimated that as many as 35,000 Hutu were killed in this manner between April and September 1994, just in the 28% of the country that his team surveyed alone.
Given that the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda, occupying half of the country, who will believe that the RPF did not kill a single Hutu in the territory they controlled? Nicholas Gordon, a BBC reporter, investigated and reported that the Kagame regime had built crematoriums at Bugasira, Ruhengeri, Byumba, Kibungo, Inyungwe and other locations where thousands of Hutus were killed daily, and that their bodies were incinerated under a program called ‘Manpower Duties’ as US military officers on the scene looked the other way. The aim was to reduce the Hutu majority to the level of the Tutsi.
In addition to these events, RPF soldiers systematically massacred Hutu refugees in Congo when they accompanied Laurent Kabila on his way to power.
In his article, Peter Erlinder recapped the documentary as follows:
“Former Chief Prosecutor del Ponte in this documentary confirms she had the evidence to prosecute Paul Kagame and his RPF military for the assassinations and war crimes as early as 2002, but was removed from her UN office by the US and UK in 2003 when she tried;
Former FBI Special Agent James Lyons explained that he was a member of the elite UN investigative team in early 1997 that recommended then-Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour prosecute Kagame for the assassinations and other war crimes. Arbour fired the investigative team including Lyons;
Col. Marchal, second-in-command to Gen. Dallaire in the UN Mission to Rwanda, explained how the assassination of President Habyarimana was part of the military strategy of the aggressive and militarily superior RPF army to de-stabilize the defending Habyarimana forces; and
RPF Lt. Ruyenzi, formerly of Kagame’s personal Headquarters detail now in exile, explained Kagame’s elated reactions with other military leaders on the night of the assassination, when the orders for the final assault for power were given.
The September 1994 Memo to President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher confirms the Clinton Whitehouse was informed of mass RPF crimes two months before the US voted to establish the UN Tribunal for Rwanda.
Another former Chief of Staff, Dr. Theogene Rudesingwa admitted to his role in the cover-up in a voice-over while the visual showed his meetings with President Clinton during Rudesingwa’s term as Rwandan Ambassador to the US.”
The so-called ‘Rwandan economic miracle’ just benefits Kagame and his entourage who have become very rich from predatory wars in Congo. Still, half of Rwanda’s state budget comes from foreign aid, and its GDP was $633 per capita in 2013. Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in Africa, and even the world, Desgagné confirms.
What we still have in Rwanda is a sham ‘mono-ethnic democracy’. In fact, the United States is exerting pressure on Congolese President Joseph Kabila NOT to seek a third term and to abide by the constitution. Both the Catholic Church and the Congolese opposition have joined in the call. Time Magazine reported on 4 May 2014 that US Secretary of State John Kerry even pledged to give the Democratic Republic of Congo $30 million worth of aid for the next elections, expected in 2016, but only ‘on condition that President Joseph Kabila does not seek a third term’ (Western aid always comes with conditionalities). Yet the United States said nothing when Museveni stood for a third term. Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza are both poised to stand for a third term, and there has been no hint on the part of United States towards ‘forbidding’ them to do so.
Surprisingly, Kigali did not brand the BBC a ‘genocide negationist’ following the broadcast of ‘Rwanda’s Untold Story’. However, in a letter addressed to the Director General of the BBC, IBUKA, an association of genocide survivors close to the government, claimed the documentary denies the reality of the 1994 genocide and called on the BBC to stop broadcasting the documentary. ‘We, the survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, are outraged by the blatant denial of the genocide against the Tutsis carried by your documentary ...’ begins the letter. In October 2014, Radio France International (RFI) reported that according to IBUKA, the documentary gave a platform to parties ‘politicizing the genocide’ and denying the reality and the systematic character of the planned massacres.
If the BBC were to heed the call to halt future broadcasts of the documentary, it would make headlines, as an African country such as Rwanda would be able to muffle the voice of the BBC. In reality, the Tutsi regime in Rwanda has been able to do that since 1994!
At last, as Peter Erlinder argues, the BBC has ‘broken the spell’ of organized denial regarding the role of Paul Kagame and his US and UK allies in sponsoring and covering-up their own role in the Rwanda genocide, as well as the resulting 20 years of massive human misery in central Africa. It’s time for other mainstream media outlets to experience a similar awakening from their quiescent slumber that permits monstrous crimes of US-supported criminals to continue unchecked by public opinion, much less the rule of law.
* Antoine Roger Lokongo is a Congolese journalist and Phd student in China
Conroy, John (2014), ‘The making of...Rwanda’s Untold Story’, This Word, BBC 2, October, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4GXplnBCF3RBslndxp1XgTL/the-making-of-rwandas-untold-story, accessed 9 October 2014
Davenport, Christian and Stam, Allan (2009) ‘What Really Happened in Rwanda?’, Pacific Standard: The Science of Society, 6 October, http://www.psmag.com/navigation/politics-and-law/what-really-happened-in-rwanda-3432/, accessed 9 October 2014
Desgagné, Bernard (2014) ‘La BBC confirme la macabre supercherie’, Vigile, 8 October, http://www.vigile.net/La-BBC-confirme-la-macabre, accessed 11 October 2014
Erlinder, Peter (2014) ‘The Rwanda War Crimes Cover up’, Global Research, 7 April, http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-rwanda-war-crimes-coverup/15037, accessed 19 April 2014.
Erlinder, Peter (2014) ‘Rwanda’s Untold Story: Who Was Behind the Genocide? BBC Documentary offers compelling case of Kagame as a War Criminal’, Global Research, 8 October, http://www.globalresearch.ca/rwandas-untold-story-who-was-behind-the-genocide/5406921, accessed 11 October 2014
French, Howard (2014) ‘How Rwanda's Paul Kagame Exploits U.S. Guilt’, The Wall Street Journal, 18 April, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303603904579493440845328418, accessed 19 April 2014
Gibson, Kate (2010) ‘The Arrest of ICTR Defense Counsel Peter Erlinder in Rwanda’, American Society of International Law, vol. 14, no. 26
Gordon, Nick (1996) ‘Return to Hell’, Sunday Express, 21 April
Kambanda, Charles and Garrison, Ann (2011) ‘The Rwanda Genocide: Who Killed the Hutus?’, Global Research, 17 April, http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-rwanda-genocide-who-killed-the-hutus/24372, accessed 9 October 2014
Martin, Brian (2009) ‘Managing outrage over genocide: case study Rwanda’, Peace & Security, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 275-290
O’Donovan, Gerard (2014) ‘This World: Rwanda's Untold Story, BBC Two, review – “intense”’, The Telegraph, 1 October
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