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March 18, 2016 at 7:41 pm #1508
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.
President Kagame with daughter
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.
5 “The Minister of Rape”, New York Times Magazine, Sunday, September 15, 2002, p. 1.
6 Philip Gourevitch, The Congo Test in The New Yorker, May 30, 2003.
7 Yoweri Museveni, What is Africa’s problem?, University of Minnesota Press 2000, p. 106.
8 Ibid. p. 178.
9 Ibid. p. 132.
10 Ibid. How to fight a Counterrevolutionary Insurgency, pp. 132-140.
11 J. R. Seeley, The Expansion of England, Chicago and London, 1971, p. 12.
12 Fashoda was a fort located on the Upper Nile (Now in Sudan). French and British military missions met there on September 18, 1898. France wanted to set up a series of forts from west to east across Africa – Dakar to Djibouti. The British wanted to build a railway from Uganda to Egypt and link its “possessions” in Africa from south to north – the Cape to Cairo. In November 1898, France withdrew from Fashoda and conceded it to the British. It was subsequently decided that the head waters of the Nile and the Congo rivers would delineate the British and French spheres of influence.
13 McNair Paper Number 44, Chapteer 6, October 1995. Institute for National Strategic Studies.
14 Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, Monthly Review Press, 1972, p. 15.
15 Valens KAJEGUHAKWA, Rwanda : de la terre de paix à la terre de sang et après?, Éditions Rémi Perrin, 2001, p. 223.
16 William Cyrus REED, Exile, Reform and the Rise of the RPF, Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3, 1996, pp 479-501.
17 Panikos PANAYI, ed. Minorities in wartime : national and racial groupings in Europe, North America, and Austrialia during the two world wars, Oxford (England) Berg, 1993, p. 3.
18 J.S. Woodsworth, Strangers Within Our Gates, cited in John Herd THOMPSON, Ethnic Minorities during Two World Wars, Ottawa, 1991, Canadian Historical Association.
19 Roger DANIELS, Concentration Camps : North America, Japanese in the United States and Canada During World War II, Krieger Publishing, FL USA, 1981.
20 Enjeux nationaux et dynamiques régionales dans l’Afrique des Grands lacs, Journée d’Étude, Lille, June 20, 1992, under the direction of André GUICHAOUA, URA Tiers-Monde/Afrique.
21 James K. GASANA, Rwanda : du parti-état à l’état-garnison, L’Harmattan, 2002, p. 89.
22 GASANA, op. cit. p. 76March 18, 2016 at 8:37 pm #1516
L’occident tire les ficelles
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.
23 Free translation: “The West pulls the strings, The Puppets danse and sing.”
24 Joce Leader, The Rwanda Crisis: The Genesis of a Genocide, A speech delivered at Penn State University, 5 April 2001.
25 James K. Gasana, op. cit. p. 74.
26 See Chapter 14: “A Wandering Rwandan”. Jean-Paul Akayesu is held at the Maison centrale d’arrêt, de Bamako, Mali. He claims to be innocent. I interviewed him in prison in November 2002.
27 James K. Gasana, op. cit. p. 205.
28 Free translation. “Government forces will provide 60 percent of the troops and the FPR 40 percent at all levels except command positions described below. In the chain of command, from the chief of staff to the batallion level, representation will be 50 percent for each party.”
29 Carol Off, The Lion the Fox and the Eagle, Vintage Canada, 2000, p. 25.
30 Jacques Castonguay, Les casques bleus au Rwanda, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1998, p. 89.March 18, 2016 at 8:38 pm #1517
“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
Genocide – Thunder against.
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.
31 National Post, October 12, 2002, p. A1.
32 Interview with Ambassador Raymond Chrétien at the Canadian Embassy in Paris, November 21, 2002.
33 Discours de son excellence Monsieur le premier ministre Pierre-Célestin Twigema à l’occasion de la cérémonie d’ouverture du Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda, Arusha, le 8 janvier 1996.
34 Interview with Pierre-Célestin Rwigéma, 23 January, 2003.
35 Requests for interviews with Roméo Dallaire must go through his lawyer Harvey Yarosky. According Mr. Yarosky, Dallaire refused to meet me because he was finishing his book on Rwanda. A set of written questions were forwarded to Dallaire, but he still refused to answer.
36 Justice Arbour also refused to grant an interview for this book. When I met her at a public meeting in Paris, she claimed that because of her current position she cannot answer specific questions about the Tribunal. At my request, however, the Paris-based Kenyan journalist Ruth Nabakwe interviewed her and made her statements public.
37 Le Devoir, January 29, 1993, p. 6. See chapter 4.
38 Linda Melvern, A People Betrayed, The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide, Londres, Zed Books, 2000, p. 56.
39 The Gazette, February 8, 1997, B3.
40 RPF Press Release, February 8, 1993, “Resumption of hostilities in Rwanda”, in James K. Gasana, Rwanda. Du parti-état à l’état-garnison, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2000, p. 183.
41 Aminata Traoré, Le Viol de l’imaginaire, Arles/Paris, Actes Sud/Fayard, 2002, p. 69.
42 Marie Béatrice Umutesi, Fuir ou mourir au Zaïre. Le vécu d’une réfugiée rwandaise, preface by Catharine Newbury, Paris, L’Harmattan 2000, p. 29.March 18, 2016 at 8:40 pm #1518
“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
“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, the Association 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.
43 Le Devoir, Montréal, February 1st 1995. Father Georges-Henri Lévesque founded the National University of Rwanda.
44 Interview with the author, Brussels, November 23, 2002.
45 Reed, William Cyrus, Exile, Reform and the Rise of the RPF, in Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3, 1996, p. 496
46 The authors of the report are Jean Carbonare, Agir ensemble pour les droits de l’Homme, Paris; Philippe Dahinden, jurist and journalist, Lausanne; René Degni-Segui, Dean of the Law Faculty, Abidjan; Alison Des Forges, Africa Watch; Pol Dodinval, M.D., Liège; Éric Gillet, FIDH, Brussels; Rein Odink, Jurist, Amsterdam; Halidou Ouedraogo, Judge, Burkina Faso; André Paradis, General Manager, Ligue des droits et libertés, Montreal, William Schabas, Law Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal.
47 “Ed Broadbent et la crise rwandaise : un rapport préparé avec insouciance”, La Presse, September 6, 1994, p. B3.
48 La Presse, September 14, 1994, p. B3.
49 Atrocities and the Law, A Canadian lawyer puts his legal skills to work literally uncovering and confirming evidence of human rights abuses in the African country of Rwanda, by William A. Schabas, in Canadian Lawyer, August/September 1993, p. 36.
50 La Presse, September 14, 1994, B3.
51 VIENNA DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION, WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Vienna, 14-25 June 1993
52 Gasan, op. cit. p. 183.
53 Alison L. Des Forges’ curriculum vitae, 1995.March 18, 2016 at 8:41 pm #1519
… all on the basis of a single childish accusation, that idiotic bordereau… since almost all the so-called secrets that had supposedly been turned over to the enemy were of no value.
Émile Zola, J’accuse
One fine spring day in 1998, Philip Gourevitch, staff writer with the New Yorker, was interrupted by the ring of his fax. Some unknown source surprisingly sent him a copy of a document that reporters and investigators had been trying to track down for years. It was the answer from the New York office of the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations to the fax that General Romeo Dallaire sent on January 11, 1994, that supposedly warned UN authorities of an imminent genocide in Rwanda.
In his much celebrated article in the New Yorker entitled “The Genocide Fax”, and then again in his book 54 , Gourevitch attempted to show that the UN leaders knew there would be a genocide because Dallaire had explicitly warned them after obtaining trustworthy information from a “big fish” by the name of Jean-Pierre. He also tried to prove that the same UN leaders chose to do nothing other than inform President Habyarimana and foreign embassies in Kigali. In a nutshell, a “very very important government politician”, to use Dallaire’s word, had put Dallaire in contact with a senior cadre of the President’s MRND party and its militia. Troubled by a guilty conscience, Jean-Pierre apparently decided to spill the beans.
According to his story, Rwandan leaders were planning to provoke a civil war by assassinating selected political leaders and Belgian troops. The informer Jean-Pierre apparently suspected that the same leaders were drawing up lists of Tutsis in order to exterminate them. He also said that with his small staff he could kill up to 2,000 Tutsis in twenty minutes. Weapons were hidden throughout Kigali and could even be found at the MRND headquarters. In return for this information, the mysterious Jean-Pierre only wanted to obtain UN protection for him and his family.
This was the great find. It was the first documentary evidence to be found from the period before April 1994. Finally there was a piece of paper to prove the existence of a comprehensive plan to exterminate Rwandan Tutsis, just as there was the vast documentary evidence of the Nazi’s intention to exterminate the Jews. What’s more, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and his successor Kofi Annan, who then headed peace-keeping operations, were fully informed of the imminent genocide. Instead of taking immediate action as the fax most obviously would have required, both Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan preferred typical UN bureaucratic inaction. They did not even inform the Security Council. As a result of their turpitude, the international community was caught unprepared for the apocalypse a few months later.
Thanks to the intrepid investigations of Philip Gourevitch, the truth is now out and we should all apologize profusely for our inaction during the genocide that was so clearly foretold. Fortunately, President Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright apologized for us when they gracefully visited Central Africa in 1998.
That’s the way the “right and proper tale” goes, but what really happened?
“Neither General Dallaire nor I ever met that famous Jean-Pierre,” the fax’s very very important government politician told me in an interview in Brussels. “I told Dallaire about this story I had heard and about the informer. Dallaire sent one of his assistants to meet him and two days later he came and told me that they had found a few guns. The UN was not about to provide protection for him.” That doubly important government politician was Faustin Twagiramungu, leader of the opposition MDR party and prime minister designate.
For Mr. Twagiramungu the tale of Jean-Pierre reveals a terrible contempt for Africa and Africans. “I provided information to the UN Mission in Rwanda, but I never spoke about massacres or extermination of Tutsis. A fax is then sent to New York with reference to the extermination of Tutsis. Nobody talked to me about that. Except for a few words from Dallaire, I heard nothing more about this business for several years.” 55 On February 25, 1998 in Arusha, General Dallaire confirmed under oath that he had never met “Jean-Pierre”.
Jean-Pierre’s real name was Abubakar Turatsinze. He had been hired by the MRND as a chauffeur mainly because he was Muslim and would not likely drink and drive. Since “Jean-Pierre” was a good talker and had some success with the youth wing, the MRND gave him certain responsibilities in that area. In Novembre 1993, however, suspecting that “Jean-Pierre” was peddling information to others, the MRND fired him. Soon after, “Jean-Pierre” indirectly informed Faustin Twagiramungu, chairman of the main party opposed to the MRND, that the leaders of the MRND were targeting him for assassination. His authority for such a statement was that he worked for the MRND, even though he had been fired two months earlier. Faustin Twagiramungu suspected a trap was being set to provoke confrontation between his own party and President Habyarimana’s MRND. He was also aware of the danger of circulating unfounded accusations. This prompted him to inform the UN Mission who was responsible for investigating these types of reports.
Romeo Dallaire sent the Belgian who commanded the UNAMIR in the Kigali area, Colonel Luc Marchal, to meet “Jean-Pierre” on January 10 in the evening. Luc Marchal immediately believed “Jean-Pierre’s” story. He raced off to relay the information to Dallaire who sent the famous fax without counterchecking or investigating the story any further.
The promoters of the “right and proper tale” unfailingly forget to mention that the main reason Dallaire sent an urgent fax to New York was to get advice from his superiors. This was fully understandable. Dallaire had no experience in this area, he had reservations about the informer’s credibility, and he suspected a trap. Here are the sections of the fax that have been studiously omitted from the “right and proper tale”.
“THIS HQ DOES NOT HAVE PREVIOUS UNITED NATIONS EXPERIENCE IN SUCH MATTERS AND URGENTLY REQUESTS GUIDANCE.
“FORCE COMMANDER [Dallaire] DOES HAVE CERTAIN RESERVATIONS ON THE SUDDENNESS OF THE CHANGE OF HEART OF THE INFORMANT TO COME CLEAN WITH THE INFORMATION.
“POSSIBILITY OF A TRAP NOT FULLY EXCLUDED, AS THIS MAY BE A SET-UP AGAINST THIS VERY VERY IMPORTANT POLITICAL PERSON.”
It was perfectly normal for Dallaire and Marchal to request guidance from their superiors. Marchal had been in Rwanda since the end of November – one month. Dallaire had arrived at the end of October – two months. How could either of them determine the veracity of detailed information about the political parties in a country they knew little about and in which everything went on in a language they did not understand?
The following day, Dallaire’s superiors in New York advised him in a fax to inform President Habyarimana and to warn him of the risk that the armed militias represented for the implementation of the Arusha Accords. They also suggested that he communicate the same information to the main foreign embassies in Kigali. Nothing that Jean-Pierre predicted came about. If he had spoken about plans to assassinate President Habyarimana, perhaps his predictions would have warranted greater attention. But no mention is made of the upcoming assassination. The advice of Dallaire’s superiors therefore seems simple, reasonable and wise.
The “very very important” Rwanda politician, Faustin Twagiramungu, thinks that the “Jean-Pierre” story is totally false and that there was absolutely no planning of a genocide. What’s more, he told Philip Gourevitch as much before the New Yorker article on “The Genocide Fax” appeared and before Gourevitch published his book on the Rwandan tragedy. The New Yorker staff writer did not bother quoting him even though he was at the heart of the whole story. Was Jean-Pierre just trying to obtain favours in return for information? Did he want a visa for the United States or Canada? Whatever the case may be, his story resembles so many others in every country in the world. It is the story of the clerk, driver or telephone operator who works for important and powerful people and glorifies his role and position to win influence, notoriety and sometimes financial gain.
The story of “Jean-Pierre” is dubious to say the least, but what can be said about the content of Dallaire’s fax and the questions it raises. What about preparations to exterminate Tutsis? What about armed militias and political assassinations? What about President Habyarimana’s loss of control of elements of his own party? And what about the lists? The whole picture is very sinister.
Faustin Twagiramungu never heard of any intentions to exterminate the Tutsis as Jean-Pierre described in detail to Colonel Luc Marchal. 56 Abubakar Turatsinze alias Jean-Pierre undoubtedly knew that a Rwandan politician like Prime Minister designate Faustin Twagiramungu was familiar with the RPF and its tactics as he was with the other Rwandan political formations. He could not be easily fooled into believing such a story. On the other hand, Luc Marchal and Romeo Dallaire who had just arrived were much more gullible. The Belgian peacekeeper later wrote about how he had been “taken in by the RPF’s formidable propaganda” 57 ever since the Arusha negotiations.
Pro-RPF publications abounded with accusations similar to those made by Jean-Pierre. The RPF goal was to prepare Western public opinion to accept and support resumption of war since the RPF could never win power democratically. During the period prior to Jean-Pierre’s meeting with Luc Marchal, pro-RPF publications such as Isibo 58 ran articles closely resembling descriptions made by Jean-Pierre. Nine years after the events and despite long and detailed trials of alleged génocidaires in Arusha and elsewhere, absolutely no evidence of the planning or intention of exterminating Rwandan Tutsis has been found or presented. Philip Gourevitch who is one of the RPF’s main cheerleaders explicitly recognizes this fact when he insists that his “genocide fax” from Dallaire was the most important documentary evidence of an extermination plan.
What about the weapons and the armed paramilitary militias in Kigali and elsewhere? It was widely known that youth groups made up mostly of young thugs were armed and often paraded as members of political parties or militias. These light weapons including grenades were available in public markets. There was also some debate about the possibility of arming the population in the areas near the territories occupied used by the RPF and used to launch incursions. No decision to this effect was made.
RPF combatants had also infiltrated Kigali and other important centres in Rwanda. These brigades had weapons and were not afraid to show them and use them. As the number of weapons in urban areas increased, so did rumours about weapons and ammunition. People inevitably felt more and more obliged to take all necessary means to ensure their own security. Hence, weapons of all kinds proliferated in Kigali and throughout Rwanda. This proliferation was in fact another symptom, albeit more visible and threatening, of the breakdown of Rwandan society that had been provoked by the cumulative effects of war and imposition of new economic and political models.
Romeo Dallaire’s UNAMIR mission was to disarm the militias and the RPF combatants infiltrated throughout Rwanda, and especially in Kigali. To carry out that mission successfully, the Rwandan population had to have confidence in the fairness and the neutrality of the mission and its commander. Unfortunately, the UN mission and and its commander General Dallaire were both perceived to favour the invading army of Rwanda Patriotic Front.
It is difficult to comprehend the Rwandans’ profound distrust of UNAMIR without taking into account an event that took place before the mission arrived in the country. On October 21, 1992–Dallaire arrived on October 22 – Melchior Ndadaye, the first democratically elected, Hutu president in neighbouring Burundi was savagely assassinated by Tutsi officers who dominate the Burundian army. Ndadaye’s assassination was greeted with joy by pro-RPF Tutsis in Rwanda. Shortly thereafter, the RPF reinforced its links with the Burundian junta, especially regarding military issues.
“Burundi had been an example for us,” a Rwandan from Montreal told me. “Here was an elected president in Burundi. We all thought that there was a chance that similar things could happen in Rwanda. Maybe we could do as they had done. But Melchior Ndadaye’s assassination shot down all our hopes and aggravated ethnic tension in Rwanda. It became obvious to us that the Tutsis did not want democratic rule. From that moment on, opposition parties began to share the fears of President Habyarimana’s party. We were not only afraid that the Tutsis would take power. We also began to fear the way they wanted to rule Rwanda. Ndadaye’s assassination and the massacres in northern Rwanda since the invasion on October 1, 1990, gave us a pretty good idea of how they wanted to run the country. Looking back now and seeing what the RPF has done, I can say that our fears were well founded.”
Following the assassination of the Burundian president, 375,000 Hutu refugees fled to Rwanda and joined one million internal Rwandan refugees that had been displaced by the war since 1990. At the same time, RPF and Burundian military leaders met to co-ordinate activities and to convince Rwandan Tutsis living in Burundi to join the RPF army. 59
UN peacekeepers with their large Belgian contingent thus arrived in Rwanda at a time when mistrust and suspicion of the RPF and its mainly Tutsi supporters had reached an all time high. Their arrival also coincided with the departure of French troops that the anti-RPF parties had counted upon. Thus Belgian troops who were perceived to be pro-RPF replaced French troops considered to be pro-Habyarimana.
The first important action of the UN military mission, which included more than 400 Belgian troops, was to escort a battalion for 600 armed RPF soldiers from the RPF headquarters in Mulindi to Kigali. They also had to supervise their settlement, sometimes described as “triumphant”, in the parliament building, the Conseil national du développement (CND), in Kigali. This operation known as “Clean Corridor” left an image of a Belgian-dominated UNAMIR escorting the invading army to a symbolic and strategic position in the country’s capital. Upon arrival, RPF soldiers immediately dug trenches around the building which was not exactly a gesture likely to herald in a peaceful transition.
The image of a pro-RPF UN mission coincides with most observations gathered since the tragedy. Both the commander Romeo Dallaire and the UNAMIR forces were unacceptably close and in collusion with the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
“Romeo Dallaire was very close to the RPF”, says Gilbert Ngijol, political assistant to Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh. “He let the RPF get arms. He allowed UNAMIR troops to train RPF soldiers. United Nations troops provided the logistics for the RPF. They even fed them.”
The Secretary Generalâ€™s Special Representative to Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh confirmed this when he broke 10 years of silence regarding Rwanda in an interview published in Africa International. “In the field, he abandoned his work as military commander and got involved in politics; he violated the principle of UNAMIRâ€™s neutrality and became the objective ally of one of the parties in the conflict.” 60
A Rwandan refugee living in France recalled that “Romeo Dallaire was always at the home of Hélène Pinske, a Quebec woman married to a Tutsi minister by the name of Landoald Ndasingwa. Unlike Landoald, who knew that the minority could never democratically govern the Hutu majority, Hélène never hid the fact that she hoped the RPF would win. ‘By the will of God, we’re going to win’, she declared when the RPF arrived in Kigali.
According to James K. Gasana, Rwandan Defence Minister until July 1993, the UNAMIR behaved just like another military faction.
“It [UNAMIR] was always extremely amenable with the RPF and even agreed to let it get wood from Mulindi (RPF military headquarters in northern Rwanda), even though there was wood near Kigali. These supply trips to the north escorted by UNAMIR peacekeepers and vehicles enabled the RPF to transport infiltrators and new recruits from the northern area to Kigali. Another illustration of this collusion is that in January 1994, upon an RPF request, UNAMIR decided to shut down one runway at the Kanombe airport that enabled landing and takeoff over Kigali.” 61
The closing of that runway at the Kigali airport meant that there was only one direction for airplanes to land when arriving in Kigali. This greatly facilitated the assassination of President Habyarimana as he arrived in Kigali on April 6, 1994.
Even if Romeo Dallaire, Luc Marchal, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh and the others had wanted to stop the increasing take-over by the RPF and effectively disarm it, foreign embassies in Kigali were operating as thought the RPF had already taken power. Leaders of the president’s party, the MRND, continually received ummistakable messages before April 6, 1994, to the effect that President Habyarimana had to go. James Gasana points out that “from a diplomatic standpoint, most business involving Rwanda’s relations with Western countries and particularly the United States was handled with Paul Kagame at RPF headquarters in Mulindi.” 62 What’s more, the IMF followed suit. It even called meetings at the invading army headquarters in Mulindi and expected the Habyarimana government to send representatives to them.
It matters little now whether Romeo Dallaire and his UN mission were following orders from the UN in New York not to invconvenience the Rwandan Patriotic Front in any way, or whether they were simply pursuing the policy adopted by Western embassies, and particularly by the American Embassy. The overall effect upon the Rwandan people was the same.
For UN peacekeepers to be able to disarm both the militias and RPF infiltrators, an agreement on procedures would have had to be negotiated. No such agreement came about. More importantly, the UN mission and its commander had to demonstrate unwavering neutrality and determination in their efforts to disarm both parties fully and equitably. Nobody believed that they would or could do that in 1994, and nobody believes it now.
Since UN peacekeepers were unwilling or unable to disarm militias and infiltrated combatants, they could not prevent the presence of paramilitary groups from aggravating the anarchy that increasingly plagued Rwanda between January and April 1994.
Now what about the lists “Jean-Pierre” mentioned? Faustin Twagiramungu who headed the first government sworn in after the RPF take-over dismisses stories about lists, saying that the only lists he ever saw had no more than a few hundred names. A few hundred names on lists in no way indicates the intention of one group to eliminate a large part of the Rwandan population. “People should be wary of dubious documents planted in certain books,” 63 he declared in testimony before the Belgian Senate.
Nothing could be more normal or legitimate for a government at war than to collect the names of people suspected of spying for the enemy. For the record, we should recall American campaigns in the First World War. The very official Creel Committee invited citizens of the United States to denounce people suspected of favouring the Germans. “Report the man who spreads pessimistic stories, divulges – or seeks – confidential military information, cries for peace, or belittles our efforts to win the war. Send the names of such persons, even if they are in uniform, to the Department of Justice, Washington.” 64 Closer to home, consider Virginia’s Senator John Warner’s advice given on CNN’s Larry King show on November 7, 2001: “You must think of yourself as an agent, not to spy on your neighbour, but to judiciously report anything that looks suspicious.” 65
What country at war has not drawn up lists of possible spies? Such practices do not prove in any way that there was a will to exterminate part of the population.
How and why did the so-called genocide fax become one of the main elements of the “right and proper tale”. Romeo Dallaire’s fax to his superiors in New York remained more or less confidential until November 1995 when it was mentioned in the London Observer. A copy of it then appeared in a Belgian publication and several questions about it were raised during the inquiry conducted by the Belgian Senate. Though nobody had a copy of the reply from UN headquarters in New York, the contents of the reply were known.
For former Secretary General Boutros-Ghali “that story of the fax is greatly exaggerated. There was not only one fax. Every day the UN would receive faxes saying ‘We heard thereâ€™s a plot afootâ€¦’” He added that if there was a plot afoot, Security Council member countries were much better informed than the UN Secretary General because, unlike the UN, they have intelligence gathering services. “Whatâ€™s more, they refuse to share their information!” 66
Late in 1997 and early in 1998, the United States was being severely criticized for its role in the Rwandan tragedy and in the Congo. Hearings in the French National Assembly and the Belgian Senate led to irritating headlines and pointed attacks on the Clinton Administration. In spring 1998, in Washington, the House Committee on International Relations wanted to question the Administration about Washington’s inaction during the Rwandan tragedy in 1994. Neither the State Department nor the Defence Department deigned to appear at the public hearings held by the House Committee. Their refusal angered members of Congress.
Philip Gourevitch’s fax astoundingly happened to ring at that moment and out came the much sought-after UN reply to General Romeo Dallaire. Gourevitch published his “scoop” in the New Yorker the very week that hearing were being held in Washington about the United States’ role in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Here’s how Gourevitch explained it all. After quoting UN spokesman Fred Eckhard to the effect that the UN was getting “a bum rap on this”, Gourevitch wrote that “Somebody with access to UN files disagreed with Eckhard, and one day my fax machine rang and a copy of the missing …” 67
People have not asked Mr. Gourevitch how and why he happened to receive the missing reply, and he has volunteered to tells us, since it undoubtedly came from his brother-in-law, Jamie Rubin, Madeleine Albright’s senior press attaché and right-hand man.
Jamie Rubin is the man who, in March 1996, Washington asked to devise a plan to prevent Boutros Boutros-Ghali from obtaining a second term as Secretary General of the United Nations. He had contacts in all the major media in Washington and New York and never hesitated to use them to leak information to attack Boutros-Ghali within the UN. His guiding strategy however was to protect and promote Madeleine Albright. 68 Moreover, Jamie Rubin confirmed his tight relationship with Philip Gourevitch to New York Times reporter and author Howard French. In a 1997 press briefing while he was accompanying Madeleine Albright in Rwanda and the former Zaire, he said to French: “Actually a lot of my take comes from an even better source (than US intelligence), and it comes directly. Philip Gourevitch is my sisterâ€™s boyfriend.” 69
The State Department and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were in hot water over Rwanda. The best way to divert the attacks was to pass the buck on to the United Nations and to Boutros-Ghali. At the same time, they could also let Kofi Annan know that he too was on a short leash. Annan after all was responsible for UN peacekeeping operations at the time. The spin given to the fax story was simply that “We in Washington are not guilty of having supported a murderous invading army that has spread death and destruction throughout central Africa. It’s those incompetent UN bureaucrats and especially that Secretary General who did not take the obvious necessary measures to stop those horrible génocidaires from carrying out their evil plans. They did nothing even though they were sitting on unquestionable documentary evidence of a planned genocide. They did not even inform the international community.” This is essentially what Philip Gourevitch wrote in the New Yorker in May 1998.
The strategy used by Washington to hide its own evildoing is tried and proven. In 2002, when it was preparing the war on Irak, Washington launched a similar message: “We don’t want to destroy Irak, take over the country and put in an American puppet. It’s the United Nations resolutions that demanded we do so.”
Washington’s strategy has unfortunately been quite successful even though it does not stand up to analysis. The power of the United Nations is very limited. The CIA alone spends more in ten days than the UN spends in a year: 1.2 billion US dollars. 70 Ramsey Clark points out that “since the end of the Cold War the US so dominant in the UN that it is almost a tool, a small tool, and it has a lot bigger ones like its bombs and its aircraft to get its way around the world”.
In is January 11 fax, Romeo Dallaire reported that according to Jean-Pierre, President Habyarimana did “not have full control over all elements of his old party/faction”. He could, and perhaps should, have written that the president not longer had any control over the country.
Decision-making power for Rwanda was now everywhere but in the hands of Rwandans in Kigali. Between October 1990 and April 6, 1994, foreign powers led by the United States had effectively disempowered Rwandans who had worked for 35 years to build a state apparatus and a society the worked relatively well and met the needs and aspirations of the people of Rwanda.
The so-called donor institutions had decided that the economic model had to be changed. A strong state with an interventionist bent was to become a tiny administrative unit even if it meant social upheaval and loss of power for the Hutu majority. Next came the political model imposed by Western powers even though the country had been invaded under their noses and with their support, and was still occupied by a hostile foreign army. The same powers then forced the Rwandan government to sit down and negotiate the transfer of power to the invading army that represented at best a small minority of the Rwandan population.
Time passed and the occupying army continued to take new land. The civilian population was chased out of their homes. The country, its president and government, and all Rwandans who refused to accept being ruled by the invading army were vilified throughout the world. While the occupying army killed, deported and terrorized the population, right-thinking Europeans and North Americans became international mouthpieces for the attacks and regularly added their own slander. Their words became daggers aimed at the jugular of Rwandan society. Friendly countries turned their backs after thirty years of co-operation and became cozy with the occupying army, soon to be characterized as a beacon of hope for Africa in the new millennium.
By April 1994, on the eve of the president’s assassination, Rwanda was in total disarray. The country’s leaders had no power to decide on their future. The new political parties were in crisis, jockeying for position and influence. The economy was shattered. The war raged on and more than a million people were displaced. Armed groups were everywhere, each establishing its own laws, while the United Nations peacekeeping mission responsible for disarming them could not, or would not, carry out its mandate.
54 Gourevitch, Philip, We Wish to Inform you that Tomorrow we Will Be Killed with our Families. Stories from Rwanda, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.
55 Interview with Faustin Twagiramungu, November 22, 2002.
56 Colonel Luc Marchal, Rwanda : la descente aux enfers, Témoignage d’un peacekeeper, décembre 1993 – avril 1994, Paris Éditions Labor, 2001, pages 165 à 176.
57 Letter from Luc Marchal to Alain de Brouwer written in July 1998 quoted by de Brouwer in a document about the organization of International Christian Democrats and the war in Rwanda, October 2002.
58 James K. Gasana,, op. cit. p. 238.
59 Ibid, p. 232.
60 Africa International, May 2004.
61 Ibid, p. 238.
62 Ibid, p. 237.
63 Commission d’enquête parlementaire concernant les événements du Rwanda, Sénat de Belgique, Friday, May 30, 1997, testimony of Faustin Twagiramungu, former Prime Minister of Rwanda.
64 James R. Mock and Cedric Larson, Words that Won the War. The Story of the Committee on Public Information, 1917-1919, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1939. See posters pages
65 Fred Jerome, The Einstein File, J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 2003.
66 Interview with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, November 9, 2004.
67 The Genocide Fax, The New Yorker, May 11, 1998, p. ??.
68 Michael Dobbs, Madeleine Albright. A 20th Century Odyssey, Henry Holt & Company, 1999, pages 364-365.
69 Howard French, A Continent for the Taking, Knopf, 2004 p. 243.
70 Ibid. p 365. Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali complained that the CIA spent as much every day as the UN in a whole year. Madeleine Albright’s biographer corrected him by pointing out that it was every ten days and not every day.March 18, 2016 at 8:43 pm #1520
Important facts can be hidden behind the media and
nobody ever sees them.
Ignacio Ramonet, Le Monde Diplomatique
How could the Rwandan tragedy have been avoided? The question is often asked, but nobody really seems to want to know? The “right and proper tale” would have it that Rwandan Hutu political and military leaders devised a devilish plan to exterminate the Tutsi minority. If that were true, then the only way to prevent the “genocide” would have been to arrest and imprison all those leaders before April 6, 1994. Such pre-emptive action would obviously have been impossible. It would follow therefore that everything was cast in stone, that the “génocidaires” would carry out their horrible plan and that these tragedies are innate to the societies in which they take place. A thesis like that is particularly hard to accept since it implies that humanity is bereft of means to prevent such tragedies.
It would quite obviously have been possible to prevent Rwanda from being pushed into the advanced state of anarchy it found itself in 1993 and 1994. If we were to assume the contrary, however, it still would have been possible avoid the massacres simply by preventing the assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi.
In the evening of April 6, 1994, everybody knew that if it were confirmed that the plane had been shot down, widespread violence would break out, particularly in Rwanda. Prudence Bushnell of the American Embassy in Kigali wrote exactly that to Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Washington immediately after learning of President Habyarimana’s death. “If, as it appears, both Presidents have been killed, there is a strong likelihood that widespread violence could break out in either or both countries, particularly if it is confirmed that the plane was shot down.” 71
If the plane had not been shot down, there would have been no massacres! It is as simple as that. Even Alison Des Forges stated as much under oath when cross-examined as an expert witness in Arusha. 72 Looking back now, one gets the sad and troubling impression that those who could have prevented the assassination of the two presidents did absolutely nothing. What’s more, everything has been done to make sure the truth does not come out. The slow but inexorable transformation of that assassination into a simple plane crash is surely one of the worst scandals of our time. When a madman shot at President Chirac on July 14, 2002, the French Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, rightly declared that “when someone shoots at the president it is by no means a trivial news item”. The same could be said about attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981. Moreover, the world took years to recover from the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Inquiries have been conducted, books have been written and films have been produced. But when two African presidents were shot down in their plane in an international flight, the international community refused to conduct an investigation and, worse yet, it describes the event as a “plane crash”.
In May 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan acting on behalf of the Security Council requested an independent report into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The report issued in December 1999 describes the assassination as follows: “April 6: At approximately 20:30, Habyarimana and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, who were returning from a regional summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were killed in a plane crash just outside the Kigali airport. Within an hour of the plane crash, roadblocks were set up…”. 73
Indictment documents produced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda also calls the assassination a plane crash, as does most of the popular literature on the Rwandan tragedy. The only time this euphemism is not used to describe the terrible criminal act it was, is when the shooting down of the plane is attributed to extremists in President Habyarimana’s own entourage. This explanation has been consistently and convincingly refuted. Those who so faithfully espoused it at first no longer dare to make such accusations. This of course did not prevent Don Murray of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from repeating the accusation with no additional proof in a feature documentary on May 7, 2002. He once again “informed” the audience that “Hutu leaders shot down the presidents and blamed it on the Tutsis.”
To this day, no official international inquiry has been conducted into the assassination. After it happened, French military officers in Kigali met Romeo Dallaire, who as commander of the UN mission in Rwanda was responsible for airport security, and offered to investigate the assassination. France was particularly concerned by the event since the plane belonged to France and French nationals had been killed. Moreover, French investigators were available nearby. General Dallaire refused the French offer saying that he had already discussed the issue with the Americans who were prepared to dispatch an investigating team from its bases in Germany. 74
On April 8, 1994, the Security Council demanded an impartial international inquiry into the assassination. On April 12, the Belgian Cabinet also demanded the International Civil Aviation Organization conduct an investigation into the assassination. On June 25, the Security Council mandated the Secretary General to conduct an inquiry into the assassination. In November 1994, the Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda with the mandate to investigate acts of genocide or other serious violations of international human rights law committed on Rwandan territory during the year 1994. In September 1995, Zaire demanded that an inquiry be held into the assassination. In October 1995, Kenyan President Arap Moi demanded an inquiry.
This litany of resolutions prompted Belgian Professor Filip Reyntjens, who has spent his life studying the African Great Lakes Region, to conclude in 1995 that “in fact, nobody seems to really want to know” who assassinated the two Presidents. Reyntjens maintained that all the evidence available tended to incriminate the RPF. 75 Reyntjens however complained that he could not investigate the crime any further. Others have taken up the investigation independently. Charles Onana, an investigative journalist from Cameroon who lives in Paris, published an important book on the question in which he identifies Rwandan President Paul Kagame as suspect number one. 76 His findings were so forceful and convincing that Paul Kagame and Rwanda sued him for defamation and tried to prevent the book from being published. Legal proceedings were eventually dropped when Onana simply refused to be intimidated. This story shows how sensitive the issue of the assassination is and how everything could change completely if an official inquiry were to conclude that the RPF had in fact shot down the president’s plane. Paul Kagame undoubtedly dropped proceedings against Charles Onana because he feared that the truth about the assassination would come out during the trial.
The people who could have helped find the truth have remained silent. Louise Arbour was Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Yugoslavia before becoming judge in the Supreme Court of Canada. She meticulously avoids the question now. She refuses interviews, unless they are for puff pieces vaunting her own achievements as prosecutor. In November 2002, when Ms Arbour was speaking at a public meeting in Paris about the International Criminal Court, she simply refused to answer Charles Onana’s question about the assassination. “I don’t have the right to speak about that issue since the French Judge Bruguière is still conducting his inquiry.” 77 When questioned after speech, she added that in her capacity as Canadian Supreme Court Justice, she cannot discuss such things. Her refusal was of course totally unjustified. Judge Bruguière was mandated to investigate the assassination by France. His work is not related to either the International Criminal Tribunal nor to the Canadian Justice System.
The assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi is still a hot potato for Ms Arbour. She was the one who in 1997 killed the International Tribunal’s only official inquiry conducted by Michael Hourigan, a lawyer from Australia. Michael Hourigan who was working for the Prosecutor’s Office headed by Louise Arbour, concluded that the assassination was most likely sponsored by the current president and strongman of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, the leader of the RPF. Indications were that the RPF was aided by a foreign country. 78 Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour was initially very enthusiastic about the findings until she spoke with United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Two weeks after hearing about Hourigan’s report, Arbour snuffed it out and imposed a gag order on the report’s author. Furthermore, some highly placed members of the RPF who collaborated closely with Paul Kagame have confirmed Hourigan’s conclusions. In public declarations, these people explained how they prepared the assassination with the help of the RPF leader Kagame. 79
In a private interview with Kenyan journalist Ruth Nababkwe after her speech in Paris, Louise Arbour declared that “it is not clear whether the event in question constitutes a crime within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. It is not obvious that the shooting down of the plane carrying the two presidents constitutes in itself a war crime, a crime against humanity or an act of genocide.” She then added that the Tribunal must “prosecute any person implied in a crime that is serious enough to draw the attention of the international community.”
In these unbelievably contemptuous remarks, Louise Arbour gets closer to the truth, namely that assassination of two African presidents has been made into such a trivial and commonplace event that it is not considered a serious enough crime to warrant the attention of Ms. Arbour’s “international community”. Who is responsible for trivializing such a heinous crime? The Belgian peacekeeper who headed the UNAMIR troops at Kigali, Colonel Luc Marchal, answered that question with another question: “Who is powerful enough to have prevented a real international inquiry from casting light upon the events that occurred when President Habyarimana was flying home from a regional summit in Dar Es-Salaam?” 80
Knowing the truth about the assassination of presidents Habyarimana and Ntaryamira does not appear to be very important for Belgium either. The Belgian Senate held a long series of hearings on the events in Rwanda, and especially on the death of Belgian paratroopers who were accused of shooting down the President’s plane. The Senate did not even bother to discuss the assassination. It would seem that a serious Belgian inquiry would want to investigate that event if only to rule the accusation that its own troops were guilty.
Michael Hourigan’s report for the Tribunal and the French National Assembly’s inquiry both implicate “a foreign country”. Though it would be very interesting to know whether that foreign country is the United States, fundamentally it matters little. If investigations under way were to conclude that the RPF did in fact plan and carry out the assassination, the United States would necessarily be implicated in the crime since it provided the RPF army with unwavering support from 1990 on, and particularly in the period leading up to April 6, 1994. Leaders in the United States are fully aware of this problem, just as they are fully aware that the whole tale that they have so carefully helped to elaborate could be shattered. The crime is now much worse than it was in 1994. First there was the horrible assassination of two African Presidents. Then there is the cover-up with the army Second of accomplices who have carefully allowed the criminals to get away without being prosecuted.
Eight years after demanding an inquiry and after creating the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Boutros Boutros-Ghali is also dumbfounded by silence around the assassination. “Nobody has been able to tell me why no inquiry has been made into that crime,” he complained. When I showed him the official UN report that qualified the shooting down of the plane as a “crash”, he shrugged his shoulders in resignation: “You know, none of these reports are very honest. That’s my opinion. They hide a lot of things. The man responsible for peacekeeping operations at the time of the assassination was Kofi Annan.”
In a subsequent interview about the assassination and following leaks to Le Monde from the Bruguière inquiry, Boutros-Ghali declared: “It is a very mysterious scandal indeed. Four reports have been made on Rwanda: the French Parliament Report, the Belgian Senate Report, Kofi Annan’s UN report, and the Organization of African Unity report. All four say absolutely nothing about the shooting down of the Rwandan President’s plane. That just goes to show the power of the intelligence services that can force people to be quiet.”
The only partial exception is the seven year investigation conducted by the French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière. That investigation implicates current Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front for having planned, ordered and carried out the April 6 assassination. But the silence continues since the Bruguière report has not been officially filed, only having been leaked to Le Monde.
According to Boutros-Ghali there’s much left to be found out. “Judge Bruguière, who I invited to a conference in Monaco, told me that according to his investigation, the CIA was involved in that assassination. However, the Anglo-American intelligence apparatus is much stronger than France’s. Perhaps the French secret service decided that they have no interest in making the Bruguière report public at this time.”
If the CIA was involved in the assassination of Rwandan President Habyarimana in April 1994, as the French judge has claimed, then it is easier to understand why the Official Story about the Rwandan tragedy continues to call that terrorist attack an “accident” or a “crash”. Worse still, considering the terrible consequences that go beyond the wildest predictions of any sorcerer’s apprentice, serious questions remain unanswered about the efforts made and means used to erase the tracks leading to the criminals involved in the killing of the two African heads of state and also to misinform and mislead international public opinion about the real causes of the Rwandan tragedy that followed.
71 On August 20, 2001, William Ferrogiaro of the independent National Security Archives published a series of decontrolled/unclassified internal Clinton Administration documents. See Chapter 7 for more details.
72 Transcript of Alison Des Forges’ testimony in the trial of Colonel Théoneste Bagosora.
73 Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations during the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, December 15, 1999; authors: Ingvar Carlsson (former Prime Minister of Seden), Professor Han Sung-Joo (Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic de Korea) and retired Lieutenant General le Rufus M. Kupolati (Nigeria).
74 Testimony of Roméo Dallaire in Jean-Paul Akayesu’s trial at the ICTR in Arusha.
75 Filip Reyntjens, Trois jours qui ont fait basculer l’histoire, Paris et Tervuren, L’Harmattan et Institut Africain-CEDAF, 1995, pages 46 et 47.
76 Charles Onana, Les secrets du génocide rwandais, Paris, Duboiris, 2002.
77 Speech by Louise Arbour, Paris, November 20, 2002.
78 National Post, Canada, March 1, 2000.
79 Testimony of Jean-Pierre Mugabe, April 25, 2000, The International Strategic Studies Association, Alexandria, Virginia,.
80 Luc Marchal, op. cit., p. 304.March 18, 2016 at 8:48 pm #1521
We have to go to their schools to learn
how to win even when you are in the wrong.
Cheik Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure
The behaviour of the United States within the UN Security Council between April 6 and mid-July 1994 was what prompted former Secretary General Boutros-Ghali to declare in 1998 that the Americans were 100 percent responsible for the Rwandan genocide. Mr. Boutros-Ghali expanded on that declaration in the interview he granted me in November 2002. “It was the responsibility of the Americans who were aided by England. But the other member states were too passive. Today it is true to say that the United States acts unilaterally. It is a superpower. But in addition, the abdication and resignation of the other powers must be mentioned.”
In his 1999 book entitled Unvanquished: A US-UN Saga, Boutros Boutros-Ghali was categorical: “The U.S. effort to prevent the effective deployment of a UN force for Rwanda succeeded with the strong support of Britain.” 81 The former Secretary General tends to give credence to the two reasons most often given for U.S. opposition to UN action. The first is the Somali fiasco in which 18 soldiers perished. The second is that the Presidential Directive of May 1994, brought down in the middle of the Rwandan crisis, imposed strict conditions on American participation in UN peacekeeping operations. Boutros-Ghali nevertheless pointed out that Madeleine Albright systematically blocked any kind of military intervention in Rwanda even without United States participation.
As long as the internal discussions of the Clinton Administration were not available, both explanations for American opposition to UN action appeared plausible. The waves of horrifying television images also made it difficult to consider anything other than the the propaganda served up by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. The RPF’s representatives and allies had managed to win over most of the newsrooms in the major Western media. 82
Colonel Luc Marchal’s observations about the nature of RPF propaganda are particularly revealing. In a letter to another Belgian, Alain de Brouwer, he wrote “I am fully in agreement with your analysis of the RPF’s implication be it before or after the tragedy. I am personally very convinced because I too had been duped by their smart propaganda during the Arusha negotiations. Once I was in Kigali, the gulf that separated what was said and what was really happening became obvious. In fact the RPF movement is totalitarian and it crushes absolutely everything in its way.” 83
Another trusty sign that more was going on in Rwanda than met the eye was the virulent anti-French tone of mainstream American media during the crisis. For example, on May 17, 1994, the Village Voice ran a long article entitled “Rwanda’s French Connection” accusing France of sitting back and letting their Rwandan friends massacre the Tutsis. In fact, at that very moment that article appeared, the United States was doing everything in its power to prevent France from leading an international force that could have stopped the killing and protect both Tutsi and Hutu civilians. For close observers, the behaviour and declarations of international human rights NGOs at the time was also suspicious, and indicated of high level political strategy. Some British organizations began to vocally oppose any United Nations military intervention arguing that only a victory by the invading RPR could end the genocide. For human rights groups, that position was surprising since it was more about geopolitical positioning than humanitarianism. In hindsight, though, one wonders if all such groups should be allowed to use so freely the “non-governmental” label.
At the same time in May 1994, The Economist, whose connections with foreign policy makers in Washington and London are unequalled, called for a clear victory by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. “In the short run, the best hope of peace and of survival for those Tutsis left alive would probably be a quick victory in war for the RPF.” 84 It is all so simple and obvious to understand. Why has their been so much fretting and wringing of hands about the “international community’s” slow reaction to horror in Rwanda?
Policy makers in Washington and London had a simple straight-forward strategy. Why allow a United Nations-sanctioned military intervention that would hand the initiative over to others, and specifically to France? The net result would be that “our boys” in the RPF would be prevented from taking power decisively. We just have to help them win the war and they will be indebted to us forever. They’ll guarantee us access to the whole region and keep it stable for years to come. They just have to win quickly. Will many people be killed? Sure they will, but not too many.
This policy had already been introduced in February 1994 when the same Anglo-American tandem had opposed reinforcing the UN military mission known as UNAMIR. At the end of March 1994, UNAMIR was still far short of troops. It reached a maximum of 2500 whereas both the Rwandan Government and the invading RPF had agreed that a minimum of 4500 troops was required. Two weeks after President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down, with war at its worst and many civilians being killed, the same two permanent members of the UN Security Council with Belgium’s help forced the United Nations to scale back the UNAMIR force to 270 soldiers as of April 21, 1994.
Since August 2001, formerly classified internal Clinton Administration documents have been made available following a Freedom of Information Act request made by the independent National Security Archive. 85 These memorandums, telegrams, working papers, reports and briefing documents confirm the worst apprehensions about how a superpower develops and applies a foreign policy in which its own strategic interests take precedence over the lives and the peace of a country, its people and whole regions of Africa. Reading them makes one even more cynical about the hollow apologies made by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in December 1997 and by President Clinton in March 1998.
The Administration was fully aware of the magnitude of the tragedy that was about to unfold. On April 11, five days after the president’s plane was shot down and after Prudence Bushnell specifically warned Warren Christopher about the imminent “widespread violence”, a Pentagon memorandum to Under Secretary of Defense Frank Wisner, who was third in charge, warns that “unless both sides can be convinced to return to the peace process, a massive (hundreds of thousands of deaths) bloodbath will ensue… In addition, millions of refugees will flee into neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire.”
Even though they knew that the massacres would occur and that millions would flee to other countries, the Americans devoted all their efforts to forcing the United Nations to withdraw its UNAMIR troops. That was the priority. A State Department telegram dated April 15 gave specific orders to this effect to the United States mission at the UN and to Ambassador Madeleine Albright. “USUN [United States UN mission] is instructed to inform UN Security Council colleagues that the United States believes that the first priority of the Security Council is to instruct the Secretary general to implement an orderly withdrawal of all/all UNAMIR forces from Rwanda..” 86 The United States mission is also instructed to ensure the withdrawal takes place without discussion and without another Security Council resolution. The priority was not to bring about a cease-fire as was being offered at that very moment by representatives of the Rwandan armed forces.
During this period, American diplomats busied themselves as official RPF messengers for the RPF, delivering its demands to Rwandan government and army officials. The accounts of conversations between diplomats and Rwandan officials reveal the imperial nature of the relationship between the Americans and their Rwandan counterparts. They could best be described as orders, not advice. When Rwandan Government and Army representatives tried to meet the demands transmitted by the Americans, particularly with regards to a cease-fire, they were casually told to go and talk to Dallaire about it. As we know, however, Dallaire had lost or was losing all his troops and any effective role he might have had in Rwanda.
The documents also show that the United States supported an RPF victory, that they wanted to be quick, even though it was known that the RPF represented at best only a small minority of the Rwandan population. Furthermore, a Defense Intelligence Agency document asserts that Rwandan Government forces had no real intention of exterminating the Tutsis, an assertion that starkly contradicts the right and proper tale told ever since.
The Clinton Administration navigated cynically around the word ‘genocide’ throughout this period. Though it is debatable whether they were right or wrong, Pope Jean-Paul II, UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali, and many others used the word genocide to describe events in Rwanda by the end of April 1994. Washington however meticulously avoided using the term until June 10. If the Americans had begun talking about genocide with the others they would have been obliged to support a UN-sponsored military intervention in Rwanda. That of course would have prevented the RPF winning the war, and scuttled Washington’s long-term strategy. For example, a Defense Department discussion paper on Rwanda dated May 1, 1994, warned Administration representatives against using of the term ‘genocide’. “Be careful. Legal at State was worried about this yesterday – Genocide finding could commit US Government to actually ‘do something’”.
Other unclassified documents show how the Clinton Administration started adjusting its position when it saw that NGO human rights organizations, who had been crying genocide since 1993, could be used to the United States’ advantage. The changes started occurring just before a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Little by little thereafter the word became the leitmotif of US policy in Rwanda. Since the Administration was counting on a quick RPF victory, the increased use of the term ‘genocide’, which falsely described the situation as the Hutu majority hating and exterminating the innocent Tutsi minority, became the best way to enhance the image of the RPF and bring international opinion to believe that only the Hutu-dominated Rwandan Government forces were guilty of this horrible crime. Moreover, the same unclassified documents prove the Clinton Administration adopted this strategy even though they were in possession of reliable reports and information about massive killing and violence carried out by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
A spokesperson for Secretary of State Warren Christopher used the expression “acts of genocide” for the first time on June 10, 1994, but only after the US had managed to impose a military embargo on Rwanda. The RPF on the other hand had no difficulty bringing weapons, ammunition and fighters into Rwanda through Uganda. Though the United States reluctantly agreed upon the creation of a second United Nations military mission to Rwanda known as UNAMIR II on May 17 that was to reach 5500 troops, they delayed its deployment until the war was over.
The United States finally agreed to a Security Council resolution authorizing the French Opération Turquoise deployed on June 22, 1994. That operation was conceived to create a “secure humanitarian zone” for two months. By this time the term ‘genocide’ had received the blessing of the Clinton Administration. It therefore became easy to depict the French operation as an effort by France to protect its “génocidaire” friends. Ever since, the English-language media has joyfully stigmatized that operation as French colonial support for genocide even though it effectively saved many Rwandan lives.
The shooting down of the plane on April 6 triggered the tragedy in Rwanda, but the RPF had already prepared to resume the war much earlier. RPF sources now claim that they had 4000 armed fighters in Kigali, yet under the Arusha accords all weapons in the area were supposed to be deposed and collected by the UNAMIR. Even before President Habyarimana’s plan was shot down, RPF troops had started marching on Kigali. In the capital city, the RPF positioned its troops for combat during the night of April 6 and by 3pm the next day they launched their first attack against the Rwandan Armed Forces. The Rwandan Patriotic Front had clearly the broken the Arusha peace agreement and started the war again.
These unclassified documents also help to understand Romeo Dallaire’s behaviour during the tragedy in Rwanda and afterwards. His appointment as commander of the UN mission had already helped reduce France’s role in that part of Africa. Then in 1994, when Paris was about to launch Opération Turquoise by virtue of a Security Council resolution, General Dallaire publicly opposed the operation, saying that he approved the presence of French-speaking African troops, but not of French troops. Again in August 1994, Dallaire spoke out against extending the mandate of Opération Turquoise in Rwanda. He also threatened to resign if the UNAMIR troops were put under French command. 87
In an interview with a United Nations official during the same period, Roméo Dallaire declared: “If they land here to deliver their damn weapons to the government, I’ll have their planes shot down”. 88 When a commander of a peace-keeping mission created by the Security Council dares to threaten a permanent member of the Security Council in this manner, he must know that he can count on friends in high places such as among other permanent Security Council members. It is not surprising therefore that France tried to remove Dallaire as commander of the UN mission?
Gilbert Ngijol who was Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh’s assistant does not mince his words: “Dallaire was very close to the RPF. He got involved not only in military issues but also in all political issues which were Booh-Booh’s responsibility as the Secretary General’s political envoy. By insisting that he co-sign all memos with Booh-Booh, Dallaire ensured that he would oversee all messages the political envoy would send.”
During the night of April 6, 1994, General Dallaire was invited by a group of Rwandan military officers to discuss the next steps to be taken following the death of the President and the chief of staff of the Rwandan armed forces, Colonel Déogratias Nsabimana who was also in the plane. There was talk of having Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana address the population on Rwandan radio. Madame Uwilingiyimana was a member of the opposition MDR party and many were opposed because she was perceived as a relentless opponent of President Habyarimana who had just been killed. Her intervention on national radio would be seen as a provocation and would make things worse. Nevertheless, the next day UNAMIR troops under Dallaire’s orders took Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana to the radio station to address the Rwandan people. She was assassinated during this operation.
Who gave Romeo Dallaire the right to make political and constitutional decisions of this nature concerning the future of Rwanda? Was he now a Rwandan constitutional expert? Was he acting on his own or was he carrying out orders? When Romeo Dallaire refused the April 7 offer from French officers to investigate the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane and stated that he had already discussed the issue with the Americans, was he acting on his own or was he carrying out orders? If in these two cases, the answer is that he was receiving orders, where were they coming from? Was it General Maurice Baril, the head of peace-keeping operations and Dallaire’s superior at UN headquarters, who was instructing Dallaire. And if so, who was telling Maurice Baril what was to be done?
These very important questions remain unanswered. Each time Romeo Dallaire appears officially at hearings or in courts, the content of his testimony is so carefully censored that it is impossible to get to any of the important details. General Dallaire refused all my requests for an interview. According to his lawyer, he was writing a book on the subject that is scheduled to appear in the fall of 2003. My written requests for written answers to these questions were simply ignored. In the name of history and the truth, he must answer those questions.
“General Dallaire, did you decide on your own that Ms. Agathe Uwilingiyimana should address Rwandans on Radio-Rwanda on the morning of April 7, 1994? If not, who made that decision?”
Dallaire’s book came out in fall 2003 and has won many prizes, including Canada’s Governor General’s award. However, none of these questions is answered. Dallaire also maintains the silence about the April 6 assassination.
These questions are important, but the answers have become somewhat academic considering the Americans’ determination to see the RPF win a decisive victory. Unless Romeo Dallaire and Maurice Baril can prove the contrary, it can be concluded that both Baril et Dallaire were simply operatives carrying out decisions made at higher levels based on strategic considerations that are becoming clearer everyday.
Romeo Dallaire’s erratic behaviour in the years following his stint in Rwanda stem more likely from his being compelled to lie about the tragic events in Rwanda in 1994 than from any form of shellshock. It would appear that Romeo Dallaire had a difficult time learning the “art of winning when you are in the wrong” as Cheik Hamidou Kane wrote in his classic novel “Ambiguous Adventure”. It would also appear that General Maurice Baril had little trouble with the art of winning when you are in the wrong. He behaved the same way during the refugee crisis in Zaire/Congo in November 1966 (see chapter 14). For services that Maurice Baril rendered in Africa, and particularly in Rwanda, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien rewarded Maurice Baril by appointing him Chief of staff of the Canadian Armed Forces on September 24, 1997.
81 Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Unvanquished: A US-UN Saga, Random House, p. 138.
82 Some notable exceptions should be mentioned. Africa International
83 Letter from Luc Marchal to Alain de Brouwer, July 1998. The letter is quoted in an October 2002 document on the Interationale démocrate chrétienne and the war in Rwanda. Note that Luc Marchal met the famous “Jean-Pierre” shortly after arriving in Rwanda at a time when using his own words he was still “duped by their (the RPF’s) smart propaganda’.
84 “Rwanda: The Art of Death”, The Economist, May 28, 1994.
86 Ibid. Document uncontrolled on November 18, 1998.
87 Jacques Castonguay, Les Casques bleus au Rwanda, pages 185 à 190.
88 Gérard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis. History of a Genocide, Columbia, 1995, p. 287March 18, 2016 at 8:52 pm #1522
Chapter 8: Into the Heart of Dark Imaginations
“We were simply saying that culture was more important than
politics, and that the slave trade could be explained,
first and foremost, by the cultural contempt.”
Léopold Sédar Senghor, On the Origins of Negritude.
For centuries Africa has provided fertile soil for the growth and blossoming of the European imagination. It has also been a powerful source of popular literature of all genres. Ship captains, explorers, slave traders and pirates have recounted their adventures. Stanley and Livingstone and others wrote of their travels. Early anthropologists wrote learned treatises, though we now know that there was nothing scientific about their work. Non-fiction tended to dominate until the middle of the nineteenth century when novelists began drawing their inspiration from Africa. This type of literature continued to grow in the twentieth century before, during and after the upheaval that occurred has Africans liberated themselves from colonial rule.
Any body of literature of this magnitude inevitably develops a set of conventions, images, and metaphors. Fortunately, writers and researchers, including many Africans, have studied and analyzed that literature, first to identify the ideologies and the prejudice therein that allowed Europe – and America – to exploit and rape Africa and Africans with impunity for four hundred years, and secondly to determine whether or not the same prejudice pervades modern literature. Among the best known and most eloquent of these are Chinua Achebe, Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor and Ishmael Reed, to name only a few. In France, Pascal Blanchard and Nicolas Bancel have also researched and published the images of empire as reflected in posters and photography. 89 One of the most systematic works published on this question is the well titled The Africa that Never Was, Four Centuries of British Writing about Africa. 90
The book presents the results of Dorothy Hammond’s and Alta Jablow’s in-depth study of more than 500 British publications, fiction and non-fiction, dating from 1560 to 1960. The authors conclude that a literary tradition was developed in Europe and America and that that tradition informs most popular literature on Africa. Though their detailed study focuses on British literature, the authors maintain that, except for a few subtle differences, the same tradition holds for all Western literature.
Hammond and Jablow showed that fantasies and myths from past centuries developed into a set of awe- and dread-inspired conventions and images from which novelists, travel writers and essayists draw their inspiration to tell their tales. The conventions are so ingrained that they even withstand powerful changes in political sensitivities such as antiracism and anti-colonialism. New sensitivities and new political concerns sometimes force writers to do literary gymnastics, but more often than not they simply become a new matrix in which writers further develop the images and metaphors based on fantasies of bygone days. Novelists differ from non-fiction writers only in the measure of their unbridled imaginations.
Hammond and Jablow conclude that the literary image of Africa is a fantasy of a continent and a people that never was and never could have been. Nonetheless, when an image is constantly repeated it becomes the substance itself. European ethnocentrism is the constant and unifying theme of this literary convention. “Ethnocentrism created and preserved until today a persistent fantasy: the civilized Briton in confrontation with savage Africans in an Africa that never was.” 91
The subject of European perceptions of Africa cannot be addressed without mention being made of Joseph Conrad whose name is intimately linked with Africa, especially in the English-speaking world. Conrad and his novella Heart of Darkness, published in 1902 when Europe’s so-called civilizing mission in Africa was reaching a peak, seems to be a necessary reference for all people who write about Africa, and specifically about Central Africa. Conrad quotes are de rigueur in all popular literature. These writers may be trying to be cute or erudite, despite the fact that anybody who has taken first-year English has read Heart of Darkness. I submit however that modern writers simply do not have the excuse that Conrad himself had. He was writing at a time when colonialism was at its height and was widely considered to be a good idea. So any prejudice in his work was common stock. Now that is not the case.
92 Is it too much to ask that modern writers take into account the searing criticisms of Conrad’s work and especially those written by African writers before they use him to tell their stories and illustrate their opinions? The fact that they do not consider those who have rejected Conrad is a telling sign of where they are coming from.
Chinua Achebe does not mince his words about Conrad. In his opinion, Heart of Darkness is a thoroughly racist book “which parades in the most vulgar fashion the prejudices and insults from which a section of mankind has suffered untold agonies and atrocities in the past and continues to do so in many ways and many places today.”
The main problem of Conrad’s novella according to Achebe is the “dehumanization of Africa and Africans”. Achebe asserts that “the question is whether a novel which celebrates this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race, can be called a great work of art. My answer is: No, it cannot.” In the following quote, he highlights the very troubling aspect of Heart of Darkness, namely the terrifying thought that Africans were human and even relatives of Europeans, though somewhat remote.
The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there – there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were – No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it – this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough. 93
Conrad’s defenders would insist that it was Marlow’s attitude and not Conrad’s that is described in this passage and others. Conrad’s prejudice however comes out clearly in other works. The tale he told about his first encounter with a Black man should remove any doubts that, as Achebe bluntly put it, “Conrad had a problem with niggers”. “A certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my (Conrad’s) conception of blind, furious, unreasoned rage, as manifested in the human animal to the end of my days. Of the nigger I used to dream for years afterwards.” 94
Conrad is one of the most studied writers in the English language. He and his work embody Europe’s and America’s vision of Africa. Adverse criticism of Conrad, like that of Chinua Achebe, abounds and is well known. Because of his racism some schools in the United States have stopped teaching Conrad in their literature courses. It is surprising therefore that so many writers continue to use him as a crutch when they are writing about Africa. He is regularly quoted, paraphrased, used as a starting point. Writers compare themselves to him and borrow his images. It would appear that the prejudice towards Africa and Africans contained in his work has permeated so deeply in Western consciousness that it is not even noticed.
Let us return now to the literary tradition identified by Hammond and Jablow. They identified a series of metaphors that describe the African continent and its inhabitants on the one hand, and the relationship between Europeans and Africans on the other. Each of the metaphors is constructed by the whole body of literature of past centuries.
The most common metaphor they identified is that of the “abysmal gulf” that separates Africa from Europe. Everything African is light years away from Europe: the land, the people, the animals, the vegetation, the institutions, the beliefs and more. Attempts to bridge the gulf are all in vain and are doomed to fail. People are even attributed the qualities and the flaws of the African land mass: wild, unchanged, unchanging, unchangeable… The literature abounds in descriptions of the beauty and majesty of African landscape, but these descriptions are used as relief to emphasize the contrast with the evil and horror that pervades the continent.
Africa and Africans are impervious to change and improvements that Europeans have brought. Though some may well have tried to adopt the institutions such as Christianity, European political systems, constitutional rule, and clothing, they have never really succeeded. These efforts have only resulted in pale copies that are beneath contempt for Europeans and that cannot withstand the powerful innate forces of Africa. For example, for a very long time the term “African King” was considered to be an oxymoron, since there were no kings, only despots. The same reasoning applies to African religions, which were no more than superstition, and to polygamy, which was institutionalized lust.
Their languages, cultures and beliefs made Africans a different order of humanity, an order that is incomprehensible to Europeans. Just as Africans could not be understood by Europeans, the same holds in the other direction: Africans cannot understand Europeans.
Another common metaphor is that of the “dark labyrinth”. Africa is mysterious. It threatens but it also enchants. Death and violence are everywhere. Africa’s soil is blood-soaked. Africans are unconscious victims of their own instincts and imbecility. From the earliest contacts between Europeans and Africans, the descriptions of violence and death have been horrific and presented with the most lurid details. Unlike historical accounts of the bloody wars that tore Europe apart, none of the accounts of similar battles in Africa offers the least social, economic, political or institutional explanation. Africans simply like to kill. They cannot help but do it.
African religion, even after Christianity was adopted, is fundamentally phallic, inspired by fear, fertility and blood. Descriptions of religion are inevitably embellished with examples of cruelty, bloodthirstiness and, of course, cannibalism. Images of cannibalism were particularly popular at the end of the nineteenth century, perfectly timed to legitimate Europe’s civilizing mission, but they never really disappeared from the literature.
In the “dark labyrinth”, Africans are only body and instinct. They are incapable of abstract thinking, and cannot make the link between cause and effect. When Europeans venture into the labyrinth, they do so to test character or to find answers about their own identity or about life and death.
In their research, Hammond and Jablow identified three other recurring metaphors, one of which is that of Africa the “strange woman”. She draws the European to her only to trap him. This metaphor allows European writers to explore their own fantasies about Africa, but it also reveals their own perception of the relationship between the Western world and Africa. The two other metaphors identified are Africa “the land in amber” and “the antagonist”.
In the following pages, it will be shown that this literary tradition is still powerful, persistent and, unfortunately, altogether too pervasive in the modern popular literature on Rwanda. Generally speaking, long quotes from earlier works are avoided. Other writers have quoted them with rigour and at length and their research is easily accessible.
Modern writers on Rwanda, though predictably politically correct, sometimes make efforts to break with the tradition by using a cleansed legalistic vocabulary. They liken the Rwandan tragedy to past events upon which a general agreement has been reached, such as Nazi Germany, Nuremberg and the Holocaust, or by proclaiming loud and strong their opposition to colonialism. Like old habits, however, the tradition dies hard. In fact, it so permeates these books that it has become their very substance. One might even think that use of the tradition is a necessary condition for the successful marketing of the books.
I have chosen four writers. Their books on Rwanda have won many awards and have been widely praised. They have sold well and are widely quoted as trustworthy sources. They are the foundations of the “right and proper tale” about Rwanda. Though the four writers come from four different nations – though Québec is not independent, culturally it is a different nation than Canada – the national subtleties that distinguish them are but dust on the bedrock of the popular literary tradition.
Philip Gourevitch, from the United States, published a non-fictional book entitled We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, Stories from Rwanda. He is a staff writer at The New Yorker in which he also published articles about Rwanda. Gourevitch was also very close to the United States Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright. Gourevitch’s brother-in-law Jamie Rubin was Ms Albright’s senior political attaché and head of communications. His book won many awards and was a “New York Times Editors’ Choice”.
The second book, from Canada, is also non-fiction. It is entitled The Lion, The Fox and The Eagle, A Story of Generals and Justice in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Its author Carol Off is a television journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Ms Off also did some television reporting on the Rwandan tragedy and events that followed.
The third book, a novel, comes from Quebec and first appeared in French. Sunday at the pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche, published in 2000 won awards and much praise. Gil Courtemanche is a well known Quebec journalist who describes his book as follows: “This novel is fiction. But it is also a chronicle and eyewitness report”. The novel was a best seller in Québec and has been widely distributed in Europe. It is also being made into a movie.
The fourth book, Rwanda: Histoire d’un génocide, by the Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman was instrumental in the development of the new paradigm imposed on Central Africa since it was published only months after the Rwandan Patriotic Front took power in 1994. It is not surprising that the author is Belgian. Though Belgium does not wield the power it once did, it still boasts an abundance of “experts” that give the impression of power. Many others defer to the Belgian “experts” in recognition of the former mother country’s supposed historical ascendancy. Ms Braeckman is a prolific and high-profile reporter with the Brussels daily Le Soir and with Le Monde diplomatique. Ms Braeckman has published other books since her 1994 book. Word has it that her position on the Rwandan Patriotic Front has changed since that first book appeared and that she now favours the return of the Rwandan monarchy. Though she may have changed, the effect of her 1994 book cannot be erased.
89 Nicolas BANCEL, Pascal BLANCHARD, Francis DELABARRE, Images d’empire 1930-1960, Éditions de la Martinière/La Documentation française, 1997; BANCEL ET BLANCHARD, De l’indigène à l’immigré, Gallimard, 1998.
90 Dorothy Hammond and Alta Jablow, The Africa That Never Was : Four Centuries of British Writing About Africa, Twayne Publishers, inc. New York (1970).
91 Ibid. p 18.
92 Achebe, Chinua, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Contrad’s Heart of Darkness.”, New York: Doubleday, 1989, pp 1-20.
93 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness,
94 In Achebe, op. cit. p. 13.March 18, 2016 at 8:54 pm #1523
Chapter 9: Power to those who have it! – Philip Gourevitch
It is on the Anglo-American race that the hope
of the world for liberty and progress rest..
David Livingstone 95
“Power largely consists in the ability to make others inhabit your story of their reality.” That is Philip Gourevitch’s definition of power, and that is the power he feels endowed with as he travels through the hills, across the lakes, in and out of the cities and towns of Rwanda, Zaire, Uganda, Tanzania, Europe and the United States, chronicling his adventures and opininions in a pompously titled book We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, Stories from Rwanda. 96
More than any other book on Rwanda, Gourevitch’s Stories reeks of power. By namedropping he makes it clear that he had privileged access to many of the main players in the Rwandan tragedy, including Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni and all the United States ambassadors in the area. Doors were opened so wide for him that in 1997 in the former Zaire he was the one who, with the blessing of Rwandan and Ugandan troops, discovered compromising papers in the late Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko’s palace in Goma. More important it seems though was his discovery of what he calls “the Big Man’s diapers” which he takes pains to describe so that he can heap even more scorn on him and, at the same time, on all post-colonial African leaders for whom Mobutu was supposedly the paragon.
Gourevitch is close to power and he has style, but neither enables him to escape the popular literary tradition that hatched during slavery and colonialism. In fact, his proximity to power and his style lead him further into the worst manifestations of that tradition.
Ever since the Europeans, and especially the British, set foot in Africa, they have held the kings, chiefs and leaders in total contempt and systematically displayed their contempt in their literature. By so doing, they were able to convince themselves of their own moral and cultural superiority and justify their so-called civilizing mission. Showing contempt for African chiefs and leaders is an insidious but effective way of showing contempt for all Africans. After all, what human beings would ever accept to live under such despots? Even the slave traders and slave owners could stand tall since they too were liberating the Africans from the tyrants. Among this grisly assortment of chiefs, the Europeans were always able to find one or two “good” ones, but they earned their good graces only because they were ready to march to the European drum. The chosen “good” chiefs could expect to be treated with the courtesy due to anybody who remained faithful and in line and respected his rank.
Since Gourevitch knew he was close to real power – the administration of “the greatest power on earth” as he likes to gloat – and because he is from the United States where good always prevails, he pushes the old “good-chief bad-chief” tradition to new limits. He identifies a few good chiefs and lauds their goodness to the point that one wonders why they have not yet won a Nobel Prize. In contrast, the others, who make up the vast majority, are necessarily “bad”, but not just bad like hardened criminals, but bad like evil, bewitched, incomprehensible, bordering on the inhuman.
The two African leaders to receive Gourevitch’s blessings are predictably Paul Kagame, now President of Rwanda, and Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda and number one supporter of the RPF ever since on the October 1990 invasion of Rwanda. Blessing is an understatement: Gourevitch waxes hagiographic. Paul Kagame, for instance, is a man who “always sounded so soothingly sane… a man of rare scope – a man of action with an acute human and political intelligence”. 97 His grandeur is awe inspiring. He is one of the best military strategists of our time. “He was an intensely private man; not shy – he spoke his mind without bluster. A neat dresser, married, a father of two, he was said to like dinner parties, dancing and shooting pool, and he was a regular on the tennis courts at Kigali’s Cercle sportif”. A description like that could appear in the personal ad section of a paper serving New York’s Upper East Side. Carried away by his own eloquence, and aware of the people in the United States he wanted to convince, Gourevitch found that he could not help thinking of another “tall skinny civil warrior, Abraham Lincoln”. That of course is a hard comparison to beat.
The other good chief, Yoweri Museveni, is a pragmatic man of enormous energy. He possesses a “frontiersman’s inventiveness” and is a champion of free enterprise with an “everyman look that is part of his appeal”. When he speaks and when he writes it is “lucid, blunt, and low on bombast”. He attacks corruption and bad governance in Africa. He defers to the European by saying that Africa’s problems are African. He reads all the latest good American books. He assiduously promotes new products such as a toothpaste developed in the Ugandan backcountry. He understands the genesis and superiority of the “great democracies” and places African evolution somewhere between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries. For Gourevitch, on the other hand, African evolution is somewhere near the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. As a reward for all Museveni has said and done, Gourevitch also gratifies him with a flattering comparison to another mythical American hero: he is like George Washington. Who could dislike a man of that stature?
It goes without saying that such high-calibre military and political leaders can only have armies that are “disciplined, polite and benevolent”, who have “ideas of right and wrong”. They develop “efficient” political and social institutions. In a nutshell, these two countries with two “good” chiefs give promise and hope to a continent that, according to Gourevitch, has little of each. The author’s two “good” Africans and their armies are given moral standards and behaviour that must surely be the envy of other modern American commanders like Norman Scharzkopf, Colin Powell or Tommy Franks.
The unequalled “goodness” of Gourevitch’s two favourites dramatizes the total abjectness of all the other African leaders. President Habyarimana and his entourage are made to be in constant communication with demons and “in concert with the occult”. The author gleefully mocks the Habyarimana family’s difficulties in giving the late president a proper funeral following the assassination on April 6, 1994. It is a laughing matter for Gourevitch that Habyarimana’s remains were transferred first from Kigali to Eastern Zaire and then to Kinshasa before being laid to rest. On the other hand, Gourevitch remains suspiciously silent about the assassination that triggered the beginning of the tragedy, except when he infers that President Habyarimana and his inner circle had plotted their own death.
When Gourevitch is not busy describing the dying Mobutu’s diapers – he could have told us about the diapers of other dying leaders like Ronald Reagan or the Queen Mother, or even his own parents – he holds forth about the “mint black” colour of his Mercedes, the shininess of his Land Rover, his bath oils and Jacuzzis. Why does he not also describe the bath oils and the cars used by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright during their much praised sweep through Africa with stopovers in Rwanda and Arusha, Tanzania?
Gourevitch’s contempt reaches a peak in his treatment of the two Hutu presidents of Burundi who were assassinated respectively on October 21,1993, and April 6, 1994. Though their assassinations were watershed events, Gourevith does not deign to name either of them. They remain the unknown and unnamed assassinated presidents. Dead or alive, Melchior Ndadaye and Cyprien Ntaryamira simply do not fit into “the story of their reality” that Gourevitch wants to make Rwandans and other Africans inhabit. They will not go down in the history according to Philip Gourevitch.
There is method in the oversimplification of good versus bad in Gourevitch’s book, just as there was in earlier times and earlier books. By focussing on Mobutu’s diapers and limousines and on Habyarimana’s funeral or lack thereof, the author is simply reinforcing the image of the wonderful renaissance the leaders he has blessed are supposedly bringing about. He makes it into the symbolic burying of the post-colonial leadership, the supposed generation of corrupt despots who rose out of a mafia-like culture. To the very last one, they are “predatory”, “monomaniacal” leaders. This generation is being replaced by those Gourevitch has anointed as liberators and thinkers, namely Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni. The assassinated presidents of Burundi do not get named so that they will not cast shadows on the two anointed leaders, Kagame and Museveni, who, in fact, were very likely implicated in the assassinations. (For the record, this concealment is contagious: neither Gil Courtemanche nor Carol Off bother to name the Burundian president assassinated on April 6, 1994.)
The “good-chief bad-chief” formula also enables Gourevitch to put colonial and post-colonial Africa on an equal footing in terms of injustice and hardship foisted upon Africans. For instance he describes the war in Rwanda and the war that followed in Zaire/Congo as a “decolonization process”. To bolster his case, Gourevitch surprisingly refers to V.S. Naipaul and his complaints about African “post-colonial mimic men”, leaders that supposedly reproduce the abuses they rebelled against. One wonders if by citing Naipaul, Gourevitch also endorses that writer’s racism which, despite his Nobel Prize, has been roundly denounced by African and African American writers, including Chinua Achebe and Ishmael Reed. 98 It is outrageous for a writer to use such a thinly disguised reference to monkeys (mimic men) in a book meant to help understand a modern tragedy in Africa? Gourevitch is supposed to be a well-informed writer. Does he not know that Naipaul has declared that Blacks were “the most stupid, primitive, lazy, dishonest, and violently aggressive people in the world”? 99
The theme of the equivalent evils, the two sides of the same coin, the two old mentalities represented by the thirty-five years of African independence and the seventy-five years of colonialism is recurrent in Gourevitch’s Stories. Once again there is method in his madness: he thereby minimizes the crimes of colonialism, absolves their perpetrators and successors of those crimes and, most of all, absolves them of any responsibility in current catastrophes.
Another literary convention pervading his Stories is that of the “abysmal gulf” separating Africa from the United States. This convention helps the author to enhance the image of the anointed “good chiefs” who operate in such horrible situations and to justify the unjustifiable acts they commit.
Gourevitch sets the stage in the first paragraph of the first page of his first Story. He tells of a meeting with three drunken soldiers whose eyes “glowed the color of blood oranges” – all eyes seem to be bloodshot in books on Rwanda – and a pygmy from the jungle who was also drunk. The pygmy hates everything around him and only wants to marry a white woman because, according to the pygmy, “only a white woman can understand my universal principle or Homo sapiens”. 100 Under no circumstances could he marry a black woman. Gourevitch concludes the story proclaiming his belief in African humanity. But who in the world is questioning African humanity if it is not Gourevitch himself?
The author punctuates the opening story with a statement of mission which he borrows – oh surprise – from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Gourevitch’s mission, or point of departure, is to soothe people’s imaginations just as Conrad’s hero Marlow had requested when he returned from penetrating dark Africa. When Marlow’s aunt in London insisted on helping him get better, Marlow said “It was not my strength that needed nursing, it was my imagination that wanted soothing”. It should be remembered what tortured Marlow’s, and Conrad’s, imagination was “the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough.”
It would be difficult to imagine a more effective way of widening the gulf in the American readers’ minds between them and Africa than Gourevitch’s four-page introductory story with the pygmy.
As the saying goes, the tongue ever turns to the aching tooth. Judging by the number of times Gourevitch’s tongue turns to the question of African humanity, he must be terribly troubled by that question. (Only Gil Courtemanche in Sunday at the pool in Kigali equals him). In the praise for his book the publisher prepares the reader by saying that Philip Gouvervitch “risked life and safety to bring dark truths to a world reluctant to know them… he raises the human banner in hell’s mouth, the insignia of common sense, of quiet moral authority.”
The two conventions – good chiefs winning out over the bad ones, and the “abysmal gulf” – are the mould into which Gourevitch pours the observations and fantasies of an intrepid American investigator sent to faraway lands and the deliberations of the supreme American court of morals. It all leads to the obvious conclusion that good will defeat evil.
The totally unwarranted massacres committed by the army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front against civilians in the Kibeho camp in April 1995 101 are made to be regrettable incidents that resemble those that occurred as General Sherman led the Union army to defeat the Confederates in the American Civil War, or during the liberation of France and Italy from the Nazis. Yes errors may have occurred but that does not make the cause less noble. The Rwandan and Ugandan invasion of Zaire/Congo in October and November 1996, the bombing of refugee camps and the forced return to Rwanda become justice and truth in action. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda becomes a valiant and noble attempt to bring the Nuremberg model to a continent where the rule of law and public morals are established at best by criminals, if not by demons themselves.
The Stories end like a bad Western. President Clinton lands in Africa in 1998 shortly after his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright paid a visit. Both apologize for the international community’s slow reaction to such a horrible genocide and solemnly promise to restore the truth and see to it that people who do not share their views will be put in their place.
On the second last page of the book, Gourevitch first fawns to President Clinton, “as the voice of the greatest power on earth, he had come to Kigali to set the record straight.” Then he gives the microphone to a Hutu who says: “Here was a politician who had nothing at stake, and who told the truth at his own expense.” The concluding words are left to a Tutsi: “Maybe you have to live somewhere far away like the White House to see Rwanda like that.”
All that’s missing is the sunset and the Marlboro cigarettes!
95 David LIVINGSTONE, Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries; and of the discovery of the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, New York, 1866, p. 725, in Hammond and Jablow, op. cit. p. 54
96 Philip GOUREVITCH, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, Stories from Rwanda, Picador USA, 1998.
97 Gourevitch, op. cit. p. 225.
98 Chinua ACHEBE, Home and Exile, Oxford, 2000, pp. 84-91.
99 India West, April 25, 1980, in Ishmael REED, Writin’ is Fightin’, Atheneum,1988, p. 212.
100 GOUREVITCH, op. cit. p. 12.
101 The Kibeho massacre occurred from April 18 through April 23, 1995, in what the RPF called Operation Homeward. International observers and many soldiers in the UNAMIR II witnessed the killing and saw troops burying bodies of civilians as soon as they killed them. 8000 internal Rwandan refugees were killed during this operation. The RPF Government reported that 350 people had died. See description in Jacques Castonguay, Les Casques bleus au Rwanda, L’Harmattan, pp. 219-231.March 18, 2016 at 9:03 pm #1524
Chapter 10: The importance of being Canadian – Carol Off
“Imperialists: All honest, polite, peaceable, charming people”
Gustave Flaubert, The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas
Carol Off’s essay The Lion, The Fox and the Eagle102 attempts to analyze, appraise and define the role of Canada and Canadians in international affairs through the two major crises in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. This very Canadian approach to the subject – Canada is always trying to prove it is more than a US appendage – immediately relegates Africa and African to supporting roles for two of the author’s heroes, Romeo Dallaire, “the lion” and Louise Arbour, “the eagle”. Her third hero, “the fox”, is Lewis MacKenzie, commander of UN peacekeepers in Yugoslavia. Simply by her take on the subject, Carol Off proves the tenacity and the pervasiveness of the literary convention in which Africa is the testing ground for European character.
She starts right off in Chapter 2, entitled Into Africa, with a long epigraph from Conrad about “strong, lusty, red-eyed devils” and “violence”, “greed” and “hot desire”. The reader is left with little doubt about the author’s state of mind. She then proclams that “Heart of Darkness is not so much a place as a frame of mind, a journey into the darkness of the soul as it finally arrives at a place where there are no explanations for anything. Romeo Dallaire entered such a place (Rwanda) in the fall of 1993.” Conrad never strays far from Carol Off’s portrait of Canadians in Africa. The quotes and images she borrows widen the gulf that her heroes valiantly, selflessly, but vainly, endeavour to bridge.
In November 1993, Dallaire and his troops “sensed the darkness closing in”. As they try to understand what is happening, she opines that the only thing they “could sense was what Conrad described as ‘the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention’”. Later the reader learns that Dallaire’s mission that had “tried and failed to stop the dark, random forces of hate and evil” had begun “to morph into something more sinister”. The gulf is made so frightful and wide that those who try to bridge it or, to use a less fashionable but more accurate vocabulary, to take civilization across it, are doomed to fail. Indeed, if Conrad did not exist, somebody would have had to invent him.
Like so many others now and in the past, Carol Off waxes lyrical every time she mentions the beautiful African countryside. For Off and her Roméo Dallaire, “Rwanda is extraordinarily beautiful”. The country is “covered by lush green hills”. The vegetation is “deep-blue green” and the “delicious humid climate” has a “perpetual breath of spring”. Dallaire and his Canadian assistant Major Brent Beardsley thought “they were in paradise”. As goes the tradition, so goes Carol Off. The majesty and the beauty of the landscape is inversely proportional to the evil it hides, and that evil in all its details inevitably appears a few lines or paragraphs after her descriptions of Rwanda’s bucolic surroundings.
To portray the evil, Carol Off recycles many of the images and relationships established by her predecessors who wrote during in the heydays of slavery and colonialism. The Africans’ eyes she imagines are bloodshot, and the ground is slick with blood. The Africans’ nature is linked to the climate and the land in which they live. For example, she describes the steamy mist that “swirls around the blue-green landscape, creating and otherworldly quality” that results in spiritualism being “deep in the fibre of the country”. It is not surprising for a Canadian writer to make these links. English Canadian literature abounds with nativist clichés attributing the courage and energy of Canada’s youth to the country’s cold and rugged climate and geography.
Carol Off astonishingly uses cannibal imagery in her descriptions. Setting the stage for her hero Dallaire, she writes that Dallaire would have been better prepared for his mission if he had read the report of the 1993 International Commission – that one again – and if he “had known even half of what was being cooked up in Mrs. Habyarimana’s kitchen in spring and summer of 1993”. Obviously, she would never use the cooking image when talking about political leaders and their wives such as Aline Chrétien, Laura Bush or Cheri Blair. Why then do they come to mind in books on Africa. Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman was rightly denounced for talking about Africa in that way during his promotional tour for Toronto’s Olympic bid; so should Carol Off.
A book that so cravenly glorifies two representatives of Canadian institutions in Africa easily falls into the trap of treating African institutions with contempt, be they modern or ancient. This is a very old habit that Off does not attempt to shed. Religion is superstition, governments are despotic, and European institutions adopted by Africans are mere caricatures.
African Christianity is without a doubt the institution that has been, and is still, the most widely belittled and, according to Hammond and Jablow, “debased” in the popular literary tradition 103. Though it is admitted that Africans have adopted the rituals of Christianity, they just do not seem to have grasped the meaning. Carol Off expands on this notion when she writes that “an overlay of rigorous paternalism imposed on the citizenry by the Roman Catholic Church reinforced what was already a system of blind obedience to authority”. It would follow that Rwandans are not real Catholics for Ms. Off since Christianity is only an “overlay”, that cannot resist the onslaught of primal forces. The ancestral traditions of “blind obedience” thus sweep away the poorly stuck “overlay” of our excellent Christian traditions, which seem to be innate among Europeans.
Carol Off gives free rein to her imagination when she describes the Easter Mass on April 3, 1994, just three days before the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were assassinated.
It’s a country of devout Christians, and they filled the churches. The priests broke bread for Communion and told the congregations Jesus Christ had risen: salvation was theirs. Within the next few days, these Christians would dutifully follow the orders of the government to kill their neighbours – brutally and without mercy – whether they were men, women or babies. Many of the priests would actually help. Not salvation but the apocalypse was upon them.
The author was not in Rwanda on Sunday April 3, 1994. She has no idea what the priests did or what they told parishioners. It is clear though that her goal is to belittle the way Rwandans have adopted Christianity. Furthermore, what better way to trivialize the assassination of two African presidents, which she calls a “plane crash”, than to tell a terrible tale about what she imagines went on in the churches and in the minds of the faithful three days before the assassination.
As is the wont of most English Canadian journalists, Carol Off uses her references to the Catholic religion in Africa to take a few shots at Québec Catholicism. She uses puns and irony to make fun of the Latin motto Father Georges-Henri Lévesque had given to Rwanda’s National University in Butare when he founded it in 1963. The motto Illuminatio et salus populi or “God is my light and my salvation” given by a Quebec priest who supported the Hutus, is contrasted to “darkness” and the “apocalypse” that Carol Off posits as reality. She draws parallels between Quebec nationalism and the Quiet Revolution – Father Georges-Henri Lévesque was among the lead thinkers – and Rwanda’s social revolution of 1959 that people liken ideologically to the genocide they describe in 1994. Shortly before he died, Father Lévesque denounced this type of post-facto guilt by association that targeted him and others.
As pointed out earlier, since the earliest contacts between Europeans and Africans, and especially during the nineteenth century and the beginning of colonialism, European literature was terribly simplistic about African chiefs. All were power hungry, dishonest, conniving, contemptible, even laughable, except when they agreed to march to the imperial drum in which case they were well looked upon. Once again, a gulf separates Europe from Africa. These descriptions of contemptible African chiefs helped to vaunt the efficiency, moral standards and universality of the people and institutions from the imperial motherlands. With the stage so carefully set, it was easy to take the next step and support the empire’s noble colonial mission of civilizing those backward peoples.
Carol Off walks blindly down this road. When President Juvénal Habyarimana took power in 1973, according to Off, he “was out of the classic African-dictator mould”. Please expand Ms Off! She then adds that it was the Cold War and “any number of despots could find, and cultivate, foreign patrons who would help them hold onto power.” In other words, the imperial powers were being hoodwinked. The late Rwandan president was incapable of doing anything of any worth. He always “pretends” and is always deceitful. At the request of so-called donor countries, Habyarimana “pretended to pursue economic and political reforms”. When he went to Arusha in August 1993, to sign peace accords, he took part in “a grand ceremony attended by the major leaders of Africa – none of whom believed the peace agreement would work – and by members of the international community, who breathed a sigh of relief that the worst of the Rwandan crisis was over.”
This passage should be read carefully because it reveals the author’s deeper thoughts. First, the African leaders do not seem to be part of Carol Off’s “international community”, even though leaders from Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa are present. Her “international community” appears to include only the “white” countries from Europe and America, just like when Europe began to colonize Africa. Secondly, according to Carol Off, the African leaders signed the agreement but they did not believe a word of it. The accusation is more serious than it appears. She is saying that the leaders were lying and deceiving the members of the “international community”, who, as we all know, are selflessly devoted to Africa’s well-being.
President Habyarimana is nothing but a puppet controlled by his “Lady Macbeth”, Mrs. Habyarimana and her entourage of “red-eyed devils” – taken directly from Conrad. As in the 19th century, holding an African leader in contempt is the best way to show contempt for the Africans who live under him, but in this particular book it serves other purposes. It helps belittle the assassination of Habyarimana and of his Burundian colleague on April 6, 1994, which for Carol Off was a mere “plane crash”. If anyone dared described 9/11 as a “plane crash” into the World Trade Centre, they would likely be committed to an asylum or be thrown in jail. It also facilitates the difficult task Carol Off has of exonerating Louise Arbour for stopping Michael Hourigan’s investigation into the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane, the only such investigation undertaken by the Tribunal. 104
Carol Off has only fine words to describe the Rwandan Patriotic Front leader Paul Kagame, who is like the traditional ally of nineteenth century colonialists. Paul Kagame is “brilliant”, a “great military tactician”, thanks mainly to this American training at the US Army and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His always “polite and well disciplined” troops are part of a “liberation army” that comes to the rescue and ends the genocide. To help her Canadian and American readers to better grasp the war and who is waging it, she disingenuously alludes to the Second World War and the fight against Hitler. Thus when she depicts the RPF as a “liberation army” ending a “genocide”, she knows that she has sealed her case. Once again in characteristic English-Canadian style, she is tickled to see France and a French-speaking African country brought to their knees by an English-speaking army trained by the British and the Americans.
Africa and especially Rwanda are pedestals on which she defines and exalts the Canadian heroes in her tale. The further Rwanda is made to appear from Canada, both geographically and culturally, the more valiant are her heroes. Ms Off lets her imagination fly in this area.
She introduces Roméo Dallaire as a military man “staring down the tunnel of a long, dull finish to his career” when, one fine day, somebody offers to appoint him commander of a mission to a country in central Africa. We’ve seen that before: the dull life in the mother country versus adventure in Africa. Carol Off’s Dallaire knows absolutely nothing about the geography or the history of this “African country no one needed or cared about”. Ignorance about Africa is made into a quality, something to be proud of, whereas it should be reason enough to be refused the job.
We learn that her Dallaire is “smart, hard driving”, “trim, handsome”, with “boundless energy”, a “lion’s courage” and “rigorous morality”. He “learned his code of social justice from his parents, whose defining experience had been the Second World War”. Of course what better school could he have had considering the parallel Carol Off wants to make between Nazi Germany and Habyarimana’s Rwanda. Her exaltation – and imagination – knows no bounds. At one point she portrays Dallaire “marooned in the middle of a country he was hardly able to find on a map a year earlier, with only his Nato training and a personal sense of right and wrong to guide him”, at a time when “sinister darkness” is closing in on him. It is curious how the sense of right and wrong seems to be innate for these Canadians. In Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, Gil Courtemanche attributes the same high moral qualities to his hero in Rwanda, Bernard Valcourt.
Louise Arbour is the eagle of the tale and the success story in Carol Off’s book. She has the same sterling moral character as Dallaire. She is also “pretty”, with a “quick wit”, “efficient”, “competent”, and has an excellent legal training, especially since she practised mainly in Ontario. All these qualities enable her to successfully carry out her mission to eliminate the “culture of impunity” that reigns in the “heart of Africa”. Despite the enormous gulf, despite the Tribunal’s shambles, corruption, incompetence and inefficiency that Off takes pages to describe, Louise Arbour brilliantly brings order to the court and successfully pursues the noble mission with the help of other fine Canadians, such as Pierre Duclos. Duclos is the former Sûreté du Québec investigator hired by Louise Arbour who had been identified by Québec’s Poitras Commission as the policeman who initiated the fabrication of evidence in the Matticks Affair. 105
Boasting about Louise Arbour, who became a Supreme Court Justice before being appointed UN Human Rights Commissioner, undoubtedly makes Canadians feel good. Moreover, Louise Arbour surely appreciates getting the credit. She graciously granted Carol Off several long interviews. The purpose of all the flattery is not quite so guileless however. While lauding Ms. Arbour, she quietly slips in shameless comments about how Africa is different and how, in this different world, Saint Louise Arbour is fully justified to “operate somewhat differently from other courts” – read European courts – and to give herself the “flexibility to hold suspects without charge”.
Africa is so different that we are expected to understand and accept that “due process, as understood in North America and Europe, would have made it almost impossible [for Ms Arbour] to arrest the prime suspects”, or the “big fish” as Carol Off likes to call them.
102 Carol Off, The Lion, The Fox and The Eagle, A story of generals and justice in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, Vintage Canada, 2000.
103 Hammond and Jablow, op. cit. p. 131.
104 See chapter 6.
105 See Chapter 13, note 7.
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