Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Disputed histories of the Rwanda Genocide

Skulls of victims of one of the massacres during the 1994 Rwandan genocide displayed at the Genocide Memorial Site church of Ntarama in Nyamata, Rwanda.

I was surprised and alarmed on, 02.02.2010, to read Amil Omara-Otunnu's one-sided history of the Rwanda Genocide, "Rwanda Genocide: Lessons for Human Rights Advocacy," in the Black Star News, a publication I rely on for investigative reporting and commentary about Africa.  This is especially disturbing now, as tension around disputed Rwanda Genocide history increases amidst political repression leading up to Rwanda's August 2010 national elections.  

Professor Omara-Otunnu's elegant English, rationality, and partial rightness put this essay leagues above the vicious propaganda currently being published in the Rwanda New Times or the confusion in the Rwanda News Agency, both of which are promptly reproduced on allAfrica.com, seemingly without editorial review or discretion, but his account of the Rwanda Genocide and its aftermath is wholly biased towards Rwandan President Paul Kagame, his ruling RPF Party, and the suffering of Rwandans identified as Tutsi.  It disregards all the evidence that Kagame and the RPF are themselves guilty of major human rights violations, including compromised courts and elections, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocidal violence against Rwandan Hutus, and, of ruthless invasion and resource theft in Eastern Congo.  

Omara-Otunnu makes no mention of the tension and repression of opposition political parties in Rwanda now, as the nation's 2010 national elections approach.

And he makes no mention of the Human Rights Watch release pointing to the failure of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) to indict the ruling RPF, which makes the ICTR's legacy an example of one-sided justice rather than a historic example for human rights investigations and courts to emulate.  

Nor does he mention Rwanda's prisons, which house the third highest per capita prison population in the world, including many political prisoners.

Though he decries the international community's "inaction," in accordance with the received Rwanda genocide narrative, he says nothing about evidence of foreign powers covert involvement, including that of the U.S. and its allies, and France, and/or of their ongoing involvement in Rwanda and the wider region now.

This essay is elegantly written, but the writer's disregard for disputed narratives of the Rwanda Genocide, including those of Victoire Ingabiré Umuhoza, FDU/UDF-Inkingi's 2010 presidential candidate, and the need to reconcile disputed narratives is dangerous and irresponsible.

I should add, however, that Professor Amara-Otunnu's has been outspoken in his opposition to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's state terror and genocidal violence against the Acholi people of Northern Uganda. 

David Barouski's Z-Space Page
Rwanda Documents Project, created by Dr. Peter Erlinger, Lead Defense Counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda

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