By James Karuhanga
November 19, 2008
The New Times (Kigali)
On November 14, The Daily Monitor, one of Uganda's leading dailies, in its editorial commentary titled, "Rwanda, France need neutral arbitrator," committed the most unforgivable transgression similar to that [some] international media outlets are fond of: blatantly and dishearteningly distorting facts on Rwanda's 1994 Tutsi genocide.
Of course, no one in his good senses would abhor the prospect of a peace loving and well meaning intermediary, whose role is to end the speculation on who is responsible for what in the '94 Tutsi genocide.
Worrisome in the idea of 'a neutral arbitrator', is the presumption that France and Rwanda are at the same footing, in historical power relations, as if they were both armed foes fighting at the same level of military strength and might. The equating of Rwanda and France must be deplored from the onset.
The author of the editorial seems more keen to sanitise France's role in the Tutsi Genocide, than actually giving a diagnosis within a historical context, that heals the wounds of Rwanda which has been wronged.
"However, this search for justice on both parties should not be used to spread more bitterness and, or to encourage impunity. A careful balance should be sought before the tensions escalate. A neutral party is needed to step in and mediate between Rwanda and France," the editorial reads.
Somehow one is inclined to think there was also genocide in France in which Rwanda is complicit. The complicity of France in the genocide is something which can never be forgiven.
Firstly, France is a former colonial power who should be willing to own up to her vile crimes before and during the genocide and ask Rwandans for forgiveness.
Reparations are not out of question in any post conflict situation, here, only just as a sign of good will because nothing can compensate the millions of loved ones lost, dreams shattered.
There must be measures in place that allow people to figure out what happened and deal with the issues at hand once and for all.
However, the Daily Monitor's commentary, just like in some other foreign papers, simply ignored certain critical aspects to do with Rwanda's history of being brutalised. And, one wonders, is this intentional? If intentional, it would be rather unfortunate. I keep hoping it was not.
Rwanda is indeed recovering from a sad and traumatic history and to create permanent healing for Rwandans, justice-seeking efforts must be taken seriously as the commentary points out in part.
But Rwandans also need to see efforts being made to understand their past and contemporary history, with events, especially before and after their traumatic past being accurately reported.
Unquestionably, there are those who want to blur the truth from the world and especially the French government. These people have something to hide, and helping them, even unknowingly, is inexcusable, that is why the first challenge for those who want to help in healing those wounds is to find out the truth.
One of Daily Monitor's travesty is the thin and deceptive declaration that, "Rwanda accuses France of complicity in the 1994 genocide citing Paris' close relationship with former President Juvenile Habyarimana whose government-allied militia led the 1994 genocide."
To only pinpoint François Mitterrand and Juvénal Habyarimana's friendship is simplistic thinking that distorts facts.
Saying that, "for this charge," Rwanda threatens to indict 23 French soldiers for "allegedly" participating in the Genocide, leaves much to be desired because it ignores all the weighty evidence of France's complicity in the genocide.
And, Rwanda is not accusing France of complicity basing on [mere] allegations. They are not allegations! There are glaringly incriminating facts, and they have been put out for everyone who cares to see.
France was present before, during and even immediately after the genocide. It was not only close to the regime but everything political in the country, including preparations for the genocide before 1994.
This has been widely documented, not only by Rwandans and others but especially by French historians and academics.
The French academic Gérard Prunier, for one, in his book, "The Rwanda crisis, 1959-1994: history of a genocide," is very clear on France's role. There is no ambiguity about how France was involved in planning the genocide.
French journalist Patrick de Saint-Exupery, in "L'inavouable, la France au Rwanda" (The Unspeakable-France in Rwanda) leaves no room for doubts too, especially since he was on the ground as the infamous French military's Opération Turquoise was rolled out.
The 1995 BBC Panorama production, "The Bloody Tricolor," a documentary film on the involvement of France in Rwanda prior to the genocide, and many others, are evidence that France not only participated, but also aided and abetted mass murderers. It has done that for the last decade and beyond, doing everything to blur the truth from the world.
As already hinted on, another gross mischievous distortion is saying that the downing of President Habyarimana's plane "sparked off" the genocide.
What most people, and careless ones at that, don't seem to realise is the fact that the genocide in 1994 was not triggered by the plane crash as most genocide deniers want to make us believe.
Contrary to that, preparations for the horror were well planed in advance and the 'plane crash spark theory' is just one way of distorting facts.
More so, genocide in Rwanda did not start in 1994. Look at events in Rwanda in 1959, 1963 - south western Rwanda killings, and even between then and 1994. There was a system of discrimination and disenfranchisement of Tutsis in the country.
Interahamwe militias were trained before 1994. The plane crash as "trigger" is simply used as an excuse by those who don't want to face reality, in what is today's terrible irony.
The people who put their lives at grave risk to liberate Rwanda are instead being hunted by the genocide's perpetrators and their collaborators. And while this happens, the mass murderers themselves mostly roam free in European capitals.
Very recently, the country's Director of State Protocol Rose Kabuye, also one of the country's living heroes was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany last Sunday, albeit on the basis of a faulty and widely condemned arrest warrant issued by French Judge, Jean Louis Bruguiere, who falsely accuses her of involvement in Habyarimana's plane crash.
Just six days before this, Germany had released two notorious genocidaires, including Callixte Mbarushimana, Secretary General of the DRC-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), remnants of those who carried out the 1994 Genocide of Tutsis.
FDLR leader Ignace Murwanashyaka also continues to live and operate with impunity in Germany.
This is not something to be taken so lightly.
James Karuhanga is a Rwandan journalist.