This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Genocide in Rwanda: Media, Memory and Denial
For the past 18 years, survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and their supporters have marked its anniversary with various public ceremonies, private observances, and rituals. These anniversary commemoration events dignify the dead and have brought some solace to the survivors. But with the passage of time, we also find it necessary to use this period of observance to seek answers to the questions about why the genocide happened and how we can prevent it from happening again in Rwanda or elsewhere. The first step on this journey to find answers, or at least explanations, is to systematically analyze the processes of memorialization, the history and narrative of the genocide in Rwanda, and the forces and actors who shape that narrative. In 2012, the University of Missouri added to its usual commemoration event a three-day academic symposium during which 13 scholars and practitioners from North America, Europe, and Africa examined themes around memory, media, and genocide denial. The participants described how the various modes of representation, testimony, and physical memorials are used for remembering and preserving history. They provided insight into how individuals prepared and perpetrated genocide and described the actions undertaken afterwards to deny that the genocide occurred. They also examined the attempts by institutions and governments to deny their hand in the genocide that would include having created the ideology of genocide, and their participation in or facilitation of the slaughter. The analysis addressed the role of the indifferent
that they are valued. In minimizing and negating the Genocide of the Tutsi. In their analyses of genocide rhetoric.to fight oblivion—a fate deemed worse than death. how the ideology is being perpetuated. The symposium served not only to keep alive the memory of those who perished. and that they are deserving of the dignity to which all human beings are entitled. This symposium’s purpose collectively refutes genocide denial and the ideology of extermination.bystander as well. as if to erase all trace of them. including the continued silence by the Catholic Church regarding the Rwanda genocide. they also killed the cows of the victims and destroyed their houses. When the military and militiamen killed the Tutsi in 1994. By focusing on memory and denial. but to keep them out of oblivion-.to create a reality as if they had never lived. all physical evidence of their existence. viewed by many as a form of genocide denial. had never died. The perpetrators’ goal was physical extermination. The scholars and practitioners who presented their research and interventions provide empirical evidence and field experience demonstrating that the victims and survivors of genocide do matter. This special issue of the International Journal of Conflict and Reconciliation presents the work of selected participants at the symposium.that darkest of places where the perpetrators would like to send them even after their death. The agents of denial currently aim to annihilate our memory of the victims -. and the ongoing attempts to deny that the genocide occurred. the contributors explore common themes such as the language of genocide 2 . the symposium strove to be a force against forgetting -. deniers seek to wound and to destroy the psyche of survivors whose existence they would like to ignore despite the fact that their ideology of hate and the denial of their crimes reaffirm the presence of this targeted ethnic group. had never even existed. Their research focuses on the discourse of genocide—the historical narrative of how genocide ideology developed.
legitimize and empower itself. Horner traces the development of genocide ideology by analyzing The Hutu Manifesto in the light of the two extremely influential documents in the Catholic social justice tradition tracing an influence leading from the Catholic tradition to the Manifesto used by Hutu extremists for almost four decades.denial in the media. who arrived in Rwanda from Quebec to carry out another “Quiet Revolution” by fostering European socio-religious tensions of the 1950s in Rwandan soil. Catholic priests similar in orientation to Levensque brought the gospel with a focus on social justice issues in Rwanda. The Catholic influence leading up to the genocide started with Father Levensque. Their discussions demonstrate the need for even more research about the writing and re-writing of the history of genocide in Rwanda. He does so by analyzing the relationship between the Catholic tradition of social justice and the development of Hutu Power ideology during in 1950s. Selected Papers: A Synopsis Tim Horner examines the role of Catholic social teaching in the genocide. Horner shows Horner shows how the Hutu power movement borrowed from Catholic social teaching to undergird. this body of teaching was already woven into the education and ethos of the Rwandan seminaries and clergy. By the time of the Hutu movement. including the history of genocide ideology. The embodiment of that Catholic ethos was Gregoire 3 . the inclusion of bias and stereotyping in the narrative of contemporary social discourse. Horner argues that this connection can be seen by comparing two papal encyclicals (Rerum Novarum (1896) and Qudragessimo Anno (1936)) with the most influential document to come out of The Hutu Power Movement: The Hutu Manifesto (1957). until 1994. and the appeal to the complexity of ethnic hatred and division in Rwandan society as a reason for not understanding the genocide.
a Catholic newspaper.Kayibanda. the chief author of the Manifesto. According to Horner. Kayibanda was trained in a Catholic seminary and was editor of Kinyamateka. Those who espoused the ideals of Catholic social teachings did not oppose the introduction of identity cards in Rwanda that listed the ethnicity of each person. who would become Rwanda’s first president.” This faulty narrative was used to import the Western notion of land ownership into Rwanda as one of the central tenets of the Catholic social justice movement put into motion by Rerum Novarum. The idea of private ownership was not simply an endorsement of a cultural shift. “The Hutu Manifesto co-opted this vision from the social justice movement and applied it to Rwanda. Horner argues that race and class had become synonymous in Rwanda with the European influence of scientific racism and the Hamitic myth that gave it a religious veneer. Kayibanda’s sole concern was for social justice for what he deemed to be the oppressed Hutu. Nor did they challenge the European construct of race.” 4 .” This concern is expressed in The Hutu Manifesto. Horner found that. Quadragesimo Anno puts a divine spin on social justice.” Horner points out that the encyclicals were contextualized by an historical reference to a feudal system in Rwanda. who were overwhelmingly Hutu. When the Pope’s encyclical spoke of government’s duty to help the working class in Rwanda “this was seen as an unambiguous mandate to stand up for the masses. implicitly carrying with it a judgment of hierarchy that sowed the seeds of division in Rwanda. “Without knowing it. Pius XI provided a cipher through which Rwanda’s discontent could be interpreted within a religious framework. However. it was the divine order. providing “another example of how thoroughly colonists had reinterpreted Rwanda into European historical models.
priests. “This synthesis of distributive justice. Horner concludes that the church’s quest for social justice in Rwanda caused it to fall in league with Hutu extremists who systematically distorted the teaching of the Church to maintain and increase their political power. but also a toxic mixture that allured Catholic bishops.” The Hutu Movement used this distorted narrative to create the image of a victimized majority who now had God on their side in the fight for political liberation. was then imposed wholesale onto Rwandan society. In the context of the Belgian colonial legacy. who fought 5 . The Church’s support for the “Hamitic Hypothesis” that united science and religion on the issue of race was not only a convenient interpretation of Catholic social teaching. which was so closely tied to atheism. Tutsi ownership of land was thought to manifest socialism. or Hutu dominated society serving the common good. Dominique Payette analyzed the news reporting by three major daily newspapers in Quebec. and the right for private ownership of land came together in The Hutu Manifesto in very practical yet revolutionary ways.In the context of European politics during the time that Rerum Novarum was written. the concept of distributive justice described in Rerum Novarum was interpreted as a mandate for a democratic. Tutsis were accused of being communists and targeted for suppression in The Hutu Manifesto. Because the Tutsi elite was closely associated with the colonial government. the Catholic Church saw atheistic socialism as enemy number one and its condemnation was firmly associated with the social justice movement. Canada about the extradition of Rwandan genocide fugitive Leon Mugesera. and nuns into complicity and in some cases active participants in the genocide. What The Hutu Manifesto was proposing was nothing less than a complete overhaul of Rwanda’s centuries old land use traditions. The fear of socialism. the common good.
Among these prejudices was the reporting by the Quebec media that Rwandan courts were incapable of providing Mugesera with a fair trial and that he would be subjected to torture and inhumane conditions during detention. or misuse. stereotypes.a 15 year battle to stay in Canada where he had fled in 1993 to avoid prosecution in Rwanda. The use. The analysis of news reporting about Africa in the Québec media points to what she calls “an Afro-pessimism. framing and production of the informative narrative about Africa create a media-driven depiction that is significantly different from Africa's social and political reality. The media used the word “deportation. and prejudice against Africa.” The process of selection. in the media narratives that she analyzed. She found that journalists framed the story about Mugesera using the word “deportation” rather than “extradition” to accommodate the views of Canadians who wanted to deny that their country sheltered a genocide fugitive. and Rwanda specifically. 6 . The media focus on deportation masked the reason for Mugesera being in the news. of language was another method of minimizing and negating the genocide in the news reporting analyzed by Payette.” a highly symbolic choice that evokes images of the forced removal of Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust. The word is symbolic in Canadian history because of the deportation of the Acadians by the British Government between 1755 and 1762. Payette reports about the negative portrayals. Mugesera’s statements characterize the racist propaganda of the pre-genocide Hutu Power Movement and genocide ideology that were central to the symposium debate and that is reflected in many of the papers presented in this special issue. Mugesera is infamous for speeches and writings that were instrumental in popularizing genocide ideology and that made a public call to exterminate the Tutsi and send their corpses to Ethiopia via the rivers of Rwanda that are tributaries of the Nile.
Payette found the ambiguous treatment by the Québec press to represent an important victory for genocide deniers like Peter Erlinder and Paul Rusesabagina.” Payette concluded that the media succeeded in getting the public to believe that Mugesera would be imperiled should Canada return him to Rwanda to face trial. and simultaneously reinforced the narrative of genocide denial. She believes that the coverage of the genocide in Rwanda is not only lazy. This may be a form of Canadians denying their government’s responsibility for admitting Mugesera into the country to visit and then eventually reside. This failure is particularly damning because the media claim to “demystify ideologies through the production and dissemination of presumably objective and transparent information.minimized the seriousness of the charges against him as an alleged genocide perpetrator. The Canadian journalists argued that because of the complexity of the genocide. Payette’s findings 7 . both of whom spoke against the extradition of Mugesera. Payette argues that in the discussion of the supposed complexity of the Rwandan genocide. “what is being expressed here is precisely the rhetoric of denial. they could not choose one narrative over another nor call for Mugesera’s extradition. Payette found that the Quebec media also invoked the supposed complexity of the genocide in Rwanda to avoid objective and accurate reporting about the legal issues surrounding Mugesera’s extradition. within which the realities of society or the world are presented authentically. More importantly. but is manipulated.” She criticizes the media for not living up to its claim of being an industry unique in its distance from dominant ideologies within society. Her research found that the Quebec media relied on simplistic event-driven news stories about what was already known in order to conform to and reinforce their readers' desires and expectations. in their entirety.
discusses Rwanda’s laws prohibiting genocide denial and genocide ideology. minimizing. and Denial of Genocide in Rwanda. the former spokesperson for the prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). exclusion and discrimination developed as sanction for violence against the minority Tutsi population. discrimination and divisionism. Facing the continuing threat of genocide. The post-colonial Rwandan State was always anti-Tutsi and an ideology of hate. Rwanda promulgated laws prohibiting genocide ideology.demonstrate how prejudice and Western media bias assault the truth and memory thereby leading to genocide denial. Like Horner. the first political party in Rwanda was one of exclusion. denying. In his article on “Freedom of Expression. His analysis explores the tension between freedom of expression as a human right in post-genocide Rwanda and the government’s attempt to prevent genocide denial and the reoccurrence of attempts to exterminate the Tutsi. Gallimore traces the development of genocide ideology in Rwanda. as manifested in the ideology and actions of those who continue to deny that genocide occurred in 1994. “the ideology of Hutu power can be seen as a backlash against the historical dominance of the Tutsi under colonial rule. The genocide deniers argued that the Rwandan laws violate freedom of speech and amount to media censorship and political suppression. Media Manipulation. Gallimore outlines the campaign of genocide denial to manipulate Western human rights organizations and mass media that severely criticized Rwanda for adopting the laws against genocide denial and genocide ideology. negating. and prohibiting discrimination and sectarianism.” Tim Gallimore. justifying or approving of genocide. With the founding of 8 . Therefore. Gallimore argues that. but he focuses on the role of political parties and the mass media in promoting the message of extermination.
These lawyers are leading the campaign of denial despite the judicial notice issued by the Tribunal declaring that genocide against the Tutsi occurred in Rwanda in 1994. which have long accommodated Holocaust denial laws but have heavily criticized the similar Rwandan laws against genocide denial. to spread Hutu Power ideology and to incite the Rwandan public to kill. “the genocide denial campaign of the ICTR defense attorneys and others has also manipulated the Western mass media. He accuses the deniers of abusing the freedom of expression in Western countries and using human rights as a cloak for their denial campaign. He argues that “Rwanda’s laws against genocide 9 . while they simultaneously criticize the Rwandan laws aimed at preventing the reoccurrence of genocide. including the defense attorneys at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Like Payette.” Gallimore outlines the role of Leon Mugesera as a government propagandist linked to extremist Hutu leaders who used “hate media.” and collectively serving as a venue for the deniers to continue spreading their propaganda and genocide ideology. charges that there was a double genocide.the political parties in the 1990s. He also discusses the ongoing campaign by multiple groups and individuals worldwide to deny the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. and policy advocacy organizations. and blaming the victims for their fate.” especially radio. Gallimore found that. philanthropic foundations. that history of violence and impunity coalesced into the genocide ideology of extermination. He concludes that deniers use these revisionists and trivialization strategies to rewrite the history of the Tutsi Genocide by offering alternative narratives about what happened in 1994 and who was responsible. Gallimore analyzes the deniers’ techniques. Gallimore criticizes what he sees as a double standard in the arena of international human rights. including the argument that there was no conspiracy to commit genocide.
and extermination. Genocide Denial Law and Its Limitations Gallimore argues that genocide denial has serious consequences and the laws against genocide denial in Rwanda and in other countries should be seen as an important component of the responsibility to prevent reoccurrence of genocide. Gallimore argues that these laws should be viewed as an important component of the “responsibility to prevent” reoccurrence of genocide and the “responsibility to rebuild” the society after the 1994 genocide within a context that supports human rights for all. expression that incites violence can be banned. intimidation. Spain. 10 . such forms of denial are even more difficult to detect because they emanate from the politics of unity and reconciliation that have served as the main pillar of a peaceful post-genocide society. and genocide minimization under its domestic laws. Under the emerging responsibility to protect doctrine. genocide denial.” He also reports recent incidents in South Africa. Australia. the double standard is even more obvious considering that these countries have constitutions that are the most protective of freedom of speech. In Rwanda. the Rwandan government is upholding its responsibility by outlawing and punishing genocide ideology. Gallimore stresses that in light of the practice in numerous Western countries that have for so many years been prosecuting and punishing those who deny the Holocaust or threaten vulnerable populations. Based on this doctrine. including the right of vulnerable minority populations to be free from threat. However. and the United States where national laws against threatening speech have been upheld when challenged on freedom of expression grounds. hard to identify and therefore escape the laws’ reach.denial fit within this international regime for protecting human rights. I would like to add that some forms of genocide denial are very subtle.
the ethnic divisions imposed by colonial powers had become progressively a part of the Rwanda collective memory and crystallized even more so by the genocide in 1994. it was imperative that Rwanda deconstruct the subsequently constructed and manipulated identities under the bad governance characterized by division. In the course of more than sixty years. succeed in reconciling and creating new positive relationships. In March 1999. in order to build a nation where everybody has a right to belong. throughout its mission. and is still not. it is important to understand the politics of unity and reconciliation in Rwanda. the government established the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission to mobilize Rwandans to reconcile and to reunify a society that had been torn apart by war and mass atrocities committed primarily by civilians. the genocide became a shared final fate that sealed their cohesion. ethnic and tribal groups. One Rwandan scholar of conflict resolution. putting this idealized homogenous identity into action was not. which are mutually beneficial to Rwandans?” (Shyaka 2005) To foster unity and reconciliation among the people of Rwanda. 11 . human rights abuse and acts of violence. For Tutsi. Anastase Shyaka. Hutu and Tutsi were all Rwandans before they were divided into the so-called racial. Despite the good will of the Rwandan government. states these challenges in the following rhetorical questions: “Will it (National Unity and Reconciliation) be able to rebuild Rwandans’ wounded hearts and restore the unique identity which has been so far mislabeled? Will it. a state difficult to change for the sake of unity and reconciliation.genocide Rwanda chose the pre-colonial homogenous identity in which Twa. discrimination.To understand the process by which these forms of denial are embedded in many of the perpetrators’ testimonies. an easy task. The post.
survivors referred to the perpetrators as beasts. and the film based on it. Rwandan President Paul Kagame told The New York Times journalist. 12 . the artist and filmmaker Edouard Bamporiki talks about the shame of the Hutu. ‘I am a survivor’” (Ziegler. 16). Hutu perpetrators killed their own humanity. He said. Ikimwaro kuli jye. In an interview with journalist Maggie Ziegler of Peace Magazine. May 4. but we can't simply punish the perpetrators indefinitely. This unconscious grammatical strategy served as a defense mechanism to protect the survivors’ own humanity. We'll never have full justice. felt especially by the younger generation. 2009). On the other hand. p. innocent Hutu in general had to endure the shame that has befallen their group. or would simply use pronouns referring to animals by shifting from the human noun class to the animal noun class when describing the perpetrators. survivors needed to distance themselves from the perpetrators. 2013. Icyaha kuri bo. In many testimonies given after the genocide. Bamporiki talks about some Hutu who. On the issue of cohabitation between perpetrators and survivors. changed their identity when they migrated from the village to the city. Philip Gourevitch that "we'll never make the survivors happy. and we need to recycle them as members of society and make them good. In his book of poetry and memoir. These are some of the challenges that the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission has had to face. where the previous leadership made them bad" (PBS News Hour. far from his family. (A Sin to Them and Shame on Me).It is also important to recognize that in the course of genocide. out of shame. We need them as part of the society. In order to regain the humanity lost during the long dehumanization process before and during the genocide. titled The Long Coat. “You knew him as a Hutu but in conversation between him and others. he says.
they are told that they committed these heinous crimes because of an evil spirit. in which the audience was invited to hear a perpetrator and a survivor give their testimonies. Others talk about bad leadership as the root cause of their crime. an evil against which the community can unite in order to put an end to a permanent threat of violence (Girard. This concept is accepted in many traditional societies. Confessions also allow perpetrators to feel better about themselves. It is not surprising to hear the following statements in perpetrators’ testimonies: “we were possessed by the devil. 1989 and 1972). I attended the closing ceremony for the Gacaca courts. In June 2012. Despite peaceful cohabitation and the apparently truthful confessions. including Rwanda. the system of community justice inspired by tradition and reestablished in 2001 in Rwanda. In reconciliation villages where survivors and perpetrators live side-by-side and work in the same cooperative under church leadership.serve as what the French thinker Renée Girard calls “a scapegoat”. A man. The real issue of denial resides in the narrative recounting the crimes committed.During the Ingando civic education camp sessions organized by the Unity and Reconciliation Commission. The abstract concepts -. This formula helps perpetrators regain their humanity because it allows them to deny the full responsibilities of their acts. personal responsibility seems to be missing from their testimonies.” “the devil made us do it” and more. These teachings somehow seem to alleviate their shame and guilt and help them to regain their humanity. “During the genocide.“bad leadership” or a remote force such as “the devil. a group of militiamen came and told 13 . around the age of 40 stood up and recounted his crimes as follows.” -. perpetrators learn that they are not intrinsically bad people but that bad leadership corrupted them and that these leaders masterminded the genocide. the perpetrators simply followed orders.
One of the perpetrators decided to tell of the tremendous achievement of the Church that seeks to put an end of the cycle of violence in Rwanda. unable to put into words what the Rwandan speaker found amusing in the last statement. the crime of genocide has become trivialized and subtly denied. they rejected their personal responsibility for killing and blamed bad leadership and the devil. I observed another compelling example of trivialization of the crime of genocide among a group of perpetrators living side-by-side with survivors in a village of peace and reconciliation near Nyamata. but the laughter that 14 . I killed a woman and a child. What stuck me was the fact that he did not appreciate the impact of his statement. I stole the case of soda. without showing any emotion or even a grain of remorse. placing the crime of stealing in the same linear progression and with the same degree of gravity as homicides. 1963. The use of the metaphor gave intensity to the killing that he did in 1994. In the first house. 1990. in 1959. we killed them also in 1962. “we killed Tutsi. I paused. I killed eight people and now I live peacefully in a reconciliation village with this woman standing with me whose arm I cut off. 1964. It seemed that through this reconciliation process. In the next house. Most of the perpetrators recounted their genocide crimes and as usual. He said. it was a rinse.” His metaphoric statement was followed by laughter in which the other perpetrators in the group joined. He started his conversation by showing how the crime of the genocide went unpunished through the years. I was interpreting the perpetrators’ testimonies for a group of American students visiting Rwanda in June 2013. This was not a court testimony but a testimony showing the process of justice and reconciliation in the post-genocide society. and in the following house. but in 1994.” What struck me in this testimony was the impassible face of the perpetrator as he gave his account of the facts in chronological order. 1973.us to follow them so that they can show us how to get rich and we followed them.
(May 4. (1972). Such subtle forms of denial can easily go undetected and unpunished by the law. reconciliation requires first the recognition of the crime of genocide by the perpetrator. an essential step to healing and closing a wound. They grinned without a comment. Violence and the Sacred. On the other hand. preserving memory through an accurate narrative. For the survivor. R. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.html. Rwandans Struggle To Heal National Wounds. 15 . Bibliography Girard. Have the perpetrators gone through the motions so many times and reached the point where they no longer see the negative impact of their heinous crimes? Did being accepted by survivors as a part of their community put the perpetrators so much at ease that they can easily joke about their crimes? These are questions that demonstrate the challenge of balancing reconciliation with the need to prevent trivialization and denial of the genocide. These cases are subtle forms of denial and trivialization of genocide that can negatively affect both the survivor and the listener. A testimony without such recognition re-wounds and cripples the victim. (1989). R. The Scapegoat. That is why intensive education and critical scholarship need to supplement the law.org/newshour/bb/africa/jan-june09/rwanda_0504. Girard. I believe that this special issue will add to the needed enlightenment and to the goals of reconciliation. 2009).followed his statement diminished the seriousness of the whole testimony and abruptly pushed the audience out of the context of the genocide. survivors in the group were not amused. and preventing future genocides.” http://www. “Fifteen Years After The Genocide.pbs. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. PBS News Hour.
Development. http://peacemagazine.pdf?sequence=1.lib. 2013).Shyaka. Exit Strategies.” Kigali: National Commission for Unity and Reconciliation. http://repositories. M. (2005) “The Rwanda Conflict: Origin.” Accessed April 15. Ziegler. 16 . (July-Sep. 2012. “Breaking the Silence on the Rwanda Genocide: An Interview with Edouard Bamporiki.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/4746/3833.org/archive/v29n3p16.utexas. 2012.htm. A. Accessed April 15.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.