This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Dominique Payette Abstract Genocide memory in Rwanda needs to overcome two specific difficulties that give a stronghold to denial. Prejudices and stereotypes in media representations of Africa strongly influenced the Canadian population on these subjects; the second specific difficulty is that the genocide in Rwanda is supposed to be so complicated that it would be impossible to choose one narrative over another. Keywords Mugesera extradition, Africa media representations, genocide denial rhetoric Introduction
Links between Quebec and Rwanda have been very important since the 1960s. As a French speaking society, since the country’s independence, Quebec has contributed to its development as Rwanda sought to distance itself from Belgium, its colonizing country. Quebec was perceived by Rwanda to be an ideal ally during the first years of autonomy, and numerous cooperative programs were developed at this time. Despite these links, or because of them, the genocide in Rwanda is not clearly interpreted in Quebec. This article will examine two major obstacles to an accurate portrayal of the genocide in Rwanda in the Quebec media: the first obstacle consists of ingrained prejudice against Africa, and the second, the idea of the complexity of the topic. To support this comment and to verify this hypothesis, we shall refer to the extradition from Canada of Léon Mugesera to his country, Rwanda, in January 2012, and the coverage of this event by three major daily newspapers in Quebec. 1 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013, Volume 1 Number 2
which the audience probably has not experienced directly. as Brauman and Backmann (1998). but one that sometimes is quite dissimilar. The interpretations of this phenomenon can be broken down into three categories: 1) that the legacy of colonization and racial prejudice shapes Western media's view of Africa. 2004). The process of selecting. and Roy (2004) believe. the media must reduce subjects or events into small bites likely to be understood. and the way events pertaining to what is happening in Africa are presented. Lavoine (2002). African societies. among others. that portrayals of Africa are negative because the situation there is basically hopeless (Smith. we need to understand how the Québec media portrays sub-Saharan Africa." to quote Daniele Mezzana. Unfortunately. and. This is not a value judgment: neither journalists nor sociologists are able to account for all their 2 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. Mars 2003). a view held by. Theoretically. in this society. they portray it in a very negative light. the Quebec media usually represent subSaharan Africa negatively. N°4. the media enable the audience to acquire an accurate view of the reality they are describing. 2) that the close links between humanitarian aid and Western journalism are primarily responsible for these negative portrayals.First. create a media-driven depiction that often significantly differs from Africa's social and political reality. The media does shape much of audience conceptions of reality because they are. Bruno Gouteux. perpetuating a "cancerous image. framing and producing the informative narrative. the main source by which individuals construct their worldview. (Mezzana. To be able to describe reality. Volume 1 Number 2 . Africa is widely ignored by the media. media reality is formed through a process of selecting and reframing information. supporting and reinforcing European "Afro-pessimism." The journalistic narrative highlights a reality based on material reality. when they do become interested in it. In fact. 3) although a minority view.
because not everything can be taken into account. scientific fact. given that the media are unique in defining themselves as independent of the dominant ideologies within society. sometimes the various dailies publish the same information from the same sources. What's more. of course. in information media. within which the realities of society or the world are presented authentically. as much as possible." "Here is everything that you need to know about the reality of a phenomenon. According to Mezzana "the 3 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. contrary to fiction. as The New York Times motto on the front page of every edition says." "Here is all the reality of the world. of news reporting from Africa. choices must be made. All the more so. "All The News That's Fit To Print. Volume 1 Number 2 . It should be noted that topics dealing with Africa in the various media are generally in the form of news agency dispatches from Agence France-Press." "Here is the entire truth about this event." Or. Associated Press and Reuters. we implicitly understand the following: "Here are today's important facts. in other words. as they generally have no direct experience of it. the quantitative imbalance. the recurring themes related to this news. Thus. raises the issue of the international flow of news and shortage (and poor quality)." The analysis of African news in the Québec media points to a few quantitative and qualitative global constants and ultimately. Media representations should translate reality as best they can (Cramer and McDevitt. in their entirety. This.observations in the development of the subject under study. The media even claim to demystify these ideologies by producing and disseminating presumably objective and transparent information. 2004) so that their audience can get a realistic idea of what is being described. The aim of social science methods is to give these representations—which are indispensable for grasping what is real—a form that resembles. In every case.
Media outlets rarely send reporters or correspondents. and Côte d'Ivoire. I noted that the media had little interest in or space for current events in Africa. Volume 1 Number 2 . United Press International and Associated Press) belong to only three countries and that these four agencies release most of the news to the press rooms worldwide" (2003:12). Agence France-Presse. accentuated by the concentration of stories on violence. humanitarian crises. even when other countries appeared in the media discourse. Tunisia. With the exception of the pervasiveness of the news from these countries. such as the famine in Somalia and its collateral effects. subjects in the Québec media could be classified under two headings that revealed recurring themes: Political developments. a 4 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. In addition to political crises. despairing tone. This dependence of the Québec media on agencies also indicates the little attention paid to the continent. was another recurring theme. especially the crises in Libya. Egypt. Over and above the commercial pressures inherent in the context of the current media crisis. As Rothmyer wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review : “Most Africans will have to starve in order to make it onto the evening news” (2011). In his satirical article on “How to write about Africa” Wainaina. appearing content with the already known and conforming to readers' desires and expectations and simultaneously reinforcing them? Having collected newspaper articles over a four-week period. Sometimes there was a complete absence of news about Africa for several consecutive days. confining itself to event-driven news. it also appears that business criteria contribute to creating conformity. preferring instead to use agency dispatches. In general. In fact. information was presented in a ghoulish.vast imbalances are even more apparent bearing in mind that the four leading international press agencies (Reuters. one needs to ask: is it in order not to shake up its public that the media prefers simplistic stories.
with Côte d'Ivoire and the violence in Nigeria. as happened during the time of this study. has also identified perfectly the stereotypes generally used to describe Africa as seen through Western eyes.Kenyan. Volume 1 Number 2 ." There was no mention of Rwanda on that date. We can imagine how strong the impact of stereotypical news can be. despair and compassion. can we find articles or reports that present sub-Saharan Africa less negatively. The impact that this perspective has on African societies is also important. Only rarely. on April 7. We know that a focus on stereotypes creates a simplistic image against a backdrop of trivialization and indifference. The analysis of how information related to Africa is handled in the Québec media points to an Afro-pessimism coupled with "follow-the-leader" reporting in the media. representations of Africa in Québec display an image of immense chaos. The Africa described by the Québec media is dramatically sombre. La Presse." "Deadly shipwreck in the Mediterranean. as pointed out by the famous Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when talking about her own life in “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009)." "Abidjan plunged into terror. It is 5 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. To conclude. The overriding tone of media content is a mixture of cynicism. In addition. as if neither civil society nor governments exist in Africa. She talks about one-sided literature. we see that one event can quickly overshadow another. contributing to obscuring the political causes of these situations and preventing any consideration of political solutions. This kind of approach to current events in Africa is seen through a prism of inevitability. and practically never deal with civil society in these countries and even less with the democratic processes that may be unfolding. This negative viewpoint can be seen from the titles of three articles published in the Montréal daily. exceedingly rarely. 2011: "Côte d'Ivoire in chaos.
and he was frequently described as one of the leaders of the Hutu Power movement of the MRND. all suspects except those found guilty of Category 1 crimes may receive a reduced sentence in exchange for a confession and the implication of others. The law categorizes crimes into four classes. He is therefore on the list of suspects in the first category. the extradition of Léon Mugesera to his country of origin was seen in the media as a risk to his life.not surprising that with this as the backdrop. Léon Mugesera is now being prosecuted in Kigali and is defending himself against the charges of planning and inciting. Some Facts About the Case Before moving to Canada. He was the vice-president of the prefectural committee of the MRND of Gisenyi (which was the prefecture of President Juvénal Habyarimana). He was also a political adviser to the Mouvement républicain national pour la démocratie et le développement (MRND) [national republican movement for democracy and development]. commonly known as the Organic Law. or supervised the killings from the national to the local level and those who raped or killed with particular cruelty. Léon Mugesera is considered by the judicial authorities in Rwanda to be one of the political executives responsible for planning the 1994 genocide. as 6 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. Category 1 includes the leaders of the genocide. Volume 1 Number 2 . Rwanda adopted a law to deal with the genocide on August 30. 1996. According to the Organic Law. those who planned. organized. Léon Mugesera taught in the Faculty of Literature at the National University of Rwanda (UNR). Although he left Rwanda for Canada in 1993 (one year before the genocide).
But the disclosure of the Kabaya speech—thanks to investigative journalism—led Canadian authorities to take a closer look at their new permanent resident. attempted by all the legal means available to him. in the prefecture of Gisenyi. In that context.” surprisingly. to avoid extradition to Rwanda. no doubt fascinating for jurists but not important here.well as arms trafficking. This statement is in line with the racist propaganda of the Hutu Power movement inspired by biblical mythology and racialist theories from the nineteenth century. in which he very clearly threatened the Tutsi with rapid and violent "return" to Ethiopia. supposedly their country of origin. Volume 1 Number 2 . which led to accusations of his "having hidden information” from governmental employees concerning his request for permanent residence. where he is now under trial. The Coverage What is really interesting in this case is the acute media interest in the story and the unusual coverage it got in contrast to the minimal coverage Africa generally gets. Mugesera is mainly accused of giving an infamous speech in Kabaya. He quickly obtained permanent residency. The Canadian government put Léon Mugesera on a plane to Kigali at the end of January 2012. Finally. the Mugesera story really “made it. A legal sag. Canada doesn’t extradite people who risk receiving the death penalty in their own country. The articles analyzed in 7 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. Léon Mugesera had been living in Quebec City with his family since 1993. followed in which Mugesera. into the evening news.” since Rwanda abolished the death penalty in 2007. a small village in the northwest. Mugesera gave that speech in 1992 as the vice-president of the prefectural committee of the MRND in Gisenyi. in December 2011 the Federal Government decided that “[Mugesera] would not face significant risks if he were returned to his country of origin.
this study come from three major francophone daily papers in Quebec. 2012. breathlessly asking. Also on January 6. ruling that nothing stood in the way of his deportation. 2012." La Presse reported the long list of appeals and stays of proceedings submitted by his lawyers. 2012). "Léon Mugesera requests a stay". A textual/qualitative analysis of the media coverage reveals three basic themes: First there is a thriller. “Can he win? Will he stay?” Underlying this story were other questions. while Le Soleil had the headline "Deportation of Mugesera: seeking another stay. 2011 to February 8th. then a very confused story which attempted to contextualize the situation. Mugesera’s aim was clear: to delay extradition. The study covers a period of five weeks. Volume 1 Number 2 . Le Devoir and La Presse. His case finally reached the Supreme Court. The press fell over itself. the Canadian Refugee Board first ordered Mugesera’s deportation." 8 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. I found and analyzed 60 articles in three daily papers. which dealt with the story. from the confirmation of Mugesera's extradition from Canada. to his arrival in Kigali and the beginning of his legal proceedings there (from January 5th. such as “What kind of justice will apply?” As of January 6. which declared him inadmissible to Canada in 2005. Le Soleil. Le Soleil and Le Devoir mentioned the stay of proceedings in the Mugesera case. In 1996. the press covered the story like a thriller with daily updates of the many steps taken by Mugesera’s lawyers to appeal the decision before various Canadian legal authorities. The first request for a stay followed a 15-year tug-of-war with the Canadian government. a family drama… A Thriller First. and finally. under the headline "Deportation order: Léon Mugesera requests another delay. followed by years of appeals and stays.
maintains Mugesera”. Peter Erlinder." and the other in the January 27th issue of Le Soleil. I suggest that the choice of words was not due to ignorance. entitled "It is about time.” in Le Devoir of January 10th. meaning “to send somebody to a concentration camp or to displace by force”. 2012 issue of La Presse. on January 25th. in Canadian history.” But. quoting the US lawyer. the headline was “I will be killed between the airport and the prison. It took a long time before the press coverage provided a balance between the alleged risk to Mugesera and the seriousness of the charges against him. Just two editorials in the media analyzed the Mugesera case. “Léon Mugesera runs the risk of being tortured if he’s expelled.” which is highly symbolic and evokes the Holocaust or. Volume 1 Number 2 . The headlines were also very meaningful. the media used the word “déportation. the right term in French would be “extradition. In Mugesera's case. entitled "A Rwandan affair. In La Presse. for La Presse and Le Soleil. as in English. The media used the most dramatic word to set the story’s tone. Again.I would like to draw the reader’s attention to the wording used by the media." 9 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. In French. “expulsion” or to expel is “to send somebody somewhere else” and “extradition” means to extradite or to return somebody to his or her country’s justice system. proclaimed his lawyer. the word “déportation” or "déporter" (to deport) has a more sinister connotation than in English. one in the January 24th. and those were published only after Mugesera's deportation.” trumpeted Le Soleil on January 6th. the deportation of the Acadians by the British Government between 1755 and 1762. In French. these words are not synonymous. “The Mugesera trial in Rwanda would be a mere mockery. that balance was only seen after Mugesera’s extradition. In fact. most of the time. but was deliberate.
"Mugesera case: the former Rwandan Prime Minister takes the stand")." also applied to the reaction of former dignitaries from Rwanda. Le Soleil announced: "Léon Mugesera will die tortured. Stephen Harper. sent a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister. 2012. as well as academics. Finally. he opposed the extradition of Léon Mugesera. While Le Soleil analyzed the January 6. A few days later. 2012 announcement of the imminent deportation -. On January 7th. he added his voice to those who denounced the imminent deportation of Léon Mugesera (Le Soleil January 10th. to request that Léon Mugesera be tried on Canadian soil. or defenders of human rights. according to the reporter. the story became very confusing. artists or intellectuals who were living in Canada. An independent candidate in the 2007 presidential elections.A Very Confused Story After the extradition. the former Rwandan Prime Minister.with the headline "Rwandans in Québec relieved" -." This focus on "unease. Most of them were clearly against his deportation to Rwanda for multiple reasons. that Léon Mugesera would have a fair trial if he were to be deported.it wrote an article the next day entitled "The Mugesera case: unease in the community. The media focused on the debate that was sparked by this case among the Canadian public and gathered the opinions and positions of Rwandans living in Canada. the man recognized for saving the lives of 1260 people in the Milles Collines hotel in Kigali during the 1994 genocide and who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda. In accordance with this position. Faustin Twagiramungu. Rusesabagina claims to be a human rights defender. Emmanuel Hakizimana." These comments were made by the Chair of the Rwandan Congress of Canada. Volume 1 Number 2 . "the Mugesera case" was 10 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. for an instance. Paul Rusesabagina. made essentially the same comments. He did not believe.
Volume 1 Number 2 . when journalists are not convinced or are unsure of the facts. what is being expressed here is precisely the rhetoric of denial. The website asked the public to make donations through PayPal. Cunningham could have used the example of Mugesera’s extradition to illustrate what he meant in 2003 when he invited journalists to “re-think objectivity”. He consciously constructed a mystery around the genocide: we don't know everything. including divergent or conflicting information. if we really knew we would see it in another way. On this subject. the conclusion was “What a complicated story… Can I really understand it?” We teach in journalism schools that when a reporter says: “This is a complicated story”. In doing so. Le Soleil reported this on January the 16th. they rely on what is referred to as: "balanced coverage". Even the French title of his book: 11 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013.presented to the public for their reaction via a website entitled: "A website to save Mugesera". 2012.” Objectivity excuses lazy reporting. ” I want to make it clear that. which means presenting all sides of the story. it is understood that the journalist has capitulated and has weakened his or her own report. and so forth. In such circumstances. which ends up creating great confusion among the public. However. At that time he wrote: “… our pursuit of objectivity can trip us up on the way to “truth. there is a PR person out there somewhere who is very happy…”. I would like to take a closer look at the nature of comments made by the Canadian writer Robin Philpot. inducing the public to question its own judgement: “How can I be sure if the reporter believes it to be so complicated?” What we see here is uncertain journalistic coverage. you cannot have it both ways. in this discussion of the supposed complexity of the genocide in Rwanda. In the end.
1 Interestingly. Volume 1 Number 2 .” I believe that the coverage of the genocide in Rwanda was not only lazy. A Family Drama Finally. Le Soleil ran the headline. adults today. to consternation and resignation”. More recently in Le Devoir. We were informed about the feelings of the family. it was a story of family drama. at the beginning April 2012. no reference was made to the genocide victims in Rwanda and their own families. Curiously. Mugesera’s wife said: “I am not ashamed to be his wife” in the headline of an article in Le Soleil after the extradition." I believe that this ambiguous treatment by the Québec press represents an important victory for deniers. Irénée. suggests this mystery. When Mugesera’s oldest son. It was manipulated. the headline was: “Mugesera’s son confides in our reporter”. one of his opinion columns was entitled "The Mugesera case. the title of the English translation of his book is " Rwanda 1994: Colonialism dies hard" and not “It didn’t happen this way in Kigali” 12 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. The last aspect concerned the Mugesera family and friends’ reactions to his extradition and of course this aspect was very emotional.” The public was asking itself: “Does it deserve to be treated as a family drama?” We learned a lot about Mugesera's family situation. living in Quebec City. “The departure of Léon Mugesera is tearing the family apart. Afua Hirsch condemned what she called “the West’s lazy reporting of Africa. the mystery continues. In The Guardian newspaper. He is the father of five children.“Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali" (It didn't happen that way in Kigali1). talked with a reporter. which ran the whole gamut “from shock.
Deniers are confusing and manipulating the press. it needs to confront the alleged criminals of the first category.Conclusion What should we understand and remember about this coverage? Is there something that helps us answer the central question on denial in the Western media? First of all. 2011 to February 8th. This will allow the public to develop confidence in the national system of justice and to understand and deconstruct the racist genocide ideology.lapresse. Rwanda is also dependent on the chaotic representation of their continent in the Western press. Volume 1 Number 2 . Bibliography Quebec daily newspapers: Montreal. This is a problem that should be addressed by the media itself. who rely on intermediaries to understand the genocide. So far the Rwandan society has not been allowed to put the ideology of genocide on trial in its own territory. 2012 13 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. To do that. Rwanda is a nation that remains unfamiliar to Canadian journalists.ca/ January 5th. La Presse: http://www. As Hannah Arendt said. Having him tried in his own country is a major step toward a peaceful future. "men are unable to forgive what they cannot punish and are unable to punish what turns out to be unforgivable" (1958). And Mugesera is a category 1 offender. Genocide survivors must be more visible and their voices must be stronger to take on a greater role in the media fight. let me reveal that it was a big surprise to finally see Mugesera put on a plane. It is an important decision for Rwandan history. But the lesson is also that it will not be an easy road. And as an African country.
ca/le-soleil/ January 5th. Le Soleil: http://www. N°4. The Danger of a Single Story. Le Monde diplomatique. Victoires.com/ January 5th. 2011 to February 8th. http://blog. Hannah. 14 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013. In: IORIO.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/15/west-lazy-reporting-africa LAVOINE. MCDEVITT.fr/2004/10/ROY/11569 SMITH. 2012 ADICHIE NGOZI.cjr.cjr. Lyon : Presses universitaires. Chicago : 1958.ledevoir. Columbia Journalism Review. Janet.guardian. Les périls du tout-humanitaire. 2012 Montreal.lapresse. Bruno. Brent. 2004:127143. Michael. “Hiding the Real Africa”. http://www. The Human Condition. July-August 2003. The Guardian. Columbia Journalism Review. http//bruno. March 2003.) Qualitative Research in Journalism. CUNNIGHAM. On line.Quebec city. “Re-thinking Objectivity”. Chimamanda. http://www.free.org/reports/hiding_the_real_africa. Mahwah (USA): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Karen. Daniele.com/2009/10/07/the_danger_of_a/ ARENDT. Les médias et l’humanitaire.php?page=all GOUTEUX. October 2004. René. Volume 1 Number 2 . Pourquoi l’Afrique meurt. Paris : 1998. MEZZANA.php?page=all ROY. Yves. 2002. Paris : Calmann-Levy. African societies. Stephen. http://www.monde-diplomatique. Afua. 2003.fr/textes/Rep-soc-afrique. Arundhati. Négrologie. L’humanitaire et les médias. University of Chicago Press. April 2012. Ethnographic Journalism.htm HIRSH. (No more avalaible) ROTHMYER. http://www.org/feature/rethinking_objectivity. BACKMANN. The west’s lazy reporting on Africa.gouteux. Le Devoir: http://www. 2011 to February 8th. Sharon (ed.ted. Rony. BRAUMAN. CRAMER.co. March-April 2011.
How to Write about Africa.WAINAINA. Volume 1 Number 2 . http://www. Binyavanga.granta.com/Archive/92/Howto-Write-about-Africa/Page-1 15 The International Journal of Conflict & Reconciliation Fall 2013.