Rwanda: The Genocide Ideology Then and Now

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Rwanda: The Genocide Ideology Then and Now

Analysis and Comments on
Ugur Ungor’s ‘Justifier l’injustifiable: Ideologie en genocide in Rwanda’
in Vrede en Veiligheid 33, 2004-3; pp.342-358

Olivier Nyirubugara
February 2008


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Olivier Nyirubugara, Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, Rédacteur
©O. Nyirubugara,October 2006

About fourteen years after the Rwandan genocide, the wounds caused not only by it but also by the related wars that preceded and followed it are still fresh and are showing no sign of healing soon. In early December 2007, a parliamentary commission issued an alarming report about the genocide ideology in Rwanda’s schools. The commission’s chairperson said the genocide ideology had increased in schools to an extent that there is ground to fear another genocide in coming years [1] . She said the investigations had shown that children were being intoxicated by their parents and teachers, who told them that when the Hutu were attacked in 1990 they exercised their legitimate defence right, which was called a genocide. The commission stated that immediate drastic measures needed to be taken to prevent another genocide. On 19 December of the same year, the minister of education Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya was summoned by the parliament on that issue and was blamed for having taken no measures to prevent such developments. [2] The above might appear alarming indeed, but my concern in this essay is to carefully consider what is meant by ‘genocide ideology’ rendered in Kinyarwanda as ingengabitekerezo and especially who is spreading it and how. Though no documentary evidence has yet been provided to back the planning of the 1994 genocide, it is commonly believed both by scholars and the general public, that a certain ideology – the Hutu-power ideology – was thoroughly thought out and conveyed by media, culminating in the killing of about a million Tutsi.

While no one could deny the loss of innocent lives in the summer 1994, it is worth looking back at that genocide ideology especially now that the genocide ideologists are in prison (or are hiding out, or simply are afraid of speaking and writing) and no hatred media are spreading the genocide poison in Rwanda. Where are the teachers and parents fetching the genocide ideology from? Why is it called ideology? By the way, where is the boundary between ideology and memory? As I write this article, two other major genocide-related events are in the air, namely the publishing of Paix et châtiment’ by Florence Hartman (2007) [3] and the revision of the life imprisonment sentence to 25 years for the genocide media bosses by the Appeals Chamber of the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). I want thus to explore the above posed questions in light of Ungor’s Justifier l’injustifiable. I will first discuss Ungor’s perception of the genocide background and aftermath before considering his understanding and presentation of the Hutu-Power ideology, another name given to the genocide ideology in Rwanda. I will close with a reflection about the relationship between collective memory and ideology in post genocide Rwanda.

The Background and Aftermath of the 1994 Genocide

Published only months after the sentencing to life imprisonment of the ‘genocide media bosses’ by the ICTR on 3 December 2003, Ungor’s Justifier l’injustifiable is almost entirely built upon that verdict. In thirteen pages constituting the article’s body, he mentions that sentence three times (pp.342, 346, 347) and opens the article with:

Het vonnis van het International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) bevat een lange lijst van zeer ernstige misdaden die de beklaagden - Ferdinand Nahimana, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza and Hassan Ngeze –hebben gepleegd. (Ungor, 2004: p. 342)

The judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) comprises a long list of very serious crimes that the accused – Ferdinand Nahimana, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza and Hassan Ngeze – have committed (Ungor, 2004: p. 342. Translation by Olivier Nyirubugara).

In his article, Ungor implies that an ideology and the ideologists existed as well as the media to vehicle it. Besides, he traces that ideology back to the colonial epoch and blames the Belgians for instituting identity cards with ethnic mentions therein and a pro-Tutsi racistic policy (Ungor, 2004: p.343). He also suggests that initially the three ethnic groups were social economic classes of cattle breeders (Tutsi), cultivators (Hutu), and ceramists (Twa). He reinforces his arguments with the fact that all the three groups speak the same language – Kinyarwanda. This appears to be a misleading drawing of the Rwandan social and ethnographical map. While it is doubtless that the Belgians voluntarily implemented a pro-Tutsi policy, its justification was not to create the Tutsi primacy over the two other ethnic groups. Like their German predecessors and other colonizers elsewhere in Africa, they needed to collaborate with local leaders to peacefully settle, govern and exploit the conquered land. For that, they necessarily had to maintain and support an existing order, which thus suggests that primacy and inequality existed already when Europeans entered Rwanda. Democratizing Rwanda in the late 19th early 20th centuries would have necessarily created conflicts with the Tutsi establishment.

Like some other Rwanda genocide researchers, Ungor does not explore the pre-colonization era and its oral traditions, which, in many cases, shed some instructive light to the Rwandan society even today. In his study of the dynastic poems, ethnographer-historian-philosopher Alexis Kagame studies the myths according to which many Tutsi clans (the Abasindi, Abashambo, Abahondogo and Abega) are of celestial descent and are thus superior. With such a background, the Abasindi sub-clan of Abanyiginya could justify their monopoly in giving the monarch for over five centuries and the rest in giving the monarchs’ wives (Kagame 1954: 37-61). It is clear here that it was not a question of sharing power among cattle breeders and cultivators but rather of sharing power among the members of the former group. Whereas the celestial origins could not be taken for historical truth, the fact that the monarch was always a Tutsi from the Nyiginya sub-clan is a historical reality which dates long before the coming of the colonizers. In this respect, any study of the Rwandan genocide and its genesis should necessarily consider the pre-colonization period if it aspires to be complete and comprehensive. What Ungor terms Hutu antipathy against the Tutsi (p.343) should be considered not only during colonization but even before, since it could be argued that it was a continuation of an existing antipathy. The Tutsi establishment in the late 50s based their hard-line stand against the Hutu emancipationist movement on the foundation myth according to which the Nyiginya [Tutsi] ancestor Kigwa’s [The one who landed from heavens] posterity conquered the Hutu kingdoms, emasculated their monarchs, and thus never had any brotherly relations with the Hutu. For this reason, Hutu had no basis whatsoever to ask for more rights and a role in public affairs. [4] The Tutsi establishment’s myth-based attitude confirms Bo Strath’s remark that:

Myths assume the dimensions of reality in the sense, and to the extent, that people believe in them. From this perspective, they cannot be separated or distinguished from reality and truth, but rather they constitute this reality and truth through language. (Strath: 2000: p. 25)

Concerning the more recent period, Ungor portrays the situation in a very simplistic, undocumented way. He writes for instance that the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), the Tutsi rebel movement attacked Rwanda in October 1990 (Ungor, 2004: p.343), but never instructs the reader about the consequences of that war on the social, economic, and political grounds in Rwanda. A quick comparative study about the pre-war and post-war social relationships among the Hutu and Tutsi could have considerably illuminated his pen. He rather hastens to say that in the three years that followed, the Hutu extremists started a hatred-creating campaign against the Tutsi, and, once again, fails to illustrate the reader about any possible connection between the October war and that ‘collective hatred’ (Ungor, 2004: p.343). In other words, he should have researched the question why that collective hatred waited until October 1990 to break out, and, this is often omitted, whether the same anti-Hutu collective hatred also existed in the Tutsi’s camp.

Worse, he asserts that on 6 April 1994, Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana was killed by the very Hutu extremists, as his plane was landing in Kigali after talks with the RPF in Tanzania (Ungor, 2004: p.343). While the fictional meeting with the RPF could be named an excusable confusion between a regional summit of Heads of State (or their representatives), the argument that the Hutu shot down Habyarimana’s jet needs serious consideration. Scholarly precaution would have dictated a different attitude in a so fresh, not-yet-clarified case like Habyarimana’s murder. Unlike Ungor, Filip Reyntjens prudently advances multiple hypotheses with argumentation for each (Reyntjens, 1996: pp-20-43). He includes the hypothesis of the Hutu extremists helped by French soldiers (p.20); the Burundi hypothesis according to which president Cyprien Ntaryamira was the main target (p.32) [5]; the hypothesis of a failed coup by southerners (p.33); and the RPF hypothesis which he strongly favours (p. 38). Regarding the RPF hypothesis he writes:

Le FPR savait qu’il serait probablement perdant dans un processus politique compétitif. Il en avait fait l’expérience amère lors des élections locales organisées en septembre 1993 dans les huit communes de la zone démilitarisée. Alors qu’il s’agissait d’une région que ni l’armée rwandaise, ni le MRND ou les milices contrôlaient physiquement et alors que le FPR avait pu présenter des candidats et mener campagne, l’ancien parti unique avait remporté tous les postes de bourgmestre dans les sous-préfectures de Kinihira (Byumba) et de Kirambo (Ruhengeri). Il était clair que le FPR ne faisait pas le poids face au MRND, du moins dans les préfectures du Nord. (Reyntjens: 1996: pp.41-42)

The RPF knew that it would probably loose in any competitive political process. They had already suffered a bitter defeat during the local elections organised in September 1993 in the eight communes in the demilitarised zone. Whereas the region was controlled neither by the Rwandan army nor by the MRND [ruling party] nor by the militias and whereas the RPF had managed to present candidates and to campaign, the former state-party won all the burgomasters’ posts in the Kinihira (Byumba) and Kirambo (Ruhengeri) sub-prefectures. It is clear that the RPF was no strong adversary for the MRND, at least in northern prefectures. (Reyntjens: 1996: pp.41-42. Translation by Olivier Nyirubugara)

In his analysis, Reyntjens has in mind that writing about fresh history requires much precaution and this attitude puts him in a comfortable position when later revelations come out. One of these revelations is the findings of French judge Jean Louis Bruguiere, according to which RPF leader and current president Paul Kagame started planning the killing of Habyarimana soon after the signing of the August 1993 Arusha Peace Accord (Bruguiere 2006: p.14). Among others, Bruguiere bases his warrants of arrest against RPF top leaders on the testimony of Abdul Ruzibiza, a former RPF special agent who claims to have been part of the special team that downed the presidential jet. [6] In his own book, Ruzibiza writes that the plane was shot down by two RPF special agents – Corporal Eric Hakizimana and second-lieutenant Frank Nziza (Ruzibiza, 2005: 250-1). Furthermore, Kagame himself helps complete the puzzle. Responding to BBC’s Stephen Sackur on 7 December 2006 about his involvement, Kagame said:

…of course Habyarimana, having been on the other side that I was fighting, it was possible that he could easily die. Imagine if I had died myself in the same process? Would the same judge be asking about my death or who killed me? … I am saying [that] this was a situation where there was a war which was being fought. But this has nothing to do now with who actually killed Habyarimana yet. I am not even coming to that. I am only saying that it is even surprising that somebody involved in a war can die. Does that also mean that you simply bring up wild allegations against me without… [7]

In other words, Habyarimana was a military target and killing him was part of the war. In this case, Ungor’s position becomes delicate and even untenable because all the theoretical bases of his essay collapses one after the other. Another point which I slightly mentioned above is that Ungor makes statements – not hypotheses – and refrains from going further than the statements themselves. He writes that the RPF attacked but we cannot see any quantified casualty and any psychological and political consequence. Other authors have focused much more on this essential aspect and I would like to mention one of them. In his ground-breaking testimony, Ruzibiza comes to a rather astonishing conclusion that the Tutsi sacrificed other Tutsi, which, if uttered by a Hutu, would fall under the ‘genocide ideology’ appellation. He argues that the RPF could have avoided the killing by accepting negotiations, and could have quickly stopped the genocide (Ruzibiza, 2005: p.85); but this was not in its interest. He further notes that “each and every action by the RPF impacted on the Tutsi inside the country” (Ruzibiza, 2005: p.121). More revolting are the assertions that the RPF not only incited the Hutu militiamen to kill the Tutsi (Ruzibiza, 2005: p.209) but also killed itself the Tutsi far from the battle field so that the Hutu can be blamed for the crimes (Ruzibiza, 2005: pp. 222-3). Ruzibiza simply comes to the Orwellian conclusion that among the Tutsi, some considered themselves to be more Tutsi than others, and that the more-Tutsi ones could not eat the omelette without breaking the eggs (Ruzibiza, 2005: pp.63-4). He calls upon the scholars, and this call goes to Ungor as well:

Pour ceux qui continuent à se demander comment le génocide a pu être commis, c’est cette idéologie qui consistait à casser les œufs, c’est-à-dire les Tutsis de l’intérieur, afin que d’autres Tutsis puissent manger de l’omelette, c’est-à-dire prendre le pouvoir, qui l’a rendu possible. (Ruzibiza, 2005 : pp.63-4)

For those who keep wondering how the genocide happened, I should say that it was made possible by this ideology consisting in breaking the eggs, that is, the Tutsi inside the country, so that other Tutsi can eat the omelette, that is, seize power. (Ruzibiza, 2005: pp.63-4. Translation by Olivier Nyirubugara)

From the foregoing, I should say that Ungor’s misleading background of the Rwandan genocide with its lack of historical approach and documented evidence cannot deceive any alert observer. It is not a matter of updating the article. It is rather a matter of withdrawing it from circulation as it might ruin the author’s credibility. Updating an article would mean that the data the author had at his disposal while authoring the article are old, which is not the case for Ungor’s essay. The essay leaves the reader uninformed about any possible connections among events that took place simultaneously and involving the same actors. An alert reader will also question the accuracy of the information provided by Ungor as the following shows.

The Hutu Power Ideology

It is a common belief that a genocide needs to have an established ideology, and, indeed, History has proved that there was one during the Holocaust and another during the Red Khmers’ regime. In the Rwandan case, the situation remains blurry, and so far no scholar has moved beyond the hypothetical stage. At the ICTR, the prosecutor requested and obtained from the court’s Appeals Chamber to remove the proving of a genocidal ideology from his tasks. According to the prosecutor’s office, this ruling has the merit of silencing the rejectionists’ camp who have been disputing the occurrence of genocide. [8] Thus, the existence of a genocide ideology has become a sort of biblical truth, which no one has to evidence any more. Ungor had anticipated this situation by suggesting that a Hutu Power ideology is to be blamed for the genocide.

According to him, the Hutu Power ideology was developed by the then ruling party – MRND - and its ally, the CDR, all Hutu-dominated, and thought out by Leon Mugesera, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze (Ungor, 2004:p 345). He further compares Nahimana to Nazi ideologist Rosenberg and the Hutu Power ideology to its Nazi counterpart (p.347). Unfortunately, apart from the 10 commandments published by Ngeze in 1990 in Kangura – for which he does not demonstrate whether it was a joint endeavour or Ngeze’s personal effort - Ungor does not evidence the existence of an elaborate plan. Otherwise, he would have rescued the ICTR’s office of the prosecutor which jubilated when the difficult evidence-finding task was removed. The point I would like to insist on is the Hutu Power concept, which Ungor misuses and puts out of its context. First of all, connecting the concept to the MRND and CDR, on the one hand and to Leon Mugesera, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze on the other hand, is like connecting communism to the USA, or the birth of Islam to the Vatican. The concept appeared for the first time, in the Hutu camp at least, on 25 September 1993. Former MRND defence minister (1992-1993) James Gasana who turned a critic of the Habyarimana regime gives the genesis of that concept:

Le vocable ‘Pawa’ fut introduit par F. Karamira dans un meeting du MDR tenu à Gitarama le 25 Septembre 1993. A l’origine il était utilisé par les combattants du FPR. Il s’agit d’un cri qu’il faisaient dans l’attaque au front pour se rappeler les uns les autres l’ objectif de leur lutte. Dans le nouveau contexte, MDR-Pawa était tout simplement la désignation de la faction qui constituait la majorité écrasante du MDR par rapport à la faction microscopique de Twagiramungu. … le 23 octobre 1993 les hauts responsables anti-FPR des partis MDR, MRND, PL et PSD organisent une marche imposante qui se termine par un énorme rassemblement au Stade de Nyamirambo. Les orateurs de la marche, tirés de tous les partis représentés, condamnent les exactions contre les masses paysannes paisibles, perpétrées par le FPR depuis le jour où il est entré en guerre contre le Rwanda. Les interventions convergent vers l’unité contre le FPR dans son objectif de conquérir le pouvoir par les armes. A la fin de son allocution, F. Karamira, vice-président du MDR, ponctue l’expression de cette soif d’unité des Hutu en entonnant devant la foule surchauffée : MDR Pawa…MRND Pawa…CDR Pawa…, PL Pawa, Hutu uni Pawa!” (Gasana, 2005:pp- 222-223.) [9]

The word ‘Pawa’ was introduced by Frodouald Karamira during an MDR party meeting in Gitarama on 25 September 1993. Originally, it was used by the RPF fighters. It was a slogan they kept repeating on the front to remind each other the goal of their struggle. In the new context, MDR-Pawa was simply a name given to the majority faction of the MDR to distinguish it from the microscopic one led by Faustin Twagiramungu. ..On 23 October 1993 [author’s note: two days after the murder of Burundi Hutu president Melchior Ndadaye by Tutsi army officers] all the anti-RPF leaders from the MDR, MRND, PL and PSD [parties] organised an imposing march which culminated in an enormous gathering at the Nyamirambo stadium. The speakers taken from all the present parties condemned the killings of the peaceful peasant masses by the RFP since the beginning of the war against Rwanda. The remarks converged to unity against the RPF in its struggle to conquer power by force. At the end of his speech, F. Karamira, MDR vice-president, tressed the thirst for that unity among the Hutu by chanting in front of the excited crowd: “MDR Pawa…MRND Pawa…CDR Pawa…, PL Pawa, united Hutu Pawa!” (Gasana, 2005:pp- 222-223. Translated by Olivier Nyirubugara)

By giving this long quote, I want to highlight two things: firstly that the Hutu Power concept did not originate from the MRND and the CDR as Ungor suggests and that MDR’s Karamira is the conceiver and spreader of the concept, not Leon Mugesera, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze. Secondly, the dates mentioned in the quote excludes Mugesera’s ‘genocidal’ speech from the Hutu Power ideology because it was pronounced a year before the creation of the Hutu Power movement. Ignoring Karamira and his MDR faction as well as the political atmosphere of the moment shows that Ungor’s understanding of the Hutu-Power is poor and used in a wrong context.

The Akazu

Since the 1990s, an era generally called the beginning of multiparty democracy, voices started arising from the unsatisfied elite in Rwanda about the management of public affairs. Christophe Mfizi, a long-time information-man of president Habyarimana, broke away for some reasons and coined the term ‘Akazu’ which he rendered as Réseau zéro in French. Mfizi, who is Nahimana’s predecessor as director of the National Information Office, informs the public for the first time of the existence of the Akazu in a pamphlet written in 1992. While the Kinyarwanda name refers vaguely to the entourage of the president, the French appellation is more poetic and gives much more information. Mfizi explains that the word ‘zéro’ refers to no digit but is rather used because of the initial Z which corresponds to another more famous Z, the short for Zigiranyirazo (Mfizi, 2006). Protais Zigiranyirazo is Habyarimana’s brother in law and is considered by Mfizi as the creator and animator of the president’s Akazu. Mfizi writes:

'Z' a progressivement instauré un système d'influence – je l'appellerai ici l'Ordre zédiste[2], qu'il infuse dans l'administration publique, le fonctionnement institutionnel de l'Etat rwandais, sans oublier le secteur privé. Au point que s'étant soumis le Renseignement et assuré, à l'Armée, de la connivence du Colonel Laurent Serubuga, entre autres, de son frère Séraphin Rwabukumba dans le monde des affaires et du Colonel Elie Sagatwa, Secrétaire Particulier du Président, 'Z' détient, à la fin des années 1990, la réalité du pouvoir au Rwanda. (Mfizi, 2006).

‘Z’ gradually instituted a system of influence – I will call it the Zedist Order – which he introduced in the public administration, the institutional functioning of the State, and of the private sector. Having control of the intelligence, of the army with the connivance of Colonel Laurent Serubuga among others, and of his bother Séraphin Rwabukumba in the business world and of Colonel Elie Sagatwa, special secretary of the President, ‘Z’ has, at the end of the years 1990s, the reality of power in Rwanda (Mfizi, 2006. Translated by Olivier Nyirubugara).

James Gasana also theorizes the Akazu, which he terms ‘OTP’, the short for the ‘Originaires du Terroire Présidentiel’ (The natives of the same region as the president). He notes that Habyarimana critics reproached him not the power he was exercising but the one which escaped him, that is, the one exercised by his family in law and their friends (Gasana, 2005: p. 62). What emerges from the writings of Gasana and Mfizi – two key actors of Habyarimana’s regime who became its critics – is that a certain group close to Habyarimana’s family in law had considerable and negative influence on public affairs. They also converge in saying that the three brothers – Zigiranyirazo, Séraphin Rwabukumba, and Elie Sagatwa - were the nucleus of the Akazu, surrounded by influential military, political, and business figures from the presidential region – Gisenyi.

The above, which is generally accepted by both scholars and the general public, is the contrary of Ungor’s understanding and perception of the Akazu. According to him, beside the first lady and her brothers, the key figures were Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, Major Augustin Bizimana [sic!], Colonel Protais Mpiranya, interim president Theodore Sindikubwabo, Joseph Nzirorera and Robert Kajuga. He adds that most of the time, Akazu members came from Ruhengeri, Habyarimana’s place of origin. (Ungor, 2004: pp. 344-345). This statement would sound scandalous to a knower of Rwanda! Firstly, there has never been any certain major Augustin Bizimana. It is perhaps another excusable confusion between Augustin Bizimana – the civilian defence minister and Major General Augustin Bizimungu, the army chief of staff appointed in April 1994, both from Byumba. Even if it were another confusion, it would appear unthinkable to have a native from Byumba in the Akazu as defined by Mfizi, Gasana and other Rwanda scholars. Secondly, naming Sindikubwabo among the Akazu members and yet assert that those members were from Ruhengeri, is simply to ignore that Sindikubwabo was from Butare, and that he happened to become president in unplanned, accidental circumstances independently from eventual Akazu’s will. Finally, asserting that Ruhengeri was the home place of Habyarimana is simply unacceptable because he was born in neighbouring Gisenyi. With regard to Ungor’s inaccurate and confusing theories about the Akazu, I wonder what amount of authority we should give to the wrongdoings he is attributing to that wrongly-defined group. This brings me to the closing discussion about the Rwandan collective memory and its relationship with the genocide ideology.

Conclusion: Ideology and Memory

Although Rwanda has shown fast development in its educational and literacy policies since independence, it largely remained a profoundly oral society, where talks are preferred to books. The past is orally transmitted from one generation to another. This past is first of all personal, then family-related, and then village, or region-related. Each Rwandan has a story to tell about their years in exile, their suffering in the displaced camps, the atrocious killings of their loved ones, the survival experience, the missing of a relative, the crossing of the DR Congolese forests and rivers, etc. Each tries to find the [political] reason why they found themselves in that situation and by doing so, they inform/intoxicate their children, towards whom they have the parental duty of transmitting the family’s past. Whatever political teachings are prevailing, the parent will make sure they have some time of privacy to tell their ‘truths’ to their posterity.

Moreover, it is an age-long habit to gather around fire during the night and listen to the elders’ stories and tales. If closely considered, most of these tales and stories are highly political, even though the tellers ignore the political message they transmit through them. The following tales can serve as examples: ‘Umurage n'umuvumo bya Kibaza’ (The heritage and curse of Kibaza) and ‘Mbacire Umugani’( Let me tell you a story). [10] All these tales convey one message that the Tutsi is blessed and superior to the cursed and inferior Hutu. The ‘Mbacire umugani’ one serves as an introduction to each and every tale and could be considered as an open insult that still innocently conveyed through the story-telling tradition. It goes:

Mbacire umugani mbabambuze
umugani n'uzava i Kamugani
azasange ubukombe bw'umugan
i buziritse ku muganda w'inzu.
Harabaye ntihakabe.
Hapfuye imbwa n'imbeba
Hasigaye inka n'ingoma

(Smith, 1975: p.11)

Let me tell you a story,
Let me awaken you with a story
So that even the one who will come from the
land of stories can find an adult and
vigorous story tied to the hut’s pillar.
There was, let there be no more!
The dogs and cats are now dead,
Only the drum and the cow prevailed

Once upon time… (Smith, 1975: p.11. Translated by Olivier Nyirubugara).

For a knower of Rwanda’s past, the rats and dogs represent the Hutu kings and their descendents who were exterminated and emasculated by Tutsi kings. The latter conquered their kingdoms and imposed their royal drum - ornamented with the Hutu kings’ genitals - and the cow as the centre of economic life.

An indepth enquiry into the nightly story-telling tradition is urgent to know exactly what people are telling their children as tales. There are questions that call for scholarly research such as: Are those ethnicist stories still told? Have the recent traumatic events given rise to new types of stories? I should say that it would not be astonishing that the 1990 war that ended with the slaughter of over one million and the imprisonments of hundreds of Hutu suspects are now feeding new forms of tales, where each community is trying to build its traumatic or triumphal memory. Fox-Genovese (1999: 41) suggests that that the story-telling act at the community level constitutes a political asset, and, in the case of Rwanda, I should say the act has always been and is still political, ideological as only individual experiences dictate the content of the modern-day nightly tales.

The above could explain how the so-called genocide ideology is quickly spreading among children, whereas the Hutu power ideologists and media have all been silenced. Both ideologists and media were blamed for the 1994 genocide. Now the population is pointed at as the thinker and propagator of the poison. This is a typical situation that should require an urgent anthropological study to determine how peasants can have a so strong and common belief contradicting the official teachings of their powerful government. It rather pushes to pose the question about what would happen if the current official ideologists had contradictors operating freely and democratically in the country.


Further reading on the genocide ideology:


  1. Interview with BBC Great Lakes on 13 December 2007

  2. BBC Great Lakes on 19 December 2007
  3. In Paix et Châtiment, Florence Hartman, former spokeswoman of the ICTR/ICTY Chief prosecutor makes unprecedented revelations with regard to the politicization of those UN ad hoc tribunals. According to her, the course of the prosecution, investigations, arrest processes is dictated by Richard Prosper, the US roving ambassador for human rights. She mentions, among others, a deal that prosecutor Carla Del Ponte rejected, regarding the abandonment of any investigation and prosecution of president Paul Kagame and his close aids. According to Hartman, the deal was accepted by Del Ponte’s successor Bubacar Jallow.

  4. This letter was published in F. Nkundabagenzi, RWANDA POLITIQUE 1958-1960, pp.35-6

  5. Reyntjens (p. 32) does not consider this hypothesis to be serious because it is ‘essentially based on wrong information’ .

  6. Bruguiere’s warrants of arrest can be found here:

  7. Click here for the transcript of BBC’s interview with Kagame

  8. ICTR Appeals Chamber takes Judicial Notice of Genocide in Rwanda

  9. Christophe Mfizi, LE RESEAU ZERO (B):Fossoyeur de la Démocratie et de la République au Rwanda (1975-1994). Rapport de consultation rédigé à la demande du Bureau du Procureur Du Tribunal Pénal International pour le Rwanda (Arusha, March 2006)

  10. These tales were published in Pierre SmitH (éd.), Le récit populaire au Rwanda (Paris, Armand Colin:1975)