Rwandans can talk. They need a platform
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Rwandans can talk. They need a platform

Olivier Nyirubugara
6 April 2009

Rwandans can talk. They need a platform from on Vimeo.

Experts have been cogitating about the virus that infected Rwanda and is obviously resisting any cure. Others rather think that they have identified the microbe and are fighting it using the Gacaca system among others. Yet others think that the virus has no cure but rather remedies that can render it inoffensive. I have already given my view on that virus in an article with the title ‘Memory Crisis: What Rwandans Remember and Forget’. My analysis remains the same, namely that Rwanda and Rwandans are making themselves victims of their past. The successive leaders of Rwanda have failed to go beyond their ethnic memories, which they turn into politics and history. They also turn it into the absolute truth, taught in school, preached in media (film, radio, tv and papers), and backed by judges, whether trained on not.

However, one thing needs to be noted in addition to my above-mentioned analysis: the conflicting memories – the true deadly virus – can be spoken about and confronted. The debate that took place in The Hague on 6 April 2009 in the framework of Amnesty International’s Movies that Matter Festival, gave me a golden occasion to test my theory. I managed to interview both some Tutsi who survived the 1994 genocide and lost their loved ones in it and the Hutu survivors of the RPF massacres who also lost theirs in or around the same year. I asked them three questions: Is the Gacaca system contributing to the reconciliation process? Is justice rendered for the RPF Hutu victims? How will Rwanda be like in 2020?

With these questions, I wanted to test the Past-Future bridging theory. I realized that the future of Rwanda is strongly tied on its past much more than on its present. The present is about the Gacaca and the thousands of Hutu confessed prisoners released and being sentenced to general interest labour. What about the Tutsi killers? My interviewees (both Hutu and Tutsi) agree that the Tutsi too killed. Yet, none of them is likely to face justice, at least for the time being. That explains why all my interviewees hesitated to fully say that Rwanda’s future is bright. There are conditions for that, and these are all memory and past-related.

To end with, I got an impression from my interviewees that talking can be a good start. If every body, whatever their ethnic group, can speak out their minds and suggest solutions, without having to weigh their own memories to the dominant, official, ethnic memory, I am convinced that the Rwandan memory virus would finally become a peaceful companion of each and every Rwandan. Unfortunately, there is no depoliticized framework allowing such talks, far from government officials and their diplomatic representatives.