“Denying” Genocide In Rwanda


It is well established aphorism in history writing that one can find proof for his claims from the actual past facts for the kind of narrative he wishes to present. In...

It is well established aphorism in history writing that one can find proof for his claims from the actual past facts for the kind of narrative he wishes to present. In a way history is inconspicuously re-written from the perspective of how one views the world today. In many cases, today’s political interests determines the way in which history is tend to be re-written.

This cannot be truer for those who are re-writing the history of genocide in Rwanda. Led by some Western academics, the argument that denies the genocide against the Tutsis puts forward the view that what has happened in Rwanda is not a genocide against the Tutsis but it was a civil conflict. If anything, they argue, evidence shows that it was the leader of the Tutsis, President Kagame and his supporters “perpetuated crimes“ against the Hutu. Or at best, while they can, they had not intervened to prevent the Hutu attacks on the Tutsis, so that their victory can be seen much glorious than what it was. They also claim that outbreak of violence was not regular but it was an explosion of madness. Furthermore, they go to the extent to claim that there was a double genocide, because more Hutus were killed than the Tutsis. For them, President Kagame in charge of Rwanda, that kind of genocide continues even today.

This new narrative of genocide denial apparently became inevitable because of the discovery of “new“ evidence disputing what is known as true up to date. The “new“ evidence therefore requires us to revise the history and re-write it as it is now seen fit. Be it as it may, here however we suspect some doubt merchants are at work, yet again. According to H.E. Williams Nkurunziza, the Rwandan Ambassador in Ankara, those who make these claims are “dangerous ‘illegitimate historical revisionists’ whose intention is to perpetuate genocide ideology and sow seeds for its future occurrence“.

The exceptional scale of the atrocity in Rwanda, led international community to pass measures to ensure that similar tragedies never happen again. In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 7 April, the start date of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that lasted only one hundred days, as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. Every year, the UN organizes commemorative events at its Headquarters in New York and at the UN offices around the world. Since the establishment of the Programme in 2005, commemorative activities have taken place in more than 20 countries. Each year the UN decides on a theme, this year’s theme is selected suitably as Fighting the Genocide Ideology.

Amidst such a dubious “intellectual“ dispute, on the 14th of April, Rwandan Embassy initiated a gathering to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsis, at the National Library, in Ankara. A large crowd, including representatives of foreign missions, business community, students, academics and few politicians attended the event. It was important to remember once again more than one million men, women and children, mostly Tutsis, who perished in the hands of evil doers. This has been the second of such commemorations in Turkey.

In Rwanda, of the more than one million killed, Tutsis were representing 93.6%. According to H.E. Williams Nkurunziza, the nearly sixty percent of those were killed on open hills, twelve percent in churches and of those almost sixty percent were children and the young between the ages of 0 – 24. Those who were killed dumped in 527 mass graves, rivers and lakes. Dr. Sefa Aydın, a lawyer and a retired Turkish Ambassador, who has served as one of the high court judges overseeing the proceedings of Rwandan Genocide trials, argues that international court of human rights interviewed more than four million people and thousands were sentenced. Such findings and empirical evidence renders claims of the genocide deniers highly dubious.

Rwanda is evolving from its own ashes into a more peaceful, just and prosperous country. Friendship, reconciliation, peace and prosperity for all Rwandans are the main driving impetus for the Rwandan progress. Rwandans are committed to honor the memory of those who perished, to comfort survivors and to reject “genocidal ideology“ in all its manifestations so to embrace an enduring peace and to secure their collective future. Ambassador Nkurunziza stresses that Rwanda has come through the tragedy of 1994, “by choosing to be together, accountable and by thinking big“. Stronger institutions, internationally credible leadership and participatory governance were instrumental for functioning markets, economic and social development. In Rwanda today, declaring ethnic identity, the source of the problems in 1994, is banned. Universal principles of human rights, “egalite, fraternite, liberte“ is being upheld. Rwanda endorses values of inclusiveness, brotherhood and respect.

Independent African countries focusing on their national priorities, push for political stability, rapid economic growth and more solid democracy. As a result, civil wars and internal conflicts have declined. Some African countries like Rwanda are already taking important steps in their experience with democracy in parallel to their economic recovery. Some positive steps in governance are also taken by promoting democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance. Today half of the African countries are holding regular democratic elections. It is true that, there are still many challenges to the progress of democracy due to the problems associated with globalization. The problems of unemployment, terrorism, simultaneous decline of rural and urban life standards, care-free and inefficient use of resources by the MNEs, corruption, environmental degradation, deteriorating healthcare and education, outbreak of contagious diseases and migration are persisting problems for African development.

In Turkey, we are also dealing with our share of global and regional terror. Our security forces working to prevent and uphold law and order vis a vis terrorism. More importantly, the open ended debate in the hands of “doubt merchants“ over the Rwandan Genocide is full of lessons for Turkey, too. In a sense we learn from the Rwandan experience that such history can be re-written, according to the political needs of the day.

Remembering what has happened in Rwanda would ensure a better future, free of brutality. But we should work even harder to remember and to draw lessons from Rwanda, in order to preclude repetition of such events. We should furthermore co-ordinate internationally. In view of the recent mass migration across the globe in addition to addressing basic human needs, we also need to expand our capacity to prevent hate crimes, to promote human rights, to monitor and develop early warning systems against racist prejudices. We should contribute to a better understanding of differences, serve justice and help building peaceful and just societies. But this objective can not be achieved by conveniently re-writing the history according to the needs of the global power brokers.

[1] Professor of Economics and Finance, Director of Africa Study Center, Istanbul Aydın University.
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