Friday, March 11, 2011

Rwanda in Six Scenes

In a lengthy article entitled “Rwanda in Six Scenes” that appeared in the London Review, Stephen W. Smith gives a reflection of his years covering Rwanda as a journalist with Le Monde. The outcome is a priceless article, which discusses Rwanda in a humble and candid way. Smith is concerned that the truth about Rwanda has become almost untenable. He writes, “The problem with Rwanda is not only that opinions and facts have parted company but that opinion takes precedence.”

He seems to imply that the current ruling regime, the RPF has over the course of the years, spread deceptions through a system of careful information management. While this might seem impressive, it is not something new. Belgian scholar, Filip Reytnjens has previously written about it in his must read work, which I attach here for your convenience.

Smith is unsure whether what he wrote over the years is indeed truth. From a basic level, he cannot say with certainty that a conspiracy to commit genocide existed prior to 1994. So far, the international criminal tribunal on Rwanda, founded to investigate the genocide related cases, has not convicted anyone of this crime. In addition, there seem to be mounting evidence that Paul Kagame and his rebel group Rwanda Patriotic Front, participated in the massacres. Even more problematic, it has long been held that the former first lady, Agathe Habyarimana planned and executed the assassination of her husband in order to pave way for the 1994 genocide. Smith asks how this woman, currently exiled in Paris, would have ordered the shooting of a plane that included his own brother, as a passenger.

When he visits the former first lady in France, she is in a threadbare apartment surrounded by her sons and grandchildren. Absent is the ubiquitous opulence that is characteristic of African dictators. The author wonders whether her children, all adults, would be comfortable hanging around an individual (their mother) suspected of having killed their father. It seemed like a joke to me that the entire world had bought into this simplistic lie. It has many holes that any amateur analysts should have been able to question it. Unfortunately, Kagame and his allies—highly suspected of gunning down the plane, have been able to sell this version to the international audience.

Lastly, throughout the article I couldn’t help but think of Rene Lemarchand article “Whose Genocide and What Genocide?” In particular one of his quotes has never left my memory. “Can there be reconciliation without truth?”

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