Rwanda: Remembering All the Victims

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This flame lit to commemorate the Rwandan Genocide will burn for 100 days in Kigali, Rwanda, from April 7th into the first week of June.

The Rwandan Genocide is commemorated in Rwanda and at the United Nations as “the Genocide against the Tutsi.” However, there is ample evidence that hundreds of thousands of Hutus, as well as Tutsis, died in the Rwandan massacres.

By Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: On April 7, the Rwandan government began to produce events to reinforce the Rwandan government’s official, constitutionally codified and legally enforced account of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, as it does every year. These events continue for a hundred days, from April 7 into the first week of June and take place around the world, including one here in the East Bay city of Antioch.

The New Times of Rwanda, one of several state sanctioned media outlets, reports that a monument has been built on the banks of the River Nyabarongo “in memory of victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis who were dumped into the waters.” KPFA’s Ann Garrison reports that the story is disputed with evidence that the victims were actually Hutus rather than Tutsis.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Rwanda’s Nyabarongo River is the largest tributary to the Kagera River that carried the massacred Rwandan refugees’ bodies into Lake Victoria in Uganda in 1994. Peter Erlinder, former National Lawyers Guild president and former defense counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, quotes the Prutsalis Report produced for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as evidence that the truth of this story is not that now commemorated by a monument in Rwanda.

Peter Erlinder: Let me quote from the Prutsalis Report to UNHCR. He said: “The RPF came and called for a “peace meeting.” Those who did not participate voluntarily were forced to the meeting. At the school people were tied together three by three – men, women, children – and stabbed. The bodies were put on trucks and thrown into the Kagera River, north of the Rusumo Bridge.”

These reports were received in areas that the RPF was occupying early in the war, and in the areas that they occupied in the eastern part of Rwanda. Now in addition to that, Prutsalis also wrote that “the RPF” – his quote now – “comes at five o’clock in the morning, waiting for villagers to open their doors. Villagers are caught and taken away to the river by trucks. No one has ever returned. Refugees of the area have seen people being tied together and thrown into the river. It seems as if guns are only used if somebody tries to escape.”

Now these bodies floating in the Kagera River many people will remember from the terrible visuals of the Rwandan Genocide, but those visions of the bodies floating in the river were said to be Tutsi bodies. But we now know, because of these UNHCR reports that were made public during the U.N. trial, that those actually were Hutu bodies.

KPFA: The Prutsalis Report was, as Erlinder said, presented as evidence at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, and it is included in Erlinder’s book, “The Accidental Genocide,” a compendium of evidentiary documents.

Remigius Kintu of the Ugandan Democratic Coalition also confirms that the bodies that floated down the river into Uganda were in fact those of Hutu victims:

Remigius Kintu: The Hutus who were trying to escape the slaughter had three options, either to go down south into Burundi, or to go east into Tanzania, or to go into Congo through Goma. Now the ones who ran into Tanzania, they were met at the bridge, and then the Hutu – the Hutus who were trying to flee into Tanzania – were captured by the Tutsi forces which had already captured that territory, who dumped them in the river.

And these are the people who floated down the river into Lake Victoria and Uganda. And then Paul Kagame and Museveni and their benefactors outside paraded these dead bodies as “these are the Tutsis who have been killed by the Hutus” when it is the other way around.

KPFA: That was Remigius Kintu of the Ugandan Democratic Coalition.

The official story of the Rwandan Genocide has been used to justify Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s brutal dictatorship in Rwanda, the imprisonment of Victoire Ingabire and many other political prisoners in Rwanda, the death of millions in wars waged by Rwanda and Uganda in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the destabilization of Burundi, and wars waged by the U.S. and its NATO partners with urgencies about the moral obligation to “stop the next Rwanda.”

Rwanda, Burundi and the assassination of three Hutu presidents

The Rwandan Genocide is commemorated in Rwanda and at the United Nations as “the Genocide against the Tutsi.” However, it was preceded by the assassination of three Hutu Presidents and by the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Hutu civilians in Burundi. There is also ample evidence that hundreds of thousands of Hutus, as well as Tutsis, died in the Rwandan massacres.

KPFA Weekend New Anchor Loula Acanmu: April 6th marked the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira. The assassinations were widely believed to have triggered the ethnic bloodletting known as the Rwandan Genocide. In Rwanda, the event is officially “the Genocide Against the Tutsi,” despite evidence that hundreds of thousands of Hutu people also died. Tutsi governments in Rwanda and Burundi have been allies of the West, and Western officialdom has therefore found it convenient to identify Rwanda and Burundi’s Tutsis as the victims in both countries. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Burundian American Le Beni Tazira, whose voice is frequently heard on CIUT-Toronto’s Taylor Report.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Le Beni, April 6th was the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of two Hutu presidents, Rwanda’s Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi’s Cyprien Ntaryamira. Can you tell us about the significance of this event in the region’s history?

Le Beni Tazira; Yes, I can, but as a Burundian, I can give it more on the angle coming from a Burundian. What we saw was not just assassination of Cyprien Ntaryamira, because a few months before, another Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, was also assassinated. So, to Burundi, it was a second hit. And we know very much what happened after the first – chaos all over Burundi. And in neighboring Rwanda, the people there had seen what happened in Burundi with the killing of Ndadaye and they were watching closely. Remember we’re very close neighbors. When someone shouts from one country, you can hear him in the other country. And so, by the time the plane was gunned down in Kigali, I think the population reacted even more aggressively than in Burundi. And so, it wasn’t just a plane that was shot down on that specific date. I think it was some history before that, where the killing of Melchior Ndadaye, another Hutu president, caused a lot of insecurity in the region.

KPFA: OK, that was October 21, 1993.

Tazira: Yes.

KPFA: About six months before the assassination of the two Hutu presidents in Rwanda, the Rwandan president and the Burundian president who had succeeded the assassinated Burundian President Melchior Ndadaye.

Tazira: Yes, and here’s how the region looked like. In Burundi, President Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated by Buyoya’s Tutsi military. Buyoya was the previous president, and he had a military that was 100% Tutsi. They came to his house one night and killed him. And killed most of his government. And a few survived and were able to create a rebellion, but next door in Rwanda, they were in the middle of a war against a Tutsi rebellion. And so I believe the Rwandans were watching Burundians, what’s going on. Once they killed the president, you had a lot of destabilization. Then you had military going into our villages and just massacring people. And so you had so many hundreds of thousands . . . we had up to 1.5 million refugees going into Tanzania, in Congo, in Rwanda. And so the Rwandese saw that happen in Burundi and how ruthless the military had been on the people. `

KPFA: Rwandans had seen first the assassination of a Hutu president, followed by the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Hutus and hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees fleeing into Rwanda, Tanzania, Congo.

Tazira: Yes. Actually it was up to 1.5 million. After that you had the downing of their own president. So that was actually the beginning of the whole region blowing up.

KPFA: And that was Burundian American commentator Le Beni Tazira.

The assassination of three Hutu presidents posed an existential threat to Rwandan and Burundian Hutus, much as an assassination of President Obama, were such an event to occur, would pose an existential threat to Black Americans, whether they are among the current president’s admirers or not. As the African Great Lakes Region, in Tazira’s words, “blew up,” hundreds of thousands died in the Rwandan Genocide. Two million Rwandan Hutus fled into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi invaded the Congo, and millions of refugees and Congolese people died in the ensuing Congo Wars. And Congo’s immense resources were ruthlessly plundered. At the same time, Burundi suffered a brutal civil war from 1993 to 2005.


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