Victoire Ingabire dared to speak of Hutus victims of genocide

How is the relation between Hutus and Tutsis 15 years after the genocide? In the past years we surely did hear that rebels have to face european courts for what they did during the civil war and it seems like there’s something like an attempt to find justice and democracy, but fact is that the government procurement and apointments is still based on nothing else than ethnicity.

The following article gives a little insight of what happens on the other side of Kagame’s regime.

Rwanda’s blood-soaked history becomes a tool for repression

written by Geoffrey York, March 2 2010

First published: The Globe and Mail

Kigali — The symbolism was incendiary. In front of the mass graves where 250,000 genocide victims are buried, a Rwandan politician dared to speak of the Hutus who were killed in those same terrible months in 1994.

Perhaps more astonishingly, Victoire Ingabire was not imprisoned for her taboo comments – not so far, at least, although the police have interrogated her three times and accused her of the crime of spreading “divisionism.”

Her challenge is posing an uncomfortable dilemma for the minority Tutsi-led government that dominates Rwanda. Sixteen years after the genocide of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis by Hutu extremists, can the authorities tolerate a political candidate who appeals openly to the Hutus who still comprise 85 per cent of Rwanda’s population?

How long can the government use the genocide as a justification for strict controls on the political system? And who decides the official history of the genocide?

The woman at the centre of the storm is an unlikely politician: a cheerful 41-year-old emigrant who has worked as an accountant at a U.S. company in the Netherlands for the past decade.

She wears a frilly-strapped dress and giggles merrily when she is asked about the barrage of wild attacks on her in Rwanda’s state-controlled media.

But she is backed by many of the Hutus who fled to Europe and North America during the Rwandan wars of the 1990s. She clearly has money and resources. She rents a large house in one of Kigali’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, where she has a Land Cruiser parked in the driveway.

Ms. Ingabire’s decision to return to Kigali this year has sent shock waves through Rwandan politics. In a country where ethnic divisions are officially never discussed, she has dared to raise Hutu grievances – especially the killing of thousands of Hutus in 1994 and 1995, which she describes as a “crime against humanity.”

It’s a potent appeal. Many Hutus feel excluded from power, excluded from the best jobs and schools, and afraid to speak out. It was to them that Ms. Ingabire was deliberately appealing when she returned to Rwanda in January – after 16 years in exile – and made her controversial comments at the genocide memorial.

Ms. Ingabire has carefully couched her appeal in diplomatic language. She condemns the genocide, calling for reconciliation and dialogue. She denounces “extremists” on all sides. She urges the authorities to bring all criminals to justice, regardless of ethnicity. She pledges to work for a peaceful country, united in mutual respect.

Yet merely by talking of Hutu victims, she has triggered a firestorm of reaction. She and her assistant were assaulted by a gang of young men in a government office. Her assistant, who was badly beaten, has been jailed for “genocide” crimes. She is facing a police investigation for her alleged “genocide ideology.” And even the country’s powerful President, Paul Kagame, has warned that “the law will catch up with her” – a clear threat that she will be arrested.

At the heart of the battle between Ms. Ingabire and Mr. Kagame is a stark disagreement about Rwanda’s identity. The President argues that any talk of ethnicity must be suppressed because Rwanda is still in a fragile post-genocide period, where hatred and violence could rise again. His opponent sees this as an excuse for repression, leading only to resentment and bitterness among those who cannot speak out.

It is unclear whether the government will permit Ms. Ingabire to challenge Mr. Kagame in the presidential election in August. The President won the last election with an official margin of 95 per cent, and he has brooked no real opposition since 1994, when he led the Tutsi rebels who defeated the genocidal Hutu regime.

So far, Ms. Ingabire has been denied permission to gather the 200 signatures that she needs to register her political party. She is routinely subjected to fierce attacks in the pages of Rwanda’s only daily newspaper, the state-connected New Times, which refuses to publish her responses to the attacks.

“I don’t know why the government is so afraid of me,” she says. “They watch me and follow me all the time. I know anything can happen to me – they can arrest me, they can kill me.”

The managing director of the New Times, Joseph Bideri, confirmed that the newspaper refuses to give any “space” to Ms. Ingabire’s responses. He wrote a personal letter to her on Jan. 22, vowing she would never get a “platform” in the newspaper because she is a “genocide denier.”

In an interview, however, Mr. Bideri was unable to provide any evidence that Ms. Ingabire denies the genocide. In fact, in her public speeches and in a lengthy interview with The Globe and Mail, she repeatedly acknowledged and condemned the 1994 genocide. She draws a distinction between the slaughter of the Tutsis – which she calls a genocide – and the killings of many Hutus, which she describes as a “crime against humanity.”

Although she emigrated to the Netherlands shortly before the genocide began, Ms. Ingabire’s own family suffered in the genocide. Her brother was killed in 1994 because he was mistaken for a Tutsi.

“When people talk about the pain they feel, they need to understand that everybody feels pain,” she says. “We have to understand the pain of others. When I condemn the genocide, I’m also thinking of my brother. Not all Hutus are killers, and not all Tutsis are victims.”

International human-rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have criticized the Rwandan government for attacking and harassing opposition leaders such as Ms. Ingabire. Amnesty says the Rwandan law on “genocide ideology” is so vague and ambiguous that the authorities can use it to suppress dissent.

There is strong evidence to support Ms. Ingabire’s allegations of war crimes against Hutus. For example, a United Nations investigator in 1994 estimated that 25,000 to 45,000 civilians, primarily Hutus, were killed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front – the army of Mr. Kagame, now the governing party. Many other civilians, including thousands of Hutu refugees, were killed in further attacks in later years. Only a small handful of RPF members have been prosecuted for the Hutu deaths, which remain a taboo subject in Rwanda.

Ms. Ingabire says she doesn’t know how many Tutsis died in 1994, how many Hutus died, or even whether the number of Tutsi victims was larger than the number of Hutu victims. Some observers say she is leaving the impression of an equivalency between the two sides, despite historical evidence that the Tutsi victims were far more numerous and were the only ones subjected to a deliberate campaign of attempted extermination.

But even the Rwandan government has struggled with how to write the history of the genocide. At the memorial where 250,000 victims are buried, a guide says it commemorates only the Tutsi victims of the genocide. Yet he distributes an audio guide that calls it a memorial to the “Tutsi and moderate Hutu peoples” who were killed.

Didas Gasana, editor of a weekly newspaper whose staff is often harassed and threatened by the authorities for its independent views, says the government needs to provide justice and truth to the Hutu victims. “There needs to be debate and justice and openness,” he says. “It’s a part of history that can’t be denied.”

Mr. Gasana is himself a Tutsi. And despite the official view that ethnicity has disappeared, he says he is often told privately by government officials that he should not write such critical articles – because he is a Tutsi.

Comment: I do not claim any political position by posting this article. I find it a well researched and very well written article. In order to find the truth I want to share with you all points of view!!
Source: Rwandainfo_ENG.


  1. Alphonse Alassane

    Go back to April 1994…ask those who were there, those who survived. It is so easy for us to come 10-20 years later and try to be moralists…When you read and see what the survivors are saying, you could so easily picture a terrible ending to this story that I for one, having been on the receiving hand of a genocidal group can see why wash the brain of my children from this ethnic identity make sense. Some of us throughout the continent want to hold on to the ethnic heritage because it represents our identity…it also represents so many attrocities…perhaps it should matter more to be Rwanda than being Hutu or Tutsi…to be Ivorian than Bete or Dioula…think about that

  2. Ama

    The Hutu will forever be known as Africa’s nazis. In the mind of me, a Ghanaian living in America, they have lost the right to ever hold political office. If they looked at what was happening in South Africa and now Egypt and Libya, they would have known that the international community would have been on their side in their struggle for political equality. But like barbaric animals, they used machettes and killed with no regard for human life. So senseless and brutal and now they are begging for political power while at the same time continuing to kill and rape in a genocide-like manner in Dr Congo? All they care about is themselves and I’m so ashamed to call them African. They should be saying “We were wrong. My people killed so many human beings. Accept political power as our form of reparation.”

  3. chris

    let sleeping dog lay. some issues are more sensitive to be discuss publicly. please go through history and be a friend to history. As an african, Rwanda should be in peace than instigating into the second worst killing of human by human after the second world war. Africa is Africans, let there be peace.

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