Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rwanda: The genocide against the Tutsi had not been prepared four years in advance

The following article was translated from French into English by HTPJ Editor.
Only the original French version shall prevail.  

By André Guichaoua (Professor of Universities, Sociologist)

Source: Le Monde Journal

Rwandan President Paul Kagame in September 2014 | Julie Jacobson / AP

During the 20 years of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the work for truth and the work for justice have come together to illustrate and understand the very concrete "genocide policies". It was no longer a question of questioning the "why" of this genocide, of which so many conferences and symposiums have exposed the presumed foundations, but a question of responding to the "how" of this genocide.

How, when, who decided, implemented, sustained for three months the genocide against the Tutsi of Rwanda in the spring of 1994. This factual history of the perpetration of the massacres endeavored to establish as objectively as possible how "things happened" in different prefectures, according to groups of actors and individuals.

The impressive documentation and knowledge accumulated through investigations and field surveys carried out by the ICTR constitute unavoidable achievements.

The history of the war triggered by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebellion in October 1990 and the 1994 genocide is a complex one. It elucidates the processes of decision-making at the top levels, the strategies aimed not only at exacerbating the ethnic cleavage by both armed groups - regular and rebel forces – but also at stifling aspirations and democratic forces; it also sheds light on the willingness to fight by the same armed groups as of April 6, 1994 after the attack on the presidential plane.

This history attempts to reconstitute the establishment of the government of the genocide and its takeover of the state apparatus. The ICTR investigations reconstituted the ambitions, the calculations and the actions of the individuals who planned the massacres, but also the resistance to orders to kill and rescues of Tutsi and opponents in danger of death.

The results of this research were the subject of contradictory testimonies before the Chambers of the ICTR and have fed many judgments. Thus, in the name of the facts examined, the judges of all of the Chambers refused to endorse an intent story of the genocide against the Tutsi, which wanted it to have been prepared since 1990 at the beginning of the war waged by the RPF, and even since the proclamation of the "Hutu" Republic in 1959, according to the current proclaimed narrative.

One can better understand the animosity of the Rwandan authorities caused in particular by the most important and recent judgments of the ICTR concerning the defendants considered to be the masterminds of the genocide which systematically refused to endorse the assumptions of the official historiography according to which the various components of the Rwandan state were criminal organizations.

The government which was in place as of April 6, 1994 was not genocidal. Its Prime Minister (assassinated on April 7) and the High Level Military Command were not genocidaires. The genocide was the culmination of a political strategy, implemented from April 7 by politico-military groups of Hutu extremists, those who had the most to lose if they did not impose themselves. They considered that after the April 6 attack and the inevitable resumption of the war, the moment had come to end by arms the conflict with the RPF and wipeout all political forces that supported RPF inside Rwanda. The then interim government then set up the genocide against the Tutsi as a "public policy".

This outcome was neither fatal nor anticipated; over days and weeks, the logics of paroxysmal confrontation were pushed as far as possible because the protagonists refused any other outcome that the induced human costs appeared to them as acceptable compared to objectives pursued.

The genocide was not the result of any historical or atavistic curse peculiar to a continent, a people, an ethnic group; it is not the result of an international conspiracy; it is the work of clearly identified individuals and groups. It is now possible to describe the stratagems they used to trigger this cataclysm, and to sustain it for three months during the mechanics of the massacres. Most of these individuals were tried and convicted.

Others, including the RPF officials, to which the ICTR has granted full impunity, will also necessarily be tried and convicted, since the crimes related to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are not subject to any statute of limitations. Nevertheless, it is important to bridge the gap between the abundance of data on genocide and the Habyarimana regime and the lack of information on the war strategy and objectives of the victorious side and its foreign supporters, a war they launched and kept the initiative during those four years.

Of course, the judicial truth is a truth that is subject to specific norms; it is also relative to the knowledge that is available in the proceedings and to the evidence submitted to the ICTR judges by both parties. To date, no other body has mobilized so many means to establish such a knowledge and evidence, or has major elements which could have not been taken into account by the court. On all of the files, the Rwandan authorities were able to provide the witnesses and evidence supporting their theses.

In this context, accusing of political bias the judges whose decisions and analyzes do not suit them is an approach that has nothing to do with truth and justice. In the light of available evidence and established facts, such a dispute is a pure strategy of denial, in favor of the official narrative.


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