Response to article published in The Mail & Guardian
Judi Rever and Benedict Moran wrote an article in The Continent with Mail &Guardian on 28 November 2020 regarding allegations of death camps, false flag operations and political assassination by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). These appear to be based largely on the anonymous contribution of a single source, with some corroboration from testimonials of soldiers involved in the genocide that were thrown out by the UN tribunal as they were deemed inadmissible.
These are old allegations that are fundamentally false. They mirror those used in the past by combatants who simultaneously sought to claim that the genocide did not happen, or was committed by Tutsis and the RPF. International legal experts, academics and observers have consistently rejected these allegations as unfounded, and we would defer to these findings over sources that are anonymous and legally discredited.
One of the authors, Judi Rever, has for the past years promoted a denialist narrative that not only clears the responsibility of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi from the perpetrators – mainly Interahamwe militias and elements from the Rwandan Army – les Forces Armees Rwandaises (FAR)- and shifts the blame to the victims and the force that stopped the genocide, the RPF and its military branch, the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA). She has compiled these false allegations into a book “In the Praise of Blood” which upon unsuccessful reception and strong condemnation in the academic circles, she has now resorted to mainstream media.
The article – and other Judi Rever writings- push a theory of Tutsi and the RPF infiltrating the militia groups from known genocidaires like Ferdinand Nahimana, one of the genocide ideologues and head of Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), who was sentenced to 30 years by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In his book "Rwanda, les virages ratés” he claims that the RPF had infiltrated its soldiers among the young people controlling the roadblocks with the mission of killing as many people as possible, then exposing their bodies on the roads in order to draw the attention of journalists to the atrocities underway in Rwanda. This accusation is both barbaric and nonsensical. In her book, Rever detailed that at the beginning of 1994, the RPF had infiltrated the four Hutu militias: the Interahamwe (youth wing of the ruling MRND party), the Inkuba (youth wing of the MDR party), the Abakombozi (youth wing of the PSD party) and the Impuzambugambi (the youth wing of the CDR party). She simply conveys a misinformation campaign that was originally orchestrated by Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, long-time head of Military Intelligence of the Rwandan Armed Forces and right-hand man of Colonel Bagosora, "the architect of the genocide".
The Gabiro allegations are from a “witness” who never saw the alleged crimes himself. These allegations perfectly match the account in 1996 Canadian documentary “Chronique d’un Genocide annonce”. Here a young man states that he worked in Gabiro as a nurse during August 1994, where he claims to have spoken to an anonymous RPA soldier stationed at Gabiro. This supposed soldier said that more than a thousand Hutu were murdered every night. Within five days, the solider had allegedly counted 6000 victims. Their remains were allegedly burned, and the ashes dispersed in the surrounding area.
The claim is based on hearsay upon hearsay, with a medical worker’s testifying to seeing distant smoke the only tangible evidence. The documentary footage was enough to prompt hastily written stories on France’s Libération and the UK’s Sunday Express in 1996, who published these stories without any firsthand research of fact checking. There was no attempt to identify or contact the alleged soldier, and no further testimony on the part of the witness to support his claims. There remains no evidence of any such massacre in Gabiro, and none of the numerous NGOs or UN staff or media who traveled frequently in this area directly reported seeing any such evidence. Seeing the allegation recycled in this context is an indication of a writer who will discard evidentiary standards to further her agenda.
On the choice of witnesses, it is also important to note how she has consistently used anonymous sources but with the same profile: every new “revelation” is brought up by a supposedly direct witness, a deserter, Tutsi, consumed with remorse and who fled the Patriotic Front and Rwanda to escape the deadly dictatorship. She also refers to many documents supposedly leaked from the ICTR collected by a Special Investigation Unit. Hassan Bubacar Jallow, the ICTR Prosecutor from 2003, has continuously shown his scepticism towards the information collected through these "special investigations" and declared to the Security Council on 4 June 2009 that his office did not have at that precise stage an indictment in relation to the allegations [against the RPF]. The selective approach to witnesses, sources and lack of counter-verification completely discredits her work, clearly shows her bias and confirm her quest to promote a denialist narrative that aims at rewriting history by ignoring already existing historical facts and indecently collected proofs.
Tutsis were systematically killed in many regions of the country including in Kibilira (October 1990), among the Bagogwe (February 1991), Bugesera (March 1992), Kibuye (August 1992), Shyorongi (December 1992), Gisenyi, Ruhengeri and Kibuye (December-January 1993), Mbogo (March 1993). Several reports have shown that it was the Tutsi were killed simply because of who they were. Two Belgian investigators Eric Gillet and André Jadoul, were in Rwanda in January and February 1992 and established the circumstances and designated the perpetrators of the massacres. Their report indicates that Hutu population, under the instigation of the army and some local civil authorities, have attacked the Tutsi community. The also noted that killings were generalised to such an extent that they could be qualified as massacres or even Genocide.
Another report presented in January 1993, from an International Commission of Inquiry which was composed of ten experts mandated by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) Paris, African Watch (New York), the Inter-African Union of Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ouagadougou) and the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Montreal), clearly indicated that many Tutsi, for the sole reason of belonging to that ethnic group, were killed, missing or seriously injured; were deprived of their property; had to flee from their homes and were forced to live in hiding while the survivors were living in terror.
Bacre Waly Ndiaye Ndiaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the massacres in Rwanda was in Rwanda from 8 to 17 April 1993 and noted that the victims of attacks, Tutsi in the overwhelming majority of cases, had been designated as targets solely because of their ethnicity. He already recommended after that mission that the qualification of Genocide should be retained with regard to the massacres of Tutsi.
But the occurrence of massacres was also recorded and documented by the then government. The Minister of Interior Faustin Munyazesa wrote to the President of the Republic in July 1991 on the massacre of Tutsi Bagogwe in the prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi. He reported that 286 people were killed in Ruhengeri and 86 in Gisenyi, with names of victims, their cells, sectors and communes of residence. The same minister had also previously written to the president reporting the killing of Tutsis in Gisenyi, Ruhengeri, Byumba and Kibungo between January and June 1991 with more than 1,481 victims, 302 wounded, 633 widows and 2274 orphans. This was three years before the start of the genocide in April 1994.
The recurrence of accusations against the RPF to have shot the plane of former President Habyarimana and that serving as the trigger of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is a tactic used by deniers to exonerate those who planned and executed the genocide. The authors of the article justify the killing of Tutsis as a reaction of angry Hutus who had their president killed by the RPF. Though this itself is baseless and unsubstantiated, it is important to note that the findings of the Mutsinzi Independent Commission and those of the ballistics specialists from the UK’s Cranfield Defence College in their report of 2008 confirmed that President Habyarimana’s plane was downed by missiles fired from Kanombe Military Barracks at the time controlled by the then government forces. This was also corroborated by French lawyers -who put a closure to the plane crash speculations- based on reports by French experts who also pinpointed Camp Kanombe, controlled by Habyarimana's army, as the missile launch site.
This cynical manipulation of historical facts that Judi Rever promotes emanates from known deniers like Pierre Pean (author of Noires fureurs, blancs menteurs: Rwanda 1990-1994) and Robin Phillipot (author of Ça ne s'est pas passé comme ça à Kigali) which she extensively cites and uses as reference in her book. Judi Rever's thesis is thus a complete and dangerous trivialisation of genocide where the Hutus are depicted as those who killed confusedly, out of fear and out of anger while the Tutsi killed Hutus in a calculated move driven by a sinister ideology.
The RPF stopped the genocide and saved lives of those who were being persecuted. An article like this one that reopens old wounds on the basis of rejected evidence gives credence to the views of those who seek to distort the historical record of the genocide. This unjustifiably attempts to undermine and disparage the great progress that Rwandans have made to rebuild a nation for the benefit of all.