Friends of evil (Chapter 6) When racial hatred is fashionable

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Book
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Social psychologist Gordon Allport, says: “Race is a fashionable focus for the propaganda of alarmists and demagogues. It is the favourite bogey used by those who have something to gain, or who themselves are suffering from some nameless dread. Racists seem to be people who, out of their own anxieties have manufactured the demon of race.”[1]

Allport said people like Adolf Hitler and other demagogues find racism useful in distracting people from their own troubles and providing them with an easy scapegoat. He says demagogues who wish to unite their followers ordinarily conjure up some “common enemy” and an “enemy race” being vague, becomes easily serviceable.[2]

This belief underlies a great deal of the incessant and brutal violence that has gripped the Great Lakes Region of Africa for the last two decades.

Many civil society groups and European donors have been at the forefront of peace-building efforts.  But even as they have urgently sought to address various causes of strife such as poverty and the dearth of democratic authority and the Rule of Law, they have retained a curious blind-spot when it comes to honestly addressing the Africa’s Great Lakes Region’s history of racialised political rivalry. Whether the violence is termed as arising from ethnic or racial divides, its common characteristic is the idea that the Tutsi are a people apart whose very nature impels them to always look to resurrect the so-called ‘Hima-Tutsi Empire’.

The Tutsi are as “Bantu” as their fellow Hutu Rwandans. In their late twentieth century form, the Tutsis and Hutu identities in Rwanda are largely an invention of colonial misapprehensions and manipulations.

This is too often ignored. On one side of the mythically racist ideological divide—stand the Tutsi with their unending dream of empire, and on the other are the ‘indigenous Bantu’ who are called to resist and guard their liberty.

This racist vision was the essential basis of the 1994 genocide. And, it is a construction that leads to Mahmood Mamdani’s famous phrase ‘when victims become killers.’  And its latest manifestation is in Marie Beatrice Umutesi’s ‘Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire’.[3]

Umutesi’s book was first published in French—‘Fuir ou Mourir au Zaire’— by L’Harmattan in the year 2000 and has since been published in six languages.  It comes recommended in an English and French foreword by Catherine Newbury, a well regarded American historian of the Great Lakes, who asks us to look to it as a reliable source of knowledge of what happened in the violent conflicts in Rwanda and the former Zaire.

The author’s activism in civil society begins in Rwanda and continues in Zaire where she lived, as a refugee, from July 1994 to early 1998.  In these camps were NGOs who assumed leadership of the gathered thousands on the basis of their superior organisation and resources (often sourced from Western donors).

Much has been written about the camps in Zaire and the morally fraught issue of how many thousands of their inhabitants were not only killers during the genocide but had been leading figures in its organisation.

Since the Interahamwe – as the killer militias were popularly dubbed – in the camps were armed and were determined to continue their genocidal campaign, the many humanitarian organisations present were forced to work with them if they were going to succeed in delivering aid.

The Interahamwe and the ex-Rwandan military (the FAR) not only wielded their machetes and guns to control the camps, but also came to dominate a group of NGOs that associated under an umbrella known as the Collective.  Thus were humanitarianism and genocidaire ideology co-joined in the camps of Eastern Zaire in 1994.

Umutesi takes a different view, arguing that the Rwandan NGOs took the lead in the refugee camps because they had not taken part in the genocide or in the massacres that followed during attacks into Rwanda.  They were therefore, according to her, “well placed to provide better information than that disseminated either by the sources close to the new government in Kigali or by those close to the old regime of Jean Kambanda” (Umutesi p. 73).

They were for her, a neutral, even objective alternative to the new government and the genocidaires. Yet she was present in the camps and cannot possibly have missed the levels of control that the Interahamwe and the FAR had over their running.  Indeed a wide literature demonstrating this exists today, as shall be presented in this book.

A leading aim of the perpetrators of the genocide, during and after committing this crime, was to muddy the waters when it came to its apprehension as a genocide by the international community.

In line with this, Umutesi describes the Collective with its ‘European partners’ as early as August 1994 organising seminars whose aim was to show that it was complicated to understand the genocide of Tutsi—which was in fact still continuing, especially in areas under the French Operation Turquoise. “There are not simply victims on one side (Tutsi) and guilty (Hutu) on the other as well as we have been led to believe,” she writes, thus opening the door to the genocide denial or the Double Genocide thesis that was to follow (Umutesi p. 73).

These seminars could scarcely have taken place without access to funding from Western agencies, which may not have been aware that in providing funds they were becoming complicit in a genocidaire campaign.  Several times in the book, NGOs like Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Caritas and Rapporteur Sans Frontiers (RSF) are mentioned as good of partners of the Collective.

As the FAR and the Interahamwe militias were carrying out incursions into Rwanda to continue the genocide and try to regain power, the Collective was on a propaganda offensive: it “decided to review its strategies and focus all its energies on return and to that end, organised meetings in all the camps,… discussions about return … and sensitizing the international opinion on the issue of return for the refugees.” (Umutesi p. 94-95)

The aim of this education campaign however, extended beyond influencing the views of the powerful members of the international community. It was aimed at the hundreds of thousands of camp inhabitants as well.  In this way, it was an extension of the Hutu Power propaganda of Kangura newspaper and RTLM radio that led up to the genocide.  It resisted the new Rwanda government’s appeal for the refugees to return to their homes, arguing that the refugees should be allowed to ‘decide for themselves on the most opportune time to go’, and telling the refugees that it was ‘possible to fight effectively against dictatorial and criminal powers [read the RPF], without resorting to the same weapons they used.’ (Umutesi p.96)

The success of this campaign was dependent on its ability to gain resources from European bodies and to recruit them to sway public opinion and put pressure on Kigali (Umutesi p.97).

These activities, as has been mentioned, were meant to complement Interahamwe military operations and were dubbed by their practitioners as “active non-violence,” bastardising the freedom struggles of Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in the United States.  This cynical scheme led to the arrest of the head of the Collective, Cyprien Ndagijimana, by the Zairean Security Services at Bukavu in February 1996.

According to Umutesi, arrested alongside Ndagijimana was ‘another trainer who was a Belgian and who was working in the camps at Goma on a project dedicated to peace and reconciliation’ (Ibid, p.99).  From various reliable sources, this Belgian (whose name the author conceals), is Jean Pierre Godding.

The author, throughout her book, presents herself as an active and important member of a “Collective” of civil society, and as a devout Christian. To appeal to or manipulate Christians’ sentiments, Umutesi poses as a deeply religious person. She claims to have survived a long journey in the forests of Zaire, on the go far away from Rwanda, because of her “unshakeable faith in God” (Umutesi p.203).

As if she was an arbiter of people’s faith, she writes that she was pleased that her Zairean host named ‘Ya Pepe’— one she found at a place called Batsina—was a good “Christian in the True sense of the word” (Umutesi p. 205). Again as the good Christian she claims to be, she recounts how she left Bukavu ‘with a Bible’, got a rosary somewhere in Irangi, and consequently ‘read the Bible, or recited the rosary’ when she felt ‘ready to crack’.

Umutesi maintains she was able to learn religious songs, and ‘felt restored’ after praying. Due to her self-proclaimed piety, she says she “was able to bear the daily humiliation, deprivation, sickness and misery better.” (Umutesi p. 214)

Praising Bigotry

Catharine Newbury characterises Umutesi’s story as “simple honesty and a non-manipulative presentation.”  But this historian’s reasoning is difficult to square with a book that seeks to justify genocide and give credence to the ‘double genocide’ theory, which is quite simply an obscene attempt to deny the actual genocide.

Umutesi is a purposeful believer in colonial era racialism which differentiated the Tutsis as ones who are “tall, slender and have refined features,” while the Hutu are “of medium build with Negroid features.” (Umutesi p. 6)

From this quick historicising of Rwanda’s divide, Umutesi moves to the roadblocks of 1994.  Here, “Hutu with refined features were killed at the roadblocks, whereas Tutsi with Hutu features remained safe.” (Umutesi p.7)  Her own mother, a Hutu, is one example she gives who had “Tutsi features” and was threatened with death several times, “even though her identity card was completely in order.”(Id.)

The argument of an identity card being in order or not is a discussion killers had at roadblocks while their terrified prey awaited the verdict whether they would be murdered or allowed to live. The issue was whether the identity card said “Hutu” or “Tutsi”. This reflected nothing as much as an idea of Hutu purity, racial purity in the best early twentieth century spirit. The Tutsi had been defined as enemies, by the army loved and trusted by Umutesi.

In a letter dated 21 September 1992, the Army Commander, Colonel Deogratias Nsabimana, had circulated a document prepared and signed by a committee of ten officers giving a “contemporary” definition of the term enemy. According to this document that was intended for the widest possible dissemination, the enemy fell into two categories, namely, “the primary enemy” and the “enemy supporter.”

The primary enemy was defined as “the extremist Tutsi within the country or abroad who are nostalgic for power and who have never acknowledged and still do not acknowledge the realities of the Social Revolution of 1959, and who wish to regain power in RWANDA by all possible means, including the use of weapons.”

The document made it clear that the “primary enemy” supporter was “anyone who lent support in whatever form to the primary enemy.” It also stated that the primary enemy and their supporters came mostly from social groups comprising, in particular, “Tutsi refugees”, “Tutsi within the country”, “Hutus dissatisfied with the current regime”, “Foreigners married to Tutsi women” and the “Nilotic-hamitic” tribes in the region.”

This identification of “primary enemy” and “enemy supporter”, led to yet another way of categorizing an individual as a Tutsi. This time the Interahamwe militia were to decide. As Prof. William Schabas says without a shadow of doubt, “In Rwanda, the Belgian colonizers had defined ethnic Tutsis as those possessing a certain number of cattle.  The determinations were made (…), then inscribed on identity cards, and passed from parents to children according to customary rules.  In 1994, individuals were Tutsis if the Interahamwe militia said they were.”[4]

Many ordinary persons, including Umutesi, accepted the army’s definition of the enemy. A prosecution witness, who confessed his participation in the genocide, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that they killed Tutsis because it was ‘a period of war’ and that they were fighting against the Tutsi who were their ‘enemies.’  “We were fighting the Tutsi and also their accomplices. Civilians were the ones targeted but even Tutsi soldiers were killed,” he said.[5]

Umutesi writes of her ‘true identity’ being questioned in Belgium (Umutesi p. 15) and says “it often happened that I was taken for a Tutsi’ (Ibid p. 19). She says, “I could not wear a chignon, which made me look like a Tutsi.” She says that militia in Kibuye exclaimed when they saw her:  ‘Look, a Tutsi woman’ (Ibid p. 67)

In October 1990, when the government arrested thousands of Tutsis wrongly accused of being accomplices of the enemy, Umutesi suspected she risked also being apprehended if state spies found in her possession a ‘compromising’ photo of former Burkina Faso president, Thomas Sankara because ‘they said he resembled the head of the rebel Tutsi, General Fred Rwigema.’ (Umutesi p. 21) Umutesi writes, about her friend “who looked like a Tutsi” (Ibid p. 53).

She describes a friend’s son who was allegedly threatened with death because killers ‘took him for a rebel’.  She writes, ‘With his tall stature, his refined features, and his dark skin, he had all the characteristics of a Tutsi.  He was saved by his sister, who looked like a Hutu.’ (Ibid p.60)

Umutesi is steeped in this view of racial essentialism: the Tutsis look a certain way and their political being is an extension of their biological or genetic characteristics.  Even the very Tutsi name is enough to cloud her sky.  She Claims to have had a sense of insecurity in the camp of INERA where she stayed in Bukavu, because she “was called Umutesi, a name normally associated with Tutsi” (Ibid p.75). Her fear emanated from the fact that there was widespread lynching in the camp, and it was enough for you to be killed if someone shouted at you as ‘RPF’. (Ibid p. 80)

Personally, Umutesi says that she ‘was considered to be ‘pro-RPF’ because, among other things, she ‘looked like a Tutsi and had a Tutsi name’ (Ibid p.81). Here it should be noted, ethnicity and political organization are confounded as one and the same. It is not a new phenomenon but a pattern that existed before and during the genocide whereby hate propagandists used the words enemy, accomplice, the RPF, Tutsi and cockroach interchangeably. Umutesi does not wonder why no one took her for a European or American for having a compound name Marie-Beatrice, which is certainly a non-African name!

Umutesi knew that being ‘pro-RPF’ meant having an ‘anti-genocide tendency’, a concept that existed before the death of Habyarimana. In Yaounde  Cameroun, Colonel  Théoneste BAGOSORA wrote a paper  dated  October  30 1995, “L’assassinat  du  Président  Habyarimana  ou  l’ultime  operation du  Tutsi  pour  sa  reconquête  du  pouvoir  par  la  force  au Rwanda.” (President  Habyarimana’s  Assassination or The  Final  Tutsi  Operation  to  Regain  Power  in  Rwanda  Using  Force).[6]

He  wrote the paper to provide what he believes was “information  to  help  Hutus  reflect  on and try to understand their  past mistakes, assess their potential strengths and together devise a strategy to  quickly help their people out  of  their  current  devastation”[7] Explicitly, Bagosora says: The “Power” factions joined the President’s side while the others joined the RPF side. The polarisation he emphasised was thus manifest at all levels and in all segments of society. In other words, he said, there was already an open conflict between the Tutsis and their collaborators on one hand, and the Hutus on the other— “the Tutsis’ aim being to regain absolute power, while the Hutus wanted to share it democratically”.[8]

Here are the demarcating concepts which are emphasised by Bagosora. The “President’s side”, as articulated in this paper, was the MRND and CDR groups which planned and implemented the genocide. On the other side were “Tutsi and their collaborators,” a side which Umutesi did not wish to belong.

Examples, by name, of who belonged to either of the two opposing sides are in a document “United Nations Security Council misled about the ‘presumed’ Rwanda genocide.”[9]

This document was prepared by the RDR-Cameroon Branch, including Bagosora, and other genocidaires, the majority of whom have been convicted by the ICTR. In this document, for instance, politicians who were members of the Coalition Government which existed up to April 6, 1994,[10] but who were killed on the  April 7, 1994 by the “president’s side”, also called “anti-RPF”, are described as “pro-RPF.”

They include Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingiyimana, Ministers Frederic Nzamurambaho, Ndasingwa Landouald, and Faustin Rucogoza. Umutesi, in her book, brought to light another crucial element which explains why the genocidaires wish to say there was double genocide. She wrote: “It was enough for a neighbour or an enemy to insinuate that one harboured Tutsi to have a whole brigade of militia on the doorstep. You were never sure how the search would end up. Many were killed, not because were sheltering Tutsi, but because they had valuable possession or money that the militia wanted to take for themselves. In order not to be apprehended after the return of law and order, they would kill the entire household.” (Umutesi p.61)

This makes it sound like Umutesi admits that the double genocide thesis is meant to cover up Hutu extremists crimes. What she meant, that is very true, is that there are so many Hutu who were killed by the Hutu militia, but someone else—the RPF for that matter had to carry the blame.

Umutesi is extremely fixated with fallacious identities she firmly believes in—as a Hutu. She does not explain in her book, why she felt “astonished that a southern Tutsi had married a Northern Hutu.” (Ibid p. 61) The Tutsi was a man who married a Hutu woman; their entire family, as Umutesi writes, was killed.

The hate dogma spread by the post-independence Rwandan governments and intellectuals—through the media, ‘definitions of the enemy’, and inciting speeches—not only claimed more than a million human lives but also changed the national identity. According to the London based organization, African Rights, which has done tremendous work on Rwanda, the aim of the Hutu extremists went beyond the physical extermination of every Rwandan Tutsi. “The aim was to transform the collective identity of the Hutu, by eradicating the moderate Hutu leaders, and all Hutus who tried to protect their Tutsi friends, neighbours and family members… more radical was the creation of a nation of people complicit in the genocidal killing; they wanted everyone to be tainted with the blood of those who died.”[11]

This was in accordance with The Tenth Hutu Commandment, as published in Kangura: “The Social Revolution of 1959, the Referendum of 1961, and the Hutu Ideology, must be taught to every Muhutu at every level.  Every Hutu must spread this ideology widely.  Any Muhutu who persecutes his brother Muhutu for having read, spread and taught this ideology is a traitor.”[12] From what the author says, the tenth ‘Hutu commandment’ was very much observed.

Umutesi describes another character in her book, named Serge, who was ‘suspected of being Munyamulenge’ by the militias in the camps (whom she christens ‘youth in charge of security’). She confirms these qualms by saying: ‘It is true that Serge resembled a Tutsi’ (Ibid p. 110).

Again, there is a story about an armed thug who spared Umutesi’s life after verifying she was Hutu (Ibid p. 135) and also about a girlfriend, Assumpta who “looked like a Tutsi,” and “escaped death countless times” (Ibid p. 140). The story of Assumpta is associated with people who brought an old Tutsi woman and ordered Assumpta to kill with her own hands “as proof of her truthfulness and ethnic identity.” Umutesi does not say whether Assumpta obeyed or not.

Umutesi’s racial slants are evident in other ways as well.  She writes about the advent of multiparty politics in early 1990’s, acknowledging that socially and economically the Hutu and Tutsi were not different (Ibid p.36). Although she recognises that Tutsi were discriminated against by laws and regulations, she does not see any need for a change.

For instance, regarding education policies she thought the Liberal Party’s (PL) approach was superficial: “They rightly questioned the system of access to secondary and higher education, which was based on ethnic quotas, but instead proposed a system based on test results. I thought this reflected the idea of Tutsi intellectual superiority that was still held by certain Tutsi extremists.” (Ibid p. 36)

In this presentation, ‘they’ was initially supposed to mean the PL, but later metamorphoses to mean an inimical ethnic group. What is initially rightful questioning suddenly becomes a negative idea, held and advocated by bad elements Umutesi dubs “Tutsi extremists.”

From discussions in political rallies, which I personally followed on Radio Rwanda in 1991-93, people were not happy with the quota system because access to secondary school education was not based on merit and promoted mediocrity. It was a system that was not unfavourable to the Tutsis only, but since the idea of changing it was from a party which was seen to be “concerned with the Tutsi”; (Ibid p. 37) her suspicion remained.

She includes in her book horrendous stereotypes, for which she doesn’t quote sources. She writes for example: “Virginie and her cousins could not walk around openly, because the peasants in this part of the country, which was far from the urban centres, were not used to seeing young women in pants, shorts, miniskirts, or braided hair. For these peasants, a young girl who dressed that way had to be Tutsi. According to them, young Hutu girls, were well brought up (not) to dress like whores.” (Ibid p. 141)

Umutesi’s historiography is typical of that spread by hate propaganda before and during the genocide.  She brings into play the language of mass murder masquerading as the language of liberty and justice.  The Tutsis are portrayed as a people beholden to an ancient wickedness that must ever be fought since they aim perpetually, in the absence of resistance, to build their (racial) empire.

The 1959 Hutu Revolution, she argues, was to get rid of feudal Tutsi power, based on ‘servitude, exclusion and contempt…’  Umutesi adds force to this erroneous assertion as she goes on to paint a parody of the ancient regime: “Every Hutu owed allegiance to a Tutsi and had to perform duties that were rendered without payment.  A Tutsi could even throw a Hutu out of his own home and occupy it himself.”(Ibid p.7)

On the 22nd November 1992, Dr. Leon Mugesera, made a speech in which he was equally clear on the targeted group in the 1994 genocide. He publicly urged the Hutu to destroy the Tutsi and return them to their (mythical) ancestral home in Ethiopia “via the short cut of the Nyabarongo River”, which feeds into the rivers of the Nile watershed.  Not only did he agree with the army headquarters’ definition of “the enemies,” but also agreed with the colonial racial theory. Killing the “people in question, and dumping the bodies in the river—were a usual practice in past massacres of Tutsi.”[13]

In that speech, Mugesera, a PhD graduate from Canada, who worked with the ruling party MRND and the Ministry for the Family and Promotion of Women, mobilized the business community “to finance operations aiming to eliminate the (Tutsi) people. And, he remarked, “…the fatal error of 1959…was in letting them get away.” He sounded like the Nazi Marshal von Rundstedt who regretted that one of the “great mistakes of 1918, was to spare the civil life of the enemy countries.” The aim of this annihilator was “to always keep the number of Germans, at least double the numbers of the peoples of the contiguous countries!”

The wickedness of the Tutsi in Umutesi’s book appears in multiple forms. They are portrayed as so power hungry that the victims of genocide are defined as “collateral damage” for a cold-blooded RPF. This idea is very salient in the ideology of the genocidaires.

In many speeches and publications which were made or written by the regime which planned the genocide against Tutsis, the issue of power and empire building is emphasised. The genocidaires charge that the real reason the RPF took up arms to fight the regime of President Juvenal Habyarimana was to take back the power the majority had taken from the Tutsi in 1959. The limits of this power are not the borders of Rwanda, but an empire to cover several countries in the region.

So driven by a lust for empire was the RPF, Umutesi writes, that their war against the Habyarimana regime was in effect a ‘cold blooded decision to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Tutsis living in Rwanda.’ (Umutesi p. 47) Evidence of this is that ‘an attack by the refugee Tutsi inexorably led to massacres of Tutsi in the interior’, so that the attack by the RPF in October 1990 ‘risked the lives of thousands of innocent civilians’ leading her to ascribe to the RPF the view that ‘life isn’t worth much when power is at stake.’ (Ibid p.19)

The above idea is not new with the genocidaires of 1994 and beyond. Colonel Bagosora upheld this justification of genocide earlier than Umutesi when he said: “It should be noted that each time, the Tutsis inside the country were the victims of reprisals on the part of the Hutus; the RPF thus seriously jeopardised the security of their brothers”. Bagosora also makes use of President Grégoire Kayibanda’s apocalyptic message to the Rwandan emigrants or refugees abroad, March 11, 1964.

Indeed,  in  1964,  President  Grégoire Kayibanda  issued  the  following  warning to Tutsi: “Some  of  you  (…)  through  terrorist  activities  organized  from  outside  the  country (…)  disturb  your  brothers  who  are  living  in  peace  in  our  democratic  country  of  Rwanda. (…)  Assuming  you  managed  to  blast  your  way  into  Kigali,  just  imagine  the  chaos of which  you  would  be  the  first  victims.  (…)  That would be the definitive, abrupt end of the Tutsi race.”[14]

The assassination of Presidents Habyarimana of Rwanda and Ntaryamira of Burundi, according to Bagosora, “must be viewed as the ultimate provocation, which exposed all those …namely the Tutsis and the Hutu RPF collaborators.”[15]

Bagosora at that point goes further to say: “Habyarimana’s  assassination  was  therefore  to  be  the RPF’s  ultimate  operation  in  its  bid  to return  to  power,  but  its  strategists  either  made  the  serious  miscalculation  as  regards  the consequences  of  such  a  decision  or  must  have  disregarded  the  price  thereof,  which  was obviously  too  high  in  comparison  with  the  expected  benefits.  In the latter scenario, still driven  by  their  pride  and  immoderate  thirst  for  power,  the  Tutsi  extremists  decided  to cold-bloodedly  expose  their  brothers  to  reprisals,  in  order  to  make  good  their  plan  and thus  justify  resumption  of  the  war  and  the  ensuing  massacre  of  the  Hutus. Nevertheless, aware of the potentially disastrous consequences of the President’s assassination  on  their  relations  with  the  Hutu  majority  and  even  with  their  brothers  who were  thus  imperilled,  the  RPF  strategists  had  to  resort  to  all  possible  means  to  minimise such  consequence.”[16] (Need to chip in Mutsinzi report and the role of Bagosora in the assassination of Habyarimana)

With the head of state dead, Umutesi writes, “there was bound to be war. The reprisals would be horrific. Ethnic disturbances which were sure to follow would be the excuse for the RPF to resume hostilities.”(Umutesi p. 45) When the genocide begins, it is for her a mere “settling of accounts” (Ibid p.47).

Even the massacre of Tutsi at Gahanga parish, a Kigali suburb, which she claims to have witnessed, is presented as a battle between Hutu militia and “Tutsi combatants” where the latter “could not resist for long.”(Ibid p. 51) This is war and not genocide, Umutesi is claiming; a sadly common ploy by genocide deniers throughout history.

There are also telling silences in Umutesi’s book.  Her long stay in Kigali during the genocide is fuzzy, the descriptions of what she is supposed to have observed first hand lack the breadth and vividness that are the staple in other books by witnesses.  She travels from Kigali to Gitarama and there is nary a mention of the roadblocks and the dead and dying who were littered along the way.

Reaching Gitarama, the temporary seat of the deposed government, Umutesi writes as the head of a developmental NGO.  All the better she seems to wrap herself up in the robes of objectivity.  She and her companions are overcome by the extent of the tragedy: “in addition to the Tutsi genocide which was happening before our eyes, the rebels undertook widespread killings of the civilian Hutu population in the zones they occupied.” They begin to “denounce the massacres of the Hutu and Tutsi…” (Umutesi p. 62)

By these devices of commission and omission, Umutesi ascends – or shall we say descends – into the ranks of the genocide’s intellectual deniers. At Gitarama, she continues to link genocide and war. She observes, ‘The will to totally exterminate the Tutsi grew with the approach of the rebels.  The Tutsi who had been spared in one neighbourhood or another because their neighbours didn’t have anything against them were killed when rebel shells began to fall. It is human nature to see enemies everywhere and think that the only way to stay alive is to kill them.’  (Umutesi p.64)

Referring to the mass flight to Zaire in early July 1994, she writes about what was churned out of their rumour mills in the camps: “Rumours ran rampant that the rebels were going to block all the accessible borders and prevent the Hutu from escaping to Zaire.

We were reminded that at Byumba they were already telling people that they would push all the Hutu into Lake Kivu.”(Umutesi p. 69) The alarm that spread through the refugees was another side of the genocidal coin.  The malevolent, plotting Tutsi who were to be massacred would now surely take their revenge, went the reasoning. She identifies herself with the “we” versus the “they”.

 

When friends meet

Umutesi can pass on some plain falsehoods without second thought. Just two examples: She writes that Gen. Fred Rwigema held the post of ‘Minister of the Interior in Museveni’s government’ and President Paul Kagame was “responsible for the Ugandan army.” (Umutesi p. 17) She, presumably, tells this lie, to reinforce the idea of how Rwandans may have been well-off in exile. The second lie is where she lays emphasis on the danger of being trapped by ‘rebels’ writing Goma was “only about one hundred kilometres from Kisangani.” (Ibid p. 123)

Throughout her book, has a strange approach to the naming of people. There are very few with more than one name.  In this category there are people for whom she could not avoid telling their full names, in her acknowledgements. She begins with one Hamuli Kabarhuza of the DRC, and then moves straight to people who were behind the writing of the book.

“When I arrived in Belgium in 1998, I was welcomed by Marie Goretti Nyirarukundo and Ivan Godfroid of Vredeseilanden-Coopibo, a Belgian NGO based in Leuven. Thanks to their help and encouragement, the idea of writing a book began to take shape. The realization of this project was made possible by Vredeseilanden-Coopibo, which put its resources at my disposal. Their personnel unfailingly provided me with the necessary help. …Later they put me in contact with the Fundacio S’Olivar in Estellencs, Mallorca…Juan Carrero Saralegui, president of the Fundacio S’Olivar and spokesperson for the Spanish Forum for Justice in Rwanda, understood that it was important for me…that the book be published in English.”(pg. xvii)

She expresses gratitude to the translator, but the English version does not say much about Ivan Godfroid, who apart from the “great assistance” he provided, wrote a postscript for the original French edition that was published in year 2000.

Her English translator Julia Emerson also reveals her political sympathies. She expressed “deep gratitude to Nobel Peace Prize nominee Juan Carrero Saralegui and the Fundacio S’Olivar…for the grant that allowed her begin the translation of the ‘very important book.”[17]

Emerson adds that, Juan Carrero and his organization “worked tirelessly and selflessly” to ensure that all of those involved in massive human rights violations, both during and after the horrific events that followed the assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana will be brought to justice, thus “bringing a more complete and balanced understanding of this tragedy to a reluctant community” (Umutesi p. xvii)

Emma Bonino, one time European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, is also presented with both her names, and is labelled by Umutesi as ‘mother of the refugees’. To stress how important Bonino was, when they were on the run, they ‘did everything possible’ to welcome her as a mother (Ibid p.154). The way she praises Bonino, is different from the way she speaks about Sadako Ogata—who, at that time was the boss of UNHCR. The refugee agency is very unpopular with Umutesi. She brands the agency’s workers who encouraged the refugees to return home, as ‘bounty hunters’ (Ibid p.211).

Many are mentioned only by their first names. The majority of such are close friends, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues of the author.  She deliberately avoids their surnames in the same way she avoids acknowledging that the RDR which was in charge of refugee camp life.  Even her own camp leader, a Spanish Catholic priest, is simply named ‘Father Carlos’ omitting his surname Olivera.

There is one name ‘Frans’ whose surname Umutesi also holds back. They met together at the height of the genocide, in May 1994, when Umutesi was preparing emergency plans to be submitted to their (Umutesi and others) ‘backers’ through ‘Frans, a representative from our donors’. (Umutesi p.63)

The nationality of Frans is made known only when Umutesi expresses her appreciation to ‘the Dutch friend who had been such a great help’. (Ibid p.64)

As you read the book you realise how close Frans and Beatrice were, as she writes: “When I was at the death’s door, the two people I thought about were my mother and Frans, a Dutch friend. I took advantage of the rare moments when I was conscious to tell Virginie, and Marcelline my last wishes: once they were out of the forest they should rip up any papers that could identify them as Rwandan and they should do everything to get in contact with Frans, who could help them get out of Zaire.” (Ibid p.200)

Again to show how close they were, when news came to Umutesi that there was one Frans looking for her in the Zairean jungle, she says: “I only knew one person with that name…my friend Frans”(Ibid p.235)  She says for once in her life, what happened to her surpassed her wildest dreams.

Frans had been her friend beginning in Gitarama in 1988. Frans was able to learn where to find his friend in the jungle of Zaire, when Marcelline was repatriated to Rwanda by the UNHCR. Marcelline, who was repatriated to her country against the wishes of Umutesi, told Umutesi’s mother, who knew where to get Frans who at that time was on mission in Rwanda. The ‘Dutch friend’, who was relieved to hear news of her, later communicated the news to the ‘Belgian friends’ (Ibid p.239)

Up to this point, I was not sure who this Frans was, but Umutesi—finally gives a hint. “Frans was not afraid to run risks, even big ones, when his friends’ lives were in danger. In May 1994 he had come to a Rwanda torn by war and genocide. It was a big risk to take, because one died easily in those days.” (Id)

The friend of Umutesi, who visited his friends in territory under the control of the genocidaires, was Frans van Hoof, whose connections and activism will be explained below.

Umutesi’s book is a study in subtle dishonesty and to write about it further, following her journey from Bukavu to Brussels through Congo forest and Kinshasa, would require more space than is available here. The book’s nature is either her wish or that of the people who assisted her in writing it.

Umutesi’s connections help explain the content of the book, and why it was reproduced in many languages. Furthermore, it is while looking at this network of friends who protect genocidaires that I decided to call my book “friends of evil”. I came to the conclusion that the discourse in Umutesi’s book, her relationships and friendships, among sundry actors in the writing of her book, show a highly visible politico-ideological facade.


[1] Goldon W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (25th Edition), Addison-Wesley Publishing Company (1980) p. 110

[2] Ibid, p.110 Allport said Hitler created the Jewish menace “not so much to demolish the Jews as to cement the nazi hold of Germany”p.41

[3] A book which was published by the University of Wisconsin Press, 2004

[4] W. Schabas, The Genocide Convention at Fifty (Special Lecture, International Institute of Human Rights-Strasbourg, July 9, 1999)

[5] Jane Some,  FORMER ‘INTERAHAMWE’ MILITIAMAN TESTIFIES IN CYANGUGU TRIAL Internews, ARUSHA September 17, 2001

[6] Prosecution Exhibit No 31(b) case No ICTR-98-41-T which was tendered on 17September 2002

[7] Ibid, Bagosora 1995… (p.9)

[8] Ibid. Bagosora 1995 (p.10)

[9] Prosecution Exhibit No P.161(E) case No ICTR-99-50-T which was tendered on February 20, 2007

[10] Ibid, RDR-Cameroun 1996 Table No 1 on p.18

[11] African Rights, Death Despair and Defiance, August 1995, p. 993

[12] Kangura No 6.of December 1990 p.8

[13] Propaganda and Practice: Human Rights Watch Report-1999

[14] Ibid. Bagosora 1995 (p.21-22)

[15] Ibid. Bagosora 1995 (p.23)

[16] Ibid. Bagosora 1995 (p.26)

[17]In reality,  Juan Carrero Saralegui was a nominee of Hutu Extremists

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