By Aloysius M. Lugira
July 10, 2000
Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA
On the occasion of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Organization of African Unity currently in session at Lome, the capital city of Togo in Western Africa, one of the major events is the unveiling of “Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide”. This is the report of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities (IPEP) on the 1994 “Genocide” in Rwanda.
The full text of the 315-page report is available online at http://www.oau.oau.org/Document/ipep/report/Rwanda-e/EN-III-T.html
Although the report may still leave much truth, about the subject, to be desired, still in the words of classical expression, one would confidently say that “ut desint vires tamen est laudanda voluntas”, that is, “even though strength (resources) is lacking, the will is praiseworthy”. In that sense the report deserves appreciation.
The report is about what has been formulated as “The Preventable Genocide”. In the region within which Rwanda is situated we have seen the killing fields of Luweero in Uganda where hundreds of thousand civilian Baganda have been decimated. In Northeastern Uganda, in Acholiland, in Burundi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, civilians have been killed on a genocidal magnitude. The difference is that these killings have not been qualified as preventable genocides.
In the case of the 1994 “Genocide” in Rwanda the report considers the Uganda originating invasion of Rwanda as the immediately central factor of this sad incident. For this happening, the report apportions blame by singling out France, the United State, Belgium, the United Nations, the Roman Catholic and the Anglican churches, to the exclusion of the Organization of African Unity.
In relation to the Christian Churches during the “Genocide” the report shows a lack of circumspective perception of the context within which these churches have operated in Rwanda. What they are saying about Christian Churches reflects the unbalanced nature of the list of persons who made presentations to the Panel on this issue. The moral authority the report imputes around the religious leaders is not what is reflected in the murdering of Archbishop Vincent Nsegiyunva, the then Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda, by soldiers of the invading forces. It is not what is reflected in the cold blood killing of Bishop Thaddee Nsegiyunva who was a spokesperson in favor of political reform and had worked for the distancing of the Church from Habyarimana’s government.
On this church issue the knowledgeable and experienced counsel of President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana could better advise one. Remarking on the case of the exonerated Bishop Augustine Misago who was on trial with allegations that he had taken part in the 1994 “Genocide in Rwanda”, President Rawlings, among other remarks is reported by PANA, Accra, Ghana, September 16, 1999 as saying: ‘President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana said that it was unfortunate the Rwandan authorities are linking the Catholic Church with the 1994 genocide and have put on trial a clergy.’
‘Rawlings said troops from advanced countries, wielding sophisticated weapons, deserted Rwanda at a critical moment and asked: “What do you expect the Catholic Church to do under such circumstances?”
“What can a priest do with the Bible when those who had weapons ran away? When things are done this way a wrong impression is created,” he told a senior official of the Tanzania-based genocide tribunal on Rwanda.
Regarding the invasion of Rwanda, on October 1, 1990, the central factor of the “Genocide”, the Organization of African Unity deserves to do some heart searching.
The examination of conscience in this respect can be based on a variety of facts. Some of the facts include the following:
1. On July 9, 1990 President Yoweri Museveni was welcomed to Idi Amin Ugandan Club by joining him in being elected as the Chairman of the OAU for 1990/1991.
2. On this occasion President Yoweri Museveni delivered his OAU maiden and acceptance speech in which he sung the praises of democracy. However he expressed himself in a way that gave an impression of uncertainty as to what kind of democracy he was talking about.
3. On September 30, 1990 officers and men of Rwandese origin in the Uganda Army were observed crisscrossing Uganda in convoys armed to the teeth and directed to the Uganda-Rwanda border.
4. On October 1, 1990 it was announced that soldiers from Uganda had invaded Rwanda.
5. As was reported by the New York Times of October 3, 1990, page A21, the statement signed by Museveni’s Deputy Al-Haji Moses Kigongo had the following to say: “The Ugandan Government vehemently condemns this act by the refugees, who have enjoyed Uganda’s hospitality for as many as 30 years. The escape and re-entry into Rwanda was done without our knowledge or support”.
6. Today the story is differently put. As if the strategic amnesia is gone kook, even President Museveni variously says that he helped the Rwanda invading “boys”.
Carefully reading the “Rwanda: Preventable Genocide”, one observes a repetitively emphasized word. It is the word “truth”. The foremost casualty of the Rwanda genocidal condition is truth. In many ways truth is not just elusive, as the report happens to say. In a variety of ways truth about the so-called African Great Lakes Region has deliberately been victimized. Concerned Africans should resolve to liberate truth, so that truth may liberate us.
Relative to the condition of Rwanda, as long as one does not do something positive for the still existing interahamwe, as long as the inkontanyi are not positively addressed things will continue to go in circles. The report at hand is a good start. The report says it that truth has been found to be elusive. One has to get to the truth in order to come to the positivity that will concern all parties in question. One may talk about reparation. Yes. But reparation by all who may be held responsible from near and far. But reparation without the truth will still lead to a vicious circle.
After all this, one should be ready to swallow the bitter pill and suggest to go the already beaten way, namely the way of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a la South Africa.