The Kagame-Power Lobby's Dishonest Attack on the BBC 2's Documentary On Rwanda

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President Clinton and Ambassador Theogene Rudasingwa

On October 1, 2014, a remarkable event occurred in Britain. 

The British Broadcasting Corporation's BBC 2's This World telecast Rwanda's Untold Story, a documentary produced by Jane Corbin and John Conroy that offered a critical view of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and of his and the British and U.S. roles in the 1994 mass killings in Rwanda and beyond.

Although the documentary adheres to some key longstanding falsehoods of the Anglo-American propaganda system's treatment of the "Rwandan genocide," above all the claim that in 1994 leaders of the country's Hutu majority conspired to commit genocide against its Tutsi minority, nevertheless, we believe that the telecast of Rwanda's Untold Story constituted a first of its kind in the reinterpretation of what really happened in Rwanda in 1994.

And this is true not only for the BBC, but also for the rest of the establishment English-language television news media in Britain, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.

The BBC 2's reinterpretation works largely by providing airtime to well-informed figures conventionally marginalized within the establishment media.  Accordingly, Rwanda's Untold Story is the story that they tell and that they would have been telling for many years had they and their views not been systematically suppressed and even ridiculed and smeared by the establishment media, historians, and assorted political hacks from within the Kagame-Power Lobby.

Among these newly admitted storytellers are Theogene Rudasingwa and Kayumba Nyamwasa, former high-ranking Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) associates of Paul Kagame now forced to live in exile for opposing his rule and seeking his downfall.

"The price of being able to express a view that is even mildly critical or dissenting in Rwanda, the price is very high," Rudasingwa, Kagame's former chief-of-staff, tells Corbin.  "Those who tried, journalists, have been killed, and others imprisoned or simply banished into exile" (51:19).

When Corbin asks Nyamwasa, a former top-ranking general under Kagame, whether he was "surprised there wasn't more protests from the international community over what was happening in the Congo and Rwanda's part in it," Nyamwasa replies: "No.  I wasn't surprised.  He's got very powerful people who protect him" (45:50).

Another critic here given a voice is Aloys Ruyenzi, a former member of Kagame's personal guard.

Ruyenzi recounts what he heard at a meeting between Kagame and his closest staff during which Kagame gave the order to shoot down Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana's Falcon 50 jet.  Ruyenzi also states that he was in Kagame's company when, on April 6, 1994, the news of the shoot-down arrived at the RPF's headquarters in Mulindi, in the far north of the country.  "Kagame was happy," Ruyenzi tells Corbin.  "The other commanders were happy too.  From that moment, we started to move" (15:15).

Yet another critic is Carla Del Ponte, a former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, who recounts how she was relieved of her job at the ICTR in 2003 for having opened investigations into RPF crimes and then rebuffed overtures from the United States and Britain to terminate them.  "[T]he U.S. didn't back me up," she says, "the U.K. followed suit, as always, and my mandate was not renewed" (38:28).

Still another new voice is former FBI counter-terrorism agent James Lyons, who was Commander of Investigations at the ICTR.  Lyons tells Corbin that in 1996-1997 his and the late Michael Hourigan's National Team had found three solid sources claiming knowledge that Kagame was responsible for the Habyarimana assassination.  When in early 1997 Hourigan and Lyons presented ICTR Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour with a memorandum outlining what they had learned, Arbour ordered the investigation terminated and confiscated the memorandum.  "Louise Arbour just did a 180-degrees turnaround," Lyons says, referring to Arbour's reaction when she learned that his group had evidence implicating Kagame.  "Someone above her was telling her this was not a good idea to be investigating Paul Kagame" (39:30).

Among the other BBC 2 guests was the Belgian scholar Filip Reyntjens, a specialist in the history of the Great Lakes region of central Africa; Reyntjens states frankly on camera that he regards Kagame as the "most important war criminal in office today" (48:31).  Also the Belgian Colonel Luc Marchal, a former high-ranking member of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) with responsibility for the capital city, Kigali.  Marchal describes the overwhelming tension that pervaded Kigali during the months before Habyarimana's assassination: "Every night in Kigali the background noise was of weapons and shooting and of grenades exploding" (10:16).  "In my opinion," Marchal adds, "the attack on the president's plane was the trigger to begin the military operation and the armed takeover by the RPF" (15:53).

Perhaps most important of all, the BBC 2 devotes a substantial segment of its documentary to the work of two American professors now at the University of Michigan, Allan Stam and Christian Davenport, who from 1998 on carried out important field research in Rwanda, and who have gone on to develop many powerful and provocative interpretations about what really happened in Rwanda in 1994.  "What the world believes, and what really happened, are quite different," a clip from Corbin's interview with Stam appears twice in the documentary (0:21 and 31:19).  (We return to Davenport and Stam's work below.)

In sum, although we take issue with the BBC 2 documentary's very loose and inexact use of the term "genocide" when referring to the events in Rwanda in1994, Jane Corbin and John Conroy's Rwanda's Untold Story marks an important, informative, and decisive break from the now-more-than 20 years of false and propagandistic storytelling in the Anglo-American world that has buried the real history of the period.  Both the BBC 2's This World and the documentary's production staff deserve their audience's gratitude -- not condemnation.

How Dare the BBC 2's This World Break Ranks with the Rest of the Respectable Media and Bring All of These Ugly, Unmentionable Truths to Light?

Just as it was a remarkable event for Rwanda's Untold Story to be telecast over the BBC 2 on October 1, so it was entirely predictable that on October 12, a response in the form of an open letter signed by 38 "scholars, scientists, researchers, journalists and historians" was sent to the BBC's Director-General Tony Hall, taking issue with the documentary in the strongest terms possible.  And, as is the conventional practice among members of this group, their open letter features the smear that the documentary engages in "genocide denial," a derogatory charge that in one form or another (e.g., "genocide deniers," "deniers") appears no fewer than 13 times in a letter only 1,266 words long.

"Genocide denial" and the dissemination of "genocide ideology and sectarianism" are the preferred negative-attack weapons of the Kagame dictatorship, on the basis of which it has denounced, intimidated, imprisoned, driven into exile, and even assassinated many Rwandans as well as foreign nationals over the past 20 years.

Kagame's legal system used such charges to arrest the Hutu political figure and chair of the opposition Forces Democratiques Unifiées (FDU)-Inkingi coalition, Victoire Ingabire, in April 2010, removing her from competing against Kagame in the August presidential election, which Kagame won with an incredible 93 percent of the rigged vote. 

"[I]ngabire asked why there were no memorials to the Hutus who died," Corbin reports in the documentary.  "She got eight years in prison for 'genocide ideology'" (51:09). 

To this day, Ingabire languishes in one of Kagame's prisons, her sentence now bumped up to 15 years; recently her attorney filed a petition with the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, asking it to demand a fair and open retrial for his client.

The 38 letter-signers claim to recognize the BBC's right to "reflect on the contemporary political situation in Rwanda," which the documentary does at length, but nowhere in their rebuttal do they themselves undertake such reflections.  Doesn't the 38's silence on the totalitarian nature of Kagame Power, clearly a major political issue for Rwandans both at home and living in exile, make them dictatorship defenders?

When the 38 use the word "genocide" -- a term they use no fewer than 27 times in their letter -- they refer to one thing specifically: the alleged planned extermination and killing of Rwanda's minority Tutsi population by its majority Hutu conspirators.  But another, much larger area of massacres lies to the west of Rwanda in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where, from September 1996 on, many more people have been killed than in Rwanda in 1994.

These killings were carried out as an almost immediate extension of the RPF's 46-month war in Rwanda, and in the case of the DRC there is a wide consensus among specialists that Paul Kagame and forces allied with him (especially the Ugandan People's Defense Force and locally organized militias) have been the principal killing agents. 

As Deogratias Bugera, at one time a soldier in Kagame's RPF during its war in Rwanda, and one of the founders in October 1996 of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), a "rebel" front-organization for the RPF in its wars in Zaire-DRC, once told Jason Stearns: "As soon as the RPF conquered Rwanda, they set their sights on invading Zaire, much sooner than most people realize."

As the 38 completely ignore Kagame's 18-year-long wars and genocide in the DRC, doesn't their exclusive focus on Rwanda 1994 and the alleged Hutu conspiracy to exterminate the Tutsi make them apologists for the larger follow-up genocide?

To the BBC 2's credit -- and in stark contrast to the silence of the 38 who attacked the BBC -- the documentary raises precisely this issue.  In fact, in a voiceover, Corbin reports: "The UN surveyed 600 alleged massacre sites [in the DRC]. . . .  The UN report concluded: The apparent systematic and widespread attacks on Hutu civilians, if proven, could be characterized as crimes of genocide" (44:48). But the 38 aren't interested.

Who Shot Down President Habyarimana's Falcon 50 Jet?

For the rest of the article please see MonthlyReviewPress

 

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