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La Tribune Franco-Rwandaise

The arrest of Gen Karenzi Karake : Time to unpack half-truths on the dark days of Rwanda (Callixte Kavuro)

By Callixte Kavuro*, Cape Town

On June 20, 2015, Gen Emmanuel Karake Karenzi, Director General of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and former Deputy Commander of the AU Peacekeeping Force in Darfur, was arrested in UK in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The arrest of Karenzi (a Tutsi) came as a response to a European Arrest Warrant issued by Spanish authority in 2008 against 40 senior Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) members for allegedly having committed genocide against the Hutu population and massive killings against the Congolese population, as well as killings of three Spanish nationals.

Of great concern to Spanish authority is the killing of its nationals in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The killing of Spanish nationals creates Spain jurisdiction to prosecute Karenzi. Yet again, crimes of genocide fall within the scope of universal jurisdiction principle. The principle allows or requires a state (in this case Spain) to bring criminal proceedings against a perpetrator in respect of certain crimes irrespective of the location of the crime, of the nationality of the perpetrator, and of the nationality of victim.

Karenzi and his 39 other colleagues are not wanted only by Spain, but also by France. The interest of France in the arresting of these genocide perpetrators from Tutsi background emanated from the shooting down of the presidential plane on the April 6, 1994. All on board, including two Hutu presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, flight crew and presidential entourage died. The flight crew included French nationals.

The truth is that the deaths of two Hutu Presidents triggered the start of genocide in which more than one million Rwandan citizens died. From the time to date, the RPF denied culpability in the assassination of these two heads of states. It has rather invested much of its effort in the invented, sad and false narrative that the Hutu extremists shot the plane to derail the Arusha Peace Agreement signed on August 4, 1993 and to utilise President Habyarimana’s death as pretext to eliminate Tutsi population.

This false narrative was acknowledged by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) when it prosecuted only perpetrators from Hutu background. This has a dire consequence of denying the Hutus, who are victims of genocide, justice. One-side justice resulted in the RPF narrative being dominant in academic writings and media reports.

However, the ultimate and fundamental questions of whether the 1994 horrible massive killings were committed solely by the Hutu against the Tutsi or whether there was genocide against the Tutsi and counter-genocide against the Hutu continues to be debated academically and judicially. The ICTR which was mandated to deal with perpetrators of Rwandan genocide, recently closed its doors without determining an individual or individuals responsible for the shooting of presidential plane.

An absence of such determination has increasingly become a source of transnational wars in the Great Lakes region. On several occasions, Rwanda invades DRC on the pretext of hunting down Hutu refugees based in the Eastern DRC. It views them as terrorists and genocidaire and, on this basis, claims that they are fugitives. In particular, all Hutus – adults and children alike – are blamed for calamities that fell or might fall on Rwanda. The RPF’s governance is therefore built on politics of blame and apologies. The politics of apologies imply that all Hutus (irrespective of their age) must publicly apologise to Tutsi compatriots. By use of collective guilty, Hutus are ashamed to repent for what they have done.

Irrespective of attributing guilty to all Hutus, the ICTR Appeals Chamber has found allegations levelled against senior commanders of former Rwandan army (Col Bagosora and his colleagues) and core officials of former government (Édouard Karemera and Matthieu Ngirumpatse) as having planned, conspired and ordered the 1994 killings with intent to destroy the Tutsi baseless. This conclusion was reached in the core three cases: Military I, Military II and Government I. In these three cases, the Appeal Chamber held that the prosecution team could not furnish with it sufficient evidence to convince it, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the said officials were architects of the 1994 Genocide.

In addition to these findings, on October 1, 2014, the BBC screened a well-researched documentary, revealing damning evidence that challenges the RPF’s distorted story. The story was utilised to restrict the genocide to the Tutsi in 2008. From 1994 to 2008 or around that date, it was the Rwandan genocide. From the outset, the Rwandan genocide approach meant that all Rwandan ethnicities – Twa, Hutu and Tutsi – were victims.

When genocide researchers and ICTR prosecutors started pointing to the possibility of justice of other victims, especially Hutu victims the RPF Government resolved to only speaking of “Genocide against the Tutsi.” The RPF government, in 2008, revised the Rwandan Constitution to include such limitation. The revision was also encouraged by the fact that the Western countries projected President Kagame as a person who brought an end to the genocide against the Tutsi, and rescued the country from being reduced to ashes. Prosecuting Tutsi elites could have been just an embarrassment to the aforementioned Western countries. However, the BBC’s documentary rigorously questioned the saviour claim and thus provides possible answers to increasing questions about the role Kagame and his RPF played in the dark days of 1994. It affirms Kagame’s role in the shooting down of the presidential plane, which in turn sparked genocide.

Contrary to the projection as a saviour, Kagame had, according to the BBC’s documentary, initiated and extremely contributed to genocide. The documentary further states that he played a primary role in the DRC’s proxy wars and reveals his character of abusing human rights in Rwanda and elsewhere as from 1990 to date. It reveals how US and UK shielded President Kagame and his senior officials from accounting to the ICTR. Madame Carla der Ponte, former ICTR Chief Prosecutor was, for example, fired after she expressed her intention to prosecute RPF officials. This should not surprise anyone because Kagame has become the darling of these powerful countries to such an extent that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair assumed a position in President Kagame’s office as “an unpaid advisor” to him.

It is within this relationship context that Blair’s wife, Ms Cherie Blair, is now acting as a leading defence lawyer in the extradition case of Karenzi. This is not a mere coincidence. Blair’s wife’s interest in the matter is to plead an innocence of Karenzi through her influential power and personality and thus promote the culture of impunity in Rwanda.

BBC’s documentary and arrest of Gen Karenzi strengthen the arguments holding that Rwandan genocide should not be limited to the Tutsi but extended to include Hutus and Twas who are also victims of the 1990-1994 ethnic conflict. Should Karenzi be prosecuted by Spain, this would bring an end to a culture of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators from Tutsi background. This shift in dealing with genocide will mark a beginning to the prosecutions of the RPF members as it will open the dispensation of justice to millions of Hutus who have been suffering in silence for too long. Furthermore, this might lead to the recognition of the victims recorded by the UN Mapping Report of 2010, which suggested an establishment of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal for DRC for dispensing justice to the Congolese victims.

The international community is silent on this matter irrespective of UN and US documents calling the massive killings in the eastern DRC as “genocides in plain sight.” These genocides include genocide against Hutu refugees who were killed by the RPF army when it was forcing them to repatriate against their will between 1996 and 2000. It is time the Rwandan genocide be re-written to recognise all victims of genocide without discrimination of any kind for the sake of truth, justice, and reconciliation.

*Kavuro is a doctorate candidate at Stellenbosch University, and the Chairperson of the Rwandan platform for Dialogue, Truth and Justice (RDTJ).

This article was first published by Cape Times, Tuesday, June 30, 2015, at page 9 (Insight section). See article in PDF format : Time to unpack half-truths on the dark days of Rwanda.pdf

Article published by Cape Times, Tuesday, June 30, 2015, at page 9 (Insight section).

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