In 1994, the Rwandan Tutsi ethnic minority was the victim of genocide at the hands of Hutu extremists. Dozens of leading perpetrators were prosecuted and sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and by domestic courts in a number of countries; hundreds of thousands of others were tried in Rwan da’s neo-traditional gacaca jurisdictions.
It has been clear for many years that the Tutsi-dominated rebel force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), also committed crimes against humanity and war crimes before, during and after the genocide. This was established by United Nations rapporteurs, nongovermental organisations, academics and journalists.
Although the ICTR was also competent to judge these crimes, not a single RPF suspect was prosecuted. This clear instance of victors’ justice came about, among other reasons, because the RPF — which took power in 1994 and still governs Rwanda today — was shielded by Washington and London.
Paul Kagame, RPF leader during and after the civil war and currently the country’s president, is considered a “visionary” by his friends Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Despite ruling Rwanda by terror, he is credited with economic achievements and good bureaucratic governance. At the same time, his record of demo-cracy and human rights is appalling.
Although there were some indications to that effect, I have in the past resisted the notion of a “double genocide”, but must now revise that position. While the RPF’s previous crimes went unpunished, Canadian investigative journalist Judi Rever has in her book In Praise of Blood (Random House, 2018) convincingly demonstrated that Kagame’s movement has also committed genocide against the Hutus.
Based on hitherto secret files of the ICTR’s Office of the Prosecutor, other documents and numerous interviews with former RPF military and civilian officials, she shows in great and gruelling detail how Hutu women and men, children and elderly were slaughtered on a massive scale.
The intent to exterminate the Hutus as such, as defined by the genocide convention, is not in doubt. Although precise figures are unknown, the death toll may well run into the hundreds of thousands. Rever identifies 20 RPF leaders, among whom is Kagame himself, as perpetrators of these atrocities.
These convincing findings can no longer be ignored. Can Kagame continue to be honoured by the best universities across the world, receive red-carpet treatment wherever he goes, be a frequent guest at the Davos World Economic Forum and chair the African Union?
His place, and that of his lieutenants, is in a court of law facing justice for his crimes and receiving the punishment he deserves.
Most Rwandans, Hutus and Tutsis alike, are fully aware of this tragic history. Unless the truth is told, the country will not find the reconciliation it so badly needs. — Filip Reyntjens, emeritus professor of law and politics, University of Antwerp