Part IV Genocide Denial – B: Conceptual and Historical Biases

Part IV Genocide Denial – B: Conceptual and Historical Biases

by

Howard Adelman

The BBC video is available at http://vimeo.com/107867605

 

The charge of genocide denial has been used to shut up critics by the Kagame regime. Well over 200 such critics have been jailed for terms of from 5-10 years to life imprisonment. Those charged included the leader of the opposition in Parliament. But the ferocity and murderous outreach of the Kagame regime cannot be used to distort what happened and feed the maws of waiting genocide deniers. At the very least, Stam and Davenport are guilty of this.

Dr, Andrew Wallis, author of Silent Accomplice: The Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide, has been the most devastating critic of the BBC documentary and of Stam and Davenport (S&D). S&D’s research “wasn’t used for another 10 years. No one would touch it and there are reasons for that. It’s not the people are covering up anything; it’s just that their research is full of holes. No scholar wants to associate themselves with work which is incompetent. I wouldn’t want to associate myself with such work, and indeed most scholars will not want to touch this research”. Is Wallis correct? If so, what are the implications?

The Conception of Genocide and Methodology

S&D wrote that, we adopt a position where the physical elimination of a group with a cohesive identity is the objective of the activity, and that the perpetrators of this behavior involve the state and/or its affiliates or agents.” Destruction of a culture is not included in this interpretation of the concept, only physical elimination – totally appropriate to this case because Tutsi and Hutu share the very same language and culture. For S&D, the motive can only be eliminating that group, not money, revenge, or pre-emption, a definition contrary to almost all genocide scholars who recognize that within a state-sanctioned genocide campaign, a complex of motives may be at work when individuals kill members of the targeted group. Further, in the S&D interpretation, the murder must be by the state, its employees and agents; killings by “volunteers” co-opted by militias to carry out the slaughter are excluded. Finally, a definitive determination of genocide requires not only premeditation, but a precise method of accomplishing the goals; but evidence for this, such as the contract to a French firm to excavate a very large hole with no apparent construction purpose, three weeks before the genocide broke out. That large excavation was soon used to throw in over 17,000 corpses of those killed at the technical school in Butare.

This very narrow definition of genocide a priori means that the majority of those killed could not have been eliminated by government forces or its agents since the government lacked the manpower to both fight the RPF and carry out such an extensive genocide. The discovery of lists of those targeted would provide definite proof, S&D suggest, but no lists have been found. Not having found lists of names of those targeted, there is no evidence of genocidal planning they conclude. In the Holocaust, the six million killed were not on a targeted list. As S&D have also written, Rwanda then was largely an oral society so how useful would a list have been to the many ordinary Rwandans co-opted or coerced into carrying out the killing.

A writer may refer to the genocide in Rwanda as a singular event, as the authors themselves sometimes do, though they disparage such usage, but, as they also make clear, this does not mean that a genocide cannot be parsed in both space and time and by different agents and groups of victims. Yet the authors give themselves special credit for breaking genocide down into component parts as if no one else has done this. Such an analytic conceit does not encourage adequate consultation of the works of other scholars and interferes with the quality of their research.

S&D did examine the literature to understand that autocratic in contrast to democratic regimes, especially those which keep close control over the population, in a context of domestic economic and political (both internal and external) crises, regime change and civil war, all enhance the possibility of genocide. However, at other times they will take self-evident truths as if they are amazing new foundations for research. Such propositions as,Causal effects of the accelerants and retardants will vary across the nation-state in question.” These are given a hefty weight of originality that is totally undeserved. More significantly, they say the killing in Rwanda is not akin to the Holocaust, but was more like the earthquake expected as a result of the San Andreas fault. The entire team, of which Astri and I were a part, proved the opposite – the genocide was a planned event and not at all akin to a natural phenomenon like an earthquake. S&D never consult this literature or even cite it in their bibliography.

The primary interest of S&D was never in genocide per se; their focus was on violent conflict of all kinds. If the genocide is viewed in the usual way, then the violence of other kinds becomes marginal, ill-suited to their larger academic agenda. This means that they will even include researchers of violent conflict using statistical analysis covering even forced displacement, such as my former post-doc student, Susanne Schmeidl. Her work was used as a reference for comparative genocide, which she has never done or professed to do. (Their reference is: Schmeidl, Susanne (1997) “Exploring the Causes of Forced Migration: A Pooled Analysis, 1971-1990.” Social Science Quarterly 78: 284-308.) This means that they have an academic interest in expanding those killed by other forms of coercion and violence and minimizing the numbers killed because of genocidal intent.

Scholarship focused on statistical and comparative studies of genocide and violence in general can be very valuable. But when it demonstrates only the most superficial acquaintance with substantive historical and anthropological in-depth analyses and specific policy studies, then quantitative studies can develop serious blinkers to its own false premises given the love affair with its process of data gathering and analysis.

S&D are admirers of the work of Helen Fein on genocide. Whatever quarrels top scholars of the Holocaust, especially noted historians like Michael Marrus, have had with Helen Fein’s quantitative methods, she did provide a model for dis-aggregating motives and factors conducive to enhancing genocide. However, she never set as her task minimizing the number of genocidal killings in the Holocaust as the definition adopted by S&D does.

Finally, Kagame may use all kinds of rituals, ceremonies, halls of remembrance and publicity about the genocide to solidify his rule, intimidate and even assassinate his critics, but hyping genocide for political purposes does not mean the actual genocide should be minimized and trivialized by critics.

Historical Background

Let us then turn to the evidence S&D offer, misrepresent and ignore, beginning with their sketch of the history of Rwanda. Neither is a historian. Yet, with a very few exceptions, Stam manages to offer a succinct and reasonably accurate history of Rwanda – at least until he gets to the late nineteen eighties when he discusses the economic pressures that the West placed on President Habyarimana in 1988, with the implication that this was done in concert with Paul Kagame to weaken the regime. After that, the errors and omissions begin to pile up like the bodies of murdered Rwandans.

  • When the Tutsi elite fled Rwanda after the assumption of power of the Hutu in 1959, then again in 1962, and thousands were killed, it was not simply because the Tutsi did not want to live under Hutu rule; though not a genocide, Hutu were killing the former ruling Tutsi to eliminate their rivalry and to prevent their return by force
  • Although, after his coup in 1973, Habyarimana ran a reasonably honest government with relatively modest allocations to the military compared to other African states, Rwanda in 1988 was in an economic bind with state expenditures far in excess of income because coffee (the main export crop of Rwanda) as well as tin prices had collapsed
  • The IMF (International Monetary Fund) put pressure on Habyarimana to cut government expenditures
  • The motives for this were purely economic, though some interpret the implementation of the policies recommended by the Chicago School of monetarists to be simply a vehicle for enhancing American economic imperial control
  • There is no evidence whatsoever of Kagame or other members of the Rwandan Tutsi exile community, having any direct influence over these international decisions, or on the West’s pressure for Rwanda to move to a multi-party system of government more akin to a democracy
  • Kagame, like other Tutsi exiles then living in Uganda, helped Yoweri Museveni in his overthrow of Obote; Kagame did become head of Ugandan intelligence; however, Tutsi in Uganda only decided to return to Rwanda when the efforts of Museveni to persuade his Parliament to grant the Tutsi citizenship in Uganda failed – a critical piece of history again omitted in the S&D account
  • President Habyarimana, though he had a deserved reputation of treating the Tutsi in Rwanda much better than his predecessor after he obtained power in a coup in 1973, would not permit the Tutsi stateless exiles to return to Rwanda, a very important fact in understanding the adoption of coercion by the RPF, a fact omitted in Stam’s sketch
  • In the S&D potted review of Rwandan history, they claim they naively initially accepted the belief that the Rwandan government under Juvenal Habyarimana was said to have the obje)ctive of eradicating the Tutsi. No reputable scholar that I know of made such an assertion. Quite the contrary. Most scholars claimed that when Habyarimana first came to power in a coup in 1973, he protected Tutsi. Further, though he denied the Tutsi in exile a right to return to Rwanda, even when the invasion took place, his political policies were in tension with those of his wife and other members of the extremist Akazu faction in the MRND. Habyarimana himself was rarely accused of having genocidal intentions, though he was often accused of catering to the extremists
  • S&D omit the fact that Paul Kagame received his first military training abroad when, in 1986, he went for nine months to Cuba where his propensity for puritanism was reinforced and where he learned a great deal about what Mao Zedong (Mao Tse Tung) called “mass lining”, the method used to co-opt a population through the use of media and public ceremonials
  • Kagame, along with three other Tutsi Rwandan military leaders from Uganda, formed the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriot Front (RPF) and adopted the option of returning by force
  • Just after he was married to his wife Jeanette, a marriage attended by Roger Winter, then Executive Director of the U.S. Committee on Refugees, Paul Kagame disagreed on the timing of the invasion (in one version of his personal history); he went into self-exile in the USA and enrolled, with the help of Museveni, in the Joint American-Ugandan Combined Exchange Training Program to study at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas; there is no evidence that the US selected Kagame for training because he was identified as a future African leader
  • Paul and Jeanette Kagame had only been in Fort Leavenworth a relatively short time when the RPF invaded Rwanda on 1 October 1990 with a military force estimated to have been 5,000 under the leadership of Kagame’s colleague, Fred Rwigyema, who had been Deputy Minister of Defence in the Ugandan government; when the invasion was stopped in its tracks by Habyarimana’s FAR with the help of the French and the backup of Belgian forces, Rwigyema and another co-leader who formed the RPF, were both killed; Stam is simply wrong when he says that Kagame led the invasion of Rwanda
  • What was the motivation for the invasion? According to S&D, “(I)f there was no political violence before the international invasion, then how should we frame what takes place after 1989?  Were the Tutsi in the country somehow communicating that life for them was unlivable and the RPF were simply responding to this call?” Why that speculative question? There is a general scholarly consensus that, relative to his predecessor, Habyarimana did not persecute Tutsi. Further, the RPF was not primarily motivated to invade Rwanda because of how Habyarimana was treating Tutsi citizens of Rwanda, but because:b) they did not want to remain stateless;
  • c) they could not prevail upon Habyarimana – especially given the extremists in his party – to permit their return
  • a) they could not get citizenship elsewhere, even in Uganda where they had served Museveni loyally;
  • There is an inconsistency in the writings of S&D for they sometimes refer to the war in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994 as a civil war and at other times as an interstate war; the latter is the general position of genocide deniers who view the RPF as an extension of American imperialism and, on the regional level, of Ugandan imperialism
  • S&D do characterize the 1990 invasion of Rwanda as akin to the American-led invasion of Iraq in 1991 though, other than the term invasion, there is no parallel to exiles using force to win a right of return and an American-led attack on Saddam Hussein’s fictional nuclear program, unless, of course, one wants to allude to a common possible imperial conspiracy at work
  • Kagame was then called back to Africa to take over leadership of the RPF and he led the remnant of 2,000 rebels to the Virunga mountains and rebuilt the RPF by 1991 to its original strength; in 1992, the RPF numbered 12,000, in 1993 at the time of the Arusha Accords in August, 20,000, and by April 1994 when the civil war resumed, Kagame commanded a force estimated at 25,000 (not 50,000 as Stam contends) in opposition to the FAR that had grown from 7,000 to 30,000 but was better equipped than the RPF
  • Kagame and the RPF were accused of killing Rwandan Hutu civilians – from 25,000 to 100,000 – in the territories they conquered between 1991 and 1993, but Stam leaves out the fact that, though the RPF was led and manned by a large majority of Tutsi, it also consisted of Hutu opposed to Habyarimana’s rule, including the president of the RPF, Alexis Kanyarengwe, a former ally of Habyarimana
  • Roger Winter, who had a stellar reputation for integrity and honesty, when he was in Rwanda, was asked to investigate stories of RPF atrocities; he visited the north and reported back that he found no evidence of RPF atrocities, and, given the puritanism and discipline Kagame instilled in his forces, the likelihood of rogue RPF soldiers undertaking killings on their own seems minimal
  • According to S&D, U.S. and U.K. governments were guilty of inaction in Rwanda when a military intervention to protect the Tutsi was in order.  That inaction was the result of actively standing by Kagame, shielding his 1990 aggression from international action, vastly expanding his RPF into the armed force that overthrew the Habyarimana government and conquered the Rwandan state, and preventing the ICTR from bringing any indictments against Kagame’s RPF, even getting ICTR chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in 2003 fired as a “Special Investigator”; no evidence is provided to support any of these implicit or explicit allegations
  • When the RPF was in control of the north of the country, were there revenge killings? Was there killing of captured FAR troops? Were there killings of Hutu leaders in the north? I do not know, but other than the rumours of RPF atrocities, allegedly traced back to the UNHCR, which refused to confirm or deny the rumours, rumours that induced hundreds of thousands of Hutu to flee the northern captured territories, I have not seen any hard evidence of massive atrocities committed by the RPF; there certainly could have been, even though such atrocities would be totally inconsistent with the military doctrine Kagame instilled in his forces to concentrate only on fighting the FAR, a policy that would later mean, as S&D correctly point out, that Kagame never diverted his forces to save Tutsi citizens of Rwanda when he was driving the FAR and the Interahamwe out of the country in 1994
  • Though the BBC documentary makes clear that the director and producer endorse blaming Kagame for the downing of Habyarimana’s plane on 6 April 1994 that triggered the coup and the genocide, S&D, as far as I could find out, do not take a position on this issue and do not disparage standard accounts of assigning responsibility for this incident to Hutu extremists who faced a loss of power and privileges when Habyarimana finally agreed to implement the Arusha Peace Accords
  • For S&D, the government of Habyarimana could not have been guilty of planning the assassination of the Tutsi without the Tutsi members of the government knowing about it, but, in fact, that government never did plan the extermination of the Tutsi; it was the extremist leaders of the coup that did
  • S&D claim that Bill Clinton had to have known about the genocide within six days of the massive genocide breaking out on 6 April 1994, whereas our research found that although he could and should have known, we found no evidence that he did know

Does such a conceptual narrow presumption and so many egregious historical errors constitute genocide denial?

Tomorrow: An examination of the statistical evidence.

Part III The BBC Report – The Downing of Habyarimana’s Plane

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited:

Part III The BBC Report – The Downing of Habyarimana’s Plane

by

Howard Adelman

The BBC video is available at http://vimeo.com/107867605.

One of the most important parts of the BBC documentary is its account of the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane that triggered the genocide and massacres. The most outrageous claim that Jane Corbin makes in her BBC documentary on the Rwanda genocide is that President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was guilty of ordering the plane of President Habyarimana shot down on 6 April 1994 when the plane was returning to Kigali and on a flight path to land at the international airport. The plane was downed by two surface-to-air missiles. Since the downing of the plane triggered the killing of at least 800,000 moderate Hutus and Tutsis, therefore Kagame has to assume a good part of the responsibility for the genocide according to Kagame’s critics, who accuse him of responsibility for ordering the firing of the surface-to-air missiles. Even if Kagame did shoot down the plane, it is a very large and questionable leap to conclude that he shares a major responsibility for the genocide. I will deal with this extension of the accountability issue after I examine Jane Corbin’s evidence for and the evidence against her thesis that Kagame shot the plane down.

The claim is outrageous, not because it has not been made many times before, but, after all this time, the charges are repeated with precisely the same kind of slim evidence relying almost entirely on the testimony of dissident Rwandans, more recently by those who were once prominent in Kagame’s entourage and carry considerably more credibility. They include: key former high officials from Rwanda: General Déogratias Nsabimana, Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces (the FAR), the head of the President’s personal security, Major Thaddée Bagaragaza, the key adviser to the President’s military cabinet, Colonel Elie Sagatwa, and the foreign affairs advisor to the President, Juvénal Renaho.

Further, the charge is made without any consideration of the overwhelming evidence supporting the predominant hypothesis that the plane was shot down by missiles launched by the Rwandan Presidential Guard under the control of Hutu extremists.

There is consensus on some items:

  1. The plane was shot down at about 8:30 p.m. by two surface-to -air missiles that hit the wing and tail of the French Dassault Falcon and the plane crashed into the garden of the Presidential Palace;
  2. The RPF, to UNAMIR’s knowledge, did not have surface-to-air missiles;
  3. The Rwandan army did have surface-to-air missiles of the type believed to have downed the plane, but no definitive proof has been found to equate the missile fragments with those missiles, particularly since the crash site was scoured by the Presidential Guard;
  4. Radio Mille Collines, the propaganda radio outlet for the extremist Akazu, stopped broadcasting its program as soon as the announcer reported the plane was coming in for a landing, and before it was hit by missiles; the radio station started to broadcast classical music;
  5. No sooner had the plane crashed than a bugle sounded mustering the Rwandan army soldiers to battle dress;
  6. Within minutes of the downing of the plane, military roadblocks went up all over Kigali, many if not most, manned by Interahamwe militias;
  7. About an hour after the crash, gunfire and explosions were heard at the Rwandan army military camp, but neither the source nor the target of the explosions were identified, though the soldiers generally believed that they were being attacked by RPF troops stationed in Kigali; no evidence has been found of an attack at that time;
  8. It was not clear and understood by the vast majority of residents of Kigali until about an hour after the crash that the President and the military chief of staff had been killed;
  9. When the officers met to consider a successor to the Chief of Staff, instead of selecting from the order of command, a relatively junior officer, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, was found by General Dallaire already to be in charge;

In addition to the items above, the BBC documentary omits the following vital information:

  1. President Habyarimana in Tanzania had finally agreed to a process for implementing the August 1993 Arusha Accords that would bring about a coalition government on very favourable terms to the RPF;
  2. The Akazu, or the extremist racist Hutu Power faction in the dominant ruling MRND party, adamantly opposed implementing the Arusha Accords as the Accords would entirely deprive the faction of power since the Akazu faction had not been allocated any cabinet positions and had sworn it would take any measures needed to prevent the RPF from sharing political power in Rwanda;
  3. No mention was made of the 11 January 1994 cable in which General Romeo Dallaire, head of the UNAMIR peacekeeping force, warned that a massive slaughter by extremist Hutu elements had been planned, and that there were secret weapons caches to be made available to extremist militias, the infamou;
  4. Luc Marchal, commander of the Belgian battalion in UNAMIR, and interviewed in the documentary, was not asked in that documentary about the refusal of Rwandan soldiers to allow him to recover the flight recorder; the flight recorder was never recovered and made available to any independent body;
  5. Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, though an opponent of the RPF but not part of the Akazu, as well as almost all the other moderate Hutus in the cabinet, were slaughtered overnight in their homes after the downing of the plane;
  6. Ten Belgian peacekeepers guarding her were also killed;
  7. The right wing Hutu members of the cabinet could not be located on the evening of the crash by Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana who was trying to call an emergency cabinet meeting; nor could they be located during the night but only emerged unharmed the next day;
  8. When General Dallaire later that evening sought to meet with the military heads about the Belgian soldiers who had been arrested by the Presidential Guard to discuss the crisis, he found Col. Théoneste Bagosora, the director of the office of the Minister of Defence, and well known as an extremist, in charge.
  9. Several witnesses, including a Belgian military officer, identified the approximate origin of the two missiles as a government military base;

All this lead to initial and continuing suspicion that the Hutu extremists had downed the plane. After all, only the extremists seemed prepared to respond to the news and seemed to have known what happened instantly, while the government was caught by surprise and responded initially in a totally confused way. In Jane Corbin’s indictment of Paul Kagame as responsible for the downing of the plane, she claimed that the RPF had smuggled the surface-to-air missiles into their military camp in Kigali, but offers no evidence for this, no hypothesis of how they could accomplish that given the weight of the missiles and the security on all roads leading to the capital. Nor does Jane Corbin ever say that the proposition that the RPF had downed the plane has been around since very soon after 6 April 1994. Nor does she report that all the American agencies – the CIA, military intelligence, etc. – all put the blame on the extremists and dismissed the RPF hypothesis as far-fetched.

The extremists had a motive. The RPF did not. The timing of events, following the downing of the plane, supports the contention that a plan was simply unfolding. On the other hand, definitive evidence is unavailable to support blaming the catastrophe on Hutu extremists. When a French magistrate, Jean-Louis Brugière, in 2004 conducted his own investigation, he argued that the RPF had been behind the assassinations, basing his conclusion, as the BBC did, on dissident military officers who had fled Rwanda. The magistrate used the testimony of a lieutenant who claimed he was part of the team ordered to fire the missile. Former senior military officers claim in the documentary that they were in the room when Paume gave his orders.

The rumours of RPF responsibility could possibly be true – after all, Paul Resesabanga, the manager of Hotel Milles Collines and the hero of the Hollywood film, Hotel Rwanda, believes that it was Kagame who was responsible. Kagame could, in some way, have smuggled his missiles into the RPF camp, but someone would have to explain how the location of the site of the missile launch was pinpointed as Camp Kanobe, a camp controlled by the FAR and the home base of the Presidential Guard. According to most eye-witness testimony, the launch location was nowhere near the RPF military compound, and the RPF soldiers were confined in Kigali to their quarters.

Red Cross officials did, however, testify that RPF forces were on alert and in motion very soon after the plane went down. But RPF intelligence had expected a possible extremist putsch and knew the precarious position of the battalion. Plans had been prepared well in advance to respond quickly to any scenario that indicated a right wing attempt to seize power. Given the dangerous position to the battalion in Kigali surrounded by enemies, why would Kagame have not insured the safety of the battalion earlier if he planned and gave the order to shoot down the plane?

In spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the extremists thesis, and though any defence attorney could punch huge holes in the hypothesis blaming Paul Kagame, nevertheless a reputable broadcaster, without a fair examination of all the evidence, endorses a thesis that shifts blame for the genocide away from the genocidaires to Paul Kagame. Dissenters who escaped Rwanda were the ones who fingered Kagame. They had every reason to blacken his name, including doing so to help insure their own safety because Kagame would then be embarrassed to have them assassinated. Further, almost all the other soldiers and officers who pointed an accusatory finger at Kagame subsequently offered sworn testimony that retracted their charges. Why did they make those charges? Why were the charges subsequently retracted? Why was the hard evidence for the hypothesis so meagre? Given any reasonable weighing of the evidence, why do people give the Kagame guilt thesis credence, including, in this case, Jane Corbin, an experienced journalist?

The assassination of President Habyarimana by means of the missile attack upon his plane set off a round of killing of opposition political figures by elements of Habyarimana’s Presidential Guard. Why does Corbin claim that killings of members of the former ruling party were carried out by the RPF? ALL the evidence is to the contrary. Corbin offers no evidence to support her assertion. Massacres of Hutu moderates and Tutsi civilians by Hutu militias soon followed in Kigali, and then spread across the country.

Every attempt to initiate a new investigation has been shot down by responsible parties because the basis for opening an investigation was so flimsy. That is the typical logic of conspiracy theorists. Jane Corbin never even entertains the possibility that all of these bodies in weighing the evidence, found the case against Kagame to be very slim and the case for the other hypothesis to be overwhelming, though none of these official bodies ever came down on one side or the other. All the bodies adamantly refused to open an inquiry into Kagame’s involvement.

What about the charge that Paul Kagame is a factor in the Tutsi genocide if indeed he is the main culprit in shooting down the plane? When Herschel Grynszpan assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a Nazi diplomat, in Paris on 7 November 1938, a murder which was used by Hitler to instigate Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, was Grynszpan largely to blame for the Holocaust or even the night of the breaking glass when Jewish synagogues, community centres, businesses and even cemeteries, were vandalized? The illogic of such a claim astounds one. Why would the BBC not catch such outlandish propositional reasoning, especially since logic of the argument undercuts the Jane Corbin thesis so deeply?

But what do conspiracy theorists know of logic, let alone a balanced weighing of evidence!

The BBC Documentary; Pre-Genocide Rwanda

The Rwanda Genocide Revisited: Part II – The BBC Documentary; Pre-Genocide Rwanda

by

Howard Adelman

I know it is hard to read this material. Not because of the subject matter – horrific as it is. But because this is an exercise in historical knit-picking. The vast majority of my readers simply will not. I totally understand and sympathize. However, it I much harder to write precisely because of the subject matter. Revisiting means literally that – going back to visit the horrors and re-experience them once again. Yet I am compelled. I simply cannot accept distortions about this genocide – especially when the distortion is the result of the techniques of academia or is packaged in the form of skillful journalistic persuasion.

Yesterday was about advertising. This morning it is about the content of that advertising.  The 2014 BBC documentary narrated and produced by Jane Corbin on the Rwanda genocide was publicized as a never before revelation about Paul Kagame, the current President of Rwanda for the last nineteen years, and the commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) before, during and after the Rwanda genocide. Yesterday, I argued that the claim about the account offered was totally incorrect. The insistence that the documentary constituted “Rwanda’s Untold Story” was belied by the large number of stories of the same ilk that preceded the BBC narrative.

That same story has been repeated time and again since the Rwanda genocide in 1994. One additional example only! Barry Collins wrote an article on 13 August 2008 entitled, “Rwanda: Obscuring the Truth About the Genocide,” which, along with this BBC documentary and many other writings before it, sums up a thesis that argues that previously the truth had been deliberately repressed in the past; for the first time, the author of this explosive revelation is telling the truth which is precisely opposite to the one that has been handed down, a version that has brainwashed almost everyone.

“We think we know the story,” Jane intones. “But do we?” Then her favourite academic cited in the story says on the screen: “What the world believes and what actually happened are quite different.” Then a Hollywood film on Hotel Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda) is cited as evidence, even though the film made no great pronouncements one way or the other on any of the contrary positions that Jane puts forth. The implication is that this film suggests that Paul Kagame stopped the genocide when it did no such thing. The film was an excellent Hollywood tear-jerker that arouses our horror and anger, and even contains its own distortions about General Dallaire. But Jane Corbin says nothing about Dallaire. The film itself, in any case and like most movies, is not about truth. It is certainly not about the large issues of historical veracity that Jane Corbin raises.

However, choosing to cite the film as an illustration is significant. There have been a plethora of articles, books, documentaries and films on the Rwanda genocide. Shere Razack argues that many of these, like Hotel Rwanda, are emotional roller-coasters intended to invoke horror in the viewer at the tale of the genocide, noting that we did nothing to stop it. (CF. her 2007 article “Stealing the Pain of Others: Reflections on Canadian Humanitarian Responses,” Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies: 29:4) Viewers or readers are, as a result, resolved to never forget and to never allow it to happen again. But we do forget. We do allow it to happen again. Razack argues that this is because the film is a form of emotional consumption, an exercise in horror consumption and not a transformative experience.

It should be no surprise that Jane Corbin starts her documentary with a ceremony in Rwanda re-enacting the Rwanda genocide in front of an audience of Rwandans and foreign dignitaries. That ceremony is intended to reinforce the lesson – “Never again”. Whether or not he had Israel in mind, Paul Kagame offers a tale of death and resurrection about Rwanda. Jane Corbin does not challenge the resurrection portion of the narrative, but argues that the same man who invokes the image of resurrection in 2014 is the one who lit the match originally. Corbin shifts the focus of outrage from the genocide to Kagame. The reality is that, although she clothes her documentary in the formal dress of a quest for the truth, she is even less concerned with truth than Hotel Rwanda.

The vast majority of the world has no opinion about the genocide. They barely know any version of the story except perhaps that a large atrocity took place. The cause of the genocide is of little or no interest. So it is easy to offer, indeed repeat, a claim of originality in the face of alleged conventional wisdom and to further suggest that she is the goddess that has delivered this new resurrection. Jane simply offers a different tale of death and resurrection, as contrived and ritualistic as the one performed in the Kigali arena. Jane Corbin wants to bury what she argues is an erroneous tale of death and substitute her own. The claim is made to establish this interpreter of the Rwanda genocide as an outsider to established thought. It is the modern day version of the Protestant Reformation with many claimants to the throne as the original protestor. Not only is it an old story repackaged as a new revelation, but the documentary uses the same techniques as all those other repetitions of the narrators of the converse tale. It interviews and presents only the evidence that it claims supports its thesis and omits any experts who would challenge its contentions.

Another technique common to these narratives is to make the argument an ad hominem account focused on Kagame personally as the villain of the tale. Further, the case usually argues guilt by association and makes Tony Blair and Bill Clinton guilty for befriending and supporting Kagame and Kagame guilty because he is supported by powerful people. It is the fallacy of being bad – in this case in two directions – because of the bad company you keep. There is a third dimension to this fallacy of association. Kagame may, in fact, be, as Filip Reyntjens, author of Political Government in Post-Genocide Rwanda, declares, the worst war criminal in office today – I think he is not the worst (look at Assad in Syria, the religious leaders in Iran, the military junta in Burma) – but even if he is the worst, one cannot establish Kagame’s guilt in the past because of his current guilt, though admittedly conduct in the present may suggest equivalent ruthlessness in the past. In fact, Reytjens’ book argues that Kagame and the ruling party’s authoritarian streak has evolved since the RPF took power. Kagame has increasingly perpetuated human rights abuses, rigged elections, repressed the opposition, engaged in wide scale retributive justice and even employed terrorism as distinct from Kagame’s and the party’s original puritanism.

Today I want to begin to examine the substantive claims made in the BBC documentary and not the spin about it, and put the position of the other side alongside the claims of the documentary. This is not the place nor is there space to also cite the lode of evidence. In doing so, I want to be clear that I am not accusing Jane of genocide denial. Her documentary makes clear that she accepts the reality of the genocide and that Hutu extremists were the main perpetrators. Nor is she even guilty of claiming that there was a double genocide, one committed by Kagame as well. But she does indict Kagame on a number of other charges as a prosecutor without allowing time for a defence attorney.

The BBC video is available at http://vimeo.com/107867605

The BBC documentary, as would be expected, has been expertly produced and narrated by Corbin. It is well worth watching, not only for its techniques, but for the position it puts forth as indicated above. Not the validity of the position, but the arguments for it should be considered, however repetitive, tiring (and painful) that may be, and however many times one has to refute its position.

The documentary, though far from original in its thesis, nevertheless, true to the corporation that produced such blockbusters as Sherlock or Planet Earth, offers a powerful indictment of Kagame’s dictatorial rule in Rwanda in spite of the economic success of Rwanda and the relative stability Kagame brought to the country. Jane Corbin endorses the truth of both of these latter two assessments.

To reinforce Corbin’s indictment of Kagame, however, there has been considerable evidence that Kagame has fallen out with a number of his former inner circle.

General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan army, a former intelligence chief and a former ambassador to India, joined Colonel Patrick Karegeya, a former spy chief, Dr Theogene Rudasingwa, a former chief of staff to Kagame and ambassador to the USA, and Dr Gerald Gahima, a former prosecutor general in Rwanda, to form the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) in opposition to Kagame’s rule. General Nyamwasa is Jane’s star witness.

Nowhere does Jane report the failure of the RNC to hold a significant founding congress (perhaps because of money shortages, fear of reprisals, including assassination ordered by Kagame, political pressure from the African National Congress in South Africa, and inadequate political support from Rwandans). Nor does Carbin probe the widespread rumours, following the failure of the RNC congress, that Nyamwasa has since appealed to Kagame to allow his return and offered a public ereapology if he were allowed to come home, promising to retract the accusations he leveled at Kagame. (There are no rumours that I know of that Dr Theogene Rudasingwa, another star witness in the documentary, tried to make a deal with Paul Kagame to allow him to return home.) There have been at least two assassination attempts on Nyamwasa’s life. About a dozen dissidents in exile have been assassinated or disappeared in the last twelve years, including Col. Patrick Karegeya who was murdered at the end of December 2013. (Cf. the 16 March 2014 BBC Report, “Patrick Karegeya: Mysterious death of a Rwandan exile”.) Most finger pointing is directed at Kagame.

I have not undertaken the research to offer my version of Kagame’s rule over the last decade and a half. I will focus my criticisms of the documentary on the following substantive stated or implied claims:

  1. Kagame was chosen by America and backed by Uganda;
  2. Kagame led the Rwandan invasion from Uganda.
  3. By 1993, Kagame threatened to capture Kigali, the capital
  4. Paul Kagame was insincere in signing the Accords and was simply using the year between the signing and the outbreak of the genocide to prepare to seize power.

Tomorrow I will deal with the period of the genocide itself and the following:

  1. The charge that Paul Kagame personally ordered and was responsible for the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane that instigated the genocide;
  2. The claim that most of those killed within Rwanda were Hutu and not Tutsi;
  3. The claim that Kagame did not stop the genocide.
  4. The charge that the Kagame regime slaughtered thousands of Hutu civilians at the Kibeho Internally Displaced Persons camp in Rwanda in 1995.
  1. Misrepresentations of the situation prior to the RPF invasion

Corbin makes two claims that are part of established lore and not part of this genre of critical accounts. She argues that the RPF was an offshoot of Museveni and that Museveni supported the invasion of Rwanda by the RPF in 1990. In our study, we argued that the overwhelming evidence suggested that Museveni knew about the impending invasion and did not try to stop it because, as advocates taking Corbin’s position have argued, that initiative rid Museveni of the Tutsi refugee problem within Uganda after he had been unsuccessful in getting Parliament to grant them citizenship. But we could not find evidence that the invasion was part of Museveni’s expansionist foreign policy and that the RPF was an extension of Museveni’s military apparatus. Corbin makes that claim without presenting any evidence to back it up and without mentioning a possible alternative narrative.

Second, Corbin suggests that the US picked Kagame for military training in the US because they spotted his potential, presumably as a future leader of Rwanda and possible satrap. Again there is no evidence offered. Paul Kagame certainly went to obtain advanced military training in the USA but as part of America’s agreement with Uganda to upgrade its officers. There is no indication or evidence that I know of that, in doing so, America did so because it had major future plans for Paul Kagame. In fact I find the suggestion that the United State was so far-sighted to be incredible.

  1. Historical Omissions re the invasion of Rwanda

Corbin omits to say that Kagame opposed invading Rwanda in 1990, was not in Africa when the RPF invasion took place. He was only called back from America to lead the RPF when the invasion had been repulsed and when the two RPF commanders were killed by President Habyarimana’s RPA — with assistance from the French military and some rear guard support by the Belgian military.

  1. The RPF threat to Kigali

By 1993, under Kagame’s leadership, the RPF was only 15 miles from the capital and since the RPF had the RPA on the run, questions have been raised about why Kagame stopped his army from taking the capital and why he agreed to the power sharing agreement with Habyarimana’s government, though that agreement was on very favourable terms for the RPF. The suggestion by Corbin is that this was a ruse until Kagame was in a better military position.

However, Kagame was in an excellent military position to advance at the time. Corbin does not mention let alone take Kagame’s own position into account. Further, Corbin makes a common error in insisting that the RPF was only Tutsi, whereas the RPF at the time consisted of some Hutu representation even though the military force was predominantly Tutsi. Finally, Filip Reyntjens, one of Corbin’s star witnesses against Kagame, describes how Kagame was not always as bad a guy as he came to be. Reyntjens argues that the RPF only decided it would have to rely on its military rather than on diplomacy near the end of 1993 and only when it became clear that the extremists within Rwanda would not allow a peaceful resolution. The fact that one of her star witnesses refutes her contention of consistent and high level evil is omitted.

Instead, Corbin interviews Marie, a twelve year old Hutu at the time, who says that her family, and Hutus in general, regarded the RPF, not as militant returning Rwandan refugees, but as foreign enemies. Hutus feared what the RPF would do to the Hutu population. There is no suggestion in the documentary that this was the party line of the Habyarimana government and one hysterically reinforced by extremist Hutus. The population indeed was indoctrinated to believe precisely that. Instead, the tale is told as if this was a fact. The RPF was the repository of evil. There is no mention of the Akazu, the small extremist Hutu faction that perpetrated the genocide. There is no explanation of why Hutus accepted that belief. There is only the implication that the belief was valid.

The documentary also explicitly states that President Habyarimana only signed the Arusha Accords because he was pressured to do by the West, the precise line that Collins took in 2008. There is no examination or even presentation of the preponderant scholarly opinion that Habyarimana signed the accords because there was by then a multi-party government committed to democracy. Domestic pressure combined with his own weak military position induced Habyarimana to sign.

Finally, Corbin suggests that it was the overthrow of the government in Burundi and the persecution of Hutus there that instigated the widespread fear and set the country on a course of genocide. Certainly the Burundi coup served as a catalyst to the impending resumption of the war and the genocide, but it was not the sole or even major cause of Hutu extremism. It was a late-comer. Hutu extremism was formalized after the invasion of Rwanda by the refugee Tutsi ex-pats and their Hutu allies. The extremists practiced Tutsi extermination long before the Burundi coup. Plans were developed much earlier. The Akazu was founded in 1991 and had been training small groups of Hutu to enable them to commit genocide since that time.

These omissions, distortions and misrepresentations during the pre-genocide period are relatively minor compared to her claims about Rwanda and the instigation and progress of the genocide itself.

 

Tomorrow: Part III: The Instigation and Progress of the Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited: Part I The Context of a Recent BBC Report

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited: Part I The Context of a Recent BBC Report
by
Howard Adelman

In 1995, I and a Norwegian colleague, Astri Suhrke from the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, wrote an international report on the international response to the Rwandan genocide. The research and report were sponsored by a coalition of 19 international agencies and 18 governments. The second of four parts of the investigation that we wrote was called “Early Warning and Conflict Management re the Rwanda Genocide” and the whole report was published in 1996. A copy of the synthesis of the whole report can be found at: http://www.oecd.org/derec/50189495.pdf.

The report was cited in a number of articles and books, including our own edited book, The Path of a Genocide. The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (London: Transaction Publishers) in which we published the infamous cable by General Romeo Dallaire (11 January 1994) warning of an impending mass slaughter, and in a much more recent 2009 article, “The Rwandan Genocide: Why Early Warning Failed,” by Gregory Stanton in the Journal of African Conflicts and Peace Studies 1:2, September (6-25).

There have been a number of academic disputes about the genocide, though no scholarly denials that the genocide took place. One dispute is over the numbers killed by an extremist Hutu group called the Akazu, and the make-up of those numbers, namely how many of the victims were Tutsi and how many were Hutu. To what degree was Kagame, and his overwhelmingly Tutsi fighting force, which had invaded Rwanda and was engaged in a civil war with the regime, responsible, first, for not preventing many deaths and, second, for committing atrocities on their own account? To what degree and in what ways were external actors – the UN itself, the US, Belgium, France – responsible for failing to prevent or mitigate the genocide?

This year on the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, the BBC, a highly respected and very responsible player in the media world, published a revisionist review of the Rwanda genocide
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-BBC-and-the-Rwandan-Genocide-20141011-0029.html. The headline summary read: “The untold story is that of the crimes committed by the winners in the Rwandan civil war, and especially the crimes committed by the biggest winner who took all, Kagame, Rwanda’s president for the past 20 years.” This immediately made me suspicious, in spite of BBC’s renown for its objective journalism and the reputation of Jane Corbin, the producer and presenter, who individually possessed impeccable credentials as a journalist.
First, that story of Kagame and his troops performing atrocities, had not been unreported, but, in fact, had been a constant charge from the time we did our research until the contemporary period. If that was the main charge, then the BBC story, whether accurate or not in the body of the piece, was not accurate in entitling the narrative, “Rwanda: The Untold Story”. Our book documented those charges of atrocities committed by Kagame; Astri Suhrke and I found them to be true but very grossly exaggerated.

Further, the BBC Report said that, “Up until now, in Western media, scholarship, and commentary, the Hutus as a community have been held solely responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and Kagame held up as Rwanda’s saviour.” Neither we, nor any of the scholars with which I was associated, held that the Hutus as a community were responsible for the genocide. Rather, we all insisted that it was an extremist group of Hutus and definitely not the Hutu community as a whole. Further, Astri and I were focused on disproving the charge that the Hutu extremists were solely responsible. We documented the errors, failures and willful stubbornness and mindblindness that made various international actors complicit in what occurred. Third, we never – nor did any one of a number of first class scholars involved in the study of the genocide – called Kagame Rwanda’s saviour. Astri and I did say that Kagame and his troops brought the Rwandan genocide within Rwanda to a stop with the victory in the civil war. Whether Kagame back then or since was the saviour of Rwanda is a very different claim and one which neither I nor most of my esteemed colleagues ever made, though there were a plethora of disputes over his ruling style and the consequences.

For example, the BBC documentary claims that many of Kagame’s allies were subsequently driven out of the country by the regime and many were assassinated. Though Kagame initially drove defectors from the regime into exile, subsequent to that period, many assassinations have been documented, though not by Astri and myself at that time or since. However, we did deal in detail at the time with the charge that Kagame and his troops killed 600,000 Hutus who had fled to the Congo following his victory in July 1994 after Kagame invaded the Congo in 1996. The BBC report cites with approval the charge of Marie, a Hutu survivor whose family she claims sheltered Tutsis (possibly true), that Kagame and his forces indiscriminately hunted her family and the hundreds of thousands of those Hutu civilians who had not participated in the genocide in the jungles of the Congo.

In our report, we claimed that Kagame’s forces were focused, not on the killing of civilians, but on uprooting and destroying the remnants of the former Hutu Rwandan army and of the interhamwe militias which had also fled to the Congo. In the process, they did indiscriminately kill troops in the military that had not participated in the genocide. More importantly, they did kill a large number of civilians, We concluded from our examination that the number killed was 60,000, a very large number indeed, but not comparable to the 600,000 that Kagame was charged with killing at the time.

Perhaps our numbers were wrong. Perhaps our analysis had been wrong. Perhaps evidence subsequently emerged that the numbers were, in fact, higher. However, that requires research and evidence. Claiming that the tale of civilian atrocities in Congo by the Kagame regime was an untold story when, in fact, the charge of 600,000 deaths by the Kagame regime was the dominant claim, especially by a large number of NGOs, at the time. Our position was the minority one. The untold story was too frequently told without adequate evidence, documentation or analysis.

The BBC documentary claimed that the Gersony Report on these atrocities was suppressed. Certainly, it was never officially published. But if it was suppressed, how did we come to read and criticize it? The report circulated unofficially very widely. Working for the UNHCR, Robert Gersony, who initially had been sympathetic to the Kagame rebellion, a position that subsequently lent more credibility to his claims, in his draft report repeated and endorsed claims by many NGOs that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (the RPF) had been responsible for mass indiscriminate killings both within post-genocide Rwanda and in the Congo after Kagame came to power. The issue was whether the report was NOT officially published because of repression of the findings or because the methodology and results were found to be wanting.

We argued that large scale atrocities of women and children, the sick and the elderly, did take place, but not nearly on the scale that NGOs consistently reported. The claim was made that within Rwanda, local Hutu residents and entire families were gathered in community meetings on one pretense or other and then locked in, assaulted and killed in large numbers. (The Report, 118-124) When the Gersony team visited 41 communes and 9 refugee camps, they concluded that within Rwanda in Kibungo, Butare and Kigale, the regime had killed between 25,000 and 40,000 Hutu and Tutsi. We examined in detail one of those assaults and we concluded that, although a large number of civilians were killed when Kagame’s forces repressed a rebellion during heavy rain, and that the control of the rebellion had been poorly handled, the claims that 800 civilians had been killed in that assault were grossly exaggerated.

Further, those stories eerily mirrored the tales of Hutu extremist atrocities in the genocide. We could not find evidence that the round-ups of civilians had taken place. Further, though we criticized some of the methods used in the process of re-education and rehabilitation of returning Hutus from the Congo, the conduct of these meetings and of the Rwandan community trials – the gachacha courts – further belied most of the charges. The conclusions of the Gersony Report of occurrences within Rwanda could possibly have been true, but the evidence we examined undermined the credibility of those conclusions and fit in too well with the Hutu revisionist claim that, on the one hand, denied the genocide, and, on the other hand, claimed that it was Kagame that had perpetuated a genocide.

We did find evidence that civilians had been killed in large numbers in the Congo, but again, not nearly to the degree claimed and not in this manner. The civilians were being “protected” by the ex-FAR and the former militias. In assaults on the former Rwandan army and on the militias, Kagame’s troops did not pay much attention to discriminating between civilians and militants. Many civilians died and to the extent that discrimination was not practiced between civilians and military, these deaths were indeed indiscriminate. That is not the same as an indiscriminate attack that is directed solely at civilians.
In my work on the numbers displaced and made homeless in Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in 1982, I found the OXFAM claim that 600,000 had been made homeless to be preposterous. The number is southern Lebanon, excluding Beirut, was 40,000, a number we established by auditing twelve different collections of data. That number of 40,000 was accepted by all sides. In many humanitarian crises we have found that numbers are often grossly exaggerated. NGOs – with perhaps the exception of the ICRC and Doctors Without Borders. Most NGOs do not have a record of accurate demographic reporting. After all, demography is not their prime mission and they have a strong interest in enhancing the numbers in distress. This does not take away from the excellent work they do, but skepticism needs to be brought into play about numbers generally released by many humanitarian agencies.

Reports on numbers based solely on interviews with those affected reveal an adequate way to determine numbers killed or displaced or the motives for that killing and displacement. Victims, or those who feel themselves victimized, are not the best source for objective information, though victims’ organizations often produce very accurate information when specifically set up and tasked to do so – as was the case with the Palestinian teachers in Lebanon gathering figures of the numbers made homeless in Lebanon in 1982. But all evidence from interviews must be corroborated by various sources of objective evidence from number counts in graves to conducting an actual census of survivors. Nevertheless, I do admit that colleagues, whom I enormously respect – Alison des Forges and Gerard Prunier – lent considerable credence to the findings of the Gersony Report at the time. But it is not clear why the BBC twenty years later does, especially when virtually no hard evidence has emerged to corroborate Robert Gersony’s initial findings.

Since 1994, organizations, such as the BBC in 2014, claim to have discovered, uncovered or unearthed the long repressed Gersony Report – see for example ProxyLake in 2010 – “Unearthed ‘Gersony Report’ the UN said never existed”. And it never did exist as a UN document. For Gersony had not insisted as part of his contract that anything he wrote that he would be free to publish as we had insisted given standing academic norms. The UN could have distanced itself from the report and refused to publish it but given Gersony permission to publish it independently and, therefore leave it open to public criticism. By not permitting the Gersony Report to be published at all, and while many actually read it and the report circulated widely, this process merely lent the report a mythic quality to its findings that I believe was totally undeserved.

Tomorrow, I will turn my attention to the BBC Report itself.

In 1995, I and a Norwegian colleague, Astri Suhrke from the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, wrote an international report on the international response to the Rwandan genocide. The research and report were sponsored by a coalition of 19 international agencies and 18 governments. The second of four parts of the investigation that we wrote was called “Early Warning and Conflict Management re the Rwanda Genocide” and the whole report was published in 1996. A copy of the synthesis of the whole report can be found at: http://www.oecd.org/derec/50189495.pdf.

The report was cited in a number of articles and books, including our own edited book, The Path of a Genocide. The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (London: Transaction Publishers) in which we published the infamous cable by General Romeo Dallaire (11 January 2014) warning of an impending mass slaughter, and in a much more recent 2009 article, “The Rwandan Genocide: Why Early Warning Failed,” by Gregory Stanton in the Journal of African Conflicts and Peace Studies 1:2, September (6-25).

There have been a number of academic disputes about the genocide, though no scholarly denials that the genocide took place. One dispute is over the numbers killed by an extremist Hutu group called the Akazu, and the make-up of those numbers, namely how many of the victims were Tutsi and how many were Hutu. To what degree was Kagame, and his overwhelmingly Tutsi fighting force, which had invaded Rwanda and was engaged in a civil war with the regime, responsible, first, for not preventing many deaths and, second, for committing atrocities on their own account? To what degree and in what ways were external actors – the UN itself, the US, Belgium, France – responsible for failing to prevent or mitigate the genocide?

This year on the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, the BBC, a highly respected and very responsible player in the media world, published a revisionist review of the Rwanda genocide
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-BBC-and-the-Rwandan-Genocide-20141011-0029.html. The headline summary read: “The untold story is that of the crimes committed by the winners in the Rwandan civil war, and especially the crimes committed by the biggest winner who took all, Kagame, Rwanda’s president for the past 20 years.” This immediately made me suspicious, in spite of BBC’s renown for its objective journalism and the reputation of Jane Corbin, the producer and presenter, who individually possessed impeccable credentials as a journalist.
First, that story of Kagame and his troops performing atrocities, had not been unreported, but, in fact, had been a constant charge from the time we did our research until the contemporary period. If that was the main charge, then the BBC story, whether accurate or not in the body of the piece, was not accurate in entitling the narrative, “Rwanda: The Untold Story”. Our book documented those charges of atrocities committed by Kagame; Astri Suhrke and I found them to be true but very grossly exaggerated.

Further, the BBC Report said that, “Up until now, in Western media, scholarship, and commentary, the Hutus as a community have been held solely responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and Kagame held up as Rwanda’s savior.” Neither we, nor any of the scholars with which I was associated, held that the Hutus as a community were responsible for the genocide. Rather, we all insisted that it was an extremist group of Hutus and definitely not the Hutu community as a whole. Further, Astri and I were focused on disproving the charge that the Hutu extremists were solely responsible. We documented the errors, failures and willful stubbornness and mindblindness that made various international actors complicit in what occurred. Third, we never – nor did any one of a number of first class scholars involved in the study of the genocide – called Kagame Rwanda’s savior. Astri and I did say that Kagame and his troops brought the Rwandan genocide within Rwanda to a stop with the victory in the civil war. Whether Kagame back then or since was the savior of Rwanda is a very different claim and one which neither I nor most of my esteemed colleagues ever made, though there were a plethora of disputes over his ruling style and the consequences.

For example, the BBC documentary claims that many of Kagame’s allies were subsequently driven out of the country by the regime and many were assassinated. Though Kagame initially drove defectors from the regime into exile, subsequent to that period, many assassinations have been documented, though not by Astri and myself at that time or since. However, we did deal in detail at the time with the charge that Kagame and his troops killed 600,000 Hutus who had fled to the Congo following his victory in July 1994 after Kagame invaded the Congo in 1996. The BBC report cites with approval the charge of Marie, a Hutu survivor whose family she claims sheltered Tutsis (possibly true), that Kagame and his forces indiscriminately hunted her family and the hundreds of thousands of those Hutu civilians who had not participated in the genocide in the jungles of the Congo.

In our report, we claimed that Kagame’s forces were focused, not on the killing of civilians, but on uprooting and destroying the remnants of the former Hutu Rwandan army and of the interhamwe militias which had also fled to the Congo. In the process, they did indiscriminately kill troops in the military that had not participated in the genocide. More importantly, they did kill a large number of civilians. We concluded from our examination that the number killed was 60,000, a very large number indeed, but not comparable to the 600,000 that Kagame was charged with killing at the time.

Perhaps our numbers were wrong. Perhaps our analysis had been wrong. Perhaps evidence subsequently emerged that the numbers were, in fact, higher. However, that requires research and evidence. Claiming that the tale of civilian atrocities in Congo by the Kagame regime was an untold story when, in fact, the charge of 600,000 deaths by the Kagame regime was the dominant claim, especially by a large number of NGOs, at the time. Our position was the minority one. The untold story was too frequently told without adequate evidence, documentation or analysis.

The BBC documentary claimed that the Gersony Report on these atrocities was suppressed. Certainly, it was never officially published. But if it was suppressed, how did we come to read and criticize it? The report circulated unofficially very widely. Working for the UNHCR, Robert Gersony, who initially had been sympathetic to the Kagame rebellion, a position that subsequently lent more credibility to his claims, in his draft report repeated and endorsed claims by many NGOs that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (the RPF) had been responsible for mass indiscriminate killings both within post-genocide Rwanda and in the Congo after Kagame came to power. The issue was whether the report was NOT officially published because of repression of the findings or because the methodology and results were found to be wanting.

We argued that large scale atrocities of women and children, the sick and the elderly did take place, but not nearly on the scale that NGOs consistently reported. The claim was made that within Rwanda, local Hutu residents and entire families were gathered in community meetings on one pretense or other and then locked in, assaulted and killed in large numbers. (The Report, 118-124) When the Gersony team visited 41 communes and 9 refugee camps, they concluded that within Rwanda in Kibungo, Butare and Kigale, the regime had killed between 25,000 and 40,000 Hutu and Tutsi. We examined in detail one of those assaults and we concluded that, although a large number of civilians were killed when Kagame’s forces repressed a rebellion during heavy rain, and that the control of the rebellion had been poorly handled, the claims that 800 civilians had been killed in that assault were grossly exaggerated.

Further, those stories eerily mirrored the tales of Hutu extremist atrocities in the genocide. We could not find evidence that the round-ups of civilians had taken place. Further, though we criticized some of the methods used in the process of re-education and rehabilitation of returning Hutus from the Congo, the conduct of these meetings and of the Rwandan community trials – the gachacha courts – further belied most of the charges. The conclusions of the Gersony Report of occurrences within Rwanda could possibly have been true, but the evidence we examined undermined the credibility of those conclusions and fit in too well with the Hutu revisionist claim that, on the one hand, denied the genocide, and, on the other hand, claimed that it was Kagame that had perpetuated a genocide.

We did find evidence that civilians had been killed in large numbers in the Congo, but again, not nearly to the degree claimed and not in this manner. The civilians were being “protected” by the ex-FAR and the former militias. In assaults on the former Rwandan army and on the militias, Kagame’s troops did not pay much attention to discriminating between civilians and militants. Many civilians died and to the extent that discrimination was not practiced between civilians and military, these deaths were indeed indiscriminate. That is not the same as an indiscriminate attack that is directed solely at civilians.
In my work on the numbers displaced and made homeless in Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in 1982, I found the OXFAM claim that 600,000 had been made homeless to be preposterous. The number in southern Lebanon, excluding Beirut, was 40,000, a number we established by auditing twelve different collections of data. That number of 40,000 was accepted by all sides. In many humanitarian crises we have found that numbers are often grossly exaggerated by NGOs – with perhaps the exception of the ICRC and Doctors Without Borders. Most NGOs do not have a record of accurate demographic reporting. After all, demography is not their prime mission and they have a strong interest in enhancing the numbers in distress. This does not take away from the excellent work they do, but skepticism needs to be brought into play about numbers generally released by many humanitarian agencies.

Reports on numbers based solely on interviews with those affected reveal an adequate way to determine numbers killed or displaced or the motives for that killing and displacement. Victims, or those who feel themselves victimized, are not the best source for objective information, though victims’ organizations often produce very accurate information when specifically set up and tasked to do so – as was the case with the Palestinian teachers in Lebanon gathering figures of the numbers made homeless in Lebanon in 1982. But all evidence from interviews must be corroborated by various sources of objective evidence from number counts in graves to conducting an actual census of survivors. Nevertheless, I do admit that colleagues, whom I enormously respect – Alison des Forges and Gerard Prunier – lent considerable credence to the findings of the Gersony Report at the time. But it is not clear why the BBC twenty years later does, especially when virtually no hard evidence has emerged to corroborate Robert Gersony’s initial findings.

Since 1994, organizations, such as the BBC in 2014, claim to have discovered, uncovered or unearthed the long repressed Gersony Report – see for example ProxyLake in 2010 – “Unearthed ‘Gersony Report’ the UN said never existed”. And it never did exist as a UN document. For Gersony had not insisted as part of his contract that anything he wrote that he would be free to publish as we had insisted given standing academic norms. The UN could have distanced itself from the report and refused to publish it but given Gersony permission to publish it independently and, therefore leave it open to public criticism. By not permitting the Gersony Report to be published at all, and while many actually read it and the report circulated widely, this process merely lent the report a mythic quality to its findings that I believe was totally undeserved.