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.

Rwandan Genocide Twentieth Anniversary: Prelude to Passover

Rwanda: Prelude to Passover

by

Howard Adelman

In one week we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide. The genocide started before 6 April (The commemoration date is 7 April)) with a number of test runs in which 300 were killed at a time. But the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over the next ten weeks started in earnest on 7 April 1994 after almost a dozen Belgian peacekeepers and the Prime Minister were murdered. I and Astri Surke undertook the first study of the role of bystanders, that is, the international community in allowing the genocide to take place. In the process, we visited a mass grave in Butare and did sample counts of the approximately 18,000 corpses laid out in the rooms of the technical school. I cannt write about it without recalling the experience, without smelling the odour of death and seeing the way those individuals had been killed. .
Two weeks today we begin the celebration of Passover, the escape to freedom of the Israelites from their oppression under the Egyptians. It is a joyful feat of freedom, Te alternative was their slaughter which had already begun with the slaying of male children.  Passover is the re-enactment of that escape.

On Friday, Sue Montgomery published an article in the Montreal Gazette on Rwanda: Twenty Years later: The Burden of Survival. Like the Holocaust, the survivors live long after often suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Reminders of what befell Rwanda are everywhere across its green, hilly landscape, especially at this time of year, when everything stops April 7 for a national week of mourning. Across the country, churches and schools where hundreds of thousands sought refuge but instead were slaughtered en masse have been converted into stirring memorials, with skulls, bones and clothing displayed often as they were found.

The following are further extracts from that article:that begins wit the tale of two orphans who survived, Alain Ntwali and Luck Ndunguye.

Just 7 and 5 when their worlds violently collapsed, they grew up in patchwork families of orphans, fearful, confused and unbearably sad, raising children younger than themselves and taking on roles far beyond their years. Now in their 20s, they struggle to keep the pain embedded in their psyches two decades ago from crippling them completely, while an incessant soundtrack of what-ifs and if-onlys clogs their thoughts.

Asked if they feel depressed, the young friends nod and respond in unison: “All the time.”

“So you cry, you smoke, you drink,” shrugs Ntwali.

Survivors of the genocide, many of whom are unable to work because of crippling disabilities or chronic illnesses, feel abandoned by their government and the world. As the country positions itself as an information-technology hub — installing more than 1,600 kilometres of fibre-optic cables and a 4G network that covers 95 per cent of the country — many of its wounded citizens can barely function..still haunted by the past, unable to sleep, plagued by stress-induced headaches and epilepsy, and turning to alcohol and drugs to stop the unrelenting mental loop of sickening images.

They are still haunted by the past, unable to sleep, plagued by stress-induced headaches and epilepsy, and turning to alcohol and drugs to stop the unrelenting mental loop of sickening images.

More than one-quarter of Rwanda’s population suffers post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a 2009 study conducted by Rwandan psychiatrists, and there are few resources to help them…Even Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire, who has received the best medical care possible, is still tormented by his time as general of the United Nations peacekeeping mission that failed to prevent or stop the genocide because of international apathy. So are 10 other Canadian soldiers who served with him in Rwanda. An 11th, Major Luc Racine, who was with the Royal 22nd Regiment in Valcartier, killed himself in Mali in September 2008 after suffering for years from PTSD.

Chaste Uwihoreye, who was a teenager during the genocide, is now a psychologist running an organization that works with youth — the innocent bystanders left to put their country back together again. In the years immediately following the massacre, there was no time to be traumatized, he said, but once the essentials were dealt with, memories started to surface and between 2000 and 2006, the country began to find itself in the depths of an emotional crisis..Jonathan Nettal, a Côte St-Luc native whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors, is a psychotherapist working for a Canadian NGO called Hopethiopia/Rwanda, counselling 19- to 23-year-olds on how to turn to each other for support with their collective trauma. What he sees in that age group is a general feeling of loneliness that comes from growing up without parents…Psychiatrist Yvonne Kayiteshonga, who heads the mental health division of the ministry, doesn’t sugar-coat the situation when she says that a country that experiences genocide is a country where the majority of its population is sick.

 

 

“Crisis in The Congo: Uncovering the Truth” A Comment.21.05.13

“Crisis in The Congo: Uncovering the Truth” A Comment                                   21.05.13

by

Howard Adelman

I took the weekend off to open the cottage. When I opened my email this morning, Roberta Morris, a former PhD student of mine who has been working in film in California, emailed me in response to my blog on Dan Gertler, and presumably the parts referring to his role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Roberta asked if I would comment on the DRC knowing that I had written extensively on both Rwanda and the DRC. She had just returned from a one-man show on “Heart of Darkness” by Actors’ Gang Theater (Tim Robbins’ company) and a screening of “Crisis In The Congo: Uncovering The Truth” released by Friends of the Congo. She had been asked and was considering committing her organization to sponsoring screenings far and wide, but wanted my input on the situation in the Congo and my views of this video. My comments follow. Though I started writing on Harper and Ford this morning, I set that material aside to comment on the film.

 

The plight of the people of the Congo remains dire. The Congolese people have been subjected to enormous miscarriages of justices at least since King Leopold of Belgium received a trusteeship over the territory in 1885 and treated the country as a resource for building his own personal fortune on the backs of the Congolese. Adam Hochschild, author of the very moving and upsetting, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa and who is interviewed in the film, depicts the colonization and exploitation of the Congo’s resources. The film is correct that the DRC is rich in an enormous variety for minerals, some both necessary to modern cell phones (coltan) and available uniquely in the Congo. The DRC has been exploited for over a century for its wealth. The Congolese people have not benefitted from that wealth but, instead, have suffered as the victims of that exploitation time and time again.

 

In the film, Dedy Mbepongo Bilamba, a Congolese author commented two years ago on the UN Mapping Report primarily to assert that reports without any follow up action are inadequate. Action must follow. Secondly, he insisted that focusing on “half of truth is lying”.  I will have more to say on the UN Mapping Report within this blog but for now I want to concentrate on the film. The documentary has two major theses in addition to the claim of exploitation of the Congo which I believe is indisputable. First, the agents primarily held responsible are Western powers, primarily the USA, UK and France but certainly also Belgium. Canadian mining companies are also charged with responsibility. There is no mention of the role of Israelis. More directly, the so-called proxies of the United States, Rwanda and Uganda, have provided the military muscle for these exploitive Western imperial powers. Secondly, the motivation for the involvement is the mineral wealth of the DRC. These two theses hold half the truth, and if half the truth is lying, then the film lies. For the mineral resources were used primarily to finance the conflict, to enrich locals, to repay loans for and also the purchase of additional military equipment. If the film distorts, it is a terrible shame because the injustices brought against the Congolese, the war crimes and crimes against humanity need to be emphasized and broadly disseminated.

 

Is that simple story of the agents responsible correct? Is the account of the motivations of external actors accurate and adequate? I think not. In the Cold War rivalry between the USA and the USSR, the USA through the CIA opposed Patrice Lumumba, can be held responsible in part for his assassination and can be charged with installing their own selected candidate, Joseph Desire Mobutu, as President of the country that he renamed Zaire. However, this is only part of the truth. The film in its timeline states that from 1965 to 1997 “The United States installed and maintained Joseph Desire Mobutu in power for over thirty years in spite of a number of attempts by the Congolese people to overthrow him.” There were few serious efforts to overthrow Mobutu. More importantly, as Dan Fahey himself noted in the film, contradicting the film’s own claim, the USA, followed subsequently by other Western powers, abandoned Mobutu at the end of the Cold War in 1989 and did not support Mobutu from 1990 until his overthrow in 1997. The humanitarian crises has many intersecting causes and involves many diverse agents, including competing aims by the countries named. As Fahey has written in his studies of the current situation, comments not included in the film:

  

Over the second half of 2012 and the early months of 2013, Mambasa territory in Province Orientale, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been the scene of escalating violence that is a consequence of brutal gangs running illegal poaching and mining operations coming into conflict with militarized conservation forces. Local politicians, prosecutors, conservationists, former militiamen and civilians tell the story of a devastating conflict driven by armed groups backed by powerful figures in the Congolese army. The violence in Mambasa territory “involved murder, rape, torture, beheading, setting people on fire, cannibalism, kidnapping, sexual slavery, pillaging, arson, threatened assassinations, and the killing of animals.” The principal perpetrators are in a newly formed militia known as Mai Mai Morgan, led by an elephant poacher called Paul Sadala. They are driven, they say, by a desire to protect the land from conservation efforts that give locals limited land use rights and access to resources; however they have committed astonishingly brutal attacks. They are supported, according to the UN Group of Experts and others, by a powerful Congolese army general in the region.

 

Local military forces and acquisitive ambitions of locals are and have been involved. Further, the divisions are often along ethnic lines so, except as an abstraction, it is difficult to speak of a Congolese people as if there is an identifiable group with a common purpose. In the advertisements for the film, the copy states that, “Analysts in the film examine whether U.S. corporate and government policies that support strongmen and prioritize profit over the people have contributed to and exacerbated the tragic instability in the heart of Africa.” In fact, the film has no analysis. Individuals testify that US corporate and government policies are primarily responsible for the support of strongmen in the interests of profits, but this is not a conclusion drawn from any analysis. It is simply a repeatedly expressed opinion. Is the assertion correct? Partially! But insofar as the film claims to uncover the truth by exploring “the role that the United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century,” it has more untruth than truth.

 

Let’s begin with the two claims made in the film abut the Rwanda genocide itself. One claim is made by Gregory Stanton after he notes that Hilary Clinton stated that she had one regret with respect to the Clinton presidency, that nothing was done to stop the Rwandan genocide. Stanton goes further and makes two further accusations: 1) Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright knew about the genocide; 2) they did everything to prevent the UN from doing anything to stop the genocide. The first is universally accepted as true but only three weeks after the systematic genocide started on 6 April 1994. In the first three weeks, there is no evidence that Clinton, or anyone else high in the administration, took any serious note about Rwanda so why would they know? The filmmakers or Robert Stanton could have read the writings of or interviewed Michael Barnett who is a professor in the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They could also have read Holly Burkhalter, Director of Human Rights Watch, who published a reasonably balanced account of the failures of the Clinton administration with respect to the Rwandan genocide. (“The Question of Genocide: The Clinton Administration and Rwanda,” World Policy Journal) My file of US confidential emails undermines Stanton’s exaggerations.  (On April 15, the US advocated withdrawal of UNAMIR from Rwanda “for their safety” and because it could not fulfill its mandate.) Though we strongly criticized the American position, we did not misinterpret American motives or intentions.

 

During the 1993-1994 year, Barnett spent the year as an exchange government bureaucrat at the United Nations. Barnett was assigned to the Rwandan desk – where else would you put a famous political science theorist but on what was considered the least relevant political desk? He, as he admits in his analysis of his own actions and motives, participated in the decision to keep the US uninvolved in Rwanda when the crisis began to unfold. The explanation was that America had no geo-political interests in Rwanda. Further, as Barnett and as I and Astri Suhrke separately documented, the US did not have to force Boutros Boutros Ghali, then the Secretary General of the United Nations, or Kofi Annan, a subsequent Secretary-General and then in charge of Peacekeeping at the UN, to stay out of Rwanda. The UN had followed that path systematically on their own, though certainly reinforced by the position of the Clinton administration to stay out of wars in Africa, a position itself reified by the Mogadishu syndrome and the disaster in Somalia the previous year. When the Clinton administration did find out and agreed to a peacekeeping force, the American military petty bureaucracy effectively sabotaged the efforts to supply the UN with armoured personnel carriers in a timely fashion. To say the least, Clinton did not do everything he could have to prevent stopping the genocide. He was just sufficiently neglectful to have made the USA complicit as a bystander.

 

Is this a nuance without a substantial difference? Not at all! There is a major difference between the irresponsibility of bystanders, the responsibility of backers of genocidaires and the responsibility of the genocidaires themselves. Further, analysis requires attending to differences and not silly simplifications. There were many agents involved at different levels of responsibility. Some of the agents included the Rwandan Catholic Church – as distinct in this case from the papal nuncio who was one of the exceptional persons who kept warning about the immanence of a massive humanitarian slaughter. See for example, one of the experts on the Rwandan genocide, Tom Lanagan, a colleague of Michael Barnett who has written extensively on the role of the church and has a new book forthcoming on the subject. However, by and large, experts are interviewed who, by and large, reinforce the view that the crises in the DRC is a fallout from the Rwandan genocide and responsibility can be attributed primarily to Rwanda and Uganda as proxies of the USA. Another scholar who could have been used to complicate the picture would have been Scott Straus who has also studied the area and written extensively on it. There are many others.

 

However, there are a minority of scholars and many ideologues who have assiduously worked to shift the blame for the genocide in Rwanda at least significantly onto the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front that invaded Rwanda in 1990. Alan Stam followed the lead of Alan Cooperman, an excellent scholar, and stood against the dominant voices who tended to view Paul Kagame through rose coloured glasses. Stam has upped the critical ante against Paul Kagame. Not only has he joined the genocidaire chorus in suggesting elements of Kagame’s RPF set off the genocide by downing Habyarimana’s plane but he insisted that the RPF not only could have stopped the genocide but deliberately decided not to. This is another half truth that amounts to a lie.

 

Allan Stam has done an excellent scholarly job of tracing and mapping in detail the movements of the RPF troops and claims that Paul Kagame could have moved much faster and saved Tutsis but failed to do so. Further, he claims that the RPF represented a foreign force invading Rwanda. The latter claim should make one suspicious abut his interpretation of his mapping exercise. For it is like calling the PLO working first out of Jordan and then out of Lebanon a foreign force invading Palestine.

 

The RPF was made up of Tutsis who had escaped or been expelled from Rwanda when the Hutu overthrew the Tutsi monarchy thirty years earlier. They had not been allowed to acquire citizenship elsewhere. Even after serving Museveni in his overthrow of the regime in Uganda, the Ugandan parliament refused to allow them to gain citizenship in Uganda. They were not a foreign army but refugees from Rwanda who adopted military means to insist on their return and overthrow the Habyarimana regime, a common behaviour pattern among stateless refugees. 

 

Secondly, could the RPF have saved many more lives by advancing much more quickly? In my own interviews with American military experts and with Paul Kagame himself, it seems clear that he made a choice. He was a very cautious military strategist. His use of pincer movements by a better disciplined but inferior army in both manpower and armaments to defeat a stronger foe is taught in military schools. It requires proceeding from two sides but allowing an escape route for the fleeing soldiers and then keeping them off balance and preventing their regrouping for a counter-attack.

 

Stam makes much of the fact in his scholarship that Kagame then paused on a crucial line for three weeks when he could have advanced much quicker. The implication was that the pause was responsible for allowing the interahamwe to execute their genocide with impunity. What Stam leaves out was the extended negotiations with the French to prevent a French-RPF clash so that when Operation Tourquoise launched by the French takes place, the two armies would not come into conflict. Further, Stam also leaves out the failure of the French themselves to go beyond the main roads and go into the surrounding hills to save Tutsis who were being slaughtered. Finally, Stam makes much of the claim about both the indefiniteness of the numbers killed while disabusing anyone that only Tutsis were killed. That is a red herring. For the leading scholars on the Rwandan genocide refer to Tutsi and moderate Hutu who were slaughtered in the genocide. 

 

I believe Kagame should have moved quickly to save innocent civilians. Kagame is a hard nosed military man, however, was unwilling to risk his army and the military progress he made to save civilians. That does not make him complicit in their killing and certainly does not lend weight to the charge that Kagame welcomed the genocide of Tutsi to provide a moral cover for his won dictatorial regime.

That was 1994. What about the operations in 1996-1997 with respect to the invasion of Zaire? After the genocide, the defeated FAR (the former army of Rwanda) and their families along with the interahamwe militias fled primarily into Zaire. They took up residency in and control of the refugee camps. As The Democratic Republic of the Congo 1993-2003 UN Mapping Report noted,

After moving into North and South Kivu in July 1994, the ex-FAR/Interahamwe used the refugee camps along the Rwanda and Burundi borders as bases and training camps. Using the decades-old strategic alliance with President Mobutu and the widespread corruption within the FAZ to their advantage, the ex-FAR bought back or recovered the military equipment confiscated on their arrival in Zaire and resumed war against the army of the Front patriotique rwandais, which was now the national army of Rwanda, the Armée patriotique rwandaise (APR). (para. 191)

 

The ex-FAR used that control of the camps to milk the international system by enhancing by 25% the number of claimed refugees in the camps and then selling the extra rations on the black market in order to buy more ammunition and some additional arms. They used the camps to launch raids into Rwanda. When these efforts were futile or were defeated, they turned against the indigenous Tutsi in Zaire, the Banyamulenge, and launched a second genocide. This crucial information is missing from the film.  As everyone familiar with Rwanda at the time or through subsequent scholarship knows, Paul Kagame repeatedly warned the international community that if they did not intervene to prevent the ex-FAR and interahamwe from raiding Rwanda and from their new killing spree within Zaire, he would take action. The international community stood by, kept feeding and taking care of the genocidaires along with the other 600,000 plus civilian Hutu refugees from Rwanda. In November of 1996, Rwanda and Uganda launched a full scale invasion against the refugee camps, destroyed them and sent the ex-FAR and interahamwe and their families fleeing east while the greatest part of the civilian refugee population that had been held hostage by the genocidaires walked home back to Rwanda.

 

Laurent-Désiré Kabila had been an old colleague of Lumumba’s and had survived over the decades as a smuggler and self-promoter. Museveni of Uganda knew him and persuaded Paul Kagame to use him as the spokesperson for the invading force to provide a smokescreen that the invaders were Zairean rebels when the most were “volunteers” from the Rwandan and Uganda armies. Kabila promoted himself gradually from spokesperson to the leader of the rebellion. Without the detail, this account is in line with the story of the film. There are, however, several major differences. The United States did not back the invasion of Zaire. Secondly, the three parties – Rwanda, Uganda and Kabila – quickly fell out. When Kabila wanted to go beyond the overthrow of the camps and attack Kisingani, the Ugandans and Rwandese governments said no. He paused and was lucky. The Zairean army fled before he got there so he conquered Kisingani anyway and then went on the long march to capture Kinshasha and set himself up as the dictator. By this time he was not only at odds with both Uganda and Rwanda but those two countries also fell out. In the meantime a new exploitive regime had been installed in Zaire, now renamed the Democratic   Republic of the Congo.

 

Other than the absence of any significant role of the United States in either promoting or stopping the invasion, and the disagreements among the allies, the main difference in this account is in the numbers killed. At the time, based on the inflated numbers in the camps, assertions were made that 600,000 men, women and children had been killed by the Rwanda-Uganda invasion. (Stam at least kept his figure down to a more credible 150,000.) The 600,000 was a ghost number. The death toll was horrendous, with numerous massacres of groups of civilian refugees, many killed deliberately by army units and others killed for revenge by Mayi-Mayi and Tutsi who had earlier been victims of the Hutu, and others murdered by the ex-FAR as documented at length in The Democratic Republic of the Congo 1993-2003 UN Mapping Report, but no where near the hundreds of thousands claimed at the time.

 

The repeated figure of six million killed in the DRC to echo the Holocaust figure includes all those who died as a result of  both the first and the second Congo War based on what the expected population might have been starting with inflated figures and then inflated the numbers killed further in this way to claim there was a second genocide perpetrated by the proxies of America, particularly Paul Kagame, who was already held to be responsible for allowing the Tutsi to be slaughtered in Rwanda and was now accused of slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Congolese in another far worse genocide. The Rwandan and Ugandan forces can be accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and there were a significant number of civilian slaughters, but there is no evidence that an attempt was made to exterminate the Rwandan Hutu otherwise why were over 600,000 encouraged and allowed to march back to Rwanda and reclaim their homes? In fact, 13,000 were flown back to Rwanda on 22 May 1997 from MbandakaAirport.

 

I could go on. I just find it a double horror to see humanitarian crises and crimes hijacked by ideologues and propagandists. This film does precisely that. Though Friends of the Congo have been a leading organization opposing the exploitation of the wealth of the Congo and the imposition of another dictatorship in that country, and though the organization has been strident in unveiling the role of both Rwanda and Uganda in that exploitation, it has also, as in this film, done so through distortion of the historical record and by a simplistic and neo-marxist interpretation of what occurred, ignoring in particular the deep geographic divide between east and west and the deepened ethnic divisions that have coincided with the long wars. They have also ignored dissident scholarly voices that do not line up with their simplistic message that the invasion of the Congo was organized by the United States and the UK using their proxies, Rwanda and Uganda. They have also exploited the Holocaust by repeatedly asserting that six million have died since 1996.  

 

As advertised, “Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering The Truth explores the role that the United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century. The film is a short version of a feature length production to be released in the near future. It locates the Congo crisis in a historical, social and political context. It unveils analysis and prescriptions by leading experts, practitioners, activists and intellectuals that are not normally available to the general public. The film is a call to conscience and action.” Unfortunately, because of the lack of analysis, the distortion in the presentation and its utter failure to place the conflict in an adequate historical, social and political context, calls to conscience and action will be largely ignored, not to say that they would not be if a more objective and more penetrating documentary had been produced. This is just another way of exploiting the Congo.