For 10 years, I have been involved the fight for the preservation of memory around the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis in Rwanda. Through this work, I have noticed how most of the people belonging to the Pan African and Anti-colonial movements in France have shunned the cause against genocide denial. I find this bizarre.
Every 7th of April, I search major social media such as Twitter, Face- book, Instagram accounts, and the websites of these activist networks, but unfortunately, nothing is being said about the genocide against the Tutsis. Not the slightest declaration in favour of the protection of the memory of the genocide against the Tutsi, or in support of the families of the victims and survivors of the genocide; not a word of sympathy for those who are still waiting for justice. Not even from our many activist figures who are used to commemorating each anniversary of any historical event that proves that France was and still is an imperialist state.
It is indeed sad to note that despite 28 years of extensive research and writing on the crime of crimes, the history of the genocide against the Tutsi, which is highly complex and political, is still perceived as unimportant. One wonders if the modest size of the Rwandan diaspora in France reinforces this feeling. So, a question naturally arises: Why? Why is one of the darkest pages of the France-Afrique relationship of no interest to its most vocal detractors? Why is the impact of pan-Africanism, a decolonial and anti-racism movement which implies certain solidarity in struggles led by Africans, not felt here?
Links to the theory of double genocide
For starters, the complementarity of these causes ought to be obvious to all. Genocide is fundamentally an outcome of racism. European racism is what brought about the classification of people into different categories, including the Hutu-Tutsi dichotomy along the Hamitic mythology. These actions by colonial powers planted the seeds of hatred that led to genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. Therefore, one cannot be anti-racism and indifferent to genocide denial.
What I have discovered over time in my learning of the dynamics that attack the memory of the genocide against the Tutsis is that the activists and their associations which are mostly classified as “de-colonial”, “pan-African” or “Afro-feminist” have not been impervious to the theory of double genocide. This is a gentle euphemism. Beyond the silence observed every 7th of April, there are numerous shares of negationist texts and videos from these same networks. This is a de facto alliance with the genocidaires, and those who are guilty of it seem unaware of the implications of their acts.
Since the very beginning of my commitment to this cause, I have also noticed that any effort aimed at protecting the history of the genocide against the Tutsis would often receive the cold retort “Yes but, what about the Congo?” This is never a harmless and innocent question but the result of a precise negationist strategy: to make people believe that the Tutsis took revenge and committed a second genocide as the RPF liberated Rwanda. “Genocide against the Hutus,” as some term it. Or a genocide “against the Congolese”. “Some 6, 9, 20 million dead,” one sometimes reads, because of tiny Rwanda. This is a heresy! And the lie has been exposed over and over again. But the rumour is too powerful, too old, and the result is this: French pan-Africans will objectively defend the denial, the lie, the minimization, the trivialization of the genocide against the Tutsis. Indeed, when one is Afro-descendant and anti-racist in France, the murderous conflicts around the minerals of the Congo are a contentious issue. The size of the Congolese diaspora, the primary target of these negationist ploys, which instrumentalize their pain, makes our problem almost insurmountable.
As a prominent example, the Umoja League is a respected pan-African organization in the Francophone world. Its president, Amzat Boukari Yabara, is a historian. Yet he has a real problem with the history of the genocide against the Tutsis. Beyond some dubious statements shared with his fans on social media, we can note his contribution in the magazine “Relations” for the 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda: “Rwanda 20 years after the genocide”. Not a single paragraph of this text unambiguously describes the history of the genocide.
Worse, one passage quietly unfolds the double genocide theory: “We shall recall that the Rwandan genocide resulted in the displacement of more than two million people, most of whom were hunted down and made refugees in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the continuing war killed more than six million people living in the mineral-rich grounds of the Kivu [area].”
Amzat Boukari should know that the genocide is not “Rwandan” because “Rwandans” did not “kill each other.” The genocide was perpetrated “against the Tutsis” who were targeted by a systematic extermination policy prepared and planned for a long time. Nor did the genocide “result in the displacement of more than two million people.” The Hutu extremists moved to Zaire, near the Rwandan border, taking civilians with them as hostages and stealing absolutely everything they could carry, in order to reorganize and finish “the work” – the genocide against the Tutsis. The historical documents exist and prove that all this was facilitated by the French Operation Turquoise. Moreover, a historian like Amzat Boukari should know that not even the methodologically mediocre Mapping Report dares to assert that “the continuation of the war killed more than six million people. There was war and fighting, of course; above all, however, there was disease, famine and cholera. The RPF kept calling on civilians to return to Rwanda; it first and foremost invited them to stay away from the genocidal militias that were using them as human shields. Again, all this is well documented.
But this is of little importance to a ‘pan-African’ figure for whom popular approval outweighs the veracity of the facts. The sensational effect sought is there, and the effect of repetition gives credence to the denialist narrative. Other more ethical association leaders have tried to justify their silence on our memory in the following way: “If I speak about Rwanda at a conference, I lose half of my audience”. Frightening, but very real.
The way to overcome this chal-lenge is inscribed in the ideologies of pan-African movements. The often proclaimed practical and political solidarity must be inscribed in our lived reality. This is urgent. It is unbearable that our memory is trampled on in a predominantly white context, of course, but it is even more unbearable in my opin- ion as a pan-African activist that the denial takes place in African and Afro-descendant circles that claim to be fighting against the evils, such as Gobineau’s racist the- ories imported centuries ago into our societies.
Decolonizing minds should mean getting rid of the harmful ideologies imported by imperialists every- where and at all times in order to exploit their victims more easily.
The work of decolonizing African minds must counter the conspiracy theory that led to the genocide against the Tutsis and that is still going on around Kivu, carried by the same murderous fervour as in the 1960s. For yes, anti-Tutsism, its accusations which peddle a ficti- tious Tutsi’s desire to plunder and dominate, has existed, developed and spread in people’s minds for all this time. It is a question of putting an end to it collectively.