On 8th October 2007, ironically at the UN Complex Addis Ababa, I came across a book by Linda R Melvern entitled, “A people betrayed the role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide.”
We forgive Ms. Melvern, for calling it “Rwanda’s Genocide”, instead of Genocide against the Tutsi for that is what it was called at the UN then.
Indeed in her Intent to Deceive published in February 2020; she calls it by its real name. In this latter book, she points out among others that:
“The génocidaires and their supporters continue to peddle falsehoods and have found new and receptive audiences and fooled gullible Western journalists and unwary academics”.
I would like to point out that this seasoned journalist is not one of those who drop of a plane at Kigali International Airport and the week after are classified by the West as “experts on Rwanda”. To publish a people betrayed for example, she has worked on the story for six years ending up with a classic piece of investigative journalism, with new and startling information international scandal, akin to conspiracy.
The readers, must be wondering why of all the books, I have chosen to discuss Linda’s, permit me to address her by her first name, that is what I would do if I ever got a chance to meet her. First of all, she is a well-known British investigative journalist, the author of more than half a dozen non-fiction books.
In the western conscious or sub conscious racism, the west is bound to be haunted by the criticism of its own than people like Rakia Omar, of African Rights, despite her being the first person to extensively, Write a detail account of Genocide against the Tutsi.
Secondly, in the words of Alec Russell, of Financial Times “Linda Melvern has made it something of a life mission to take on the Rwandan genocide deniers and debunk their poisonous fact-muddying claims … A clear, crisp and important contribution to the literature on the genocide. In particular Melvern forensically rebuts attempts by apologists for the génocidaires, including western academics, to suggest a moral equivalence between the parties in Rwanda.”
Her book is likely to be believed like her name sake’s Linda POLMAN’s book “We did Nothing” ( why the truth Doesn’t Always Come Out When the UN Goes in) or Romeo Dallaire’s book Shake Hands with the Devil on the same western eyes. Or How Philip Gourevitch’s book “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our family”, helps to manufacture Paul Rusesabagina as a hero. It would perhaps have received less attention if this book was not written by an American.
Last but not least , my Focus on Linda R Melvern writings was influenced by “Digital Kwibuka”
Samantha Teta’ s one-hour “conversation on genocide denials” was a masterpiece. Congratulations Teta! I would encourage the young and old to watch this conversation on YouTube https://yputu.be/qfjeESqjlsc
Despite the many books that I have read on genocide against the Tutsi, and about a dozen on my bookshelf, this discussion opened my mind to a number of things, but also left me with worries and unanswered questions.
To start with, I have acquired several of these books, thanks to my belonging to the old analogy school that still read physical books. Teta and her generation are very unlikely to read 300 hardcover books. That is why anything that appears on social media is important and powerful. It is not surprising therefore that it is my niece Uwera; born after the genocide, who sent me the link to the YouTube, all the way from Canada. Uwera and her generation are some of the young Rwandans trying to understand how on Earth such inhuman behaviour could have taken place in modern times.
To my disappointment, however, by the time I was watching the video had received less than 400 views. Why so few views? Is Teta alone soldier? Digital Kwibuka has to be linked to as many as our youth in Rwanda and our diaspora. If I could learn so much from the one hour despite having read the actual books the young can learn even more.
For example to whom is UN answerable? Boutros Boutros–Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the first from the African continent died in 2016, ten years after he retired from the UN Job. Why was he allowed to go to the grave without even being called to offer an explanation, as to why he chose to serve France, instead of the UN? His decision to stop Kofi Anan head of peacekeeping operation to discuss the subject should have been explained.
Watching the conversation between Teta and Linda, for the first time; I felt sorry for Kofi Anan. The great Grand Son of the once-proud Asantehene, of Ashanti empire seating cowardly in the UN Security Council, unable to utter a word of what he knew, just because his boss Boutros Ghali had forbidden him to speak. Choosing to protect his job as opposed to giving facts that would have probably saved a million lives, he too shouldn’t have been allowed to take his possible explanation to the grave like his former boss.
As demanded by Linda R Melvern, the US and British Ambassadors to the UN should at a minimum give an explanation to their legislators as to what they know, what they did or failed to do.
In 1995, at village Urugwiro, Rwandan president’s office, I almost got into trouble for asking at a press conference an embarrassing question to the then visiting US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ahead of President Clinton’s stopover at Kigali International Airport. My unforeseen “embarrassing question was “as a survivor of genocide yourself how do you feel coming into a country that has just come out of genocide?”
I don’t know whether she got emotional, angry; or both but she lost her voice and mumbled some explanation. Thank God I had not done enough homework on her, thanks to the low level of internet connectivity in Rwanda then. If I had known, then that she had been the US’ Ambassador to the UN and therefore a full member of the UN Security council in 1993 /94; I would have asked a question that would have put me in even more trouble and her more embarrassment.
And so let me pay tribute once again to the likes of Linda R Melvern, who never tire to remind the West of its hypocrisy. I would remiss if I ended my commentary without pointing out her emphasis on racism involved in dealing with these tragedies. As Rwanda was having a well-orchestrated Genocide, the UN deployed 2500 toy soldiers. Bosnia on the other hand had 70,000 Strong forces. Does this ring a bell in George Orwell’s novel “Animal farm”? “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”
So when president Kagame get angry and tell us about the 3rd dominant governance style: Hypocrisy and reminds the leadership of these prominent groups that they have no lessons to give us. He is speaking on behalf of many.
Finally a challenge to our youths. We are in the digital era. Digital Kwibuka, should not end with this week nor the 100 days. It should be an ongoing battle. Google, Facebook; Twitter Instagram, and other social media will not block genocide deniers and apologists, you are not Bosnia nor are you Ukraine. You are just Rwandans, a black African country. So you need to fight. The battlefront is digital. Don’t leave it to a small group like the one Teta belongs to. The genocide deniers, revisionists, and apologists never tire. Remember: “ attack is the best defence”. La luta continua.
Mweusi Karake, is a veteran Journalist, a freedom fighter and former head of PR/Corporate Communication at the COMESA, currently residing in Kigali