As Rwanda prepares to commemorate 27 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, the National Commission Against Genocide (CNLG) has warned the general public against promotion of the genocide ideology and denial, which are increasingly happening on social media.
The national body charged with fighting genocide denial and ideology says that as April approaches every year as the time for the commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi approaches, there are people who are stepping up their efforts to trivialize and deny the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The commission observes that the same individuals use the opportunity to undermine Rwanda’s gains since the RPF-Inkotanyi stopped the Genocide in July 1994, adding that these activities have already started appearing on social media even before April.
The National Commission Against Genocide (CNLG) is urging people who produce talk shows or articles on the internet or via Youtube and social media platforms, to comply with the provisions of the Law on Genocide Ideology and Related Crimes and other national laws,” CNLG Executive Secretary, Dr. Jean Damscene Bizimana, warned in a statement.
CNLG further said that it has analysed various conversations on Youtube and other social media sites and found that there is an increasing use of condescending rhetoric that tantamount to propagation of the genocide ideology and genocide denial.
In other cases, the commission says the same individuals seek to promote divisions, undermine public order and to incite the masses into civil unrest, all actions which are punishable under the law.
CNLG said that the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003, as amended in 2015, and other national laws prohibit the propagation of the genocide ideology.
Dr. Bizimana said that while Article 9 governing the media provides for freedom of press and access to information, it does not give media users the right to interfere with the general well-being of the country or the use of such platforms to promote civil unrest.
Law n° 68/2018 of 30/8/2018 determining offences and penalties prohibits the use of divisive language, dissemination of false information or propaganda aimed at causing unrest or inciting the public and instituted penalties for such actions in Rwanda or outside Rwanda.
“A person convicted of committing one of the acts referred to under paragraph one of this Article is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five (5) years but not more than seven (7) years and a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) but not more than one million Rwandan francs (FRW1,000,000),” the law reads.
Similarly, law n° 59/2018 of 22/8/2018 on the Crime of Genocide Ideology and Related Crimes, in its articles 5, 6, 7, 8 and I0, prohibits any actions that are aimed at denying, undermining or trivializing the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and other genocides confirmed by the United Nations.
Article 4 says that Genocide ideology is a committed when “a person who, in public, either verbally, in writing, through images or in any other manner, commits an act that manifests an ideology that supports or advocates for destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,”
Any person who commits the said offence, upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five (5) years and not more than seven (7) years, with a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) and not more than one million Rwandan francs (FRW 1,000,000).
Crimes related to genocide ideology are committed when a person intends to state or indicate that the genocide is not genocide or seeks to distort the facts about genocide for the purpose of misleading the public, espouses the double genocide theory or alleges that the genocide was not planned.
Other crimes include minimization of the gravity or consequences of the genocide, attempting to lessen the means through which genocide was committed, providing wrong statistics about the victims of the Genocide, justifying the genocide and other similar actions CNLG says are all punishable under the law.
The CNLG warning followed a video circulating on social media by a one Yvonne Idamange, purporting to be a genocide survivor, claiming that the plight of genocide survivors has been forgotten, despite affirming that she got support from the Genocide Survivors welfare fund FARG.
Details have since emerged that Idamange, a resident of Gasabo, but born in Rugalika, Kamonyi district, was given a house by FARG, which she rented out and later sold after building another one, while her education and welfare needs were also catered for.
Genocide survivors have taken to social media to distance themselves from Idamange, pointing out that she spoke in her individual capacity, not on behalf of genocide survivors who have nothing against the government while others like scholar Tom Ndahiro doubted her status as a genocide survivor.
CNLG warned that such rhetoric and hateful content on social media platforms is similar to what was being broadcast and published pre-1994 and later plunged the country into the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.