Democracy and Genocide Denial Politics in Rwanda: 7/20/10 - Transcript
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
RWANDA FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER ON GENOCIDE DENIAL
WELCOME AND MODERATOR:
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND COOPERATION,
THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA
THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA
TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2010
Transcript by Federal News Service
FREDERICK KEMPE: Good afternoon. I’m Fred Kempe. I’m president and CEO of the Atlantic Council and it’s my pleasure to welcome you all to this event on democracy and the politics of genocide denial in Rwanda. We are enormously privileged with us – we are enormously privileged to have with us today the foreign minister of Rwanda, Louise Mushikiwabo, and Mr. Martin Ngoga, Rwanda’s prosecutor general.
Ambassador James Kimonyo, it’s wonderful to have you with us this afternoon, the ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States. Atlantic Council board members and members, members of the diplomatic corps and numerous colleagues from the foreign policy community, we’re pleased to have you all here with us.
The Atlantic Council was born from the aftermath of World War II and indeed next year we’ll be celebrating our 50th anniversary but our roots really go back to 1948. We were born in the aftermath of a devastating Holocaust, in the aftermath of a Europe divided by ideology and mistrust and of a United States called to international leadership.
The Atlantic Council promotes constructive U.S. and European leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community over the past years in meeting international challenges.
In this context, we’ve created a number of new centers and programs that tackle a global mission for the Atlantic community and one of the most important of these is the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, whose director, Nancy Walker, will moderate this discussion this evening.
We are a nonpartisan network of leaders. It’s a quaint notion in Washington, nonpartisan. We like to consider ourselves radically centrist. We try to give ideas – to bring ideas to power and we try to give power to ideas. Our philosophy is not to create consensus, however, but to open a debate, an honest and an open debate, and in that spirit we welcome you all today.
Just over 15 years ago, almost a million people perished in a genocide. Out of the suffering, death and destruction of those fateful three months, Rwanda embarked on a national rebuilding that places security at the heart of recovery.
The challenges have been numerous: creating a legal system that could deal with the large numbers of perpetrators that would allow survivors a measure of justice, that would put in place the foundations of a painful but necessary reconciliation between Rwandans on top of all the other economic and public health challenges that are the norm for societies coming out of war, not to mention out of genocide.
The development of democracy is crucial if Rwanda is truly to overcome its tragic legacy of division and violence. That’s not our opinion. That is the Rwandan opinion. For all of these reasons, this event comes at a timely moment because Rwanda’s national elections – and I can see this is an audience of experts – will be held on August 9.
That this exercise is even taking place is a testament to how much the country has recovered since 1994. There are those who seek to deny that a genocide ever happened in Rwanda.
There are others who blame the present government for starting the genocide by acts of provocation and conspiracy. There are still others who believe that there was a double genocide in Rwanda. Denials of genocide did not begin in Rwanda. They have been a staple of a particular strain of thought in Europe for the last half century.
There is an Atlantic connection to all of this. Many European countries, unlike the United States with its toleration of aggressive free speech – some politicians would wish that we didn’t tolerate quite as much aggressive free speech – but many European countries have outlawed particular forms of Holocaust denial. But where does the line between not accepting denial of these histories of mass atrocity and suppressing democratic dissent get drawn?
That’s part of what will be discussed today. But I think we can also carry the conversation wherever, Madame Minister, you would like to carry it and wherever in the question and answer session the experts and others in the audience would like to ask their questions.
Permit me a brief introduction for Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo and Mr. Ngoga. The foreign minister will speak briefly and then she will be joined on the stage by Mr. Ngoga and Nancy Walker. The foreign minister previously served as the minister of information. She is an author and a public relations executive. She lived in the United States for 22 years, then briefly in Tunisia before joining the Rwandan cabinet in March 2008.
She is the co-author of “Rwanda Means the Universe”, an intergenerational sociohistorical memoir and she is an author and sought after speaker on Rwandan and larger African issues. The foreign minister is the recipient of the 2004 Outstanding Humanitarian Award from American University’s school of international studies. She holds degrees in languages and interpretation from the University of Delaware.
Mr. Ngoga serves as Rwanda’s national public prosecution authority as prosecutor general while also serving as vice president of the superior council of the prosecution. He formerly held the offices of deputy prosecutor general and special representative of the government of Rwanda to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In 2009, Mr. Ngoga addressed the U.N. Security Council on the activities of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
He served as head of delegation and bilateral discussions on genocide fugitives with U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. He has written for a wide variety of newspapers and contributed a chapter entitled “Institutionalization of Impunity: The Rwandan Genocide in a Judicial Perspective” in the book entitled “After Genocide”.
So we have two great experts to talk about issues that are of – to put in the most understated manner – of current concern. After our guest speakers’ brief remarks, we’ll open the discussion to questions and answers. Again, welcome to the Atlantic Council. Madame Minister, it’s an honor to have you with us.
LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO: Good afternoon. I want to begin by thanking Fred and Nancy for organizing this discussion this afternoon. I was telling the prosecutor general that this kind of forum is something I miss in Rwanda because I used to enjoy being part of these global discussions and especially in this town, especially when it came to Rwanda and the continent of Africa, but also global issues in general. So I’m delighted to be here.
I would like to – if Fred, you don’t mind – to say that my remarks will be very brief. I’m here to exchange, to take questions, to reflect with some of you on anything Rwanda and I thought it was a good thing that I met with the prosecutor in New York City yesterday.
He’s on a different mission than mine but I thought this is really good that we will be able to talk about some of the recent incidents that took place in Rwanda in the last many months, many of them with prosecutorial dimension.
So we are, I think if I can speak for Martin Ngoga, we are very happy to talk and to hear about what intrigues you, what you would like to know and how you see things taking place and the future shaping up for Rwanda, so I’m grateful for this opportunity and I thank all of you for being here this afternoon.
Let me begin by talking about where Rwanda is today. I would like very much to get into the politics of – whether it’s the politics or not, I don’t know – but into genocide denial and what that means for Rwanda and why Rwanda has the position that it has on genocide denial through questions and answers.
I think for us and for Rwandans in general it’s obvious why genocide denial, which comes in many forms – genocide minimization, rewriting of history, however much rewriting that means, interpretation of what happened in Rwanda – is something that is not and probably will not for a long time be given any value, will be indulged.
Rwandans who are concerned with normalcy and stability and growth and a predictable future are going to fight as much as they can any of those forms of genocide denial for obvious reasons.
But I wanted to begin by talking about where the country is today and I will then talk about some of the current events that have been making the news in the recent months. I’ll say a word on the upcoming elections and then will be happy to have a larger discussion and I look forward to your questions.
Rwanda, as many of you have been following and know, is a country that has attracted a lot of interest since 1994, both negative and positive, and it’s also a country that evokes from what we see in different countries a certain mystery to it. What is happening in this country is watched by so many people and we in Rwanda have a feeling that for many people, what they see is not what they get.
But I think really what you see in Rwanda is what you get. There is nothing hidden. There is no secret agenda. Rwanda is a country that is still finding itself 16 years after the genocide and trying to consolidate some of the progress made for us, incredible progress, unbelievable progress, but it’s also a country that remains to a certain level very fragile, which explains some of the issues that I’m sure we’ll be discussing and exchanging on.
But by and large, Rwanda is a country where a lot of people are proud to be and a lot of people feel that for the first time in their history, they have a sense of belonging, where most people feel that the country has responded to their aspirations as normal citizens, especially in light of the life of the refugee that so many Rwandans have lived, the system of discrimination that has marked Rwanda since independence and a certain level of isolation that Rwanda has had from the independence from Belgium all the way to the mid-’90s.
So it’s an exciting time. It’s also a time of transition where we feel now that 15 years after the genocide we are moving on and what does it meant to move on after the genocide? It simply means that you put the genocide in its right context. You place the importance that is needed on memorializing the genocide and you start seeing a different set of priorities in the country.
So for us, today we are at an interesting stage where we are in the second phase post-genocide and I’m saying this because when you talk to Rwandans of all walks of life, in different parts of the country, about what matters to them, what they are thinking about, what their aspirations are, they will tell you that they are interested in bread and butter issues.
They want to know what’s going to happen to their children. They are questioning our education system, wondering whether we are placing the right priorities on education. They want to know that they are safe where they live, whether Rwanda is at peace with its neighbors, especially for some of our citizens that live near different borders and for us, it’s a different stage in the life of post-genocide Rwanda.
When I was still living in the United States, I would go to Rwanda and spend some time and I remember that most of the discussion would always end up with the genocide, what happened, stories of friends and families and neighbors and people.
There was always some story that is otherwise, I would say, innocent, non-genocide that would end up linking with the genocide. We’re at, I think, a different stage where jobs, health, the state of the economy, some of our farming and agriculture policies, a number if very innovative IT projects are part of the normal discussion in the daily life of Rwandans.
So that’s where we are and I find it interesting because – and some of the friends that are in this room this afternoon will remember that for a long time after the genocide, it was difficult to imagine what Rwanda would be like, what life would look like. We used to talk about the year 2000, what’s going to happen in the year 2000.
There was a lot of hype about Y2K and things like that and we Rwandans thought that was not our business. We were not interested in what goes wrong with Y2K. We were thinking how is Rwanda going to look like in the year 2000 and our thinking has broadened. Our hopes, I think, have risen and we also have been very much as a country, and particular citizens, very receptive about the whole integration process, belonging to a group, belonging to an economic community.
We’ve been talking to our population about the benefits of belonging to East Africa, the East African community and the Commonwealth and maintaining the traditional relationship with Burundi and the DRC through the economic community of the Great Lakes region. So this is where Rwanda stands today and I think it’s very healthy. We are slowly getting back to normal.
We have, however, noticed when we observe on a deeper level that issues of living together, reconciling, moving away from ethnicity are still around and we have also noticed that Rwandans who do not live in Rwanda are much more into these kinds of discussions, into the Hutu-Tutsi business and how do people live together and is this really working and so it’s a debate that is out there.
So while I want to give you the true and objective picture of what Rwanda looks like, I want also to caution you that genocide takes a long time to get out of the minds of the people and definitely for genocide survivors it’s a burden and a difficult situation that they live more than anybody else.
For the younger generations, it’s more what are the young people think about and want to do with their lives. But certainly Rwanda for a long time, and understandably, will have to deal with some of the consequences of the genocide.
I want to talk now about what some of the important pillars in our daily lives and in our politics in Rwanda are and when we discuss with our neighbors and our friends from near and far, we sound like we’re not so sure of the progress we are making as a country because we refer very often to unity, words that don’t exist anywhere else.
While people are talking about investing, when in this country you’re thinking of what to do with your money, the price of gas and all that, you will find that Rwandans keep coming back to remaining united and it’s I think one of the consequences of having lived not united and having had over our history waves of insecurity in our country and we sort of feel that if we remain united, if we agree or disagree but remain within certain bounds, we feel more comfortable.
Another important pillar of our life and our politics in Rwanda today is the prominence of women. Women have in the national conscience a very important place. Young girls in school are much more confident than they used to be. I was saying this earlier.
Men are much more comfortable with where women are, to their credit, and it’s now not uncommon, and I saw this during our last legislative elections, that women would go out and brag about what they can do, which is very unusual in our society and in our culture.
In fact, we have in our culture something called kwivuga (ph) and kwivuga is to brag about yourself, talk about the good things you’ve done with your life and yourself and that for a long time was reserved to men.
But I was very positively surprised to see women campaigning, bragging about what they can bring to their community and being loud about it and walking in the streets and raising both hands and acting like there is nothing wrong with what they were doing. So these are all signals and they are perhaps external gestures that show where the country is in terms of gender balance or gender equality. These terms all sound very foreign to Rwanda but it’s what’s happening in Rwanda.
The aspect of women empowerment and the fact that at this particular time men and women are comfortable with the rise in rights and in aspiration by women as something that’s becoming part of our culture and especially with young boys there is a level of normalcy and acceptance of young girls beating them at football games. Young women in Rwanda now are becoming professional drummers, a form of art that is traditionally reserved to men and it’s seen as normal.
So the aspect of – the role of the woman in our society has very quickly, I think, in the space of less than two decades become now part of the normal life and part of the discussion, sometimes part of the – some of the not-so-pleasant jokes that men and women around the office or in the neighborhoods bring up. But it’s all a very healthy discussion that shows that the role of the Rwandan woman is something that is prominent. It’s new and it’s widely accepted.
I want to talk about what many Rwandans today see as a wave of inspiration with young people. Our youth have shown recently – I would say in the last maybe five years – a level of excitement and creativity that Rwanda had not seen in a long time.
Whether it’s musicians, whether it’s dancers, whether it’s sculptors, we have – and we see it throughout the country – a level of inspiration and comfort with young people which makes them very creative, very daring in a way that we hadn’t seen before.
And as much as we in the leadership of the country feel that we should do more for our youth, have more than a ministry that is in charge of youth and plan for the youth, the youth itself is coming to the forefront of the daily life in Rwanda with a level of confidence that we think is very good.
Young entrepreneurs, people who are not afraid to create, young people who are not afraid to open bank accounts and borrow money to start a small business and this is also a very, very positive development.
Let me just say a word about the current events, the events of the last, I would say, many months, from basically the beginning of the year, many of them very unfortunate, very sad events that many people, and ourselves in the leadership included, see as a trend that is linked to the upcoming elections and that we believe and we hope that these events will stop so that we can get back to the level of serenity that the country has enjoyed for the last, I would say, 16 years.
We had in the beginning of the year security incidents mostly in the city of Kigali with the throwing of grenades; three separate incidents at different times from the end of the month of February to the month of May, last May, and these events, I must say, were not unusual in the region and, you know, on a larger geographical scale. But they were unusual in Rwanda because we hadn’t seen grenades exploding or have the average citizen a victim of any incident like that for a long time.
We had in the last – in the recent past have had grenades thrown at the national genocide memorial during the month of April and we all interpreted it as actions of some people who are not happy with the country almost coming to a standstill in genocide remembrance and we could rationalize and figure out that some people are not necessarily interested in genocide remembrance and the whole mood associated with the month of April in Rwanda.
So these incidents surprised us and they have, I think, since created because of the other incidents that I will mention in a second – created a feeling that Rwanda can be insecure after all. So for us, it’s a wakeup call.
For our security organs, it’s also a challenge because security is one of the most important pillars that has allowed Rwanda to rebuild itself in the last 16 years. So you can imagine how seriously these incidents have been taken and how we are doing everything we can to find out who’s behind these incidents, to also share some of our concerns with our neighbors and figure out how to end these.
We had besides the grenades thrown in the city of Kigali especially in three different – at three different times, we have had a general who was our ambassador to India flee the country while he was in Kigali for consultations for a meeting for a retreat of Rwanda’s ambassadors almost around the same time, leaving the country and fleeing to South Africa through Uganda.
He has since been a victim of a shooting while in south Africa recently during the World Cup games and this also has created a level of questioning of what’s going on, who’s behind this and you’ve seen in some of the media reports fingers pointing at the government as well because this man was wanted by the government.
We had put in an extradition request to the government of South Africa and discussing with the legal authorities there how to move forward with the extradition because when this man left Kigali, he had been questioned about some of his activities that did not look normal for somebody who represents his country, somebody who’s had prominent positions in the country and that is when he skipped town.
There were suspicions. There are suspicions that he’s very much linked to some of these acts of insecurity in town. I’m sure the prosecutor has more details on this and he’ll be happy to answer some of the questions related to this. We also had a journalist shot and killed last June, a young man who was working with the newspaper that had been banned in the country a few months back.
The investigations into his killings – into his killing have since yielded results with people confessing to being the author of the crime have since confessed and shown no remorse whatsoever in this act. It was very unfortunate. We, as a government, have had problems with media, with his newspaper in particular.
But we don’t believe in killing journalists. I was minister for journalists for a year and a half. So I’ve been for a while dealing with some of the serious issues Rwanda has with media in general, developing a professional press corps in the country, and this is one of the areas that has lagged behind.
Rwanda has done so well in a number of areas. When it comes to journalism and media in general, we are still facing many, many challenges. So this is also one of the security incidents that created a feeling of uneasiness about what’s going on. There were clear orders to the police and other investigative bodies in the country to try and find out quickly who was behind the killing of the journalists.
We have the most recent incident is also the killing, gruesome killing of one of the leaders of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, which took place in the south of the country, and this is, as you can see as these incidents get bundled up, they give an impression of insecurity.
They also give a feeling that either our security organs are not in control or something, something is wrong in the country and we as a government, of course, want to know, number one, whether these incidents are related. We want to know whether these are isolated incidents by one individual or whether they are linked, which would be something to worry about.
We are, as I said, hoping that they are linked to the elections and that past August 9 we don’t have to have these incidents anymore.
I wanted to say especially in light of some of the media reports on these incidents that my government certainly does not benefit from these incidents and the kind of insecurity they have created. Therefore, we are more than anybody very much wanting to know who’s behind this.
We think the timing would suggest that there is, if not a few individuals, but a group out there that is trying to maybe portray the government in a negative light, maybe smear the image of the country. But we will – we hope that we will find that we have some elements not conclusive pointing to a number of people whose aim is to tarnish the whole electoral process in Rwanda and so we are very actively investigating and trying to find out what s going on.
Let me just say that today, July 20, is the launch of the electoral period, which will go all the way to election day, August 9. So today, 20 July, in Rwanda is when the four different presidential candidates have started their campaign in different parts of the country. The president, Kagame, who is the candidate for the ruling party, is running.
He’s launched his campaign today in Kigali and we have a number of observers coming from – our main election observer mission is from the secretariat of the Commonwealth, a group of people from different countries led by prominent political figure in Tanzanian politics, Salim Ahmed Salim, who’s been associated with the politics of the region, of the African Union and the negotiations way back of the Aruhsa Accord for Rwanda back in the early ’90s.
We have also individual observers who have requested to come and be part of this campaigning period and of course observe on election day and I think the mood in Rwanda is a mood of excitement.
It’s an interesting time despite some of these incidents that I have mentioned and I can say I hope without speculating too much, that these elections will be very peaceful, that many Rwandans will be able to participate freely, that they will be conducted in a transparent manner and that past August 9, we will sort of stop the electoral fever and get back to the business – the non-electoral business – which is more the routine of the work that we do every day.
But let me just end here and say that we – the prosecutor general, the ambassador to the United States – are here to answer any of the questions you have on Rwanda and the region and any other issues and I thank you for listening to me.
NANCY WALKER: Can I sit here? Put it right here; Madame, in the middle.
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: Thank you. I thought the man should be in the middle.
MS. WALKER: No, no, no.
MARTIN NGOGA: It’s the other way around.
MS. WALKER: The minister, Mr. Chief Prosecutor, ladies and gentlemen, welcome. It’s a pleasure to see you all here. When we decided to host this event, the questions and e-mails and phone calls came in, as I was discussing with the minister, and I said that this room is filled with fans and critics and her answer was, let’s have a good discussion.
So without further ado, it would be our pleasure to take questions and queries. May I ask you please to wait for the microphone, to stand up and identify yourself by name and affiliation and please ask a question? It can be a really tough one, but a question. Who would like to go first? Please.
Q: Thank you very much. I’m Timothy Towell, a retired State Department foreign service officer, a friend of Rwanda and the region. Madame Foreign Minister, thank you for a brilliant tour de raison of your wonderful country and I commend you, your colleagues, the ambassador for really, after 16 years, really being on the right track. It’s very impressive and, of course, elections – we’ll all applaud that.
I’m a little worried about a tone that you – and I take notes – about the insecurity and the recent problems there and you say, we’re working hard to find out what’s going on, and you seem to let that hang in the air that we don’t or you don’t or one doesn’t know what’s going on.
And I would hope that you’d come back to us or the ambassador would come back to us when we figure out what’s going on because it’s an important country in an important region and Washington would like to know, even though some of us have retired, and I don’t understand also why it’s denial – genocide denial.
There’s nobody that denies that human souls died in an awful bloody thing. But people observing that at the time were aware that there are two tribes.
There are more than two tribes, but 80 percent of the country’s Hutu and 20 percent is Tutsi and they’re in Uganda, an English-speaking place, just ready to invade your country and did come in with arms at the time and it’s your president, a Hutu, asked the United States both officially and unofficially to help him against not only Tutsis but nasty people in his government, in his security services who were causing trouble at that time and then they shot him as well as his neighbor.
They blew his plane out of the air. So it’s not genocide denial. It’s wondering the process between Tutsi and Hutu that brought that awful thing to happen and are these elements still at work today.
MS. WALKER: Thank you for your question.
Q: And will you come back and tell us when you’ve figured it, please?
MS. WALKER: Thank you. Shall we take a couple of questions or – far in the back please?
Q: Robert Daguillard. I’m from Voice of America. Madame Minister, it’s good to see you again.
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: Good to see you too.
MS. WALKER: Excuse me. Let me just say that this event is on the record, as we have our colleagues from the press here. Please?
Q: Mr. Kempe, in his introduction, made some very important comments about the different approaches the United States and certain European countries have taken towards Holocaust denial, towards genocide denial in general.
In your observation, Madame Minister, and Mr. Ngoga, if you would care to respond also, do you think the United States or countries like Germany, which have perhaps a harsher line towards Holocaust denial, have the more efficient, more constructive approach towards dealing with those question and which could better serve as a model for Rwanda in its attempts to rebuild after the genocide?
MS. WALKER: Thank you. Let’s take one more question in the blue with the sleeves rolled halfway up.
Q: Thank you. Will Ferroggiaro from the Fund for Peace. Madame Minister, good to see you. I have a question. I guess I hope it’s not too political sciencey. My question that I hope is a question you can answer in the context of where you see Rwanda after 16 years, which is to say that there are many people in Washington who talk about a post-conflict society and what is necessary for policies towards post-conflict societies.
I wondered if you could say – and it’s my opinion that there’s a difference between a post-conflict society and a post-genocide society and I wondered if you could describe the difference from your perspective and how does that make Rwanda different and how Western policies should approach Rwanda in that context. Thank you.
MS. WALKER: Thank you very much. I think we’ll turn the floor over to our distinguished guests. Madame Minister?
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: Thank you. Thank you very much, Nancy. On the question of leaving the impression of insecurity hanging, all these incidents have been investigated one by one. But the timing of these incidents is what I think is giving them the special attention that they have today.
So why somebody who wanted to revenge his brother who was killed during the genocide with a journalist who used to be a soldier does it now and not last year or after election is – these are the kinds of questions that we as a government want to know in order to make sure that we leave no ambiguity as to where the country stands.
But by in large, Rwanda is a country that enjoys security much more than perhaps it looks like in the media and I think especially this is something very important that I probably should have mentioned is that a lot of these discussions of who got shot and who tried to kill that general in South Africa and all of that is very much limited to the city of Kigali and the people who follow politics and Rwandans in the diaspora who live in different countries.
The 9-plus million Rwandans in the villages and the hills of Rwanda really are not into these kinds of discussions. So by in large, the country has a level of sanity and security that is needed. But of course, for us as a government, we’re intrigued. We want to know. We question this man all the time. We want to know what the prosecution shows, what was revealed.
Just because of the almost timing that is – looks like it’s planned because of some of these things happening around the same time. But I didn’t mean to scare you from visiting Rwanda or thinking that there is a level of insecurity that has us very worried. But we want to know. We are curious to know why now and in fact whether any of these incidents are linked through individuals.
On the genocide denial, I think we’re talking about two different things. Genocide denial is there. We’ve seen it. We see it in writings, in meetings, in conferences, in academic papers. We see it with defense lawyers for genocide suspects. So that is a separate thing. But it’s there. It’s documented. It’s not that we are confusing genocide denial with something else.
On the shooting of Habyarimana’s plane and the Hutu-Tutsi dichotomy, that’s a separate thing and it’s a discussion that people can continue to have. It’s very, very separate and different from the genocide and the denial of the genocide.
I’m not sure I understood Robert’s question about – what you’re saying is perhaps the denial of the Holocaust has been handled better than the denial of the Rwandan genocide or you are saying Rwanda could learn from what happened with the Holocaust in managing some of these issues? I don’t think I got your question accurately.
Q: Well, some countries, for example, treat a Holocaust denial harsher than others. In particular we’re talking about countries like Germany, for instance, which I think has harsher legislation towards these than the United States. Do you think that, for example, the German approach or the American approach is a more constructive one and could serve as a model for Rwanda, for example, in its attempts to deal with genocide denial?
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: More constructive than –
MR. NGOGA: I think I can attempt to answer the question. Certainly the situation in the United States is different from the situation in Europe when – maybe this is because of the background. The Holocaust was in Europe. It wasn’t in America.
But what we see in Europe is the convergence of efforts to fight a denial. It is emerging from individual legislations of individual countries. I think we had about 11 countries with a national legislation to punish Holocaust denial and converging at the level of the European Union.
Now we have the European Union position that obliges member counties to legislate a uniform law that would punish holocaust denial in the whole of Europe. So we do not see anything like moving away from that trend. But what is happening is actually a converging of efforts to fight denial. So I’m not surprised it’s not happening in America because I don’t think there is that much sensitivity on the Holocaust as it is in Europe.
Just in the same way, there is not that much sensitivity on genocide, the denial, as it would be in any of African countries because the genocide happened in Rwanda. So we have suffered a lot of criticism, by the way, in terms of how we are handling denial. But this criticism can only be sustained if it remains generalist. It’s very easy to talk about the law as being too vague.
But it’s very difficult to look at specifics of the law that you can classify as being vague and it is very easy to talk about the law as being used to suppress political dissent. But when it comes to which specific case are we talking about in which the law has been used to deal with the political dissent, the – (inaudible) – can be much easier to handle when it is narrowed down into the specifics.
So I don’t think the country like Rwanda or Europe should back away from what we are trying to do to fight denial. A denial of the genocide and denial of the holocaust are areas where academics have done a lot of work and actually the almost consensus is that a denial is the last assault on the victim.
When the victim has been killed physically or deprived of all sorts of life, socially, psychologically, the last assault is to attack the memory. Every country that is fighting denial, it is in that logic of trying to safeguard the memory because that is the only thing that the victim, the surviving victim, remains with after everything else has been taken away – (inaudible).
So the comparison of what Rwanda can do with respect to America or to any other country is trying to force us away from our context and genocide and its aftermath cannot be divorced from the context.
MS. WALKER: And then the final question?
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: The final question is very – is a very interesting question and I think I will just attempt to respond by giving my view. Post-conflict is very, very different from post-genocide because conflict is conflict and genocide is genocide and I think there is a level of not just physical but moral devastation that comes from genocide that you don’t see in conflict areas where the recovery process is much, much easier in a conflict situation.
Once the conflict goes, sometimes there has been loss of life and people have a difficult time. But genocide has almost a psychological hold on a nation, on the people, and it’s that depth, in terms of recovery, that is much more than physical recovery. In the case of Rwanda, I think what has been very difficult is even to administer justice because so many people are involved and so including family members.
So while you want to bring about justice and end impunity, you are also conscious that you might have to paralyze the entire country if you have to do what is needed in terms of justice. So there’s a much more deeper impact on people and on the nation I would think for a long time. So they are very, very different – very different concepts.
What we realized in Rwanda also is that conflict and genocide tend to be mixed and we see it with some of the perpetrators. Sometimes you wonder if it’s deliberate or if it’s just that genocide was not part of our thinking and our tradition and you will see that many times words are interchanged – conflict, tragedy, something horrific – without really narrowing down on the specificity of the genocide.
So post-conflict is a situation that many, many more countries that Rwanda will have experience or will experience. But it doesn’t have quite the same level of psychological devastation that one sees with a genocide.
MS. WALKER: Did you want to add something?
MR. NGOGA: Well, maybe to add a footnote on the first question. I think the issue of what caused the genocide is something that is settled, at least legally, through the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In academic terms, in jurisprudential terms, there is no controversy on what caused the genocide. In individual judgments and in the judicial notice in Arusha, that matter is settled.
But of course you cannot prevent people from bringing back the discussion on what might have caused the genocide. In any event, any suggestion that the shooting of the plane was the cause of the genocide or any other reason is in itself some form of denial because it’s suggestive of the fact that genocide could be a political solution to a particular problem.
If the president was killed, why should there by a genocide? Was it a logical consequence that because the president is killed, people who have nothing to do with his death must be killed through the genocide?
So it depends on the form in which this debate comes up. If the shooting of the plane comes as a way of trying to justify why the genocide happened or lessen the responsibility on the part of those who committed it, then it is also a form of denial. But if it comes as a way of further trying to explore the roots of the conflict, that could be probably entertained. So it depends on who brings the debate and for what purpose.
MS. WALKER: Thank you. Shall we take another round of questions? One in the back, right here, please? We’ll take three questions, maybe four.
Q: Thank you, Madame Minister. My name is Chek Azai (ph). I am from Howard University and I have a question. About two days ago it was credited to you that you made a statement that the government of Rwanda is not stupid to be killing journalists and killing politicians during the eve of the elections and I agree with you.
I give too much credit to President Kagame to start killing his opponent at this time. However, the world is not looking at it that way. Last week at the MDG meeting in Spain, the prime minister of Spain canceled a meeting with President Kagame because there were protests from civil society and students and that should give you a cause for concern.
And I would say in my view from having been a keen follower of Rwandan politics – I read The New Times and other Rwandan news every day – I would say that perhaps the response to the killings might be one of the reasons why it is difficult for the international community to fathom why these killings are coming so close.
For the first time today I heard you say that the government viewpoint sees it as more than mere robbery attack, as was given in the case of the general. In the case of the journalist, it was revenge, journalistic revenge and then the Green Party vice president, robbery. That sounds like propaganda to someone that does not understand.
But you made it very clear that the government of Rwanda believes that there is so much more to the killings. So if you would, I wonder if I dare suggest that you could make that more – the stand of the Rwandan government then to insist that it has to do with robbery and revenge because it would be difficult for anybody to buy that explanation. So I don’t know what you have to say about that, thank you.
MS. WALKER: And your question?
Q: My question is, may I know why the government still insists that it is robbery and revenge while you sit here, which I do believe that it definitely has to do with the detractors of the administration than robbery or the revenge?
MS. WALKER: Thank you. Did you want to take this immediately? Yeah, please.
MR. NGOGA: The minister will comment when it comes to Spain because she was also in Spain. I understand very well and I can agree with the feelings you have that are very positive to Rwanda and to what we are doing. But you see, these are criminal cases that we are talking about. And when they happen, you are not looking at the answer that will satisfy people. You are looking at the factual cause that is supported by evidence.
We had two sets of incidents. We had the grenade attack incidents that, I also believe, from what we so far have through the investigations, that there could be something organized in that direction. But in the killing of a journalist and this member of a political party, I personally don’t think there is any link. I don’t even believe there is any connection with the timing of the election, at least for the first case.
What happened in the first case, this journalist was previously a member of the former army, the army that was defeated during the genocide. He became a journalist later. Three years ago, he faced a court case in which he was accused of having killed the manager of the local bank in his home area. The confessing killer is a brother to that manager of the local bank.
I should mention that he was acquitted during the trial. But the acquittal and whether every person who has an interest in the case is happy with the outcome of the case is a different issue. The person we have who says, I killed this person. I hired the killer, someone who killed the person – the journalist – is a brother to that bank manager who was killed way back in 1994. So I cannot really connect this case to anything to do with elections.
Then, in the killing of the Green Party leader, we have one suspect. The information we have is still at a very low level and I cannot yet attempt to draw any conclusion based on that. But some other factors are also ignored. This person is the vice president of the Green Party. He lives in a remote town, not in Kigali. He runs a nightclub. And the day he was killed, he was the last to leave the nightclub.
The suspect we have was the only person remaining in the nightclub when he left and actually, he checked in the nightclub – because it also some visitors – using a false identity. We uncovered data that the person who left last had checked in the nightclub using a false identity. And that’s the cause of our suspicion.
I cannot draw the conclusion on why it happened or whether he is the one who did it. For the time being, I think it is premature for me to do that. But I can’t link this incident to the killing of a journalist. And because it is happening in Rwanda and people, for the last 16 years, have not been used to these incidents happening, it is raising a lot of worry.
My former professor, who was practicing as a defense lawyer in Arusha, was killed almost at the same time in Dar es Salaam. And it was purely a case of robbery, according to the Tanzanian authorities. But just imagine if this person had met the same robbers in Kigali and got killed there. It would be connected with the elections; it would be connected with the Arusha process.
So the conclusions are not drawn depending on what would appease people or what would be an easy story to say out; rather, each case and the facts that come out of the investigation. Some outcomes are not easy to say out. But they cannot be manipulated for the purposes of making it easy to say them. So that’s where the difficulty is, but of course, we are taking our full efforts.
MS. WALKER: Madame Minister?
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: Thank you. I’ll talk about Madrid in a second, but you know, government spokespeople say so much that they forget. But I hope I didn’t say that, or my government ever said that the case in South Africa is robbery because the investigation was still ongoing. So we don’t know. But we know that South Africa has a number of robberies; it’s public information.
But definitely, the government of Rwanda has not said or given any conclusive position on the shooting of Gen. Nyamwasa. We don’t know. We are watching very closely as an interested party, but the South African police are still investigating, so we wouldn’t say that.
Now, on Madrid, again, this is part of what we mentioned earlier, about bundling so many incidents together that the narrative out there is very difficult to change. I was part of the Madrid meeting and the preparation for the Madrid meeting. Rwanda has had an issue with a number of indictments of Rwandan officials, especially senior military officers, both in France and in Spain. These indictments, for the last many years, we have disputed them and said that they are political indictments.
There is nothing legal about these documents. They have circulated on the Internet for a long time. The African Union has rejected these indictments until we can clarify what is what. So this is the fact that there are people in Spain who – there are two judges who want to indict Rwanda for crimes committed in the DRC, or Spanish priests or nuns killed in the refugee camps in 1994 – to us, it’s an issue we’ve been dealing with.
So what happened in Madrid last week is that President Kagame went to Madrid for a meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, as the cochair of this new advocacy group for the MDGs, on the invitation of the secretary-general of the U.N. President Kagame did not go to Spain to meet with Mr. Zapatero. Now, what happened is, when we arrived in Spain – I was there on an official visit as well, right before the MDG meeting – is that there are some internal political issues in Spain that have been going on since the crisis started.
So Prime Minister Zapatero has his own political trouble. And for those people behind the Spanish indictments, it was an opportunity because of the state of internal politics to bring out the issue of Paul Kagame being the man behind the killings of the Spanish people and so on.
For us, this is not anything new. Now, if President Kagame decides to chair this meeting and go on with the involvement that the United Nations wanted him to have, whether Spain is involved or whether Prime Minister Zapatero is there or not is really not an issue for President Kagame.
But what I wanted to say is that Prime Minister Zapatero came to us the day before the meeting and said that he could not cochair or open the meeting because he had some political pressure back home. And we understood. We understand political survivors. We are politicians; we didn’t mind. As long as the secretary-general of the U.N. will be there and the 17 other advocates for the MDGs were there; that’s what President Kagame was in Spain to do.
So that he gets caught into the some discontent in Spain, at a particular time, again, is not President Kagame’s timing. But it really was not a big deal for him because he was there to do what he had to do. And his cochair came to him, apologized, asked him and said, look, I have internal issues. I need some of these people for some crucial votes. Will you excuse me if I don’t show up?
So for us, it was not a big problem. But of course, the Spanish media and other media and how the whole thing was twisted is a different thing. And you know, we don’t mind if people want to twist stories to fit their own purposes. But Madrid is not, in any way, something that President Kagame would have a problem with. He was there for the MDG meeting. I think the other question, the prosecutor has responded.
MS. WALKER: Shall we take some more? Lady in the orange blouse, there in the middle?
Q: Thank you. Hello, my name is Eve Ferguson from the African section of the Library of Congress. And Madame Minister, I’m going to direct this question to you. I wanted to find out, what is the impetus behind the banning of certain media houses in Rwanda, which has happened more than once, when according to Western eyes, at many times, that’s the hallmark of autocratic rule, which I believe President Kagame would deny vehemently?
But we see it happening again and again. And as former minister of communications, could you explain me what is the impetus behind banning or suppressing the media in Rwanda? Thank you.
MS. WALKER: Shall we take more, or would you like to answer?
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: Let me answer that and get it out of the way. My answer is very simple: The impetus is illegal behavior by some media practitioners. It’s as simple as that. And perhaps what’s been lacking in the information coming out about the banning of newspapers and the kind of unethical behavior that we have in the media in Rwanda is that we probably failed to give specifics on what happens with these newspapers.
And the two newspapers that have been banned by the media high council are newspapers that, in my opinion and as the former minister in charge of newspapers, I don’t qualify as newspapers, just because they don’t follow any rule and any kind of journalistic standards that, you know, in this country and elsewhere.
But when you read in the news that the editor of the only independent newspaper in Rwanda has fled, or was arrested, of course it’s shocking, except you have to check and see what newspaper we are talking about. These are newspapers that have, in the past, published the names of rape victims, including minors. These are editors who ignore judges and courts’ injunctions. You know, everybody knows that in the practice of journalism there are some things you don’t do.
So as far as the recent case of a newspaper whose editor was arrested, it’s a case of recidivism, where this young woman had received many, many complains coming from the public, coming from the media high council, did not pay attention. And she continued to publish some of the things she was publishing. The latest issue, I think, which triggered her arrest, was a story comparing President Kagame to Hitler, with a photo of President Kagame and a swastika in the background.
In Rwanda, that’s illegal. And I think what’s important to understand also is journalism, like politics, is local. The practice of journalism has some universal standards, some rules and some ethical behavior, but if you have a newspaper calling for violent uprising – and I’m quoting directly from some of these papers – calling for a mutiny in the army, these are not newspapers that should be tolerated.
So the question is, for us and for me, when I was minister in charge of media promotion, do you allow that kind of journalism to go on just so nobody says nasty things about you in the paper, or do you actually take a stand and say, there is a level of press freedom and a way of – you know, there is even citizen journalism, where anybody basically can be a journalist – but there are some things that are not allowed. So it’s a question of being a journalist, enjoying your press freedom, but also respecting some rules that are set, definitely not crossing the line in terms of legality.
So that’s what’s been going on in Rwanda. I wanted to mention, also, that these two or three newspapers, though they get too much attention, are really not what the media is like in Rwanda. We have a number of private, very vibrant independent radios. And this radio, as you would imagine, is the most important media in a country where a lot of people can’t read or analyze newspapers.
And they are doing very, very well. And I think, in my opinion, it’s because these radio journalists very much are connected to their communities. They want to talk about issues that the community wants to hear. And so they don’t get into trouble because they don’t go into the area of illegality and they are most interested in interaction with the citizens. So that, I think, is what’s been going on with the newspapers that were suspended.
MR. NGOGA: Can I add something? We believe that there should be gradual growth of journalism. It should be a place where people go to do what they know how to and not just go there to make a living at any cost, including inciting people, encouraging ethnic divisionism, blackmailing people, which is what is happening with some of these journalists.
And if this had been happening in a society where people have the capacity and the history of understand that you just ignore and let it go, you wouldn’t mind. Some of those publications that we take offensive could be easily ignored here in America. But that’s not the case in Rwanda. It’s only 16 years into the situation where journalism encouraged the genocide and the genocide did happen.
The minister spoke about the photograph. The photograph is less offensive than the content of this newspaper, where a journalist is talking about ethnic divisions, openly encouraging that. And as soon as the paper was out, you can’t imagine how many people are sent into panic and fear.
You should not think that Rwandan society is as stable as many other societies are. So it’s, again, contextual. You are dealing with a situation where people had seen the kind of journalism that encouraged the genocide. And it’s only 16 years; it’s not even 30 years. You are dealing with the same generation.
The readership are the same people who committed the genocide. You see, we had 1 million people killed and we have 20,000 people in prison, so were these 1 million people killed by the 20,000 who are in prison? So the people who read these papers, the audience that is addressed by these papers, are the same people who committed the genocide. So we should be focusing on how to develop the profession of journalism in our country and not to just invite any sort of journalism, including the kind of journalism that can take us back into trouble.
And we are talking about the newspapers. And Rwanda is accused of controlling the freedom of people in this area, but what country doesn’t control freedom of speech where it thinks it has to? There is an American journalist here who cannot enter Britain. Only last week, Britain said there is an American journalist who cannot go there because of what he says.
Last year, I went to the U.K. to address almost the same issues. And the same day I arrived, the home secretary issued a notice banning about 11 people who cannot enter the U.K. because of what they say.
And you are talking about the United Kingdom, where you could even go and say whatever you want and people would ignore year. But we are encouraged to let the same people talk to the community of killers who are ready to pick up machetes again and do it if they had an opportunity. So certain situations cannot be taken to be uniform. We need to be given time to grow gradually and this is what we are doing.
MS. WALKER: All right, here in front.
MR. NGOGA: And because I am asked –
MS. WALKER: Sorry, sir.
MR. NGOGA: – almost the same questions wherever I go, I have at least one copy of the newspaper you’re talking about.
MS. WALKER: Please.
Q: Jane Meyers, from the Lubuto Library Project and formerly with the honorable minister on the Rwanda Children’s Fund. This is actually related to the journalism question, but it’s a different group of critics here in the United States, the human rights groups.
And you know, I’ve never heard human rights activists criticize
Actually, this is, sort of, more of an opinion I’d like to ask the minister, who has spent a lot of time in this country and who’s talked to these kinds of people a lot since almost right after the genocide. And I’d just like to ask what you think it is – what do you think is behind the very strong and persistent pressure against Rwanda, almost from the beginning, to make sure it heals from this genocide by respecting everybody’s rights to say anything, even if it’s a danger to the country?
And just one other little question I have: In thinking about the most recent crime, I’m just – and when there was a mention earlier of Habyarimana’s plane being shot down – I’m wondering if you’re thinking that perhaps the motivation behind whoever shot this most recent person might be to create an impression outside the country that there are a number of things happening and it clearly must be the government behind it?
MS. WALKER: Shall we take a couple more, or would you like to –
MR. NGOGA: We’ll take this question.
MS. WALKER: Take this question. Please.
MR. NGOGA: Well, it was directed to the minister, but can I take a piece? Yes, you are right. Actually, not only Germany, but the whole of Europe has not been criticized for applying almost the same laws to deal with Holocaust denial. For the last 60 years, the situation has not improved. If these laws are any burden to the community, then the situation in Europe has not improved for the last 16 years. Actually, what is – I mean 60 years – what is happening is a strengthening of the efforts to apply these laws.
So what is it happening to Rwanda? I don’t know. Really, I don’t know. I think it’s – why did the genocide happen in Rwanda in the first place, 45 years after the “never again” declaration? So it’s the same level of indifference. It’s blackmail. It’s the situation of saying, even if these people have some logic, they don’t have competence to apply that logic. Maybe they have good reasons to have these laws, but can they apply these laws wisely?
Which is why I said, when the criticism is general, it is easier. But can we place it to specific cases and we see where they are abused? Can we apply this criticism to specific situations where these laws have been abused? Can we go through the law, the legislation, and see where it is excessive?
But you are right. The debate about genocide denial and the laws that punish denial in Rwanda is as if this is a gray area where we have ventured before anybody else ever did it. Well, we are doing something that Europe has been doing for the last 60 years. If anybody has to abandon this practice, those who started it must abandon it first; then we’ll abandon it later. The criticism is based on the same situation that made it possible for the genocide to happen when the world was watching.
So they are ready to see the genocide denied under their watch. The biggest outrage we had is when the American professor was arrested in Rwanda. People who did not ever bother to know the substance of the case were up in arms to contest, to protest the arrest. And I believe the protest was basically based on the person who has been arrested, rather than the substance for which he had been arrested. It was based on the personality of one individual.
There was a petition signed by 93 deans of the faculties of law across America even before the charge sheet was out, even before they knew what he was being charged with. But because he’s the professor of law from America, maybe infallible, how can he be arrested in a remote question like Rwanda?
So really, we don’t have an answer to your question. We are doing something that the others have been doing a long time ago. And maybe they don’t even have any good reason to continue doing it because as I said, you can go or shout Nazi or swastika in Berlin and people would just let you go and ignore you. But it can’t be the same case if you shout cockroach – Tutsis were called cockroaches in the genocide – in Kigali. It won’t be the same response.
Europe has punished people who just said there were no gas chambers. They are not saying there was no Holocaust. They are saying people were killed; there was a Holocaust, but not using gas chambers. It is as if anybody denying Rwandan genocide says, there was genocide but there were no roadblocks. It’s a smaller problem, comparatively. But Europe does it, punishes people who only deny the existence of the gas chambers.
Only a few weeks ago, here in the United States, there was a Supreme Court decision punishing people who issue legal advice to terrorist organizations, even if it is for good reasons, even if it is for peaceful reasons. Here in America. But we are told that a person like Peter Erlinder, who says there was no genocide, can come to Rwanda and say, I’m protected under the American Constitution.
So the American Constitution protects people differently depending on who they are and where they are committing crimes. Is that the understanding we should have? So we are not doing anything unusual and the criticism is really not justified.
But we can also differentiate between substance and form: If there is any discomfort in substance, in terms of where we can improve on our law, we can entertain that debate. I mean, if the debate is on form, the content. But if the contention is on the raison d’être, the reason why we have these law, that’s not something we are about to entertain. We are not about to entertain that.
MS. WALKER: Madame Minister?
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: Thank you. I think the prosecutor has – and I’m happy to see you, Jane – I think the prosecutor has basically exhausted every reason why genocide denial is not a big deal in some parts of the world. And what is clear is that it’s not just genocide denial. Why does international media talk about Africa as if it’s a place where only bad things happen and in a way that makes it sound like it doesn’t really matter? Even if my editor sees this, it’s Africa; it’s no big deal.
I think it’s an attitude. I’m saying this very seriously because I’ve been looking at the press coverage on Rwanda in the last many months. You know, Prime Minister Zapatero boycotts Paul Kagame. Well, that was not the story. But you know, it’s about Rwanda; it’s an African president. Most likely, he’s a dictator. It’s just perception.
And I think as much as we used to be outraged by former French president Mitterrand saying that genocide in those parts of the world is no big deal, it’s not just him. I think a lot of people think denial is about, maybe, the Holocaust, maybe some more important places and people. But somewhere in the heart of Africa, in the jungle, they actually want to apply laws that restrict people from discussing these things?
And I’m very serious about this. So for us, it’s a question of continuing to enforce our laws and to say that certain things will not be accepted and to make sure that the kinds of laws and attitudes and discussions that take place in our country are meant to guard our society against some of the problems we’ve had in the past.
And to the risk of being constantly criticized, this is not something we will have to stop to please human rights groups. We have a country to run and we have a future to plan. And if we are to please every human rights organization that wants Rwanda to be run a certain way, some laws to be applied, some laws to disappear, we won’t do what we have to do. But I think that the prosecutor is right.
What was interesting, besides the Erlinder case, is the whole debate around the presidential aspirant, Victoire Ingabire, who arrived in Rwanda earlier this year, as far as Rwandans are concerned, with very divisive discourse, with ties to a group that has been wreaking having in eastern DRC, with very serious charges of collaboration with this group. This woman was cited in a U.N. report last year, some time, as one of the people collaborating with the FDLR in eastern DRC.
Some other people were mentioned in the report. These people live in Germany. Germany arrested these two men who were doing exactly the same thing as Victoire Ingabire is doing. Holland did not arrest her. She ended up coming to Rwandan. So this is not a Rwandan government report; this is a U.N. report linking her directly with the FDLR in eastern DRC. But when she comes to Rwanda, it’s as if what she did doesn’t really matter. She wants to be president. Please leave her alone.
There is no question in the minds of so many Rwandans that she’s a genocide denier and she’s got very nasty friends in the region that have been – both ideologically, but also in their actions – have been really devastating the region. So why is nobody outraged that somebody who’s actually funding and supporting a terrorist organization in the region wants to run for president? It’s the same logic.
So we get into what she said and what she meant and, you know, the translation from Kinya-rwanda to English of the words she said. Is this really genocide denial? But her actions are very clear. She pretends to want to speak on behalf of the Hutu who are disenfranchised in Rwanda, the Hutu who were killed during the genocide.
There were many Hutu politicians who were killed in Rwanda in 1994, many of them buried in Kigali. We’ve never seen her go to the grave of these Hutu politicians to say something, as she did when she went to the Tutsi genocide memorial and made some very offensive remarks. We have a woman who was killed at the beginning of the genocide, the then-prime minister of Rwanda, a very courageous Hutu woman, now one of the heroes of Rwanda. Victoire Ingabire lives not too far from where she’s buried.
We’ve never seen her go to the grave of this Hutu woman who’s been a victim of the genocide. Instead, we see her going to central Rwanda, to the grave of one of the founders of the Hutu ideology. So you don’t even need to say anything. Her gestures, what she says, what she does very clearly is genocide denial.
So we spend a lot of time explaining what she meant and, you know, is this really genocide denial? She’s just trying to bring a political debate. But for us, locally, we see her; we know what she stands for. And a lot of people would disagree, but for us, before she’s a political, presidential candidate, she’s a criminal. And we are not afraid to say so and we will point to specifics about her.
MR. NGOGA: I’m sorry, Minister. Because I’m a prosecutor, I’m used to providing evidence in court. (Chuckles.)
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: I was afraid he was going to disagree with me.
MR. NGOGA: I move with my exhibits all the time. There are people who have created an impression of heroism, who are actually criminals. This lady and a group around her have been providing actual funding to FDLR.
I have just spoken about the Supreme Court here saying even if you offer legal advice – even if it is for peaceful purposes – it is punishable in America. Now we are talking about someone who provides financial support to a terrorist organization, so classified not by Rwanda, but by the United Nations. And there is a suggestion she can be president.
That’s a big discrepancy in terms of standards – people around her, the so-called hero, Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina, who has been wiring money from America to the jungles in Congo. I contacted the American authorities several months ago about this thing. Until today, when I was meeting some of them, I had no response. And I was imaging, if we had a similar request from America – the authorities here, having identified someone in Rwanda who is financing terror – and you spend even a day before you respond, I think the hammer will fall on you. (Laughter.)
But we talk about Western Union money transfers and Western Union is an American company. It is not a Rwandan company. What can’t the law enforcement organs of this country go there and prove us wrong, that these records don’t exist? It’s not our fabrication. But see if these documents cannot tell volumes on the people you think are heroes, who are causing all sorts of trouble in our region. I’m sorry.
MS. WALKER: No, please.
MR. NGOGA: I think we have spent a lot of time talking about this.
MS. WALKER: And we have basically five to seven more minutes and there are a lot of questions. What I’d like everyone to do is, one, two, three, four, please stand up – five – identify yourself and please ask a very short question. And we’ll scoop them up and ask our guests to respond. Hang on, ma’am. Would you sit down? We’re going to – and one second. Sorry, I can’t give you a second question. Go ahead.
Q: Yeah, my name is Bosco Munga and I represent myself. I just wanted an insight. If you could let us know – as we see so many failed countries, from Somalia – and we saw the consequences of a failed nation and its bombing in Uganda, where it actually affected an American. We see the way the U.S. government is working so hard to see that Afghanistan and Pakistan do not end up as failed nations.
I wonder if you could share with us some of the consequences that people don’t sense if Rwanda was to become a failed nation? Why is it that we hold Rwanda to almost different standards? One looks at the fact that Rwanda has succeeded almost in many, many areas, yet at the very same time, there seems to be a need to classify it close to what it could have been, rather than what it is? What is the government, in its own way, looking to do or to be so that it actually shows that it is, in itself, the country that will be the country for the future?
MS. WALKER: Thank you. Next question, in the back?
Q: Thank you. My name is Theophilus Morawe (ph). I’m a Rwandan-American expatriate here. I’m involved in some organization of Rwandan-Americans.
MS. WALKER: Could you put the microphone a little closer to your mouth, just so we can hear you better? Thank you. And your question?
Q: Yes. We’re championing civil rights, human rights and democracy. I will begin by thanking Minister Mushikiwabo for the very informative speech she gave to us. It has been 22 years I haven’t been in the country, but I’ve followed closely every detail of what is happening in Rwanda. But I’m kind of in dismay about all the window dressing that has been put on the genocide-denial process in Rwanda or the window dressing that has been put –
MS. WALKER: Sorry, sir. Please keep the microphone close so that we can hear you. And we’ve got very little time, so could we ask you to ask a very tight question?
Q: Yes. My question is, resolution, U.N. Resolution 955, enacted in November 1995. It enacted the Rwandan genocide as a component of three categories of crime. The first crime was the genocide of the Tutsi. The second crime was the crime of humanity and crimes against peace. That’s a U.N. proclamation of the Rwandan genocide.
You said Ingabire has come spreading divisionism. And all she asked is, you’ve been, so far, prosecuting people who committed genocide against the Tutsi. When is it going to come when we prosecute those also who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Hutu?
MS. WALKER: Thank you.
Q: And when are you going to also allow people to hold memories of the dead. Because myself, I’m here. I have Tutsis and Hutu who died. But the genocide – I mean, the memories of the Tutsi genocide doesn’t necessarily address all my problems. And how does that – asking to implement all the enactments of the U.N. – constitute an act of denial, genocide denial?
MS. WALKER: Thank you, sir. Ma’am?
Q: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Rosemary Segero. I’m the president of Hope for Tomorrow. We focus on empowerment of young people and women. Thank you so much, Madame Honorable Minister and the prosecutor. Thank you for talking and letting us know –
MS. WALKER: Your question, my dear?
Q: Where Rwanda is by now. Because that’s the most important. As an African woman, born and raised in Africa, thank you for the work you are doing for Rwanda. Let Rwanda have peace and we want peace in Rwanda. We don’t want war, looking at what happened. So stand by women, stand by young people who cause violence. And we want a peaceful Rwanda. It’s not a question, but I’m asking as a woman born and raised in Africa. We don’t want war in Rwanda and in Africa again.
MS. WALKER: Thank you.
Q: Looking at the question, how do you look at women now that election is coming? Women should be more in the parliament more than men. I think Rwanda would be a better and Africa would be a better place. And prosecutor, who is prosecuting – is ICC involved in prosecution?
MS. WALKER: Okay. I’m sorry, Rosemary.
Q: Thank you so much.
MS. WALKER: Thank you. Last two here. Thank you. I really don’t – I wish we could stay until midnight because there’s clearly interest and energy. So forgive my bluntness, but gentlemen, ladies, keep it short. Microphone over here, please. But this is last round, so we’ll gather them up because otherwise, we’ll never get you to your future appointments.
Q: Thank you. My name is Bruce George. I’m a former British member of Parliament. I led a delegation to Rwanda; I’m overwhelmingly sympathetic. With elections coming soon, I’m sure the wolves are already shouting, screaming and clawing. Everybody’s going to be very concerned that the elections are the best possible. And there will be many who will want the elections to be the worst possible, even if they are not.
Are you satisfied that everybody in your party, in the electoral commission, your party representatives – everybody – knows the consequences of an imperfect election? Because even if it’s perfect, as good as Norway or Sweden, they will criticize it. You have to be absolutely certain the elections are as perfect as is possible and everybody knows it is perfect, or you will be vilified.
MS. WALKER: Thank you. Last question, short. Behind you is the microphone, ma’am.
Q: Thank you. My name is Jessie Babcock (ph) and I’m at the Department of State, the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. And I had a question for you on the Rwandan refugees living outside of Rwanda. They number about 49,000. I wondered, in your opinion, looking very broadly and moving forward, what is the best way for the government of Rwanda to create conditions for safe return of these refugees?
MS. WALKER: Thank you very much. And I know that we’ve asked our speakers a lot, but since this is the last round of questions, may I turn over the floor to you to answer them in whichever order you like? And then we will conclude.
MR. NGOGA: I only picked one question, but I will answer and the rest are for the minister. My brother, I didn’t take the name, but you’ll forgive me for that. There has never been any dispute on whether Hutus were killed during the genocide or not. They were killed and for different reasons.
One, the genocide was stopped in the process of fighting. It wasn’t a product of winning negotiations peacefully. The genociders were fought, defeated and that is how it was stopped. And in that process, some of them died. Hutus were committing the genocide. So those who were committing the genocide and who had to be defeated for it to stop are part of those who died.
There are others who were killed by people who went on revenge – the soldiers who found their families dead, killed by neighbors, and went on revenge. There are others who were killed in the process of looting. So it wasn’t a situation that was as easily controllable, as one can imagine. So the debate is not whether only Tutsis died, or some Hutus also were killed. I think that is settled.
But the point is, are these two killings at the same level and with the same background? And should they be treated equally? You have, on one part, the state-sponsored genocide and you have, on another part, cases of killings that are not the policy of the organization that stopped the genocide. These cannot be treated equally.
The likes of Ingabire are not talking in terms of those who were involved in the killings of Hutus being punished. Because she could go to court tomorrow and accuse anybody she knows that participated. I think their argument is, there should be the same arrangement, of the same kind, to deal with those people who were involved in that type of killing, the same way we are dealing with the people who were involved in the genocide. That would be taking out of context the events of 1994.
And it is not the first time. Even during the world war, about 20 million Russians were killed. But those who killed them and the Nazis who committed the Holocaust are not treated the same way. The International Criminal Tribunal was given a jurisdiction to deal with all these cases. It is still there. It could deal with them if it found evidence. But the program has been to try and push both the court in Arusha and in Rwanda to have some kind of ethnic balancing in the judicial process.
We cannot have ethnic balancing in the judicial process. We go by the responsibilities and apportion it where it is due. The language is of double genocide and the losing side and victor’s justice are certainly not meant to address individual cases of families of Hutus that were killed during the genocide.
But they are meant to bring this type of killing at the same level with the genocide. And when you are dealing with the situation of genocide, it’s not only justice – not only punishment of perpetrators – but a proper historical record that must be kept intact. And that is how you prevent the possible recurrence of future genocides.
So those who killed the Hutus, the soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front – actually, in 2005, we had prosecuted more soldiers of the RPF than Arusha had prosecuted the perpetrators of genocide. We had 49 cases of officers of the RPF who were involved in the killings of Hutus, when Arusha had only dealt with about 16 cases of perpetrators of genocide. And cases can continue to be entertained on a case-by-case basis. If Ingabire had people, specifics, that she’s accusing, it would never be a problem.
But coming out and saying, Tutsis also killed – that is trying to bring the concept of double genocide and that is not what is – what is not acceptable because it takes the genocide out of its context. It minimizes it; it creates the impression of equal guilt. It brings in the concept of, these people just killed each other, brothers killing each other. There is no one side that can be blamed than another.
Otherwise, if we had double genocide, what stopped the genocide against the Hutus? How did it end? Who stopped it? Because we had the genocide against Tutsis stopped by the RPF. And who stopped the killings against the Hutus if the RPF had the policy of killing the Hutus? What was the external intervention that put it to an end, other than any square inch of Rwanda being liberated by the RPF? So I think that is where the problem is.
MS. WALKER: Thank you.
Q: So are you implying that Tutsis didn’t kill Hutus, then?
MS. WALKER: No, not at all. Before I ask the minister to –
MR. NGOGA: Maybe my English is not as perfect, but I think that’s not what I said.
MS. WALKER: Before I ask the minister to answer the other questions, for those of you who have the Western Union documents and the newspaper, could you send them forward so that you don’t wander out – do you have them all, Irene? Why don’t you give them to Ms. Irene. Madame Minister, the last words are yours, to quickly answer a few questions. And then we will thank everyone.
MS. MUSHIKIWABO: Thank you, Nancy. Thank you very much. There were some comments. I want to thank my sister – from Hope for Tomorrow, is it? And say that your point is shared by many of us in Rwanda and we will make sure that there is no war in Rwanda. I think what I tried to say in the beginning is that, with these different incidents, there is a sort of prevailing feeling of, things are going terribly wrong in Rwanda. But the reality is quite different.
And I also want to tell you that of the four presidential candidates, there is one woman, so that’s good news. Probably, she’s not extreme enough or making noise to be in the news, but there is a woman who’s running for president. She’s a member of the Rwandan senate.
On the question by Bosco Munga about the fear of a failed state, why aren’t people concerned that there is almost a push for Rwanda to be where it was meant to be in 1994, first of all, I think, from the perspective of Rwanda and the Rwandan leadership, we don’t think – and I say this with a certain amount of assurance – that Rwanda will ever become a failed state because of what has been happening in Rwanda in the last 16 years.
And I’m thinking of not just the kind of understanding, new understanding of what leadership is and what running a country means, but also the citizens of this country. The citizens of Rwanda have reached a level where it will be, I think, impossible to go into the brainwashing and the propaganda and everything that led to the genocide and to getting a country where it’s basically nonexistent. So we have, I think, in the last 16 years, moved so far away from the kind of politics that would lead a state to become a failed state.
The whole concept of leading a country, governing, and the sense of responsibility that we see – not just in leadership, but with the citizens of Rwanda – gives us enough assurance that Rwanda will not become a failed state. What other governments are doing, I’m not sure.
But I think that a lot of other people around the world really do not want Rwanda to become a failed state. But what I can say for sure is that my government and the people of Rwanda feel today that never again would Rwanda go where it was 16 years ago. If I had more time, I would get into the details of my argument.
Preparing elections in a way that takes into account the consequences of perception of imperfection in the election – we have been preparing these elections for a long time. Though our campaigning period is very limited – it’s only three weeks – and that is the choice of Rwandans during the drafting of the last constitution in 2003.
Rwandans overwhelmingly did not want rally after rally for different candidates during the election period because it’s harvest season and they didn’t want to be distracted by two months or three months, or as it happens in other countries, more than a year of campaigning. But I think everything that had to be done by the national electoral commission – even this time, which is a very positive thing, the media being prepared and providing information prior to the campaign time on how the elections will be conducted has been done very well.
And the different parties with presidential candidates, I think, have done what they were supposed to do. So what the perception and the evaluation of other people will be about elections is not something we can control, but we have done everything we can to make sure that they are conducted in a transparent manner. We have invited many non-Rwandans to observe and to be with us. And we certainly expect that the elections will be conducted in a fair and transparent manner.
The refugees, 49,000 refugees – I think most reasonable people would agree that Rwanda has what it takes, now, for anybody who wants to return home to come home. But the politics of refugees in our region, in general, is that there’s always a level of manipulation of the whole refugee situation, from eastern DRC to northern Rwanda, where we have these rehabilitation camps of refugees coming in from the DRC. Many of them have been repatriated and now integrated in their communities.
Recently, we had a, sort of, situation where refugees, people were leaving Rwanda, going into Uganda. The government of Rwanda, government of Uganda and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees have been handling this situation. Many of them were repatriated last week, as late as last week.
But internally in Rwanda, we have all the conditions for safe return by anybody who’s not running away from justice. But we also have seen, especially in the refugee situation – recent refugee situation in Uganda – a level of manipulation, I think, by politicians, of these refugees. I have personally seen, when this refugee situation started, some of the statements by the refugees, which looked very much like a political dissertation more than refugees talking about their plight and why they were feeling insecure in Rwanda. But many of them have returned.
Rwanda is, I think, as of next year, working to be classified as a country that does not belong in countries that have refugees anymore, which is a very important occurrence, since Rwanda, for the last – many, many years, since 1959 – has had a refugee situation, one way or another.
So the conditions as they are in Rwanda today are safe enough to allow any Rwandan refugee who wants to come back home to return. And certainly, the U.N. agency in charge of refugees and our ministry for social affairs and the various partner countries working on any situation that could create a prolonged refugee situation. So I thank you very much.
MS. WALKER: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, we wanted lively debate and dialogue. We have gone past 6:00. I would like to thank you all for coming on behalf of our president and CEO, Fred Kempe, and myself, the director of the Ansari Africa Center. We appreciate you taking the time.
Mr. Ngoga, Madame Minister, thank you for your time. We will look forward to continued debate and dialogue on a subject that does not get simpler, remains always interested. And be welcomed back, as are all of our guests. Thank you for coming this evening