Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Legislation / Genocide Denial

Rwanda: Anti-Genocide Law Clashes with Free Speech
By Nick Wadhams
Time, May 5, 2010
"Just minutes after she returned to Rwanda after 16 years in exile in January, opposition leader Victoire Ingabire drove to the memorial honoring the victims of the country's 1994 genocide and delivered a speech calling for reconciliation between Tutsi and Hutu. Yes, she said, Rwanda must honor the Tutsi who were the main target of the genocide. It also must remember the Hutu who were victims of crimes against humanity at the same time. To a Westerner's ear, the words of Ingabire, who has announced that she will run against President Paul Kagame in elections this August, may have seemed like standard political boilerplate for an aspiring politician. But Ingabire, a former accountant, has now been charged in court for those remarks. The government says she violated a genocide-ideology law that is meant to keep people from downplaying or denying the slaughter. Indeed, Martin Ngoga, the prosecutor in her case, says the speech was essentially a coded message meant to appeal to ethnic Hutu and diminish the genocide.
Ngoga says the government has amassed enough evidence to prove that she collaborated with Rwandan rebels bent on overthrowing Kagame. Determining whom to believe depends on whether you trust the government's narrative about Rwanda today. Is Kagame's ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) the righteous steward of an increasingly prosperous but fragile country, willing to make the tough decisions so that it doesn't backslide into violence once again? Or is the government, as critics claim, using the threat of genocide to quash opponents like Ingabire who say the RPF must be held accountable for its alleged crimes during the genocide? 'This is where the issue of context comes into play,' Ngoga says in an interview with TIME. 'The statement that, 'Yes, there was a genocide, but there were some other people also killed,' made on top of the graves of victims of the genocide, a few minutes, 10 minutes from the time of her arrival in the country -- is it the same as the visit by many other people who come to Rwanda and go straight to the memorial with flowers to pay homage to the victims of the genocide? Are you saying she had gone there really, contextually, to do that?' 'The issue is the philosophy behind it,' he says. 'It's not one of criminality, it's one of philosophy. The insistence is not based on the concern that this is a group that will be forgotten. No, it is based on an attempt to play down the bigger project of the genocide.' [...]"

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