Rwandan Genocide Survivors Slam Presidential Candidate's Remarks

Posted Jan 22, 2010 by Christopher Szabo
The leader of Rwanda’s genocide survivors’ organisation has criticized remarks made by new presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, claiming her statements were tantamount to genocide denial.
The Memorial Center For the Genocide Victims In The Rwandan Capital  Kigali
The Memorial Center For the Genocide Victims In The Rwandan Capital, Kigali
The organisation, IBUKA, which means, ”remember,” is an umbrella group of survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which about 800,000 people were murdered. The Voice of America (VOA) reported IBUKA leader Freddy Mutanguha saying that Ingabire Umuhoza’s remarks violated the country’s constitution. He said:
IBUKA is not happy with the revisionist remarks that were made by Victoire Ingabire when she came to visit Kigali Genocide Center. She should understand that the Genocide Memorial Center is a place where people come and pay respect of the victims of genocide. A place for reflection is not a place where people come to express their view on the politics in the country.
The survivors’ group leader added IBUKA would seek legal action against the newly returned politician:
We are in the process and we are asking to get rights because the fact that she came and (stood) on a mass grave and she said those kinds of words is a big insult against genocide survivors.
Ingabire Umuhoza, however, denies claims she is denigrating the genocide. She said:
I don’t understand these people because we condemned genocide committed against Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. But at the same time we said that we also condemn crimes against humanity committed against Hutus. And we believe we cannot achieve reconciliation of Rwanda people if we cannot talk about it.
A Reuters report said speaking freely about the rights and wrongs committed during and after the 1994 genocide remain ”delicate topics” in Rwanda because of a history of fuelling ethnic hatreds by politicians.
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza has been prominent in Rwandan exile politics and is the leader of the United Democratic Forces (UDF) party. Her opponents accuse her of wanting to stir ethnic feelings for political ends, a charge she also denies.
But the justice minister, Tharcisse Karugarama warned Ingabire Umuhoza’s comments were unfair and downright dangerous. He rejected her comments on Rwanda’s courts dealing with genocide suspects. He said:
People are tried because they have committed genocide or they have committed war crimes. They are not tried because they are Hutu or Tutsi. Those years where the tribal card justified leadership can't happen again ... This is extremely dangerous for her and the audience she is addressing.
Before the 1994 massacres, Rwanda’s majority Hutus were stirred up by Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (Free Radio and Television of The Thousand Hills) and other media to kill Tutsis. The role of media and hate speech in the massacres was important, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, says Wikipedia. hence the strong reactions expressed.
A BBC article said an unofficial militia group called Interahamwe (”Those Who Attack Together”) was formed and, at its height numbered some 30,000. Egged on by radio and other media, this group committed many of the massacres.
The mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) then invaded Rwanda, stopped the genocide and restored order. However, more than a million Hutus fled, some allegedly involved in the genocide. Since then, one election has been held, which saw RPF leader Paul Kagame become president. The country has a multiparty system but its institutions and society are fragile.