by Ann Garrison
I answered some heartbreaking calls from Dr. Léopold Munyakazi phoning from an Alabama jail this week. Dr. Munyakazi is a gentle Rwandan born scholar, with a PhD in linguistics and further advanced degrees in French and African linguistics. He has lost his immigration case in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and will all but certainly be deported to Rwanda to face prison or worse.
The Rwandan government accuses him of genocide crime committed in 1994, but they made no such accusations until after he gave several talks on northeastern college and university campuses in which he said that the Rwandan war and massacres of the 1990s were a class conflict, not an ethnic conflict, and therefore not genocide. These talks constituted a threat to President Paul Kagame’s totalitarian Rwandan regime, to the Clinton dynasty and to “humanitarian” war ideology.
Dr. Munyakazi is a gentle Rwandan born scholar. He has lost his immigration case in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and will all but certainly be deported to Rwanda to face prison or worse.
On the phone, Dr. Munyakazi protested his innocence. He spoke of witnesses who had testified that he was not where his accusers said he was and therefore could not have done what he was accused of doing there. I told him that he didn’t have to convince me because I have been following and reporting on cases like his for years.
A Rwandan exile speaks out against Rwandan totalitarianism, disagrees with Rwanda’s constitutionally codified description of the 1994 massacres as “genocide against the Tutsi” or testifies in defense of another Rwandan, and soon a gaggle of anonymous witnesses say that he or she too was guilty of genocide in 1994 and the Rwandan government demands his or her return to Rwanda.
The Rwandan government has even accused Lin Muyizere, the husband of celebrated Rwandan political prisoner Victoire Ingabire of genocide crime and tried to have him extradited from the Netherlands. Ingabire herself is now in the sixth year of a 15-year sentence in Rwanda for daring to run for president against Paul Kagame in 2010 and for “genocide denial.”
She did not say, like Dr. Munyakazi, that the Rwandan conflict was about class rather than ethnicity, but she did say, in an equally challenging statement, that there were extremists on both sides, Hutu and Tutsi, that there were victims on both sides, and that all the victims must be remembered. I had the honor of speaking to Victoire many times in 2010, and putting her voice on the air on Pacifica Radio’s KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-NYC.
Yet another challenge to the Wikipedia-Hotel Rwanda story has come from Professors Allan Stam and Christian Davenport after 10 years of research in Rwanda. In the 2015 BBC documentary, “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” Allan Stam had this exchange with the BBC’s Jane Corbin:
Allan Stam: If a million people died in Rwanda in 1994 – and that’s certainly possible – there is no way that the majority of them could be Tutsi.
Jane Corbin: How do you know that?
Allan Stam: Because there weren’t enough Tutsi in the country.
Jane Corbin: The academics calculated there had been 500,000 Tutsis before the conflict in Rwanda; 300,000 survived. This led them to their final controversial conclusion.
Allan Stam: If a million Rwandans died, and 200,000 of them were Tutsi, that means 800,000 of them were Hutu.
Jane Corbin: That’s completely the opposite of what the world believes happened in the Rwandan genocide.
Allan Stam: What the world believes and what actually happened are quite different.
The Rwandan – and Burundian – Hutu and Tutsi divide
Dr. Munyakazi stated what seemed obvious to many who have studied the history of Rwanda and Burundi. He said that Hutu and Tutsi speak the same language, share the same culture, eat the same food and even marry each other, with membership in one group or the other determined patrilineally. Ninety-three percent of Rwandans are Christian.
They are distinguished instead by historical class privilege. Prior to colonization, the Tutsi were a cattle owning, feudal ruling class, the Hutu a subservient peasant class. Belgian colonists reified this divide by issuing ID cards that labeled Rwandans and Burundians as Hutu, Tutsi or Twa.
Rwanda’s third population, the Twa, are traditionally forest people, hunter gatherers, but the Twa are only one percent of Rwanda’s population. They also suffered in the Rwandan war and massacres of the 1990s, but the war and massacres were fundamentally a conflict between the historically privileged Tutsi and the historically oppressed Hutu.
There is nothing like the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to prevent and punish class war. Article II of the convention says that “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” It says nothing about preventing or punishing the murder of masses of people in order to claim, reclaim or defend wealth and privilege. Nor does it say anything about the murder of masses of people in order to steal what they have, such as oil, land, water or mineral riches.
Dr. Munyakazi told me he believed the U.S. State Department had intervened in his case behind the scenes to make sure that he was sent back to Rwanda, and I told him that wouldn’t surprise me. President Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeline Albright, openly intervened as a litigant to make sure that Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana was extradited to stand trial at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda in 1999. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark defended Pastor Ntakirutimana in the U.S. and at the ICTR and called his conviction “a tragic miscarriage of justice.”
Dr. Munyakazi threatens President Paul Kagame, Samantha Power and the humanitarian warriors
Since a class conflict is not a genocide, Dr. Munyakazi is dangerous to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who justifies his ruthless totalitarian regime by claiming to be the savior who stopped a genocide. He is also dangerous to the Holocaust and genocide industries, whose false equation of the Holocaust and the Rwandan massacres is at the ideological foundation of “humanitarian” war ideology, as codified in Obama’s executive order, “Comprehensive Approach to Atrocity Prevention and Response,” and in “Mass Atrocities Prevention Operations, a Military Handbook,” a collaboration between the Pentagon and Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights.
Since a class conflict is not a genocide, Dr. Munyakazi is dangerous to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who justifies his ruthless totalitarian regime by claiming to be the savior who stopped a genocide.
He is dangerous to U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, who has built her entire career on a historically inaccurate, decontextualized and grossly oversimplified account of the 1994 Rwandan massacres, during which U.S. officials “stood by.” What would come of all their moral urgencies about “stopping the next Rwanda” in Libya, Syria etc. if “Rwanda” were not the story we were all told?
And the Clinton dynasty
As if that weren’t enough, Dr. Munyakazi is dangerous to the Clinton dynasty, which is so wedded to the lies about the Rwanda war and massacres that Bill Clinton presented one of his Global Citizen Awards to President Paul Kagame in 2009. For the past 22 years, Clinton has shed crocodile tears and called his “failure to intervene” in Rwanda the greatest mistake of his presidency. This year, in support of his wife’s campaign, Bill Clinton claimed that she urged him to intervene in Rwanda. She affirmed that claim as evidence of her commitment to humanitarian “intervention.”
Trouble is President Bill Clinton did not “fail to intervene” in Rwanda. He refused to intervene and stopped the U.N. Security Council from organizing an intervention, because the U.S. and U.K. had already intervened in support of Gen. Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Army that invaded Rwanda from Uganda in October 1990. Clinton was not going to let an intervention stop Kagame from finally overthrowing the existing, Hutu-led Rwandan government and seizing power.
The evidence of this is laid out in Robin Philpot’s “Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa,” Ed Herman and David Peterson’s “Enduring Lies: Rwanda in the Propaganda System 20 Years Later,” Peter Erlinder’s “Accidental Genocide,” Carla Del Ponte’s “Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity’s Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity” and Jean-Marie Ndajigimana’s “How Paul Kagame Deliberately Sacrificed the Tutsi.”
Trouble is President Bill Clinton did not “fail to intervene” in Rwanda. He refused to intervene and stopped the U.N. Security Council from organizing an intervention.
Everything went according to the U.S.-U.K. plan except that the loss of life in Rwanda was far greater than President Clinton or anyone at the Pentagon had anticipated. A massive cover-up was mounted at the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, which indicted and prosecuted only Rwandan Hutus, and in the heroization of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Like Tony Blair, Clinton has tirelessly extolled the achievements of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as the BBC reported in “Rwanda’s Untold Story.” Belgian scholar Filip Reyntjens, in the same BBC doc, says that “their closeness is a closeness with what I call the most important war criminal in office today.”
On July 28, 1994, after Gen. Paul Kagame had won the war and seized power in Rwanda, the New York Times reported that “the United States is preparing to send troops to help establish a large base in Rwanda to bolster the relief effort in the devastated African nation.” Just over two years later, U.S. proxies Rwanda and Uganda invaded Zaire – what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo – in 1996 and then again in 1998, overthrowing first Mobutu, then Laurent Kabila, establishing the U.S. as the dominant power in the region, and leaving millions more dead in the wars and ongoing conflict over eastern Congo’s vast mineral wealth.
“The United States has been the superpower that has dominated what has happened in this area in the Congo and in Rwanda,” says Professor Edward S. Herman. “The American people know almost nothing about the area, and since the United States has had a strong position of support for Kagame and for the invasion of the Congo, that dominated all the institutions that were associated with it.” Bill Clinton’s so-called “failure to intervene” was in fact a proxy intervention causing massive loss of life.
And what was the justification of Rwanda’s repeated invasion of Zaire and its plunder and occupation of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo? Kagame said he was going to hunt down the Hutus guilty of genocide, which the international community had been quick to equate with the Holocaust.
I asked myself what else to say to Dr. Munyakazi, on the other end of a cell phone connection between Oakland and Alabama, except that I know he is innocent. I could barely hear him because the connection kept breaking up, but I was able to understand that he wants to appeal to the Supreme Court. I said I would speak to his lawyer and some other lawyers, doubtful as I am that the court would hear his case.
I said I would try to produce some radio coverage but that it would be difficult to garner any attention for his story right now without tying it to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s decades of involvement in the events leading up to his pending “removal” to Rwanda, and that that would do nothing to help his case. He said that he was committed to telling the truth about what really happened in his country, regardless of the consequences.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.