Since the 80s the Great Lakes region has experienced genocides, war crimes, crimes against humanity, so much so that the entire area has become like a cemetery with dead on display. There are human skeletons everywhere, some more respected than others. Picture courtesy of Keith Harmon Snow
In the following section of the interview that Marie Rose Habyarimana accepted to give to our news & analysis outlet, she draws a path that peace in Rwanda should take to become achievable. Concerning the accused of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [ICTR] who have been found innocent for the crimes they were imprisoned for, she is pleading for their release to allow them get back to their families and into society. She is finally inviting the Rwandan younger generation to become more involved politically. She explains that “If history suggests that political changes in the country [Rwanda] have often been operated in bloodshed, young people must reject this heritage of secular political violence which is not a genetic determinism. Reconciliation, a social contract and true democracy will ensure sustainable peace.”
The Rising continent [TRC]:
Since 1st October 1990, when the country was attacked by RPF coming from Uganda, it will be soon nearly a quarter of a century. Rwandans have been killed, dispossessed of their properties, imprisoned and oppressed massively. Hundreds of thousands more have disappeared. And the tragedy is far from ending. What do you think could stop this dangerous path which does not bode well for the future of Rwanda?
Marie Rose Habyarimana [MRH]:
To settle the cycle of violence that prevails in Rwanda so far, the remedy must come from a true reconciliation. This process requires dialogue which should lead to a social contract based on the principles of rule of law, power sharing, respect of minority rights [without jeopardising democratic values which treat equally all citizens of a nation - my addition], social justice embedded in a democratically egalitarian system. These principles should be the foundation for a new social contract agreed through a genuine national dialogue and embodied in a new constitution.
It demands as well an overdue opening of the political space to allow Rwandans to express themselves without fear of being killed or imprisoned. Conditions must be established to ensure security and socio-economic development of the entire Rwandan population without discrimination; they would include:
Reforms of defense and security structures in accordance with the principles of the rule of law, in particular, those of equal citizenship and the primacy of politics over the military;
Suppression of parallel security organs in the country;
Establishment of a true state of law and respect of the rights of every citizen, regardless of ethnicity, regional origin, religion, gender, etc.
A highly inclusive inter-Rwandan dialogue that will analyze all recent and remote causes of the Rwandan tragedy, dialogue which would lead to a genuine national reconciliation.
The Rising Continent [TRC]:
Rwandan and international justice have all disappointed the majority of Rwandans, I would even say equally those who paid for them to preserve their obvious interests. What do you think, for example, could be done to give justice to the acquitted individuals who were investigated by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [ICTR] but remain for years considered as prisoners of the court despite their acquittal?
In the case of Rwanda, it is sad to note that international justice, influenced by some powerfull countries did not operate independently, and its work contributed nothing to the reconciliation of Rwandans, but quite the contrary. UN and foreign countries must stop giving in to the pressure and blackmail tactics that the regime of Kigali regime has been using for years.
As I said earlier, RPF did everything to avoid being investigated by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [ICTR]. After all, this court was supposed to do justice to Rwandans and lead to reconciliation, has only delivered justice for the victors on the vanquished, by investigating and sentencing Hutus and leaving out criminal Tutsis from RPF. And what is even more shocking and inconsistent is that this court has categorically refused to try the perpetrators of the attack which triggered the “genocide”, while the latter is the reason for its establishment, with a mission to try crimes committed in Rwanda throughout 1994. So, utter nonsense: why ignore the attack of 6 April 1994, which killed two sitting presidents and their delegations, especially [when everyone agree that] that attack led to the “genocide”? Can we pretend treat an evil, without fighting its cause?
As for the acquitted convicts of TPIR and those who complete their jail times, they should be rehabilitated and assisted for their integration into society. They are currently in danger, and the international community has left them to their fate of “de facto stateless” that nobody wants. [they are victims of a double injustice: they were either convicted while innocents; they finished their time in jail; and despite being now free, they cannot enjoy their freedom - my addition]
The Rising Continent [TRC]:
What could be today your particular message to the Rwandan youth beyond the simple wish of effective reconciliation?
Marie Rose Habyarimana [MRH]:
We need young people to get more involved [politically and patriotically - my addition], based on the following principles: patriotism and love of all citizens in their diverse components, advocacy for the higher interests of the nation and promotion of social justice.
Kizito Mihigo, young Rwandan Tutsi singer imprisoned for showing in one of his songs empathy towards Hutu victims of the Rwandan regime of president Paul Kagame
The youth must be driven by the vision of the supreme interest of the Rwandan population as a whole, bearing in heart equality of all, promotion of identity pride of everyone and respect for differences (ethnic, regional, social, intellectual, etc.). The youth must equip itself with courage, tolerance and love of neighbor; it should work together in unity by establishing foundations fostering a climate of trust. We need that young people stand up as one person, focusing on one purpose of creating a socially and economically prosperous Rwanda, knowing to operate and manage intelligently and calmly differences and diversity of opinion, so that they are a source of wealth for progress, rather than a source of conflict and exclusion.
And more importantly, in the choices it adopts, in positions and decisions it takes, the youth must be aware of the legacy it bequeaths to future generations, and has a concrete picture of the future it wants for its country. I am thinking for example to the unhealthy [political - my addition] desire that attempts to categorize Hutu as executioners who must bear the shame, so that even those who were not born in 1994 are requested to ask forgiveness for crimes they did not commit! Do Rwandans accept that in the Rwanda of tomorrow, and that even in the general national history, Hutu be presented as a malicious ethnicity, to live in shame and submission that has to repent for a tragedy of which it was itself a victim? Young people must reject the partisanship and work together to build a Rwanda where everyone considers themselves a legitimate child of the country, enjoying freely all their rights; rights taking into account the protection of minorities.
If history suggests that the political changes in the country have often operated in bloodshed, young people must reject this heritage of secular political violence, which is not a genetic determinism. Reconciliation, the social contract and true democracy will ensure sustainable social peace.