Rwandans furious following BBC documentary that questions official line on genocide
London, England ( October 12) - - -Rwandans living in the UK have sent a petition to the BBC demanding that it withdraws a documentary which they say gives a one-sided and completely wrong interpretation of the official version of the 1994 genocide which led to the death of over one million people.
Rwandans say that they will continue demonstrating outside the BBC's Broadcasting House in central London after insisting that the programme undermines Rwanda's unity and makes mockery of the BBC's reputation for integrity and fairness.
On October 1, BBC Two screened a one-hour long documentary presented by the investigative journalist Jane Corbin called "This World: Rwanda Untold."
Watched by millions on the 20th anniversary of one of the worst and most widely ignored (at the time) slaughters in modern African history, the programme carried interviews with military and political enemies of President Paul Kagame, men with prices on their heads and who live in day to day fear of assassination.
Viewers heard their claims that Kagame, the Tutsi head of state, is not only a ‘dictator' and ‘serial killer' but also the brain behind the destruction of a plane that was carrying two African presidents. It was brought down close to State House in Kigali on April 6, 1994.
One of the men was the President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana and the other was the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntayyamira.
That crash sparked of the genocide that shook the world.
The killings went on for 100 days and the slaughter eventually made its way to Hollywood in the form of ‘Hotel Rwanda' which was the story of how Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, housed a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia.
Two excellent books followed - ‘We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families' by Philip Gourevitch (Picador 1998) and ‘A People Betrayed" Linda Melvern ( NAEP, Cape Town / ZED Books, London 2000).
Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) claim that they stopped the massacres and that they went on to re-build the former UN trust territory administered by Belgium after the First World War and which today is a member of the Commonwealth.
Over the years, the tall, bespectacled Kagame has become one of the ‘darlings' of Western investors. He is close to Tony Blair who advises him -free of charge, we are told - on political, economic and security issues.
Speaking from a safe house in Johannesburg, Rwanda's most wanted man (there is $1 million on his head) ex-Rwanda Army Commander General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, told Corbin that his former boss is "a dictator and serial killer."
Professor Filip Reyntjens of the University of Antwerp, described Kagame as "the most important war criminal in office today" and Dr Theogene Rudasingwa, the Rwandan Government's former Chief of Staff (he presently lives in exile in USA) said that the only people who survive under Kagame's stern rule are those who " simply keep quiet."
Two American academics from the University of Michigan, Dr Allan Stam and Dr Christian Davenport, told the BBC that they went to Rwanda in 1998 to investigate the massacres.
They said that everyone they met told them the same official line story - that one million died, 800,000 were Tutsis and Kagame is a national hero and savior of Rwanda.
Stam and Davenport said after their investigations they found the exact opposite was the truth.
Said Stam: "As we looked more closely, a totally new understanding became clear. If one million people died in Rwanda in 1994 - and that's certainly possible - there is no way that the majority of them could be Tutsis. There weren't enough Tutsis in the country in 1994."
Both academics claimed that twenty years ago, the Tutsis in Rwanda numbered 500,000 and that after the massacres there were 300,000 of them.
Stam said: "If a million Rwandans died and 200,000 were Tutsis then that means 800,000 of them were Hutus. It's the exact opposite of the official story line. What the world believes and what actually happened are quite different."
When they offered their finding to the Rwandan Government they were given deportation notices and branded as ‘genocide deniers.'
In Rwanda it is a crime to deny the official version of events - one million died, 800,000 were Tutsis. Stam said that Kagame's version of what happened two decades ago is the foundation stone upon which he stands and wins elections.
Said Reyntjens: "Someone criticizing the RPF for its human rights record is immediately accused of being a genocide denier. Rwanda has been benefitting from what I call genocide credit. The RPF has such moral high ground, it's unchallengeable."
"Untold Story" also carried interviews with Victoire Ingobire who, four years ago, was head of an opposition coalition. In 2010 she challenged Kagame for the presidency but she never made the polls and is today in prison after being handed out a sentence of eight years behind bars for genocide denial.
The BC programme revealed how, on the day Kagame was getting ready to fly off and attend Mandela's memorial service in Johannesburg in December 2013, he increased her sentence from eight years to thirteen years.
Ingobire was shown several times wearing an orange prison uniform, her hair closely cropped, her eyes fixed on a distant point, unblinking. This today is the fate of an opposition leader in a room full of Hutu war criminals who sat still and silent listening to a prison officer read out a long list of their 1994 crimes.
These powerful and terrifying images have infuriated the Rwandan government its officials in London.
Speaking to "Great Lake Voices" on October 10, Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, President of IBUKA (Remember in English) said that there would be demonstrations outside the BBC's Broadcasting House in central London.
He said: "This is to demonstrate our concern to the management of the BBC, sending messages that their documentary was undermining Rwanda's unity and reconciliation achieved over twenty years."
He said that the genocide was committed against Tutsis but that the BBC documentary was trying to distort this fact which it descried as "highly unfortunate."
Reacting to these complaints, a BBC spokesperson said: "The BBC strongly refutes the suggestion that any part of the programme constitutes a denial of the genocide against the Tutsi. There are repeated referenced to the mass killings of Tutsis by Hutus in 1994 and that this constituted genocide. The programme also includes an interview with the director of the Genocide Museum at Murambi, a Tutsi and genocide survivor and a convicted Hutu genocidaire who spoke of his part in the killing or thousands of Tutsis. The BBC has a duty to investigate difficult and challenging subjects and we believe the programme is a valuable contribution to the understanding of the tragic history of the country and the region and of the governance of Rwanda over the last twenty years."
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter