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Rwandans—Tutsi as well as Hutu—were frightened by the RPF attack. Tutsi recalled the reprisal killings at the time of invasions by refugee groups in the 1960s and feared they would be targeted again. Hutu remembered the slaughter of tens of thousands of Hutu by Tutsi in neighboring Burundi in 1972, 1988, and in 1991 and dreaded killings on a similar scale by the RPF. Authorities at the highest level knew that the RPF had been reduced by losses during the first months to a number less than half that of the Rwandan army and that their own army was backed by several hundred highly trained and well-armed French troops. Well aware of the fears of their own subordinates and of ordinary citizens, they could have put the danger in perspective and calmed the population.1 Instead Habyarimana and his advisers exaggerated the risk in hopes of increasing support for themselves. As one Rwandan put it, “With the invasion, the politicians began to beat the drum.” The drum was both a usual signal of attack and the instrument used to keep all the dancers moving to the same rhythm.

Propagandists echoed and magnified the hatred and suspicion sown by Habyarimana and officials around him. Under the cover of the newly-established freedom of the press, they blared forth messages disseminated more discreetly by officials, such as many of the conclusions about the “enemy” presented in the military memorandum of September 21, 1992.

Propagandists developed the same themes over and over, both before and during the genocide. While some of the similarities in their messages may result simply from sharing the same cultural milieu, other similarities in technique suggest deliberate coordination among propagandists and between them and government officials. In a mimeographed document entitled “Note Relative à la Propagande d’Expansion et de Recrutement,” found in Butare prefecture, one propagandist tells others how to sway the public most effectively. Obviously someone who had studied at university level, the author of the note presents a detailed analysis of a book called Psychologie de la publicité et de la propagande, by Roger Mucchielli, published in Paris in 1970.

The author of the note claims to convey lessons learned from the book and drawn from Lenin and Goebbels. He advocates using lies, exaggeration, ridicule, and innuendo to attack the opponent, in both his public and his private life. He suggests that moral considerations are irrelevant, except when they happen to offer another weapon against the other side. He adds that it is important not to underestimate the strength of the adversary nor to overestimate the intelligence of the general public targeted by the campaign. Propagandists must aim both to win over the uncommitted and to cause divisions among supporters of the other point of view. They must persuade the public that the adversary stands for war, death, slavery, repression, injustice, and sadistic cruelty.

In addition to these suggestions, the propagandist proposes two techniques that were to become often used in Rwanda. The first is to “create” events to lend credence to propaganda. He remarks that this tactic is not honest, but that it works well, provided the deception is not discovered. The “attack” on Kigali on October 4-5, 1990 was such a “created” event, as were others—the reported discovery of hidden arms, the passage of a stranger with a mysterious bag, the discovery of radio communications equipment—that were exploited later, especially during the genocide.

The propagandist calls his second proposal “Accusation in a mirror,” meaning his colleagues should impute to enemies exactly what they and their own party are planning to do. He explains, “In this way, the party which is using terror will accuse the enemy of using terror.” With such a tactic, propagandists can persuade listeners and “honest people” that they are being attacked and are justified in taking whatever measures are necessary “for legitimate [self-] defense.”2 This tactic worked extremely well, both in specific cases such as the Bugesera massacre of March 1992 described below and in the broader campaign to convince Hutu that Tutsi planned to exterminate them. There is no proof that officials and propagandists who “created” events and made “accusations in a mirror” were familiar with this particular document, but they regularly used the techniques that it described.

The Media

One of the most virulent voice of hate, the newspaper Kangura, began spewing forth attacks on the RPF and on Tutsi immediately after the October 1990 invasion. It was joined soon after by other newspapers and journals that received support from officials and businessmen linked to the regime. According to authors of anintensive study of the media of genocide, at least eleven of the forty-two new journals founded in 1991 were linked to the akazu.3 The newspapers were published and sold in the capital, but urban workers who often went home for weekends carried copies of the better-known newspapers out to the hills. Some 66 percent of Rwandans are literate and those who knew how to read were accustomed to reading for others. In many cases, the written word was underscored by cartoons, most of which were so graphic that they could not be misinterpreted.

The radio was to become even more effective in delivering the message of hate directly and simultaneously to a wide audience. Before the war, Rwanda had only one radio station, the national Radio Rwanda, but listening to the radio was a popular distraction among ordinary people and elite alike. In 1991, some 29 percent of all households had a radio.4 The number of radio sets was presumably much higher by the start of the genocide. In some areas, the government distributed radios free to local authorities before the genocide and they may have done so after the killing began as well.5 One foreign religious sister who traveled from Kibuye to Butare during the height of the genocide reported that she had seen new radios at every one of the dozens of barriers where she had been stopped en route.6 People without radios listened to broadcasts in the local bar or got information from neighbors.

Until 1992, Radio Rwanda was very much the voice of the government and of the president himself. It announced prefectural or national meetings, nominations to and removals from government posts, and the results of admissions examinations to secondary schools.7 Before the daily news programs, Radio Rwanda broadcast excerpts of Habyarimana’s political speeches. This national radio sometimesbroadcast false information, particularly about the progress of the war, but most people did not have access to independent sources of information to verify its claims.

In March 1992, Radio Rwanda warned that Hutu leaders in Bugesera were going to be murdered by Tutsi, false information meant to spur the Hutu massacres of Tutsi. Following the establishment of the coalition government in April 1992, the MDR, PL, and PSD insisted on a new direction for Radio Rwanda. Ferdinand Nahimana, a stalwart supporter of the MRND, was removed from his post at the Rwandan Office of Information (ORINFOR), where he had supervised Radio Rwanda. Several months later, Jean-Marie Vianney Higiro, a member of one of the parties opposed to Habyarimana, was named director to steer the radio towards a more nonpartisan stance. By December 1993, Radio Rwanda had agreed to include the RPF among political parties participating in its broadcasts, although the decision had not been implemented by the time the genocide began.8

Soon after the start of the war, the RPF established its own station, Radio Muhabura, but its signal did not reach throughout the country. At first, many Rwandans were afraid to listen to it, but its audience grew steadily during 1992 and 1993. Although it glorified the RPF, it did so in a nationalist rather than an ethnic context, consistent with the general RPF emphasis on minimizing differences between Hutu and Tutsi.9

With the new direction at Radio Rwanda and the voice of the RPF increasingly strong, Hutu hard-liners decided to create their own station. They began planning their radio in 1992, incorporated it as Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) in April 1993, and began broadcasting in August 1993.

Of the fifty original founders, forty were from the three prefectures of northern Rwanda, all but seven of those from Gisenyi and Ruhengeri, the region identified with Habyarimana. One of the chief financiers of the project was Félicien Kabuga, a wealthy businessman whose daughter was married to a son of President Habyarimana. Another contributor was Alphonse Ntilivamunda, a son-in-law of President Habyarimana, and an important official at the Ministry of Public Works. Two ministers were among the founders, Augustin Ngirabatware, the minister of planning, and son-in-law of Kabuga, and André Ntagerura, the minister of telecommunications. Simon Bikindi, an employee of the Ministry of Youth who was also an extremely popular musician best known for his virulently anti-Tutsisongs, was part of the group, as was Pasteur Musabe, general director of the Banque Continentale Africaine. Augustin Ruzindana, governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, joined later. The MRND was represented among the founders by Joseph Nzirorera, subsequently its executive secretary, and later by Mathieu Ngirumpatse, who served as president of the MRND after President Habyarimana left that post. In addition, Georges Rutaganda, vice-president of the MRND militia, the Interahamwe, was among the founders. The CDR was represented by Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, its chief ideologue, and by Stanislas Simbizi. Subsequently the minister of defense, the officer who would become chief of staff of the Rwandan army, and a protestant bishop would buy shares in the station.10

Although nominally private and opposed to Radio Rwanda, RTLM in fact was linked in a number of ways with the national radio, with other state agencies and with the MRND. RTLM was allowed to broadcast on the same frequencies as the national radio between 8am and 11am, when Radio Rwanda was not transmitting, an arrangement that encouraged listeners to see the two as linked, if not as identical. The new station also drew personnel from Radio Rwanda, including Nahimana, who played a leading role at RTLM after having been dismissed from ORINFOR, and announcer Noel Hitimana. Its editor-in-chief, Gaspard Gahigi, and announcer Kantano Habimana had previously worked for Umurwanashyaka, party organ of the MRND. Gahigi had also been employed by Radio Rwanda and was a member of the central committee of the MRND.11 The ostensibly private station used equipment belonging to various government ministries and perhaps some equipment taken from Radio Rwanda. It had access to an emergency source of electric power which some said was a free-standing generator, but others said was linked to the emergency electrical system of the presidential residence, across the street from its studio.12

According to Rwandans who listened to RTLM, the station won an audience rapidly because of its lively music and informal style. Higiro, the director of Radio Rwanda, analysed its initial success this way:

These broadcasts were like a conversation among Rwandans who knew each other well and were relaxing over some banana beer or a bottle of Primus [the local beer] in a bar. It was a conversation without a moderator and without anyrequirements as to the truth of what was said. The people who were there recounted what they had seen or heard during the day. The exchanges covered everything: rumors circulating on the hills, news from the national radio, conflicts among local political bosses...It was all in fun. Some people left the bar, others came in, the conversation went on or stopped if it got too late, and the next day it took up again after work.13

Introducing the concept of interactive broadcasting to Rwanda, RTLM invited listeners to call in to express their opinions. People called to ask for a song to be broadcast or to pass on some piece of news or gossip. The announcers broadcast this information without ever checking on it. RTLM departed from the more staid and formal tone of Radio Rwanda. The announcer Kantano Habimana was known for his wit, which was appreciated even by some Tutsi who were the objects of his barbs. Another, Valerie Bemeriki, was remarkable for the speed and passion of her delivery, which increased when she had violence to report.

Rwandans learned from experience that RTLM regularly attributed to others the actions its own supporters had taken or would be taking. Without ever having heard of “accusations in a mirror,” they became accustomed to listening to RTLM accusations of its rivals to find out what the MRND and CDR would be doing.

RTLM took up many of the same themes, sometimes in the same words, that were being popularized in the written press. Hassan Ngeze, the editor of Kangura, welcomed the arrival of the new ally in the “fight to defend the republic.”14 Before long, RTLM, with its greater drawing power, was displacing Kangura and other journals as the voice of extremism. Once the genocide began, Radio Rwanda was pulled into the orbit of RTLM. Its director Higiro fled the country, himself targeted for death by RTLM broadcasts, and was replaced by Jean-Baptiste Bamwanga, a journalist fired from Radio Rwanda in 1992 for his role in inciting the massacre of Tutsi in Bugesera. RTLM announcer Kantano Habimana celebrated the transformation of Radio Rwanda from a “rival” to a “sister.”15 During the genocide, when communications and travel became difficult, the radio became for most people the sole source of news as well as the sole authority for interpreting its meaning. At that time, RTLM and Radio Rwanda collaborated to deliver a single message about the need to extirpate the “enemy.”

Validating the Message

Propagandists naturally wove references to political authorities past and present into their materials as often as possible. Grégoire Kayibanda, the father of the revolution and first president of the republic, as well as Habyarimana, appeared often in pictures and through use of their quotations. In addition, the propagandists acknowledged the great respect Rwandans have for formal learning by occasionally asserting that their information came from “intellectuals” or “professors at the national university.” A large number of university faculty were from Habyarimana’s home region—because they had been the ones to profit from university education and study abroad—and ranked among his sincere supporters. Others teaching at the university or at government-sponsored schools (the vast majority in the country), as well as the staff of research institutes, knew that advancement and perhaps continued employment could depend on backing the government position. Both those within Rwanda and those studying abroad wrote letters and made public statements that reported facts wrongly or misinterpreted data to support the official line (see below).16

Two academics left the university to devote themselves to supporting Habyarimana through propaganda and active political organizing. One was Nahimana, a historian from the northwestern prefecture of Ruhengeri, who had benefited from the opportunity to study in Paris. He gave up teaching to take charge of government propaganda at ORINFOR. After being forced from this position, Nahimana was supposed to become the Rwandan ambassador in Bonn, but the German government refused to accept him. He tried to go back to the university, but his colleagues there also protested against his return. Appointed then to direct RTLM, he regained the opportunity to shape public opinion, this time through the most effective propaganda medium in Rwanda.

The other professor-turned-propagandist was Léon Mugesera, who had done advanced university studies in Canada. After teaching briefly at the National University of Rwanda, he moved on to positions with the Ministry of Information, the national headquarters of the MRND, and the Ministry for the Family and the Promotion of Women. The author of two propaganda pamphlets in 1991, he is even better known for a speech that is analyzed below.

In addition to calling on political and intellectual leaders to support their ideas, propagandists used religion and the church to validate their teachings. Umurava Magazine declared “It is God who has given Habyarimana the power to direct thecountry, it is He who will show him the path to follow.”17 Most propagandists did not go so far, but they did frequently couch their ideas in religious language or refer to passages from the Bible. Cartoons sometimes portrayed Habyarimana as a saint or a priest, and one depicted God cursing the leaders of the political opposition. Following killings of Hutu in Burundi in 1991, Kangura featured the Christ child with Mary and Joseph on the cover of the January issue. Mary asks the Christ child to save the Hutu of Burundi. He replies that he will tell them to love each other. Joseph comments, “No, instead tell the Hutu of the world to unite.”18 In a country where 90 percent of the people called themselves Christian and 62 percent were Catholic, these references to religion helped make the teachings of fear and hate more acceptable.

The Message

The propagandists built upon the lessons Rwandans had learned in school. It was hardly necessary even to repeat the basic assumption that Hutu and Tutsi were different peoples by nature, representatives of the larger and equally distinct “Bantu” and “Nilotic” (“Nilo-Hamitic,” “Hamitic,” or “Ethiopid”) groups. In some passages, propagandists equated the Hutu-Tutsi difference with the fundamental difference between male and female.19 Those who married across group lines produced “hybrids” for children and people from one group who tried to pass for members of another were said to be like “beings with two heads.”20 The radicals rejected the idea that Rwandans were a single people, charging that this concept was a Tutsi trick to divide and weaken the Hutu by destroying their sense of ethnic identity. As Kangura assured the Hutu, “You are an important ethnic group of the Bantu...The nation is artificial but the ethnic group is natural.”21 The propagandists stressed that Tutsi were foreign to the area and had stolen Rwanda from its rightful inhabitants. The ruthless conquerors had ground the Hutu under their heel in a “repressive and bloody regime...epitomized by [the queen-mother Kanjogera who] to get up from her seat leaned on two swords planted between the shoulders of twoHutu children!”22 But when the great mass—rubanda nyamwinshi—had become conscious of its own strength and had come together, it had been able to overthrow the “feudal” oppressors in the great revolution of 1959.23

“Tutsi Unity”

To these assumptions, propagandists added the myth of Tutsi unity, a clannishness held to have facilitated their conquests in the past and to enable them to continue exercising undue influence in the present. In the September 21, 1992 memorandum mentioned above, the military officers listed singleness of purpose as an advantage of the enemy. The propagandists linked Tutsi living inside Rwanda today both with those who had exploited Hutu in the past and with the RPF. Thus the circle was complete and the links among Tutsi of different times and places were said to be solid and unbreakable. In March 1993, Kangura published an article entitled “A cockroach cannot give birth to a butterfly.” After 1990, opponents of the RPF called its troops Inyenzi, cockroaches, while the RPF itself used the term Inkotanyi, a name taken from a nineteenth-century military formation. The article said:

We began by saying that a cockroach cannot give birth to a butterfly. It is true. A cockroach gives birth to another cockroach...The history of Rwanda shows us clearly that a Tutsi stays always exactly the same, that he has never changed. The malice, the evil are just as we knew them in the history of our country. We are not wrong in saying that a cockroach gives birth to another cockroach. Who could tell the difference between the Inyenzi who attacked in October 1990 and those of the 1960s. They are all linked...their evilness is the same. The unspeakable crimes of the Inyenzi of today...recall those of their elders: killing, pillaging, raping girls and women, etc.24

Like the soldiers who wrote the September 21, 1992 memorandum, propagandists often used the terms Tutsi and RPF together or interchangeably. One example of the association of Tutsi and RPF is the cover of the December 1993 issue of Kangura. Below the ironic title “Tutsi, Race of God” are shown a machete and the question, “What weapons can we use to defeat the Inyenzi once and forall?” And to complete the association, the final question asks “What if someone brought back the Hutu Revolution of 1959 to finish off these Tutsi cockroaches?”25 During the genocide, officials would occasionally declare that not all Tutsi were “accomplices” of the RPF, but such statements were too few and too late to destroy the widespread and carefully constructed identification between them.


The propagandists asserted that the Tutsi, as Ethiopids or Nilotics, had no right to inhabit Central Africa and that they had deviously infiltrated all aspects of Rwandan state and society. Many Tutsi were found in the Liberal Party but some had made their way into other parties as well. Kangura, among others, insisted that this “infiltration” must stop and that Tutsi should not join parties that belonged to the Hutu majority. The propagandists said the Tutsi had infiltrated the economy,—at one point Kangura claimed that 70 percent of the rich in Rwanda were Tutsi—monopolized credit at the banks, and won a disproportionate share of the highly coveted import and export licenses. In a clear effort to divert the resentment otherwise directed towards Hutu from Habyarimana’s region, propagandists argued that it was Tutsi, not other Hutu, who occupied the jobs which southern Hutu wanted and failed to get. They also accused the Tutsi of having taken a disproportionate share of places in secondary school and university and, because of their educational advantages, of having dominated the professions and government. They claimed that even the church had been infiltrated by Tutsi. On all these points, the propagandists were delivering to the public the same message sent by the Rwandan general staff to its troops in the memorandum defining the enemy.26

If Tutsi men failed to penetrate some aspect of national life, said the propagandists, they sent in their women to seduce the Hutu who controlled that domain. According to Kangura, “The inkotanyi will not hesitate to transform their sisters, wives and mothers into pistols” to conquer Rwanda.27 The propagandists, like the authors of the military memorandum, agreed that Tutsi wives andmistresses manipulated foreign men for the Tutsi cause. They agreed, too, that male and female Tutsi had infiltrated international organizations, including both official agencies, like the U.N., and nongovernmental organizations, like human rights groups.28

To support the argument that Tutsi had slipped “like snakes” into places unnoticed, propagandists asserted that many people who claimed to be Hutu were in fact Tutsi who had changed their identity papers. In a wildly exaggerated estimate, Kangura charged that 85 percent of Tutsi had changed their ethnic identification. It warned:

The other the detestable habit that many Tutsi have adopted of...changing their ethnic group...which allows them to pass unnoticed and to take places normally reserved for Hutu in the administration and the schools. If this disease is not treated immediately, it will destroy all the Hutu.29

“Real” Hutu were cautioned to be on the lookout for such people, recognizable usually by their too great tolerance for Tutsi and their lack of commitment to Hutu solidarity. To demonstrate how the pretense might be discovered, the journal Ibyikigihe published an examination of the background of Faustin Twagiramungu in its December 1993 issue. Twagiramungu, then the head of the MDR, was accused of being Tutsi, a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing. To document its charges, the newspaper published excerpts from local government records going back to 1948.30

Effective in discussions of economic, social, and political life, this notion of “infiltration” was even more powerful when transferred to the domain of actual warfare. Echoing the position adopted by the government in October 1990, the propagandists fulminated that “It is because of this Tutsi infiltration into society that the country has no more secrets and they have been able to invade it with no trouble at all.” The Tutsi as “accomplice” was said to be everywhere. Kangura estimated in 1991 that 85 percent of all Tutsi were “accomplices” who never putdown their arms, “who were working night and day....”31 The propagandists sometimes added specifics to these general charges. In one of two pamphlets he produced, the professor-turned-propagandist Léon Mugesera justified imprisoning thousands of persons “suspected of plotting with the enemy”:

...because they were found with stocks of weapons, supplies of ammunition, radios for communicating with the enemy, or compromising documents, such as descriptions of the authorities and plans for attack.32

Officials and propagandists would use the same excuses—“created” events—to cover arrests and attacks on Tutsi and their Hutu allies for the next three years and throughout the genocide.

“Restoring the Old Regime”

From the first days of the war, officials and propagandists alike warned that the RPF had come to re-establish their total Tutsi control over the Hutu. One Rwandan army officer stationed near the Ugandan frontier in October 1990 reported that his superiors ordered him to spread the word among the civilian population that the RPF had attacked to restore the monarchy.33 In defining the “enemy,” the military high command focused on those Tutsi “who refused to accept the revolution and wanted to reconquer power by any means.” Civilian administrators in Butare, acting in the same vein, organized demonstrators in November 1990 to protest against any attempt to recreate the old regime. The demonstrators were sent out into the streets with signs like:

“Let slavery, servitude and discord be finished forever!”

“We condemn the exploitation and servitude of the people!”

“Long live the republic! Down with the monarchy!”

“No more feudalism! No more Kalinga!” [the drum that symbolized the power of the ruler]34

Propagandists insisted that an RPF victory would mean a return to all the evils of “feudalism,” with Hutu whipped and forced to work without pay for Tutsi masters. The singer Simon Bikindi stressed that danger in one of his most famous songs, “Bene Sebahinzi,” “The Descendants of Sebahinzi,” a proper name which means the “Father of the Cultivators.” In a refrain that was repeated endlessly on RTLM, Bikindi sang about the importance and benefits of the 1959 revolution, “a heritage that should be carefully maintained...and transmitted to posterity”: He went on:

...the servitude, the whip, the lash, the forced work that exhausted the people, that has disappeared forever. You, the great majority [rubanda nyamwinshi], pay attention and, descendants of Sebahinzi, remember this evil that should be driven as far away as possible, so that it never returns to Rwanda.35

Bikindi sang that the revolution should be preserved “especially by we who have benefited from it,” a reminder that should the Tutsi win, they would not just reverse all the political changes of the revolution but also reclaim all the property that had once been theirs, leaving many Hutu destitute. This argument carried great weight with cultivators who were working lands received after the expulsion of the Tutsi and who feared above all being reduced to landless laborers.

“Genocide of the Hutu”

The propagandists went further. They insisted that not just the freedom and prosperity of Hutu were at risk but their very lives. They warned that the Tutsi minority could not hope to reestablish their control over the majority without killing large numbers of Hutu. By December 1990, Kangura had begun charging that the Tutsi had prepared a war that “would leave no survivors.” Another pamphlet produced by Mugesera declared in February 1991 that the RPF planned “to restore the dictatorship of the extremists of the Tutsi minority,” by “a genocide,the extermination of the Hutu majority.”36 As the conflict progressed, the warnings became increasingly explicit and hysterical. By mid-1993, propagandists were asserting, “We know that they have attacked us with the intention of massacring and exterminating 4.5 million Hutu and especially those who have gone to school....”37 Particularly after April 6, 1994, propagandists and media circulated the story that Tutsi had prepared pits to serve as mass graves for the Hutu. RPF troops had indeed dug trenches to protect their positions, which may have given some support to these rumors. Hard-liners even claimed that Tutsi had prepared holes in the dirt floors of their houses to accommodate Hutu corpses. That custom—not to mention concerns of health and odor—made such burial unthinkable did not discourage speculation that they intended to dispose of the bodies in this way.38

In warning that the Tutsi were planning a genocide against the Hutu, several publications appear to have have followed closely the propaganda tactic of “accusation in a mirror.” Some attributed to Tutsi the words that Hutu themselves would eventually use in inciting the slaughter of Tutsi. In September 1991, La Médaille Nyiramacibiri stated that the Tutsi wanted to “clean up throwing Hutu in the Nyabarongo [River]”, a phrase that would become notorious when Mugesera applied it to Tutsi a year later. Kangura reported that RPF soldiers captured by the government forces said that they “had come to clean the county of the filth of Hutu.”39 During the genocide, Hutu would often talk of cleansing their communities of the filth of the Tutsi. In April 1992, the newspaper Jyambere charged opposition parties with distributing arms to their youth wings, revealingby its “accusations in a mirrror” exactly what the Habyarimana forces were then doing.40

The Regional Context

Echoing the military memorandum which had identified the “Nilo-Hamitic people of the region,” in general, and Tutsi in Uganda, Zaire, and Burundi, in particular, as sources of support for the “enemy,” propagandists stressed the regional aspect of the RPF attack. The RPF had launched its operation from Uganda with the support, though unacknowledged, of the Ugandan authorities. Some of the most important leaders of the RPF had served in the Ugandan army under the command of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who supposedly was related through a grandmother to the Bahima. The Bahima are pastoralists, a small number of whom lived in northeastern Rwanda, and are generally grouped with Tutsi. In neighboring Burundi, Tutsi dominated the army and economy, although they briefly lost control of political power after the election of a Hutu president and his party in June 1993. Tutsi were also powerful in adjacent regions of Zaire. From these disparate pieces of information, propagandists like those at Kangura concluded that:

There is indeed a diabolical plan prepared by the Tutsi and related groups and targeting the systematic extermination of the Bantu population as well as the extension of a Nilotic empire from Ethiopia...and Douala to the sources of the Nile and from...Gabon to Lesotho going through the vast basins of the Kongo, the Rift Valley of Tanzania...down to the Cape and the Drakensberg Mountains....What are the Bantu peoples waiting for to protect themselves against the genocide that has been so carefully and consciously orchestrated by the Hamites thirsty for blood and for barbarian conquests and whose leaders dispute the golden medal of cruelty with the Roman emperor Nero....41

In his pamphlet, Mugesera weighed in with the same idea, asserting that the Tutsi intended to:

“Establish in the Bantu region of the great lakes (Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Tanzania, Uganda) a vast kingdom for the Hima-Tutsi, an ethnic group thatconsiders itself superior, on the model of the Aryan race, and which uses Hitler’s Swastika as its emblem.”42

Mugesera’s linking the plot for a Tutsi empire to the Nazis was picked up by Kangura several months later. In its September 1991 issue, it repeats the charge that neo-Nazi Tutsi, nostalgic for power, dream of “colonial expansion,” and adds to this the accusation that they are cannibals besides.43 Mugesera and Kangura appear to have been implementing the tactic of “accusation in a mirror” by connecting the Tutsi with the Nazis. It may have been Habyarimana and his intimates instead who were the admirers of Hitler. Copies of films about Hitler and Naziism were apparently found in Habyarimana’s residence after the family fled in early April 1994.44

The propagandists buttressed their argument about the plan to create a grand Tutsi empire by referring to an apparently apocryphal letter, dated 1962, about a Tutsi program to “re-colonize” the region starting from the Kivu region of Zaire. They also talked of a plan supposedly formulated by a Tutsi politician named Arthémon Simbananiye in Burundi for killing off the Hutu population over a period of decades. This purported plan, frequently discussed by Hutu in Burundi, seemed credible in a country where Tutsi had in fact slaughtered tens of thousands of Hutu.45

“The Hutu as Innocent Victim”

Underlying much of this propaganda is the image of the Hutu as the innocent victim—victim of the original aggression by Tutsi conquerors some centuries ago, of the “infiltration” of the state and society, and of the 1990 invasion. After April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana himself would become the ultimate symbol of Hutu as innocent victim.

When the government was criticized for killing Tutsi in the years before the genocide, officials and propagandists alike tried to demonstrate that the Tutsi had slaughtered more than the Hutu. In September 1991, the pro-Habyarimanapublication La Medaille Nyiramacibiri discounted reports that Hutu officials had been responsible for killing Tutsi and offered instead to give readers lists of the Hutu killed by Tutsi so “then you will know who are the real criminals.”46

In 1992 and 1993, Habyarimana came under increasingly severe attack for human rights abuses, including the slaughter of some 2,000 Tutsi. In February 1993 the RPF violated a cease-fire and killed hundreds of civilians in their military advance and several dozen others by summary executions. Hoping to divert attention from the criticism against Habyarimana, propagandists and officials like the Rwandan ambassador to the U.S. launched exaggerated accusations against the RPF. Depicting the Hutu as the true victims, they asserted that the RPF had killed 40,200 civilians.47 In a letter to the pope and various heads of state, a group of people identifying themselves as “intellectuals of the city of Butare,” and using the Butare campus of the National University as their return address, accused the RPF of genocide. They went so far as to indicate how many of the 40,200 victims had come from each of the communes affected by the latest RPF attack. Even had the number of estimated victims not raised suspicions, such spurious detail would have caused doubts, given that the letter was dated only eleven days after the attack. A group of seventeen Rwandans studying in the United States sent out a similar letter to American political leaders and organizations on February 24.48 In a speech on March 23, 1993, President Habyarimana did not go so far, but claimed merely that the RPF had slaughtered several tens of thousands of civilians.49

“The Tutsi Cause Their Own Misfortune”

According to the propagandists, the suffering of the Hutu was real and grievous, but the misery of the Tutsi was a sham or, if real, had been their own fault. Those Tutsi apparently killed by official direction had in fact committed suicide, they said, or had left the country to go join the RPF. Those who had been driven from homes that had then been burned and pillaged had actually destroyed their own property to give Hutu a bad name or to cover their departure for the ranksof the RPF. In a speech to military commanders on March 13, 1993, President Habyarimana suggested that it was possible that the RPF itself had “organized and aggravated” the massacres of the Tutsi that had taken place at the end of January 1993 (see below) in order to give themselves a pretext for violating the cease-fire.50 And, once again relying on the easy identification of all Tutsi with the RPF, propagandists said Tutsi deserved whatever ill befell them because it was they who had launched the war in the first place.

“Hutu Solidarity”

Propagandists and officials constantly reminded Hutu that they had one important advantage in facing this ruthless and insidious enemy: they were rubanda nyamwinshi, the great majority. Kangura encouraged them, “Your unity, your mutual understanding, your solidarity are the certain weapons of your victory.” But this advantage could be thrown away. As Kangura warned, “you understand that when the majority people is divided, [then] the minority becomes the majority...”51 Hutu must not be divided by regionalism or by conflicting party loyalties. Any who trusted in the Tutsi rather than in their fellow Hutu would suffer the consequences. Should the Tutsi win, they would pay no attention to place of origin or political party membership—they would oppress all Hutu in the same way.

The propagandists, like the authors of the military memorandum, railed against any Hutu who would dare to break ranks: such traitors could not possibly act from worthy motives but must have succumbed to money or women offered by the Tutsi. The need to maintain Hutu purity and to avoid contamination from the Tutsi was taught in a notorious set of “Ten Commandments.” It specified that any Hutu who married or consorted with Tutsi women were traitors, as were any who engaged in business with Tutsi. It demanded that all strategic posts in politics or administration be reserved for Hutu and that the armed forces be exclusively Hutu.52 The virulence of the attacks against Hutu who opposed Habyarimana showed how much the president and his supporters dreaded the “Kanyarengwe effect.” Discrediting those already in the opposition was not enough; they had to make it unthinkable for others to join them.

The popular singer Simon Bikindi spread this message in a song entitled “I Hate Hutu.” In one version, he particularly targets the Hutu of Butare:

Let us start in the region of Butare where they like feudalism [the reign of the Tutsi], who would blame me for that? I hate them and I don’t apologize for that. I hate them and I don’t apologize for that. Lucky for us that they are few in number...Those who have ears, let them hear!53

Once propagandists had established the supposedly overwhelming threat to Hutu—to their lives and to their very existence as a people, as well as to their freedom and material well-being—it was an easy step to arguing their right—indeed their duty—to defend themselves, their country, and the revolution. The best-known expression of this idea before the genocide came in a speech delivered on November 22, 1992 by Léon Mugesera.

The Mugesera Speech: “Do Not Let Yourselves Be Invaded”

Party meetings offered propagandists an essential opportunity to spread the doctrine. In emotion-filled gatherings, where music, dancing performances and beer warmed the audience, propagandists could send their message directly into the hearts of their listeners. Speakers caught up in the excitement of playing to a responsive crowd often delivered the message of the moment in a more dramatic and intense form than what might be printed in a newspaper or broadcast over the radio. They could also use the opportunity to test what ideas could be made acceptable to the party faithful. Few such speeches are available for analysis, but one has been preserved in its entirety, probably because its ideas and style of expression were so extreme and called forth a vigorous response from the opposition.

The setting was an MRND meeting at Kabaya, not far from Habyarimana’s home, in the northwestern prefecture of Gisenyi. The speaker, Mugesera, was then vice-president of the MRND for the prefecture as well as an official of the Ministry for the Family and the Promotion of Feminine Affairs. The date was November 22, 1992, one week after a well-publicized speech by President Habyarimana in the adjacent prefecture of Ruhengeri in which he had disavowed the Arusha Accords. Habyarimana had also talked about elections that would someday be held in Rwanda, promising that the MRND militia, the Interahamwe, would serve as a striking force to ensure his victory.

In a speech that weaves together the major themes of pro-Habyarimana propaganda, Mugesera stresses above all the danger of being invaded. In opening his remarks, he tells the audience: “At whatever cost, you will leave here with these not let yourselves be invaded.” And after having returned to the phrase about not being invaded another ten times in the half hour speech, he concludes, “I know you are men...who do not let themselves be invaded, who refuse to be scorned.”

The invasion to which he refers is two-pronged: of course, that of the RPF, and, in addition, that of the political parties opposed to Habyarimana. In the most frequently cited passages, Mugesera attacks the “Inyenzi”—he insists that they must be called Inyenzi, never the more respectful Inkotanyi—but he assails with equal force those political parties which he labels “accomplices” of the RPF. He condemns the MDR, the PL, and the PSD as “traitors” for talking with the RPF and for demoralizing and causing mutinies in the Rwandan army by raising the question of its eventual demobilization. He accuses them of having given away the prefecture of Byumba because they favored a cease-fire and negotiations after the RPF had taken part of that region. He insists that ministers of opposition parties who pretend to represent Rwanda in the peace negotiations do not in fact speak for the nation. “They are Inyenzi talking to [other] Inyenzi.” Taking his cue from Habyarimana’s rejection of the Arusha Accords the previous week, he asserts that “we will never accept these things.”

Mugesera shows concern also for the way the MDR, PL, and PSD are destroying Hutu unity. He berates them for having “invaded” the MRND in various ways: by bringing their party flags and regalia into the northwestern prefectures, by “tak[ing] our men,” by challenging MRND leadership in Nshili commune (see above), and by replacing MRND functionaries with their own supporters in ministeries under their control. Saying that the MRND is “at war” with members of these parties, he warns that these opponents are armed and have “begun to kill.” He demands that they clear out of the region because “we cannot accept that such people shoot us down while pretending to live among us.”

Saying that the enemy’s objective is extermination, Mugesera exhorts his audience to “rise up...really rise up” in self-defense. He cites the Bible several times and declares that the MRND has a new version of the Biblical adage to turn the other cheek: “If you are struck once on one cheek, you should strike back twice...” He says that the law provides the death penalty for both politicians inside the country and “Inyenzi” who have betrayed the national interest. If the judicial system is not going to act to execute this punishment, then the people have the right to do so themselves and “to exterminate this scum.” In referring to the “Inyenzi,” he says that it was a mistake that some of them were allowed to get away in 1959.He recounts a conversation in which he warned a member of the PL, “I am telling you that your home is in Ethiopia, that we are going to send you back there quickly, by the Nyabarongo [River].” For the audience, “member of the PL” could not have meant anything other than Tutsi, and the mention of transportation by the Nyabarongo had to be understood as killing the people in question and dumping the bodies in the river, a usual practice in past massacres of Tutsi. [The Nyabarongo feeds into the rivers of the Nile watershed and hence is supposed to permit passage to Ethiopia.] Mugesera directs the faithful to keep careful track of all the people who come into their neighborhoods and to “crush” any accomplice so that “he will not be able to get away.”

Speaking before Rwandans, who ordinarily value sophisticated, allusive rhetoric, Mugesera chose unusually blunt words to convey his message. Using a coarse term not often heard in a public address, he talks of members of other parties coming to MRND territory to defecate. He depicts the opponent as dying, in the agony of death, knocked down, and under ground. He calls them “vermin” that must be “liquidated.” And at the end, he gives a final warning, “Know that the person whose throat you do not cut now will be the one who will cut yours.”54

Mugesera’s speech was tape-recorded. Excerpts were broadcast on the national radio and copies of the cassette were circulated among people in Kigali and other towns. One newspaper published the text. Many persons, and not all of them opposed to the MRND, expressed outrage at this bald summons to slaughter. Jean Rumiya, a professor at the university and former colleague of Mugesera, wrote him an open letter to criticize this “true call to murder.” He remarked that Mugesera, someone who had done much textual analysis in his work, certainly understood exactly what he was doing with his use of coarse language and terms like “cutting throats.” He pointed out that whether by coincidence or by design, Mugesera had used the same kind of language heard at the time of recent Tutsi massacres in the northwest. As a former member of the central committee of the MRND, he regretted that a speech so full of ethnic hatred and political intolerance could be presented at a MRND meeting and particularly without eliciting a protest from theaudience. He had believed, he wrote, that “the time of ritual murders for political ends was finished.”55

The minister of justice, a member of the PL, issued a warrant for Mugesera’s arrest for inciting to violence. Mugesera dropped from view. According to some witnesses, he sought refuge at a military camp for a few weeks before pro-Habyarimana soldiers helped him escape from the country in early 1993. He returned to Canada where he had once studied at Laval University. On July 11, 1996, the Canadian arbiter Pierre Turmel, ajudicator in an administrative proceeding brought by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, found that Mugesera had incited to genocide by his November 1992 speech and ordered him expelled from Canada on a number of charges.56

Practicing Slaughter

To execute a campaign against Tutsi effectively took practice. Before the grim background of war, economic distress, violent political competition, insecurity and impunity, and to the accompaniment of virulent propaganda, radicals staged the practice for the catastrophe to come. The rehearsals took place in more than a dozen communities, the most important being the commune of Kibilira in October 1990, March 1992, December 1992, and January 1993; in several communes in northwestern Rwanda, including Mukingo, Kinigi, Gaseke, Giciye, Karago, and Mutura in January and February 1991; in the region known as Bugesera, commune Kanzenze, in March 1992; in several communes of Kibuye in August 1992; and again in the northwest in December 1992 and January 1993.57 These attacksslaughtered some 2,000 Tutsi and dozens of Hutu and established patterns for the genocide of 1994.

Choosing the Target

The organizers launched the attacks where they could be sure of success, in regions most identified with Habyarimana and his supporters. Of the seventeen incidents of serious violence in the years 1990-1993, fourteen took place in the northwest quadrant of the country and the fifteenth took place in Bugesera, where considerable numbers of Hutu from the northwest had settled relatively recently.

Authorities tolerated and incited small-scale, sporadic killings of Tutsi throughout this period, but they also initiated five more important attacks, each time in reaction to challenges that threatened Habyarimana’s control. They sought to use ethnic violence to transform the threats into opportunities to strengthen their position. The first two challenges were military, the October l, 1990 invasion and the lightning strike by the RPF at Ruhengeri on January 22, 1991. Massacres of Tutsi began ten days after the first, almost immediately after the second. By organizing reprisals against the Tutsi, the regime got rid of some “enemies” and fostered solidarity among Hutu who actually or vicariously joined in the killing. At the same time, it was able to claim to have located the reason for the setback—“infiltrators”—and to have dealt with it successfully.

The other three challenges were political. The first was the unexpectedly strong demand by the new parties of opposition for a place in the government. They were able to turn out tens of thousands of demonstrators in January 1992 and kept up pressure on Habyarimana throughout discussions during the following month. The next was the first protocol of the Arusha Accords, which Habyarimana signed under heavy domestic and international pressure in August 1992. The last was the January 1993 signature of a further protocol of the Accords concerning the transitional government that was to govern in the interim between the signature of the peace treaty and elections. In these three instances, Habyarimana and his supporters used massacres of Tutsi to create the appearance of massive opposition to concessions to other political parties and to the RPF.

The first three of these rehearsals for slaughter targeted only Tutsi. But during the August 1992 attack and the violence at the end of 1992 and in early 1993, assailants killed both Tutsi and Hutu members of parties opposed to Habyarimana, presaging the catastrophe of 1994.

Feeding the Fear

Before these attacks, authorities used lies, exaggeration, and rumors about the local situation to make the general propaganda against Tutsi more immediate and frightening. They staged incidents or reported events which had not in fact occurred to “prove” that Tutsi inside Rwanda were “accomplices” of the RPF. This accusation, repeated constantly and by officials and community leaders alike, was itself a recurring “created” event, meant to bring the threat inside and to make the danger real.

In Kibirira in October 1990, some officials told people that Tutsi planned to exterminate the Hutu and had killed two Hutu in their region. Others told the local population that Tutsi had killed two important military men from the region, Colonel Serubuga and Colonel Uwihoreye. Still others spread the rumor that Tutsi had attacked children at local schools.

To incite Hutu to kill the Bagogwe, generally seen as a subgroup of the Tutsi, in the communes of northwestern Rwanda in early 1991, authorities blamed them for having helped the RPF stage its surprise attack on Ruhengeri on January 23, 1991. To increase fear further, the military followed the successful precedent of the October 1990 “attack” on Kigali and staged a fake assault on the important Bigogwe military camp in the region. This worked so well that in one commune the burgomaster had trouble persuading the Hutu not to flee—their immediate reaction—but instead to stay and attack their Bagogwe neighbors.

In Bugesera, where large numbers of recent Hutu migrants from the northwest had settled adjacent to groups of Tutsi resident there since the revolution, local authorities whipped up Hutu sentiment against Tutsi by publicizing the departure of young Tutsi who crosssed the nearby Burundi border to join the RPF. In late February and early March 1992, Hassan Ngeze, editor of Kangura, visited Bugesera several times to spread tracts and rumors about the danger of “Inyenzi” infiltration and attacks. Following a local meeting of the PL on March 1, such a tract was distributed in the community accusing the PL leader of being a rebel and an assassin and closing with words reminiscent of Mugesera’s speech a few months before: they must not escape us! On March 3, Radio Rwanda five times broadcast the “news” that a “human rights group” in Nairobi had issued a press release warning that Tutsi were going to kill Hutu, particularly Hutu political leaders, in Bugesera. Some Hutu took this to be the truth and the next night began slaughtering Tutsi.

In communes in northwestern Rwanda in December 1992 and January 1993, officials warned that killers were lurking in the nearby Gishwati forest and they organized the population to “clear the brush.” “The brush” referred to Tutsi who were thought to provide cover to the RPF, allowing them to infiltrate without being noticed because they looked like resident Tutsi. Also in this region officialscautioned that strangers had been sighted, including a “man with a red bag,” a shadowy figure who had also supposedly put in an appearance in Kibirira at one time. They also asserted that a young Tutsi who had left—to join the RPF, they said—had returned carrying a suspicious-looking bag.

Directing the Attacks

Local officials at the level of cell, sector, and commune directed the early massacres. In several places, such as the communes of Gaseke and Giciye, they told the people that participating in the attacks was their umuganda or communal work obligation. Other community leaders, such as teachers, health workers, the staff of developments projects, and party heads also helped turn out killers.

In Bugesera in March 1992, authorities used the Interahamwe to slaughter Tutsi for the first time. Drawing on experience gained in the violence of kubohoza, the militia knew how to take the lead, making it possible for government officials to play a less public part in the slaughter. At the end of 1992 and in early 1993, they again supported Hutu attacking Tutsi in the northwest, confirming their usefulness in ethnic violence.

Officials determined the end as well as the start of the slaughter. In Kibirira, for example, authorities needed only to send two policemen to blow their whistles and announce the end to the killing. The police did not need to fire a single shot to restore order. In January 1993 two burgomasters halted the attacks against Tutsi during the visit of an international commission investigating human rights violations, saying the slaughter would resume when the group left. Indeed, the killings began within hours of its departure.

Officials often directed assailants first to pillage property, guaranteeing them immediate profit as they accustomed themsleves to attacking their neighbors. In communities where people showed no enthusiasm for even this level of violence, the attacks went no further. But where officials were able to generate enough fear and greed, assailants moved to the next stage of destroying houses and then to killing the inhabitants of the houses.

Just as the attacks could increase in intensity, so they could increase in area, with attacks in one sector or commune sparking similar crimes in the adjacent regions.

Once massacres began in an area, authorities held victims hostage by refusing them the permits needed to leave for other regions or by physically barring their escape routes with barriers. Tutsi attempting to pass the barriers were usually identified by their identity cards and then slain. Those who decided not to flee were killed in their homes.

Civilian authorities played the major role in directing attacks, but they occasionally called on the military for support. In northwestern Rwanda in early 1991, soldiers rounded up Bagogwe to be slain and helped civilians when they encountered resistance from their intended victims. In Bugesera in March 1992, soldiers in civilian dress joined groups of killers while others in uniform disarmed Tutsi and kept them cornered until the killing teams could arrive.

In the northwest and in Bugesera, civilian and military authorities occasionally rounded up groups of several dozen people to be massacred all at one time at a site such as a communal office. But for the most part, they did not attack large groups who gathered spontaneously at such sites—particularly at churches. Instead they cut their access to food and water to force them to return home. They were not yet ready to launch the large-scale attacks that became usual during the 1994 genocide.

Lying about the Violence

When confronted with reports of killings, the authorities often simply denied that the slaughter had taken place. This strategy worked best in cases where the killings had taken place in an inaccessible location. Because the Bagogwe, for example, lived far from the capital and in an area where access was controlled by the military, the authorities were able to continue pretending there had been no slaughter until outside investigators insisted on visiting the region and revealed the lie.58

When the massacre was too widely known to be plausibly denied, authorities had ready a range of excuses, most of which asserted that the victims had brought the slaughter on themselves—by boasting of imminent RPF victory, by threatening Hutu, or by having planned to attack Hutu. They ordinarily concluded by equating Tutsi with the RPF and declaring that Tutsi were being killed because they had launched an unjustified war against Rwanda in the first place.

Well aware of how easily foreigners accepted explanations of “ancient, tribal hatreds,” the authorities repeatedly underlined the “tribal” nature of the killings when called to account by the international community. They insisted that they had been simply unable to control the outburst of spontaneous, popular rage. Then, turning the explanation into a plea for additional foreign support, they would express regrets that the government was so poor that it could not provide officials with the needed resources to keep order in such difficult circumstances.


No one, neither official nor ordinary citizen, was ever convicted of any crime in connection with these massacres. Some suspected assailants were arrested after the Kibilira massacre, but were released several weeks later. The prefect of the adjacent prefecture warned in early 1991 that the killings might begin again because those apparently guilty at Kibilira had been liberated and “were boasting of ‘brave deeds’ that had gone unpunished.”59 The government removed several officials from their posts in areas where attacks had occurred, particularly after foreign criticism of the killings and after the installation of the coalition government when officials opposed to Habyarimana could influence appointment of personnel. But, more discreetly, national authorities also removed local officials who had protected Tutsi or tried to prevent the spread of violence against them.

International Response to the Massacres

In pursuing ethnic violence as a way to keep political power, Habyarimana and his supporters stayed alert to any international reaction to the killings. Even before the war, Rwanda needed foreign financial assistance to keep the government running. With military expenditures, the war-time damage to the economy and the burden of feeding hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, it had become even more dependent on donor nations, both for direct aid and for support through such multilateral institutions as the World Bank and the European Union. Leaders of whatever political persuasion—even radicals of the CDR—understood the importance of maintaining some level of international respectability.

Foreigners—diplomats, aid experts, clergy, technocrats resident in the country—also wanted to maintain the positive image of this clean, well-organized, hard-working little country. Even as evidence of human rights abuses mounted, many were reluctant to admit wrongdoing by the government. In July 1991, consultants from outside the system and thus unaffected by this enthusiasm for the Habyarimana regime found representatives of the major donors in Kigali unwilling to admit that ethnic conflict posed serious risks. When they advised donors to insist on the removal of ethnic classification on identity cards as a condition for continued aid, none of them took the advice.60

Donors hoped to correct what they viewed as inadequacies in the regime by fostering the growth of a “civil society,” including Rwandan human rights groups. Activitists like Monique Mujyawamariya of ADL, Alphonse-Marie Nkubito of ARDHO, Bernadette Kanzayire of AVP, and Fidele Kanyabugoyi of Kanyarwanda pressured the government for reforms and also kept diplomats in Kigali well-informed of violations. On the occasion of particularly egregious abuses, such as the Bugesera massacre, they actually took diplomats to witness the events. When confronted by such evidence, the diplomats ordinarily intervened with the Rwandan government, discreetly in less important cases, more formally by a joint visit to the authorities in cases like that of Bugesera. These occasional protests sometimes resolved short-term problems but failed to affect Habyarimana’s overall policy. Donor nations regarded human rights abuses generally as the result of the war and they chose to work on ending the war rather than on addressing the violations as such. Many would adopt the same position at the time of the genocide. Habyarimana understood the foreign reluctance to intervene and when questioned about massacres, he was always ready with suitable expressions of regret and promises to avoid such mishaps in the future. The foreign donors easily swallowed this reassurance.

The International Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Abuse in Rwanda

Rwandan activists expected more from the donors who always spoke so highly about the importance of human rights. To focus foreign attention on the seriousness of the problem, the activists in the coalition CLADHO pressed international human rights organizations to mount a joint commission to examine the human rights situation in Rwanda. Four agreed to do so: Human Rights Watch (New York), the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (Paris), the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Montreal) and the Interafrican Union of Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ouagadougou).

During an inquiry in Rwanda in January 1993, the International Commission amassed substantial data to show that “President Habyarimana and his immediate entourage bear heavy responsibility for these massacres [from October 1990 through January 1993] and other abuses against Tutsi and members of the political opposition.”61

The commission also presented evidence of abuses by the RPF, but given that the RPF then controlled a population of only 3,000 people, this part of the report attracted relatively little attention.

The commission report, published on March 8, 1993, put Rwandan human rights abuses squarely before the international community. It was widely distributed among donor nations and was even handed out by the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs to representatives meeting to discuss assistance to Rwanda.62 International donors accepted its conclusions and expressed concern, but took no effective action to insist that the guilty be brought to justice or that such abuses not be repeated in the future. French President François Mitterrand directed that an official protest be made and explanations demanded from the Rwandan government, but French authorities made no public criticism of the massacres documented in the report.63 Belgium reacted most strongly by recalling its ambassador for consultations but in the end made no significant changes in its aid program. The U.S. redirected part of its financial aid from official channels to nongovernmental organizations operating in Rwanda so that the Rwandan government could not profit from it, and Canada also cut back on its aid. But both donors weakened the impact of their decisions by linking them to Rwandan fiscal mismanagement or shortage of their own funds as much as to human rights abuses.

The report of the International Commission was presented to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, but it declined to discuss the matter in open session, reportedly because it had too many other African nations already on its docket. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary, Arbitrary and Extrajudicial Executions undertook a mission to Rwanda in April 1993 and produced a report in August 1993 that largely confirmed the report of the International Commission. Referring to the possibility, raised by the International Commission, that the massacres of the Tutsi might constitute genocide, the special rapporteur concluded that in his judgment the killings were genocide according to the terms of the 1948 Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of Genocide.

To forestall any further damage to his image, Habyarimana responded to the charges of the International Commission in a formal statement, signed jointly with Prime Minister Dismas Nsengiyaremye on April 7, 1993. In it, the Rwandan government “recognizes and regrets the human rights violations committed in ourcountry.” But continuing to deny that officials had taken the initiative in any of these abuses, the government declared only that it had failed to assure the security of citizens who were attacked. It did, however, promise to undertake a series of human rights reforms that closely followed the recommendations of the commission. Habyarimana at the same time launched efforts to discredit the commission, calling into existence four fake human rights organizations that published a scurrilous pamphlet attacking commission members and sponsored a European speaking tour for two representatives to refute the report. The attempt to discredit the commission was too clumsy to succeed, but Habyarimana had secured the continuing favor of donors in any case by his April 7 profession of good intentions.

In the months after the publication of the report, there were no more massacres of Tutsi and the international community hoped that the ethnic violence would not be repeated. But its willingness to accept excuses for lesser massacres and its continuing acceptance of impunity for killers in official positions contributed to the very result they wished to avoid, more slaughter and this time catastrophic in scale and unambiguously genocidal in nature.

In the episodes of violence from 1990 to 1994, Habyarimana’s supporters perfected some of the tactics they would use during the genocide: how to choose the best sites to launch attacks, how to develop the violence—both in intensity and in extent—from small beginnings, how to mobilize people through fear, particularly fear aroused by “created” events, how to use barriers and bureaucratic regulations to keep a target group restricted to one place, and how to build cooperation between civilian, military, and militia leaders to produce the most effective attacks. Perhaps equally important, they had learned that this kind of slaughter would be tolerated by the international community.

1 Joseph Habiyambere, Préfet de Gikongoro, to Monsieur le Président de la République Rwandaise, no. 794/04.17.02, May 29, 1991; no. 831/04.17.02, June 5, 1991; no. 842/04.17.02, June 7, 1991; Paul Kadogi, Bourgmestre de la Commune Nshili, to Monsieur le Préfet de Gikongoro, no. 661/04.17.02, September 6, 1991; Préfet de Gikongoro to Monsieur le Col. Elie Sagatwa, November 21, 1991; Col. Athanase Gasake to Liste A Comdt Secteurs OPS (Tous), May 21, 1993 (Gikongoro prefecture).

2 Anonymous, “Note Relative à la Propagande d’Expansion et de Recrutement,” mimeographed, undated (Butare prefecture).

3 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias , p. 45. 4 In urban areas, the figure was far higher, 58.7 percent, while in rural areas 27.3 percent of the households owned radios. Recensement général de la population et de l’habitat au 15 août 1991 (Kigali: Service National de Recensement, July 1993), p. 31. 5 Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, Brussels, February 15, 1997; Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, pp. 57, 74. 6 Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, Brussels, February 6, 1996. 7 Clément Kayishema, former Prefect of Kibuye, and Sylvain Nsabimana, former Prefect of Butare, are among the officials who say that they learned of their appointments from radio announcements. Human Rights Watch interview, Kibuye, July, 1992; Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, by telephone, Nairobi, March 25, 1996. 8 Jean-Marie Vianney Higiro, “Distorsions et Omissions dans l’ouvrage Rwanda, Les médias du génocide,” Dialogue, no. 190, avril-mai 1996, p. 166. 9 See chapter on the RPF below. 10 François-Xavier Nsanzuwera, Manuscript on the RTLM. 11 Higiro, “Distorsions et Omissions,” p. 161. 12 Ibid., p. 164; Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, p. 70. 13 Higiro, “Distorsions et Omissions,” p. 171. 14 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, p. 68. 15 Ibid., p. 79; Higiro, “Distorsions et Omissions,” p. 178. 16 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, p. 97. 17 Ibid., p. 46. 18 Ibid., pp. 37l-74, 256. 19 Ibid., pp. 96-97. 20 Ibid., pp. 102, l08. 21 Ibid., pp.111, 109. 22 Ibid., p. 110. 23 Ibid., p. 118. 24 Ibid., p.156. 25 Ibid., pp. 114, 119, 128, 257. 26 Ibid., pp. 92, 159-60. 27 Ibid., p. 161. For propaganda against Tutsi women, see Human Rights Watch/Africa, Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Project, and the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme, Shattered Lives, Sexual Violence during the Rwandan Genocide and Its Aftermath (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996). 28 Ibid., p. 269-73, 318. In March 1997, a message on the internet asserted that a Rwandan woman wrote the reports of Human Rights Watch/Africa. 29 Ibid., pp. 103, 159. 30 Ibid., p. 101. 31 Ibid., p. 149. 32 Association des Femmes Parlementaires pour la Défense des Droits de la Mère et de l”Enfant en collaboration avec Dr. Mugesera Léon, “Respect des Droits de la Personne par le Rwanda,” Kigali, April 1991, p. 3 (Obtained from Comité Pour le Respect des Droits de l’Homme et de la Democratie au Rwanda). 33 Alison Des Forges, “The Ideology of Genocide,” Issue, A Journal of Opinion, vol. XXIII, no. 2, 1995. 34 Anonymous, Amwe Mu Magambo Yanditse Ku Byapa Abamilitante n’Abamilita Bitwaje Mu Rugendo Rwo Gushyigikira Ingabo Z’u Rwanda n’Umugaba Wazo W’Ikirenga, Mu Mujyi wa Butare Kuwa 3 Ugushyingo 1990 (Butare prefecture). 35 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias , pp. 347, 353. 36 Association des Femmes Parlementaires pour la Défense des Droits de la Mère et de l’Enfant en collaboration avec Dr. Mugesera Léon, “Toute la Vérité sur la Guerre d’Octobre 1990 au Rwanda,” Kigali, February 1991, p. 5. An English version of the pamphlet, published in March 1991 under the title “The Whole Truth on the October 1990 War Imposed upon Rwanda by the Aggressors from Uganda Armed Forces” differs slightly in wording from the original French (International Commission). 37 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, pp.159-60, 180, 186, 290-91, 293, 323. In making this argument, propagandists often recalled the slaughter in Burundi of tens of thousands of Hutu, particularly “intellectuals,” by the Tutsi-dominated military in 1972. 38 Solidarité Internationale pour les Réfugiés Rwandais, Le Non-Dit sur les Massacres au Rwanda, vol. 2, January 1995, p. 11 and vol. 3, July 1995, pp.124-37; Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, p.266. 39 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, pp. 160, 176. 40 Ibid., p. 255. 41 Ibid., p. 169. 42 Associations des Femmes Parlementaires, “Toute la Vérité sur la Guerre d’Octobre 1990 au Rwanda,” p. 5. 43 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias , p. 178. 44 Ibid., photo facing p. 257. 45 Ibid., pp. 163, 167. 46 Ibid., p. 177. 47 Africa Watch, “Beyond the Rhetoric,” p. 23. 48 Letter with four pages of signatures, a total of 104 names, to the pope and other international dignitaries, Butare, February 19, 1993; Letter from the Cercle Rwandais de Reflexion to Africa Watch, February 24, 1993. 49 Africa Watch, “Beyond the Rhetoric,” p. 23. 50 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias, pp. 63, 155, 177, 337; Africa Watch, “Beyond the Rhetoric,” p.16; “Report of the International Commission,” p. 25. 51 Chrétien et al., Rwanda, Les médias , pp. 154, 220. 52 Ibid., pp. 141-42. 53 Recording of RTLM broadcasts, October 17-31, 1993 (tape provided by Radio Rwanda). 54 Léon Mugesera, “Discours Prononcé par Léon Mugesera lors d’un Meeting du M.R.N.D. Tenu à Kabaya le 22 novembre 1992.” The version of the speech quoted here was the French text submitted by the Canadian government in legal proceedings against Mugesera in September 1995. 55 Jean Rumiya, Lettre ouverte à M. Mugesera Léon, Butare, December 9, 1992 (International Commission). 56 La Commission de l’Immigration et du statut de réfugié, Section d’Arbitrage, Décision dans la Cause entre Léon Mugesera et Le Ministre de la Citoyenneté et de l’Immigration, Dossier no. QML-95-00171, Montréal, 11 juillet 1996. Mugesera appealed the decision, but the appeal was rejected in November 1998. 57 Information for this section is drawn from two reports published by Africa Watch, “Talking Peace and Waging War” and “Beyond the Rhetoric,” and from the “Report of the International Commission,” which treat these massacres in detail. See also Human Rights Watch, Slaughter Among Neighbors; The Political Origins of Communal Violence (New Haven: Human Rights Watch and Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 13-32; Eric Gillet and Andre Jadoul, “Rapport de Deux Missions Effectuées par Eric Gillet et André Jadoul, avocats au barreau de Bruxelles, au Rwanda du 9 au 17 janvier et du 2 au 5 février 1992,” Bruxelles, mai 1992; and the 1992 and 1993 reports of the Rwandan human rights groupADL. 58 “Report of the International Commission,” p.17. 59 Gaspard Ruhumuliza, Préfet de Kibuye, to Monsieur le Ministre de la Défense Nationale, no. 017/04.18, February 11, 1991 (Kibuye prefecture). 60 A team of consultants gave this advice in July 1991 to a group that included ambassadors and others from the embassies of the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, and Belgium. The French at one point recommended that Rwandans remove ethnic categories from identity papers but failed to exert the necessary pressure to have this done. 61 “Report of the International Commission,” p.51. 62 Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke, Early Warning and Conflict Management, Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda, March 1996, p. 32. This is the second volume of a larger study of the international response to the Rwandan crisis, now commonly called “the Danish report.” Funded by a consortium of the donor nations, it provoked a critical response from France, which withdrew its sponsorship of the report. 63 Assemblée Nationale, Mission d’information commune, Enquête sur la tragédie rwandaise (1990-1994), Tome III, Auditions, Volume 1, pp. 322, 330.

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