By Sila Cehreli and Gatete Nyiringabo Ruhumuliza
Michela Wrong is a British journalist and author who has recently published a book about Rwanda titled: ‘Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad.’
Published in March 2021, the book is calumnious to the Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the Rwandan government. In it, she accuses them of orchestrating murders and attempted murders of political opponents in exile, and two of them in particular, Patrick Karegeya, former head of Rwanda’s external intelligence and Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, former Rwanda’s army chief of staff.
She relies on testimonies of exiled Rwandan politicians, members of Uganda’s ruling party the National Resistance Movement (NRM), authors of books on Ugandan war of the early eighties, Human Rights Watch staff, European scholars and journalists, many of whom were close to the defeated regime that committed the genocide and whom have since been banned from returning to Rwanda.
Michela Wrong compiles all reports and allegations that have ever been levelled against the current Rwandan leadership, but she never interviews them to get their side of the story, nor does she take into account rejoinders on said allegations, like reports by the World Bank, United Nations agencies, international courts’ rulings and even United Nations resolutions.
‘Do not disturb’ is a declinist book, portraying Rwanda as a dystopian society only comparable to North Korea – where no human rights are respected, where poverty and misery are on the rise and where the Hutu population is oppressed.
Throughout the book she demonstrates deep cognitive bias, claiming that the heroes in her book were the only men who could have brought about a better Rwanda, that they were ousted for their uprightness and prophecies that without them, the Rwandan government and its institution face an imminent collapse. Michela Wrong or her key informants adduce no single evidence of their claims and dismiss every report, judge or individual who contradicts them as ‘biased, liars, or victim of a collective western guilt’. Like many self-appointed ‘expert’ authors of Rwandan dystopia, it seems no Rwandan is willing to talk freely, all are cunning, untrustworthy, spies, until they meet her way to rediscover both their tongues and the virtues of truth.
At several occasions, and possibly a selling point for the book, Wrong strongly criticizes the international community’s support to post-genocide Rwanda. To her, the guilt for not stopping the Genocide Against the Tutsi shouldn’t be; the international community did nothing wrong – even though a million people were killed on their watch, for some, contribution.
Michela Wrong demonstrates arrogance and racism. She refers to Africa as a ‘macho continent’, to show how Rwanda’s women emancipation policies are an accident of nature. She self-arrogates the right to tell the Rwandan story, but feels no need to petition Rwandans’ side: ‘This is their story’, she writes, ‘whether they like it or not’.
“Rwandan are liars!” She starts her book. It doesn’t get any better, she goes on to describe how lying is entrenched in the Rwandan culture, value system and governance. All of Rwandans, 13 million, and millions ancestors before them, a millennial civilization all wrapped into a sweeping bundle of collective deceit.
From there it seems the indictment is inescapable, the Rwandan ‘aristocracy’ – coded colonial language for ‘Tutsi’ – are by design flippant and untrustworthy, at times using young women as ‘honeytraps’. To many readers, this preconception will sound familiar. It is true, they’ve heard it before. It first appears in the writings of Belgian colonialists who defined Tutsi as cunning and clever, who’s pass time is taking advantage of their majority countrymen. With the publication of the ‘Ten Commandments of the Hutu’ in the late fifties, one Joseph Gitera, the father of anti-Tutsi ideology urges his fellow Hutu to distrust and rid themselves of the Tutsi ‘snakes’.
The ten commandments were later reproduced in a December 1990 issue of ‘Kangura’, a racist, insidious pamphlet of the nineties, founded to incite ethnic hatred, and a prelude – and justification for the Genocide against the Tutsi. It’s founder Hassan Ngeze would later be tried and convicted of Genocide, crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003, by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
People usually hide their racism. Wrong didn’t. Her writings reveal a deplorable choice of ideology, that would guide her book until the end. leading with an English translation of Kangura, quoting genocide perpetrators and portraying colonialists Richard Kandt and Ewart Grogan as two victims of the dishonesty that personifies a people she describes as ‘incestuous, densely populated Rwanda’ (P. 398). Frankly, it is hard to find a more overtly reifying pamphlet of this magnitude in recent time.
At this point one should have stopped reading. In 2021, a person preaching open racism and prejudice shouldn’t be lent any attention. Then she said something somewhat fascinating; That she was scared for her life and has eschewed traveling to Rwanda while working on the book. This is incorrect! Michela Wrong was in Rwanda in June 2015, and I personally met her while she was already working on the book.
But how or actually why on earth did she conceal her visit to Kigali? Did she think people wouldn’t find out? Who’s the natural liar in this case? Reading the book one realizes that the alleged innate duplicity was hers, only projected on Rwandans.
Michela Wrong presents her book as new findings. In reality, it is a compendium of dated conspiracy theories by people who were banned in Rwanda, either due to their proximity with the defeated genocidal regime, or former RPF cadres who committed crimes and fled the country, and haven’t set foot there for a long time. It is also a rehash of old criticism that were extensively addressed, eviscerated or disproven with evidence. Yet she prints the criticism and silences the rejoinders.
The book makes implausible, far-fetched remarks, such as: ‘The first thing [Karegeya’s killers] had done upon landing in Kigali was to head to the presidential palace to share the footage, an event president Kagame had celebrated by opening a bottle of champagne.’ This is insane. How does she know this? Has she been to the Rwandan presidential ‘palace’? It is a family home, not a warehouse full of guns and gangsters shooting in the air, the president’s office is an official building with bureaucrats and boardrooms. Also, the president doesn’t drink.
She seems obsessed with President Kagame; ‘After [Karegeya’s] death, people started using his telephone line. A relative received a call from this line and it was Kagame on the other end. He suddenly hang up’.
On personal impulse she compares Karegeya to Trotsky, Lumumba, Sankara, and Caesar. Late Karegeya clearly left a strong impression on the author, but Karegeya was never Kagame’s equal. He was a Lieutenant in the Ugandan army, never one of its leaders. What Karegeya became, he was made by the Rwandan army.
She describes Paul Kagame as ‘not smart’, while Karegeya and Kayumba Nyamwasa are intellectual stars, who created their future nemesis Paul Kagame. ‘If there are two men who made Kagame, it’s Kayumba and Karegeya”, she writes.
I think the biggest weakness of Michela Wrong’s bias are historical facts. In reality, before he turned forty, Paul Kagame had conquered three countries, toppled three dictators, stopped a Genocide and became a celebrated global statesman. These aren’t typical attributes of an intellectually challenged person. If Karegeya and Kayumba – ‘The General’ as she refers to him, are such geniuses, why is their stardom only recognized in her book and nowhere, or by no one else?
Karegeya, for those who do not know him was no intelligence chief. He was head of a department in the intelligence set-up of Rwanda: External Intelligence. That is the rank of a director. Next the director of ‘external’, there is another Director of Internal Intelligence and above them is the Director General of National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). This means he wasn’t as powerful as the author makes him to be.
Through the book, she defines Paul Kagame as a stone cold-blooded killer with no military capacity, from his days in the Ugandan army, to date. If Paul Kagame had no military capacity, how come he was preferred over the two main characters in her book to lead the Rwandan Patriotic Army and won. If he is a killer, why did he pardon those who committed the genocide against the Tutsi; those who killed members of his own close family?
Wrong’s book betrays her lack of grasp of her subjects, who are just too happy to manipulate her using familiar soundbites: ‘They told me I had to be careful about my views on human rights, press freedom and foreign policy’, she alleges Karegeya told her. This too is a lie, Karegeya wasn’t exactly a ‘human rights activist’, quite the opposite in fact.
There are no records of Karegeya’s public talks of human rights or democracy, or anything of the sort, indeed intelligence officers typically don’t. Wrong is simply dancing to the bit of the flavor of the month in western media, alleging that Rwanda curtails rights. On page 68 she quotes Karegeya making a ‘declaration of war’ towards the Rwandan government, after she’s painted him, pages earlier as Lumumba and Trotsky.
There is something ludicrous about the book. Whether reckless or expecting no one to notice, she reproduces on page 83 the testimony of a self-styled Rwandan dissident in the UK by the names of Renée Mugenzi, claiming to be a target of Rwandan spies operating in Europe. We know these are lies because her protagonist claims to have turned down money offered by Rwandan spies to stop opposing Kagame.
Only the man in question is serving a prison sentence in the UK for stealing 220.000 pounds in a British cathedral. At his trial, Mugenzi told judge that fear and stress of Kagame made him siphon off the churchgoers tithes. Obviously the judges weren’t Michela Wrong, impressable by fake news, they sentenced him to 22 month in jail.
The thief’s father, Joseph Mugenzi is also imprisoned in the Netherlands, awaiting trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. These are the characters presented in Michela Wrong’s book as key informants, heroes and victims.
In earlier pages, she presents one Muvunyi Fred saying he too is tracked by Rwandan spies. Muvunyi is an impostor whom I had lunch with in Amsterdam a few month after he had fled Rwanda, he had tried to attend ‘Rwanda Day’, a regular event presided over by Paul Kagame in different Western capitals that bring together the Rwandan Diaspora – the kind of events where the alleged overseas spies would logically be expected. How can a man fearing for his life, bring himself and beg to be let in? Obviously the Rwandan protocol had heard of his declarations in western media and laughed in his face when he turned up. ‘We heard you were hiding from Rwanda’s spies, how come you are here?’
When I met Muvunyi, he said to me that he wasn’t coming back to Rwanda because he had received a better offer at Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany. A few months later, the Kinyarwanda journalist who struggled to speak English and had not written a single article in the language while in Rwanda, was being featured in the Washington Post in perfectly authored op-eds criticizing Kagame. That’s when I knew he was being used.
Later in the book she introduces David Himbara’s favorite conspiracies, that Rwanda manipulates its economic figures, that poverty has steadily risen in Rwanda since his departure. Himbara worked as president Kagame’s advisor, was fired, hired again then fired again. Himbara isn’t being truthful. Rwanda’s economic figures are published by the World Bank, the IMF in collaboration with Rwanda’s National Institute of Statistics which is the highest rated statistics institution in Africa. The World Bank has frequently responded on their website, standing by Rwandan figures and explaining in simple terms why the methodology is reliable:
Case Study: While working as a senior fellow in a private Rwandan Think Tank, the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR), I frequently participated in the annual evaluations of local and central government officials’ performance contracts, the culmination of a process in which all leaders at central and local government define key performance indicators and pledge to accomplish them in the exercise. In this process I led field teams that would spend days auditing the paperwork: Proof of transparency and legality in issuing tenders, issuing funds, hiring staff, etc. On the second day we would interview citizens on the utility of the public service or infrastructure, to ascertain whether the request had come from the citizen, or if it was a white elephant, a scheme imagined by the authorities to siphon off local government money. On the third day we would conduct ‘spot checks’ to physically inspect the delivered service or infrastructure. This three step methodology was religiously followed and interviews with residents would at times reveal that the brand new infrastructure was just completed because we were expected. While evaluating central government, our report would also appraise policy effectiveness. At no occasion were our teams subjected to pressure from government to ‘finesse’ our reports.
Elsewhere in Wrong’s book, she speaks of cancelled passports of RNC members and their exiled relatives as yet another proof of the oppressive Rwandan government, which she refers to as a ‘regime’. To respond to this I will share another personal experience:
Case Study Number 2: I was a student at the University of Pretoria in South Africa when these passports were cancelled. Kayumba Nyamwasa head of RNC had hired one of my lecturers as his lawyers and would come to our school to meet with him. Perhaps as a way of recruiting me, the lecturer in question called me to his office and gave me an assignment to prepare a complaint to be filed in the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, against ‘the denial of citizenship’ to my exiled countrymen – an inalienable right in international law. Writing petitions to the African court was routine clinical work for students in my human rights program, and I didn’t read much into it.
After a bit of research, I submitted my assignment, only it was not a complaint to the African court, much to the disappointment of my lecturer and Faustin Kayumba’s lawyer. My paper was a legal opinion explaining how the act of cancelling passports wasn’t in itself a denial of nationality. A passport is a travel document, not a certificate of citizenship, I argued, it is applied for, paid for, expires and is renewed. This is not true for citizenship which, except for the stateless, is acquired at birth and inherent to every human being.
In my view, Rwanda’s cancellation of the passports was merely a reaction to their hitherto bearers’ actions of negating the core purpose of a passport: which infers the protection of one’s country of origin. I explained that acquiring refugee status meant that they no longer felt confident in the protection of their country of origin and placed their safety in the hands of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which in turn issued them with travel documents stipulating that they would be allowed to travel to any country in the world, except Rwanda. I concluded that by doing that they had in fact cancelled their own passports and that we had no case for the African Court. I barely got a pass mark. Years later I would host my former lecturer for dinner in Kigali while on a mission to train Rwandan Senators. We laughed about it. He also expressed to me his surprise to have been hired by the very government whose dissidents he still represented in exile.
The Ugandan influence.
The media reviews left out an important part of the book, the Ugandan war of the eighties. Rwanda and Paul Kagame, it seems, are more tantalizing subjects, in reality, the book is more about Uganda than it is about Rwanda.
It is a reminder of how Ugandan President Kaguta Museveni and his NRM brought peace to Uganda; how Milton Obote was a murderer, and Idi Amin a violent buffoon. These are quite familiar and vividly recent slogans, especially around election times in Uganda.
Ugandan politicians manipulated the author and heavily contributed their own version of historical facts to the book, painting a dashing picture of the NRM as an upright party; a calculated retort to Kizza Besigye’s memoirs, published a few years ago, in which the eternal Museveni opponent presents the NRM as a party that was corrupt from the gate-go and started looting shops and businesses in Kampala as soon it seized the city, with impunity. The book spends a lot of time on the clash between the Rwandan and Ugandan armies in Kisangani, DRC and although she admits that the Ugandans were beaten, she concludes that the fight was triggered by Rwandans: A heresy by any standards. The entire Congo invasion is attributed to Rwandans.
What Michaela Wrong fails to mention is that the DRC filed a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against, inter alia, Rwanda and Uganda for invasion, occupation, killings, and plundering of its natural resources. At the time, Rwanda pointed to her accuser the DRC that: it had harbored genocidaires at such proximity (30KM) that was in violation of the 1951 Refugee convention; that it had failed to disarm those refugees, many of whom were genocide perpetrators and that the eastern region of the DRC had served as a training camp and a rear base from where Rwandan genocidaires launched attacks on the Rwandan territory, killing remaining Tutsi survivors as explained here by veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi and father of current DRC president. Rwanda threatened to counter-sue. The DRC, anticipating a loss and embarrassment in the international court, decided to unilaterally withdraw all charges against Rwanda in the lawsuit.
Uganda it was ruled, had no legitimate justification to invade the DRC and was found guilty of those crimes and in violation of international law and sentenced to pay reparations. This is the ruling of the ICJ, Michaela Wrong has her own ruling which exonerates Uganda and implicate Rwanda instead.
Wrong falls for manipulation especially coming from individuals known in Rwanda as ‘Rwigemists of the 25th hour’; a national sport within the NRM intelligentsia, which consists of glorifying the first RPF/RPA commander, Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigema to cast some shadow on his successor and current chairman, Paul Kagame.
That’s ironic, given that soon after Rwandans had won the war for them, Ugandans rejected Fred Rwigema – who had served as second only to President Museveni, and all Rwandans who had served in the NRM. They called them foreigners, aliens and relieved them of all official duties. The very people who are glorifying them in Wrong’s book today, betrayed them with the first chance they had.
Michela Wrong never knew Fred. Far from a posthumous tribute, she, like many Ugandans before her uses his legacy to cast a bad judgement towards RPF’s leadership, those with whom he actually served and who had the valiance to finish what he started.
Denial of the Genocide Against the Tutsi.
The book is dishonest and one-sided. In 2006, a French Judge Jean Louis Brugrière issued arrest warrants over the shooting down of late president Habyarimana’s plane, wrongly claimed to have sparked the Genocide against the Tutsi. He indicted nine of President Kagame’s associates. Two years later, a Spanish judge, Andreu Merelles did the same, this time indicting forty Rwandan officials for revenge killings following the Genocide against the Tutsi. This meant that both warrants were running concomitantly within the Schengen countries.
Based on the warrants, in November 2008 Mrs. Rose Kabuye, then chief of Rwanda’s presidential protocol was arrested in Germany. She asked to be transferred to France to confront her accusers. Once in France, she was released with no trial. In 2010, two French judges: Marc Trevidic and Nathalie Poux who replaced Bruguiere lifted the frivolous arrest warrants, following a trip to Rwanda where they conducted ballistic and geostrategic investigations and ruled that RPF soldiers could not have had access the position from where the missiles were launched. They concluded that the likely culprits are Hutu extremists.
Five years later, in June 2015 Gen. Karenzi Karake then head of Rwandan Intelligence was arrested while traveling to the United Kingdom, based on the Spanish arrest warrants. He too was released with no trial, nor conviction. In fact, in the same month of October 2015, Spain’s supreme court nullified Judge Andreu’s case against the 40 Rwandan officials and withdrew the arrest warrants.
It is important to note that the previous judges who had issued arrest warrants based their actions upon afore-mentioned hearsay, without ever setting foot in Rwanda, or conducting any investigation. Michela wrong doesn’t signal this in her main text. While she speaks of the allegations, she omits their dismissal by the Spanish highest court in the land. The mention of French judges Poux and Trevidic and the dismissal of their predecessor’s warrants are relegated to endnotes, 470 pages later.
In one of the cables dated January 26, 2007, whistleblowing website WikiLeaks revealed that judge Jean Louis Bruguiere’s had consulted with then French President Jacques Chirac before issuing the warrants, while a report of historians recently commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron (Rapport Duclert), and one of a New York based law firm (Muse Report) commissioned by the Rwandan government, have both concluded that France supported the government that committed the genocide.
Another important omission in Wrong’s book is that, although she alleges that by shooting down the plane, the RPF may have caused the genocide, it has been ruled by international courts that Habyarimana’s assassination is in no way the cause of the genocide against the Tutsi.
She suggests, in barely covert terms, that Tutsi may have brought the genocide upon themselves – or a “Very bad thing” as she refers to it on page 369: “many an academic, diplomat, development official, and businessman would cling with a sloth’s viselike grip to that view, pretty much irrespective of events on the ground or any suggestion that the RPF had, in fact, played a part in bringing that very bad thing about.” She writes.
But Michela Wrong isn’t alone in this. What she wrote is purely revisionism we witnessed during the genocide trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Defense lawyers had made it a habit to open their submissions with long, eloquent harangues on double genocide, at times, no occurrence of a genocide at all or that the Genocide against the Tutsi was caused by the RPF since it ordered the killing of Habyarimana. Exhausted, judges of the International Tribunal (ICTR) made a general ruling to squash this ludicrous allegations.
On 16 June 2006, the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal, in the case of The Prosecutor v. Karemera, et. al. ruled that: ‘from 6 April to 17 July 1994: there were throughout Rwanda widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population on the basis of Tutsi ethnic identification. During the attacks, some Rwandan citizens killed or caused serious bodily or mental harm to person[s] perceived to be Tutsi. As a result of the attacks, there were a large number of deaths of persons of Tutsi ethnic identity”
The Court then instructed that all of the current and pending cases before the Trial Chambers of the Tribunal must refer to the events as ruled: “beyond any dispute and not requiring any proof”. The ruling was later buttressed by the UN Security Council Resolution 2150 of 16 April 2014.
When the double genocide allegations were first raised over twenty years ago, famous journalist Nick Gordon took a trip to the ‘crime scene’ in Gabiro, where RPA soldiers allegedly burned their Hutu victims. Gordon found, in his own words, “only three primitive army barracks, and nothing remotely resembling a death camp.”
Michela Wrong mentions at many occasions that the RPF may have conducted revenge killings on the Hutu civilians in Rwanda and in DRC forest, at times quoting a highly debunked Mapping Report, and therefore this would constitute double genocide. Now, this is no season to be peddling double genocide theories, there are fresh, powerful publications debunking them, just released in this month.
In a recent book published on March 4th 2021, titled: ‘La traversée’, Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, an award-winning journalist, one of the most respected journalists in France, (he is the grandnephew of famous aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) debunks the Mapping report by asking three simple questions: Where are the victims? how did they die? who killed them? Unlike other double genocide theorists, Saint-Exupéry doesn’t relate what he is told, he goes on the field to see for himself. In ‘La Traversée’, the French journalist followed the footsteps of Rwandan refugees, tracing their exodus from Kigali in Rwanda to Kinshasa in DRC, talking to villagers, visiting sites, and saw no trace of anything that would qualify as a genocide. He came to one conclusion: there was no genocide in DRC. The double genocide theory is simply a form of denial of the genocide against the Tutsi, launched by the French government, the defeated genocide regime and children of genocide perpetrators now based in Europe.
In this interview he explains that those who throw about figures of victims of a supposed genocide in DRC never address those three questions.
Beyond conspiracy theories, all serious studies conducted in DRC show that people were indeed killed in the Congo war, but not because of who they were and not necessarily at the hand of other human beings. A number of serious studies listed in this article, found that the death toll across DRC was identical in areas where there was war and in areas where there wasn’t.
De Saint-Exupéry explains that the Mapping report was “Waterloo described using words of Auschwitz.” He visits a village in Walikale described in the report as the ‘epicentre of the massacres’ and speaks to residents; No one seems to remember any mass killings in their village. He explains that the Mapping report is an accusation-in-a mirror, where the authors reproduce scenes of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, turn perpetrators into victims and place the scene DRC.
Patrick de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘La Traversée’ perfectly complements Linda Melvern’s ‘Intent to deceive’. The former offers precision on the situation on the ground, disproving a “second genocide” in the DRC, while ‘Intent to deceive’ shows that there was no “second genocide” in Rwanda 1994 as the deniers claim. Chapter 12 factually disproves the “Gersony report” and shows its authors were taken in by stories they were told in the refugee camps in the DRC by genocide perpetrators and their relatives.
In the same ‘reckoning’ month of March 2021 was the launch of the report, mentioned above, commissioned by Emanuel Macron to a group of French historians, referred to as the “Duclert Report” in reference to the surname of its lead author. In addition to establishing the role of France in the Genocide against the Tutsi, the report thoroughly eviscerates the double genocide theories. In subsequent interviews, Professor Vincent Duclert explains that double genocide theories are a form of genocide denial imagined by genocide perpetrators and their supporters.
The presumption of guilt
By rehashing the same stories, by dismissing, playing down or hiding court rulings and UN resolutions, Michela Wrong wrongly acted as judge, jury and in this case ‘executioner’, based one one-sided, disproved allegations, she acted in bad faith and violated basic journalistic rules, and just simple honesty.
In twenty seven years since it stopped the genocide against the Tutsi, the Rwandan Patriotic Front has been routinely accused of many things, including targeted assassination of members of the opposition living abroad and the downing of the plane of late president Habyarimana Juvenal, wrongly claimed to have sparked the genocide or even domestic assassinations of civilians for no apparent reason. All accusers claim to ‘reveal’, ‘exclusive’, ‘top-secret’, ‘recently leaked’, testimonies’, or uncover ‘secret documents’, allegedly implicating Rwanda’s president and the RPF in war crimes.
In typical white supremacy attitude tainting the entire book, she doubts any high profile Hutu who’s views align with the RPF, as though it was impossible to be black and have ideals. Pasteur Bizimungu, the first post-genocide President, and Seth Sendashonga his minister of interior, publicly contested a report alleging Hutu massacres, that means, according to her, that ‘they were acting against their will’, and one of them would only be believed after he told a different story, years later after he had fell off with the RPF.
Wrong abundantly quotes Human Rights Watch reports, some of their researchers are quoted directly in the book, alleging that the government of Rwanda summarily kills people. It has been a while since HRW has been vocal on Rwandan matters due to embarrassment. Known as ‘The Walking Dead’ report, published in July 2017, just before Presidential elections in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch published a list of persons alleged to have been ‘summarily executed by Rwandan security forces’ for petty crimes such as stealing goats, etc.
Seven persons reportedly executed in the HRW report, namely: Nsanzabera Tharcisse, Majyambere Alphonse, Nyirabavakure Daphrose, Karasankima Jovan, Habyalimana Elias, Nzamwitakuze Donati and Hanyurwabake Emmanuel, appeared a few days later in a press conference; It was a MIRACLE! Others, as it turned out had died of natural causes and their relatives threatened to sue Human Rights Watch for tarnishing their kin’s memory. We haven’t heard of HRW ever since…
The very subject she canvassed, Karegeya, was murdered in mysterious ways. Many declarations were made in the media by his family, associates, his lawyers and even prosecutors in the case who claimed that “the involvement of the Rwandan Government was brought to their attention”. None of the allegations were substantiated in court or convinced a judge, until a South African judge, tired of the protracted circus, decided to strike the case from the court’s role.
Indeed all Wrong’s key informants have volunteered their testimonies to judges across the globe: In the ICTR, in France, in Spain, in South Africa but each time, their stories couldn’t pass judicial scrutiny.
Wrong’s book will not convince a single person who knows Rwanda. She makes up massacres of Hutu and justifies them by the need of the RPF to ‘terrify Hutus in southeast Rwanda into exile, turning over farms, homes and lands to Tutsi refugees who had left in 1950s and 1960s’. Seriously? Which Tutsis are these? The young people who had joined the RPF army? Their elderly parents or their massacred relatives?
This is outrageous! Which Tutsi today lives on his ancestral land? What does she make of programs like ‘come and see, go and tell’, wooing refugees abroad to come back with assurances that their land will be given back to them? What does she make of TTP (Tent-Temporary-Permanent), overnight expulsion of all Tutsi returnees from occupied houses in towns? The government would give them tiles and public land to build their own houses in time, as they slept in the tents. That’s how neighborhoods such as Kagarama, Rubirizi, Kibagabaga, Nyarutarama, Kagugu, etc., came to be.
What she doesn’t say is that the provisions of the Arusha peace accords were unilaterally enforced – to the letter – by the RPF after it had won the war. The accords stipulated that Tutsi who had left land behind will be settled into agglomerations and no land will be claimed back.
This part of her book is simply insensitive; following the massacre of their relatives in the genocide, second generation returnees never felt the need to settle alone on an empty hills they had never known, upon the graves of their extended family, surrounded with those who killed them. Some residents were ready to gladly offer parts of the land to their hitherto neighbors, but most returnees settled in towns and only elderly survivors went back to the villages.
My own various family lines have acres of land laying idle in the four corners of the country, because no one of my generation feels the need to go and live the life of a farmer we never knew. The relatives we had were all killed, most likely by relatives of those who live there now. It was, after all, a successful genocide…
I’ll admit, Wrong’s book has many lies, but some truth too, is better written (quoting poetry at the beginning of each chapter), it is not an outpouring of delusions, like is the case with her Canadian counterpart. Wrong mentions a ‘Gersony Report’ allegedly documenting RPF massacres, but she stops short of claiming to be in its possession. She simply says she has ‘heard of the mythical, unpublished report’. and mentions names of real people, unlike the Canadian who owns ‘secret reports’ she can’t substantiate and has spoken to ‘mystery-men’ she can’t call by name – all for their safety of course. So the difference is, while Wrong spoke to real liars, the other woman hears voices in her head.
Michela Wrong has bad faith. For instance, when a colleague pointed out in an article that she mentioned long dismissed indictments against Rwandan leaders by a retired French judge and conveniently left out more contemporary findings by his successors, Wrong wrote an open letter to the East African newspaper which had published the article. She accused the colleague that he hadn’t read her book because the mention of Judges Trevidic and Poux was there – and gave the page where it was located in the book. She shouldn’t have done that, because it showed her propensity to lying:
I went on the page in question and found out that only an academic, or a forensic expert will get the big picture reading her book. Throughout the book, she argues in bold and in the main text, and cunningly refers counter-arguments in tiny footnotes and in endnotes in the freely distributed PDF version, knowing that regular folks do not read footnotes, God forbid endnotes..
Of the Kibeho massacres she rejects the international inquiry, and dismisses the diplomats and international lawyers who disproved it when it was alleged over twenty years ago for “echoing the official line.” And comes up with her exaggerated account: ‘”the (RPF) army fired directly into the pinned-in crowd, first with rifles, then with machine guns and mortars.” (P. 269)
Even the loudest of double genocide theorists haven’t gone that far. All admit people died in a stampede, only they say it was induced by the RPF. Perhaps a glimpse into the story of Kibeho is captured on P.288 of the same book, where she explains how genocidaires were holding Hutu population in the camps hostage and would kill anyone of their own who was willing to leave the camp and go back to their village. ‘The refugees were being used as both shields and hostages’, she writes..
In any event, how can the RPF kill regular Hutu, and forgive genocide perpetrators? One of the earliest decisions of the post-genocide government was to abolish the death penalty. This isn’t what the Allied forces and the Nuremberg tribunals did after WW2, nor the fate that the post-Holocaust Israeli government reserved ex-NAZI captured in Latin America. Only Rwanda did it.
The false equivalence
If it was meant to be cathartic to the widow and orphans of late Karegeya, it actually added salt to injury. The poor man is disparaged and abused throughout the book. She describes a pompous man who’d become, to quote the book ‘less of an asshole’, running illicit networks of rogue low lives in a dangerous city of Johannesburg, an ugly-faced, Parkinson suffering womanizer, and most certainly a stone cold killer (e.g. p. 274-276). She speaks of Karegeya with such contempt, one might wonder if his family hasn’t regretted their cooperation to her book.
To its credit, the book unwittingly reveals why Karegeya and Kayumba fell off with President Kagame and the RPF. Their hubris, disrespect of the law, corruption and propensity to alcohol and women were ‘un-RPF’, she confesses.
Based on the picture she paints of Karegeya then, one wonders how she compares him to Jamal Kashogi, a civilian highly respected journalist who was murdered within an official building for merely expressing his views in writing, to a military spy who publicly admitted to violence.
But let’s suppose for a moment that Karegeya was killed by the Rwandan government. What is new or shocking, in that an ex-spy gone rogue, generously revealing real and made up state secrets, plotting military plans to overthrow a legitimate government would be hunted down and neutralized by all means necessary? The list of similar cases is endless in countries known as ‘civilized’
Do not disturb reads as a recruitment brochure of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) of Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. Who wouldn’t want to join a movement of virtuous, intellectual and military geniuses? Which begs the question: why hasn’t that happened? If they are such highly skilled strategists, their failure to federate as well as their frequent internal squabbles show just how the profuse liftings in Wring’s book are but invented and undeserved. The mysterious disappearance of their outspoken ally Ben Rutabana in Uganda last year, which alienated most of the Europe based RNC supporters and their hefty monetary contributions, proves this further.
On page 386 she admits that the apparently the investigation into Karegeya’s murder hit a brick wall and no arrests were made. She however declares throughout the book that it was the Rwandan government that was behind it. How did she know? What information that she have beyond the South African justice system? If she found out the truth, why didn’t she submit it to South African police? Perhaps the fixation towards the Rwandan government as the ‘sole’ culprit may have obscured their capacity to catch the real assassins.
Other than a delve into personal lives of her characters, Michela wrong brings nothing new to the reader. The book is a rehash of every single critic of the President, the RPF and the government, spanning twenty seven years. Critics that were extensively eviscerated at the time of their levelling are given primetime in her book and unveiled to the reader as fresh discovery, while their rebuttals are often silenced or relegated into endnotes.
The silver lining.
I decided to find a silver lining to this book and read on, because then it gave me an opportunity point out it’s mistakes, and to highlight some of the reconciliatory programs that the RPF embarked on in the aftermath of the genocide, which may have been forgotten. If I had no day job, I would have written a book of my own, based on this..
Rwanda is possibly the only country in Africa that offers social welfare to its poor, in three categories ranging from direct cash handouts to employment in public works and SACCO subsidised loans, in addition to a free cow to each poor family and free, compulsory and universal education and health coverage.
Most people won’t notice, but Michela Wrong was manipulated in printing hearsay and didn’t verify details. For instance: Mr. Didier Rutembesa has never been appointed First secretary to Mozambique. I know this because diplomatic appointments are made public in what is known in Kigali as ‘The Yellow Paper’ – cabinet meetings’ resolutions. Such small errors are so littered throughout the book that one wonders whether sloppy research isn’t in fact characteristic of her entire one-sided work.
Granted Michela Wrong admits from the get go, that her book is one-sided, but this isn’t acceptable for a book that claims to conduct investigative journalism. Investigation implies the right of response, or listening to both sides of the story. locking oneself into an echo chamber of lies does not excuse the process, just because a sign is pristinely displayed: ‘Lying in session’.
In the end it would have been a good fictional read, if only the title was ‘right’. The book is well researched, only in the wrong direction. Each conspiracy theory ever levelled against the RPF is covered, extensively, it seems she stalked every individual who ever had a grievance against Rwanda, spanning 27 years. It’s weakness is its lack of substance and purpose. A collection of gossip, hearsay, bitterness, pettiness by vindictive ‘used-to be-famous’ characters.
People in Europe and America haven’t gone through a revolution that fundamentally transformed their lives in the last 300 or so years. For them politicians are opportunistic parvenus who are in it for themselves. We have, and quite recently. And the man who led that revolution is Paul Kagame and the movement that made it possible is the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
When describing Kagame and the RPF, foreigners and Rwandans come from totally different backgrounds and perspectives. The RPF is like the FRELIMO in Mozambique, the MPLA in Angola, the ANC in South Africa, the EPRDF in Ethiopia or the PAP in Singapore. It is against that backdrop that Kagame is seen by Rwandans as Samora Machel, Augustino Neto, Nelson Mandela, Meles Zenawi or Lee Kwan Yew.
Perhaps to put things in perspective, Paul Kagame is to Rwandans what George Washington or Abraham Lincoln are to Americans or William Wallace to the Scottish. These men are not politicians, they are more than that, they are freedom fighters to whom the people owe their very existence.
Those who criticise them tend to disregard historical facts, after all, Nelson Mandela was once seen by Britain as a terrorist, but to South Africans, he is an icon.
Paul Kagame and the RPF are humane and magnanimous in fact. They pardoned genocide perpetrators, allowed them to go home, live side by side with genocide survivors. A presidential scholarship launched fifteen years ago allowing Rwandan children to study overseas did not discriminate. Children of genocide perpetrators, survivors, Tutsi and Hutu alike benefitted on equal footing. Before the advent of the RPF, Tutsi’s were systematically discriminated against in schools and all other spheres of life. It was unthinkable for Tutsi to indiscriminately accede education or positions of leadership. Today, all children in Rwanda have free, compulsory, universal education and healthcare. Kagame and the RPF have appeased fears among the Hutu population that a Tutsi president would mean their systemic oppression, as they were once told by extremists.
In the national dialogue three years ago, Mukiza Willy Maurice, the second son of FDLR’s new leader Ntawunguka Pacifique, announced to the audience that he, his elder brother and younger sister all completed their undergraduate education in the University of Rwanda, then went on to pursue postgraduate degrees in China and in Ghana all under scholarships of the Rwandan government. Here is the link to his speech. Their father Ntaunguka had just been appointed by the FDLR, which means his children were benefiting from Rwandan scholarships long before.
In the two governments that preceded the RPF, Hutu from one region would be favored over other Hutu, depending of the region of origin of the president of the time. Readers will know that ethnic identity is no longer mentioned on identity cards in post-genocide Rwanda. Less known is the fact that even the region of origin isn’t mentioned. Students submit their national exams with a registration number so that it is impossible to tell their surnames, and this, from primary to university. Scholarships are then distributed based on student scores, with no fear, nor favor.
In the government of national unity citizens are encouraged to be ‘cadres’. This can be found in post-apartheid South Africa as well. Accordingly, I am writing this rebuttal, not to defend Paul Kagame, but to defend myself. I and many of my fellow countrymen see ourselves in him. In Switzerland you will be told off or reported to the police if you are seen littering in the streets. In Japan, you will struggle to get a table in a restaurant if you are known to have been convicted of corruption. Swiss and Japanese aren’t all spies, they just have a sense of active citizenship. Abusing Kagame might get you in trouble with private citizens in Rwanda, just like abusing Mandela would in South Africa. South Africans aren’t all spies either. Unlike in western societies, our revolutions are fresh on our minds and some of our heroes are still with us. We must be allowed to celebrate them, without being called spies or sycophants.
Michela wrong accuses Paul Kagame of not grooming a successor. There is no crown prince in Rwanda. No one individual has been ‘groomed’ to take over because Rwanda is no longer a monarchy and power isn’t Kagame’s to give. Youth of all social backgrounds frequently meet the president who constantly encourage them to work harder in school and in their professions because they are the leaders who will take over when he leaves. Many of them are already in positions of leadership, including some whose parents participated in the genocide against the Tutsi.
‘It was not human, Mr. Hezi Bezalel, Rwanda’s Honorary Consul to Israel recalls; but still, during the struggle and after the liberation, there was no revenge… however after you had accomplished victory, addressing President Kagame, you chose to forgo the presidency and let the president be from the other part, to reflect the unity you wanted to see in Rwanda’; he proceeds, ‘this noble and modest decision, would have been if Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gourion, in 1948 nominated [Mohammed Amin] al-Housseini, the leader of Arabs in Israel as Prime Minister and made himself deputy; or that George Washington appointed himself as Vice-President and granted the presidency to a British loyalist. It sounds crazy, but you did it; This is a shining example of your wisdom and leadership…’
Paul Kagame has not changed. From his days as a rebel leader to when he became president, his message has remained consistent and clear. Here is an illustration:
‘This Army of ours will be the pillar of change… If you are saying that you are fighting tribalism, racism, but in the end your action show tribalism, then there is no difference between you and those with who you are waging war. Or if you say that those you are fighting are thieves, if you are a thief too, then what is the difference? Huh? He proceeds, ‘this army of ours will be the pillar for social transformation. Do you all understand the meaning of social transformation?’ –This was the message of 35 year old rebel leader Paul Kagame in 1992 to his troops, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). While he made that speech, the legitimate Government of the time was preparing a genocide.
Over the years Kagame has come to be seen as the symbol of stability, peace and progress. Indeed from the trauma of genocide, people have evolved at different paces. Perhaps the incident which best illustrates that is when he went to campaign in the Northern Province, a region that suffered most from war, and the people intoned a song, in their regional accent: Nda Ndambara Yantera Ubwoba. ‘If I have Kagame I shall not fear war’ The northern accent used and the spontaneity of the song, from people more related to Kagame’s predecessor than to him, show how much he has become a federating figure to all Rwandans.
Other African leaders too are increasingly finding inspiration in Kagame’s leadership style. Many of them bring their delegations to Rwanda to learn from its development models and Rwanda soldiers currently ensure the security of the Central African Republic’s president, trained those of the DRC president and are keeping peace in over seven countries on two continents. Three years ago Kagame was appointed by his peers to reform the African Union and was subsequently elected to the chairmanship of the continental body.
There is a reason that westerners who praise Kagame are leaders and managers, who know what leadership is about, and those who criticize him are writers, iconoclasts with no reference in history or in leadership. What Paul Kagame has done in Rwanda is only known by Rwandans who despaired in 1994 and its immediate aftermath. Where there is a country today, and the policies and institutions that are subject of criticism, there was chaos and death. Rwanda was a failed state only two decades ago. Today, with all its shortcomings, Rwanda is a stable, peaceful and prosperous country. And the man who made that possible is Paul Kagame.
In his recent book: ‘Rwanda Tomorrow; A long walk to transformation’, Jean Paul Kimonyo explains in details how and why all those featured in Michela Wrong’s book were sidelined by the RPF. His book is the strongest rebuttal against her book.
I will end with a citation by Milan Koundera, in his book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, he writes: “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine”. We tend to look back at the deceased with sympathy and that is alright. Except when we do so, not to pay them tribute, but to vilify the living. In this case it is no longer an altruistic endeavor, but rather self-serving and dishonest.
The heroes described in Michela Wrong’s book, with nostalgic sympathy as modern-day Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba, weren’t, sadly, as sympathetic as she makes them to be.
 Rwanda National Congress (RNC) is a political party formed by former RPF members after they’d been sidelined and went to exile.
 National Resistance Movement, the party that has ruled Uganda since 1986, chaired by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, current Ugandan President.