It’s been a while since I blogged anything on Rwanda or anything at all for that matter. I do have some posts in the works, some about the elections both in the USA as well as Rwanda. However, this headline today caught my attention that I had to immediately blog about.
Pierre Pean author of the book Noires Fureurs, Blancs Menteurs/”Black Furies White Liars” is on trail for “defamation and inciting racial hatred” within the same book. Apparently because he reported that Tutsi rebels had a hand in what happened in Rwanda in the 1990s, starting in 1990, through 1994, and in 1996-1998, then he is inciting hate and racism. And therefore, he is on trial to defend himself or to see himself persecuted for his writing.
The BBC reports that the lawsuit filed against him is by a French Rights group SOS Racisme and this case is also backed by the public persecutor. According to the same BBC article, the SOS Racisme president Dominique Sopo believes that “when you are aware what cliches can trigger in terms of killings, racism and confrontation, especially in that country, it seems to me that this particular issue greatly disturbs those who went through such drama and who prefer not to go through it again”.
Ok this is tricky. I am all for persecuting hate speech and crimes. And considering the frame of reference SOS Racisme is coming from, believing that Tutsis were victims of a genocide committed by Hutus and no context given of RPF tutsis who also committed crimes during the genocide period, then any speech to the contrary can be construed as hate speech, and in line with perpetuating hate and encouraging more hate crimes. However, we know that the story line we’ve heard so much is completely distorted. Therefore, SOS Racisme is misguided in trying to sue Pean.
Aside from the fact that the frame of reference they are approaching this from had been distorted, the idea of suing/silencing Pean can also be considered a form of thought policing or censoring. However there is a thin line between calling out hate speech and silencing. Although I haven’t read the book, there is a certain presumptuousness from Pean as he describes Rwandan culture as one of “deception” and as a white man, this can definitely be construed as prejudiced. However, again, I have not read the book, therefore, I do not know what the context of the comments are.
What is most baffling for me, is how writing a book can be taken to court for “hate” while attacking a relatively peaceful country is not, and the assassination of two presidents is swept under the rug. What is this? What crime is less hateful than attacking a country and killing its citizens? Even to establish “democracy.” If we want to prevent these things from happening again in the future, shouldn’t we get to the root of all things? How did it happen? Why was Rwanda invaded and by whom in 1990? Why were peace and power sharing agreements disregarded and broken? Why did the U.N. escort RPF soldiers and arms into Kigali clandestinely if they were non-partisan, helping the RPF secure the country with violence in 1994? Why hasn’t the assassination of the two African Presidents been properly investigated by the ICTR? Why is the world so ready to condemn the investigations and indictments by French Judge Bruguiere and Spanish Judge Andreu?
I think there are bigger fish to fry here, and unfortunately, one of the few people to challenge the media’s commercialization of the Rwandan tragedies and its simplification into a “good/evil”, “hero/villain” dichotomy is being taken to trial for “hate.” Shouldn’t SOS Racisme be challenging the portrayal of Africans as “uncivilized savages” who are “blood thirsty” and will “spontaneously embark on killing sprees” as has been applied to many ethnic groups in Africa and even in Rwanda itself? Seriously, Tutsis were part of the “bad guys” during the genocide, before, and after. There is nothing “hateful” about that, nor anything “prejudiced.” It’s a fact.
I mean this whole thing is like when people say Sarah Palin is inexperienced, and the GOP cries sexism. Seriously? Get out of here! It’s a joke!