How Victoire Ingabire is synonymous with the Genocide and why the west cheers her on

Victoire Ingabire’s appeal to be rehabilitated from past convictions of terrorism and genocide denial was rejected by Rwanda’s High Court. Picture: Shant Fabricatorian / African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Victoire Ingabire’s appeal to be rehabilitated from past convictions of terrorism and genocide denial was rejected by Rwanda’s High Court. Picture: Shant Fabricatorian / African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Apr 3, 2024


By Albert Rudatsimburwa

Some days ago, Rwanda’s High Court rejected Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza’s appeal to be rehabilitated from past convictions of terrorism and genocide denial.

She was hoping to be eligible to run in the forthcoming July presidential elections. Nowhere has a court decision come under more attack than among western media and commentators.

They decided to consider it as “political” ruling from a justice court because they see Ingabire as “the main opposition politician”. Every news cast I read or saw about the story was only citing western commentators or eventually Rwandans who were introduced as opposition in exile.

What Rwandans in Rwanda thought about it was apparently not worth to be considered. Or is it because Ingabire is primarily a “western mediatic product”? So, who is Ingabire in the real world, outside the pages and studios of western news organisations?

One cannot discuss Rwanda politics without considering the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. Despite the fact that it has been called “the last genocide of the 20th century”, many westerners still read it as “tribal war”. Of course, none of them would think of the Holocaust as tribal war. The Jews who were the victims of the Nazi in Germany were Germans and had always been just as much as their fellow Christian citizens and persecutors. After the war and the defeat of the Nazi, no one in the western world would have advocated to remember the fallen Nazi as victims during Holocaust commemorations, and neither would have anyone tried to push or accept “neo-Nazi” inside the Bundestag even thirty years after the Holocaust. Not even today.

The Tutsi who were the targets and the victims of the Genocide in Rwanda were also Rwandans and had always been, like the perpetrators. Just like the Jews were marked with a yellow David star, so were the Tutsi marked with their ID’s. They were also listed from where they lived, worked, or studied, by the state and local administration.

But who is Ingabire?

Ingabire was born in a family of genocidaires, both her father and mother were famous for this. The latter was known to have smashed newborns’ heads on the wall and killing pregnant women.

Being born into a PARMEHUTU (The Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement) family, the ideology of genocide was tradition. The succeeding governments had since the independence adopted a kind of “apartheid” ideology and built a segregated society in which “Hutu” had all rights while Tutsi were second class citizens in all fields from education to labour force, together with a complete political exclusion. The Tutsi lived in their home country Rwanda with the threat of being exterminated.

Although Ingabire is, of course, not the only offspring of planners and perpetrators of genocide. It is to be stressed that the post-genocide government has emphasized that crime, including the crime of genocide lies with the individual who commits it. And, mindful of how difficult it is likely to be for such children, they have been given support they needed to come to terms with their family history, and there has been an effective awareness campaign to make sure they don’t suffer from any stigma. Yet, inevitably, some choose to follow in their parents’ footsteps and Ingabire is one of them.

She was not in Rwanda during the Genocide against the Tutsi, but she joined the defeated genocidaire forces in Zaire (now DR Congo), as soon as 1995. In the refugee camp of Mugunga in Eastern Congo, the defeated military of the former Rwandan army with the Interahamwe militias as also the exiled politicians organized a congress and created the “RDR” party (Rassemblement Démocratique pour le Retour) with notorious military and civil genocidaires as founders, such as Theoneste Bagosora, the chief organiser of the killings who was sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to 35 years in prison for more than five counts of genocide including rape, murder, and outrages on human dignity.

Ingabire was chosen to become the first president of the party on April 3rd, 1995. She hadn’t been present during the genocide against the Tutsi and wouldn’t therefore have to fear any international prosecutorial procedures against her, unlike the majority of the “founding fathers”. Ten years after, the RDR had morphed into the FDLR and had restarted their terror in Eastern DRC, and the political wing was named FDU-Inkingi, with Ingabire remaining their leader. All along, her “political” itinerary, Ingabire remained in close relation with genocidaire armed groups. She was named in different UN Group of Experts Reports on DRC in relationship with the infamous FDLR.

She eventually travelled back to Rwanda in 2010 after 16 years. Although she hadn’t been a media star prior to her return, she was suddenly making so many headlines in western media. The dramatic perspectives immediately introduced her as a mother who tore herself away from her eight-year-old son to travel miles away to a country she hadn’t lived in for almost two decades, to run for the presidency. The lead narrative was that of a “presidential candidate” and “top opposition politician,” even before she submitted her candidature to the electoral commission- which she never did, by the way.

The international media kept the course as she herself didn’t refrain to self-incriminate with public criminal offences. At her arrival, she visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial and publicly requested that a similar memorial should be built for the “Hutu victims of crimes against humanity”. It would be like asking for a memorial for the fallen Germans killed by the Allies during the second world war. This is in Rwanda a crime of genocide denial as it implies a rewriting of history that relegates the Genocide to a “tribal war” with Hutu killing Tutsi but also Tutsi killing Hutu. The theory, invented by the perpetrators and supporters, the “double genocide” theory, which is in fact the denial of the genocide, is the last stage of the ten stages that define genocide.

Meanwhile, the number two in in her party, Joseph Ntawangundi, who accompanied her on her return, was tried and found guilty after he confessed on his participation in the genocide. He had already been sentenced in absentia. Despite his confession, the first one to cry foul when he was arrested was Ingabire. She had said that she and her assistant were targeted by the government for political reasons. She would later get arrested herself a few months later.

During Ingabire’s trial, the prosecution provided evidence of her complicity with anti-Rwanda terror groups from Rwanda’s and Dutch investigation. The evidence, part of which was found at her home in the Netherlands, includes money transfers to FDLR leaders and signed resolutions with the same terrorist group to create a new armed group, with a mission to topple the Rwandan government. She was convicted and sentenced to eight years of prison, but this sentence was increased to fifteen years on appeal.

In 2018 she was granted Presidential Pardon after writing a letter begging for pardon to President Paul Kagame. This pardon was not a unique favour for her alone. She was pardoned with 2,000 other detainees who had asked for the same. In fact, this is an annual presidential prerogative.

Despite the past conviction, Ingabire kept spreading genocide propaganda, but carefully selecting her words to avoid another trial. Besides this, she understood very well that by positioning herself as a political leader, the west would actually believe that. She had a symbiotic relationship with the western media that was desperate of trying to support “democratic” transition in post-genocide Rwanda.

Ingabire has managed to masquerade herself behind local YouTube channels and the western media as a changed woman, but she kept her toxic extremist ideas about Rwanda and its leadership. Since FDU-Inkingi was indicated in the P5 terrorist group operating in DRC by the UN Group of Experts, she renamed it to DALFA-Umurinzi. In reality, the manifesto remains the same as the former and the RDR created in the jungle.

Nevertheless, one fact remains. From the time she had been sentenced for terrorism and genocide denial, she can never be eligible for running for presidency in any lawful country. But opinion leaders and makers are “surprised” that her request for rehabilitation was denied by the court.

The west’s desperation to find alternative leadership for Rwanda leads to their understanding that they are ready to embrace bringing genocide deniers and the re-introduction of genocide ideology in Rwanda’s politics. This would have never happened with Germany until today. Ingabire remains the “de facto” leader of the unrepentant genocidaires that have been evading justice for three decades. Giving her the status of “prominent opposition leader” is de facto embracing the ideology of those genocidaires.

The obsession of term limits and change has pushed western opinion makers to indulge grave criminality like genocide denial and advocate to allow even those who promote genocide ideology as the democratic alternative. Isn’t this pure racism? If the west really thinks a former convict of terrorism and genocide denial is eligible to run for presidency, then let them practice that in their countries. In Rwanda, such a person belongs otherwise in prison.

Albert Rudatsimburwa is a Rwandan journalist and political commentator, focusing on the Great Lakes region for close to 30 years. Picture: Supplied

* Albert Rudatsimburwa is a Rwandan journalist and political commentator, focusing on the Great Lakes region for close to 30 years. He is also vocal about colonial injustices, especially those committed by Belgian colonists towards Rwanda, Burundi, and DR Congo (then Congo-Belge territory). He is based in Rwanda, where he does most of his work.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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