Less than a month to the 26th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi marked in April, Rwanda finds itself facing genocide deniers and ideologists yet again.
On March 9, the French Senate hosted authors and historians to discuss “Africa of the Great Lakes, 60 years of tragic instability,” attended by known genocide deniers as guest speakers.
Rwandan Senate president Augustin Iyamuremye wrote a protest letter to the French Senate president, Gérard Larcher, asking him to denounce and cancel the meeting.
In the letter, Mr Iyamuremye argued that several of the speakers have published speeches and books that promote genocide denial and revisionism.
“This conference is a challenge to the resolutions of the UN, as well as judicial decisions rendered by the International Criminal Court on Rwanda, who unequivocally confirmed that the genocide was committed against the Tutsi in 1994. Authorising this conference, in a place as prestigious as the French Senate, seems to us not only as an act of enmity towards Rwandans but also as a provocative gesture for the survivors,” he said.
Slow down progress
“Tolerance for such acts has no other purpose than to slow down the progress of Rwanda in unity and reconciliation. I express the wish that the French Senate French dissociates with this conference which intends to give voice to the revisionists of the Genocide against the Tutsi,” the letter said.
Mr Larcher said although there was pressure to cancel the meeting, the Senate was not directly involved in organising it and that the remarks made there would “in no way be representative of the Senate”.
One of the key speakers, Canadian author Judi Rever, has been accused by Rwanda of revisionism.
Other speakers were Marie Vianney Ndagijimana, a former Rwandan ambassador to France, as well as Hubert Védrine, a former French politician who has toyed with the double genocide ideology.
Rwanda’s ambassador to France Xavier Francois Ngarambe said “The presence of genocide deniers in the temple of French law is unacceptable. It is a violent aggression against Rwanda, the memory of the victims and against the survivors who remain in pain.”
The meeting took place at a time when diplomatic relations between France and Rwanda are thawing, with President Kagame praising President Emmanuel Macron for ushering in “freshness” to the relations.
In 2019, President Macron appointed a commission of experts to investigate the French role in the genocide.
Rwanda’s genocide survivors’ umbrella body, Ibuka, however says the new alliance is fragile and threatened if France continues giving platforms to revisionists.
“The whole world knows what happened in Rwanda, and the UN has documented how it happened and how it was organised. So it does not make sense that a prestigious house like the French Senate can accept to host a cohort of deniers and revisionists. This only undermines the relationship that both countries have been trying to mend over the years,” Naphtal Ahishakiye, Ibuka executive secretary, told The EastAfrican.