Ahead of the Commemoration of the 27th Anniversary of the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda (Kwibuka 27) We publish here an extract from a thought piece by Noam Schimmel on “A Postcolonial Reflection on the Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsi and its Legacy.”
Belgian colonial authorities depicted Tutsis as foreign to Rwanda. As a consequence of this perverse notion that Tutsis are not genuinely Banyarwanda, and are somehow ‘less Rwandan’ than their Hutu and Twa co-citizens because of their purported skin color, height, and facial features, Tutsis suffered discrimination, resentment, and persecution as a result of this Belgian defamation and othering. During the genocide, thousands of Tutsis who were slaughtered had their bodies dumped into the Nyabarongo River. Hutu supremacists would say in the midst of the killing of Tutsis beside the Nyabarongo River that in this way Tutsis would forcibly be returned by the flow of the river to Ethiopia, the foreign country from which the Belgian colonizers claimed Tutsis hailed. Hutu supremacists had internalized Belgian racism and fueled it with genocidal hatred and intent and a seething, sadistic, violent resentment.
As Scholastique Mukasonga writes of the Belgian colonizers in Rwanda, “The Bazungu had unleashed all the insatiable monsters of nightmares on the Tutsis. They held up the distorting mirrors of their untruths, and in the name of their science and their religion, we were made to see ourselves in the malevolent double their fantasies had given birth to… those words would bring death to so many of us.”
It was the Belgian government and the United Nations and their mutual perfidiousness in 1994 that enabled the slaughter of more than two thousand Tutsis at the ETO – Ecole Technique Officiale in Kigali willfully and deliberately, and with full knowledge of the consequences of withdrawing their soldiers during the genocide and leaving the Tutsis to the machetes of the Interahamwe and to certain death as they were marched to Nyanza and massacred there. It is the Belgian government today that has yet to be held legally to account for this complicity, which Belgian courts have whitewashed in an example of the legal and moral corruption of Belgium’s courts and their complicity in the Belgian’s government’s enabling of the genocide against the Tutsi. Belgium harbors and protects genocidaires within its borders and enables their impunity and as such violates the 1948 Convention on the Crime and Punishment of Genocide.
Today there is a memorial garden of peace in Nyanza. But there is no peace there, because the Belgian government denies Rwanda’s genocide survivors justice and has denied its role in that massacre and defended its actions. While Rwanda honors the memory of the Belgian peacekeepers savagely murdered by the Hutu supremacist genocidal regime with a dignified memorial, Belgium shows contempt for Rwanda’s genocide survivors in refusing them justice.