"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

2.04.2009

everything politicized

Rwandan visitng professor of French Leopold Munyakazi has been removed from the classroom at Goucher College following accusations from Kigali that he participated in the genocide. This decision was taken even though there is apparently very little evidence either way. As Alison des Forges of Human Rights Watch (who knows more about Rwanda than anyone else in America) points out, though, he worked as a professor in Rwanda and got a passport that let him get out, which would be very unlikely to happen if the Kagame government had any legitimate reason to believe Munyakazi was guilty of war crimes. Des Forges thinks there's insufficient evidence against him, and she knows what she's talking about, having served as an expert witness for a number of trials of those accused of directing the genocide. Then again, he was imprisoned without charge for five years after the genocide.

Perhaps more tellingly, the charges were raised shortly after Munyakazi gave a speech that "questioned the Rwandan government's account of the killings."

I know nothing about the facts of this case beyond what's been reported in the press, but I do know Rwanda and the way the government there operates. Let's not mince words: the government headed by Paul Kagame is an authoritarian regime. There's no real political dissent, no free press, and no toleration of anyone whose view deviates from their narrative of the genocide. The government tracks the movement of foreigners within the territory and pays its citizens to report on the doings of outsiders. They have supported and in some cases directed rebel movements in the Congo for more than ten years.

Kagame and his supporters put on a lovely show for the donors and have a very nice narrative of reconciliation and development going, and they've improved the standard of living in the country. But they've done it largely by stealing minerals from the Congolese, suppressing dissent, and fooling lots of donors into thinking they're a democracy and a good global citizen.

Again, I don't know anything about the facts of this case. But I would hope that Goucher College would not make decisions only on the basis of what the government in Kigali claims. You can't take anything Kigali says at face value.

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