He­len Ep­stein

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In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front by Judi Rever

In Praise of Blood:

The Crimes of the Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front by Judi Rever.

Ran­dom House Canada, 277 pp., $32.00

The UN’s def­i­ni­tion of geno­cide is not re­stricted to at­tempts to erad­i­cate a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group. It in­cludes “killings...with the in­tent to de­stroy, in whole, or in part, a na­tional, eth­ni­cal, racial or re­li­gious group” (my em­pha­sis). Part One of this ar­ti­cle ex­plored the ev­i­dence pre­sented in Judi Rever’s In Praise of Blood that be­fore, dur­ing, and af­ter the 1994 Rwan­dan geno­cide, Paul Kagame’s Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front (RPF) killed tens, per­haps hun­dreds of thou­sands of in­no­cent Hu­tus. The claim that these killings con­sti­tuted a “par­al­lel geno­cide” has long been dis­missed by many aca­demics and jour­nal­ists, in­clud­ing my­self, as over­state­ment, and even as Hutu pro­pa­ganda. But Rever makes a plau­si­ble case for it.1

Even if these mas­sacres didn’t con­sti­tute geno­cide, it’s worth ask­ing why the fic­tion has per­sisted that Kagame’s RPF res­cued Rwanda from fur­ther geno­cide when much ev­i­dence sug­gests that it ac­tu­ally helped pro­voke it by need­lessly in­vad­ing the coun­try in 1990, mas­sacring Hu­tus, prob­a­bly shoot­ing down the plane of Pres­i­dent Ju­vé­nal Hab­ya­ri­mana in 1994, and fail­ing to move swiftly to stop the geno­cide of the Tut­sis, as Roméo Dal­laire—com­man­der of the UN peace­keep­ing force in Rwanda at the time—sug­gested in his mem­oir Shake Hands with the Devil. The myth of the val­or­ous RPF has for years been re­peated not only in the me­dia but also by of­fi­cials in the Clin­ton, Bush II, and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions. Even those who crit­i­cize Kagame’s re­pres­sive rule in Rwanda to­day praise his ac­tions dur­ing the geno­cide.

The rep­u­ta­tion of the RPF ap­pears to have been shaped by a co­or­di­nated public re­la­tions ef­fort de­signed not just for the ben­e­fit of Kagame but also, as will be ex­plained be­low, to ob­scure Wash­ing­ton’s role in a par­tic­u­larly bloody pe­riod of cen­tral African his­tory, as the Soviet threat was re­ced­ing and a new Is­lamist one seemed to be loom­ing.


RPF has long demon­strated con­sid­er­able skill at de­cep­tion. Ac­cord­ing to de­fec­tors in­ter­viewed by Rever, the group in­cin­er­ated or buried its vic­tims in tightly guarded en­camp­ments of­flim­its to hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors, and re­cruited and trained a cadre of smooth-talk­ing Tutsi tech­nocrats, driv­ers, fix­ers, and other in­for­mal am­bas­sadors who spouted RPF pro­pa­ganda to vis­it­ing jour­nal­ists, tourists, and NGO of­fi­cials. In Jan­uary 1993 rebel op­er­a­tives took an in­ter­na­tional team of hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors on a care­fully guided tour of RPF-held ar­eas in north­ern Rwanda. The in­ves­ti­ga­tors’

1”The Mass Mur­der We Don’t Talk About,” The New York Re­view, June 7, 2018. re­port, which was greeted with much fan­fare, blamed vir­tu­ally all the vi­o­lence on the Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment. Other hu­man rights re­ports deem­pha­sized the eth­ni­cally charged na­ture of the RPF’s crimes, at­tribut­ing them in­stead to “gen­er­al­ized vi­o­lence” and not men­tion­ing that vir­tu­ally all of the RPF’s vic­tims were Hutu. Some hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­nied that the RPF had com­mit­ted any atroc­i­ties at all. RPF de­fec­tors told Rever that the group fur­ther con­fused for­eign ob­servers by killing Tut­sis in “false flag” at­tacks de­signed to both de­mo­nize Hu­tus and es­ca­late the geno­cide.

The RPF has in­tim­i­dated, ab­ducted, or killed those who have at­tempted to re­port on its crimes. It has killed wit­nesses even in for­eign coun­tries, in­clud­ing Seth Sen­dashonga, in­te­rior min­is­ter in the post-geno­cide na­tional unity gov­ern­ment, who was gunned down in Nairobi in 1998, and the for­mer RPF spy chief Pa­trick Karegeya, stran­gled in Jo­han­nes­burg in 2014. This March, Bri­tish po­lice warned the Rwan­dan refugee and for­mer Kagame body­guard No­ble Marara that Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment agents were seek­ing to kill him on Bri­tish soil. Non-Rwan­dans have not been spared. In 1997, ac­cord­ing to an RPF de­fec­tor with di­rect knowl­edge of the events, Kagame’s men killed four UN ob­servers, three Span­ish aid work­ers, and a Cana­dian pri­est who were col­lect­ing ev­i­dence of RPF crimes.

Rever has also been ha­rassed. Bel­gian state se­cu­rity agents in­formed her that they had knowl­edge of threats to her life and gave her body­guards when she trav­eled to Europe to in­ter­view Rwan­dan ex­iles. An un­fa­mil­iar man trailed her through a French train sta­tion; an­other glared at her over break­fast in a ho­tel. A ter­ri­fy­ing an­swer­ing ma­chine mes­sage, which was muf­fled but “sounded African” to her, men­tioned one of her small daugh­ters by name.

While it’s pos­si­ble to see how the RPF man­aged to si­lence or hood­wink some re­porters and hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors, it’s harder to un­der­stand why US gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials per­sisted in paint­ing such a pos­i­tive pic­ture of it. Ac­cord­ing to Rever’s sources, the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion had satel­lite ev­i­dence of mas­sacres in RPF-con­trolled ar­eas dur­ing the geno­cide, and yet US of­fi­cials have sys­tem­at­i­cally down­played RPF crimes against Hu­tus; re­fused to ac­knowl­edge the find­ings of hu­man rights re­ports com­mis­sioned by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, the UN, and other groups; un­der­mined crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions; un­der­es­ti­mated the num­ber of refugees flee­ing the RPF in Zaire; and re­warded Kagame and his erst­while ally Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni of Uganda with bil­lions of dol­lars in for­eign aid. Dur­ing coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in 1997, the RPF barred Amnesty in­ves­ti­ga­tors from in­spect­ing caves where flee­ing Hutu vil­lagers had been mas­sa­cred. But based on in­ter­views with lo­cal wit­nesses, Amnesty es­ti­mated that they con­tained be­tween five and eight thousand bod­ies. David Sheffer, then US am­bas­sador for war crimes, nev­er­the­less con­curred with the RPF that Amnesty’s es­ti­mate was “lu­di­crous” and that all the dead were Hutu mil­i­tants. In a leaked memo quoted by Rever, Sheffer bizarrely bases his es­ti­mate that the caves con­tained only hun­dreds, rather than thou­sands, of bod­ies on the in­ten­sity of the smell em­a­nat­ing from them.

In late 1994 the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil es­tab­lished the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to in­ves­ti­gate crimes com­mit­ted dur­ing the geno­cide. Its in­ves­ti­ga­tors quickly amassed ev­i­dence of atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by both sides. How­ever, in 1997, its first chief pros­e­cu­tor, Louise Ar­bour, shut down in­ves­ti­ga­tions of RPF crimes and con­tin­ued to pur­sue only those com­mit­ted by Hutu géno­cidaires. She gave no rea­son for her de­ci­sion at the time, but in a 2016 in­ter­view she claimed it was due to lack of ca­pac­ity and to the fact that in­ves­ti­gat­ing the RPF was very dan­ger­ous—which it was. In 1999 Ar­bour qui­etly set up a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit (SIU) to col­lect tes­ti­mony and other ev­i­dence about RPF crimes. The re­port of this unit was leaked to Rever, and much of the damn­ing in­for­ma­tion in her book is based on its find­ings.

The ef­forts of Ar­bour’s suc­ces­sor on the ICTR, Carla Del Ponte, to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing the RPF met with fierce op­po­si­tion from the US gov­ern­ment. In her mem­oir, Madame Pros­e­cu­tor: Con­fronta­tions with Hu­man­ity’s Worst Crim­i­nals and the Cul­ture of Im­punity (2009), Del Ponte claims that in 2003 US Am­bas­sador for War Crimes Pierre Pros­per urged her to hand over in­ves­ti­ga­tions of RPF crimes to the RPF­con­trolled Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment it­self. Del Ponte in­sisted that do­ing so would put wit­nesses at risk and re­quested that the Rwan­dans first demon­strate they could han­dle their own pros­e­cu­tions im­par­tially. Pros­per once again pressed his case, and at a gar­den party later that day hinted that her term as chief pros­e­cu­tor on the Rwanda tri­bunal might not be re­newed.

Pros­per, who now works for the Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment on com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion, has dis­puted Del Ponte’s ac­count. But dur­ing their al­leged con­fronta­tion, US Am­bas­sador to Rwanda Mar­garet McMil­lion was draft­ing an agree­ment with Rwanda’s gen­eral pros­e­cu­tor Ger­ald Gahima that would al­low the Rwan­dans them­selves to in­ves­ti­gate “two to three” of the sites where the US had ev­i­dence that “mas­sacres may have been com­mit­ted in 1994 by mem­bers of the Rwan­dese Pa­tri­otic Army.” The agree­ment, reprinted in Rever’s book, states that the ICTR—which is sup­posed to be an in­de­pen­dent UN body but was largely funded and ap­par­ently con­trolled by the US—would not pros­e­cute Kagame or his sol­diers “un­less it is de­ter­mined that the [Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment] in­ves­ti­ga­tion or pros­e­cu­tion was not gen­uine.” Del Ponte was re­moved from the ICTR three months later.

The ICTR con­cluded its work in

2015, hav­ing in­dicted ninety-three

Hu­tus but not a sin­gle mem­ber of the RPF. The Rwan­dan courts did con­vict two RPF cap­tains of a mur­der­ous raid on a sem­i­nary in Gi­tarama in June 1994, but Hu­man Rights Watch di­rec­tor Ken­neth Roth main­tained the trial was a sham. Se­nior RPF com­man­ders who or­dered the killings were never pros­e­cuted, and the Rwan­dan court also de­clined to pur­sue the killings of thou­sands of oth­ers in Gi­tarama in the weeks that fol­lowed. Del Ponte’s re­place­ment, Has­san Jal­low, in­di­cated he was “sat­is­fied that the trial...was car­ried out with due process and in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards of fair trial.”

Ugan­dan pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni has, like Kagame, been por­trayed as a cham­pion of African de­vel­op­ment, de­spite a sim­i­lar record of bru­tal­ity. Since seiz­ing power in 1986, Mu­sev­eni’s se­cu­rity forces have mas­sa­cred count­less vil­lagers across Uganda merely on sus­pi­cion of rebel sym­pa­thies and de­tained, tor­tured, and prob­a­bly killed mem­bers of the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion.

His hench­men have looted bil­lions of dol­lars from the Trea­sury and for­eign aid pro­grams, rigged elec­tions, and com­mit­ted other hu­man rights abuses.

Mu­sev­eni backed the 1990 RPF in­va­sion that even­tu­ally led to the geno­cide. And yet in June 1994, while that geno­cide was still tak­ing place, he was wel­comed at the White House by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser An­thony Lake. Dur­ing that trip, he also ac­cepted a Hu­bert H. Humphrey public ser­vice medal and hon­orary doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Min­nesota. Through­out the 1990s, even as Mu­sev­eni’s troops were ma­raud­ing in Zaire and forc­ing nearly two mil­lion peo­ple in north­ern Uganda into squalid in­tern­ment camps where count­less thou­sands died, West­ern jour­nal­ists show­ered Mu­sev­eni with praise. The New York Times noted that he had been com­pared to Nel­son Man­dela, and the World Bank, whose fund­ing de­ci­sions are strongly in­flu­enced by the US, poured cash into Mu­sev­eni’s cof­fers. To­day, Mu­sev­eni is widely praised for host­ing large num­bers of refugees from South Su­dan, Zaire, and other coun­tries, even though his army is partly re­spon­si­ble for the wars that drove them from their homes.

The si­lence sur­round­ing Kagame’s and Mu­sev­eni’s crimes is both dis­turb­ing and mys­te­ri­ous. Some have sug­gested that Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials did not crit­i­cize Kagame be­cause they felt guilty for not hav­ing in­ter­vened dur­ing the geno­cide, but this can­not be the rea­son. Af­ter all, those same of­fi­cials ap­pear to have helped the RPF, as well as Mu­sev­eni, cover up sim­i­lar crimes. The real ex­pla­na­tion for Wash­ing­ton’s eva­sions is prob­a­bly geostrate­gic and can be traced to the end of the cold war.

As the Soviet threat re­ceded dur­ing the 1980s, a new one emerged. Across the Mid­dle East, South Asia, and North Africa, young men gal­va­nized by Is­lamist politi­cians and re­li­gious lead­ers were join­ing, in ever greater num­bers, such groups as the Mus­lim Brother­hood, Is­lamic Ji­had, Hezbol­lah, and al-Qaeda, which were de­ter­mined to in­stall Is­lamist regimes in Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia, Pales­tine, and else­where. In Uganda’s north­ern neigh­bor Su­dan, the cleric Has­san al-Turabi rose to power along­side army colonel Omar al-Bashir, who over­threw the pre­vi­ous US-backed gov­ern­ment in a coup in 1989. For years Turabi had been hold­ing ral­lies around Khar­toum call­ing for a “real Is­lamic rev­o­lu­tion,” an end to the USbacked mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship of Egyp­tian strong­man Hosni Mubarak, and the break­ing of the Egypt–Is­rael peace deal. Now he was invit­ing Osama bin Laden and other Is­lamist rad­i­cals to use Su­dan as a base for their ac­tiv­i­ties, thus threat­en­ing to turn the coun­try into a “Hol­i­day Inn for ter­ror­ists,” ac­cord­ing to one US diplo­mat. Uganda bor­ders south­ern Su­dan (now in­de­pen­dent South Su­dan), and the US ev­i­dently came to con­sider it an im­por­tant bul­wark against Turabi, Bashir, and their Is­lamist al­lies. It was around this time that Wash­ing­ton ap­pears to have formed a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Mu­sev­eni, who met with Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan three years in a row be­tween 1987 and 1989 and has since had more con­tact with high­level US of­fi­cials than any other liv­ing African leader. Dur­ing the late 1980s, Mu­sev­eni even em­ployed Rea­gan’s son-in-law Den­nis Rev­ell to man­age his public re­la­tions.

Some­time around 1990, Mu­sev­eni be­gan as­sist­ing the Su­danese Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (SPLA), a rebel group com­pris­ing mainly non-Arabs from south­ern Su­dan who had been fight­ing their gov­ern­ment for years be­cause of dis­crim­i­na­tion. Decades ear­lier, Mu­sev­eni and SPLA leader John Garang had be­longed to the same rad­i­cal stu­dent group at the Univer­sity of Dar es Salaam; in 1990 Garang was liv­ing in Kam­pala and meet­ing with US of­fi­cials in var­i­ous east­ern African cap­i­tals. In 1992 US Cus­toms agents in Or­lando, Florida, caught Ugan­dan di­plo­mats smug­gling four hun­dred an­ti­tank mis­siles out of the US, re­port­edly for use by the SPLA. The case was then qui­etly dropped. More US weapons were found in Cyprus two years later, also al­legedly des­tined for SPLA fight­ers via Uganda. Then as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for Africa Her­man Co­hen in­sists that the US didn’t sup­port the SPLA in the early 1990s, but highly placed Ugan­dan and SPLA in­for­mants have told me that it did.

While Mu­sev­eni was se­cretly arm­ing the SPLA, he was also arm­ing both the RPF and a Zairean rebel group known as the AFDL, whose mem­bers had been try­ing for decades to oust Zairean leader Mobutu Sese Seko. Dur­ing the cold war, Mobutu had been Wash­ing­ton’s friend, but the re­la­tion­ship un­rav­eled in the early 1990s. Mobutu, alarmed at the bla­tant ag­gres­sion of Mu­sev­eni and Kagame against his friend and ally, Rwan­dan pres­i­dent Ju­vé­nal Hab­ya­ri­mana, found com­mon cause with Su­dan’s Bashir, who was also fu­ri­ous about Mu­sev­eni’s sup­port for the SPLA. The two lead­ers joined forces in sup­port of var­i­ous anti-Mu­sev­eni and anti-Kagame rebel groups. These in­cluded some 30,000 Hutu mil­i­tants who had fled into Zaire along with roughly two mil­lion oth­ers af­ter the Rwanda geno­cide. The forces op­posed to Kagame and Mu­sev­eni camped out in south­ern Su­dan and in Zaire’s weakly gov­erned east­ern prov­inces—a re­gion home to roughly $24 tril­lion in strate­gic nat­u­ral re­sources, in­clud­ing oil, gold, di­a­monds, and the coltan used in com­puter chips, the value of which was set to soar in the years to come. The prospect that these riches might con­ceiv­ably fall into Su­dan’s sphere of in­flu­ence is most likely what drew Wash­ing­ton onto Mu­sev­eni and Kagame’s side.

In 1996 the RPF in­vaded the Zairean refugee camps and herded most of the Hu­tus back to Rwanda. But hun­dreds of thou­sands fled deeper into Zaire, where, as de­scribed in Part One of this ar­ti­cle, many of them were tracked down by the RPF and killed. Then the AFDL, along with the RPF and the Ugan­dan army, marched west to Zaire’s cap­i­tal, Kin­shasa, de­posed Mobutu, took over the coun­try in May 1997, and re­named it the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo. Af­ter a brief hia­tus, the Congo war re­sumed in 1998 and even­tu­ally claimed at least a mil­lion lives.2

In re­cent years, sev­eral schol­ars have un­cov­ered de­tails about Wash­ing­ton’s in­volve­ment in the in­va­sion of Zaire by Uganda, the AFDL, and the RPF. In July 1994 two hun­dred US Spe­cial Forces troops be­gan train­ing the RPF in marks­man­ship, nav­i­ga­tion, small unit man­age­ment, and other tech­niques that would soon be used to track down and kill flee­ing Hutu refugees in Zaire. The US also gave Rwanda aerial re­con­nais­sance and ra­dio in­tel­li­gence that helped the RPF as­sess the strength and po­si­tions of Mobutu’s army. Rwanda was then un­der an arms em­bargo, but in 1995 the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan trans­fer­ring mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles and other equip­ment to Uganda, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. In the­ory, these trans­fers were to help the three na­tions de­fend them­selves against ter­ror­ist in­cur­sions from Su­dan, but some of the tanks, gre­nades, and other light weapons ended up in Zaire.

Even be­fore the AFDL vic­tory, West­ern di­plo­mats and min­ing com­pa­nies— in­clud­ing Amer­i­can Min­eral Fields, based in Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s home­town of Hope, Arkansas—were al­ready try­ing to stake claims to Congo’s riches. But Lau­rent Ka­bila, an old-fash­ioned Marx­ist who de­clared him­self pres­i­dent af­ter Mobutu fled the coun­try, re­sisted these deals, and even­tu­ally much of Congo’s wealth fell into the hands of a murky net­work of po­lit­i­cally con­nected

2Es­ti­mates of the num­bers killed in the Congo wars range from roughly one mil­lion to over seven mil­lion. Ugan­dan and Rwan­dan traders who have since looted un­told bil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of gold, coltan, tim­ber, ivory, and other pre­cious nat­u­ral re­sources from Congo’s war-torn east. These ex­porters pay no taxes and em­ploy le­gions of im­pov­er­ished ar­ti­sanal min­ers, in­clud­ing chil­dren, to work in dan­ger­ous con­di­tions at star­va­tion wages. This has helped keep global prices of cell­phones, com­put­ers, and jew­elry within rea­son­able lim­its, but at a grotesque hu­man cost.3

The Congo war of­fi­cially raged on un­til 2003, but shad­owy mili­tia groups, some of which have been linked to Uganda and Rwanda, con­tinue to med­dle in east­ern Congo, where mas­sacres are still a fea­ture of ev­ery­day life.

Once the US be­came in­volved with Mu­sev­eni and Kagame, it would have been im­per­a­tive to por­tray those two dic­ta­tors as he­roes. This may ex­plain why US of­fi­cials down­played RPF (and Ugan­dan army) crimes, sup­pressed UN and ICTR re­ports crit­i­cal of the RPF, ne­go­ti­ated a deal to trans­fer pros­e­cu­tion of RPF killings from the po­ten­tially more neu­tral ICTR to the RPF gov­ern­ment it­self, and lav­ished praise and for­eign aid on both Kagame and Mu­sev­eni.

Rever doesn’t ex­plore Su­dan’s po­ten­tial part in Rwanda’s story, or Uganda’s role as a con­duit for clan­des­tine US as­sis­tance to the RPF, SPLA, and AFDL. How­ever, she does note that US Africa pol­icy in the 1990s was driven by Richard Clarke, chair­man of the Counter-Ter­ror­ism Se­cu­rity Group at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil be­tween 1992 and 2003. Clarke and his pro­tégé Su­san Rice, who would help shape Africa pol­icy for both the Clin­ton and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions, were both ve­he­mently op­posed to the Su­dan gov­ern­ment, even af­ter Bashir dis­tanced him­self from Turabi, and even af­ter dozens of in­tel­li­gence re­ports about Su­dan were re­vealed to be false. A few days into the Rwanda geno­cide, Clarke urged the UN to re­move its peace­keep­ers; by the end of April, 90 per­cent of them had left, se­verely lim­it­ing what those who re­mained could do to stop the killings. Rice, Clin­ton’s spe­cial as­sis­tant on Africa, sup­ported the bru­tal Zaire in­va­sion and has long been a stal­wart friend of Mu­sev­eni and Kagame. As Obama’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, she even at­tempted to block a UN re­port link­ing them to Con­golese war­lords re­spon­si­ble for atroc­i­ties.

Rwanda to­day is a na­tion in shock. Kagame, re­lent­lessly at war with his crit­ics, has shut down news­pa­pers and im­pris­oned, tor­tured, and killed his non­vi­o­lent ad­ver­saries. His most

3The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act con­tained a pro­vi­sion to en­sure that min­er­als used by com­pa­nies listed with the US Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion did not source min­er­als from Congo’s con­flict ar­eas. Pres­i­dent Trump was crit­i­cized for sig­nif­i­cantly weak­en­ing Dodd-Frank, in part be­cause of the an­tic­i­pated ef­fects on hu­man rights in Congo. In re­al­ity, the con­flict min­er­als pro­vi­sion of Dodd-Frank was never prop­erly im­ple­mented, and atroc­i­ties con­tin­ued to oc­cur in east­ern Congo. See Tom Bur­gis, “Dodd-Frank’s Mis­ad­ven­tures in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo,” Politico, May 10, 2015, and my “Congo for the Con­golese,” NYR Daily, Fe­bru­ary 19, 2018.

charis­matic po­lit­i­cal chal­lengers, Vic­toire Ingabire and Diane Rwigara, lan­guish be­hind bars. Kagame jus­ti­fies his au­to­cratic rule with the claim that some three mil­lion peo­ple—which would amount to vir­tu­ally ev­ery adult Hutu then in Rwanda—par­tic­i­pated in the geno­cide, and that he is there­fore faced with gov­ern­ing an es­sen­tially crim­i­nal pop­u­la­tion.

More sober aca­demic es­ti­mates sug­gest there may have been roughly 200,000 per­pe­tra­tors of the geno­cide— still an enor­mous num­ber, but only about 7 per­cent of the adult Hutu pop­u­la­tion at the time. Al­most all Tut­sis who died in the geno­cide were killed by a core group of mili­ti­a­men and sol­diers num­ber­ing in the tens of thou­sands. The par­tic­i­pa­tion of even 200,000 peo­ple in geno­cide is shock­ing, but it’s worth not­ing that 93 per­cent of adult Hu­tus didn’t par­tic­i­pate in it at all. Yet their en­tire eth­nic group has been de­mo­nized, de­prived of po­lit­i­cal and civil rights, and sub­jected to cruel hu­man rights abuses by Kagame’s regime. The RPF’s ac­count of the geno­cide, so widely ac­cepted by in­ter­na­tional ob­servers for so long, has thus been dou­bly de­hu­man­iz­ing. It has not only val­orized crim­i­nals; it has also por­trayed mil­lions of in­no­cent Hu­tus as mon­sters, un­de­serv­ing of hu­man dig­nity and even their own his­tory.

—This is the sec­ond of two ar­ti­cles.

Paul Kagame

Hutu refugees ar­riv­ing in Goma from Kisan­gani, Zaire, April 1997

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