I have to admit that I have mixed reactions when reading this from Stephen Kinzer's article on Paul Kagame and his efforts to advance the reconciliation in Rwanda after the genocide:
Kagame's government has passed laws against disseminating "genocide ideology", meaning views that could inflame communal hatreds. People are supposed to describe themselves only as Rwandan, never as Hutu or Tutsi. Kagame claims these laws are necessary to keep Rwanda back from the abyss of violence. If he enforces them during the political campaign, though, critics will accuse him of suppressing free speech.
Last month, a Rwandan-born businesswoman who has spent more than a decade in the Netherlands, Victoire Ingabire, arrived in Rwanda and announced that she was a candidate for president. Her party is based abroad and not recognised in Rwanda. According to a UN report (in French), she is supported by leaders of the principal Hutu insurgent group, which is among factions terrorising the eastern Congo.
Ingabire's first statements after landing in Rwanda were thinly veiled appeals for Hutu solidarity. "There is no shame in saying I am Hutu or am Tutsi; there's nothing wrong with that," she told one interviewer.
Appealing to ethnic identity this way is illegal. The official press launched a sharp campaign against Ingabire, and her campaign group has been attacked at least once. She has been interrogated by police and warned that she will be arrested if she continues preaching "genocide ideology". Amnesty International responded by accusing the government of "intimidation and harassment".
Nonsense, replies President Kagame. He believes western human rights activists underestimate the prospects for a new outbreak of ethnic violence in Rwanda, as well as the danger of allowing ethnically charged speech. "We've lived this life," he said angrily at a news conference. "We've lived the consequences. So we understand it better than anyone from anywhere else."
I am torn for two reasons. I believe that Kagame is right and that the priority had to be on making sure that history didn't repeat itself and that therefore no fighting words lighted up the poudrière. However, I also realize that those are short-term measures which may lead to cover old wounds without leading to healing. I wonder whether it is possible to have reconciliation based solely on the victims' terms especially when they are still a minority as the Tutsis are in Rwanda. I worry about what is going to happen not only really after Kagame, but in more than twenty years for now when it would be less difficult for too many with a tenacious sense of resentment and entitlement not just to deny the severity of the genocide, but to deny its very existence.