This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Well it seems that the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, is on tour. In the United States, Kagame will soon be hobnobbing with the chronicler of the Holocaust – and silencer of Jewish dissent on Israeli policies toward Palestinians – Elie Wiesel. He’ll also be traveling to Canada.
Misgivings about Kagame are many and growing. You don’t have to be an expert on Rwanda’s domestic politics or its interventionism in the Congo to know a huge problem exists. On Rwanda in the Congo, even the US government has had its say. Nonetheless, Kagame and the Rwandan genocide are being used on the Syrian front. Samantha Power is trumpeting this on her imperial Syrian interventionist prowl.
We have to speak our word on the issues of the day and how we see things evolving. Linking the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and chemical weapons in Syria is a no-no. Academic language just won’t do.
Christopher Black, a barrister on the Counsel List of the International Criminal Court and Counsel of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, is on the Canadian case. In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada, Black demands that Kagame be banned from entering Canada. He also includes a letter of protest now circulating in Canada:
The people of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, hereby represented in all their ethnic and cultural diversity by the Amahoro People’s Congress, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC-Ihuriro) the Forces Democratiques Unifees (FDU-Ikingi) and the Social Party PS Imberakuri, protest the visit to Toronto of Paul Kagame, a war criminal of the first order.
WE PROTEST the visit of a man who has murdered hundreds of thousands of Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda since 1990.
WE PROTEST the presence, in Canada, of a man who has murdered three African heads of state; President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda, and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi in 1994 and President Laurent Desire Kabila, of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) in 2001.
WE PROTEST the mass murder of over 6 million Rwandans and Congolese peoples since 1996 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a mass murder committed by Paul Kagame, in a continuous war waged on behalf of western interests, and with their assistance.
WE PROTEST the Canadian government’s permission for the visit and its shameful support of a man who has crushed any attempt at democracy in Rwanda; of a man who has nothing but contempt for the human, civil and political rights of the Rwandan people, of a man who uses cruel tortures and assassination against those who speak out.
WE PROTEST the protection from prosecution granted him by the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda, which, though in possession of overwhelming evidence of 20 years of mass atrocities committed by Kagame in the Great Lakes region of Africa, have granted him complete immunity from prosecution, and thereby encouraged his crimes.
WE PROTEST AND WE DEMAND that Paul Kagame be charged with war crimes by the ICC, the ICTR and the Canadian government under its claimed universal jurisdiction under the Criminal Code and that the Prime Minister direct his Minister of Public Safety and the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Border Services Agency to immediately arrest Paul Kagame on his entry into the country and direct the Minister of Justice to commence criminal prosecutions against him forthwith.
WE PROTEST AND WE DEMAND that the Sheraton Hotel or any other hotels in Canada, refuse permission for Paul Kagame to stay on their premises and stain their reputation.
THE RWANDAN AND CONGOLESE PEOPLE PROTEST AND DEMAND ACTION AND JUSTICE
NO IMMUNITY FOR MASS MURDERERS!
JUSTICE FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE GREAT LAKES!
JUSTICE FOR AFRICA!
NO MORE DICTATORSHIP OF PAUL KAGAME,
NO MORE WARS
ARREST KAGAME-GIVE US PEACE
No doubt this is a partisan assessment of Kagame. But if only a quarter of this indictment is true Holocaust warning bells should be ringing off the hook. The opposite seems to be the case. Mainstream Jewish leadership is fully on board.
Part of it is ignorance. Africa is of little importance to Jewish leadership. There are more obvious reasons: crank up the US war machine to deal with Syria and Iran to protect Israel. Keep the Palestinian case for freedom on the perpetual back burner.
For years now, the Rwandan genocide has been used to breathe fresh air into Holocaust Remembrance events. About the aftermath in Rwanda, we hear nothing. But, then, when the Holocaust is remembered nothing is said about Israel’s abuse of power either. The memory of suffering is utilized – by being stripped of suffering in the present.
Is Rwanda the Israel of Africa? Rwanda has taken more or less the same post-genocide road as Israel – aggressive militarism under the guise of innocence for past suffering. If we speak the truth about post-Holocaust Israel and post-genocide Rwanda, Holocaust remembrance takes another turn.
Why don’t we face the truth? When even the victims become perpetrators, the darkness we encounter deepens.
Memory should accord the victims of atrocity the only dignity they retain – not to become fodder for more victims. Thus Holocaust Remembrance events should be augmented with analysis of how nations like Israel and Rwanda use the memory of suffering to cause suffering to others. Using this yardstick, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum should add a category to their Holocaust inventory. They should hold empowered Holocaust and genocide victims accountable.
Not in Our Name – “no” to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
Not in Our Name – “no” to instrumentalizing the Holocaust and genocide to enable more injustice.
Not in Our Name – “no” to honoring the Paul Kagame’s of our world.
The attempt to rebrand what is irretrievable, Israel and the Holocaust first and foremost, has failed. But when political leaders like Kagame are brought in to rescue the relevance of the Holocaust and its link to Israel we are somewhere else. We’re beyond irretrievable. We’re driving down Blasphemy Lane.
“No Immunity for Mass Murderers!”
If only that had been the case. Before it was too late.
If only that is the case. Before it is too late.