Kigali, 6th February 2020 - Today 3 undergraduate students from the School for International Training (SIT) Study Abroad Program, along with one faculty member, visited the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG). The students came to learn more about the role of CNLG in preserving the memory of genocide and fighting against genocide ideology and denial.
Today’s speaker was Dr Diogène Bideri, Principal Legal Advisor at the CNLG.
The presentation began with an introduction of CNLG’s history and mission, followed by conversation about the differences between war and genocide. Dr Bideri explained the preparation of commemoration, which is highlighting the importance of memory, and especially the role of youth in commemoration and memory.
Dr Bideri discussed the history, language and culture in Rwanda before and after colonialism, which provides important context to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, as well as the decades of prior violence against the Tutsi. He explained the “divide and rule” policy of the Belgians that has been present in their own society and how it was used in Rwanda from the 1930s on.
Dr Bideri stressed the importance of understanding that Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa all shared the same language, religion, communities and culture. These terms existed prior to colonialism and were based on their role in society; the Twa were hunters, Tutsi raised cattle, and Hutu were farmers. It wasn’t until they were separated and told they were different that they started to believe it.
Dr Bideri’s presentation also spent time on actions taken by the Rwandan government from 1990-1994 that were indicators that something was going to happen. In 1993, the government purchased 581 tons of machetes from China, which added to the major store of weapons and ammunition they had been stockpiling since 1990.
As the students are studying international humanitarian law, standards and policies, Dr Bideri spent quite a bit of time on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and Gacaca. He explained to the students the reason there were so many cases brought before Gacaca Courts.
Prevention and education were also of great interest to the students. Dr Bideri explained how to recognize genocide ideology and gave examples of Rwandans who have been tried and convicted for this crime. In closing, he reminded that fighting genocide ideology can’t be solved in one generation, but will take multiple generations.