Rwanda MPs Want BBC Transmission Suspended

Anti-BBC demonstrators march to Parliament Buildings in Kigali where they presented their grievances yesterday. (John Mbanda)
Anti-BBC demonstrators march to Parliament Buildings in Kigali where they presented their grievances yesterday. (John Mbanda)

Rwandan Lawmakers have called on government to suspend the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) transmission in the country over a recent documentary, Rwanda’s Untold Story, which they said is part of a grand plan to deny the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The film that aired on October 1 on BBC 2, features a group of Genocide revisionists and fugitives.

It has roundly been criticised by politicians, scholars and experts from within and outside the country.

Speaking at a charged meeting at Parliament Buildings, on Wednesday, the legislators demanded an official BBC apology and a suspension of all its broadcasting services in the country.

The lawmakers said it was not the first time BBC had blatantly denied the Genocide, citing an incident in 2009 when government suspended BBC radio transmission in the country for airing content that denied Genocide against the Tutsi.

“We all know what happened here and how we were saved by the RPF. We must stand and fight against these deniers. Among the decisions we should consider is taking a legal action against the deniers, be it internally or externally,” said Senate President Bernard Makuza.

“We should as well do consider revising the agreements Rwanda has with BBC. This is an open struggle that cannot be taken lightly and should be taken on by everyone collectively.”

Senator Consolee Uwimana said the BBC twisted facts to tell a false story about Rwanda.

“I was born in a prominent Hutu family; my father was a Member of Parliament before the Genocide. After the killings, we fled to DR Congo (then Zaire) because of the shame we had for what our fellow Hutu had done,” Uwimana said.

She dismissed the narrative of double genocide, saying when she returned to the country and went back to her family home in Northern Province, her relatives were still alive.

“Our family house was the biggest in our neighborhood everyone knew us, if the RPF had killed the Hutu, we would not have survived but we all survived. What BBC says that RPF killed people is a mere fabrication. We won’t succumb to their lies,” she added.

MP Julienne Uwacu equated BBC to Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), a genocidial radio that called on the Hutu to hunt down and kill Tutsi wherever they were (in 1994).

“BBC is just RTLM that changed a name, which makes me wonder why we still have it on air. To be honest, BBC is useless to Rwandans, their intention is one; to take us back to the dark days. We should switch it off completely because they will still change tactics if we just request for their suspension,” she said.

MP Gabriel Semasaka said the BBC is likely to “poison” Rwandans.

“We also need a study in knowing how far BBC content can reach in Rwanda and how damaging it can be,” said Semasaka.

Legal action

MP Jean-Baptiste Rucibigango called for legal action against the producers of the documentary for genocide denial, saying the BBC is not untouchable.

Senator Jean Népomuscène Sindikubwabo, who was a medical doctor during the Genocide in which more than a million people were killed, gave an insight of his encounter with the Rwanda Patriotic Army fighters.

“If they were to kill Hutu, they would have started with those that were in Ruhengeri Prison when they freed those that were held there,” the senator said.

“When I met them in DR Congo after the Genocide, they found me on the street treating a child and asked me to go back home instead. If they were to kill they would have started with the intellectuals and I would be among the first victims to be killed.”

The controversial documentary insinuates that only 200,000 Tutsi were killed in the 100-day Genocide, while the dead Hutu were about 800,000.

“The basis for this figure is disturbing and completely intended to annoy Rwandans, deny the Genocide and shift blame to the victims instead. I wonder if anyone ever bothered to know how many people were thrown in lakes and rivers,” said MP Christine Muhongayire, who was overcome by emotion.

Tom Ndahiro, a genocide scholar, made a presentation to MPs about Genocide denial, referring to research conducted in 2001 that concluded that the number of Tutsi killed in the Genocide were about 1,071,000.

“Producers of this documentary used the approach of moral equivalence where they mixed up figures and end up twisting them to give a wrong view. They also used a system of legitimisation of denial whereby they dwelt on literature and discredited scholars,” said Ndahiro.

He said the BBC used the strategy of “if you can’t convince you can confuse,” explaining that in this scenario, the victim are the youth.

“When you manipulate youth, you manipulate the future,” he said.

THE NEW TIMES

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