Rwandans may have dropped their guard when BBC FM broadcasts were re-admitted on the airwaves of Rwanda.
However, if anybody had the illusion that the head of the BBC Great Lakes section in Kinyarwanda would mend his ways and provide balanced reporting, they should by now have realised that it was just that — an illusion. Ali Yusufu Mugenzi, head of the said section, is never short of subtle ways of inserting his biases in his programmes, especially the Saturday discussion programme, ‘Imvo n’Imvano’. In last Saturday’s programme, for instance, you would have thought that he made an innocent choice when he picked, as discussants, a Congolese, a Burundian and a Rwandan.
Lined up thus, surely these discussants can convince the most sceptical of BBC World Service managers, Mugenzi’s bosses, of their neutrality in presenting the case of the Great Lakes region citizens. D.R. Congo, Burundi and Rwanda are not only central to the region but also know the plight of displacement more than most. Displacement was the topic under discussion, as the panellists were reviewing the African Union (AU) special summit in Kampala of 22nd and 23rd October 2009. The summit adopted the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, an instrument to address the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).For information, Rwanda does not have an internally displaced person on her soil. And, to her credit, she may be the sole country in the world that has gone out to coax her refugees into returning by transporting them to their homes of origin to convince them of their security, and transporting them back, if they so wish. That is how most of her refugees, formerly scattered in different countries, have seen reason and abandoned self-imposed exile.
Today, Rwanda can count no more than sixty thousand of her citizens still unwilling to return. For a country whose population majority was involved in the 1994 genocide, that is a paltry number. Those still clinging to exile include the ringleaders/planners/perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Batutsi and massacres of Bahutu that wiped out a tenth of the population. They are still leading a campaign, in the form of a fast-dwindling force of rebels in the jungles of the D.R. Congo, to conclude their macabre agenda. In exile with these génocidaires and those they sill manage to hold hostage, as a bargaining chip so as to win foreign succour, are a sprinkling of fellows who have committed various crimes. Seeing the threat of being caught by the long arm of the law, this latter group managed to slip through Rwandan borders and went to foreign lands, mostly the West, to proclaim political persecution and access economic crumbs.
These elements apart, therefore, Rwanda is today a haven of refugees from other countries, especially D.R. Congo, rather than an exporter of its citizens. Which unimaginable feat, considering her recent history, Ali Yusufu Mugenzi sought to trivialise and annul by picking a dubious character, probably a génocidaire, to portray the situation in Rwanda.
First, the dubious person, in the names of Aloys Habimana, asserts that Rwandans are fleeing to escape trumped-up charges in gacaca courts.
Yet, we all know, there is global acknowledgement that the innovative and home-grown gacaca court system has fostered unprecedented reconciliation and harmony among the country’s populace. Where the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has only tried fourteen or so authors of the genocide, gacaca courts have not only massively decongested Rwandan prisons but have also seen thousands of prisoners forgiven after confessing their crimes.
Pray, who and where are those fleeing? Next, it is the flowers of Rwanda for the axe! For planting flowers, affirms Habimna with a straight face, Rwandans have no time for their crops and they are fleeing from hunger. Mugenzi counters with a deliberately feeble “but they are earning money” without stating categorically that the flower industry in Rwanda is for the first time blossoming and fetching revenue in exports.
Clearly, both men knew that they were referring to decorative, as opposed to commercial, flower-growing. Which argument, again, sought to denigrate the importance of the now world-famous cleanliness and orderliness of Rwanda.
It is known, however, that in spite of decorating sidewalks with flowers and living in a region ravaged by seasonal hunger bouts, for the last dozen years Rwandans have not experienced hunger, which was the order of the day before that.Still, the mother of the bizarre arguments may have been the one that blamed refugee flight on hunger arising out of commercial coffee-growing. Before 1994, a kilogramme of coffee used to fetch a few cents in exports. For cutting out middlemen and other ‘middle’ costs, government has enabled a Rwandan peasant to earn close to $5 a kilo!
Who says we need to import Mugenzi’s cheap arguments?