Boubacar Boris Diop

This article appears in a collection of essays entitled, Confronting Genocide: Dehumanization, Denial and Strategies for Prevention" edited by Jean-Damascène Gasanabo, David J. Simon & Margee M. Ensign, 2014. Translation from French by Vera Leckie.

Wednesday April 6, 1994. Kigali at nightfall. Above the runway of Grégoire Kayibanda airport, a small aeroplane is preparing to land. It's Juvenal Habyarimana's Falcon 50, a personal gift from François Mitterand, who has also provided the French crew,

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consisting of pilots Jacky Héraud and Jean-Pierre Minaberry, and flight engineer Jean-Michel Perrine. The Rwandan President is returning from Dar-es-Salaam. He went there to attend a regional summit during which his counterparts put pressure on him to implement the peace accords concluded with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) eight months previously. He has indeed been procrastinating a long time, since he is well aware that any form of power-sharing with the people scathingly referred to as Inyenzi, or cockroaches - who are actually the Tutsi of Paul Kagame's politico-military movement - will be greeted with furious hostility from the extremists in his camp.

Besides, he is convinced that he won't be able to control the new 70-member transitional National Assembly and afraid of being held to account for the numerous targeted political assassinations and mass killings committed during his term of office, either on his orders or with his tacit approval, especially since the outbreak of war on October 1, 1990. Habyarimana, at the helm of his country since the coup d'état in July 1973, knows at the moment his plane is getting ready to touch down on Rwandan soil what colossal risks he has taken in Tanzania and that big trouble is awaiting him back home. What he doesn't know is that he only has a few minutes left to live. The first missile is a miss, but the second one, which immediately follows it, transforms the aircraft into a huge fire-ball. Its flames engulf the President of Rwanda, his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira and the rest of the passengers, and are not destined to be extinguished until July 4, the day when General Kagame's forces seize Kigali. It is the cue for what is soon to become known as the Hundred-Days of Rwanda. It doesn't take long to make the chilling calculations: from April 6 till July 4, 1994, between sunrise and sunset on each and every day, ten thousand innocent people were decapitated, tossed into the Nyabarongo - or to dogs suddenly turned into savage and blood-thirsty clones of their masters - machine-gunned, cut up into pieces, raped, burnt alive, buried alive or pushed into septic tanks to the accompaniment of the sarcastic snickering of mothers, fathers and frolicking kids. Even though we are told comparison is not reason - in this field more than in any other - it is difficult to ignore that the cost in human lives of the Genocide of the Tutsi equals eleven months of uninterrupted attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, which means one such attack per day from October 2000 till September 2001. What can the widely differing reactions which the Genocide of the Tutsi and the 3000 dead of the American 9/11 have elicited worldwide possibly mean except that the value of human life is not equal, but depends on whether your country of origin is powerful or poor?

For these reasons it is not surprising that the UN, rather than strengthen their military presence at the onset of the killings, should on the contrary have chosen that precise moment, surely the very worst, to withdraw nine-tenths of their 2,500 peace-keepers from Rwanda. In so doing, they facilitated the implementation of a "Final Solution,” every smallest detail of which was planned by politicians with limited brains and brutal methods. These people were stupid enough to tell their citizens: "Go out into the streets, go up into the hills, go into the houses and cut up all those with your machetes who you think are different from you!"

That's why no historian with a special interest in, but without any preconceived ideological notions about the Rwandan tragedy, has ever been able to find a single excuse for them. But this courageous lucidity is not the main thing the world has taken note of, far from it. The fact is that a number of journalists, writers and politicians, especially of French nationality, only listen to their negrophobia, which may be either of the theorizing or the militant variety, when the topic of conversation turns to Rwanda. It is extremely strange that the views of these instant experts in the Genocide of the Tutsi are often all the more clear-cut the less they know about the subject. I remember for example a clash in a café in Guadalajara in 2007 with a French novelist by the name of Patrick Delville, who was terribly taken aback and even indignant to hear me contest the theory of Habyrimana's assassination by the current Kigali regime. During those exchanges I became aware, without being too surprised, that the good man knew nothing about Rwanda, and that, in reality, that country - where he had never set foot - didn't interest him in any way. Regarding Kagame's culpability on the other hand, there was not the slightest shadow of doubt in his mind. And why would that have been so? One is sad to have to say it: because the plaintiff is a French judge, and white, while the defendant is an African Head of State, and black. This crude form of racism is very clearly what lies at the heart of the denial of the Genocide of the Tutsi by the West. What of the Africans themselves, then? We will get to that later on. The truth is that racism and denial have always walked hand-in-hand. Similarly there can be no denying the existence of the gas chambers except against the background of a deeply anti-Semitic mind set. In the case of Rwanda, we are dealing with the same spontaneous denial of humanity, which is, however, almost always ashamed of itself and inhabits the murkiest corners of the human soul. They are legion, these Western intellectuals who cannot let go of the idea that their Africa, a phantasmagorical Africa, continues to be that paradoxical and enigmatic place, simultaneously gloomy and brimming with light, exalted and somnolent, divided between an unbridled joie de vivre and the deepest, darkest passions. It is a space that invites every kind of tribulation, where everyone comes to shop and then there is no end to the absurdities uttered by one and all while their faces are wearing a learned expression and their sentences are interspersed with long drawn-out sighs and covert giggles.  

Stephen Smith turns Africa into the "natural paradise of cruelty"; the pathetic Pierre Péan, hiding behind some colonial author, sees the Tutsi as a degenerate race due to "the culture of the lie" which is so contagious that on contact, the Hutu have become "liars by impregnation" [sic!]. Not only have these two journalists not been ostracised by their professional bodies for making such scandalous statements, but they have managed to keep their reputation as experts on the Genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda intact. The report commissioned by Trévidic - which gives a lot of credence to the theory that the Hutu Power liquidated Habyarimana in order to make the genocide possible - was a big setback for Smith, Péan and others of their ilk, but that should not make us forget all the sufferings they have been allowed to inflict on the survivors for so long. "Denialism à la Française" - an expression coined by Mehdi Bâ - also exists in a "light" variety, as in the case of the discreet but insidious Jean Hatzfeld. The author of Into the Quick of Life impassively describes horrific atrocities and then suddenly realises that before the end of his trilogy he should maybe say a word or two about the causes of this orgy of hatred. And so Hatzfeld sneakily inserts a chapter into the middle of The Antelope's Strategy entitled "Black Visions of Africa,” a chapter bristling with the same old prejudices about the continent which he himself doesn't even have the courage to own up to.

Boubacar Boris DiopWe also hear a lot about Claudine Vidal and André Guichaoua in the media these days, who are surreptitiously making their colleagues chuckle despite the extreme gravity of the issue.  These two academics have clearly benefitted Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière with their "brilliance,” while the second of the two, Guichaoua, has generously presented us with a large volume ("Rwanda, from War to Genocide") in an ostensibly neutral tone, but primarily written in order to saddle the FPR with the responsibility for the attack on April 6, 1994. Unfortunately for him, that is the weakest part of a book in which he is generally content to reiterate the preposterous statements of Ruzibiza, who occasionally even contradicts the declarations he had made to Bruguière. One finally discovers that the French magistrate who comes across as decidedly well-informed has, throughout his inquiry, made use of what one might call a third, secret "scientific advisor,” the Belgian historian Filip Reyntjens. His role is thrown sharply into relief through the harsh words of Bernard Maingain, one of the lawyers employed by the Rwandan State, and who does not hesitate to exclaim during a press conference: "How come that Judge Bruguière and his team neglected to check the past history and the pursuits of Mr. Filip Reyntjens in Rwanda? How could they overlook that Mr. Filip Reyntjens participated in the drafting of the Constitution which condoned the Rwandan apartheid system during the Habyarimana regime?" Advocate Maingain even goes so far as to hold Reyntjens indirectly responsible for the physical elimination by Habyarimana of well-meaning Rwandan politicians who were involved in discreet negotiations in Belgium with the aim of restoring peace to their country.

It should hardly be necessary to mention at this point a certain advocate from Minnesota or the "work" by the Cameroonian Onana and the Canadian Robin Philpot.

Each one of these authors has added, in one way or another, his little brick to the “denialist” edifice. And yet, were it not for Judge Bruguière, it is unlikely that it would have remained standing. It is bound to be worth taking a look at his biography and his activities. If it is true that nobody ever believed he was infallible, at least he used to be seen as a professional of integrity. Sadly, this judge, who put himself in the dock thanks to a spate of shocking revelations, now looks to us like a rather spineless creature, despicable and full of utterly laughable aspirations in terms of the political and moral underpinnings of his inquiry. Bruguière refused to go to Rwanda himself or to have the fragments of the Falcon 50 examined by experts, and exclusively looked at evidence brought forward by the prosecution. Most notably he enlisted the services of a Rwandan interpreter-translator introduced to him by the infamous ex-police captain Paul Barril, another one of his shady "coaches." Barril, highly versed in every sort of nasty trick, was spotted in Kigali two days before the attack of April 6; after the event, he was seen prowling around the wreckage of the aircraft with the genocide in full swing, and then, at the end of June, in Le Monde and on France 2, he suddenly pulls a fake black box out of his hat. What sort of interpreter could such a dubious individual, incidentally officially on the pay-roll of Habyarimana's widow, possibly have recommended to Bruguière? Well, the one he supplies to him, a certain Fabien Singaye, is an ex-informer of Habyarimana, but also a friend and business associate of Jean-Luc, son of the late dictator and plaintiff in the proceedings; besides, Singaye, a diplomat expelled from Switzerland in 1994 due to his links with the genocidal regime, is the son-in-law of Félicien Kabunga, rightly nicknamed the "banker of the genocide" and living as a refugee in Kenya since the downfall. One can easily imagine how Singaye must have translated the statements of his compatriot Abdul Ruzibiza for Bruguière, who has no knowledge of Kinyarwanda.

At any rate, almost all of Bruguière's witnesses, the whole lot of them contradictory and fantastical, withdrew. In one of my books (Africa beyond the Mirror) I mention the account given by Libération of one of Ruzibiza's hearings. Bruguière threatens to have him thrown out if he doesn't say what he himself wants to hear. The same article also talks about his right to asylum in Norway, that had been arranged for him by the French special services, the very same who helped him slip out of Kampala. And to think that each sentence of his testimony was dictated to him.

In conclusion, there can be absolutely no doubt that Bruguière was biased.  All that remains to do now is to understand his motives. The dispatches on WikiLeaks help to at least get a vague idea. Among other interesting details one can find there, there is a transcript of his conversations with diplomats at the American Embassy in Paris. In particular, he tells them he has carried out his entire inquiry on Rwanda in cooperation with the Elysée Palace - during the Chirac era - and then adds that he is absolutely determined to chastise Paul Kagame, who is a bit too pro-American for his taste. The judge, who is a patriot, is loath to accept the fact that France has been accused of being so unequivocally on the side of the genocidaires.

He was definitely in a confessional mood on that particular day when, in the Avenue Gabriel in the 8th arrondissement, he talked about his hopes for a seat in the Palais Bourbon and then declared that, all things considered, his ultimate dream was to be made the French Minister of Justice. All this is beyond belief but we have it in writing, in black and white, from the most trustworthy source possible.

Reading these ultra-confidential diplomatic reports has the further merit of refreshing our memory. We suddenly remember Chirac's promises of ministerial office to the judge, but also the political ambitions, openly displayed by the latter. Didn't Bruguière actually stand in the June 2007 elections as a UMP candidate for Lot-et-Garonne? Unsuccessfully, of course. A weird guy, this Bruguière. Despised by all, he was neither made a deputy nor a minister and with even less success did he manage to turn Paul Kagame into a pariah. What must such a man think of himself on his death-bed? Well, it is extremely likely that Bruguière, used as he is to sensitive issues, doesn't worry too much about those small little dents in his self-esteem. He was in charge of the affair of the monks in Tibérine and the attack in Karachi in which 11 French citizens lost their lives in 2002. It seems that that occasion earned him an unflattering sort of notoriety since, according to the daily Libération of June 16, 2010, he had been "accused of false testimony and obstructing the course of justice by the victims' families, who were represented by advocate Olivier Morice." Bruguière had simply made the autopsy report, which would have weakened the official line of the French State, disappear. He should have been sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for the first main allegation and to 3 years for the second one, but according to certain sources the charges were permanently set aside on the grounds of his judicial immunity.

This is the man who poked fun at an entire country with almost universal approval from the world around him, and whose actions weigh heavily on the narrative of the last genocide of the twentieth century. It is true to say that Bruguière has above all insulted the memory of those who suffered torture in Rwanda by giving credence to the idea that they were responsible for their own destruction and that, as such, they do not really deserve compassion. After two decades of lies, the labour of mourning can at last begin, quietly and peacefully, for the survivors. It has been a long time coming, but it isn't hollow, either.

When one gets to the famous "Never Again,” the required vigilance must go beyond the crime itself, and must touch on each constituent element of the cycle of genocide. That makes it imperative to find out how such a gross aberration was able to prosper for almost twenty years.

Up to now, everything hinged upon the theory of a spontaneous outburst of rage among the Hutu masses following the death of their leader, but the situation has changed radically. Since the publication of the Trevidic Report, no one dares to put forward such an argument anymore.  It has plunged certain tabloid analysts into deep distress, and some of them have now been reduced to suggest, like Christophe Boisbouvier of the RFI, that an FPR commando could, after all, have infiltrated Kanombe camp, lain in wait there for the Falcon 50 for several hours, done the job and disappeared - without trace - into the surrounding countryside! It's obvious that nobody has taken the trouble of refuting such an utterly puerile theory.

At any rate, to explain the genocide with a simple assassination attempt is as good as a formal admission of guilt; no comment necessary. It's true that the crime was so abominable that it would have been pointless to try to deny outright that it actually happened. So, one had to use every possible excuse. But you have to have completely run out of arguments or be quasi-insane to have the temerity to declare in front of the whole world: "Sorry, we have killed one million Tutsis because their leader provoked us by assassinating our president."

More worrying than anything else, however, is the fact that so many African intellectuals have seemingly swallowed this line of argument, either explicitly or implicitly. The times we live in are certainly bizarre. These days it suffices for someone, no matter who, to attribute the worst monstrosities to an African political leader of his choice, and immediately a motley crew of leader writers and other "thinkers,” from Dakar to Maputo, start screaming 'down with the brutal dictator!' Why this unwillingness to evaluate, on a case-by-case basis, the available political facts, before turning it all into personal dogma? Such a lack of desire for proof in the case of a subject as serious as the Genocide of the Tutsi of Rwanda has a lot to do with the concept of self-hatred. If it hadn't been for the tenacity and force of character of Paul Kagame, we would still be trying to accuse him of masterminding the genocide despite the fact that it was actually he and he alone who put an end to it, and definitely not those who are endlessly sermonizing, some of whom were in cahoots with the killers. And yet this doesn't mean Kagame has won the game, for his enemies' fairy tales were pre-validated by the bad reputation of African politicians who are seen as cruel, irrelevant and trivial by definition.

That is why no more than a few little touches were required to turn the chief of the Rwandan Patriotic Front into the picture of the typical African tyrant, and that was that: you cannot fight against an image with words. Negrophobia, already mentioned above, and afro-pessimism, share the same bed, if one may put it like that, and they comfort each other. It is so important to take the facts into account, so that no one can prima facie be pronounced guilty or innocent. Our judgement must be guided by actual events, or at least by what we are able to know about them.

In that respect, Rwanda is a case in point. Paul Kagame was all the less likely to be judged equitably by his African brothers since the charges against him were amplified by Western intellectuals whose views, no matter how delirious, are always put on a pedestal. And yet, Bruguière would never have been mentioned with a single syllable if, even just in Africa alone, his personal file had been checked with a fine-tooth comb by the judges, the journalists and the historians. He is an unknown entity, and, being perfectly aware of it, the judge wouldn't have risked getting involved in such scandalous schemes. Surely he would have understood all by himself that he had to watch his step. Which, then, are the historically established facts in this inquiry that deserve to be taken into consideration?

In the first instance, the Hutu extremists gave themselves away so often that there was no need for a commission of experts to prove their responsibility for the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana. Then it is also necessary to say that they had a run of bad luck from the very first moment: the Rwandan President's plane crashed in the garden of his own residence, forcibly under the protection of his presidential guard. This simple quirk of fate renders all the suppositions about the black box of the Falcon 50 futile although the search for it was apparently still ongoing eighteen years later. Who is really so stupid as to believe that it is easier to locate the black box of the AF 447 Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean than to pick up the one belonging to an aircraft that has dropped into a small garden in Kigali? In all likelihood, those who engineered this genocide and their allies will either have destroyed this contraption, or are still hiding it, since it would have quickly exposed them. Let us remember that one of the first people to arrive at the site of the crash was a commander by the name of Grégoire de Saint Quentin. He was promoted to the rank of general and is today the patron of the French forces based at Dakar.  The Independence and Labour Party (Parti de l'Indépendance et du Travail [PIT]) is the only body in the whole of Senegal to have shown concern over the presence of an officer on our soil who is strongly suspected of collusion with the Rwandan genocidaires.

Under normal circumstances, the far-fetched testimonies of Bruguière's witnesses, already mentioned above, would have sufficed, in themselves, to ruin his line of argument.

For instance, one of them made the claim that Rose Kabuye had put up three members of the commando unit in her room at the CND, the former transitional parliament. Judge Bruguière did not even find it necessary to check whether the room in question was big enough for that, something Judges Tredivic and Poux would do in 2010. Another witness, Ruzibiza, the author of the tome embellished with a preface by academic Claudine Vidal (CNRS/EHESS) and a postscript by Guichaoua - would you believe it! - gave a detailed description of the manner in which the attack was carried out in order to convince the judge once and for all of his personal participation. When someone admits so spontaneously to having helped to bring about the death of twelve people, including two heads of government in office and three French citizens, ought one not at least make sure he remains within reach of the arm of the Law? Oh well, that is obviously not what Bruguière thought as he allowed him to leave again, without let or hindrance, and to travel to Norway.

If there is one genocide where the masterminds and their minions have committed their acts in the full light of day, it has to be the one of the Tutsi of Rwanda in 1994.
From articles by Hassan Ngeze in Kangura to the inflammatory programmes broadcast by the radio-television channel Mille Collines (Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines [RTLM]), the killers never shied away from articulating their strategy of annihilation of the Tutsi very clearly. Léon Mugesera suspects the crowd of being half-hearted, so on November 22, 1992, about seventeen months prior to the attack on April 6, he asks them: "Why are those parents who have sent their children not arrested, and why are we not exterminating them? Why are we not arresting those who bring them and why are we not exterminating them all? Are we perhaps waiting for them to come and exterminate us?" And then he adds: "The person whose throat you don't cut will be the one who is going to cut yours." Mugesera, who was extradited by Canada to Rwanda last week, was even more outspoken when, during his tirade, he encouraged his supporters to throw the Tutsis' bodies into the waters of the Nyabarongo. And as we all know, that is exactly what happened - how could one forget the horrific images of tens of thousands of dead bodies floating in that very river?

Further proof that this genocide was premeditated is the desertion of the famous "Jean-Pierre" after he is charged with having trained the President's own killer militias, the Interahamwe. When he realizes that what is about to happen is totally mad, he decides to secretly inform the Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, Commander of the Minuar (United Nations Mission for Assistance to Rwanda). In January 1994, he lets him know that his men have been specifically trained to, when the time comes, eliminate 1,000 Tutsis every twenty minutes, and he also indicates to him precisely the places where the weapons have been stored that are supposed to be distributed among the population on Day X. General Dallaire immediately plans to mount an operation in order to dismantle the arms caches but is summarily prevented from doing so by his United Nations bosses, including Kofi Annan, who, on the contrary, issue him with the downright surrealistic directive to share his information with the Rwandan President.

Equally we know that the massacres started, in keeping with a precise agenda, with the elimination of thousands of moderate Hutu politicians. The latter had already paid a heavy price when, between 1990 and 1994, they had to yield to the determination of the hardliners of the Habyarimana regime, the Hutu Power, to get rid of the Tutsi and their putative Hutu accomplices, the Ibiyitso.

The genocide definitely did not break out from one minute to the next, and the following evocative image speaks for itself: a peasant who is holding his machete in his right hand, the transistor radio glued to his left ear. He is listening attentively to the instructions by the coordinators of the killings, Simon Bikindi's racist music that plays interminably gives him courage for the job, he hears the RTLM announcers indicating the spots where there is the greatest concentration of Tutsi to eliminate, but also the areas one has to get to fast to "get to work,” because many potential victims are busy trying to cross the borders there, to Burundi or to Tanzania for example.

And, last but not least, what I think is absolutely essential: the Genocide of the Tutsi of Rwanda did not start a few hours after the attack of April 6, 1994, but thirty five years earlier, on November 1, 1959, to be exact. This initial massacre is called the "Rwandan All Saints Day,” in analogy to the "Algerian All Saints Day,” where the FLN launched its armed struggle on November 1, 1954. We must remember that in Rwanda, from that fateful day onwards, the Tutsi were never allowed to live in peace again. They were systematically marginalised on the basis of their supposed ethnicity and killed by the thousands or tens of thousands under the flimsiest of pretexts.

That's when, in 1964, Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, initiator of the "Tribunals against the Vietnam War" and an authoritative moral voice of his time, set the alarm bells ringing and unequivocally described the occurrences in Rwanda as "the most appalling and methodical massacres perpetrated by humankind that we have witnessed since the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis." Equally, and in spite of the proven participation of so many clerics in the 1994 genocide, we must remember that, also during the sixties, Radio Vatican uses the same word - genocide - to describe the anti-Tutsi killings in Rwanda. The pogroms in Bugesera and among the Bagogwe between 1990 and 1994 were blindingly obvious precursory signs showing the determination of the Hutu extremists to go all the way with their plan to exterminate an entire section of their country's population.

And just to say it again, it is incomprehensible that, considering all of the above, Rwanda should have had to face the gigantic machinery of denial in such abject isolation.
The lack of solidarity from the other African countries was already apparent when, on the occasion of its June 1994 summit in Tunis, right in the middle of the genocide, the Organisation of African Unity did not even find it necessary to put the matter on its agenda. And today, we have to accept the fact, which can only fill us with bitterness and regret, that it was a judge of French nationality, Jean-Louis Bruguière, who unjustly tarnished the reputation of the regime in Kigali and that it was two other French judges with more honesty and integrity, Marc Trevidic and Nathalie Poux, who put things right again.

Has our continent learnt any lessons from this? Nothing is less certain. At its press conferences in Dakar that are regularly held under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (RADDHO), the "Union of Rwandan Nationals in Senegal" (URRS) clearly demonstrates - while claiming to work for reconciliation - how pernicious denial and division really are. Such a level of complacency is hard to explain. One might argue that these and other places like them are a haven for the voiceless. However, to use that as an excuse would be too easy, since the speeches that were given there a few days ago had rather militant overtones.  When, on January 25, 2012, RADDHO was hosting the umpteenth press conference for the URRS, the former actually took it upon themselves, in an even more radical and grotesque manner than their guests, to re-write Rwanda's recent political history. It was particularly interesting to hear their representative extolling the Bruguière inquiry and peremptorily stating that the investigative report commissioned by judges Trevidic and Poux had definitely come out of the Elysée Palace, in the name of the diplomatic rapprochement between France and Rwanda. As for the government opponent Victoire Ingabire, who is currently being prosecuted in Rwanda for “denialism,” divisiveness and supporting the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) - a totally lawless armed rebellion and legacy of the sinister Interahamwe - , the same speaker presented her as a genuinely courageous opponent who has been detained "arbitrarily,” which is to say without justification.

All this makes you wonder.

The RADDHO is very well aware that Victoire Ingabire is nothing but a political figurehead intended to lend the FDLR a veneer of respectability, while its executive secretary Callixte Mbarushimana, despite having been acquitted by the International Criminal Court, remains accused of genocide in France where he is under a probation order.
One would have preferred to hear the RADDHO issuing a statement about Leon Mugesera who remains in the news or about the fact that a growing number of genocidaires are now fleeing from America and Europe for fear of being extradited to Rwanda, and are coming to look for refuge in African, preferably Francophone countries. They feel safer there than anywhere else on earth, and that cannot be a coincidence. Rather, it indicates a major turning point, calling for calm and rational public debate about RADDHO's point of view. The topics up for discussion are of the gravest importance, and a great deal is at stake. On November 27, 2001, Aloys Simba, aka "the Butcher of Murambi,” was arrested right here, in Senegal. He became one of the characters in my novel after I kept coming across his name during my research on the well-known massacre at the Technical College of Murambi, where he put to death at least 45,000 Tutsis in a few days. Well, I was hardly surprised to find that Simba was quietly living in Thiès, looked after by a Human Rights organisation, other than RADDHO, I hasten to add. Without the urgent petition by Carla del Ponte, the former Public Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, he would no doubt still be there, taking it easy. Shouldn't this be food for thought for all of us?

Quite apart from the sheer extent of its atrocities, the Genocide of the Tutsi of Rwanda has been the most significant political event of the twentieth century for Africa, a veritable "historical fracture,” and it is simply not permissible to treat it with this insufferable insincerity. This is even less acceptable at a point in time when “denialism” is otherwise at bay. If it is indeed true, as the historian Hélène Dumas and the political scientist Etienne Smith have reminded us, that judges do not write the history books, these recent judicial developments will affect the way we will look at the Hundred-Days in Rwanda, turning it inside out. Every one of us has the duty to keep these developments in mind so that the killers, so nimble in their ability to disguise themselves as victims, lose all desire to repeat this; and also to prevent other politicians, elsewhere on the continent, from following their disastrous example.

Boubacar Boris Diop (born 1946 in Dakar) is a Senegalese novelist, journalist and screenwriter. Diop’s career to date includes six novels in French and one in Wolof, screenplays and plays, several essays and an opera, Leena. His best known work, Murambi: The Book of Bones, is the fictional account of a notorious massacre during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and was considered among the 100 best African novels of the twentieth century in a list established by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. Diop has been awarded prestigious literary prizes in Senegal and France for his novels Les tambours de la mémoire and Le cavalier et son ombre. He is also the founder of Sol, an independent newspaper in Senegal.

Image via erichon / Shutterstock.com

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