An Award-Winning Documentary On Rwanda Censored Off By Its Third

Imagine an author who publishes a book of 240 pages. But once in the public, all booksellers agree to wipe out the content of the last 80 pages, so that any customer who buys it never knows what was in the latter part of the book.

Yvan Patry, Canadian co-director of the documentary “Chronicle of a genocide foretold”, died in 1999, after having received several awards for his cinematographic work. Marie Magdalene Bicamumpaka, describes the story of this documentary, which was censured by those who promoted and continue to advance the ‘victor’ narrative of the Rwandan tragedy. The original article appeared initially in French on Musabyimana site. The following is my translation of the content. The censured part of the documentary is available at the mentioned site, but only in French.

Censored part of the documentary “Chronicle of a genocide foretold” (1996)

Watching the censored part of the overall documentary, one understands the motives which got Seth Sendashonga [former RPF minister of interior affairs] murdered, explanation for the death of Father Andre Sibomana, [former editor of Kinyamateka and human rights activist], or imprisonment of Dr. Theoneste Niyitegeka, [unlucky candidate to the 2003 Rwandan presidential elections].

This documentary of about forty minutes was presented for the first time during the ceremony commemorating Rwanda’s 50 years of independence that took place in Brussels on 1 July 2012.

Many who will read this article and watch the clip will surely be very surprised of not having known about it long before. Indeed, the title “Chronicle of a Genocide Foretold” is familiar to them for many years. It is normal, as this document dates from 1996, hence to view, sort and edit images from an old VHS tape, in order to adapt the content to modern tools of broadcasting, has not been easy.

The director of the original document from which these pictures were taken is a Canadian, Yvan Patry. He died young, at the age of 51, just shortly after the official presentation of his work. Although “Chronicle of a Genocide Foretold” is the main title, in reality it is a compilation of three documentaries made on Rwanda by the same author between 1994 and 1996, namely: Chronicle of a Genocide Foretold, Hand of God and Hand of Devils, Sitting on Volcano.

These films once put together in one document provide a finished product of a remarkable quality of which the series “Chronicle of a Genocide Announced”, itself presented in three parts, is in the pillar. Yvan Patry gave titles and particular description to each of these three sub-series.

Part 1: Blood was flowing like a river. It is the genesis of the genocide in two key regions of Rwanda: Kibuye and Bugesera, with the main conclusion that Rwandans will no longer be the same.

Part 2: We Were Cowards. This part looks at how and why the International Community abandoned Rwandans during those tragic days and delivered them to their executioners, when it decided to withdraw troops of UNAMIR from Rwanda.

Part 3: We feel betrayed. In this part, the director presents a different perspective on the nature of the massacres in Rwanda during the period between 1994 and 1996, when this time as he notes, it’s the Hutu majority who suffers from crimes against humanity committed by the new Rwandan government at the head of which are Tutsi extremists. He concludes the series acknowledging the need for seeking justice in a country where he thinks the road to reconciliation will be long, well, very long.

From the late nineties, we were able to follow on various TV channels around the world, excerpts from Part 1 and Part 2, which sometimes were broadcast-ed in their entirety. This is especially around April of each year as different media program their projection, as in Rwanda to commemorate Icyunamo [Mourning], recognized internationally.

Therefore, one can only be extremely astonished when they discover that more strict censorship, carefully monitored, has been applied on the same documentary for the last 16 years.

Imagine an author who publishes a book of 240 pages. But once out, all booksellers agree to wipe out the content of the last 80 pages, so that any customer who buys it never knows what was in the latter part of the book. That is the conclusion we came to viewing, sorting and editing Yvan Patry’s documentary. Indeed, the film was a success. And it is because of that it won the Chalmers Award for Creativity and Excellence in Canada and the Grand Prize for Best Documentary at Hot Docs in Toronto in 1998.

For all these years, this categorical refusal to let the public be aware of atrocities committed by RPF during this period alone (1994-1996) as it was covered by the author himself, is further evidence that from the outset, the people of Rwanda was deliberately betrayed by the powerful of this world. Until recently, daring to say that RPF, led by General Paul Kagame, had committed crimes on a large scale and that its victims must also be honoured, was considered a crime of great treason for the said “person who stopped genocide “! It’s a fact today that it is partly for this reason that the courageous Ms. Victory Ingabire Umuhoza, chairperson of the opposition political party, FDU-Inkingi, is languishing in Rwandan jails, she and her comrades.

To raise awareness on these barbaric crimes at the attention of the public by disseminating these images, I felt it as a duty. Before his death, Yvan Patry had already made other documentaries and reportages on Africa, Latin America and Asia. He said he did that to shake the general indifference, testify, share and act. But how to testify and shake everybody’s indifference, if distributors/ broadcasters censor a part of an important document like this! The first of those who should be shaken are the very ones who decide that nobody needs to know, preferring to make everyone ignorant, fleeing their responsibilities as well! As if they all ignored that in reality, as Voltaire said: “It is the nature of violent censorship to give credibility views it attacks.”

By taking the time to watch this film reduced to 45 minutes, we pay tribute to his director, Yvan Patry. At the same time, we honour the first category of witnesses who, knowing well they were in danger of being killed, have nevertheless dared. This refers especially here to Father André Sibomana and Mr. Seth Sendashonga, caught up in the killing machine, operating in different ways with such efficiency and cruelty, both within and beyond the borders of our mother-country, in full sight of all, for over two decades already.

At the time this story is highlighted, Rwandan president General Paul Kagame and his regime are pressed against the wall for his persistent interferences in DRC, causing regional instability and all their humanitarian consequences. But we also know that Rwanda under Kagame’s leadership has enormously benefitted from support from countries which have particular interests in the region, reasons for their unconditional assistance in covering up his numerous crimes committed since his forces took power in Rwanda in July 1994.


Marie Madeleine Bicamumpaka

The Rising Continent