Rwanda Untold Story: the case of 48 sufferers of cognitive dissonance

A few weeks after October 1st, 2014, a group of 48 well-learned people, mainly westerners, came out loudly accusing BBC of genocide denial when the global media presented Rwanda Untold Story to the public.

The documentary focuses on the Rwandan genocide. What it labels as untold, is in fact nothing new, but facts related to what happened in 1994 in the small East African country, and which has been deliberately concealed for almost 20 years for political reasons.

It’s not news, but politics. Kept under wrap all those years, their release in their due time could have jeopardized geostrategic interests that Britain and other western nations had and continue having in the Great Lakes region.

The release of information contained in that documentary has served in my view one major purpose: to embarrass the Rwandan president Paul Kagame who has over-abused – by committing numerous crimes against his own citizens and even others in the region – the total backing that Britain and the West in general has provided him with unconditionally since the very beginning.

The mentioned group of mainly learned westerners did not come from ordinary folks like you and me, but a category one would expect most to be knowledgeable about what they can back up publicly, because of their numerous credentials.

Unfortunately, it appears that they have been so much lied to by the Rwandan leadership on what really happened in 1994 and associated themselves with that regime so closely that it has become quite painful for them to accept that they have let themselves be fooled so easily and deeply.

For some, like investigative journalist and professor Linda Melvern, who, for the last two decades, have built their careers on the official narrative of the Rwandan genocide as told by the Rwandan Patriotic Front led by president Paul Kagame, it would be almost suicidal to acknowledge that they rode the wrong horse all that time.

According Frantz Fanon, “Sometime people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that does not fit with the core belief.

Now that the BBC’s editorial complaints unit (ECU) has rejected their claim, the group plans to appeal to the BBC Trust. And it is highly likely that they will receive the same rejection since what the broadcaster produced does not contradict in any way what people experienced and know as first hand witnesses to have happened in 1994 in Rwanda.

What will happen of the group defending today the official narrative of the Rwandan genocide when president Paul Kagame will have been removed from the office he holds today? It would look unwise for these scholars, journalists and historians to appear continuing living under the skin of a cow whose existence is no more there.

Cognitive dissonance might not become their only misfortune. They will lose credibility among their peers. The consequent humiliation for having so much been behind a big lie could ruin their lives forever.

Further reading on the story:

Susan Thompson’s letter to BBC

Christopher Black views on the documentary and those opposing it

Andrew Wallis’ take on the debate raised by the documentary

Dr Charles Kambanda analysis of the issue

Ambrose Nzeyimana

Ambrose Nzeyimana

Political Analyst/ Activist
Organising for Africa, Coordinator
The Rising Continent, Blog editor

London, UK
Email: [email protected]