By Erasme Rugemintwaza
It is very often difficult to unravel the mystery which surrounds the men of the Church. Their appointment to the most respectful lordships in the world is not, however, devoid of all political implications. The Catholic Church in Central Africa has always been the right arm of the ruling power. In Rwanda, where the public power still bears the tribal label – this is the heritage of the colonialist – the Church has not been able to escape from this danger which has polarized Rwandan society, and which risks gnawing away at the Church. Each regime in place wants at all costs to have the word and the support of these bodies of these learned Shepherds of God. The outings of these lords in public life are very rare, which protects them from criticism. But when they go out, their words are resounding and sometimes make their flock tremble who see inside the cassocks, the man in ordinary clothes, a gentle politician, a soldier or a simple vulgar, who sometimes goes beyond of the unthinkable. The interview given by Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA, Archbishop of Kigali, leaves behind a man whose soft voice barely conceals powerful emotions, worldly resentments and worse yet irrational fanaticism. The world was stunned by his interview. What did he really say to La Croix newspaper? What is his interpretation?
A week after a very convoluted and emotionally charged speech by French President Emmanuel MACRON in Rwanda, a speech which moreover confuses a lot of critics in the analysis of the speech, Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA gave an interview to the newspaper “La Croix”, a daily newspaper of the Catholic Church of France, to deliver what he thought about it. He tackles issues of forgiveness in the context of the genocide of the Tutsi, the charges against Paul Kagame and the fate of genocidal priests. The words are collected by Laurent LARCHER, in Kigali. We hereby propose to analyze it.
• La Croix: What do you think of speech of Emmanuel MACRON?
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: We had no problem with the French, but with France’s policy in our country during Habyarimana regime. This caused tension between our two peoples. Emmanuel MACRON’s speech clarified this point by recognizing the role of his predecessors with those who persecuted us: it is a fundamental gesture.
¨ If we analyze this first tirade of the interview, we notice that Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA positions himself and ranks himself among the victims of the genocide; thus, he declares himself, a survivor of the genocide by “us”. It is not all Rwandans because there was not, for the Tutsi, the Rwandan genocide, there was the genocide against the Tutsi. He declares, without naming them the Hutus, executioners, those who persecuted the Tutsi. Certainly, Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA is a survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi, because God had sent him to Rome for doctoral studies in moral theologies, from 1993-1999. In any case, he should rather overcome his ego, show sublime self-sacrifice. He is called to do this exercise because he is not going to lead the Catholic Church like Kagame leads the state. Kagame has the means of coercion, the gun, while he has only that means of fascination or better of contemplative hypnotization that is the Bible ! The Cardinal must come out of the tribal straitjacket to speak like a true man of God and not like a vulgar eaten up by resentment. He is called to do this exercise of sublime abnegation to go beyond his ethnic group. The whole interview will be marked by this frame of seeing things in an egocentric way, which will lessen the importance of his words.
• La Croix: Do you share his words on the French army, which has nothing to regret about what occurred in Rwanda?
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: We know what the French soldiers did in our country. I myself saw them do identity checks on roadblocks. They thought the Tutsis were RPF infiltrators. We know that Habyarimana’s forces were comforted by their presence, that they did nothing to stop the massacres of Tutsis between 1990 and the start of the genocide, that they left us in the hands of the killers in April 1994; likewise on the hill of Bisesero, on June 27. We know that the genocidaires succeeded to escape through the area they controlled. Obviously, Emmanuel MACRON did not want to anger some French soldiers, what matters is the step he has taken in our direction
¨ Here Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA, becomes a spokesperson or better an activist like any member of an association of genocide survivors. His words would be a little tolerable if they came out of the mouths of Jean Pierre DUSINGIZEMUNGU, Tom NDAHIRO or Jean Damascène BIZIMANA, president of the National Commission against Genocide (CNLG). When he says “they abandoned us”, the Cardinal does not know that he is attracting the antipathy of Hutus who are also survivors of the killings of RPF-Inkotanyi soldiers. He also ignores that his position risks creating a diplomatic incident, because not only does he contradict President MACRON but also, he betrays the resentment that the Tutsi have towards French soldiers, which the president exalts bravery in difficult times. Thus, by its voice, the Catholic Church always accuses France, despite the request for forgiveness at the Gisovu memorial.
• La Croix: Should he ask for forgiveness?
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: He did it in the Rwandan way by expressing compassion for the suffering that has been inflicted on us. By recognizing this, he is in the process of asking for forgiveness from us. It is very important for us that France understands how much we have suffered from the choices she made at home. This understanding is a first step.
“Like many survivors, Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA finds that France has not asked for forgiveness, that it has simply taken a step forward by recognizing its” heavy and overwhelming responsibilities “. France is thus always expected to take the final step, that of kneeling down and saying in clear terms that she asks for forgiveness! Once again, what Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA says, should constitute a private discussion and behind closed doors in his living room, and not a position to be proclaimed out loud because that risks creating confusion and thereby mortgaging Macronian enthusiasm!
• La Croix: What do you mean?
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: President MACRON as well as our president recognized that it was a step. After having recognized the responsibility of France in our drama, after having expressed its compassion for our sufferings, will then come the time to ask our forgiveness. But in my eyes, as in those of many Rwandans, President Macron has delivered the essential message. We can now truly become partners in a peaceful and peaceful spirit.
“Openly, without flinching, Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA declares that France has not yet asked for forgiveness, that there will be a time for that.
• La Croix: 27 years after the genocide, are Rwandan Catholics reconciled among themselves?
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: The Rwandan Church is the image of society. We have done a lot of work of asking for forgiveness between us. It starts with coming to terms with yourself for the wrong you have done. It is not easy to recognize it, there is a lot of inner resistance, we prefer to escape through violence, drugs, alcohol … But we have succeeded in this process, so we are in a position of reconciliation with others. This is the path we took in Rwanda, it on the side of life, reconstruction, the future. We walk the path together.
• La Croix: International NGOs accuse Paul Kagame of violating human rights in his country.
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: Those who say have not taken into account the extent of the genocide against the Tutsi. There are forces outside the country, especially in the diaspora, which have stuck to the ideology of 1994. And they are relays within our society. These forces lead to division, breathe the spirit of violence in a country which has experienced the most extreme violence on a massive scale. Faced with it, one should not be fooled or naive. What outside is called political opposition, on the inside we know that this is the screen for those who want to ethnicize the debate, raise one community against another and terrify the victims of the genocide.
¨ Here Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA, reminds everyone, the measure that should be used to talk about the RPF regime: the genocide of the Tutsis. Genocide then becomes a tool to protect from all evil those who claim to have stopped it. The Cardinal seems to say he same thing as Kagame, when he rejected the Mapping report. This is a formula that has long been used by the RPF-Inkotanyi regime to blackmail the international community and especially the powers that are accused of not wanting to assist people in danger of extinction; but little by little this cheese wears out and thus leaves the tower in which the RPF locked itself translucent: the lie. Many friends of the RPF began to understand that the Genocide was exploited for ends, not social but rather political: to protect the executioner who was seen as a victim.
• La Croix: Do you think Paul Kagame is the biggest criminal in the Great Lakes region?
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: No, he stopped the Genocide, him and him alone. And what the RPF did in Zaire (now DR Congo) was war to prosecute the genocidaires. They had reorganized to attack us. There were civilians with them. They took them on a terrible journey to the heart of the Congolese forest. Many died in this escape.
• But this is in no way genocide as implied by the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Mapping report. It is neither fair nor honest, most of the Rwandan refugees in Zaire have returned home. But those responsible for and involved in the genocide of the Tutsi, their Congolese allies, invented this accusation. It is taken up, sometimes in good faith, by westerners. But they are being exploited by the very people who have an interest in not looking at what they have done here. I invite those who, in good faith, are relaying these accusations to come to Rwanda to notice the reality of our country.
On this point of the massacres committed by the soldiers of the RPF-Inkotanyi, Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA should not dwell on them to realize these “stubborn facts”, reported even by ordinary citizens, and if asked who killed bishops like him in Kabgayi, what would he answer? If he says that the refugees from Zaire have peacefully returned to the country, where is now Bishop NIKWIGIZE Phocas who was with them? These remarks should raise against him the Catholic Hutu community, so bruised by the RPF massacres here in Rwanda, on the Rwandan hills and in the Congolese forests. As Late Kizito Mihigo put it well, in his song “the meaning of death”, the massacres of our families should not make us forget the massacres of others. And moreover, he is a man of God who should not be the cantor of his tribe.
• La Croix: What do you do with priests found guilty of genocide?
• Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: Their case was not provided for in canon law. We have to invent every day to face the consequences of genocide. In this specific case, those who are in prison, there are about five, we ask them to enter into an act of repentance. We check with those who have finished, their sentence whether they are no longer animated by the spirit of the genocide.
• If not, we ask them to lead a life of penance, to pray for their souls and to cooperate with justice. For the others, they are integrated among us but on condition that he keeps a low profile and that they adopt a life of penance.
• La Croix: And those who are in Europe?
Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA: Everyone knows. Here, the attitude of a number of priests who have found refuge in Europe: there are some in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain. It is unthinkable for the communities that host them to see them as genocidaires: They benefit from support and some form of protection. It is true that it is difficult to conceive that a priest could have committed acts of genocide! Everything is difficult to imagine in a genocide. The only thing to wish for is that justice can do its job. Emmanuel MACRON made a commitment on this point at the Kigali Memorial. We cannot wish for anything else.
¨ Thus ends a rave interview with the first Rwandan cardinal who calls for justice to imprison his brothers in the Church while trivializing the “stubborn facts” reported by the Mapping report, simply because it accuses his brothers of Tutsi blood. A fallacy seems to obsess many FRP-Inkotanyi singers: because the Tutsi soldiers have stopped the massacres, ipso facto they cannot commit similar ones!
Thus, the Rwandan Catholic Church is automatically declared a survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi; the “us” that abounds in the interview says a lot. The church is already enlisted, embarked on a diplomatic war to exonerate the regime. Thus, Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA spits on the memory of the Congolese while forgetting or ignoring what such an attitude has earned for his duo Kagame. If Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA spoke in the name of a true Rwandan Catholic Church, he should lower his voice, and think of these Lord Bishops like him, massacred by the RPF he defends, these predecessors killed at Gakurazo who are still buried in a massive grave instead of a sepulcher worthy of their titles.
During his investiture, as Archbishop of Kigali, Cardinal André KAMBANDA publicly settled the dispute between the dispute over the concessions of the Rwandan Catholic Church that his predecessor Bishop Thaddée Ntihinyurwa did not resolve. That day, the whole Christian community gathered in Amahoro, the largest stadium in Rwanda in its investiture, returned, heads bowed without any joy because the new archbishop in good part of the RPF, ceded the two concessions of the Catholic Church in the city. of Kigali: That of Saint Michel parish and that of Kacyiru parish. Here is a good cadre of the RPF, who sees in Kagame, a guardian angel sent to save the Tutsi by killing the Hutus! A true cadre of the RPF, who knows how to gauge and understand and execute what his leader wants. Catholics in Kigali never understand his attitude. He is too enlisted and engaged in RPF politics to hear these flocks!