The BBC Must Be Congratulated For Launching Scrutiny With “Rwanda’s Untold Story”

Paul Kagame– wants only the victor’s side of the story to be heard

[Commentary: Open Letter to the BBC]

The letter objecting to the BBC documentary “Rwanda’s Untold Story” signed by a list of formerly credible academics and public figures reveals​ their inability to accept the fact that, after any major conflict the “victor’s tale” is not completely accurate, and that is particularly the case for the four-year war for power in Rwanda the last 100 days ​of which ​is called “the Rwanda genocide.”

This is a lesson taught to those of us in the U.S. ​who remember Vietnam by Robert S. McNamara in another documentary “The Fog of War” about another war built on half-truths​.

He also noted that​, had the Japanese won WWII, he and others who planned the gasoline bombing of Tokyo would be the war criminals. It is quite amazing that “the myths of the victors” continue to be so easy to swallow — initially. It is as if the signers of the letter seeking to suppress journalism have suspended disbelief despite what ​even the British must remember about the Weapons of Mass Destruction.

​But, the signatories are sticking to the Kagame/RPF victors’ saga long after the lack of evidence to support the “myth” has been exposed and contemporaneous data reported by third parties present in Rwanda has begun to create a new narrative. The notables signing the letter have to ignore written judgments entered by the UN Tribunal for Rwanda, after Trial Chambers heard the best evidence the Rwandan government could muster for more than a decade, on exactly the same three issues raised in the letter, the UN Tribunal rejected all three.

Here are the facts:

First, IF there was any evidence to support the assertion that “30,000 interahamwe were trained as killers,” it was not introduced by the Prosecution as evidence in the trials of the government or military leaders of the Habyarimana government. The proponents of the letter cite no source. In fact, the leaders of the government and military were acquitted of planning, conspiring, training, organizing, preparing, or any other sort of “planification” of any criminal acts against Tutsi civilians at all, prior to the assassination of President Habyarimana in the April 6, 1994 shootdown of the President’s plane.

This means that there was no evidence of planning to shoot down the President’s plane by his own forces, either. This is what Trial Chamber-​found in the Bagosora Trial, Military-1:

When viewed against the backdrop of targeted killings and massive slaughter perpetrated by civilian and assailants between April and July 1994 as well as earlier cycles of violence, it is understandable why for many this evidence…shows a prior conspiracy to commit genocide….However, they are also consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle…when confronted with circumstantial evidence [the Chamber] can only convict where it is the only reasonable inference…the Prosecution has not shown that the only reasonable inference based on credible evidence…was that [genocidal] intention was shared by the Accused.

…the Chamber is not satisfied that the Prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the four Accused conspired among themselves, or with others to commit genocide before it unfolded on 7 April 1994. (emphasis added)

Second, according to ​the letter’s signatory ​Gen. Dallaire, in his ​own​ Sept 1993 Reconnaissance Report to the Security Council, the RPF reported the total number of Tutsi in Rwanda was about 667,000, a number which the RPF did not consider an undercount in a UN estimate pre-Genocide. (see p. 30).

After July 1994, IBUKA, the RPF survivors organization estimated 300,000 Tutsi survived in Rwanda. This means that according to contemporaneous numbers from the RPF ​via Gen. Dallaire​, total Tutsi deaths must have been a blood-chilling 337,000 and even less than Davenport and Stam estimate and means even more Hutu deaths would be required to reach 800,000 to 1,000,000 total or some 460,000 to 660,000 Hutus. Please take note: these numbers come from General Dallaire and the RPF. (Moreover, Gen. Dallaire has been a Kagame admirer for a long time, as far back as 1994 telling The New York Times, “He is absolutely brilliant,” and “He has an exceptionally disciplined mind.”)

Third, the shooting down of the plane was the conclusion reached in 1997 the elite International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Prosecutor’s Investigative Team by: Michael Hourigan, Australian Queen’s Prosecutor; frmr. FBI Special Agent, James Lyons; Gen. Dallaires Chief Mil. Int. Ofcr. Col. Amadou Deme; Chief ICTR Prosecutor Carla del Ponte; French Investigating Judge Bruggiere; Spanish Investigating Judge Merelles; the subject of confessions by frmr Kagame Chiefs of Staff Theogene Rudesingwa, M.D.; Gen. Rudesingwa; Lt. Joshua Abdul Rusebiza(ICTR testimony); Lt. Ruyenzi; and supported by ICTR testimony from eyewitnesses including Fr. Col. DeSanQuentin in Kanombe Base and first at the crash site with Maj. Ntabakuze on April 6, 1004.All of the above is documented in the film, in documents cited in my book “The Accidental Genocide,” or in the evidence and transcripts at the ICTR.

Davenport, Stam and Reyntjens were all Prosecution witnesses, not defense witnesses, who stopped being called by the Prosecution as their conclusions began to contradict the RPF myths. Interahamwe leaders…witnesses A and BY in the Military-1 Trial both testified as Prosecution witnesses after guilty pleas in Belgium and both claimed to be trained ONLY as self-defense forces. This evidence is IN the ICTR record. Please confirm the assertion.

Please read the Trevidic Report, it does not say what is alleged by the letter. It’s conclusions are far more ambiguous than the letter suggests and are based on an analysis of re-produced sound recordings, not on the testimonies of any individuals involved in the shootdown team, itself. Without studying and understanding:

the four-year war that began as an invasion from Uganda in October 1990;

that resumed with a full assault in Feb. 1993 that displaced nearly 1.5 million Rwandans from the Byumba breadbasket that nearly took power;

the Burundi genocide that drove 300,000 refugees into Rwanda; and the U.S. ambassador telling Kagame in Nov. 1993 that if he resumed the war, he would be responsible for a second Burundi genocide in Rwanda (ICTR Testimony of Amb. Robert Flaten, July 2005):

As Dr. Stam stated, discussing the 100 days of the “Rwanda genocide” without discussing the 4-year war following the RPF invasion is like discussing the Holocaust without discussing WW-II.

Please note, none of the allegations in the letter signed by so many cite to any hard evidence in support. At the ICTR, this same lack of support required the Trial and Appeal Chambers to reject the allegations of the ICTR Prosecutor, the Rwandan Government, and the several Prosecutors on loan from the U.S. Dept of Justice which pursued the issue for more than a decade without success.

The letter fails to note the incontrovertible evidence of RPF crimes in Congo from 1993-2003 documented in the October 2010 UNHCR “Mapping Report;” the UNS/C Expert Reports on Illegal Resource Extraction from Congo, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 20012; Rwandan support for M23 and other occupying groups illegally extracting resources from Congo; the excess deaths in Congo and Central Africa between 5 and 10 million ​deaths attributed to invasions of 1996, 1998 and continual warfare over two decades.

In 2010, the Obama administration declared the Kagame election ​unfree and unfair, while Victoire Ingabire and other potential candidates were imprisoned and prevented from meaningful campaigning. In March 2014, HRW Reported the history of assassination of political opponents of Kagame dating back to 1993, and attempts on current opponents in exile.

In 2012, the U.S. War Crimes Ambassador, Stephen Rapp threatened Kagame with prosecution ala Charles Taylor for his support of M23 crimes in Congo.​ All of the foregoing are in the public record.​

The existence of this massive bloodshed, and its authorship in Kigali ​with assistance from Kampala cannot be denied by any honest signatories of the letter submitted to BBC.

The BBC documentary is true to the documentary record, and to the investigations and judgments of the United Nations ICTR despite the impunity enjoyed by Kagame and the RPF for crimes committed during the Rwanda genocide, described by former Chief ICTR Prosecutor Carla del Ponte.

The BBC is to be congratulated for following the story where the evidence leads.



Prof. Peter Erlinder

Director, Int. Humanitarian Law Institute

Former Lead Counsel, Military-1, Ntabakuze Defense

Past-pres. ICTR-ADAD, Association des Avocat de la Defense

Author: the Accidental Genocide, a documentary history of Rwanda 1994.​