Swans Commentary » swans.com June 20, 2005  



Rwanda: The General's Story
A Conversation at the Swans Café...


Mick Collins, Interviewed by John Steppling





(Swans - June 20, 2005)   John Steppling: Let's start with the overview of media disinformation on Rwanda. From the glaring (Hotel Rwanda) to the less clear (Gourevitch and the New York Times). How did that happen -- how did it happen in the former Yugoslavia -- and what are the repercussions for Africa?

Mick Collins: The "disinformation" has been consecrated as a kind of popular historical record -- much like the Tales of Uncle Remus or the Song of the South -- these events taking place in a dark and far away land. Hotel Rwanda, rather than being a glaring example of the Human Rights lobbies' propaganda for further militarization of the continent, is accepted as a fictional film that is "based on a true story of how one man's humanity saves the lives of many." But like all the stories that stipulate to this Rwandan Genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremist Hutu soldiers and the Internahamwe militia, the Hot'L Rwanda propaganda gas bag is a pastiche of bits and snippets of mumbo jumbo folk tales and voodoo history. For example, Gourevitch, in his "We Wish to Inform You...," spends several pages going on about how the Tutsi, unlike the Hutus, were probably not descended from Ham and were therefore more European than African in the racial lineage. As with Yugoslavia or even Chechnya, it's all about ancient warring tribes, or ethnic and feudal conflicts dating back to pre-colonial times. None of the basic hard historical facts are ever addressed with due relevance; it's all about hatred and hate speech and human rights violations, rather than military aggressions, national defenses, and imperialist conquests.

Steppling: Since you are writing a book on General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, I think you should introduce and put in some context the bare outlines of his story, too.

Collins: It is called The General's Book on Rwanda, and, right, the General is Rwandan Major General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, who was the head of the Nationale Gendarmerie during the period of time in which what has come to be referred to as the "Rwandan Genocide" of 100 days (7 April to 4 July 1994) took place. And everybody knows the boilerplate of "800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus slaughtered by extremist Hutus." But, so far at least, my writing hasn't really been about any kind of personal story of the General's life. It's about what really happened in Rwanda between 1 October 1990 and sometime after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took over (or "liberated," as they would have it) the country on 4 July 1994 -- because the mainstream version couldn't be further from the truth.

First, the short version of how and why the media disinformed and continues to disinform: Unlike what Clinton and Albright pissed and moaned about -- how they were sorry they didn't pay more attention to Central Africa until it was too late -- the U.S. was 100 percent behind the destruction of Rwanda (see Robin Philpot's interview with Boutros Boutros-Ghali). It was part of a larger plan to bring down Mobutu and open the region to total dependence on Western financial, commercial, and military institutions. The bookends to this monstrous nation-o-cide were the invasion of Rwanda from Uganda by forces of the RPF on 1 October 1990, and the shooting down of the Falcon 50 business jet that was carrying the Hutu presidents of Rwanda (Juvenal Habyarimana) and Burundi (Cyprien Ntaryamira) on their way home from peace talks in Dar-es-Salam on the evening of 6 April 1994; again, by the RPF, on the order of their commander and the current president (military dictator's more like it) Paul Kagame.

Both these events triggered mass slaughter that would qualify as genocide in anyone's book. After the October invasion a four-year reign of terror like that of the Contras in Nicaragua (only much bloodier) was established claiming tens of thousands of lives and internally displacing nearly a million more. And just before the double assassination of the Hutu heads of state -- on the morning of 6 April 1994 -- another massive invasion from Uganda was launched, in conjunction with the RPF's coming out of their military sector in the NE around Mulundi and pushing into the DMZ toward the capital Kigali. And this second aggression pushed everyone who would move into Congo -- those who didn't move, didn't move ever again -- and the slaughter it generated continues in Congo to this day in the name of Rwandan national security against recurring genocide. In Congo, since 1996, as many as 3 million "genocidaires" and their families have been sacrificed to Rwandan national security -- and the export of Coltan, which Kagame now controls. Rather than deal with these two well established and highly significant historical events, writers like Gourevitch, Samantha Power and Alison Des Forges concentrate solely on interethnic, inter-tribal (Tutsi-Hutu) tensions being behind the "human rights violations by the Rwandan government."

They make it all about "hate speech" from the "extremist Hutu" camp and the discovery of vague and, frankly, dubious evidence of the planning of this genocide of the invaders and occupiers (Tutsis) by their victims (Hutus) -- like "lists" (potential genocide victims or infiltrated enemy agents?) and one million imported "Chinese Communist machetes" (suspicious enough in, say, South Central L.A.; but for an agrarian culture, a coffee- and tea-growing country with very dense vegetation?). In a strange, tangential way, the Human Righters try to make sense of this nonsensical plot to exterminate the minority Tutsis by imputing distant class antagonisms as the cause -- and those who are only told little bits of Rwandan history (e.g., the Tutsis were cattlemen, while the Hutus were farmers; the Tutsis the aristocracy, the Hutus the slaves, etc.) find it quite morally gratifying to construct an elaborate "Stop the Fucking Genocide" ideational structure out of the notion of the crazy Hutus in the toxic-colored clown wigs wiping out entire decent middle-class Tutsi families.

All the concern over "hate speech," especially over "Hutu Power Radio" (RTLM) which opens Hot'L Rwanda, serves to fuzz out what was in fact a desperate national defense against large scale foreign aggression (the mother of all war crimes according to Nuremberg) and make it out to be a pre-planned extermination of an entire people. But in order to make this false notion stand up it is not only necessary to cover up the two book-end invasions, but also never to speak of the boundless US financial, strategic and material support for both October 1990 and April 1994 aggressions. Training of troops and special technicians took place all over the U.S. For instance, according to Wayne Madsen's report (heavily based on Freedom of Information Act data to French publisher Charles Onana, missile training for the Ugandan and Rwandan RPF forces (who were shooting all kinds of military and civilian aircraft out of the skies above Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire long before 6 April 1994) was centered around Phoenix, at the Barry Goldwater Test Range of Luke Air Force Base. The Military Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona also served as a training center for foreign forces and was where the RPF forces trained for three months in 1994 preparing for the April invasion, again from Uganda. Madsen has a long list of Ugandan and Rwandan RPFers that were trained at Fort Benning, Georgia between 1979 and 1997. And then, of course, there was Kagame's own alma mater, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which had an extensive military intelligence training program -- where Kagame was "studying" just before he came to help out with the October 1990 invasion.

Steppling: So it was these extensively trained foreign invaders -- with a fully functioning military intelligence apparatus, including a ubiquitous anti-government (read anti-Hutu, anti-Habyarimana) propaganda program which long predates the civil defense broadcasts of RTLM that have been recontorted into anti-Tutsi hate speech -- for the French, this is the primary, though very flimsy basis for the genocide of 100 days theory that keys their current collaborationist's self-loathing.

Collins: As you can see, a short answer to any question about Rwanda is impossible for me. How's this: All the disinformation was created to hide the key role played by the U.S./U.K./U.N. in the targeted destruction of the Rwandan revolution -- just like Iraq, Yugoslavia, the Palestinian Authority, Russia, Venezuela, et alia.

Steppling: So how did you get off into this story? Last time I looked you were all about defending Milosevic. And not much of what you're talking about here is getting discussed in the U.S., or even in Europe -- at least not in any of the stuff I read. I can't remember the last time I heard a good word about the Hutus.

Collins: I got interested in Rwanda while working with Christopher Black on the Yugoslavia/Milosevic dossier. Chris is the General's lawyer before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, where he is charged with taking part in the genocide. Chris got me invited to Belgrade in October 2001 for the first meeting of the International Committee to defend Slobodan Milosevic (ICDSM), where I presented my paper comparing the 78-day terror bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 to 9/11. I was writing for a French language monthly, Balkans Infos, at that time, and getting more and more involved in the defense of President Milosevic. One of those 1960s Student for a Democratic Society purges went down within the ICDSM and I wrote a history of the Committee that tried to separate the sheep from the goats. Coincidental to this story was that the great Poobah and Nazi-baiter, Jared Israel, and his henchmen and hangers-on, got purged from the ICDSM (and to this day, Jared pretends not to know who I am). Because of this history I met another lawyer who'd worked in Arusha and came to work for the ICDSM, Tiphaine Dickson. She got me even more interested in Rwanda. It's impossible not to see the parallels between the targeted destructions of these two revolutions and the subjugation of these two moderately independent and overwhelmingly popular governments.

As I mentioned in an earlier e-mail, the corporate media (both Nazi and Trotzi) have always been about supporting Western imperialist (anti-communist) adventures. So when Gourevitch or the New York Times writes about Rwanda or Yugoslavia, they always write from a stupidly narcissistic Western subjectivity. These are always wars between ancient tribes or ethnic or national minorities that have been going on for centuries -- the residue of medieval feudal conflicts exacerbated by colonialism or neo-colonialism. The targeted nations are never given any credit for having a national history or political culture, much less for understanding the intricacies of democratic governance. And with the kind of reflexive racism that permeates the Western public consciousness, it doesn't take much to get one's audience to believe that Serbs make a national pastime of raping strangers' wives, then barbequing their kids, and that Africans simply dress up to eat the victims of their ritual sacrifices. It's all about Conrad and the Heart of Darkness and niggers will die...

When I met the General in the UN's Xray detention unit outside Arusha, right next to this très cool little Safari airport, I met this incredibly dignified and learned, albeit quite military, man. We're about the same age (60ish), but I was a 1960s draft dodger and Ho-Ho-Ho Chi Minh radical who fought on the barricades in 1968 Paris, while General Ndindiliyimanaa, after graduating top of his class from the Belgian École Militaire, was working crowd control on the nude beaches of Ostend. I never thought a military man could become such a close friend.

About six months before my first visit to Africa, the General, through Chris, sent me about 400 pages of his notes, memoires, and reports (all in French -- like most of the writing on this region, which used to be known as francophone Africa until the anglophone and anglo-trained and financed RPF took over), and I began to study.

Now, even without the context of the October 1, 1990, RPF invasion from Uganda (30,000 Rwandans wasted in 30 days, before the RPF forces were driven back into Uganda with the help of Mobutu's ZAF and the French -- who today just squeal with ecstasy when proclaiming "nous sommes tous des genocidaires!") -- but even without this frame of reference, Gourevitch's "non-fiction novel" is a piece of anecdotal fluff. The same "I hid under a pile of corpses and watched my family raped and killed" stories we heard from Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Sudan, etc.

Even outside the context of the RPF's four-year reign of terror, every bit as heinous as, and bloodier than, that of the Nicaraguan Contras; with the RPF's capital in northeastern Rwanda, in the tea plantation at Mulundi, which quickly superseded the Rwandan capital of Kigali in the international community's (led by the Human Rights lobby) recognition as a political and military negotiations center, with the U.S., the U.K., the U.N., the WHO, the WTO, and all the Bretton-Woodies doing all their new business in Mulundi; with the RPF's radio Muhabura long the precursor to "Hutu Power Radio RTLM" in broadcasting anti-Rwandan (Habyarimana) government propaganda to destabilize the citizenry and cover up the countless and ever-spreading RPF massacres of any and all locals regardless of tribal affiliation -- because the RPF and Kagame considered local Tutsi to be collaborators with the Hutu revolution and fair game for extinction.

Even without the context of the UN-led entry of the RPF into Kigali (it was UN General Dallaire, the source of Gourevitch's fictive "We Wish to Inform you . . ." cable, who borrowed a black Mercedes town car to lead the RPF troops in their triumphal grand march to their heavily-armed occupation of the "acropolis" of Kigali, the Congrès National de Développement (CND) -- real pity was that this creepy resonance to the Nazis entering Paris was wasted on hacks like Gourevitch and the editors at the NYTimes.

Outside this context, the story told by the Western media and supported from the Left and the Right has been a pathetically condescending and liberally patronizing exercise in historical inversion: blaming the victims for their own mass murder, and victimizing the true villains in a gruesome act of criminal solidarity.

Steppling: Alright, as I can see, there are no short versions on topics like this. I am interested -- and I say this as someone less than well informed on the subject -- in how the U.N. functioned in this context, and how the Romeo Dallaire story gained such traction. I also think it's worth discussing the Rwandan revolution, if you can. What was at stake here for the West?

Also, we hear a lot about Coltan now, and who owns what mineral rights and who sits on what board in which mining conglomerate....so maybe a little back story on this would be helpful.

Collins: Speaking now of the U.N.: If you remember that Bolton tirade where the cuckoo came all the way out of his head, and he ranted about how the U.N. exists only at the whim of the U.S. and to do its bidding and it always does exactly what the U.S. tells it to do, you've got to think that even though he is certifiably nuts, on this point he was exactly spot on. The U.S. or the West has used the U.N. as its own private sheriff's department -- especially in Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

After both countries had been invaded by foreign military forces in 1990-91, and the national defenses against these outside invasions were morphed into "civil wars," into ethnic, religious, nationalistic, and/or tribal wars among indigenous groups, and the "International Community" began to instigate peace negotiations to establish power sharing (e.g., in Yugoslavia: the Cutilheiro Agreement (1992), all the Vance/Owen deals (1992-95), Dayton Accords (1995); Rwanda: The Arusha Accords (1992-93)) the U.N. was ordered in as a peace keeping force to mediate between the warring sides. But in both cases, their efforts were openly in support of the Western proxy forces. In Yugoslavia, the U.N. set up the "safe havens" program, which was supposed to create disarmed zones where civilians might be saved from the on going wars. The most famous of these "safe havens" was perhaps Srebrenica, site of the supposed Bosnian Serb genocide of 8,000 Muslim men, women, and children. However, Srebrenica was never disarmed and, in fact, served as the operational centre for the Bosnian (Muslim) Army's 2nd and 5th Corps -- from whence the infamous Bosnian mass murderer Naser Oric ordered and executed the massacre of more than a thousand Yugoslav villagers. The UN peace keepers not only did nothing to restrain the Bosnian Muslim forces from attacking their Bosnian Serb homologues, but several were in fact killed in overt provocations of the Bosnian Serb forces to attack Srebrenica. To this day the U.N. has done nothing to clarify the propaganda lie of the Srebrenica genocide -- perhaps because it plays such a key role in maintaining the authority of the UN illegal Tribunal at The Hague.

In Rwanda, one should consider the tragedy called the Rwandan Genocide as a narrative bounded by two events: (1) The 1 October 1990 invasion of this small, most densely populated nation in Africa by a foreign Army, a special wing of the Uganda National Resistance Army known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front; and (2) the shooting down on 6 April 1994 of the Falcon 50 business jet carrying two African (and coincidentally -- or not -- Hutu) heads of state, the chief of the Rwandan armed forces, several other high-ranking government officials and the entire French crew. The U.N., through the offices of its Tribunal in Arusha continues to refer to this invasion as a "trespass" and gives greater political significance to the so-called human rights violations by the Rwandan government in arresting suspected RPF troops or their infiltrators for the destabilization of the nation (at the time of the October 1990 invasion, word was that there were between 4,000 and 12,000 such RPF agents throughout the country). This minimizing of the invasion to a "trespass" led to the minimizing of the national defense to a campaign of ethnic and regional conflicts, which would easily morph into a genocide with the contorting of lists of espionage agents into genocide hit lists, and the discoveries of arms caches, quite a normal aspect of any national self defense, into violations of UN sanctions and embargos -- while the UN mission, itself, did everything it could to maintain the supply of arms to the RPF, even to the extent to covering the delivery of the missiles that would shoot down the presidents' plane in truckloads of firewood. Finally, its facilitating the assassination of the two presidents on 6 April extended to the feigned desire for, then the diversion and distraction of, any and all investigations into what is still regularly referred to as an "accident." The investigations that actually took place, principally the one by Australian lawyer Michael Hourigan, at the instigation of then ICTR prosecutor Louise Arbor, were suffocated in their cribs when they showed too clearly the implications of the RPF in the event that supposedly led to the Genocide.

To this day the U.N. has hidden any information about the shooting down of the presidents' plane. The black box was hidden out in Kofi Annan's offices in the New York UN Headquarters. When, around the 10th anniversary of the Genocide, the box was finally discovered, the U.N. sent it to a "disinterested country" to have it examined. That "disinterested country" was the U.S.; and the black box was found to have been erased.

There's more -- and more and more -- that demonstrates how Rwanda was just another nation targeted for free-market takeover. The "Humanitarians" came up with their genocide model as a cover for the murderous invasion, occupation, and exploitation of the Rwandan slab on the superhighway to the exploitation of the vast mineral riches of Congo.


Regarding Coltan: here are a couple articles from the CM/P blog that are pretty informative:


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About the Author

Mick Collins is the directeur artistique et pédagogique at CirqueMinime/Paris, France, a bilingual and interdisciplinary theatrical production unit and anti-Nazi/anti-Trotzi agit/blog, cirqueminime.blogcollective.com. Before coming to Paris in 1995, he spent over forty years in the Theatre, Films and TV, in Seattle, California, New York, London and Paris, as an actor, director, playwright, labor organizer and teacher. Since arriving in Paris he has dabbled at theatrical writing, but his singular passion has been for geopolitical journalism. Collins is pursuing a doctorate in History at l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS).

John Steppling on Swans (with bio).



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Published June 20, 2005