Friday, September 17, 2004

INTRODUCTION to The General's Book on Rwanda--by Mick Collins

[This is the INTRODUCTION to a work-in-progress here at CM/P. The General's Book on Rwanda [working title] tells the story of what really happened in that small densely populated Central African country between the 1 October 1990 invasion from Uganda by the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the present day with the RPF's implication in the wars in Congo and Sudan. This writing is based primarily on the notes, memoirs and reports of General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, former chief of the National Gendarmerie, and currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. The book is looking to come out in the Spring of 2005. It's also looking for a publisher!--mc]


It’s going to be difficult for me, because it’s not really my style, but I want to make this story as plain and simple as possible. I’ve found African History to be so exotic and colored over with sinister shades that Europeans and Americans often lose the real story deep in the dense over-growth of political irrationalities and racial fears. And the experts, a select club to which I do not belong—and would not, even if they’d have me!--are frequently called on to justify the unjustifiable with their demonic numerology and bathetic necromancy pretending at simplification (reductivus ad genocide), while really only adding to the confusion and further occulting the historical record. What even the best informed and intentioned of them fail to do is to look at the ultimate beneficiaries of these wars of terror and occupation, with their pre-posited genocides.

So my story—or rather our story, for this is really the General’s story--will probably not be all that plain and simple; because, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde: The Truth is seldom plain and never simple. But in this introduction, I want to pose certain questions: Why was the idea of a genocide necessary to explain the events in Central Africa between 1990 and the present day? Why have the deaths of maybe 6 million Africans been causally linked to what has come to be accepted as a well-planned, socially organized, vertically integrated, state-supervised one-hundred-day-long genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis by their Hutu congénères? How have these tribal designations, with their socio-political sub-sets of ‘extremists’ and ‘moderates’, ‘northern’ and ‘southern’, ‘interior’ and ‘refugee’, been used to mask the real motives of the real mass-murderers and their international sponsors? That is to say: Who profited ultimately? And then, why has the international community become more and more invested in—emotionally locked on to--this genocide model of history, even as the true and contradicting background of the sufficiently horrible events has recently been more and more uncovered?

Rwanda was much like Yugoslavia in the way responsibility for the tragic consequences of a war imposed from abroad, then euphemized as a ‘civil war’ between ancient tribal enemies, was imputed to the very victims of the Western aggressions. Then, judicially specious Tribunals were established in the name of the UN (the ICTY at The Hague for Yugoslavia; the ICTR in Arusha for Rwanda) in order to continue and expand the domination and destruction of these nations, their peoples, and their revolutions, by trying as ‘genocidaires’ only the leaders of the vanquished tribe (the Serbs and the Hutus), while reinforcing this perverse notion of criminal responsibility unto civil liability for reparations. But whereas the idea of a Bosnian Muslim genocide by the Serbs was thoroughly potted from the outset, without the slightest material evidence to back up the large numbers of purported victims (e.g., the strange disappearance of the satellite photos of the mass graves around Srebrenica forever hid the whereabouts of the corpa delecti of 7-8,000 missing Muslim men and boys) or anything at all to assign the criminal intent or the planning necessary to commit a genocide to the Serbian leadership, in general, and President Milosevic, in particular: In the case of Rwanda, the world of the spectacle was deluged with TV images ( ‘a thousand Jonestowns’, as some wackoid described them) of church yards brimming with black and bloodied corpses, pyramidic piles of bleached skulls. And a single video of a machete murder, shot by British cameraman Nick Hughes through the scope-sight of a rocket launcher on the roof of The French School in Kigali where the Belgian paracommandos were housed, became emblematic of the primitive Hutu farmers’s genocide of the Tutsi cowmen. Originally 40 minutes long, about 30 seconds or so of Hughes’s cold-blooded snuff-video, shown in a loop, has come to be the light show for the ‘Stop the Genocide’ concerts. (But more later about how the Hollywood ethic of ‘get-the-shot-no-matter-how-many-lives-it-costs’ prevailed over the humanitarian instincts of the heavily armed RPF liberators and their UN valets in giving birth to this ‘damning evidence of genocide’—which my friend and my Mother Funk’n Wagnells on Rwanda, international defense attorney Tiphaine Dickson, brought into the glaring moral 10K of her cross-examination of Hughes in the George Rutaganda trial at the ICTR in 1997.)

Again, I’m not an expert; nor am I some one trying to fob himself off as an objective journalist. I’m just an old Vietnam-era draft dodger and retired Hollywood day-player, who for the last ten years has been stuck off here in Paris, where back in May-June’68 I used to trade pieces of the Boule Miche for CS gaz with mushroom-helmeted French crowd control specialists, and who, through some strange karmic kick-back, wound up being this Rwandan General’s friend—I hope, in telling his story, I’ll turn out to be a good friend. The General is General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, a graduate of the Belgian école militaire and Olympic footballer, who held several ministry-level positions in the Rwandan government of president Juvenal Habyarimana, including Chief of the National Gendarmarie during the troubles. He is currently locked down in the UN Detention Facility (Delta) in Arusha, Tanzania, charged with aiding and abetting the genocide—of being a ‘genocidaire’, as the French foppishly put it.

The General believes he’s going down for the rest of his life—no matter what kind of deal they offer to cut him!--and he asked me, through a mutual friend, his Canadian defense counsel Christopher Black, if I’d tell his story. After getting a high-speed tutorial from Chris on a TGV to Brussels, then reading all I could about the scene in Rwanda and the General’s role in it, then pouring over the 300+ pages (in French) of notes and memoirs the General sent to my home in Paris, I went down to the UN prison, next to a little airport just outside Arusha, and told General Ndindiliyimana that it would be an honor to write this book.

The consensus reality on the Rwandan tragedy seems to be that for a hundred days back in mid-1994 (nb—‘100 Days’ is the title our new old friend, Genocide’s Jimmy Howe, Nick Hughes, gave to the love story he turned his Rwandan Machete Massacre video into.), strictly between 6 April and 4 July (RPF-ruled Rwanda’s new Independence Day—what a coinkydink, huh?!), eight or 900,000 Tutsis and ‘moderate Hutus’ were brutally killed by an evil bunch of ‘extremist Hutus’, all of them linked to the Habyarimana government and its ruling MRND party, with its youth wing, the Interahamwe, doing most of the heavy killing in the name of ‘Hutu Power’. Like a Hollywood pitch, this story line allows lots of space in which the casual observer can trip out. Tutsis and Hutus, who’s which? And ‘extremists’, always bad; ‘moderates’ always preferable, especially when dealing with corrupt single party dictatorships. And you remember ‘Bip bip, bam bam, ungawah, Black Powah!’?: Black folks with Powah have always made white folks uncomfortable—like Communists with State Power give Trotskyites the whips and jingle-bells. But given the parallel scenarios being played out simultaneously in other formerly ‘unaligned’ countries like Iraq, Israeli-occupied Palestine or Serbia/Yugoslavia, it’s hard to figure how this particular ‘necessary genocide’ continues to be accepted so uncritically.

One explanation might be that the purveyors of this lame and obviously manipulative story-line, over-paid hacks like Jamie Rubin’s kid brother-in-law Phillip Gourevitch of The New Yorker and the Human Rights Watch African Queen, Alison Des Forges, who worked under contract to Mad Albright’s (‘A million Iraqi kids is a small price to pay for American imposed Democracy!’) US State Dept., have cobbled together out of cherry-picked instances, or stitched-up out of whole cloth, a patchwork of key events that are supposed to support their pre-posited genocide. As with the US-led assaults on Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, again—and let’s not leave out that false-flag phantasmagoria of a Black Op, the missiles of 11 September 2001, back in the never very secure Homeland, with its brazen yet threadbare cover-up, used to launce the a very real genocide in the guise of a war on terrorism—History in Central Africa is being cut to fit the interests of the ruling commercial, financial, medical/pharmaceutical, military/industrial elite: the Waste Makers, as Vance Packard might have called them.

In their chapter on Central Africa, the experts have contented themselves with the presupposition that the long-planned genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis (never even 15% of the population) was triggered when, on 6 April 1994, the plane carrying the two democratically-elected Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi (Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira) crashed, or was shot down, or something, or whatever. Doesn’t really matter to most of them what actually happened or who actually made it happen, because the Big Genocide Train was already on its full roll—had been, some say, for a couple hundred years. So what if two national leaders, along with several of their general staff, were assassinated. We’re not talking about Bush and Blair—Chirac and Schroeder, here. We’re talking about a couple Africans. And, as we all know, because we see it on the news every evening, nigger will die. And they’ll usually take a bunch of their kin down with them, right?

This may sound cynical, because it is. The early theorizing by Gourevitch, Des Forges and even Filip Reyntjens, a pretty sharp cookie (as sharp cookies go!—but another victim of a draconian Dicksonian cross-examination) was that the ‘crash’ was the work of the ‘Hutu Power’ folks, heavily influenced by a voodoo cult led by the President’s widow, and an inter-governmental conspiracy on the part of the Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, and, some have suggested, even General Ndindililyimana. The ‘extremist Hutus’ supposedly assassinated their own president in order to scupper the Arusha Accords, in which they saw Habyirimana (often referred to as the Tutsis’ president) seeking to share power with their RPF enemies, and so as they could get on with their long-smoldering holocaust plans for their former feudal oppressors, the royal Tutsis. This version was declared dead and stinking sometime ago, and those with any real creds to protect, like Reyntjens, and even the current Rwandan president Paul Kagame, who has been accused of ordering the hit on Habyarimana, changed their tune. But everyone, to an expert, used the defense of discounting the importance of the assassinations to a genocide that was already locked and loaded. So the ‘crash/shoot-down’ of the Falcon-50 presidential jet, and the desperate attempts by the UN and the ICTR to cover it up (Like, what black box? I though it was Homeo Dallaire’s lunch-bucket!) will be very important to the General’s story.

Such a simplistic and superficial fable was supposed to give the casual reader, hooked on Western sentimentality, a certain sense of emotional satisfaction. Mandingo meets Spartacus! It’s about the slaves revenging themselves on their former lords and masters. It’s the vast, dark hordes of short people (‘Short people got no reason to live.’-- Randy Newman), spitefully striking down their cultural and morphological betters in an unsuccessful attempt to control their own destinies—silly Hutus. For all The New Yorker gossip-style details of this Pulp Fiction Genocide, I recommend Gourevitch’s not entirely useless book, ‘We Wish To Inform You . . .’ (Picardo, 1998). And this drive-thru version of African history was an enormous inspiration to one of my favorite writers of cinematic crime fiction, Elmore Leonard, in his amusing, though criminally fictitious recounting of the Rwandan genocide in ‘Pagan Babies’ (Delacorte, 2000). Then there’s the cowardly lion, Romeo Dallaire, whose ‘Shaking Hands With the Devil’ (I read the French translation: ‘J’ai serré la main du diable’, Libre Expression, 2003) is a hysterically solipsistic account of his collaboration in (though he’d like us to believe he was the mastermind behind) the foreign invasion and occupation of the Rwandan nation, with its incumbent mass slaughter, by US/UK-sponsored Ugandan Army personnel—still today, Kagame has not been officially separated from the Ugandan military!—to topple the corrupt, communist-like dictatorship of Habyarimana and his MRND. But Dallaire is the kind of Miles Gloriosus who roars proudly every time he shits in his pants—and shits his pants every time he roars—so the casual reader might find ‘Shaking Hands With The Devil’ a little too self-important (he seems to think he’s the biggest victim of the Rwandan genocide) to be really interesting.

Sad to say, but to date most of the serious writing about the events in Rwanda has been in French—or in French translation from Kinyrwanda. However, soon both Robin Philpot and Charles Onana should have their extraordinary works appear in English, and, if it’s not too late, the Anglophone world will be let in on some of the nitty gritty of how its crusade for neoliberal globalization vanquished the Francophone world. For Rwanda was in no way outside the line of development of the current expansionist global wars that drive advanced waste capitalism.

It is in the hope of adding to this slow and deliberate uncovering of the historical record; of bringing the real freakoid liquifactionists to justice and liberating those, like General Ndindiliyimana or President Milosevic or Dr Seselj, who currently languish as POWs in UN stalags under humbug charges, cursed by false, unrehabilitated criminal witnesses and imposed counsel, and deprived of the most basic legal and civil rights; and returning the true story of their lives to the victims of this modern plague of wasting neo-liberalism: it is in this hope, however faint or vain, that I endeavor to tell the General’s story.

And, so our sons and daughters will know that we could not and would not—even at the cost of our liberty--abide injustice, false consciousness and the rape of the truth that result from the moribund forces of surplus-value as they struggle gracelessly to hang on a febrile dream of feudal privilege and, against all reason and natural law, continue uselessly to deplete the life-forces of humanity.

So, General, where to begin? In medias res, like all military epics? The 1 October 1990 Ugandan invasion of Rwanda then.


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