International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Victoire Ingabire Gets Sentenced Under Rwanda’s Genocide Ideology Law

The BBC reported today that Victoire Ingabire has been sentenced to eight years in jail by the Rwandan court system. Ingabire was jailed in 2010 when she returned to Rwanda from exile to run against President Paul Kagame in the 2010 elections, which were undemocratic to say the least. Among other charges, like “threatening state security” and “terrorism,” the latter of which were dropped, she was charged with “belittling the genocide.” This last charge, which was filed under the genocide ideology law, seems quite problematic.

In her speech, Ingabire stated her belief that the reconciliation of and emotional recovery of all Rwandans is necessary. She also stated that she does not believe there is a policy in place to allow for this, because Hutu deaths are not being memorialized, when there were, in fact, many Hutus who were killed as well. Her statements were illegal under the genocide ideology laws, so she was arrested. Some believe that this was highly politically motivated, as she was one of the primary opposition leaders who wanted to run against Paul Kagame in the 2010 elections.

It is laws and policies like these that make reconciliation difficult. Also, it is my understanding that, since the genocide, it has been deemed illegal to ask someone if he or she is a Hutu or a Tutsi. The argument is that this will unify Rwandans. Instead of being Hutus or Tutsis, they are Rwandans. I believe that these methods of ignoring the necessity for ethnic sensitivity in reconciliation policies could end up hurting Rwandans more than helping.

Here is what I believe to be the controversial part of her speech:

“But then again, if you look around you realize that there is no real political policy to help Rwandans achieve reconciliation. For example, if we look at this memorial, it only stops at people who died during the Tutsi genocide. It does not look at the other side – at the Hutus who died during the genocide. Hutus who lost their people are also sad and they think about their lost ones and wonder, ‘When will our dead ones be remembered?’

“For us to reach reconciliation, we need to empathize with everyone’s sadness. It is necessary that for the Tutsis who were killed, those Hutus who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it. It is also necessary that for the Hutus who were killed, those people who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it too. Furthermore, it is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.”

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2 responses to “Victoire Ingabire Gets Sentenced Under Rwanda’s Genocide Ideology Law

  1. mhdeck October 31, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    This post raises interesting questions about the role of identity and justice. Many of the conflicts the ICC deals with ethnic tensions or at least ethnic differences are important to the conflict. With that mind, how do laws go about facilitating a restorative justice process that moves away from polarizing identities? Is that even important? It seems from the speech that the issue for Ingabire was the fact that both sides of the Rwandan conflict were not being memorialized. The process of memorializing victims and the dead play a very important role in understanding previous identities, respecting present ones, and perhaps and new ones. However, can restorative justice be achieved if only one side is memorialized? Is that simply another form of victor’s justice? Ingabire argues that Rwandans must have an understanding of a national sadness that transcends ethnicity. It seems as though an active process of memorializing all victims from the conflict would play an important role in facilitating an understanding of national grief.

  2. lseyferth November 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    These past posts have discussed the necessity for justice to be administered to both sides of the Rwandan conflict and that peace can be best attained through the memorializing of both sides’ victims. The question then is to what role does the state take on in this process? Through the use of media and on the ground field work, attempts at reconciliation and peace can be made but what can be done to quell tensions that cannot be healed by attempting to bury the hatchet? I don’t see Inagbire’s speech as attempting to draw out divisions amongst Rwandans, however it may have had that result. When trying to speak to respecting and recognizing ethnic differences in order to bring about peace for the whole nation may have been misinterpreted by some as referring to singling out or favoring one ethnic group over the other. It is clear then that in order to refrain from sparking further anger, both Hutus and Tutsis must be both fairly addressed and given the same opportunities for memorialization of their losses. However, is it conceivable to argue that one side will always find fault with the actions being done? Will one ethnic group always feel like they have been unfairly treated or have not been given the proper tools for rehabilitation, just as a result of personal bias? What then can the state do?

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