My Story Was Told in ‘Hotel Rwanda.’ Here’s What I Want the World to Know Now.

This week, the world will again turn its eyes toward Rwanda. April 6 marks 30 years since the start of one of the most horrific events in modern history, the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Nearer in time but not unrelated, it has been just over one year since I left Rwanda and returned to the United States, released from prison after 939 days in captivity.

I have not yet spoken at length about what those years in a Rwandan prison were like, or about the daily reality for Rwandan political prisoners who, like me, found themselves behind bars for exercising their freedom of expression.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Congolese army tank heads towards the front line near Kibumba in the area surrounding the North Kivu city of Goma on May 25, 2022 during clashes between the Congolese army and M23 rebels. Arlette Bashizi/AFP via Getty Images

In the summer of 2022, I crossed from Rwanda into the besieged Congolese city of Goma. The slick Rwandan border police and their Chinese-made black polymer carbines stood in stark contrast to the weary Congolese soldiers’ ancient Kalashnikovs. “We can’t invade Rwanda or Uganda”, a hardened Congolese provincial politician admitted to me. He slid his fingers across his neck, adding, “But we can’t negotiate with a knife to our throat”.

Since that conversation, Rwandan troops and their local March 23 Movement (M23) proxy forces have completely encircled Goma. While the Rwandan government simultaneously denies supporting M23 while justifying its intervention as necessary for Rwandan security, the direct involvement of Rwanda has been extensively documented by the United Nations and acknowledged with alarm by the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

M23 rebels near Rumangabo military base, Congo, January 2023. Guerchom Ndebo / AFP / Reuters

The speech was vintage Paul Kagame. Addressing a group of foreign ambassadors in Kigali in February 2023, the Rwandan president complained bitterly of being hounded about his country’s involvement in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he stands accused of backing a rebel group that is rapidly gobbling up land and whose members are mostly ethnic Tutsis, like Kagame.

Instead of acknowledging Rwanda’s support for the M23 Movement—named after a March 23, 2009, peace accord its fighters say the Congolese government violated—Kagame reminded his audience about another rebel group operating in eastern Congo, this one led by those responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a street of Beni, DRC, a woman walks past a wall on which a graffiti reads “Monusco Dégage”, calling for the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to “go away”. December 2021. CRISIS GROUP / Nicolas Delaunay

M23, a previously dormant rebel group, which UN reports suggest is backed by Rwanda, is wreaking havoc in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Fighting has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes and could spiral into a wider regional proxy war.

M23 holds several towns and surrounds the provincial capital of Goma. In 2013, the group was beaten back by a ramped-up UN force but now appears well-armed and organised. It includes ex-Congolese soldiers, many of whom are Tutsis, an ethnic group spread across Africa’s Great Lakes, and profess to champion communal interests.

M23’s sudden re-emergence owes as much to tensions among Great Lakes states as it does to local dynamics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire leaves Nyarugenge prison in September 2018, after eight years.

In the recent race to become Britain’s next Conservative Party leader and prime minister, there was one item the final candidates all agreed on – sticking with a controversial plan to send asylum seekers arriving on their shores halfway across the world to Rwanda.

Just a few weeks into the top job, freshly anointed prime minister Liz Truss doesn’t appear to be changing course anytime soon. (The closest the plan came to happening was in June, when a plane of asylum seekers set for Rwanda was grounded following a last-minute injunction by the European Court of Human Rights).

Now, as the British government faces legal challenges to the scheme from campaign groups representing asylum seekers, renewed focus has turned to Rwanda’s human rights record – including its imprisonment of political opponents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Priti Patel with the mayor of Kigali, Pudence Rubingisa, left, visiting premises allocated for refugees in Rwanda on 14 April 2022. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s easy to fall prey to misconceptions about Rwanda. I’ve done so myself while writing about the small country – about twice the size of Yorkshire – to which we are dispatching our “migrant problem”. With flights to Kigali imminent, and the president, Paul Kagame, proposing alleged UK-based “génocidaires” be extradited to face trial, I wonder if we really understand what we’re getting into.

Faults in Priti Patel’s policy should not need rehearsing. Yet so great is western ignorance and amnesia about Rwanda (and the wider Great Lakes region of Africa) that the arguments against require reinforcement. For there has, since the genocide, been a “blank ahistoricism” about the country, as the Rwanda expert Michela Wrong has put it.…  Seguir leyendo »

A member of the British Border forces and another man help a child to disembark from a boat with other migrants, in Dover, England, on April 18. (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

We knew the global refugee system was broken. But Britain, with Rwanda’s help, wants to smash it with a hammer.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel last week announced a plan to fly migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing and resettlement, this being the Johnson government’s answer to the thousands who have lately arrived across the English Channel from mainland Europe. For its trouble, Rwanda would get around $157 million for housing, job training and other services. Patel termed this a “joint new migration and economic development partnership.“

That’s a very posh way of saying: We are going to pay a poorer country to take human beings we don’t want.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. military service members hold the hands of an Afghan refugee girl at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, N.M., on Nov. 4. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

I got the call in the evening, as the sun was going down over Rwanda: President Paul Kagame wants to meet you. Tomorrow. Please take a PCR test in the morning. You’ll meet the president in his office at 2 p.m.

Wonderful, I thought. There’s so much I want him to know. I started lining up anecdotes in my mind, stories that would highlight the extraordinary reception the Rwandan people have given every single member of SOLA, my Afghan girls’ school, since our arrival here in August. I wanted to speak about kindness, and sensitivity, and humanity.

And I decided the best way to do this was to tell him: Rwandans are merciless on the soccer field.…  Seguir leyendo »

Congolese refugees sit in a stadium in Rwanda after fleeing from Mount Nyiragongo volcano as it erupted over Goma, Rwanda, on Sunday. (Eugene Uwimana/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR, or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and World Food Programme recently announced 60 percent cuts to food assistance for refugees in Rwanda. Funding shortages resulting from decades-long refugee hosting, compounded by covid-19 demands, have left the government of Rwanda and humanitarian agencies no choice but to prioritize who will continue to receive assistance.

The last time this happened, in 2018, two successive cuts in food rations led to a protest by 3,000 residents of the Kiziba refugee camp. Security forces dispersed the crowds, killing at least five refugees and injuring 20. More than 20 community leaders of the camp were imprisoned.…  Seguir leyendo »

Family photographs of some of those who died during the 1994 genocide hang on display in an exhibition at the Kigali Genocide Memorial center in Rwanda's capital in April 2019. (Ben Curtis/AP)

In the aftermath of a violent civil war that culminated in a 100-day genocide in 1994, Rwanda effectively outlawed ethnicity. Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president since 2000 — who is credited with ending the genocide — instituted an official policy of ethnic nonrecognition in the country in 2003. Under this mandate, the population rallies around a motto of national homogeneity: Ndi Umunyarwanda (“We are all Rwandan”).

Each year on April 7, Rwanda begins Kwibuka — a 100-day remembrance period for the hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus killed by Hutu extremists. My research suggests Rwanda’s official commitment to Ndi Umunyarwanda disappears during Kwibuka.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rwanda's journey from its 1994 genocide to a model of orderly developmen t made it a go-to country for those who want to invest in an African success story, taking in hundreds of millions in new overseas investments each year and making it one of corporate America's ideal places for charitable donations. But the love affair between the United States and Rwanda's hardline president Paul Kagame, should be seriously reconsidered after 27 years of systemic human rights abuses.

To name the alleged abuses is to name what's typical of despots everywhere: election-rigging, a captive judiciary, a well-oiled propaganda machine that silences truth, and the assassination of opposition leaders, journalists, and regime critics at home and abroad.…  Seguir leyendo »

La pandemia de COVID‑19 ha demostrado que la comunicación es un arma de doble filo. Es una de las herramientas más poderosas para cambiar conductas: puede crear conciencia y compasión en relación con la situación de grupos vulnerables, que son los más afectados durante las crisis; y combinada con una sólida agenda de equidad y un liderazgo creíble, puede impulsar acciones positivas e inclusivas. Pero mal usada (distorsionada por el prejuicio, la visión de corto plazo y el egoísmo) la comunicación puede ser un arma peligrosa.

Una comparación entre las respuestas a la COVID‑19 en el Reino Unido y en Ruanda permite ejemplificar esta dicotomía.…  Seguir leyendo »

In December, Rwanda’s government announced that all Rwandan primary schools should teach in English, a language that many teachers in the country cannot understand or speak. This is the third time in 11 years that the government has introduced a major language shift. Education officials, donors and others are now scrambling to respond.

What’s behind these shifts in the language of instruction? And what are the wider implications? Here’s what you need to know.

1. Here’s what just changed

This new plan requires schools to teach in English starting in the first grade. Yet many primary schoolteachers in Rwanda don’t speak English — a 2018 study found that just 38 percent of those teachers likely to be affected by the new change have a working knowledge of English.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dark, cold and heavy clouds loom over foggy, grey Brussels. A large crowd stands in line to enter the old Justice Palace, which has been under reconstruction for a couple of years. An elderly Rwandan man, wearing a chic white trench coat, manoeuvres through the scaffolding and smoothly jumps the line. At 71, his pace is slow. He drags one of his feet. Supporting himself with a crutch in his right hand, he passes security and makes his way up the imposing stairway. His destination is a timeworn, dingy and dark courtroom. It is located at the outer wing of the historic Palace, which was inaugurated in 1883 by King Leopold II, infamous for his lethal colonial exploitation of the Congo Free State, today’s Democratic Republic of Congo.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’image que renvoie le Rwanda de nos jours est celle d’une Afrique qui gagne. Elle est de moins en moins celle, lugubre, d’amas de crânes témoins d’une humanité en mode off, mais plutôt celle, rayonnante, des inaugurations en cascade d’écoles à la pointe du numérique, d’une filiale de Volkswagen ou du lancement du premier smartphone complètement « made in Africa ». Quelles sont les principales caractéristiques du modèle rwandais de développement ? Quelles sont ses limites ? Que peut-on en dire concernant l’Afrique et la pensée sur le développement au XXIe siècle ?

Un grand malheur commun

Généralement, ce qu’on entend par « nation » évoque des groupements humains qui partagent le même destin et la même volonté de poursuivre un pari sur l’avenir au sens de « projet de vie ».…  Seguir leyendo »

D'anciens braconniers effectuent une danse traditionnelle, qui fait partie des célébrations de l'Umuganura, à Kinigi, dans le Nord du Rwanda, en 2014. Photo Stéphanie Aglietti. AFP

Le vendredi 2 août 2019, les Rwandais ont célébré la fête de l’Umuganura. Les autorités éprouvent quelques difficultés à traduire ce terme : fête de la moisson, Fest-Food Festival, National Harvest Day, et même, influence américaine oblige, Thanksgiving Day.

Rituel ancien

L’Umuganura est un très ancien rituel célébré chaque année dans une des cours royales itinérantes. Très complexe, il mettait en jeu toutes les catégories du pays autour de la sacralité de la personne du roi considéré comme le garant de la fertilité de la terre, de l’abondance des récoltes et de la fécondité des femmes et des vaches. Le long cérémonial de l’Umuganura est l’un des dix-sept rituels royaux dont les textes dactylographiés ont été fournis par un informateur anonyme, sans doute un ritualiste, en 1961, peu après le référendum qui abolissait la royauté (rituels pour l’avènement d’un nouveau roi, pour les funérailles, pour entrer en guerre, pour la chasse, pour faire tomber la pluie, etc.)…  Seguir leyendo »

Daphrosa Mukamusoni, a former Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda combatant, at the Reintegration and Demobilization Center in Mutobo, Rwanda, where released prisoners spend three months learning to reintegrate into society before they return to the families and communities they left decades before. Credit Jacques Nkinzingabo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

What happens when hundreds of thousands of people who committed genocide leave prison and return to the communities where they perpetrated violence? This might sound like the plot of a dystopian novel, but in Rwanda, it is reality.

Twenty-five years ago this month, Rwanda crumbled as violence swept across the country. Although political leaders orchestrated the genocide, several hundred thousand Hutu civilians participated by killing or raping members of the Tutsi minority. After the genocide ended, the new Rwandan government created a court system to hold those civilians accountable. Roughly 312,000 trials resulted in prison sentences — including 15,444 life sentences — propelling Rwanda to one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

La décision d’Emmanuel Macron d’instituer une commission de chercheurs pour étudier les archives françaises sur le Rwanda et le génocide des Tutsis, soit la période 1990-1994, a suscité de l’espoir aussi bien que des critiques. Mais il convient de se parler et de réfléchir ensemble. Revenons aux faits. Il est nécessaire de documenter méthodiquement le rôle de la France au Rwanda et son implication dans le génocide à travers son soutien au régime génocidaire et son intervention militaire sous mandat de l’ONU (22 juin 1994), en vue de créer une «zone humanitaire sûre» au sud-ouest du pays, alors que le génocide est déjà très avancé.…  Seguir leyendo »

La polémique récente autour de la commission sur le génocide du Rwanda est l’occasion de revenir sur la place de l’histoire des génocides dans la recherche et l’enseignement. Nombreux se sont étonnés, à juste titre, de l’absence de spécialistes du génocide au Rwanda dans ladite commission. Aucun spécialiste non plus du continent africain. Imagine-t-on un comité destiné à faire la lumière sur le rôle de la France dans la déportation des Juifs sans aucun historien du régime de Vichy ? Connaître les mécanismes de la Shoah ou du génocide arménien dispenserait donc du long travail d’apprentissage de l’histoire de l’Afrique des Grands Lacs, de la connaissance des langues vernaculaires et des enjeux politiques complexes de cette région ?…  Seguir leyendo »

A chacun de mes séjours au Rwanda, j’ai un pèlerinage à accomplir : c’est celui qui me mène à Nyamata, plus précisément à Gitagata, le village de regroupement où, en 1960, deux ans avant l’indépendance, ma famille et des milliers d’autres Tutsi furent déportés. J’avais 4 ans. Nyamata est situé dans le Bugesera, une dépression plus sèche et plus chaude que les hauts plateaux du Rwanda. Les pluies y sont rares, les quelques puits qui servent de points d’eau souvent asséchés.

En 1960, le Bugesera était encore une savane presque inhabitée, infestée par la mouche tsé-tsé, peuplée par les grands animaux.…  Seguir leyendo »