After Belgian scholar Filip Reyntjens read what had been said about him at Rwanda’s Commission of Inquiry into “genocide denial” by the BBC, he offered to speak to them himself, but they refused to hear him, despite their own accusations that the BBC was biased and willing to listen to only one side.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: The government of Rwanda, a longstanding U.S. ally and military partner in Africa, has established a Commission of Inquiry to indict the British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC, for the crime of genocide denial in its recently aired documentary, “Rwanda’s Untold Story.” The government and its supporters have accused the BBC of bias and speaking only to one side.
This week, however, when Belgian scholar Filip Reyntjens offered to speak to the commission in response to those attacking him for what he told the BBC, they refused to speak with him. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Filip Reyntjens.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Filip Reyntjens, aren’t these Rwandan government attacks on you and the BBC typical of totalitarian expression, in that they presume that there is only one truth, that that truth is sacred, and everyone knows what it is, so anyone who even questions it is either evil or perverse or, in this case, a genocide denier?
Filip Reyntjens: Yes, that is correct, and every Rwandan, from President Kagame down to a peasant on a hill somewhere, they all know what that truth is. I mean it’s very consistent. They know what to say. Many people of course think otherwise, but they’re not allowed to express it openly.
This is the difference between what an American scholar calls the public transcript and the hidden transcript. So the public transcript is a transcript of history, for instance, or of what happens today, and that is the one that is put forward by the rulers, so to speak, by those who run the country.
And then there’s a hidden transcript of the oppressed, and one should realize that the oppressed in Rwanda are not just the Hutu. There are many Tutsi who feel oppressed as well. We should, I think, abandon this dichotomist or Manichean view of Hutu vs. Tutsi. Many Tutsi suffer from this dictatorship as much as Hutu do.
KPFA: Wasn’t one of the most widely held beliefs that you helped to upend in the BBC documentary the belief that Gen. Paul Kagame and his RPF army stopped a genocide?