BBC under fire for ‘Genocide Denier’ documentary on Rwanda

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stirred controversy after presenting a revisionist version of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide – in which a Hutu militia slaughtered more than 500,000 Tutsis.Rwanda genocide

The documentary titled “Rwanda: The Untold Story”, aired on October 2, was described, by the producers as a film that: “reveals evidence that challenges the accepted story of one of the most horrifying events of the late 20th century. ….. investigates evidence of Kagame’s role in the shooting down of the presidential plane that sparked the killings in 1994 and questions his claims to have ended the genocide… [and] examines claims of war crimes committed by Kagame’s forces and their allies in the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and allegations of human rights abuses in today’s Rwanda”.

Several public personalities including the President of Rwanda, however, denounced the documentary as “Genocide denial”.

President Paul Kagame rebuked the BBC in a speech at the national parliament claiming that the production of the film exhibited “cynicism of the highest order”.

In his speech on Wednesday, the President said:

“They chose to tarnish Rwandans, to dehumanise them, and deny the very genocide they reported on. This is coming from a part of the world that has a lot of instructions to give us about freedoms. This is not the first time, we see it every day, every week, every month in all forms.”…..

“The freedom they teach us is different when it comes to Rwanda. They selected all those who have been discredited for very obvious reasons to be the ones to tell the story that should be believed about all of us.”…..

“There was terrorism done here. When grenades were thrown, killing our children, it was the first time that I saw terrorism being internationally supported. [BBC] has given a platform to those who actually were behind it. These people in the documentary are the one who were behind the grenades. Would they give the same platform to ISIS(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)?”

The film was dubbed “Genocide Denial” in an open letter signed by thirty-eight scholars, scientists, researchers, journalists and historians from Africa, Europe and North America demanding “the BBC to apologize for the offence this program has caused for all victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda”.

The signees of the letter pointed out:

” The parts of the film which concern the 1994 genocide, far from providing viewers with an ‘Untold Story’ as the title promises, are old claims. For years similar material using similar language has been distributed far and wide as part of an on-going ‘Hutu Power’ campaign of genocide denial. At the heart of this campaign are convicted génocidaires, some of their defence lawyers from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and their supporters and collaborators. These deniers continually question the status of the genocide and try to prove – like the programme – that what it calls the ‘official narrative’ of the 1994 genocide is wrong. The BBC programme Rwanda’s Untold Story recycles their arguments and provides them with another platform to create doubt and confusion about what really happened.”

The letter highlighted, among others, three flaws in the film:

Three of the untenable claims made in the programme are of the utmost concern: the first is a lie about the true nature of the Hutu Power militia. The second is an attempt to minimize the number of Tutsi murdered in the genocide, and the third is an effort to place the blame for shooting down President Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994 on the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).”

First, the programme allows a witness to claim that ‘only ten percent of the Interahamwe (militia) were killers’. In fact, the majority of Hutu Power militia forces – estimated to have been 30,000 strong – were trained specifically to kill Tutsi at speed, and indoctrinated in a racist ideology, part of genocide planning. There is eyewitness testimony by several militia leaders who cooperated with the ICTR.

Second, the programme attempts to minimise the number of Tutsi murdered, a typical tactic of genocide deniers. The false figures cited are provided by two US academics who worked for a team of lawyers defending the génocidaires at the ICTR. They even claim that in 1994 more Hutu than Tutsi were murdered – an absurd suggestion and contrary to all the widely available research reported by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Commission, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Africa Rights, a UN Security Council mandated Commission of Experts and evidence submitted to the ICTR and other European courts who have successfully put on trial several perpetrators.

Third, the film argues that the shooting down of the plane on April 6, 1994 was perpetrated by the RPF. This same story was promoted by Hutu Power extremists within a few hours of the president’s assassination and promoted ever since by génocidaires and a few ICTR defence lawyers…… “

Nonetheless, it was welcomed by some commenters.

A columnist at GlobalResearch website remarked:

It’s not often I praise the BBC for producing real journalism……What the documentary demonstrates forcefully is that Paul Kagame, the hero of the official story of Rwanda’s genocide, was almost certainly the biggest war criminal to have emerged from those horrifying events. Kagame led the Tutsis’ main militia, the RPF. He almost certainly ordered the shooting down of the Rwandan president’s plane, the trigger for a civil war that quickly escalated into a genocide; on the best estimates, his RPF was responsible for killing 80% of the 1 million who died inside Rwanda, making the Hutus, not the Tutsis, the chief victims; and his subsequent decision to extend the civil war into neighbouring Congo, where many Hutu civilians had fled to escape the RPF, led to the deaths of up to 5 million more.

In the same fashion, journalists of a US-based leftist radio, KPFA radio, commented:

The history that the documentary challenges is not legally enforced in the United States, as it is in Rwanda, but it is ideologically central to U.S. foreign policy. The bombing of both Libya and Syria were prefaced by U.S. officials’ urgent warnings that we must – quote unquote – “stop the next Rwanda.” KPFA’s Ann Garrison filed this report.

With “Rwanda: The Untold Story,” the BBC became the first media outlet of its size and influence to radically challenge the received history of the Rwandan Genocide, which has become such a centerpiece of US and NATO interventionist policies.


Daniel Berhane

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