Dec 20, 2021
The Colbert Factor (International Edition)
Rwanda Speaks to Cameroon(1)
It is heart-rending to note that although it was one of Cameroon’s illustrous sons, Barrister Benard Achu Muna, who was charged with piloting the justice, reconciliation and reconstruction phase of Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide, as Lead Prosecutor at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, ICTR, in Arusha-Tanz; and who helped in redefining to the world what genocide and war crimes in the case of the conflict pitting majority Hutus against minority Tutsis was; he was seen at the start of the conflict in Bamenda in 2016, urging youths bubbling with anger infront of North West Governor’s Office, to fight for their rights, when he himself at the ICTR, was at the forefront of sentencing military and civilian leaders in Rwanda to dead and life imprisonment for aiding and encouraging youths to fight and kill fellow Rwandans, a trigger that resulted in the worse deadly conflict the world has ever recorded.
There’s no doubt that Rwanda and Cameroon share some historical and socio-cultural elements together that led to some of the real or perceived injustices since independence in 1994, leading to one group rising up against another.
While a marked difference could be that Southern Cameroonians enjoyed some form of independence before reuniting with their French Cameroon brothers, Rwanda under the French and Belgian tutelageship saw the minority industrious Tutsis provide leadership to the country until after independence in the 60s where the majority Hutus seized power and started witch-hunting Tutsis. And just like Anglophone Cameroonians who started exiling themselves to foreign countries to escape
persecution, so too did Tutsi Rwandans.
The lack of an institutional framework to address the boiling-over of hatred from one group against another in Rwanda, led to the unspicable genocide of 1994. When Rwanda came over it, the world never knew it could happen again in any other part of the world, until we are shocked to see it happening in Cameroon, as the world itself watches on in much the same way it watched Rwandans butcher and hack away each other in 1994.
As we reflect on this sad memories, gory pictures of a Cameroon soldier killed in battle in Santa-Cameroon, are making viral rounds on social media. Just like Tutsi Rwandans were pummelled and hacked away in the most despicable manner using crude instruments, so too was the Uniform Officer in Bamenda, who, after been killed, his killers went ahead to chop off his head with a cutlass. The same, unfortunately, have also been a currency on the side of Government forces. Killing a fellow human being is bad enough…hacking him/her away is a worser war crime, as concluded by the Benard Muna-ICTR.
Rwanda teaches the world, and Cameroon in particular that, when the chips are down, there is no hiding place for all those who commit war crimes, however genuine the cause was. Not in the Rwandan genocide situation; certainly not in the Cameroon situation. Not even a single individual, however masked s/he could have been at the time of committing the crime, was not tracked down after the Rwandan genocide, either by the ICTR, the National courts or simply by the local community courts.
The so-called international Community that most Cameroonians seem to be looking up to may be good at assisting war-torn countries reconcile, rebuild and move forward, but it doesn’t seem to be their business discouraging the seeding and escalation of conflicts.
In the heart of the Rwandan Genocide, when the whole Tutsi minority was about being wiped out, the UN instead reduced its over 2500 peace-keeping force in Rwanda to less than 300.
Extremist Hutus then took advantage to step up the hacking away and pummelling of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Hutu women who were married to Tutsi men, were encouraged to not only kill their husbands but also their own offspring. Tutsi guides at the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in Kigali, would narrate to you tear-provoking stories of even women who sort refuge in Church but were all massacred by extremist fighters. Just like the Church in Anglophone Cameroon, the Catholic Church in Rwanda originally supported the Hutus quest for power and control.
As the genocide against Tutsis became unbearable, and unlike in the Cameroon case where leaders enjoy their comfort zones abroad and order youths back home to self-immolate themselves, Paul Kagame, himself a Tutsi and a senior wealthy General in the Ugandan Army, decided to give up his juicy position and privileges in Uganda, to form the Patriotic Liberation Front, FPL, and come home and fight to liberate not only his Tutsi minority group but the whole of the Rwandan people.
In a few weeks, his army had overrun the capital, Kigali, and even though he was in a winner-takes-all-position, Paul Kagame, PK, listened the voice of wisdom and calls from the international community for a negotiated peace deal where he opted to rather become Vice President and allow a Hutu the post of President of the Transitional Government, till elections in 2000, where he was overwhelmingly voted President. He could’ve opted to revenge the ruthless decimation of his Tutsi minority tribe, but against the wishes of the few remaining Tutsis and the larger Diasporan community, he opted for unity, peace and reconciliation, thereby attracting the international community to come in for the rebuilding and reconciliation of all Rwandans.
It took approximately 100 days for the massacring of Rwandan Tutsis, but it has taken over 22 years of rebuilding the minds and hearts of Rwandans, talk less of destroyed infrastructure. It is approximately five good years since the conflict broke out in the two English Speaking minority Regions of Cameroon, nostalgically referred to as Southern Cameroons. How much longer shall it take to reconstruct? It seems neither Rwanda nor Cameroon have the answers.
Important to note is the fact that like Rwanda in 1994, both sides to the conflict in Cameroon can have the answers to when it is peacefully negotiated to an end.
Over 30 000 Hutus were formally charged to Court and convicted for taking part directly or indirectly in the Rwandan genocide. Complaints about receiving orders from above, either from military or civilian leaders didn’t constitute an excuse in the Muna-led International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, ICTR. Probably, it would not be different when time comes for the International Criminal Tribunal for Cameroon, ICTC.
Over and above, and fortunately for Cameroon, Rwanda and Rwandans have demonstrated in truimphant detail that there’s life after hate. A vous le tour, Cameroon.
Shortlive the struggle.
Colbert Gwain: reflections after visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Rwanda, 25-1-2022