There is today a new breed of genocide deniers who pose as survivors of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda with the purpose of distorting the genocide with revisionist propaganda.
They come in the form of descendants of Rwandans directly or indirectly linked with the genocide, but who are of a younger generation now living mostly in North America, Europe and Australia from where they try to play the false convert, preaching the reconciliation of Rwandans and decrying a “genocide” which they are not even willing to call by its name.
Every year, during the month of April and for weeks after, Rwandans at home and in the Diaspora gather in commemoration events to honor more than a million people who were brutally murdered in just 100 days from April 7, 1994, targeted simply because they were Tutsi.
Commemorations are also an opportunity for survivors of the genocide to share testimonies of what they went through with the determination to forge strength and resilience to rebuild their lives and their communities so that their loved ones shall not have perished in vain.
Unfortunately, genocide deniers have also embarked on a mission to hold their own versions of commemorations, in live and on-line conferences, aimed at obfuscating the historical fact of the genocide and if possible ignite tension and discord among Rwandans, especially the youth who are more vulnerable to the online toxic propaganda of these groups.
In a despicable mockery of commemoration, these groups often invite and associate with other well-known revisionists from around the globe, to make pretentious claims, filled with self-aggrandizing false stories about their survival during the Tutsi genocide of 1994.
They also use their sham commemorations to advance political propaganda and revisionist ideologies framed in reconciliation messages for Rwandans.
These deniers may pretend to be genocide survivors, but they are not difficult to detect due to key features of their rhetoric: In their sham commemorations they usually digress to undermine the current Rwandan government’s achievements in reconciling and uniting its people.
They also hardly ever mention the official name of the genocide they pretend to commemorate, maintaining instead, the use of generic references such as “Rwandan genocide”, or “the 1994 war and genocide”– descriptions which fail to identify the target- group in the genocide– an important piece to the name of the genocide as recognized by the United Nations.
On January 26, 2018, The United Nations General Assembly amended previous definitions and designated “7 April, International Day of Reflection on 1994 Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda”.
This designation was aptly defended on the merits that “It captured the historical fact of what happened in 1994–the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda–and left no room for ambiguity”.
One of the more vocal revisionists of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis is a Rwandan man by the name Claude Gatebuke, who lives in the United States.
In the past couple of years, he has held sham commemorations, live and online with his familiar line of “twibuke bose” (commemorate all).
He pretends to be a survivor of the genocide, even though he is clearly not one.
Gatebuke’s tactic is to present himself as a genocide survivor so that he may gain credibility and then use his platform to disseminate his revisionist agenda framed as a message of reconciliation.
Time and again he falsifies, distorts, and relativizes the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.
Put it simply, Gatebuke does not recognise the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
To him the genocide refers to “all deaths which occurred in Rwanda between 1990 and 2000 as revealed in his You Tube conference held on April 25, 2020.
Many of the guests invited to this so-called commemoration have direct or indirect links to genocide perpetrators through family connections.
A good example is another genocide denier by the name Amiel Nubaha who is based in Queensland, Australia.
His father, Froduard Rukeshangabo, also living in Australia, is alleged to have directed mass murder and torture of Tutsi in the Eastern Province of Rwanda during the genocide.
It is astonishing how Gatebuke who claims to be a genocide survivor would invite to a genocide commemoration, a guest with such a disturbing connection.
But Gatebuke’s background has its own disturbing revelations which would undermine his claims of a genocide survivor, and his credibility to speak on the reconciliation of Rwandans.
According to reliable sources, Claude Gatebuke is a son of one Gatsinzi Gatebuke, a Hutu ideologue who hailed from President Habyarimana’s ruling MRND (National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development) stronghold of Gisenyi in the northwest of Rwanda– a region that bore most of the poll bearers of the Interahamwe militias blamed for leading the genocide which Gatebuke the son claims he survived.
Gatsinzi Gatebuke is said to have loathed Tutsis so much that he would never even sit with a Tutsi at the same table during lunch where he worked at the office of Rwanda’s National Office of Population (ONAPO) in Kigali.
Gatsinzi Gatebuke was also known to boast that “Rwanda and everything in it belonged to Hutus”.
How then, could a person with this sort of father seriously present himself as a survivor of the genocide? It does not seem likely that he or his family would have been in any danger to be attacked during the genocide.
Gatebuke is well educated and is not naïve.
He well knows and understands the activities of the guests he invites to speak at his public events.
For example, his close associate, Amiel Nubaha from Australia, who was invited to speak at Gatebuke’s sham commemoration of April 25 this year also held a similar commemoration event last year in Queensland, Australia.
Also, among his guests was Paul Rusasabagina, the Hollywood- famed “hero” who purportedly saved Tutsis as portrayed in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”.
Today, Rusesabagina is linked with terror groups operating in the eastern DR-Congo to destabilise Rwanda. Gatebuke would certainly not be oblivious to these facts, but he associates with all these groups, nonetheless.
They are essentially his accomplices, in a well-coordinated plan to accomplish a sinister mission, which is to deny the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, create disharmony among Rwandans, especially those in the Diaspora, and ultimately destabilize Rwanda. They must be understood not for what they say or posture, but by what they truly are.
By all accounts, Gatebuke’s views and lies are tantamount to genocide denial. And, genocide denial is considered to be the last stage of genocide, according to Gregory H. Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide.
The 1994 Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda is not debatable. It is an established, historical fact, and undeniably the darkest episode of Rwanda’s modern history.
In a short period of just 100 days in the spring of 1994, more than one million lives were brutally murdered.
Terrified Tutsis were hunted down and hacked to death in broad daylight, in their homes and in every hiding place.
During the genocide, some Hutus who opposed one way or another the plan of the genocide were also killed, but the genocide was planned with one principle objective: to exterminate the Tutsi population in Rwanda.
And it could well have been, if the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) had not stopped the perpetrators in July 1994.
Rwandans and the International Community must join forces to fight genocide ideology and genocide denial in all forms. We must all be vigilant about sophisticated deniers, like Claude Gatebuke and others, who disguise as genocide survivors while pursuing a mission to deny the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda.
The author is based in Canada and is one of the leaders among the Rwandan Community Abroad.