Senators on Monday overwhelmingly voted to lock out the media to review a report on how foreign-instigated denial of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda could impact the country.
Ordinary members of the public seated in the gallery were also asked to leave the session held Monday afternoon.
At 3pm, the usual time for plenary sessions, all senators took their seats. On the order paper that had been communicated to media, was presentation of a report on genocide denial from outside Rwanda.
As the session got underway, Senate President Bernard Makuza said the report be reviewed internally before it was made public.
“Relying on article 70 of the Constitution and article 51 determining the proceedings of the Senate, am requesting that this discussion should be held in the presence of only Senators because of the nature of the report and fact that it is still at preliminary stage,”said Makuza.
He put the recommendation to a vote. Out of the quorum present, 20 voted in favor, one voted against and two invalid votes. Others were not in the session. Senate has total of 26 members.
“We hereby ask everyone who is not a Senator to leave the Chamber as decided by majority of the members,” ordered Makuza.
It has become routine that sessions on genocide ideology are attended by large numbers of media – and no recent session has been closed off.
Previous sessions have seen release of hard-hitting findings – which have been covering the situation inside Rwanda.
The most recent report last year accused some of the biggest religious groups of promoting actions among their followers that undermine national unity and reconciliation. Action is yet to be taken, and when it does, it will be uncompromising – going by previous cases.
More than 10 years ago, a political party the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR) was banned when it was found to promote genocide ideology. Its leader, and first post-genocide prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu remains in exile.
The 2003 political dispensation ushered in by the national constitution promulgated the same year, gives the Senate the role of fighting against genocide ideology.
In late 2009, the Senate recommended judicial prosecution against politician and leader of PS Imberakuru Bernard Ntaganda after it was determined he had a case to answer for fomenting ethnic divisionism.
A year later, the High Court in Kigali found Ntaganda guilty of endangering national security, inciting ethnic divisions – and attempting to organize demonstrations without official authorization. He was Jailed for four years.
In the Monday session, no details were readily available as no Senators were willing to speak – even after the session. It is likely the report names individuals, entities and governments enabling the continued existence and spread of denial.
A five-member team of Senators from Standing committee on foreign affairs, cooperation and security conducted the investigation.
It includes Michel Rugema, Jeanne Mukakalisa, Appolinaire Mushinzimana,
Thérèse Kagoyire Bishagara and Charles Uyisenga.
This latest attempt at tackling genocide ideology from outside Rwanda has been ruled as a national security threat by government. During the national dialogues “Umushyikirano” in recent years, denial and negation from outside Rwanda makes it back to the resolutions every year.
Following a controversial BBC documentary in October 2014 Titled “Rwanda, the untold story”, parliament recommended tough action on the British broadcaster following a heated day-long joint session of the House. Several other similar sessions have taken place provoked by other foreign actions – which have been deemed as negationist.
The national commission for the fight against genocide (CNLG) has said previously that social media, online platforms and foreign broadcasters are facilitating spread of genocide ideology.
“It is a serious concern. People are using online platforms to deny, spread the genocide ideology and disseminate messages of hate,” says Dr Jean-Damascene Bizimana, the CNLG executive secretary.