Speeches designed to promote hate were common in the period leading to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The Juvenal Habyarimana government relied on hate speech to spread their views and advise their partisans.
One of the most significant was delivered on 22nd November 1992 by linguist Dr Leon Mugesera, the vice president of Habyarimana’s party the Mouvement républicain national pour la démocratie et le développement (MRND) in the northwestern region.
The UN court which tried genocide suspects (ICTR) defined this speech as the earliest record of genocidal discourse in Rwanda.
Mugesera, like many ethnic extremists of the time, evoked the Hamitic narrative when discussing the RPF rebels and Tutsis. In fact, the speech provided the ideologal ground for the mass killings.
By designating the RPF and Tutsis in general as invaders, inyenzi, and snakes, Mugesera portrayed them as a threat which Hutus had to unite and eliminate. In fact, he encouraged his militants to resort to violence and exterminate Tutsis to avoid another conquest of Rwanda.
In his speech, Mugesera brings up the need to protect Rwanda and in doing so he equates violence to self-defense or protection of the Rwandan land and its people against the Tutsi invader.
In one of the passages, Mugesera also stated that “if someone comes one day to move into your yard and defecate there, will you really allow him to come again”, what he was trying to establish when talking about “your yard” was the claim of Rwanda as being the rightful home of Hutus.
He further expanded on this foreignness of the Tutsis when he called upon militants to send them back to Ethiopia through the Nyabarongo river.
The blunt message within Mugesera’s speech did not fall on deaf ears as after the genocide, the bodies of massacred Tutsis were found floating on the said river.
In her book ‘Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad‘ published earlier this year, British writer Michela Wrong invokes the same ‘Hamitic hypothesis’ to explain what she claims are ‘differences’ among Rwandans.
She writes, wrongly, that Tutsis and Hutus had a “client-patron relationship” going back before colonialism. Wrong mentions in passing about the clans of Rwanda, preferring to maintain the Hamitic narrative.
The difference between the communities (Tutsi and Hutu), Wrong writes, seem so stark that “only migration could explain it”.
Wrong backs her predecessor racists that Tutsis were originally “Hamites”—Caucasian descendants of the biblical Ham — who had migrated to the Great Lakes from Egypt and Ethiopia, conquering the indigenous Bantu and introducing their more sophisticated, civilized ways.
“It was obvious which of the ethnic groups—“European under a black skin” versus “the backward Negro”— the colonial powers would regard as natural allies,” Wrong writes on page 126.
She brands all Tutsis as “Tutsi aristocracy” accounting for “14 percent of Rwanda’s population”.
Wrong writes that “There’s a disconcertingly otherworldly appearance to these etiolated, Giacometti-slim monarchs, with their high foreheads, protruding teeth, and endless legs…”
Adding – “No wonder that, comparing these men to the stubby Hutu peasants working the fields, visitors assumed they must be separate races.”
Wrong emphasises another divisionist notion that Tutsi women are more beautiful. One example of this is where she explains how Rwandans, both Hutus and Tutsis, ended up in Uganda going back to the 1920s.
The British writer demeaningly refers to the 1959 massacre and expulsion of Tutsis from Rwanda, which went on till the mid 1960s.
Wrong writes: “Tutsi women are famous for their beauty, and as the human caravan crossed the border, Ugandan men lined the road to weigh up which women they would claim.”
“Many of the women had once belonged to the royal household, but now they were in no position to negotiate terms, so dowries were low. Some Tutsi wives, deciding that sex was now their only survival strategy, camouflaged their husbands as “brothers” and “cousins,” becoming suddenly single and available again.”
This is aimed at presenting Tutsis, also emphasised throughout various pages of the book, as canning liars.
To negate the genocide against the Tutsi, and therefore keep the denialist flame alight, Wrong writes on page 446, using previous works of like-minded authors, that “The differences between the Jews and Tutsis are as significant as the similarities.”
Wrong has a way at words when describing the RPF rebels who had come to government in 1994. “These were men supremely skilled at seduction, intellectual, emotional, or sexual.”
In a follow up, Wrong adds: “American diplomats weary of negotiating with sleazy Great Lakes politicians thrilled at the puritanism of these thin, driven young men in camouflage.”
“NGO workers who were new to Africa’s Great Lakes listened to their tales, hearts pounding with sympathy and outrage—initially, at least. Reporters, photographers, and filmmakers became lifelong friends or ended up jumping into bed with them. Intensity, along with imminent danger—and the Great Lakes has always been a dangerous place to live and work—is one of the great aphrodisiacs.”
The language, choice of authors to quote and sources for her book was strategically designed to maintain the racist ethnic theories which the genocide extremists have been using for past 27 years.
It is partly the reason the book has won praise from the extremists; it brings their vision of Rwanda into mainstream discourse.