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Rwanda: J.D. BIZIMANA the extremist, sworn in as Minister of Unity; what to expect?

Rwanda: J.D. BIZIMANA the extremist, sworn in as Minister of Unity; what to expect?

On July 14, 2021, the Government of Rwanda announced the creation of a new ministry to deal with matters previously entrusted to national commissions. It was about taking over the missions from famous National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNGL in French), as well as from the more discreet National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC).

The new ministry had been created, but the name of the one who would take its lead, was not communicated until August 31, 2021, almost 6 weeks later.

Mixed feelings

In the meantime, many had believed in a potential openness from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (the RPF, which has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist for 27 years), to the point that some even dubbed the new ministry, “Ministry of Unity and Reconciliation”. Many were hoping that the RPF was finally ready to consider the suffering of all Rwandans, even those for which it is responsible[1].

Others, on the other hand, had seen it only as an additional maneuver from a former rebel movement which would never question itself, and even qualified the new ministry “a Ministry of indoctrination and Propaganda[2].

With the appointment of Jean-Damascène BIZIMANA, known for his defamatory and extremist statements towards the regime’s critics, there is no more doubt that the RPF’s objective is neither reconciliation, nor even propaganda, but quite simply the stalking and harassment of all those who are considered a threat to its image.

Defend the RPF against all odds

It has been a few years since more and more voices, Hutu, Tutsi, and foreigners speak out against the incessant violence of the RPF, while others demand to hold it accountable for the mass crimes committed by its troops during the 90’s in Rwanda and Congo.

Mass crimes completely founded[3] but ignored by the international community for the moment, in particular due to a fierce line of defense which consists in accusing of genocide, genocide denial, genocide ideology, etc. anyone who denounces the past and current criminality of the RPF.

Having been at the head of the CNGL for seven years, it is Jean-Damascène BIZIMANA who was the main architect of that line of defense, sparing no personality, whether Hutu, Tutsi or even foreigner[4].

The number of people labeled as “genocide deniers” literally exploded under the leadership of Jean-Damascène BIZIMANA, going so far as to qualify even Tutsi survivors as deniers, as soon as they denounce the crimes of the RPF[5].

By appointing Jean-Damascène BIZIMANA at the head of this ministry, the RPF clearly shows its desire to allocate more resources and means to a very controversial line of defense, consisting in using genocide and related crimes, as a weapon of mass deterrence towards all those who demand its accountability.

Masterstroke or fatal error?

On social networks, the appointment of Jean-Damascène BIZIMANA was greeted by fans of the regime, who love his slanderous style and prefer confrontation to appeasement, but for others, this choice is nonsense for a Government claiming to have reconciled the Rwandan people at 94.7%[6].

Attack is not always the best defense, and when it comes to reconciliation, one mistake can destroy a process that has been going on for years.

Given the particular history of Rwanda, the appointment of an extremist of the caliber of Jean-Damascène BIZIMANA as head of such a ministry does not bode well.

After all that Rwandans have gone through, the RPF should have understood that extremes breed extremes and that the only way to guarantee a promising future for Rwandans is to entrust these kinds of responsibilities to personalities who fully recognize the suffering of all Rwandans.

Opinion article submitted for publication

by Gustave Mbonyumutwa


[1] Like Victoire INGABIRE, main opponent of RPF power for more than 15 years

[2] Like David HIMBARA, former adviser to President Paul KAGAME in exile since 2010

[3] Mapping Report

[4] In January 2019, a defamation complaint was filed by Jambo asbl in Belgian courts.

[5] JD BIZIMANA interview on ITSINZI TV, 26.02.2021

[6] NURC National Reconciliation Report 2020

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