Friday, April 09, 2004

You know, 'cause it worked so well for Marshal Tito.

A Decade After Massacres, Rwanda Outlaws Ethnicity.

That new thinking has its critics — those who say that denying that ethnicity exists merely suppresses the painful ethnic dialogue that Rwanda requires. But the government insists that if awareness of ethnic differences can be learned, so can the idea that ethnicity does not exist.
Has Rwanda hired Jacques Derrida as an advisor or something? The only way this policy can work is if deconstructionism is correct and the notion of ethnicity, as a social construct, is easily changed or erased if it serves the interests of elites. And now for the opposing view.
"To deny that ethnicity exists in our country is lying," Jean Nayinzira Nepomuscene, a Hutu who ran against Mr. Kagame last fall but garnered just 1 percent of the vote, said in an interview. "If a person is a Tutsi you can't tell him not to be a Tutsi. A Hutu, you can't tell him not to be a Hutu." Mr. Kagame's main opponent in the election was a Hutu, Faustin Twagiramungu, who overtly appealed to the Hutu majority for support. Mr. Kagame's government likened his approach to the techniques used by Hutu extremists in 1994 to foment the mass killings, and threatened to jail him.
Rwanda needs to take measures to prevent future massacres but I strongly doubt the ultimate efficacy of thought police and re-education camps.
It is not just considered bad form to discuss ethnicity in the new Rwanda. It can land one in jail. Added to the penal code is the crime of "divisionism," a nebulous offense that includes speaking too provocatively about ethnicity...The government does not want to hear suggestions that one ethnicity or the other has too much power. Those are divisive thoughts. It is not possible to know, or even discuss, whether the majority Hutu population is well represented in universities. No such records are kept.
In the past, such measures have invariably ended in tears.
Critics argue that Rwanda's crackdown on "divisionism" has turned into a way of quashing dissent toward the governing party of President Paul Kagame, who led the Tutsi rebel movement that swept in from Uganda in 1994 to oust the Hutu militias known as Interahamwe, which were responsible for much of the violence. His administration has shut down opposition parties for being too divisive and jailed journalists and activists for the same.
A postmodernist solution becomes a postmodernist problem. Why am I not surprised?
François Ngarambe, who is president of Ibuka, a group representing survivors, said his young children had only a vague notion of the ethnic differences that led to the killings in 1994. "They don't see themselves that way," he said. "That's what gives me hope."
I hope he's right but the possibility that he's wrong must be prepared for.