Five signs of racism in Rwanda
If in Rwanda there are laws against divisionism, revisionism or genocide ideology, it is because there are people with divisionism out there. I have noticed signs of racism during my last visit home or from messages and discussions I have with my fellow country people online. Listen carefully, you will notice too.
One: Reasoning in terms of two camps
You will always spot a racist in Rwanda easily because they all use words like “mwe” or “mwebwe” versus “twe” or “twebwe” especially in every political discussion you engage with him or her.
The divisionist always reason in terms of two camps and tend compares one side from the other. It’s very hard to reason such individual in terms of unity of the people.
Early sign of racism is when you hear someone having trouble accepting differing opinion. Our racist takes no one else’s point of view. In fact, most of them think that having a different idea is an attack on their “camp”.
The racist always thinks the “other” side is bad, inferior, useless, lost or with bad intentions. Belittlement of members of other ethnic groups can be done without explicitly making mention of the ethnic group of the other person or persons. Racist will constantly criticize the opinions of others or even ridicule them.
Two: Denial of victimhood
Very often in Rwanda, when discussing issues of reconciliation and justice, conversation concerning victims of Rwandan tragedy comes at the centre. This is mainly because many Rwandan families lost their members in the past. We all want to honour all of our loved ones regardless of why, where and by who they died. We must refuse to select whom to morn and whom to forget.
Surprisingly, I hear people emphasizing their lost ones as the only victims of Rwandan conflict. It is a sign of racism when someone shows lack of sympathy towards other lost ones.
Only in Rwanda you will hear people publicly deny in front of the victims that lives of other family members were lost or giving reasons or justifications as to why innocent people had to die. History of genocide in Rwandan community is a result of extreme and institutionalised racism of some.
Another sign of worst racism is the attempt to counterbalance or to minimise the impact of the lost of lives in “other” communities. Universally, it is common for racists to have no insight into their own prejudice. This is because they believe their prejudice to be based upon objective grounds.
What racist people forget is that often families of the victims are well aware in full details of what happened to their own people.
Three: Collective blame
In Rwanda, racists don’t mind blaming someone for crimes that they know they never did. The blame is given because they are of same ethnic group with those who committed ethnic violence. Instead each individual involved should be accountable for his or her own actions.
Crimes begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all members of same ethnic group. Unfortunately, racists tend to hold others of the same ethnicity “collectively” responsible for crimes that took place in Rwanda.
From collective blame springs presumed thought crimes in Rwanda. This is when someone is charged with the crime of thinking like someone else. One can get suspected of having the same “imitekerereze” [thinking] with bad intent.
Pretending or staying indifferent to the plight of members of society who are of other ethnic group when they suffer injustices is also a sign of racism. You can easily sense when someone feels no sympathy whatsoever towards other people’s suffering, poverty, hardship, injustice or disadvantage. It is typical of the racist to see or seek pleasure in the “other” group’s suffering.
Five: Denial of ethnic group existence
A racist is someone who believes that mentioning names of our ethnic groups is a crime (In Rwanda it is punishable to 20 years in prison). On one hand, Hutu, Tutsi and Twa are an integral part of us, our culture, our identity, our tradition and history. For some reasons, today some people find it an offense for others to feel and express who they think they are.
On the other hand, a constant reference to someone’s ethnic background is also an unmistakable pattern of racism.
In Rwanda, many people find it extraordinary or a miracle that Hutu and Tutsi are living side by side in Rwanda today. But peaceful cohabitation is not new in our country. Rwandans have lived together side by side, in same hills for centuries. They intermarried, shared farms, harvests, wells, schools and problems. So it is not an achievement of the any regime. Peaceful cohabitation was and is still enshrined in our culture.
In conclusion, we should “celebrate both our commonalities and differences, because if we had nothing in common we could not communicate, and if we had everything in common, we would have nothing to say.” as said Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi
Not surprisingly, it is rare, today, for a person to admit to being a racist.