Kangura No. 27

A Bitter Truth, or Pleading for an Ethnic Group

Théoneste Segafunzi

Relations between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups are increasingly taking the form of a cruel and endless fairy tale. History is relentlessly reliving an absurd universe, which is more and more fascinating in the sense that the human condition continues to be perverted, the sacred sense of man debased, all leading to extravagant extremes of misery for its people. My article is purely personal; it does not in any way reflect the opinion of my country, or that of the Rwandan government.

I am eager to refute what was published in Jeune Afrique No. 1612, of 20 to 26 November 1991. What happened was that the Prime Minister of Burundi, Adrien SIBOMANA, gave an interview in which many of his opinions amazed me. I am sure that the article surprised a good number of other Rwandans, given the relations of good neighborliness and the secular links between the people of Burundi and Rwanda, as well as the efforts by our Heads of State to always maintain such good relations.

The article asserts that the politics of Burundi embarrasses Rwanda. It is rather the contrary that is true. As a matter of fact, the majority of the population in Rwanda has held the reins of power since 1960. The fact that this happened through a social and popular revolution is nothing but an irreversible step in the people’s history. Many other countries passed through or were forced to use this indispensable path to democracy and nowhere in the world did a people or a nation escape some form of revolution to achieve change in the normal life of their institutions. What about Burundi today, where the Tutsi ethnic group is still monopolizing power or has confiscated power, condemning the Hutus to total submission, invoking its myths and mysteries producing the theory of a superior race created to govern, such as the Aryan race in Hitler’s Germany? Is it alright, therefore, for the Hutu ethnic group to remain inert and passive vis-a-vis the Tutsi ethnic group which claims to be good at everything? Burundi is an example of some countries in the world which are strangling the seeds of democracy, committing repeated massacres in which the Hutu elite perish under the most obscure circumstances, confirming the warning signs as history taught us in 1965, 1972 and 1988, only to cite those landmark years. Those happy moments of genocide against the Hutu people are by far likely to heal the wounds and the scars. Year after year, the Hutu population falls victim to decimation schemes and nobody can doubt the tricks or devices resorted to, with the aim of creating the opportunity to doom the Hutus for ever or slit their necks like goats. It would therefore be nothing but an aberration or a paradox to believe that Burundi is more reputed than Rwanda in the field of human rights. We had better avoid taking risks as if we were playing a game of cards or simply relaxing!

In actual fact, I think that from the time the majority came to power in Rwanda, the Hutu ethnic group opened their arms to the Tutsis in order to cohabit or co-exist with them. Let me affirm here that the Hutus readily accepted that the Tutsis had a right to enjoy the advantages and the same rights offered by the motherland, but their nostalgia for power which has been repeatedly manifested by successive attacks since Rwanda attained national independence, has not at all reassured the Hutus that the Tutsis really want to cooperate in the process of forging an atmosphere of understanding and confidence in a spirit of solidarity, mutual aid and complementarity. All along, the same refractors in Burundi have remained jealous of the progress that the Hutus have made in Rwanda, in taking the bold step to rid themselves of the yoke of feudalism and monarchism.

By the way, that is why the Tutsis ethnic group in Burundi is doing everything possible to keep itself above the political arguments by maintaining a high class hierarchy while pecking at the other lower class birds. The pioneers of the 1959 Revolution took a gigantic step for the present generations…. The ghost of 400 years of domination is still looming.

Rwanda was clearly attacked from outside, with or without the complicity of the neighboring or distant countries. The Rwandan army has managed to contain the enemy and our national sovereignty and borders are now sacrosanct. On the other hand, fictitious or phony attacks have all along been reported to the international community to the effect that armed intruders infiltrated Burundi to disrupt the peace and public law and order. But we have all been informed and warned about what is being plotted every time such incidents are reported… The Tutsi oligarchy in Burundi will keep up this alarming pace.

All over the world, the Tutsis are engaged in a policy based on the Aryan myth, and their ambitions of installing an empire, a great Hamite empire in central Africa, are no longer a secret. This piece of news had echoes world-wide. It is no longer necessary to prove it, if we can only look around us and see what is happening. Both in Uganda and Zaire, the Tutsis are trying to come together as active minorities. They refuse to share or to live together in harmony with the other segments of the population. So, what is this National Unity Charter in Burundi, if not a means of thwarting the efforts of the Hutu population to achieve full multiparty politics? On the other hand, it is Burundi which is embarrassed by Rwanda’s policy. Otherwise, how far has multi-party politics gone in Burundi? Look at the hesitations and unsatisfactory explanations of the Burundian authorities in the democratization process. Rhetoric will not be enough to calm down the Hutus of Burundi over the future of the inter-ethnic relations. Their resolve is no longer in doubt; it is just a matter of time.

There have been some quite consistent rumors to the effect that Burundi, a poor Third World country, is allocating a big chunk of its budget to the purchase of armaments. At the same time, the peasants in their masses are living in abject poverty. Isn’t it true that to have peace one must prepare for war? But as opposed to that situation, look at the Rwandan countryside and see how the country has distributed the foreign aid and the various other things among the population? Look at the different achievements in rural development in Rwanda. Analyze urban development and compare this with what is obtaining in Burundi. I think the time for illusions is past. Let us not waste time on lies, on slanderous statements and wild denigration; Rwanda has taken a commendable step with regard to peace and internal unity.

As long as the Hutus in Burundi continue to lay claim on the rights they are denied, the Rwandan Hutus will be their scapegoat. How can the Hutu-Tutsi conflict be silenced while the country is at war? Rwanda will pay the price for its media campaigns. As long as majority rule is not put in place in Bujumbura, the Tutsis will never savor their victory, ink will continue to flow [and] acts of violence and hatred will continue to be perpetrated without the concern of a Bantu ethnic group or race with a right to the… [missing text].

Indeed, it is not only from neighboring countries that the Tutsis who are attacking Rwanda receive aid. The Hutus of Burundi, who are scattered all over the world like the Tutsis of Rwanda, also receive assistance from many countries. The strength of the Tutsis in Burundi does not in any way imply that they are receiving assistance from Rwanda as alleged by the Burundian Prime Minister. It is absurd for the Prime Minister to name Rwanda in his interview with regard to the current bloody clashes which are on the increase in Burundi, whereas La Voix de la Revolution du Burundi (the Voice of the Burundi Revolution) made it clear that the people behind the incidents were armed refugees from Tanzania! For thirty years in Rwanda, the Hutus have said no to the idea of an ethnic minority monopolizing power. How long will the Hutus of Burundi stand around and wait?

The events in Rwanda are more or less of interest to Burundi and vice-versa. The two peoples must cooperate and harmonize their internal policies with due respect to the interests of their respective populations. They watch each other, in the midst of everything, in order to give a good example. Diplomacy dictates that it also entails refusing to see the obvious.

Furthermore, it is absurd to claim that the headquarters of the Palipehutu party, a Burundian dissident party, is found in Rwanda. Rwanda is now envied for the peace and unity it enjoys, though a lot still remains to be done in that regard. Today, the Hutus in Rwanda are threatened by Tutsis from outside the country whose main aim is not necessarily to return home… But, happily, they are bravely defending themselves as well as can be expected given the circumstances.

Compared to Burundi, Rwanda is far ahead with regard to freedom of the press. Destiny continues to bind our two peoples together for better or for worse, but the press on both sides is virulent, controversial, or even malicious. But, to cap it all, the writers do not often reflect the opinions of their countries. In the high circles, it is total discretion, but with patience and tolerance, peace might reign once again. When the war began, some people thought that the enemy could attack our country from the south. But, surprisingly, our border with Burundi has not yet been violated; it remains intact, which is commendable. The existence of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes States (French acronym CEPGL) also helps to maintain good relations of security and cooperation between the three sister countries, namely, Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi. It is important that in future the two ethnic groups look for a definitive compromise to this long-standing feud and forget the hatred, division and spiteful spirit that instigate vengeance at any cost. When they were in power, the Tutsis tended to be more cynical than the Hutus, whose stints in power were more short-lived. Moreover, no one can claim that the Hutus are more blood-thirsty. The historians must help us find the truth about which one of the two countries is more sincere than the other. The record speaks for itself.