Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Antoine: "The regime does not tolerate anyone who honours the Hutu killed by the RPF"

Antoine’s story is emblematic of many Rwandans who have fled the country since the 1994 genocide. An educated and thoughtful man, he studied at the National University of Rwanda in the late 1990s. A Tutsi survivor of the genocide, Antoine embraced the ethnic unity that is the basis of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front’s reconciliation policy. He fell in love with Claire, a Hutu woman that he met during his studies.

Group fear shapes individual choice
Many of Antoine’s Tutsi relatives and friends did support his intended marriage to Claire. Her father was a prominent diplomat during the Habyarimana regime. Antoine’s relatives recognized because of his ranking position in the genocidal regime of Habyrimana that Claire’s father could very well be one of the organizers of the 1994 genocide. Claire’s family also had their doubts that she could marry into a Tutsi family, now that the current government, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), seeks to limit the participation of ethnic Hutu in government and civil society circles. Claire’s father was executed by the Rwandan military in July 1994? And her family did not want her to marry into a band of killers.

Allegations of minimising the genocide
Despite the opposition of family, Antoine and Claire married in Rwanda in 2003. Four years after, Antoine went to start his Master’s degree in North America, leaving Claire behind. In 2008, Claire’s family organized a prayer vigil to honour her father. Agents from the government’s Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) knew of the vigil, and detained Claire for more than six hours at a police station in Kigali. DMI interpreted the vigil as a sign that her Hutu family was minimising the genocide because, lamented Antoine, "the regime does not tolerate anyone who honours the Hutu killed by the RPF". Indeed, the RPF does not recognize have deliberately killed the Hutu. A foreign journalist friend of Claire’s family also attended the vigil. When DMI agents learned of this, they accused Claire of inviting the journalist to spread the false truth about the RPF in foreign papers. She was ordered to stop interacting with the journalist; if she did not, she would be arrested.

Move to exile
Shortly after DMI agents visited Claire, Antoine mobilized to bring his family in North-America where they have applied for asylum.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this story,After reading this post I shed tears;many of us have lived that life and many continue to live it back there.It is good to let the world know what hutu orphans go/went through in that country with no way to remember their lost beloved one.