A speaker at the second International Day for Countering Hate Speech event organized by the United Nations office in Rwanda. (Courtesy photo)
A speaker at the second International Day for Countering Hate Speech event organized by the United Nations office in Rwanda. (Courtesy photo)

Officials have renewed calls to stop the wave of hate speech against Rwandans and Kinyarwanda-speaking communities in the Great Lakes Region, The New Times, Rwanda’s largest daily newspaper, reported Saturday.

This was highlighted on Friday as the second International Day for Countering Hate Speech was marked in an event organized by the United Nations office in Rwanda, attended by government officials and members of the civil society, the diplomatic community, and others from various international organizations.

The day was held under the theme “Say No To Hate.”

Also in attendance, virtually, was the U.N.’s special adviser on genocide prevention, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, who has, on different occasions, warned of genocidal violence in eastern DR Congo, where members of the Tutsi community are persecuted.

Nderitu commended Rwanda for “remarkable progress in transcending the traumatic experience of its past,” and for promoting justice, peace and reconciliation.

“Hate speech is not a joke; it can be lethal,” Nderitu said, highlighting the role played by the infamous RTLM radio station in fueling the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) was an extremist radio set up and financed by hard-line extremists. Described by scholars as having been a de facto arm of the genocidal government, it played a significant role in inciting the massacres that took place from April to July 1994. Its programs called on the public to hunt and kill all the Tutsi in Rwanda during the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Nderitu said she was “concerned by increasing trends of genocide denial and distortion, a particularly insidious form of hate speech.”

Nderitu noted that hate speech is taught.

During the event, it was noted that while Rwanda heals from the horrors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, there are signs of another genocide in neighboring DR Congo, which not only threatens the country’s Tutsi community but also regional security.

A video that circulated recently showing Congolese schoolchildren echoing sentiments of hate against Rwanda and Uganda was highlighted as a testimony to the level of hate propaganda in the country.

Drawing from Rwanda’s experience, Jean Damascene Bizimana, the minister of National Unity and Civic Engagement, said: “Hate speech is a starkly clear sign of a genocide in preparation.”

In Rwanda, hate speech was given a place in the media, Bizimana noted, citing Kangura newspaper. In 1959, Prosper Gitera introduced 10 Hutu Commandments and his hate speech led to many atrocities, including the total genocide in 1994. The governments of Gregoire Kayibanda and Juvenal Habyarimana promoted ethnic discrimination.

“Now than ever before, we are witnessing the genocide ideology from eastern [DR Congo], a region that received a massive number of genocide perpetrators,” Bizimana said.

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