Deborah Lipstadt: Rwanda: A new form of genocide denial

Roundup: Historians' Take

On January 27th there will be a panel at Emory University regarding Rwanda genocide denial. These deniers cannot, of course, deny that the killings took place but they try to depict them as the "normal" course of business in Rwanda.

The mantra of these deniers is: Tutsis have been killing Hutus for years. This was an example of the Hutus striking back.

Other than simply being incorrect, this mantra essentially blames the victims for their own brutal deaths. What will surprise most readers of this blog -- it certainly surprised me -- is that one of the people who has been most active in spreading this form of denial is Paul Rusesabagina.

If his name does not ring a bell, think Hotel Rwanda. He is the central character. He is speaking on college campuses, including Emory and serious scholars in many fields are deeply worried. At Emory these scholars include people who worked in Rwanda for years prior to the genocide and who witnessed the horrors up close.

This is not simply a matter of historical revisionism but also an attempt to destabilize the current government of Rwanda which has, apparently, made tremendous strides in creating stability and reinvigorating the economy.

On January 27th there will be a high powered panel to address this issue:
Beyond Hollywood’s Rwanda: Truth and Justice, Security and Development

Location: Glenn Memorial Auditorium, Emory University
Time: Tuesday, Nov. 27 6-8 PM

Andrew Young Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN and Mayor of Atlanta, Chairman, Goodworks Intl

James Kimonyo Rwandan Ambassador to the U.S.

Deborah E. Lipstadt Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies

Egide Karuranga Virginia State University Professor, Genocide survivor at the Hotel des
Miles Collines

Gregory S. Gordon University of North Dakota Law Professor, Former legal Officer for International Criminal Court Tribunal for Rwanda

Jeffrey Richter Senior Historian, US Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations

Limited Seating. Free Tickets available at DUC information desk, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory School of Law, and other Atlanta locations.

Details at

Ticketing Information:

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

fair left - 11/27/2007

The mass killing of Tutsis in 1994 is historical fact, but not much more than that. For example, the approximate number killed (within a 100,000?) is unknown. Also, it is not known how many deaths were the result of genocidal intentions rather than of the fear and dis/misinformation of civil war and/or its always massive 'collateral damage'.

It's unfortunate that there obviously is a politically correct position (at a history website no less) on applying the contentious term 'genocide' to Rwanda. The events of 1994 are recent, it is difficult if not impossible to get sufficient unbiased and first-hand documentary evidence, and there definitely are the usual poltical uses and distortions of recent history in play. Therefore, responsible historians should now be very cautious about final judgements. Unfortunately this post demonstrates that that obviously is not the case.

As for economic progress the writer contends is being made in Rwanda, it may be the kind of economic growth that benefits the upper class and hurts especially the rural poor:

"Soaring inequality is threatening poverty reduction and economic growth," the [UN's] National Human Development Report 2007 noted, adding that Rwanda’s high growth rates have hidden large and growing inequalities between social classes, geographic regions and gender. ...

"Disparities cut across all sectors and undermine Rwanda’s progress towards the MDGs [Millenium Development Goals] in all areas from health to education and even poverty reduction," Soumare [Moustapha Soumare, the UN Resident Coordinator in Rwanda] said.

According to the report, Rwanda’s recent growth has bypassed the rural poor leading to a concentration of wealth at the top of the income distribution bracket - a situation that could lead the country to exhaust its ability to reduce poverty rates through economic growth alone.