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OPINION

The broken silence of the lambs. The Hague trial of the Rwandan genocide fomenter as prologue for Russian “de-Nazifiers”

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There is some inaccuracy in the perception of Félicien Kabuga who finally ended up in The Hague on charges of genocide. Kabuga is considered a propagandist and almost a journalist, with reference to the activities of Rwanda's infamous Free Television and Radio Thousand Hills. And it's true, but Kabuga is a murderer in a much more precise sense and on a much larger scale; he was part of a very narrow clique of usurpers and conspirators who carefully planned a nightmarish massacre in which 800,000 to a million Rwandans were stabbed, shot, dismembered, strangled and beaten to death in 1994.

Radio Thousand Hills was created only a year before the genocide and was conceived in advance by Kabuga only as a convenient tool for future massacres (as, ninety years before him, a similar maniac and murderer Ulyanov-Lenin made his Pravda not out of love for truth and journalism but as a «party organ» coordinating terror and usurpation of power). Before that, Felicien Kabuga had not been a “media tycoon”, but a tea planter, a billionaire who married off his daughter to the dictator-president's son and joined a small circle of his “friends” (like the Kovalchuks under Putin, though we will see below that he was rather a hybrid version of Yevgeny Prigozhin).

As for the genocide itself, the focus of its understanding in journalistic circles is also somewhat blurred. It is generally accepted that it was a “massacre of the Tutsi people by the Hutu people”, that is, a deep interethnic conflict, as if it were a normal and inevitable natural phenomenon. This belittles the role and responsibility of individuals in this story, as well as the contours and causes of the catastrophe itself. The main objective of the members of President Habyarimana's junta, as listed in the indictment of the international tribunal, was the trivial and blunt concentration and retention of power. Our Russian and Belarusian readers are well familiar with this problem and know very well that any slogans and explanations can be used for this purpose. It is important to note that in the 100-day massacre, not only the Tutsis were killed, but also the «moderate» Hutus who got in the way of the ruling party. (The international indictment documents contain many instances of the expression “massacres against the Tutsi population and moderate Hutu.) Of course, the genocide of the Tutsi as a nationality is pure truth, although the problem is broader. And here a historical reference would be in order.

Interethnic strife after decolonization was being utilized for decades to consolidate power by the African «elites» who found themselves at the head of the new states. In Rwanda, under the Belgian colonizers, the Tutsi minority was privileged, and the country was ruled by Tutsi officials led by the king (mwami). The years of Tutsi privilege seemed to legitimize the hatred of the oppressed Hutu majority, and the revolution was perceived as the triumph of justice, all the more in the garb of a democratic republic. Speaking of democracy: under Habyarimana, power in the country was in the hands of the only allowed party - the National Revolutionary Movement for Development, under the mocking, Putin-style slogan “Peace and National Unity”. Every citizen of the country was forced to be a party member, something not even Stalin thought of in the USSR, not to mention Putin's sparce party system. This environment, in turn, justified the retaliatory violence of the Tutsis, who fled the country in huge numbers and gathered in the so-called Rwandan Patriotic Front, which invaded Rwanda in 1990. In 1993, a shaky truce was reached with it, which worried the president's loyal hawks, since a treaty is always a constraint on dictatorship.

It was then that the extremists and radicals at the top of the presidency, among whom the current defendant Félicien Kabuga was already active, had their finest hour. «A group of comrades» convinced the president that without a «final solution» to the Tutsi question, his power would always be at risk, and that the noble rage of the Hutus would not be difficult to channel in the right direction. (Again, it is worth emphasizing that there were many moderate and educated citizens among the Hutus themselves who found themselves under the genocidal steamroller with the Tutsis, despite all the racist and nationalist pathos of the impending massacre.)

Kabuga's actions were systematic and rational. He married off one of his daughters to the president's eldest son and another to the son of the planning minister (a future accomplice in the genocide). This guaranteed mutual cover-up and the immutability of his positions. In the spring of 1993, Kabuga purchased and brought into the country with his own money half a million machetes and other farm implements, which were much cheaper than firearms, did not immediately draw attention to the events under preparation, and at the same time were safe for the government itself. Another step was the funding of, and “partial mobilization” of the Hutus into, a sort of non-governmental PMC called Interahamwe. Interahamwe means “those who work together.” Subsequently, on Radio Thousand Hills “working together” became the signal for raids with machetes and the slaughtering of Tutsis. In July 1993, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, of which Félicien Kabuga became both the owner and general director, launched its programs in which, as is widely known, Tutsis were de-humanized, called cockroaches, and their extermination was touted as an act of patriotism and defense of sovereign democracy. In the radio programs, the Tutsis would take about the same place as the “Ukrainian Banderites” in the programs that currently air on Russia Today and Radio KP, which, as we now see, are ideal candidates for the next Hague trial along with all their order givers and superiors.

In April 1994, the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down on landing by unknown assailants. The death of Habyarimana has not yet been fully investigated, but of course the Tutsis were blamed for it, and the crash was a perfect signal for the massacre to begin. Witnesses later claimed that in places where the Radio Thousand Hills signal was weak, there were no murders, at least in such numbers, and thousands of bodies of people slaughtered by “radio listeners” were not floating down rivers.

That said, the senseless and brutal genocide of the Tutsis did nothing to help the doomed and senseless regime. In July of that year, the country was overrun (or, rather, liberated) by the French army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, acting in parallel, and the junta scattered across countries and continents.

Félicien Kabuga went into hiding for 23 years, changed several countries, names and passports, the United States announced a $5 million reward for information about him, and finally on May 16, 2020, the 86-year-old fugitive was arrested in a respectable suburb of Paris, surrounded by a money-loving family that apparently played a part in his identification by French detectives. There is a Netflix documentary about the search for and capture of Kabuga from the World's Most Wanted series.

...and other officials.

The long and persistent search for war criminals and criminals against humanity with no statute of limitations and the principle of inevitability of punishment is a feature of the post-World War II world order, and the first of these high-profile actions was the search for German Nazis who escaped Nuremberg. The famous kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina by Israel, and his subsequent execution, was the subject of proceedings at the UN Security Council, which did not approve the violation of Argentina's sovereignty (the USSR and Poland abstained).

But in any case, it was a signal to the dictatorships and tyrannies of the world - even if you manage to hide somewhere after your “world's second” or “world's third” army is defeated, or if you are “brought down” by your own subordinates - you will have no rest for the rest of your life. Suffice it to recall at least three such deferred trials:

Bloody Kampuchean Khmer Ieng Sari had been on the run for 20 years after the fall of the regime. But although he was later pardoned by King Sihanouk, the genocide investigation resumed and led to his arrest in 2007. True, the 87-year-old colleague of Sergey Lavrov did not live to see his sentence.

The Chilean dictator Pinochet arranged for a peaceful “transit of power” in 1990 and hoped to live a peaceful respectable life for ever after. His peace was broken in 1998 by his arrest in London, followed by a series of harrowing trials on charges of murder, kidnapping and torture. Pinochet not only tried to hide behind senatorial immunity, but also to feign dementia. This allowed him to last on trial until he was 91, but the trial drove him to a heart attack and he died in 2006, also before he was sentenced.

The Serbian general Mladic, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in 1995, was not arrested until 2011 and extradited by Serbia to The Hague (in exchange for Serbia's accession to the European Union). In 2017, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and no appeals helped.

Everyone knows examples of “quick“ retaliation, when dictators Ceausescu, Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein were yesterday unshakable rocks of dictatorship and people's love, then they fled for various reasons in the morning and hid, and by the evening they were already executed by their grateful subjects. It is true that lawyers and human rights activists keep saying that lynching and revolutionary tribunals are not the best way to retaliate, because they contradict the very principles of legality and humanity, for which people rise up, and are fraught with long and unpredictable consequences.

Millions of people of good will around the world are now hoping, praying and wondering how and where Putin and all the perpetrators of his crimes, including our local «Radio Thousand Hills», will end up. The word “snuffbox” has long been understood clearly, and as for the beautiful peaceful city of The Hague, it is even a little insulting how unambiguous the name has become when applied to the hopes of entire nations, led by the indomitable people of Ukraine. Today's trial of Félicien Kabuga is a wonderful epilogue for Rwanda, and a great prologue for those in Russia who still think that everything is going according to plan, and that “denazification and demilitarization” are not about them.

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