Judi Rever’s book “In Praise of Blood” connects the modern scramble for control of African resources to the Rwandan genocide and sets the record straight about its alleged hero, Paul Kagame.


Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Jacqueline Luqm…: This is Jacqueline Luqman with The Real News Network. The scramble between global powers to control resources on the African continent is the cause of as much suffering today as colonization caused in the past. Judi Rever has written the book In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Patriotic Front to highlight one chapter of that modern scramble for resources and the suffering it’s caused and to set the record straight about it. Judi, thanks so much for joining me.

Judi Rever: Thank you Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Luqm…: So I think we have to get a clear understanding of why this issue is important today. First, because we are talking about the Rwandan genocide that happened back in the ’90s. So I think we have to start with a little bit of history to set the stage. Now, the US under president Bill Clinton and please correct me if I’m wrong, at any point. The US under president, Bill Clinton began to pave the way for a giant resource grab in the Congo, which is the most resource rich country on the planet basically, in the early 90s. And back the Rwandan Patriotic Front or the RPF forces that were led by Paul Kagame who was then trained in intelligence at Fort Leavenworth here in the United States and the RPS takeover of Rwanda. I’m I on track so far?

Judi Rever: That’s a pretty good synthesis. We had Paul Kagame and his rebel troops invading Northern Rwanda in 1990 and there was already, as you mentioned. Paul Kagame had been trained in the United States. So the US had decided that this was someone that it was willing and very interested in supporting. So we had already in the late ’80s, early ’90s the US very interested in militarily and politically supporting Uganda.

It was through Uganda that the United States ended up supporting Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic army, which enabled him of course to invade Rwanda in 1990 engaged in a scorched earth campaign for almost four years. That created the context for the Rwandan genocide. And of course we know we have enough evidence now know that Paul Kagame and is true having assassinated the Hutu president on April 6, 1994. That was the act that triggered the Rwandan genocide. So all the while getting very solid support from the US.

Jacqueline Luqm…: So you mentioned the assassination of the Hutu president, the former president of Rwanda by Paul Kagame and that was president Juvenal Habyarimana. I think we need to put this in a little bit of context because the reason this was done was at the time technology was becoming a big economic driver in global markets. And much like European great powers after the 1885 Berlin conference wanted to control and exploit the resources of African continents for their own economic needs.

The same was true about the quest for resources in the Congo, so the assassination of president Habyarimana was done because he would not step down at the request of president Bush. This campaign to install a more US friendly government in Rwanda was continued under Clinton and it is largely believed that the plane that was carrying the former president was shot down as they were returning from a peace conference. In which they had signed a peace treaty between the Hutus and the Tutsis was the plane was shot down over Kigali returning from that peace conference as a way to get rid of the former president. Does that sound like that’s accurate?

Judi Rever: Well, in terms of a strategy of, I would say US militarism and global capitalism, if you want to look at the root of some of the drivers of the conflict, you have to go back. We’ve talked a little bit about the 1980s and the 1990s what you’re seeing in the 1990s is… Well, actually it started in ’89 with the coup in Sudan. So you had the United States becoming very interested in containing Islamic insurgency or Islamic power on the continent with the coup and with the rise of Omar El Bashir in 1999.

At the same time we saw in the 1990s certainly copper and cobalt plummet. The production of those two strategic minerals plummet in Congo. Okay. So we have a set of circumstances which was of concern to the United States and the United States at that time in the late ’80s and 1990s decided to play chess in the sense they decided on who their strategic players would be. Who were the guys that they were going to support.

So number one, Yoweri Museveni president of Uganda. He was going to help contain the rise of Islam in Africa because of his strategic placements in Uganda next to Sudan. Of course Sudan had oil resources and that was interesting for the United States. Now in Congo where there is 24 million, excuse me, in Congo where there is an estimated $24 trillion in untapped mineral wealth, it’s almost unfathomable. The United States was very interested there. As I said in the early 1990s we saw copper and cobalt climate under Mobutu.
So it was becoming impossible for the United States and for Western nations to do business in Congo under Mobutu, he was becoming intractable, he was becoming an obstacle and multinationals were no longer able to do business. The United States wanted Congo open for business. So that was part of the larger strategy. So supporting Museveni, supporting Paul Kagame who was at that time, Paul Kagame was a rebel and he was already waging war in Northern Rwanda. It was clear that I think the United States had a plan to support these men and make central Africa a place where it was easier to do business.

Jacqueline Luqm…: That groundwork, that foundation and that history is incredibly important because that is the foundation or the pathway to the Rwandan genocide in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus died. Now where does your book come in to this history? Because what we understand in the United States, Judi, is that Paul Kagame, who was the current president of Rwanda was the hero of the conflict. We’re told that he ended the Rwandan genocide, but your book reveals a different perspective on that narrative. So what is that perspective?

Judi Rever: My book fundamentally challenges the official narrative. Maybe it defeats the narrative. What my book says, my research says is that Paul Kagame, did not stop the genocide. He did not stop the violence. He ignited the genocide by killing Juvenal Habyarimana, the Hutu president. He also fueled the genocide against Tutsi by sending in his Tutsi commandos. Infiltrating the Hutu militia and assisting directly in the killing of Tutsi. So he augmented. He potentiated, the Tutsi genocide.

I also say in my book based on years and years of research that Paul Kagame Tutsi army committed genocide against Hutus as well and this was not in retaliation. These were operations that will preemptive and proactive. As soon as the Hutu president Habyarimana was killed and those operations to systematically kill Hutu leaders and Hutu peasant from the North down the Eastern coast or down the Eastern border in the South and then back up to the Northwest. That that was highly orchestrated, very organized and the killings of Hutus continued after the genocide.

Jacqueline Luqm…: Right now that narrative is not only being challenged by the Kagame administration in several different ways, but here in the United States you have been going on some speaking tours, promoting the book, talking about this issue. There are sometimes people in attendance and I attended one of these events who will directly challenge of the information that you are revealed in your book. They say that there was no genocide, that Kagame committed. They say that your information is false. They said that you’re spreading lies. What is your response to those allegations that the information you’re providing that Kagame was actually not a hero ending the Rwandan genocide, but he participated and that he committed genocide himself, what’s your response to those allegations that that information is not true?

Judi Rever: Well as you said, Jackie, you were there in Washington and one of Kagame supporters mentioned the Byumba Stadium massacre, which occurred in April, 1994. I talk about this briefly massacre by the Rwandan Patriotic Front of Hutus civilians, men, women, children and babies. He said it was a myth that it never happened and a lot of people were shocked. I said to him that there was so much evidence, incredible amount of evidence of this massacre at the Byumba Soccer Stadium in 1994. There was evidence that was in the UN documents… Documented at the UN tribunals. One of the investigators that I spoke to who worked at the UN tribunals that set up to prosecute the most serious crimes of the genocide said never in his life had he collected so much evidence on a massacre that it was a mass killing. Thousands of victims were killed.

He had people who were members of the RPA stationed outside the stadium. He had collected testimony from them. He collected testimony from some of the soldiers inside the stadium who killed these Hutu civilians. He had testimony. This is a UN investigator I’m talking about, had testimony from soldiers who brought the bodies, the corpses out of the stadium, transported them on trucks to bury them. I mean it was incredible. Never in his life as an investigator at the tribunals did he collect so much evidence and of course I interviewed a number of people who were at the scene of the crime as well.

Jacqueline Luqm…: The interesting thing about the exchange that you’re talking about that I was a witness to. But that I’ve also seen critics of your book use online and the response that you give and that you document in your book is that this is not information that is hearsay. There are eye witness accounts that have been documented not just by you in interviewing survivors, but also the United Nations has documented.

Collected this evidence have interviewed survivors. I have confirmed that these people they have interviewed are survivors and the evidence according to the UN is insurmountable. But still there are critics who decry the idea that Kagame was not the hero that the United States and other Western nations make him out to be. To the point that now Judi, there is repression of people who are openly challenging Kagame in Rwanda who are being targeted by his administration. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Judi Rever: Well, sadly this is the ongoing, his repression, his terror inside the country ever since he took power. But increasingly Tutsi and Hutus, but interior Tutsi survivors are targeted in Paul Kagame Rwanda. Within the last few days a very much loved Tutsi survivor, a gospel singer named Kizito Mihigo died in a military detention, police detention. It is believed that he was murdered. Most people believe he was murdered. This man was very much admired and talked about the importance of ethnic reconciliation. He also challenged the official narrative. He said that Hutus died as well during the genocide and their deaths mattered.

Remember he was a Tutsi survivor. He lost many family members during the genocide. So people saw him as a symbol of hope and reconciliation and millions of Rwanda’s inside the country and abroad are crying this week. Their son that Paul Kagame and his henchments could stoop so low as to apparently murder this person. So Rwandans in general, especially those who tried to speak out or might be seen as potential dissidents inside the country are very much living in fear. We have Kagame death squads operating outside the country. Many people have called the RPF and Kagame criminals without borders and so no one is beyond his limits.

Jacqueline Luqm…: That is absolutely horrifying that people just recently as a few days ago are still being targeted by this regime and it truly is a regime that’s not a word I use lightly. Judi, what does these issues, what does this information mean? What should it mean to people watching this interview right now? Why should people be concerned about what happened in the Rwanda and the ongoing legacy of the Kagame regime? Why should the people be concerned about this in their everyday life right now?

Judi Rever: It’s very serious. I mean, I’ve studied these questions of the political and security issues, plaguing Central Africa for a few decades now. I’m very much concerned, but I think we should all be concerned as global citizens. One of the things I’d like to say is that there are so many troubling… There has been a history of troubling concealing, hiding Kagame crime. Oppressing them, dismissing them, minimizing them, and even justifying those times by our Western governance, particularly by the United States government.

I think as American citizens and people who are listening to your interviews, I would think that people should be concerned about what their government does and how US policies have fueled the conflict in central Africa. Remember, by supporting militarily and politically supporting Paul Kagame and his troops to unleash the genocide. And by giving them tremendous amount of support and cover for the invasion of Congo, overthrowing Mobutu’s and waging wars there, over the last 23 years. Where millions of people have died and that conflict is still raging. So these are all pressing issues. They’re burning issues that I think enlightened Americans should be concerned about.

Jacqueline Luqm…: Yes, definitely. Especially, since the resources that are coming out of the region that is affected by these conflicts are in our hands every day, are on our desks every day. We watch them every day. Cell phones, laptops, televisions, other kinds of electronics, batteries, even electric motor cars. So Judi, how can people, number one, support the journalists, dissidents, and activists who are actively speaking out against the Kagame regime, both in Rwanda and outside of the country? What can people do also, if they want to participate in bringing accountability to the Kagame regime?

Judi Rever: It’s very important for people who are interested in these issues to press Congress and speak up about the military cooperation agreement that the United States government has with Rwanda. Press Congress to halt that agreement. We know that through Africom, the United States has more operations in Africa and is using Rwanda as an integral part of Africom, more operations in Africa than it does in the middle East. The United States has to draw back, diminish Africom and stop funding and militarily supporting Rwanda.

The other thing that’s important to do is to change the narrative, get people to understand that the official narrative is in on a number of levels based on lies. Kagame did not stop the genocide. He ignited the genocide and continues to destabilize the region. I also think it’s important for Americans and for media to listen to people who flee. Rwandans who flee the country. It’s only in fleeing that Rwandans have been able to talk about what’s really going on. So doing research and prosecuting crimes inside Rwanda based on testimony there doesn’t give us a real picture, a complete picture of what went on in the genocide and what continues to go on in the country.

Jacqueline Luqm…: Judi Rever thank you so much for taking this time to talk about this very, very important issue and to talk about your book In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of The Patriotic Front. I absolutely encourage all of our viewers to secure a copy of this book and read it. Thank you so much, Judi, for joining me today to talk about all of this.

Judi Rever: Thanks Jacqueline for having me.

Jacqueline Luqm…: Thank you for watching. This is Jacqueline Luqman with The Real News Network in Washington, DC.


Jacqueline Luqman

Host
Jacqueline Luqman is a host and producer for TRNN. With more than 20 years as an activist in Washington, DC, Jacqueline focuses on examining the impact of current events and politics on Black, POC, and other marginalized communities in the US and around the world, providing a specific race and class analysis at the root of these issues. She is Editor-In-Chief and a co-host of the social media program Coffee, Current Events & Politics in Luqman Nation with her husband, and is active in the faith-focused progressive/left activist community.