The New Times, a national English language newspaper recently quoted Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, an umbrella body of Genocide survivors: “Ibuka strongly condemns President Kikwete’s statement as no negotiation is acceptable with a known terrorist group that is responsible for the death of more than a million Tutsis in Rwanda and continues its blood-thirsty activities in the eastern DR Congo.”
It is on this “more that a million Tutsis” claim that one would wonder a bit about. This statement raises questions since there are many numerous account that cite the 1991 Rwanda census estimate of the Tutsi population at 645,170. From a simple check on the primary source, the Government of Rwanda statitstics website, it was not surprising to find that a page which refers to this census was no more there, possibly because it is so controversial.
In 2005 Ibuka conducted a house to house nation-wide survey to determine how many Tutsi died during the Tutsi genocide. The number was around 355,745. President Kagame is said to have ordered the then minister of local government to publish the report at his own risk. He is reported to have asked his minister, “do you want them [international community] to ask me where all the skulls out there came from? This is hearsay, however, the source is from a very high profile RPF boss who was a Director at RPF Secretariat.
The data from the survey possess a number of issue. What is true is that: (1) the survey was carried out nation wide (2) the survey was very expensive and widely publicized by Ibuka as a move to help the Tutsi genocide survivors’ association (3) data was corrected (4) the results were never made public. Why?
One commentator said:
Rwanda vision 2020, puts pre-genocide population in 1989 at 6.4 million. Tutsi population was around 14%. 14% of 6.4 million is not ” a million+ as Dr Dusingizemungu puts it; even if every Tutsi had been killed. Who in Rwanda, save for propaganda, does not know what really happened? Ask people like Gen. Nyavumba; how many Hutu were they burning to ashes every day from Gabilo? Recall the “trailers”, how many Hutus perished? Recall Stade Huye, which was packed with Hutus who were all exterminated and their bodies ferried to Kabutare and Nyakizu… think of the Nzuki broad-day-light extermination of the Hutu. How many were they? The innumerable extermination sites supervised by RPF/A bosses throughout the country…the Kibeho…
Most of the time, critics of this debate always want to brush away any assessment of the figures. They shy away from talking about the Hutu who were exterminated by some Tutsi. This clearly confirms that Rwanda is in a deep-rooted ethnic conflict where the ethnic group in power does not recognize the other ethnic group ( the vanquished) as legitimate with legitimate story and history.
This debate is so needed that even on summary webpage of his book : The Memory Traps Series, the author, Mr Olivier Nyirubugara, New Media & Online Journalism Lecturer, a Rwandan living in Rotterdam, Netherlands had to write that “Rwanda was engulfed in a bloody war from 1990 until 1994, the last episode of which was a genocide that claimed about a million lives amongst the Tutsi minority.” When asked where he got the one million figure claim, he replied “whenever it comes to that point I am really uncomfortable. I decided to be ‘vague’ on that by using ‘about’. So, the use of ‘about a million lives’ betrays my failure to find a better formulation. Actually, I don’t know if anyone can come up with any exact figure.”