Africa We Want

OPEN LETTER: African, US Scholars Write to US Secretary of State Blinken

On the visit of American Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to DR. Congo and Rwanda, African and American scholars have written him an open letter, calling for a respectful and equal partnership free of condescending and moralizing positions. Collective letter

Regarding the crisis in Eastern DR Congo, they invite him to adopt a holistic approach considering the political, economic, and socio-cultural ramifications of the Congolese situation. On the case of Mr. Rusesabagina, the African and US scholars remind the Secretary of State that the lives of Rwandan citizens matter as much of those of American citizens.

Dear Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken:

As you prepare for your upcoming visit to three African countries – including DR Congo and Rwanda-, we, African and American scholars, professors, researchers, lawyers, artists, journalists, and other professionals, sincerely hope that your visit will contribute to lasting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. We also hope that it will strengthen the relationship between Africa and the United States and encourage a respectful and equal partnership worthy of 21st century international relations free of condescending and moralizing positions.

During your visit to DR Congo, you intend to address the question of “free, inclusive, and fair elections in 2023” and how to “advance peace in Eastern DRC”. The question of elections is important as certain leaders are increasingly restricting the presidency to candidates with two Congolese parents. Moreover, Anti-Rwandan speech — and particularly hate speech against Congolese Tutsi — is spreading quickly in the DRC and several people have already been impacted. On social media, hate speech has been as extreme during the past few months as frequent calling for the murder of Congolese Tutsi in DR Congo has been witnessed. As a result, some Congolese Tutsi were lynched and burned alive. In fact, hate speech against the Congolese Tutsi has become so common that it may be used during the 2023 presidential campaign. This could result in even more victims and in the further destabilization of Eastern Congo, where most Congolese Rwandophones originate from.

With regards to peace in Eastern Congo, while we appreciate a firm attitude against the M23, one cannot forget or remain silent regarding the violent rebel groups currently in operation in the DRC. Refusing to take a holistic approach to the Congolese situation in all its complexity and with all its political, economic, and sociocultural ramifications would be counterproductive. We ask that the USA not ignore the existence of these hundreds of armed groups––in particular FDLR –– that are responsible for widespread bloodshed in Eastern Congo. We strongly urge you to earnestly consider the fact that the Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese are victims of exclusion, public incitement to hatred, and massacre. Blaming Rwanda for much of the violence on Congolese soil will not bring peace nor fix the Congolese social-economic crisis that has existed since the Mobutu presidency. Rather, attributing responsibility to Rwanda amplifies and justifies hatred against Congolese Rwandophones, clears politicians from their social responsibility and allows multinationals to exploit Congolese wealth while the world and media choose to distract the Congolese population with Rwandophobia.

When announcing your visit to Rwanda, you referred to “the wrongful detention of the U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Paul Rusesabagina". We were surprised by your unilateral judgment about his case. Mr. Rusesabagina was accused, among other indictments, of forming terrorist groups, funding terrorism, enlisting child soldiers, and kidnapping. If the USA had any reservation about this case, it would have been better to directly challenge each of the indictments brought against him. Rusesabagina created the National Liberation Front (FLN), a criminal organization that served as an armed wing of his Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRDC).

In 2018, on three different occasions, the FLN carried out violent attacks inside Rwanda, killing nine civilians, injuring several, and destroying properties. Paul Rusesabagina made several statements celebrating these criminal acts and claiming responsibility. On many occasions, he publicly announced his support to the National Liberation Front. In early 2019, in a video available online, Rusesabagina reaffirmed his allegiance to his criminal group, declared war against Rwanda, and called for recruitment and mobilization of combatants. It is particularly worth noting that much of the evidence that was used to establish his guilt was provided by the Belgian justice system, Belgium being a prominent member of NATO and host of the headquarters of his operations.

This August 2nd, you celebrated the death of Al-Zawahiri with the following words: “We have delivered on our commitment to act against terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan. The world is safer following the death of al Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The U.S. will continue to act against those who threaten our country, our people, or our allies.” If the United States has the right to kill a foreign national using “transnational repression”, then Rwanda, which abolished the death penalty, certainly has the right to bring to justice Rusesabagina, a Rwandan citizen, at the root of an armed group responsible for the deaths of Rwandan civilians in Rwanda. If American lives matter, Rwandan lives do also matter.

Rwanda experienced a genocide and is successfully recovering from it. In 1994, the US administration, under a Democrat, chose not only not to intervene to stop this genocide but avoided to use the word “genocide” and did not jam Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) which called for the extermination of the Tutsi population. In 2022, the anti-Tutsi discourse remains in DR Congo, and so do the rebel groups like FDLR which seek to continue the genocide in Rwanda and elsewhere. We ask you, and the current US administration, under another Democrat, to be aware, this time, of these hate messages and of the presence and harmful activities of all armed groups in the Great Lakes region.

During your visit to Rwanda, we hope that you will have the opportunity to visit genocide memorial sites; to meet Congolese Kinyarwanda-speaking citizens who were driven away from their lands in the Congo and have lived in refugee camps for the past 25 years; to listen to the victims of the armed group of Rusesabagina; and to talk to the detained rebels of the Rusesabagina armed group. This will certainly offer a holistic understanding of the Rwandan situation in particular and that of the crisis in the Great Lakes Region in general.

Sincerely,

Signatories:

-  Margee Ensign, President of the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Nigeria
-  Boubacar Boris Diop, Writer, 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature,
Dakar, Senegal
-  Jean-Pierre Karegeye, Professor of Francophone Literatures and Social Ethics,
Director of the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Center, Boston, MA, USA.
-  Aminata Dramane Traoré, Essayist, Former Minister of Culture and Tourism,
Bamako, Mali
-  Richard Gisagara, Attorney at Law, Paris, France
-  Bojana Coulibaly, African Language Program Manager, Harvard University,
Boston, MA, USA
-  Gatete Nyiringabo, Human Rights Attorney, Researcher, and Social activist,
Kigali, Rwanda.
-  Koulsy Lamko, Writer, Research Professor, Hankili So Africa, Mexico.
-  Gatsinzi Basaninyenzi, Professor of English, Alabama A & M University, AL, USA.
-  Josias Semujanga, Professor of Francophone Literatures, Université de
Montréal, Montréal, Canada
-  Bea Rangira Gallimore, Professor Emerita of French, University of Missouri,
Columbia, MO, USA.
-  Susan Allen, Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine,
Rwanda-Zambia HIV Research Group, School of Medicine, Emory University,
Atlanta, GA
-  Edward White P.C, Attorney at Law, Boston, MA, USA
-  Adam Rovner, Professor of English literature, Director of the Center for Judaic
Studies at the University of Denver, USA.
-  Timothy Horner, Professor at the Center for Peace and Justice, Villanova
University, PA, USA.
-  Aimable Twagilimana, Professor of English and Fulbright Scholar, State
University of New York/Buffalo State, Buffalo, NY, USA.
-  Alphonse Muleefu, Professor of Law, Ag. Principal, College of Arts and Social
Sciences, University of Rwanda.
-  Yolande Mukagasana, Writer, Researcher, Survivor, Founder and Director
‘Fondation Yolande Mukagasana’ (FYM), Kigali, Rwanda
-  Abdourahmane Seck, Professor of Anthropology, Université Gaston Berger de St
Louis, Saint Louis, Senegal, author of “La question musulmane au Sénégal”.
-  Gaetan Gatete, Engineer, Manager, Manufacturing Systems, AM General, South
Bend, IN, USA.
-  Almamy Mamadou Wane, writer, author of “La cuisine françafricaine”, Paris,
France
-  Serigne Sèye, Professor of African Literatures, Université Cheikh Anta Diop,
Dakar, Senegal
-  Alice Urusaro Karekezi, Professor of Peace and Development studies, Center for
Conflict Management (CCM), University of Rwanda (UR)
-  Khadim Ndiaye, Historian, author of Conversations avec Cheikh Anta Diop,
Montréal Canada,.
-  Pape Samba Kane, Novelist, journalist, Director of the Newspaper “Le
politicien“, Dakar, Senegal, author of”Sabaru Jinne"
-  Jean Kayitsinga, Professor at Julian Samora Research Institute, University
Outreach and Engagement, Michigan State University, MI, USA
-  Massamba Mbaye, journalist, Dakar, Senegal.
-  Mabrouka Gasmi, Activist, Tunisian Civil Society, Tunis, Tunisia.
-  Gerise Herndon, Professor, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln NE, USA.

Author: MANZI
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