Wednesday, December 26, 2018

In God´s country

“In the Name of God” is a Swedish-produced pro-Tutsi documentary about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and its aftermath. It was released in 2004 and has been shown 12 times on Rwandan national television, suggesting it´s approved by the Tutsi-dominated administration of Paul Kagame. This is the English-narrated version.

Rwanda is a small nation in Central Africa ethnically (or perhaps quasi-ethnically) divided between two groups, known as Tutsi and Hutu. When Rwanda was a Belgian colony, the traditional Tutsi elite were favored over the majority Hutu population. This changed when educated Tutsis began demanding independence and express support for socialism. Belgium quickly switched its sympathies to the Hutu, and permitted them to carry out a bloody “social revolution” against the Tutsi, many of whom fled to neighboring Uganda. Note the irony: the traditional landed and pastoral elite embraced socialism, while the plebeians had the backing of the colonial power!

After independence, Hutu-dominated Rwanda was transformed into a weird mixture of military dictatorship, one party state and Catholic theocracy, backed by the Belgian Christian Democrats and the Christian Democratic International (CDI). The regime was seen as a firm Cold War ally against international Communism. By this logic, the Tutsi RPF guerillas were seen as Communists, not entirely incorrectly, since they supported Yoweri Museveni´s NRA in Uganda, which originally claimed to be a leftist movement. For some reason, the documentary doesn´t point out that Uganda and the RPF became pro-American after the end of the Cold War, instead implying that the RPF may still have been socialist when attacking Rwanda in 1990. I assume this means the producers are leftists (many naïve leftists actually supported the RPF). On the level of great power politics, this was the United States trying to extend its sphere of influence at the expense of other Western nations such as Belgium and France. (The later overthrow of Mobutu in the Congo also fits this pattern.) We can discuss whether this was good, bad or simply BAU, but it should be pointed out.

“In the Name of God” accuses the Catholic hierarchy in Rwanda and their Christian Democratic backers in Belgium of complicity in the genocide. The CDI called upon the Hutu leadership not to sign the Arusha peace accords with the RPF. They supported the Hutu government throughout the genocide, during which an estimated 1 million people were killed, most of them Tutsi. One of the radio presenters in Rwanda calling for genocidal violence was Italian national Georges Ruggiu, who was sent to the country by Christian Democratic interests in Belgium. After the victory of the RPF, the CDI sent a delegation to the Hutu refugee camps in southern Rwanda, still expressing their support for the Hutu leaders. Some of the Christian Democrats interviewed admit that they acted wrongly, while others seem unapologetic.

The documentary concentrates on the role of religion as a propaganda tool in the conflict. Hutu Rwanda was supposed to become God´s kingdom on Earth and a model Christian state. Catholic hierarchs were integrated into the state apparatus. The military held regular prayer sessions when training. The Old Testament was used to deadly effect during the genocide, as several OT passages talk about the Holy Land being threatened by invaders “from the north”. In context, presumably the Assyrians or perhaps Gog and Magog, but in Rwanda, this was seen as a reference to the RPF, which was based in Rwanda´s northern neighbor Uganda. Thus, killing Tutsis and resisting the advance of the RPF were seen as Biblical injunctions. (It would be interesting to know if the Hutu militants also used the Book of Joshua!) A curious fact never explained is that several of the hard-line Christians interviewed are Pentecostals, not Catholics, yet the narrator constantly attacks the Catholic Church. The most sensational part of this production features interviews with the Army of Jesus, an extremist Hutu militia based in eastern Congo from which it makes incursions into Rwandan territory. We get to see the militia as they try to recruit a lonely farmer to its cause. The heavily armed militia men sound like Christian missionaries and end their session with the farmer in joint prayer! The whole thing does look...weird. (Apparently, the Army of Jesus is officially known as the FDLR.)

Despite its rather obvious anti-Christian and anti-Catholic slant, and the annoying naïve leftism (compounded by the heavy Swedish accent of the female narrator), “In the Name of God” is nevertheless worth watching and pondering. Also available on YouTube!

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