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Nigeria must learn from Rwandan genocide, says Gambari

By Marcel Mbamalu, News Editor
16 June 2019   |   6:09 pm
To save the country from going the way of Rwanda in 1990s, Nigerians must deliberately avoid hate speech, Ibrahim Gambari, a professor of Political...

•Wants prompt punishment for hate speech
•Calls for continental policing of genocide-prone countries

To save the country from going the way of Rwanda in 1990s, Nigerians must deliberately avoid hate speech, Ibrahim Gambari, a professor of Political Science and International Relations told The Guardian in a recent email exchange.

Professor Gambari described hate speech as slippery slope to conflicts and wars within countries and should, therefore, be punished promptly by governments.

His comments came in response to The Guardian’s enquiry as Rwanda marked the 25th year of a genocide caused by hate-mongering that led up to tribal killings and death of millions in 1994.

The country, during the celebrations, recognised the Nigerian diplomat’s role in resolving the crisis.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame had, during the celebration on April 11, 2019, acknowledged Professor Gambari — who was Nigeria’s Representative on the United Nations Security Council— and two other leaders for trying to get the world to act in the direction of resolving the crisis at the time.

Kagame was quoted by the local media as saying: “In 1994, three representatives on the United Nations Security Council consistently called for action, despite the resistance of more powerful states. They were Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria, Colin Keating of New Zealand, and Karel Kovanda of the Czech Republic.”

The genesis of the Rwandan genocide is traceable to the 19th century entry of the Belgian colonisers and splitting of the community (to Tutsi, Hutu and Twa) based on wealth. Tutsis were people with more than 10 cows; Hutus, less than 10; while Twa are a small group.

The colonial masters’ identification also clearly marked whether one was Tutsi or Hutu in the school system.

The first ethnic attack was carried out on the Tutsi in 1959, forcing some of them to flee to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Uganda, among others. People had, prior to the ethnic attack, been made to believe that the Tutsi were superior to anyone else and were, therefore, ‘the enemy.’

Gambari in an exchange with The Guardian welcomed the acknowledgement but noted that African leaders had more to do in proactively tackling hate mongering if the Rwandan experience must not be replicated elsewhere.

As to what Nigeria stands to learn from the tragic events in Rwanda, Gambari called for more efforts in preventing conflicts and (internal and external) wars “in our continent and elsewhere through early warning followed by early action.”

According to him, hate speech is a slippery slope to conflict and wars within countries and should be discouraged and punished promptly.

Gambari urged the African Union to implement its decision to establish the African Stand by Force, which is rapidly deployable to countries where there might be massive violations of human rights and/or genocides “and make the Force fully operational without any further delay.”