Monday, 7 September 2009

Rewriting history

An article in today's paper. Ever since I have been in Rwandan there has not been a single History textbook in any of the schools. And in the secondary schools their history books were all recalled to the District Office to be destroyed. Why? The reason is that History here is an intensely political affair, and the nuances of interpretation of Rwanda's post-colonial history are a minefield for a foreigner such as myself. These new books will be the "authorised version" and will be compulsory for all schools inn the country. What worries me (and others) is the potential airbrushing of so many aspects of recent history to suit the current political orthodoxy.

The National Curriculum Development Centre [NCDC], will soon release revised editions of Rwanda’s history books to replace the current ones.

Charles Gahima, the Executive Secretary of NCDC, said that the present history books in the school curriculum were not factual.

Gahima, explained that since 1997, numerous meetings have been held with academics and consultants, who are well versed with Rwanda’s history, to update the current history lessons being taught in schools.

“We had a lot of meetings to agree and also referred to the present history books. We also consulted and had to involve some of the national academics,” he said.

The ‘1954 Rwandan revolution’ is one of the contentious subjects that was revised.

“You can’t call it [1954 Rwandan revolution] when some people were thrown out of the country,” Gahima said.

He added that the new history syllabus contains the causes of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi (N.B. this phrase "against the Tutsi" which is the current interpretation. The fact that thousands of Hutus were also killed in the genocide, and enormous numbers killed by Tutsis in the reprisals during the chaotic aftermath of the genocide, is being wiped from history. All Hutus seem to be being cast as perpetrators, and by implication all Tutsis as innocent victims).

Gahima stressed that in the revisions made, all information is based on facts.

“We are saying that the new history lessons should be based on facts,” he said.

Jeanne Baranyizigiye, the curriculum designer said they had finished the syllabuses for primary and secondary schools.

All information may well be based on facts, but who selects the facts and which facts are chosen for inclusion?


Ingina y'Igihanga said...


In all fairness, History is written by people, the people who know it. The events of 1959 (NOT 1954, by the way!) and the following years up until 1994, are coloured opinions of 'revolutionaries' who knew they were doctoring History to serve their interests. Many of those who doctored it and many of those against whom it was doctored KNOW where it was doctored and are DE-rewriting it and WRITING it.

Genocide is called so because of its purpose. The purpose of the 1994 genocide was to wipe out Batutsi, the way the holocaust in Germany aimed at wiping out Jews. Other deaths (of Batutsi or of Germans) were incidental. There is no ambiguity at all, and there is NOTHING to signify that all Bahutu are guilty.

Surely, you are being unfair to your hosts. I just hope that they are not equally unappreciative of you. Knowing my people, I can trust that they are un-fazed and will continue to be hospitable to you.

Please, enjoy your stay.


Ingina y'Igihanga said...

Sorry, Bruce, read (of Bahutu or Germans) where I wrote (of Batutsi or Germans.