His Academic Excellency Paul Kagame at Sacramento State University?

KPFA Weekend News, 10.16.2011

Transcript: 

KPFA Weekend News Host Anthony Fest: Turning now to Africa news, Rwandan President Paul Kagame will be traveling to Northern California to attend an international conference on genocide at Sacramento State University from November 1st to November 4th. Kagame will deliver the keynote address on November 3rd, after which the President of Sacramento State University is scheduled to present him with an honorary plaque. However the Chairs of Sacramento State's History and Government Departments are collecting faculty signatures on a letter to the university's president, in which they question the wisdom of awarding President Kagame with an honorary plaque in the the university's name.  KPFA's Ann Garrison has the story.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame exhorted a crowd during Rwanda's 2010 presidential election, in which no viable candidates were allowed to run. KPFA/Ann Garrison:  Seventeen years of UN reports have documented Rwandan President Paul Kagame's war crimes in Rwanda and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They include the 1994 Gersony Report documenting his army's reprisal massacres of Rwandan Hutus, after he seized power in Rwanda in 1994. They also include the 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2008 UN Reports of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the 2010 UN Mapping Report on Human RIghts Abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993 - 2003.  

There are also many documented allegations, including, now, of that Kagame's own former Chief of Staff Theogene Rudasingwa that Kagame himself was most responsible for the Rwanda Genocide.  

KPFA spoke to Sacramento State University History Professor Michael Vann, after learning that he and other faculty had concerns about Kagame's appearance at a Sacramento State academic conference.

KPFA: Michael Vann, could you explain faculty concern about President Kagame's visit?

Rwandan President Paul Kagame with his troops. Michael Vann: Yes, our initial concern regarded the academic contribution. This is an academic event and it was uncertain to us why a political head of state would be addressing the conference and what he would have to contribute to the academic discussion. It also appears that he is receiving a series of honorific introductions and is going to be offered a plaque by the president of Sacramento State University, and it's unclear what is behind this.

More seriously, many of the faculty members, and myself, have deep concerns over, perhaps the failure to properly vet Paul Kagame as a visitor to the campus. Specifically, we're concerned about his role as a military leader in the 1990s, both in Congo and in Rwanda.  And then more recently, his role as a political leader in Rwanda.  And then there's deep concern, based on UN reports, about his role in the plunder of the eastern Congo.  And finally, there's the disturbing report, just about a week ago, that he may have been complicit in the 1994 assassination that launched the genocidal action.  

KPFA: Do you have any thoughts about the concepts of negationism and revisionism so central to this conference?  

Michael Vann: The subtitle of the conference is "Negation, Revisionism, Survivors' Testimonies, Eyewitness Accounts, Justice and Memory."   And it's telling that negationism, genocide ideology and divisionism have been developed as legal concepts in Rwanda to crack down on hate speech that could lead to genocide. Now while this is understandable, for trying to re-establish order in a post conflict society, the reports detail that these concepts, specifically genocide ideology and divisionism, have been used for political purposes, such as jailing political opponents, influencing the political climate before the 2010 election, and intimidating journalists. And the use of such concepts would be directly at odds with the academic agenda based upon freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech, that this conference would want to embody. 

KPFA: Michael Vann, thank you for speaking to KPFA.

Michael Vann: Thank you very much.

KPFA: For ongoing coverage of President Kagame’s upcoming visit to Northern California, see the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, sfbayview.com, and, keep listening to KPFA. For PacificaKPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

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