On the Merger of the Bay Citizen and the Center for Investigative Reporting

Rwandan President and Commander Paul Kagame, center, with his troops

On September 30th, 2010, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) co-sponsored a San Francisco showing of the film, "Earth Made of Glass" by Deborah Scranton, which presents Rwandan President Paul Kagame as the saviour who stopped the Rwanda Genocide. The film also helps Kagame blame France. CIR held a panel discussion afterwards about "documentary filmmaking as investigative reporting."

CIR thus collaborated in a massive cover-up of General Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Army invasion of Rwanda from Uganda, with weapons and training from the U.S., that became the four year Rwandan Civil War.  By the time it was over death of nearly a million people, both Hutu and Tutsi, in Rwanda. Before it was over, hundreds of thousands of Hutu and hundreds of thousands of Tutsi had died in ethnic massacres.

The Rwanda Genocide story has been told, instead, as the story of how Hutu extremists planned and executed a genocide of the Tutsi minority. In U.S. foreign policy statements, it has been likened to the Holocaust. As such, the story became an excuse for Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to invade the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to "hunt down Hutu militias" said to be still threatening Rwanda, in the First Congo War of 1996-1997, the Second Congo War of 1998-2003, and the violent conflict that continues in eastern Congo today, despite the peace treaty signed in 2003. In January 2008, the International Rescue Committee reported 5.4 million war dead in Congo between 1998 and 2008 alone.

This version of the Rwanda Genocide as Hutu extremists' long planned genocide against the Tutsi holds sway in the Wikipedia, where any attempt to alter the central entry on the Rwanda Genocide triggers a host of edit alerts urging its defenders to overwhelm dissenters in a Wiki war that can only conclude in no changes to the story. The Rwandan Constitution was also changed, in 2008, to make it a crime, in Rwanda, to speak of the Rwanda Genocide rather than the Genocide Against the Tutsi.
 
But there is abundant evidence that this is not true. Some of the most accessible evidence is in the Gersony report, generated by a team led by human rights investigator Robert Gersony in 1994, which described the genocide of Hutu people in southern Rwanda by the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Army led by General, now President, Paul Kagame.  A summary and analysis of the report, and the history of its suppression are available on The Proxy Lake, the blog of Rwandan exile Claire Umurungi: Unearthed: “Gersony Report” the U.N. said it never existed.  

In 2001, the UN Panel of Experts on Illegal Minerals Trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the first of five reports, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, and 2011, reported that militias fighting in Congo were closely allied with Rwanda and Uganda, and that they were smuggling Congolese minerals across the eastern Congolese border into both countries. The experts also reported that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni were then "on the verge of becoming the godfathers of illegal resource exploitation and ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "They have," the UN experts wrote, "indirectly given criminal cartels a unique opportunity to organize and operate in this fragile and sensitive region."  In Paragraphs 181 - 190 of the 2001 report, the experts described the complicity and/or collaboration of donor nations, foreign corporations, cargo companies, private banks, and the World Bank.  The World Bank, they said, gave the impression of rewarding both Rwanda and Uganda for plundering the Congo, by proposing them for a new debt relief program.

Former San Francisco Chronicle Executive Editor Phil Bronstein and current Chairman of the Board of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is set to assume the paid position of executive chairman of the newly constituted 19-member board of directors, if a merger of the Bay Citizen and CIR is indeed finalized.

The 2010 UN Mapping Report on Congo atrocities, documented Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Army's genocidal massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern Congo, many of whom were women and children, and sick and elderly people. It was leaked on August 26th, 2010, before being officially released on October 1, 2010.

It would seem that no one at CIR read any of these UN reports, or no one heeded them, before presenting "Earth Made of Glass" as an example of documentary filmmaking as investigative reporting.

CIR's institutional collaboration in such a massive cover-up of such epic violence and criminality makes me less than optimistic about the merger of the Bay Citizen and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which today's Bay Citizen reported to be in the works, awaiting final approval by both Boards, with a Memorandum of Understanding already in place.  However, I always try to consider the work of any individual reporter or team on its own, apart from the organization sponsoring it. I wouldn't, myself, want to be held responsible for the rest of the work, or the institutional endorsements, of every publication I ever wrote for or every broadcast outlet I appeared on or produced for.

I wrote to Phil Bronstein about this film screening and "Filmmaking as Investigative Reporting" panel before it happened. He didn't respond.

This is a serious issue, not a minor issue, although I will acknowledge that it was only one episode, that I know of, in the reporting life of CIR. There may be more that I don't know of, but this is the one I do know of.  It is a very serious issue right now, because "stopping the next Rwanda Genocide" was the excuse for the US/NATO invasion of Libya and the overthrow of Muammar Ghadaffi, and now it's close to becoming the excuse for a US/NATO invasion of Syria and the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad.  It could then become the excuse for the invasion of Sudan and the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir. See/listen to NPR:  The 'Responsibility To Protect' In Syria And Beyond.

This is a local issue as well because San Francisco and the Bay Area can't credibly continue to be a world leader in LGBT rights without understanding the much publicized struggle over LGBT rights in Africa within the context of the broader human rights struggle.  In that broader struggle, U.S. advocacy for gay rights has become a fig leaf for its militarization of Africa and responsibility for war and genocide.

For more thorough accounts, with evidence citations, see:

"The U.N. Security Council Ad Hoc Rwanda Tribunal: International Justice, or JuridicallyConstructed 'Victor’s Impunity?" by Law Professor, former ICTR Defense Counsel, and National Lawyer's Guild President Peter Erlinder. 

Obama requests immunity for Kagame re Rwanda Genocide and Congo wars.

 

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