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  • Writer's pictureNicoletta Fagiolo

Petition, Africa geopolitical expert under attack

Recipient(s): Judge of the 17th correctional chamber of the Paris court, Stop Disinformation on Rwanda/DRCongo, Stop harassing Dr. Charles Onana

Africans as well as Africa experts from around the world are outraged that three NGOs - the International Federation for Human Rights and French-based Human Rights League and Survie, took up legal action against Dr. Charles Onana, a Franco-Cameroonian political scientist, journalist and author, accusing him of historical negationism over the 1994 Rwandan tragedy. The accusation was made know in an article by Raphaël Doridant on the Survie website published on 22 April 2022. The purpose of this legal action is nothing less than an attempt to muzzle an investigative journalist and academic who has since the beginning of the 1990s relentlessly analyzed the tragedies that occurred in the African Great Lakes region. This is not the first time Onana has faced charges. In 2002 Onana published The Secrets of the Rwandan Genocide, Investigations on the Mysteries of a President, while Rwandan President Paul Kagame was being hailed by the international press as a hero for stopping the genocide, Onana accused him of having plotted the 6 April 1994 downing of the Presidential plane — the spark that lit the fires of the 100-day massacres. In 2002 President Kagame and the Rwandan state filed a defamation suit in Paris against Onana with the 17th Chamber of the Tribunal de Grande Instance (district court), but dropped the charges just 48 hours before the trial was set to start. Onana had accumulated 3,000 documents, as well as direct witnesses who had been on the ground during the tragedy, including UN personnel such as Colonel Luc Marchal, the Belgian commander of UNAMIR at the time, to testify at court sustaining the book’s findings.

Unhappy with the wide array for incompatible facts surrounding this and other events concerning the Rwandan tragedy, Onana has since published another seven investigations on the area’s recent history. It is important to emphasize that the book which is the latest under attack - The truth about Operation Turquoise - is the fruit of a doctoral thesis obtained by Charles Onana in 2017 at the University of Lyon and endorsed by an international panel who recognized its scholarly value. Here the author analyses the geo-politics of the 1990-1994 war. He argues that the RPF were acting as a proxy for the United States of America in the region, with the immense natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as their final objective. The Congolese people have paid a heavy price: 10 million people perished, thousands were raped and the shameless plundering of their resources. This was evidenced, among other sources, by the UN expert’s Mapping report which reveals the primary role of the Rwandan Patriotic Army and Paul Kagame in these war crimes, crimes against humanity and probably crimes of genocide committed in Congo. Countless sources ranging from UN experts’ reports and NGO reports, individual testimonies, historical accounts, sociological and historical studies, as well as international criminal law indictments and judgements have revealed a very different story from the one the world has come to accept regarding the 1994 genocide. Since then, many RPF officers and former politicians have left Rwanda, and spoken out not only against the regime’s domestic failings, but crucially about the RPF’s role not as savior, but as instigator and assassin with a clear share of responsibility in the massacres of 1994. “The instituzionalizing of the Rwandan genocide (in history books, genocide studies, documentaries, the official history at the International Tribunal for Rwanda and even proclaimed by the UN security council in 2014) “has been the remarkable achievement of a propaganda system sustained by both public and private power, with a crucial assistance of a related cadre of intellectual enforcers” write Edward S. Herman and David Peterson in Enduring Lies, The Rwandan genocide in the propaganda system 20 years later. They added that the journalistic malpractice on the current officially known version of events of the Rwandan tragedy tend to “ recite the instituzionalized untruths as gospel while accusing critics of this version as genocide deniers.”

The BBC spoke of Rwanda’s untold story in a 2015 documentary to which the Rwandan government responded by indicting the BBC producers for “genocide denial”. Dakar-based BBC journalist Jacques Matand Diyambi was fired in 2020, following threats from the Rwandan regime, over an interview he conducted with Charles Onana on his book The Truth about Operation Turquoise: When Archives Speak. The journalist won his case against the BBC as the judges decided that he was wrongfully dismissed, yet Diyambi was not reinstated. Such examples of silencing historical debate abound. Rather than open a necessary discourse on the contrasting versions of the areas’ recent history, now these three humans rights NGOs have decided to smear Charles Onana as a genocide denier, thus hindering a much-needed debate.

We denounce the attempts to politicize justice, by attempting to silence one of the few and most rigorous researchers on the tragedy in the Great Lakes region - and to create a diversion from Kagame's crimes in Rwanda and the Congo. One can only wonder what motivates this assault upon the search for the truth about a tragedy that remains inadequately explained and where actors continue to ravage the region with impunity.

Please join the call to endorse Charles Onana’s historical research. We urge the French judges to observe the law impartially, and to assure that free speech, a founding principle of the French Republic, is not denied to Charles Onana, and that he may be at liberty to continue his important work as he sees fit. Charles Onana support committee

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