The Kabaya Speech delivered a simple message using complex rhetorical tools – repetitions, rhetorical questions, climax, epanalepsis, emphasis, metaphors, euphemism, inclusive terminology, captatio benevolentiae devices, emotional hooks, etc. – that we cannot analyze here. It suffices to note the presence of a classic and well-known manipulation tactic named ‘projection’, nicknamed ‘the gaslighter’s signature technique’, and called by Alison des Forges “accusation in a mirror”: someone – the Hutu oligarchy and the Akazu, in this case – falsely accuses someone else – the Tutsis – of being engaged in plans, intentions, behaviors and/or actions they are involved in themselves. I’m accusing you of my faults or plans before you can do it, in order to entirely undermine what you are going to say about that: that’s in brief. The 1990-93 state propaganda campaign relentlessly accused the Tutsis of planning the extermination of the Hutus: unfortunately, we know very well that this accusation was false and a mere front for the genocidal plans of the Habyarimana’s inner circle. Projection is a powerful political ‘dirty’ weapon, very much used still today: Trump’s accusing Joe Biden of nepotism is a projection, for example, and I’m sure you can find many other examples everywhere in the world… Probably too many…
Léon Mugesera was a champion of projection in many of his articles and speeches, but of course, he was not alone. The use of projection, as Alison Des Forges had already noted, was a common feature of the 1990-93 propaganda.
In the Kabaya Speech, addressed to the comrades (bavandimwe, brethren), namely the militants of the MRND party, Mugesera highlights, among others, a key concept, expressed in a colorful, incisive language and repeated multiple times to be easily remembered.
We are in war: we’ve been invaded by the armed forces of those who called themselves inkotanyi, but are mere inyenzi, ‘cockroaches’
. «Abantu bitwa inyenzi bafashe inzira baradutera», the cockroaches are on their way to attack us, and we must not allow ourselves to be invaded! . We must protect ourselves against the invaders and also against the traitors (abagambanyi, traîtres), or rather, the ibyitso by’inyenzi, the accomplices of the inyenzi who have infiltrated us. You know, there are inyenzi in the country who have taken the opportunity of sending their children to the front to help the inkotanyi. («Kutavogerwa rero murabizi mwa babyeyi mwe, murabizi, muzi y’uko hali inyenzi zili mu gihugu, zafashe abana bazo zibohereza ku rugamba kujya gufatanya n’inkotanyi». Kamanzi: Vous savez qu’il y a au pays des “inyenzi” qui ont profité de l’occasion pour envoyer leurs enfants au front, pour aller secourir les “inkotanyi”). Moreover, the representatives (abahagaraliye) of some parties, namely the MDR, the PL, the PSD, the PDC, are collaborating with the inyenzi . The representatives of the parties who cooperate with the inyenzi only want to massacre us! They only want to exterminate us! <Gutsemba means to slaughter, massacre, destroy, annihilate, exterminate. Note the emphasis>. («Abahagaraliye aliya mashyaka afatanya n’inyenzi, abahagaraliye… ndabibabwiye simbabeshya, ni ukugirango… bashaka kudutsemba ! BASHAKA KUDUTSEMBA!». Kamanzi: Les représentants de ces partis-là, qui collaborent avec les “Inyenzi”, je vous le dis sans vous mentir, ne veulent que nous exterminer : ils n’ont pas d’autre objectif). We shall not bear their living among us as they’re are able to assault us when we least expect it. («Ntabwo dushaka abantu batubamo ngo bazaturase baturi impande». Kamanzi: Nous n’acceptons pas du tout que des gens qui vivent parmi nous nous tirent dessus tout en étant à nos côtés.). This is the truth: not a few representatives, but all militants in the MDR party are inyenzi < note the progression> («(…) ko n’abantu bo muli MDR bose babaye inyenzi». Kamanzi: que toutes les personnes du MDR étaient devenues des “Inyenzi”).
How do we have to defend ourselves then?
First of all, we must drive out the accomplices of the cockroaches: they have to leave our country. I want to tell the people who sent their children to join the inyenzi on the front, go with them and bring all your family with you while there’s still time.
Secondly, we must ensure that they do not infiltrate among us.
“Do not be afraid, know that anyone whose neck you do not cut is the one who will cut your neck. Let me tell you, these people should begin leaving while there is still time and go and live with their people, or even go to the “Inyenzis”, instead of living among us and keeping their guns to shoot at us while we’re sleeping”. («Ntimugatinye : mumenye ko uwo mutazakata ijosi ali we uzalibakata ! Nkababwira rero ko abo batangira kugenda hakili kare, bakajya gutura muli bene wabo, bakajya no mu nyenzi, aho kuduturamo ngo babike imbunda, nidusinzira baturase! ». Kamanzi: N’ayez pas peur, sachez que celui à qui vous ne couperez pas le cou, c’est celui-là même qui vous le coupera. Je vous dis donc que ces gens là devraient commencer à partir pendant qu’il est encore temps et à aller habiter parmi les leurs ou aller même parmi les “Inyenzi” au lieu d’habiter parmi nous en conservant des fusils, pour que quand nous serons endormis, ils nous tirent dessus).
The idea that many armed Tutsis could act in the shadows and shoot at their Hutu neighbors in their sleep certainly had to alarm the audience, who already knew from other sources that the Tutsi were planning a genocide against the Hutus. For some militants, however, these words did not represent an incredible revelation, but the simple validation of a rumor that had been circulating for some time. The Hutu hardliners’ propaganda insistently made the Tutsis ibyitso by’inyenzi planning a mass killing of Hutus and repeatedly accused many of them of being covertly armed. According to Alison Des Forges, a 1991 issue of the magazine Kangura estimated that 85% of all Tutsi in Rwanda were “accomplices” who never put down their arms. Many speeches, broadcast of Radio Rwanda, and articles insisted on the Tutsi weapons caches. It was a lie, of course, and another blatant projection, but was also one of those serviceable lies that bad politicians love as perfect low-cost weapons able to turn fear into real fuel
Let’s go back to Mugesera’s passage we quoted. Its meaning had to be quite transparent to the audience: all of the inyenzi must leave our country and if they do not leave it, we will send them away, in one way or another, by hook or by crook, before they can kill us all.
In his speech, Mugesera never says openly or directly ‘Let’s gonna kill all Tutsis before they kill us all’. He suggests it without saying, he says 90% of it but never 100%, he gets closer and then withdraws, he hits at it by asking rhetorical questions, and when he directly says it, it’s under certain condition: ‘We will never accept to die just because justice in our country is no longer serving people; if this will be the case, then we are going to do something ourselves and exterminate that scum’. His strategy, in other words, is to bring its audience to think that a statement like ‘Let’s gonna kill all inyenzi before they can kill us all’ is perfectly normal, even just and embraceable in wartime.
The most famous passage of the Kabaya Speech is the following.
“Recently, I told someone who was boasting about his being a militant of the P.L. — I told him: ‘The mistake we made in 1959, when I was still a child, is to let you leave’. I asked him if he hadn’t heard the story of the Falashas who returned to their home in Israel from Ethiopia. He replied that he knew nothing about it. I told him: ‘So don’t you know how to listen or read? Let me tell you that your home is in Ethiopia, to where we will send you via the Nyabarongo to make you arrive quickly”. («Mperutse kubwira umuntu wali unyiraseho ngo ni za PL. Ndamubwira nti : “ikoza twakoze muli 59, nubwo nali umwana, nuko twabaretse mugasohoka”. Mubaza niba atarumvishe inkuru y’abaFalasha, basubiye iwabo muli Israyeli bavuye muli Ethiopiya ambwira ko atayizi, nti : “Ntabwo uzi kwumva no gusoma ? Jye ndakumenyesha ko iwanyu ali muli Ethiopiya, ko tuzabanyuza muli Nyabarongo mukagera yo bwangu”!». Kamanzi: Dernièrement j’ai dit à quelqu’un qui venait de se vanter devant moi d’appartenir au PL. Je lui ai dit : “L’erreur que nous avons commise en 1959 est que, j’étais encore un enfant, nous vous avons laissés sortir”. Je lui ai demandé s’il n’a pas entendu raconter l’histoire des Falashas qui sont retournés chez eux en Isräel en provenance de l’Ethiopie ? Il m’a répondu qu’il n’en savait rien ! Je lui ai dit : “Ne sais-tu pas donc ni écouter ni lire? Moi, je te fais savoir que chez toi c’est en Ethiopie, que nous vous ferons passer par la Nyabarongo pour que vous parveniez vite là-bas”.).
The Nyabarongo river, which crosses Rwanda from west to east, is one of the largest rivers which pours into the Kagera River, the main affluent of Lake Victoria, which drains into the Nile. The Nyabarongo, therefore, is part of the upper headwaters of the Nile. The quoted passage of the Kabaya Speech relies on the old Hamitic hypotheses that turned all Tutsis into foreign invaders of Rwanda, coming from Ethiopia and the Nilotic region. Sending them home via the Nyabarongo and the Nile waters – namely dumping their corps into the rivers – was for Mugesera’s rhetoric the quickest way to get rid of them. The most horrific feature of the passage lies in what we know happened in the 1994 final phase of the Genocide: several thousands of Tutsis slaughtered along the Nyabarongo’s banks were dumped into the waters. Some sources speak of 40,000 corps recovered from the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria (Dallaire), some others of 11,000. In any case, the call to action of the Kabaya Speech was taken quite seriously.
A participant to the ‘Remembrance and Learning Tour’ looks at the waters of Nyabarongo to remember and honor the 1994 mass killings along its banks and the dumping of the victims’ corpses into the river to make them reach the Nile basin.
Photo by Kigali Genocide Memorial, 2016, under Creative Commons license, Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)