Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Most infamous fugitive of Rwanda Genocide captured after 26 year run

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Felicien Kabuga—The fugitive caught in France | US Department of State via Wikimedia

After evading justice for almost 26 years, 84-year-old Felicien Kabuga, the infamous co-founder of the Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and the most-wanted absconder of Rwanda genocide was arrested in Paris on May 16, 2020.

It was Kabuga’s radio station, Radio Rwanda that played the instrumental role in the horrendous events in Rwanda in 1994. The announcers of Radio Rwanda used inflammatory rhetoric against the Tutsi minority, calling them ‘cockroaches’ which had to be terminated so the Hutu majority would emerge as winners.

Over eight hundred thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in 100 days during the genocide in 1994. Kabuga was held accountable for financing militias and importing machetes which were used in killing.

Claver Irakoze, a survivor of the 1994 events, says, “We prayed to die softly and to go to heaven. People were negotiating over how they should be killed - that was the level of trauma”. Beatrice Uwera, another survivor, recalls that the soldiers went from house to house with lists of names of all the Tutsis and slaughtered people with weapons like machetes and guns.

Felicien Kabuga was implicated on multiple charges like genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination.

His capture is not only an event of celebration amongst the people of Rwanda but also an indication of improving relations between France and Rwanda. “In the past two months, we came to a conclusion that he was most likely in France and in the region of Paris. We intensified cooperation with French authorities. They were very instrumental in locating the specific apartment where he was. So, cooperation with the police and prosecutor general office in Paris was excellent” says Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).  

Kabuka’s ability to evade law for so long also raises certain queries. For instance, how long was Kabuga residing in France before the officials finally gave him up? “It is difficult to believe that such a high-profile suspect, even with a new identity, could live openly without the French authorities knowing it” states Phil Clark, a professor of International Politics and scholar of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi at the London-based School of Oriental and African Studies.

One possible explanation is that Kabuga might have several contacts in Europe who helped him remain under the radar for so long. “It is clear that Kabuga could not have escaped international justice for so long without an extensive network of accomplices, which enabled him to enjoy facilitation from Government institutions in the several African and European countries” says Valentine Rugwabiza, Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

As Kabuga is being put on trial (so far, he has denied all accusations against him), other complications pop up. International criminal trials and hearings take quite a lot of years, and whether Kabuga will remain alive till all the trials are complete, is still a doubt. Secondly, many questions hover around how the mechanism will judge the monetary parts of Kabuka’s involvement in the genocides.

At last the chief genocide suspect is detained and the Rwandan Government and people hope that the trial does not fall for procedural hurdles and proceed without any unnecessary delay.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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