Nigerian journalist recounts interaction with ex-RTLM entertainer Valerie Bemeriki in prison #rwanda #RwOT


Bemeriki, who worked for the infamous Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, is serving a life imprisonment for her role in inciting the Genocide against the Tutsi community in Rwanda.

Speaking on Sanny Ntayombya's podcast 'Long Form', Olojede disclosed that he had an opportunity to visit Bemeriki in prison around 2004 to discuss the events that led to the killing of more than one million people in 100 days between April 7 and July 19, 1994.

The former foreign editor for News Day said at the time of his visit to the prison, unlike several accused persons he had interacted with 10 years after the killings, Bemeriki showed no remorse for her actions.

He recounted that the disgraced hate journalist continued to lie despite evidence of her role in fueling the atrocities.

'What I found was kind of a deprived individual. I met other killers in prison in their flamingo pink uniform who I spoke to. There was a man who I interviewed at length who had said to me that he resisted for two weeks before he succumbed and killed his wife. Let us take him at face value that he was telling the truth. But you could sense at least a level of regret in his actions. He became emotional and tears were in his eyes but for Bemeriki there was no remorse that I could see,' Olojede revealed.

'I just saw her as this unrepentant person still trying, obviously lying because we have the records, to deny that we were forced. It was pathetic because there was no moral repair that was possible with the person like that.'

Bemeriki was among thousands of accused persons tried by the Gacaca Courts over their involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

She was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on June 13, 1999, nearly five years after fleeing Kigali following the overthrow of the Hutu-led government by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).

The former radio journalist was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 after she admitted to inciting killing of members of the Tutsi community.

In one broadcast attributed to her she told her listeners: "Do not kill those cockroaches with a bullet - cut them to pieces with a machete."

She has since pleaded for forgiveness but insists that she was acting under the pressure of her employer.

Reacting to Bemeriki's change of hurt during the podcast, Olojede said, 'Wow! The passage of time gives more clarity… she is 30 years older than she was when she was committing the despicable crimes.'

On claims that Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines could not be shut down during the tense 100-day period in Rwanda due to freedom of speech, Olojede dismissed the argument as 'disingenuous'.

During the genocide, there are reports that the international community, led by the United States, declined to jam the hate radio after a request by the then commander of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, Roméo Dallaire.

'It is disingenuous to talk about free speech as an excuse not to intervene when a public radio station is mobilizing the population to go and kill their neighbours. We have always had limitations in free speech,' he stated.

Olojede further opined that the international media focus on the end of apartheid in South Africa in May 1994, contributed to less coverage of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Olojede, who was in the country for the 30th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi dubbed 'Kwibuka30', was the first African-born journalist to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.

He won the American journalism's highest honor for a series of articles that he wrote for Newsday in 2004 about the aftermath of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

He has also worked for the New York Times and The Washington Post.

Wycliffe Nyamasege

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