The Acronym IN.YE.NZI: A Symbol of Bravery
On the 4th of December 2008, CNN aired a two-hour documentary on genocides titled:Scream Bloody Murder. In this documentary, the reporter, Christiane Amanpour, reminded the audience that a common strategy used by most genocidaires is to dehumanize their victims prior to killing them. In Cambodia for instance, the Khmer Rouge called their victims “Worms” while in Rwanda , the Hutu extremists called their victims “Inyenzi”, a Rwandan word that translates into Cockroaches in English. Although it is absolutely outrageous to call a human being a cockroach, it is important to know that in Rwanda, up to date, the acronym “”, not to be confused with the Rwandan word “Inyenzi “, has a positive connotation owing to the tactic used by a Tutsi rebel movement that devastated the First Republic of Rwanda throughout the 1960s.
The Origin of the Acronym
The acronym “IN.YE.NZI”, not to be confused with the Rwandan word “Inyenzi” which translates into cockroaches in English, was coined by a Tutsi rebel named Aloys Ngurumbe back in the early 1960s. In two separate interviews, one with Rangira and Kalinganire from the Rwandan Newspaper KANGUKA No 52 (one of the Rwandan pro-RPF Newspapers in the 1990s), published on February 12th, 1992 and another one with the BBC on November 8th, 2003, Aloys Ngurumbe proudly explained thatIN.YE.NZI is an acronym of the following words: ‘INgangurarugo yiYemeje kuba ingeNzi”. These two interviews can be accessed online at Rwanda Development Gateway and Inshuti websites. Originally, the acronym IN.YE.NZI, and by extension the word Inyenzi, had a positive connotation to do with the tactic used by this rebel movement. According to Dr Jean-Marie Vianney Higiro, Ingangurarugo was an army division under Kigeli Rwabugili, a Tutsi King who ruled Rwanda at the end of the 19th century. Hence, the acronym means a member of Ingangurarugo who has committed himself to bravery.
Etymologically, the word ingangurarugo comes from “kugangura urugo rw’ibwami” or “to provoke trouble at the king’s court.” When Rwabugili was still a child, he and his friends attacked Rwogera’s (his father) court and took away his cattle. More broadly then, ingangurarugo then means troublemakers. Aloys Ngurumbe clearly stated that his comrades chose this label for the guerrilla movement. It was not chosen by the extremist Hutus to whom it is now attributed in many writings on the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In a recent interview with James Munyaneza from the Kigali New Times (Rwanda’s First Daily Newspaper), David Munyurangabo, a former member of the IN.YE.NZI rebel movement and therefore Ngurumbe’s comrade, confirmed the above information in these words: “My participation [in the Rwanda’s liberation] falls in the category of Rwandans who had been expelled from their country. I was part of Ingangurarugo [yiyemeje kuba Ingenzi] a rebel group formed shortly after the 1959 Tutsi expulsion from Rwanda, which then the Rwandan authorities nicknamed Inyenzi (Cockroaches)”.
The “” Civil War
This is a war that was directed against the First Republic of Rwanda by the Tutsi rebels who were exiled in neighboring countries, especially in Uganda and in Burundi, in the aftermath of the Rwandan Revolution of 1959. This war was a deliberate attempt to regain power by force. In the 1960s, the IN.YE.NZI rebels would attack at night and kill innocent Rwandan civilians. Then they would rapidly vanish in the countryside or retreat into Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda or ex-Zaire (DRC).The IN.YE.NZI rebel movement was supported by some Communists Powers of that time, while the Rwandan Government could rely on its Western allies for support, especially Belgium.
The “IN.YE.NZI” war left serious impacts not only in the Hutu-Tutsi relationships but also in the Rwanda’s politico-socio- economic situation. As a direct consequence of theIN.YE.NZI civil war, during the First Republic of Rwanda led by President Gregoire Kayibanda from 1962-1973, the Tutsi inside Rwanda were marginalized in almost all social sectors, a situation that substantially improved during the Second Republic of Rwanda led by President Juvenal Habyarimana from 1973-1994.
The “” Rebels Fuelled Hatred, Pleading Bravery
Due to the ability of the IN.YE.NZI rebels to terrorize the country by killing innocent civilians and to disappear shortly after, when the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) came in, the Rwandan population associated the IN.YE.NZI rebels with the Rwandan word Inyenzi, which translates into cockroaches in English, mostly due to the ability of theIN.YE.NZI rebels to hit-and-run overnight. Cockroaches as you may know are annoying bugs that disappear when somebody turns on the light. It is very difficult to get rid of them at once. During the First Republic of Rwanda, the terminology Inyenzi became a generic label for the IN.YE.NZI rebels. During the Rwandan civil war launched by the RPF-INKOTANYI in 1990, sympathizers of President Juvenal Habyarimana and other Hutus opposed to the RPF’s ideology usually applied the label Inyenzi to their political opponents, even though the Tutsi rebels had dropped the acronym IN.YE.NZI for the word INKOTANYI.
Originally, the Rwandan word INKOTANYI means a militia that belonged to the Tutsi King Rwabugili in the 19th century. During his reign, Rwabugili bludgeoned the majority Hutus into submission. More importantly, Rwabugili waged wars throughout the Great Lakes Region of Africa until his death in 1895. Unfortunately, because of tenacious memories of Rwabugili’s oppression that still resonates in many Rwandans, the termINKOTANYI was widely used during the Rwandan civil war from 1990 to 1994 by Hutu propagandists to link the Tutsi-led RPF guerrilla movement in the minds of Hutus with memories of past Tutsi oppression.
During their interviews, former IN.YE.NZI combatants, Aloys Ngurumbe and David Munyurangabo, failed to clarify what they meant when they adopted the acronymIN.YE.NZI to be their symbol of bravery. As Rwandans, Ngurumbe and Munyurangabo might have been aware of how dehumanizing the term would be should the Rwandan population decide to associate their comrades with the Rwandan word Inyenzi (cockroaches). This situation was mostly predictable for two main reasons: 1) both the acronym IN.YE.NZI and the Rwandan word Inyenzi spell and sound exactly the same in Kinyarwanda and 2) the bravery that goes with the acronym IN.YE.NZI would become meaningless with regard to Inyenzi (cockroaches) which are really annoying but defenseless. The current RPF-INKOTANYI leadership has always referred to the “IN.YE.NZI” civil war and to its tragic consequences for the Rwandan society as part of a genocide plan masterminded by Hutu extremists, a genocide that started with the Rwandan Revolution in 1959 and attained its paroxysm in 1994 with the Rwandan genocide.
However, one should not ignore that if fueling hatred among Rwandans and incitation to commit acts of genocide was the intention lying behind the acronym , the leaders of the rebel movement that ravaged Rwanda in the 1960s should be held accountable for all of the cycles of violence that characterized the First Republic of Rwanda not to mention the Rwandan civil war launched by the RPF-INKOTANYI from the Ugandan territory in 1990 and ultimately ended with the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
Fuelling Hatred, Pleading Free Speech
During the Rwandan civil war in the 1990s, Hutu propagandists were not the only ones to misuse the media by dehumanizing their opponents as some Tutsi propagandists similarly dehumanized the Hutus who did not fully embrace the RPF’s ideology and were de facto labeled as “Extremist Hutus” instead of “Moderate Hutus”. From 1990 to 1994, many Rwandans who used to listen to RPF Radio MUHABURA attest that, the RPF leadership also used its radio to air programs that were deemed to fuel hatred among Rwandans. Unfortunately, upon coming to power in July 1994, the RPF leadership destroyed any evidence for such programs. Nevertheless, the best illustration of how the Tutsi extremists also dehumanized the Hutus is a poem called ‘Nsingize Gisa Umusore Utagira Uko Asa’ (A Tribute to Gisa, a Young Man With an Indescribable Beauty) written by Dr Alexander Kimenyi, that appeared in the newspaper IMPURUZA (No 17) published in December 1990, just two months after the beginning of the Rwandan civil war of 1990s.
“You are a bullfighter who launched a war to free the Nobles [Tutsi]
Since you decided to use the entire arsenal
The termites [Hutu] will run out of the country
Just a few days before the first shell has landed
Those wild rats, corrupted crooks [Hutu] are already panic-stricken
They are looters, hooligans, and killers [Hutu]
I see those traitors with bloated cheeks [Hutu] running in panic and disarray
Those thieves [Hutu] are troublemakers.
The ugly creatures
[the Tutsi mythology preaches that people of Hamitic origin (Tutsi) are generally handsome, whereas people of Bantu origin (Hutu) are ugly]
are insane and furious.
They are the enemies of Rwanda.
They are nothing but a bunch of dishonorable dirt”.
In this poem, the young man with an indescribable beauty is Fred Rwigema, a Ugandan General and a Rwandan Tutsi in Diaspora, who led the RPF’s invasion of Rwanda on October 1st 1990. In his testimony to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Abdul Ruzibiza attests that Rwigema was quickly killed by some of his soldiers. Among other things, Fred Rwigema was killed because of his strong opposition on how the war was meant to be conducted: He was absolutely opposed to any killing of innocent civilians even in the case they were reluctant to quickly embrace the RPF ideology. After Rwigema’s death, Yoweri Museveni, the current President of Uganda, called upon Paul Kagame, the current President of Rwanda. Kagame was then the Chief of Military Intelligence in the Ugandan Army and was also on a fellowship in the United States being trained by the U.S. military Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was asked to return to Uganda and take up a position as the commander of the invading forces.
The IMPURUZA newspaper was one of the best known newspapers of the Rwandan Tutsi in diaspora. It was published in the United States from 1984 to 1994. As Dr Jean-Marie Vianney Higiro asserted, the Rwandan word IMPURUZA is the name of a drum, which in pre-colonial Rwanda was beaten to call able men to war. In the first issue of the IMPURUZA newspaper, its editor, Dr Alexandre Kimenyi, -a Rwandan national and a Professor at California State University, in Sacramento- explained: “The reason why we chose this name is to remind us [Rwandan Tutsis in Diaspora] that we too are at war and that we have to continue to show heroism”.
Shortly after the PRF’s victory, Dr Alexandre Kimenyi became a dissident of the RPF. In his biography, Dr Alexandre Kimenyi attests that when RPF got in power, it was hijacked by a group of individuals who betrayed the ideas and ideals which had made it a very popular movement. Dr Alexandre Kimenyi has founded his own political party AMAHORO-People’s Congress (AMAHORO-PC).
Paul Kagame, the current Rwandan President, continues to dismiss calls for justice, fairness and end of the culture of impunity widespread in the African Great Lakes Region. He alleges that such calls are politically motivated efforts to place his liberation army on the same moral plane as mass murderers and thereby weaken his government’s moral authority. Indeed, with the capture of Kigali by RPF, on July 4, 1994, the simultaneous killings of both Tutsis and Hutus finally came to a temporary halt. It is widely known that after Kigali’s capture by the RPF, the rebels continued killing Hutu civilians and other Tutsi and Twa dissenters in what has now come to be absurdly rationalized as their “reprisal killings.” Just as in the course of the civil war, a large numbers of Hutu civilians were deliberately massacred by RPF troops – a fact substantiated in the so-called Gersony report named after the UN official who investigated the killings. After the RPF took over power, an even greater number of Hutu lost their lives within and outside Rwanda at their hands.
According to Dr Alexandre Kimenyi, former member of the IN.YE.NZI movement, and former Director of Research and Documentation within the RPF Executive Committee,RPF soldiers did not stop genocide. Instead, RPF soldiers committed mass murder in the process of “liberating Rwanda” not collaterally but deliberately. There is no shortage of witnesses, survivors, and documentations of RPA massacres before, during, and after genocide such as: Compendum of some RPF crimes, Rwanda: Alarming resurgence of killings, and Rwanda: Ending the silence to name just a few.
Therefore, as Dr Guillaume Murere pointed it out all the experts remain certain: the killings in 1994 were so systematic that they must have been pre-planned. Then, one must ask, who was the planner? Who was the mastermind? Since investigations of the Rwandan Government’s part have (so far) failed to find any evidence of pre-planning by Hutus, would it not be logical to investigate the other warring side, that is, the RPF-INKOTANYI and the IN.YE.NZI guerrilla movements?
Basic human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, justice for all, opening up of political space for competition of ideas and power – should be guaranteed to all the Rwandan people. These basic human rights should be sustained by real economic development, which should promote equal opportunities for all Rwandans instead of the current myth on the economic prosperity in Rwanda. Otherwise underground networks will channel social discontent and an explosion of violence will likely occur again.