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The Perspective, with Edward Bwalya Phiri Reckoning hate speech as an echelon of tribalism

“From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The forgoing quote is a rendition of the Latin maxim, “nemo dat quod habeat”, which is translated, “you cannot give what you don’t have.” From the enclave of the heart, emerges the denizens only and nothing else. No matter how generous one can be, they cannot give more than their possessions. Off course, this has nothing to do with giving of material possession, but has everything to do with the personification of one’s moral character into its physical equivalent. George Lucas drove the point home when he posited that, “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”

On The Perspective today, I am talking about hate speech as an echelon of tribalism. The Cambridge University in its dictionary defines hate speech as a public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. In its extreme, hate speech is defined by the 1948 Genocide Convection as the direct and public incitement to commit genocide. To qualify to be called genocide, an act needs not to be physical. Because it includes; mental anguish to a person or group, arising from a provocative tribal attack.

According to Newton Lee, “There is a fine line between free speech and hate speech. Free speech encourages debate, whereas hate speech incites violence.” And Jim C. Hines warns that, “Freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of saying stupid sh*t.” It must be noted therefore that freedom of speech is not a guarantee to disparage and vilify others; generally human rights are not absolute, except for those classified under the jus cogens or the peremptory norms, such as freedom from servitude and torture.

Hate speech is socially combustible, because it foments tension and usually results in violence. We can learn an object lesson from Rwanda (a.k.a the land of a thousand hills); the hatred between the Hutus and the Tutsis was a renaissance of the Old Testament account of Cain and Abel in the scriptures. The Hutu-Tutsi relation had been festering long before the genocide, and was propelled by hate speech.

Leon Mugesera is the man accused to have issued a statement that sparked violence. In 1992 November 22 while addressing party members, Mugesera, a Hutu is alleged to have said, “We the people are obliged to take responsibility of ourselves and wipe out this scum…dump their bodies into the rivers of Rwanda. Do not be afraid, know that anyone whose neck you do not cut is the one who will cut your neck.” Consequently, between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Twas and Europeans were killed in a period of 100 days; all because of the Anti-Tutsi vitriol propagated through the print and electronic media.

The Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) translated as “Free Radio and Television of the Thousand Hills” was a private owned media house that was key in inciting the Tutsis’ extermination by the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi Hutu militias, through a propaganda and anti-Tutsi songs. As a presenter, Goerge H.Y.J. Ruggiu encouraged the militias to kill the ‘Cockroaches’, relentlessly urging them that, “graves were waiting to be filled.”

The Kangura Magazine was established in 1990 to peddle ethnic and political propaganda. The December 1990 issue carried the anti-Tutsi propaganda dubbed the ‘Hutu Ten Commandments’ by the editor Hassan Ngeze. Primarily, the Ten Commandments propagated the Hutu ideology; a conviction that any Hutu who interacted with the Tutsi is a traitor and ultimately the Tutsi subjugation and annihilation dogma. In a February 9, 1991 editorial, Ngeze wrote that, “Let us learn about the inkotanyi and let us exterminate every last one of them.”

Susan Benesch wrote that, “In November 1991, a large drawing of a machete appeared on the cover of Kangura, a Hutu-owned Rwandan tabloid. Along one edge of the machete’s curved blade appeared the question: WHAT WEAPONS SHALL WE USE TO CONQUER THE INYENZI ONCE AND FOR ALL? ‘Inyenzi’ or cockroach was a term coined in the 1960s by some Rwanda’s governing Hutus to refer to rebel fighters of Rwanda’s minority ethnic group, the Tutsi. In the early 1990s, inyenzi became a slur applied to any Tutsi.” Further, she wrote that, “In April 1994…the Rwandan genocide erupted… by the armed forces, the presidential guard, and the ruling party’s youth militia.”

Tribal hate can be so explosive and it sears one’s conscience, resulting in a complete apathy to any moral reproof. For instance, a clergy who was supposed to be a depository of God’s hope and grace, Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirumana, who was the President of the West Rwanda Association Field in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, turned into a complicity accomplice in perpetrating violence.

Dennis Hokama reported in the Adventist Today Magazine that Ntakirumana encouraged a large group of Tutsi men, women, and children to take refuge in a church and hospital compound in 1994. Then he joined the convoys of armed soldiers and civilians in massacring them.” Further Philip Gourevitch in his book, “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda”; In quoting Manase Bimenyimnan, a survivor of the genocide wrote that in response to the victims pleas, Ntakirumana said, “you must be eliminated. God no longer wants you.” This unfortunate account shows how bewitching tribalism is.

As per 1948 Genocide convention’s definition of genocide, many individuals, political players and royalties in Zambia today, are culprits, especially of genocide, and we are all guilty of complicity in genocide. There has been a steady upswing of tribal undertones, accentuated by hate speech in Zambia. In the recent past, we have seen how innocent blood has been shed in this country. Individuals have either been attacked, hacked, maimed or killed in cold blood because of belonging to a particular social group. To survive, one must disguise both their allegiance and their true identity. We are toeing a very dangerous line as a country because when fire breaks out, none will be spared. We are therefore encouraged to take a stand against the vice; J. k. Rowling wrote that, “We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalised. We hold the line.”
Tribalism and its progenies such us ethnophaulism, ethnosupremacism and incendiary vitriol propaganda have irreversible and far reaching consequences. Albert Einstein wrote that, “the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Let everyone therefore make every effort towards ending this growing trend of tribal hate. We only have one country we call home. Zambia is our land and our heritage. Whether you go overseas or to other African countries like South Africa; where our brothers are treated like animals, you will one day wish to return were your navel is laid. Let us be tolerant to one another and protect our nation, for our own good and for posterity.

There is no need to harbour tribal hate as though we were born with it. We have only been inured to hate, so let go. According to John Locke, we are born as a Tabura rasa (blank slate); clean of any ideas, our minds only get imprinted on through the reaction of our senses to the environment. This process is known as nurturing. Let us therefore encourage each other and nurture our children to embrace diversity, for it is the spice of life. For today I will end here, Au revoir.

For comments: elbardogma@yahoo.com/SM

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