TEFL Guardian, The French Language, Rwanda and Imperialism

Recently Alex Case wrote a nice piece on the poor journalism (thinly disguised advertising) of The Guardian Newspaper and it would be fitting therefore to add our voice to the public health warning which should accompany all their “articles” on language and TEFL. One particular piece we have in mind is the quite scandalous treatment of language policy change in Rwanda.

For those who need reminding, Rwanda played host to the most horrific ethnic bloodbath in 1994. Since that time the US and British backed government of Kagame has pursued an open policy of rooting out the influences of the former colonial power. Now, here at Marxist TEFL we have no sympathies with French imperialism but neither are we prepared to allow The Guardian to whitewash the role of the USA and UK in this and other massacres in Africa. The article “Why Rwanda said adeiu to French” is little more than a trumpet call for further murder and the consequent further expansion of “English as an International Language of War Criminals”

The article gloats:

France has long claimed Rwanda as part of its francophone fold even though there is only one language common to all citizens of the tiny central African nation — the indigenous Kinyarwanda — and only a minority of the population speak passable French.

But now Paris will not even be able to make that claim after the Rwandan government announced an ambitious plan to switch the entire education system to English and effectively purge the country of French as it is forced out of the workings of government.

The fact that the world bank and IMF have crippled any attempt to improve the education system or any other social development is not something to be applauded and to call a plan to switch languages taught in schools ambitious, in view of deepening austerity measures, is ludicrous. Such plans are of course perverse. Indeed the money lent to the corrupt Habyarimana regime which helped orchestrate the massacre of the Tutsi’s was lent on the basis of cuts to social service provision.

The Guardian goes on to massage the devastating truth of the Rwanda civil war by claiming:

Kigali (the capital city) has also drawn closer to the US and Britain in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. The UK is now the single largest donor to Rwanda, providing nearly half of its foreign aid, while Kigali has applied to join the Commonwealth though the country was never a British colony.

Of course, the Guardian knows it cannot claim Kagame and his cronies have moved closer to US and British Imperialism in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide because they are well aware that it was these two countries that sponsored Kagame in his war against Juvenal Habyarimana’s government.

Indeed, if the world bank gave Habyarimana money the US and Britain made sure who the winner would be. As Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky, points out:

In addition to military aid to the warring factions, the influx of development loans played an important role in “financing the conflict.” In other words, both the Ugandan and Rwanda external debts were diverted into supporting the military and paramilitary. Uganda’s external debt increased by more than 2 billion dollars, –i.e. at a significantly faster pace than that of Rwanda (an increase of approximately 250 million dollars from 1990 to 1994). In retrospect, the RPA — financed by US military aid and Uganda’s external debt– was much better equipped and trained than the Forces Armées du Rwanda (FAR) loyal to President Habyarimana. From the outset, the RPA had a definite military advantage over the FAR

Unmistakably, Kagame, US trained, was the person selected to promote the interests of the US and Britain against those of France. Again Chossudovsky explains:

From the mid-1980s, the Kampala government under President Yoweri Musaveni had become Washington’s African showpiece of “democracy”. Uganda had also become a launchpad for US sponsored guerilla movements into the Sudan, Rwanda and the Congo. Major General Paul Kagame had been head of military intelligence in the Ugandan Armed Forces; he had been trained at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College (CGSC) in Leavenworth, Kansas which focuses on warfighting and military strategy. Kagame returned from Leavenworth to lead the RPA, shortly after the 1990 invasion.

It is rather sickening to hear, therefore, the Guardian claim:

English was made an official language in Rwanda, alongside French and Kinyarwanda, after the RPF took power in 1994, because many of the RPF’s leaders are Tutsis who grew up in exile in English-speaking Uganda and Tanzania. Among them is Rwanda’s education minister, Daphrosa Gahakwa, who took O levels in Uganda and studied at the University of East Anglia in England.

I am sure readers can see the difference between cultivated and grew up. there is a clear project of imperial expansion here. As the Guardian concedes:

But the switch to English dominance is a huge undertaking in a country where more than 95% of schools teach in French to pupils from about the age of nine.

The problem we are expecting is not with the children,” said Yisa. “The children can always learn. The problem is the teachers, but we have already started training some teachers with English.”

Rwanda has 31,000 primary school teachers of whom about 4,700 have been trained in English. Of the 12,000 secondary school teachers — only about half of all Rwandan children move beyond primary education — just 600 have been taught the language they will soon be expected to teach in.

Those bloody teachers and those stupid Rwandans, eh? Little mention that Kagame accepted the debt of the previous regime and accepted further loans in return for selling more of Rwanda’s assets and adopting further austerity programmes, including freezing teachers’ pay. And what did he do with that money? Well get involved with the civil war in the Congo of course, help drive those French out of Africa. Again, I am no fan of French Imperialism but should we really applaud the millions of deaths provoked by this imperialist push by Britain and the US?

No doubt the Guardian will maintain that US and British Imperialism is not in fact imperialism but a humanitarian mission. That the actions of the US in carving out a US protectorate in the region have everything to do with democracy and not their thirst for cobalt and other precious minerals. If the Guardian is correct then one must ask whether all these deaths were really necessary, whether the people in this region have benefitted at all from these wars. Perhaps they might argue that you cannot put a price on freedom, democracy and progress. Yet as they know there is no freedom, true democracy or progress in the region they content themselves with distorting the causes of the conflict. The role of the US and Britain is treated as a response to genocide not as a participatory factor.

This is no more evident than in its outrageous claim:

France’s leading anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, has accused Rwanda’s Tutsi president, Paul Kagame, and other leaders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that overthrew the genocidal regime, of prompting the slaughter by assassinating the Hutu president, Juvenal Habyarimana. A more widely accepted view is that Habyarimana was killed by Hutu extremists who then seized power.

One might ask where this view is more widely accepted. The Washington Post? The Guardian? Imagine the readers’ surprise were we to write: George Bush continues to claim Al Qaeda responsible for attack on World Trade Centre despite the more widely held view that it was an inside job perpetrated by the CIA to justify the extremist neo-con’ war programme.

Fact. Not only did a French judge attempt to prosecute Kagame and his cronies for war crimes but so did Spanish judges. Moreover, in 2003, the Chief Prosecutor for the UN International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Swiss born Carla del Ponte, publicly announced that she would soon begin prosecuting members of Kagame’s Government for the same kinds of crimes charged in the French and Spanish warrants. Nearly 6 years later, however, not one case has been filed against one member of Kagame’s government, nor against Kagame himself. The reason being that 90 days after Del Ponte announced her decision to prosecute these monsters she was replaced by Abubacar Jallow, a US/UK-approved Prosecutor who had pledged not to continue with the prosecutions of Kagame and his accomplices. In short she was sacked by the US and the UK who didn’t want to have their role (sponsors of the war) dragged before the courts.

Again Michel Chossudovsky clarifies the situation:

According to the testimony of Paul Mugabe, a former member of the RPF High Command Unit, Major General Paul Kagame had personally ordered the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane with a view to taking control of the country. He was fully aware that the assassination of Habyarimana would unleash “a genocide” against Tutsi civilians. RPA forces had been fully deployed in Kigali at the time the ethnic massacres took place and did not act to prevent it from happening:

“The decision of Paul Kagame to shoot Pres. Habyarimana’s aircraft was the catalyst of an unprecedented drama in Rwandan history, and Major-General Paul Kagame took that decision with all awareness. Kagame’s ambition caused the extermination of all of our families: Tutsis, Hutus and Twas. We all lost. Kagame’s take-over took away the lives of a large number of Tutsis and caused the unnecessary exodus of millions of Hutus, many of whom were innocent under the hands of the genocide ringleaders. Some naive Rwandans proclaimed Kagame as their savior, but time has demonstrated that it was he who caused our suffering and misfortunes… Can Kagame explain to the Rwandan people why he sent Claude Dusaidi and Charles Muligande to New York and Washington to stop the UN military intervention which was supposed to be sent and protect the Rwandan people from the genocide? The reason behind avoiding that military intervention was to allow the RPF leadership the takeover of the Kigali Government and to show the world that they – the RPF – were the ones who stopped the genocide. We will all remember that the genocide occurred during three months, even though Kagame has said that he was capable of stopping it the first week after the aircraft crash. Can Major-General Paul Kagame explain why he asked to MINUAR to leave Rwandan soil within hours while the UN was examining the possibility of increasing its troops in Rwanda in order to stop the genocide?”

So there you have the sorry truth of why a nation truly said adieu to French. Of course the Guardian version equates the adoption of English with the inevitable march of freedom, democracy and progress. Here at Marxist TEFL we note how the current status of modern languages is one arrived at through rivers of blood. I’m sure the US don’t give a damn what language Rwandans speak as long as they can exercise control over their resources. After all the reality of education means only a small elite will speak a passable English in the foreseeable future. The sorry truth is though that English is being pushed as the symbolic victory of one faction, backed by the US, over another, backed by France. The Guardian’s article dances on the unmarked graves of those who have died as a result of this horrific imperialist sponsored war.

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