Encounters with conflict and peace

Hate radio

Anti-Tutsi articles and graphic cartoons began appearing in the Kangura newspaper from around 1990.
In June 1993 a new radio station called Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) began broadcasting in Rwanda…

The station was rowdy and used street language - there were disc jockeys, pop music and phone-ins. Sometimes the announcers were drunk. It was designed to appeal to the unemployed, the delinquents and the gangs of thugs in the militia. “In a largely illiterate population, the radio station soon had a very large audience who found it immensely entertaining.” (Linda Melvern)

transistor radio

The U.S. - "We believe in freedom of speech"

Its stated aim was “to create harmonious development in Rwandese society” but nothing could have been further from the truth. It was set up and financed by Hutu extremists to prepare the people of Rwanda for genocide by demonising the Tutsi and encouraging hate and violence.

Some people - including the Belgian ambassador and staff of several aid agencies - recognised the danger and asked for international help in shutting down the broadcasts, but it was impossible to persuade western diplomats to take it seriously. They dismissed the station as a joke.

David Rawson, the US ambassador, said that its euphemisms were open to interpretation. The US, he said, believed in freedom of speech.

The radio told people to go to work and everyone knew that meant get your machete and kill Tutsis.

Many Rwandans, however, knew the threat. ‘I listened to RTLMC’, said a survivor, ‘because if you were mentioned over the airways, you were sure to be carted off a short time later by the interahamwe. You knew you had to change your address at once.”

based on information in A People Betrayed by Linda Melvern

Who was behind the radio station?

The graves are not yet full
RTLM was set up and financed by hard-line Hutu extremists, mostly from northern Rwanda: wealthy businessmen, government ministers and various relatives of the President. Its backers also included the directors of two African banks and the vice-president of the interahamwe (militia).

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