On Wednesday, RNA ran a story “Varsity Don in trouble for “insulting” President Kagame”, to which Mr. Kambanda Charles, a former National University of Rwanda (NUR) lecturer has responded. Read his opinion below:
There are two major issues here:
i) Whether or not a University Lecturer as a researcher should share his research findings with his students
The major attribute of any University Lecturer is research. The rationale of this is that the students who are the immediate beneficiaries of the Lecturer’s research, for which the Lecturer actually gets paid, partake of their lecturer’s research. It is for this reason that most international Law instruments and many local laws including the 2003 Constitution of Rwanda are categorical that imparting knowledge and doing research shall be done in total freedom. In this situation, it is indisputable that the President of the Republic of Rwanda ever undertook University Studies. I have never seen this written anywhere, including the government of Rwanda’s website.
In effect the contrary would be misrepresentation. If a lecturer brought up such an issue to students’ attention for the purpose of, inter alia, reminding them that they could also become leaders since being in top leadership does not actually require university education, I find this a factual and utmost a proper statement of fact. If anybody has information to the contrary of this Lecturer’s research findings, then let this information be produced. Don’t citizens have a right to inquire into their leaders’ past since those leaders have offered to be public figures?
ii) Whether or not the statement “everybody is writing about genocide […] as if there are no other serious issues” amount to denial and/or negation of genocide
In my considered opinion, it sounds like this lecturer was trying to re-orient students’ attention to ‘other’ areas of research. The phrase “as if there are no other serious issues” in this context does not exclude genocide from the list of serious issues in the country. It should be construed to mean, and rightly so, that students should also consider other areas of research. This is an issue over which a lecturer has discretion as well.
Anybody who has taught in any Rwandan University is aware of the students’ annoying tendency to ‘write about genocide’ simply because others have already written about it, and so they do not have to do any serious research. How will the government ensure ‘quality’ in University education if Lecturers are not allowed to challenge students over research areas?
In general, this is a symptom of a deeper problem. We have a self-aggrandizing dictatorship that is consolidating all powers. I once told people that the unnecessary limitations imposed upon the media in the country is a sign that the government wants to strip individual Rwandans of their fundamental rights. Many scholars, including myself, have pointed out that ‘the Law on genocide ideology’ is a sweeping law that was strategically enacted to ‘root’ the dictatorship. Anything a person can do or say in time can be interpreted to contravene that law. The logical consequence is that this law has made everything a crime provided the government does not like that person and/or does not approve of what is said or done. It is not the first time such things happen in human history. We saw this happen in the former USSR; teachers were not allowed to impart knowledge that was considered ‘dangerous’ by State.
It is absurd where our country is moving!!!!
Charles KM KAMBANDA, Dip. Phil., BA., LLB., MA. ETPM., MBA., MA. HRTs., PhD
Mr. Charles KM Kambanda is a former lecturer at the National University of Rwanda. He is currently in the United States. He was known during his time at NUR for the outspoken nature.
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