Christian Davenport and Allan Stam
Rwanda   ICTR

[2009] Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson   Separately, U.S. academics Christian Davenport and Allan Stam estimated that more than one million deaths occurred in Rwanda from April through July 1994,1 concluding that the “majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi.” Initially sponsored by the ICTR, but later dropped by it, the Davenport-Stam work shows convincingly that the theaters where the killing was greatest correlated with spikes in RPF activity (i.e., with RFP “surges,” in their terminology), as a series of RPF advances, particularly in the month of April 1994, created roving patterns of killing. In fact, they describe at least seven distinct “surges” by the RFP (e.g., “they surged forward from the North downward into the Northwest and middle-eastern part of the country”), and every time, an RPF “surge” was accompanied by serious local bloodbaths.2 Then, in late 2009, Davenport-Stam reported what they called the “most shocking result” of their research to date: “The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR [i.e., the Hutu-controlled Armed Forces of Rwanda] seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased.”3
    With these facts, Davenport-Stam appeared to link the mass killings of 1994 to RPF actions. This work also suggests that the mass killings were not directed against the Tutsi population. Moreover, a number of observers, as well as participants in the events of 1994, claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million.4
    Yet Davenport-Stam shy away from asserting the most important lesson of their work: not only that the majority of killings took place in those theaters where the RPF “surged,” but also that the RPF was the only well-organized killing force within Rwanda in 1994, and the only one that planned a major military offensive.5 Clearly, the chief responsibility for Rwandan political violence belonged to the RPF, and not to the ousted coalition government, the FAR, or any Hutu-related group. But Davenport-Stam are inconsistent on the question of likely perpetrators, with their evidence of probable RPF responsibility contradicted by assertions of primary responsibility on the part of the FAR.6
    In short, their work does not break away from the mainstream camp, overall. However, they do acknowledge that forms of political violence took place, other than a straightforward Hutu “genocide” against the minority Tutsi—in itself, a rarity in Western circles. As with the suppressed Gersony report, the Davenport-Stam findings caused great dismay at the United Nations, not to mention in Washington and Kigali. Davenport and Stam themselves have been under attack and in retreat since they were expelled from Rwanda in November 2003, upon first reporting that the “majority of the victims of 1994 were of the same ethnicity as the government in power” and have been barred from entering the country ever since.7 The established narrative’s 800,000 or more largely Tutsi deaths resulting from a “preprogrammed genocide” committed by “Hutu Power” appears to have no basis in any facts, beyond the early claims by Kagame’s RPF and its politically motivated Western sponsors and propagandists.

  1.   Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, Rwandan Political Violence in Space and Time, unpublished manuscript, 2004 (available at Christian Davenport’s personal website, “Project Writings“). For all of Rwanda from April through July 1994, these authors report a total of 1,063,336 deaths (28), based on their analysis of a minimum of eight different mortality estimates for the relevant period.
  2.   Ibid., see esp. 30-33.
  3.   Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam, “What Really Happened in Rwanda?“ Miller-McCune, October 6, 2009.
  4.   In 1999, former RPF military officer Christophe Hakizimana submitted a letter to the UN Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations during the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda (S/1999/1257). In his letter, which detailed the RPF’s military strategy from 1990 on, Hakizimana claimed that the RPF was responsible for killing as many as two million Hutu in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he informed the Commission that by indicting Hutu, the ICTR was focusing on the wrong side in the conflict. We base this on personal communications with the international criminal lawyer Christopher Black of Toronto, who, since 2000, has served as defense counsel before the ICTR on behalf of the Hutu General Augustin Nindiliyimana, a former Chief of Staff of the Rwanda Gendarmerie (or National Police).
  5.   For a more critical discussion of these issues, see Stam, “Coming to a New Understanding of the Rwanda Genocide,” and our discussion of this above.
  6.   See Davenport and Stam, Rwandan Political Violence in Space and Time, 2004. Davenport-Stam organize their work according to three “jurisdictions” that we find deeply flawed: Namely, territory controlled by the Rwandan government and army, by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, and territory that falls along the lines of battle between the two. They write that “the actor with the greatest monopoly of coercion within a specific locale is generally held to be responsible for violent behavior in that locale” (25). (Also see Figure 1, “1994 Rwandan Political Violence: Total Deaths by Troop Control,” 29.) On the basis of this problematic assumption, Davenport-Stam contend that as “the majority of deaths took place within areas under the control of [the Rwandan government and army]—totaling 891, 295,” the government and army are responsible for these deaths, which “could be classified” as genocide, among other possible crimes (28). But as the RPF in fact moved rapidly and decisively from battlefield success to battlefield success to control of the entire country, it is frankly counterintuitive to treat the badly out-gunned, out-maneuvered, and ultimately routed government forces as in control of anything. On the contrary, the chief responsibility for Rwandan political violence in 1994 lay with the RPF and its project of driving the coalition government from power and seizing the Rwandan state.
  7.   Davenport and Stam, “What Really Happened in Rwanda?“