The Human Rights Archive at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library and the estate of broadcaster Jean Dominique have announced a partnership to preserve the broadcast archives of the journalist’s iconic Radio Haiti station. From the 1960s to 2002, Radio Haiti was that country’s first independent radio station, promoting democratic freedoms, speaking out against human rights abuses, and celebrating Haitian life and culture. The station’s archive includes approximately 2,500 audio recordings of programs, as well as 28 boxes of paper records. Recordings include daily coverage of events, cultural programs, interviews on public affairs, political analysis, and roundtable discussions on different aspects of Haiti’s recent history.
“The Radio Haiti collection is an incredibly important resource for understanding the recent history of Haiti,” said Laurent Dubois, Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke. “Because the station broadcast news and reportage largely in Creole and extensively covered events both in Port-au-Prince and the rural areas of Haiti, the collection gives us unequalled access to an understanding of one of the most important grassroots democratic movements in recent history: the movement that overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986.”
The Radio Haiti archives were donated to the Rubenstein Library by Michèle Montas, station co-anchor and widow of Jean Dominique. Dominique had an unquenchable passion for Haiti and its people, and his quest for truth and justice may have led to his assassination in 2000.
According to Montas the archives “capture a time and place in which journalists and broadcast journalism played a major role in redefining a country and reaching a people. Beyond Haiti, they bear witness to the turbulent transition from a dictatorship to a functioning democracy. ”
Montas stressed that the archives matter today because they touch on and track issues that remain of paramount importance in Haitian society. “By saving these archives and making them once more accessible to large audiences, Duke and the Rubenstein Library are playing a crucial role in advancing the dialogue about Haiti and its future.”
On April 3, Montas will be at Duke to discuss the history of Radio Haiti and its archive. Archivists from the Rubenstein Library will also share some of the challenges of preserving such a large audio collection and discuss the importance this archive has for the broader Haitian community and the human rights movement. Those interested in learning more about preserving Radio Haiti can visit Duke Library’s Youtube channel. The event is free and open to the public and will be held at 12 p.m. in the Forum for Scholars and Publics, Old Chemistry Building Room 011, on Duke’s West Campus. Lunch will be provided.
The Radio Haiti archives join other recent acquisitions by the Rubenstein Library documenting the history of Haiti, including the records of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, the Mark Danner Papers, and a scribal copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence dating from 1804.
The Radio Haiti archives will open for research after conservation review and archival processing are complete. For more information, contact Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.
The Rwandan audiotapes of the International Monitor Institute (IMI) records are comprised almost entirely of the transcripts of radio broadcasts translated from Kinyarwanda into French and English. These are the broadcasts which aired in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, which took place from April through early July of that year and in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred. The genocide was triggered by the assassination of Hutu President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. An IMI piece on radio as a tool of genocide (available in the organizational records) summarizes these events: “His plane was shot down on his return from Arusha, Tanzania, where he met with RPF leaders and signed an agreement further limiting his regime’s hold on power (known as the August 1993 Arusha Accords).”
During colonization from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, the German and Belgian colonial elite manufactured a native elite in the Tutsis, a process of colonization that Franz Fanon describes in The Wretched of the Earth. Hutus thus experienced discrimination in education and various sectors of the economy. In 1959, Hutus took control of Rwanda following the independence movement, forcing many Tutsis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) comprised of exiled Tutsis, invaded Rwanda, initiating a civil war. Habyarimana’s assassination resulted in an escalation of Hutu anxiety that the Tutsis would seize power of the government and that discrimination against Hutus would be reestablished.
Radio became a powerful weapon used to incite and direct the Rwandan genocide. The majority of radio broadcasts in the Rwandan audiotapes collection are from the privately-owned Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM). What I found especially interesting about the content of these broadcasts (the transcripts of which can be found in the IMI organizational records and the audiotapes of which can be found in the Rwandan Videotapes and Audiotapes inventory) was the way in which its efforts to direct the extermination of the Tutsi population was paralleled by its efforts to claim authority over the telling of history. The radio broadcasts reveal a struggle over who gets to tell history and, therefore, a struggle over a monopoly on truth. In other words, the RTLM broadcasts exhibit a phenomenon which seems to be more universally true, which is the political necessity of storytelling.
There are a few particularly conspicuous aspects of the history-telling of the RTLM broadcasts, one being the discourse of revelation or enlightenment – the idea that if we only peel back the layers, we can finally see the truth. And this encounter with the truth is the basis for political action, or, in this case, the basis on which genocide becomes justified. “Slavery,” for example, is a term that is repeated throughout these broadcasts. Several journalists recall the state of Hutu slavery during colonization in order to characterize the discrimination Hutus experienced. Drawing on such a vocabulary, the radio broadcasts attempt to illuminate the Rwandan genocide as a slave rebellion. Freedom from slavery, according to this narrative, lies in the ability to discover the true history and nature of that discrimination, in opposition to the stories of the colonizers and the native elite. For the same reason, I’m less interested in the truth or accuracy of this, or any, construction of history than in the need and tendency to construct history more generally.
In one broadcast which aired on April 12, 1994 (6 days after Habyarimana’s assassination),[ii] Georges Ruggiu gives his audience a history lesson. He evokes Tutsi discrimination against Hutus in the colonial educational system and the ways in which the Germans and Belgians perpetuated this discrimination. Ruggiu situates the RPF’s efforts to seize power in Rwanda and oppress Hutus within that context. “Now we are going to continue with history,” he begins one segment. He goes on to describe how Hutus, beginning with the first school for Tutsis in 1917, were denied education and how, as a result of this denial of access, the Hutu became slaves to the Tutsi “who, according to the colonial legend, were born to rule.” I suspect that Ruggiu does not understand Hutu slavery as merely metaphorical. The discourse of slavery in these broadcasts seems to represent Hutu slavery as naked reality; that is, these broadcasts understand historical Hutu slavery to be literal. Indeed, in the segment that follows, Ruggiu draws on historical documents that testify to the fact that historically “Tutsis killed Hutu kings and enslaved Hutu people.”
In a second broadcast from April 17, 1994 (11 days after the assassination), journalist Agenesta Mukarutama leads a roundtable discussion about how the RPF seeks to return Rwanda to its pre-revolutionary time in which the Tutsi commanded and the Hutu obeyed. “But,” the broadcast tells us, “Rwandans have learned their history and are ‘saying no’ to a repetition of history.” Genocide is perceived as the only way to break out of an historical cycle of discrimination and oppression. Murego argues that “what it [the RPF] did not understand is a lesson from history. In fact, the political skeleton before ‘59 is clear: Some people command and others obeyed, and the RPF inserted its objectives in that scope . . . Since the conditions have changed, there is now no way to impose oneself as it was before . . . what happened is that it is a genuine restoration of the former reality where some people commanded, you understand who, and others have learnt to say ‘no.’ That is where the president of the PL [le Parti libéral] has made an important statement: ‘those who are saying no today, they are saying no considering their history, the history of their country . . .’” (emphasis is mine).
By suggesting that “there is now no way,” that is, that it would be either impracticable or unbearable for Rwanda to return to a pre-revolutionary state governed by colonial structures, Murego essentially makes a philosophical statement about history – not just what the content of that history is, but more specifically, the temporality in which revolutionary history operates. The Rwandan genocide here is not just a “saying no” to Tutsi rule; it is a “saying no” to a particular conception of the temporality of history that stands in opposition to the revolutionary conception of history. Murego’s argument, here, seems to be that the RPF does not understand how historical time actually works. Ngirumpatse, a participant of the roundtable, follows this up:
“First thing, at the risk of disappointing many Rwandans, especially the educated people, I have always considered the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history. No any people make a revolution just once. France has made a Revolution, it had two or three restorations, it took 100 years for the Republic to impose itself. When I say Republic, I mean the power of people. . . . So I consider the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history.” Ngirumpatse makes this claim repeatedly: “I consider the Arusha agreements as an exception in history.”
Ngirumpatse refers to the Arusha Accords as exceptional insofar as they are exceptionally generous; this generosity, it seems, arises from the mistaken belief among Rwandans that their revolution was finished once and for all. But again, what is more interesting to me is the temporality of the historical discourse within the broadcasts themselves – the repetition of the insistence that history cannot and will not repeat itself.
Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.
We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012. Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week. All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!
Joy Golden Papers: Joy Golden was a well-known advertising copywriter who started her own creative company, Joy Radio, in the 1980s that specialized in humorous radio advertising. She did a series of commercials for Laughing Cow Cheese that became particularly well known. She also was active in the Friars Club, including holding the position of Governor. Her papers include files related to her work in advertising from the 1960s forward, and audiotapes of many of the radio advertisements created by her company. Her papers add to the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History‘s rich collections on women and advertising and the development of radio advertising.
As we cruise into summer after another busy semester, here’s a rundown of some notable recent news stories about the Rubenstein Library:
New York’s Museum of Arts and Design is preparing an exhibition entitled “Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art,” according to GalleristNY. The story features a beautiful photo from the Doris Duke Papers on the Shangri La Residence here in the Rubenstein. The exhibition is scheduled to open on September 7, 2012.
Twostories in the Durham Herald-Sun document the Rubenstein Library’s May 15 event to celebrate the publication of Reynolds Price’s final memoir, Midstream, and the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of his first book, A Long and Happy Life.
The Raleigh News and Observerreported on Durham County Library’s Comics Fest. Rubenstein Assistant Curator Will Hansen spoke about the Library’s comic book collections on a panel entitled “Comics Go to College” with colleagues from Duke and UNC.