The Power In Our Words

By Yarethzy Chacon

Simon Bikindi’s case is very controversial. It questions the limits of the rights we as humans all have. It is a strange case of a man who used his freedom of speech to express his opinion through his music. Many people think that the message he tried to convey was rather aggressive and incited this said aggression on the Hutu’s side. Is he at fault for other peoples interpretation of his songs? Should he be blamed and punished for the events that occurred because of these interpretations?

            The prosecutor side believes that he does, and frankly, I do too. Bikindi wasn’t directly helping in the genocide, but his songs were. He had all the power to stop broadcasting his music so that it wouldn’t be used in the way it was. Yet, he decided to remain quiet and continue to broadcast his music. But this is not the worst of it. After the genocide, Bikindi was still releasing songs that spread hatred towards the Tutsi. People try to argue and say that he regrets it now, but he only showed regret the moment he realized he was close to being punished. Can we, then, really trust his word?

            During the trials, something that caught my ultimate attention was the main argument made by the defense team. They continuously mentioned that the Tutsi and the Hutu had no real significant difference between them and therefore what the Hutu did would not be considered genocide. The problem with this is that this erases what actually happened. You can take away its name but not its identity. It not being considered a genocide does not erase the fact thousands of people were still killed. It still happened and Bikindi still played a major role in it.

            Other people argue that having Simon Bikindi be punished for his use of freedom of speech is essentially a violation of this right. This makes people fear for themselves and their rights. I think there’s a big misconception about what rights are and how long they extend. Freedom of speech is the right to think whatever you want and speak it if you wish to. The problem with this, is that you can’t say whatever you want without expecting some sort of consequence. Freedom of speech is a right because it matters, because it is something that carries power. Power is dangerous and the responsibility of it relies on the beholder. Expecting no consequence for your actions is like taking away the importance of your actions.

            Why do we as humans speak? Why do we express our opinions? Because we think they have some sort of importance. Because we think they matter and because we think our words are worth being heard. The moment we speak we are basically saying, “I want you to hear this”. We expect people to listen and do something about it. Therefore, we can’t say that Bikindi didn’t intend to have the sort of influence he did. We don’t speak through art (which takes great effort) just because. We do it because we want it to reach people. Bikindi’s lyrics had power, he knew they had power, and he USED this power to his benefit. Had any interpretation of his songs been wrong, he could’ve easily corrected it. He never did. He played with the limitations of his freedom of speech, he stretched it widely and now it’s coming back at him. You cannot avoid the consequences of your own actions.