Online petition seeks to have Google update Rwanda images on its Japan servers

A Rwandese student currently taking an IT course at Japan’s Miyagi University has launched an online petition seeking to have search giant Google update Rwanda images on its Japan servers as this still only have genocide-related images.

In the petition, launched via, Rwanda’s Jovani Ntabgoba notes that Googling the word “Rwanda” in Katakana (Japan’s characters) gives one content of “Rwanda of 1994 ” only, adding that Rwanda in Katakana is written as ルワンダ.

Jovani Ntabgoba, who's launched the petition via
Jovani Ntabgoba, who’s launched the petition via

But first, here’s some background about Rwanda, the images and ongoing petition. In the year 1994, there was genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda where over 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu were innocently killed. On December 23, 2003, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution (A/RES/58/234) designating April 7 (the date when genocide started in Rwanda in 1994), as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. Every year, on or around that date, the UN organizes commemorative events at its headquarters in New York and at other affiliate offices around the world. Since the establishment of the Programme in 2005, commemorative activities have taken place in more than 20 countries.

“Rwandans and the International community wish not and will not forget such a mayhem. The narrative of Remember-Forgive-Reconcile and Never Again are succinctly what We Rwandans chose,” Ntabgoba states in the petition.

“Now, whereas the Genocide against Tutsi happened 22 years ago, Google searches in Japan still portray Rwanda as though the genocide happened yesterday. This is by no means a syndicate by Google to forever portray Rwanda as a pity genocide torn country. Google holds a high reputation, it cannot be like some NGOs that have for years advertised images of poor African children with flies on their faces.”

Ntabgoba then goes ahead to give the reason why Google searches about “Rwanda” in Japan only give results of the Rwanda genocide. According to him, thousands of Japanese searched about “Rwanda” for the first time in 2004, when the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda” was released.

“Since then, Google Japan servers don’t update their “Rwanda” cache. Google’s Page Rank algorithm that feeds us with search results is robotic and curates its results using the “machine learning” phenomenon. The machines learn like children but are not curious like children to ever try to inquire if the information they hold is still valid or not”, he states, adding, “If these machines/algorithms are not human altered, they can remain the same forever. “Rwanda” is a Country Brand, a young country that is brick-by-brick working hard to make its Brand known internationally.”

Ntabgoba’s is based on the EU’s “Right to be Forgotten” laws which give individuals the right – under certain conditions – to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them. This applies where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive for the purposes of the data processing.

However, the petition is not for Google to “forget the old links” but to “remember both old and new Rwanda” when people search for Rwanda in Katagana (ルワンダ).

This therefore means that should the online get sufficient signatures, this will be enough evidence for Google to consider it.

“Each time, I meet a Japanese in Japan, and tell them that “I am from Rwanda”, they respond with empathy as though “I am from Syria”, (apology: not meant to be rude to Syria). When they/you Google Rwanda and Syria today, it’s all war, despite the 22years difference,” he notes, adding that due to the genocide-related search results, Rwanda has only registered a total of less than 10  Japanese investors, despite the country being 3rd best country to do business in Africa.

The petition has so far received over 150 signatures.

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