Ethnic Conflict in Rwanda
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda is, by all accounts, the worst war related disaster since the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in World War II. In Rwanda, 800,000 people died in less than one hundred days. As the well wishers of Europe and the United States turned a blind eye to what was happening in Rwanda, thousands of machete-wielding youths turned Rwanda into a mass grave. Although, the United Nations sent its peacekeepers they were few, severely underfunded, and with a mandate limited only to self defense and protection of foreign interests.
In short, the peacekeepers could only watch helplessly as the Rwandese butchered each other. By considering Gourevitch’s arguments, this essay analyzes the reasons why the Europe and the United States turned a blind eye to the genocide in Rwanda. It will also outline the strengths and weaknesses of those arguments, and finally put forward arguments that UN officials should have made in order to convince Europe and the United States to intervene in Rwanda. GOUREVITCH’S ARGUMENTS
Ethnic Conflict in Rwanda Essay Example
The economic underdevelopment of Rwanda made the well-wishers of Europe and the United States doubt the Hutu government’s capacity to carry out systematic attacks aimed at exterminating the Tutsi’s. To them Rwanda was a third world country and, as such, it did not have the economic muscle required in the commission of genocide. They compared Rwanda with Germany and stated that the reason why the holocaust happened was because the Germans had advanced weapons. They forgot to accept one fact, it was not the advanced weapons that killed the Jews but rather it was the Germans who killed the Jews.
Hitler was able to turn the Germans into weapons. Similarly, Rwanda was a third world country but its government, with the aid of the media, was able to turn the Hutus into weapons and in a span of a hundred days they massacred more than 800,000 people. The reason why Belgium was indifferent to the plight of the Rwandese was because its policies during the colonial period and the early 1990s entrenched ethnic hatred in Rwanda. According to Gourevitch, the Belgians were more racist than the former German Administrators (128). They encouraged the Tutsi minority to dominate the Hutus.
They called the Tutsis “Europeans” because they are tall, athletic, and intelligent, while the Hutus were the “Africans” because they are short. In addition, in 1991 Belgian troops stood in silence as Zaire troops massacred the Tutsi and looted their villages. These injustices by the Belgians created tension between the Hutus and the Tutsi’s and it is what led to the genocide. The actions of Belgium barred her from intervening to stop the genocide in Rwanda. There was no political will in France because of its economic interests in Rwanda.
The French President, Mitterrand, derived a steady supply of income from the supply of weapons to the Rwandese Hutu government. His son was a major arms dealer in the region. Intervening in Rwanda would therefore jeopardize their economic interests because these interests depended on the cordial relationship between the Rwandese president and the French president. The French president was also heavily involved in narcotics trade this trade with the President’s son rumored as being one of the people managing the trade in Rwanda.
The French could therefore not risk its economic interests by intervening in the conflict. Although Belgium had been supporting the Tutsis during colonialism, they supported the Hutus during the genocide because they suspected that the Tutsis received support from the English speaking countries like the US and Great Britain (Gourevitch 90). The French were fearful of the rising influence of Britain and the US in East and Central Africa. To counter this influence, Belgium and France supported the Hutu government by supplying it with weapons, troops, and money.
Gourevitch recalls how the French Ambassador to Rwanda quashed the US Ambassador’s attempts at criticizing the Hutu government for its involvement in the massacre of Tutsis in the early 1990s (Gourevitch 132). This division prevented France and the US from agreeing on the way forward for Rwanda. The UN Security Council decided to send few peacekeepers with limited mandate because there was division between United States, Britain, and France in the Security Council. France was keen on maintaining its influence in the Rwanda while Britain wanted to extend its influence to Rwanda.
The US supported Britain and as a result favored the rise of the Tutsi rebels to power. In addition to that, the genocide in Rwanda came in the wake of the killing of eighteen US soldiers in Somalia. Consequently, there was no public support in the US for humanitarian intervention. Under such circumstances, the UN Security Council decided to send only one hundred troops with limited mandate. STRENGTHS OF GOUREVICH’S ARGUMENTS One of the major strengths of Gourevitch’s argument lies in the fact that he establishes a clear background of the events culminating to the genocide.
He gives a chronology of events from the colonial period to the time when the genocide occurred. Gourevitch clearly shows how the Belgians treated the Hutus before independence and clearly indicates how this ethnic division eventually led to the armed conflict in Rwanda. He also gives the background of the situation in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide. How the Rwandese media was used as a tool to fun ethnic tensions in Rwanda. This background makes it easier for the reader to have a clear understanding of the issues at stake in the Rwandese Genocide.
The other strength of Gourevitch’s arguments lies in the fact that he is objective. Gourevitch painted a vivid picture of the genocide in Rwanda without leaning on either side. His account of the armed conflict is completely neutral and unbiased. Although he is a citizen of the United States, he clearly shows the reasons why the United State was indifferent towards the war. He also gives a neutral account of the role of the French and Belgian Government in the genocide. This objectivity makes it easy for a reader to understand what happened in Rwanda from a neutral point of view.
WEAKNESSES OF GOUVERICH’S ARGUMENTS Although Gourevitch clearly portrays the indifference of the Western governments in the Rwandan genocide, he fails to clearly underline the role of the Western Media in the Genocide. The western media, of which Gourevitch is one, concentrated on the weaknesses of the peacekeepers and failed to report on the role their governments played in the genocide. For example, in a report, Gourevitch criticizes how the Peacekeepers shot at dogs that were feeding on human corpses instead of shooting at people who were committing genocide (Gourevitch 148).
Yet he does not criticize the US and Europe for giving the peacekeepers limited mandate. The media failed to lobby their governments to send more troops to Rwanda in order to prevent the genocide. In failing to clearly outline the role of foreign journalists in the Genocide, Gourevitch abdicates his ethical responsibility as a journalist. Another weakness of Gourevitch’s argument is that he fails to indicate the role of the African Union in the Genocide. Since the African States knew what was going on in Rwanda, it was incumbent upon them to report to the Security Council and request them to send troops.
Putting the blame entirely on Europe and the United States misses the point entirely (Wilshire 74). The war was taking place in Africa; the African states should therefore have been the ones leading the crusade on humanitarian intervention. Although the African states played a big role in the adoption of the Arusha Accord, the African states should have gone a step further by ensuring the prevention of the genocide. Blaming Western entirely Governments is misplaced. ALTERNATIVE ARGUMENTS BY THE UN OFFICIAL
Public condemnation of the action of the Western Powers prior to the genocide would be effective in forcing them to change their policies on Rwanda. The UN Official should have made public the evidence gathered on the role played by the Western governments in Rwanda since the colonial period and its link to the ethnic tensions in Rwanda. For example, if the UN official brought to the attention of the French citizens the kind of atrocities that their government participated in, the French citizens would then pressurize their government into changing its policy on Rwanda.
The public condemnation would in effect prevent the genocide by forcing the reluctant states to send their troops. The UN official should also have explained to the members of the UN Security Council that sending more troops to Rwanda was in their best interest. The truth of the matter is that the UN used more money in reconstructing Rwanda after the genocide compared to the money needed to prevent the genocide. For example, the United Nations used a lot of money to establish the United Nations Tribunal for Rwanda criticized for failing to bring the perpetrators of the genocide to book (Thompson 208).
Showing the United nation Security Council the amount of money that it would eventually use to reconstruct Rwanda if it fails to stop the genocide would have had a positive impact. This is because a country like the US which argued that sending troops to Rwanda was not in its interest could have done re-evaluation of its policy. The production of concrete evidence by the UN Official indicating the inevitability of genocide would force the Western powers to change their stance. By showing the evidence of the 1991 massacre of Tutsis by the Hutus and the levels of ethnic tensions between Hutus and the Tutsis, the Official’s case would be strong.
Such evidence would give the United Nations a clear picture of the situation on the ground. In such a case, requesting for a fact finding mission would also increase the chances of a swift response by the UN incase the report of the fact finding mission paints a grim picture. This concrete evidence would in effect prevent the genocide. CONCLUSION In conclusion, the reasons, according to Gourevitch, why the foreign powers turned a blind eye to the genocide in Rwanda were because they were in denial as to the capability and/or possibility of genocide happening in Rwanda.
Belgium was indifferent to the plight of the Rwandese because its policies during the colonial period entrenched ethnic tensions in Rwanda. Another reason that prevented the French and Belgians from intervening was because of their economic interests in Rwanda. In addition, during the genocide the Belgians supported Hutus because they suspected that the Tutsis received support from English speaking countries like the US and Great Britain. The reason why the UN troops sent to Rwanda were few was because of divisions in the Security Council between the Anglophone and Francophone states.
The strength of Gourevitch’s arguments is that he establishes a clear background on the events culminating to the genocide. His report on the role of the US, Europe, and the UN in the genocide is also neutral and unbiased. However, Gourevitch’s weaknesses lie in the fact that he does not indicate the role played by the western media in the Genocide. Another weakness is that he does not clearly indicate the role of the African states in the genocide.
Finally, in order to convince or force the United Nations to prevent the genocide, the United Nations official should have publicly condemned the actions of western states prior to the genocide—especially France and Belgium. Explaining to the United Nations Security Council why sending troops to Rwanda was in their best interest was the best way of convincing them to send troops to Rwanda. In addition to that, the production of concrete evidence on the inevitability of the Rwanda genocide would convince the United Nations to take the Rwandese case seriously.