Rwanda genocide

Five thousand people seek haven in their Catholic church; their local governor walks in, makes a gallant speech about racial purity and Tutsi betrayal, and then steps aside and opens the floodgates for hundreds of their neighbors carrying machetes, knifes, and guns, and watches calmly as the massacre begins. One girl lives. While her family is chopped to pieces amidst the screams, she plays dead amongst the corpses for forty three days staring up from amongst the bodies at a statue of Christ. No one comes to help her, for she is Rwandan, African of no economic or political value to any of the Western white men “sitting in offices.”[1] The Rwanda Genocide, sparked by the death of the interim President Habyarimana on April 9, 1994, was the fastest, if not the most brutal, massacre in human history, and it was carried out with no significant intervention or aid force from any of the wealthy, powerful Western governments.

These administrations claim that they were unable to intervene due to lack of warning signs and information; this is untrue. The United States and the Western world did not intervene in the 1994 Rwanda genocide due to economic disinterest, political apathy, and African prejudice, despite distinct knowledge of the genocide.

To truly appreciate the depth of Western betrayal, one must first understand Rwanda’s general history and the events that immediately precipitated the Rwanda Genocide. Rwanda is a small African country of 10,169 square miles and a pre-genocide population of approximately 8,380,000. An agricultural nation, it was economically dependent on the harvesting of rice, coffee, and maize. Though the nation was dependent on these agricultural exports to Western powers, including the United States, the West was not dependent on Rwanda for these products traditionally received from Brazil, Columbia, and other larger African nations. Before the genocide it was described by visitors as a “prosperous and vibrant country.” As a colonial state, Rwanda functioned after 1884 as a German and after World War I as a Belgian “trustee ship.” The Germans and Belgians could not appreciate the complexities of the subtle relations present in Rwanda before colonization and therefore established a racial system based on physical characteristics.

The Europeans segregated the native Rwandans into three racial classifications: Hutu, Twa, and Tutsi. Tutsi, more Caucasian looking in skin tone and body structure, were assumed to be the most intelligent and diplomatic of the natives. High ranking positions in government and society were reserved for the Tutsis while the Hutu majority of approximately 90% lived in impoverished conditions, were forced into servile farmer positions, and were denied access to land ownership, education, and Christian conversion. Belgium colonists soon issued ethnic identity cards. The issuance of these cards formalized an imposed condition of racial inferiority that did not exist before European presence. This imposed racial system would later be one of the leading, if not most significant, causes for the racial Rwanda genocide in 1994. Belgium soon realized, however, that in giving Tutsis such a preferred status in government affairs they ran a dangerous risk of the Tutsis demanding independence. Belgium then decided, in the 1950’s, to reintegrate the Tutsis into the Hutu population to ensure their obedience. In 1962, tensions within the country erupted in a violent Hutu revolution, ignored by the West and the Catholic Church, in which hundreds of Moderate Hutu and Tutsis were killed.

An Independent Republic was established with the first Hutu president in Rwandan history, Gregoi Kayabanda. Rwanda, though nominally independent, was still highly dependent on Belgian influence, still had strong Belgian political ties, and therefore retained the racial divisions that allowed the Hutu, in return, to subjugate the Tutsi. This government ended in 1972 with a military coup. Belgium tightly controlled the new one party dictatorship and ignored the increasing Tutsi refugee problem. Beginning in the 1950’s with reintegration, thousands of Tutsis had fled to neighboring countries but, as they were not allowed to integrate into those societies, they desperately wanted to return to Rwanda.

The only seeming option of return was military force, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front was born. Supported by the Ugandan government, hundreds of the trained Tutsi soldiers waited for an opportunity to reinvade Rwanda. This opportunity came in October 1990 when the Front invaded Northern Rwanda and started the Rwandan Civil War. At the same time, Rwanda was hit by a devastating economic depression due a drop in the world price of coffee, Rwanda’s single most important export, that was extenuated by the Civil War. In attempts to cease the fighting, in 1993 the Belgian-Rusha Accords were signed that would allow Tutsis back into the country protected by United Nations forces. This attempt at peace by the Hutu government was a fraud, proven by later planned genocide events, as they had been secretly organizing a “final solution.” [2]

The genocide itself occurred in a quick, planned fashion. In August 1993, General Roméo Dallaire, UN Force Commander, took his first African command as head of UNAMIR with 2500 lightly-armed Belgian and Ghanan troops. With little historical knowledge of the region and not permitted an intelligence capability, he went in “blind” with orders to enforce the cease fire between the Kigali government and the rebel Tutsi army. [3] By March 1994, several Rwandan political and military figures had come to the United Nations trying to explain the precarious nature of the Rwandan peace-situation. The American and other embassy in Kigali “just didn’t get it [the magnitude of the threat]”, one official regrets. On April 6, 1994 at 8:30 PM huge explosions were heard from the Kigali airport. The Hutu presidential plane carrying President Habyarimana returning from Tanzania after signing the Peace Accord had been shot down by a missile. At the time it was disputed whether the Rwandan Patriotic Front or the President’s own party had shot down the plane. Recent evidence suggests that the crash was caused by a land based missile from a Rwandan military base under the control of the Hutu government. The Hutu extremists therefore feared that the Peace Accord signed by the president did not provide them with enough control of the country and therefore had him publicly murdered “by the Tutsis cockroaches” to plunge the country into chaos.

Over the night of April 9, 1994, 1000 French and Belgian paratroopers seized Kigali airport, independent of the United Nations. These 1000 troops commanded the airport and efficiently infiltrated the country to remove stranded Western citizens while leaving every single African behind. This proves that the Western world was able and willing to get into Rwanda, only to save its own citizens. By April 10, Eastern Rwandan extremists implemented the second planned phase of killing, moving into the countryside. Young recruits of the interahamwe were told, across propagandist radio, that all Tutsis wanted power, would enslave the Hutu if they survived, and were invaders and spies of Rwanda. By April 15, the Tutsi Republican Front was quickly advancing toward the capital, Kigali; the Hutu killers accelerated the killings in attempts to “exterminate” the Tutsi race before the Front took over the capital. By April 21, two weeks after the start of the genocide, at least 100,000 Tutsis and Moderate Hutu were dead.

On that same day the Security Council of the United Nations, under pressure from Belgium and the United States, voted unanimously to remove all but 10% of its forces, leaving only a token force of 200 unarmed troops from African nations only. Rwandan rivers now flowed red with blood, and corpses floating down stream began to divert the flow of entire rivers in border countries.[4] Six full weeks after the genocide began, on May 17, the UN authorized 5000 peace keepers to Rwanda but with no timetable and therefore no required action; as no troops were “immediately available” from the 80 different governments approached, nothing happened.

The United States promised only 50 armored cars, armored cars that took over 5 months to arrive and never made it past Uganda. This was the extent of American support. By mid-May, 500,000 Rwandans were dead. By July 1994, after 100 days, the genocide ended after Tutsi Rebels recaptured the country. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 people died in the genocide.[5] This massacre of innocent Rwandans happened five times faster than the Nazi massacres of World War II, and the “never again” Western world remained silent.[6] Within ten weeks, one third of all Tutsis on earth were killed, and the Western world did nothing. The West has presented many excuses for its inaction, but the true reasons remain in political apathy, economic disinterest, and African prejudice.

The West will argue that the pre-genocides signs were not clear, and that the West had no way of knowing of the impending genocide. This argument is obviously flawed, as the signs pre-genocide were very, very clear. It is impossible that the Western world did not see the recipe for mass ethnic extermination in Rwanda. Firstly, Anti-Tutsi hate was very clear. The Hutu extremists were orchestrating mass recruitment and training and arming the militia, while waving, guns in hand, to the Western press cameras.[7] There was a mass distribution of arms, guns, and machetes into the population, all through local government offices. Anti-Tutsi state-sponsored national propaganda appeared in schools, churches, and on the radio months before the genocide began. Certain “Tools of Genocide” were used to spark the national chaos that would lead to genocide.

Daily assassinations were carried out against Tutsi and Modern Hutu political leaders; death lists were prepared and distributed with the names of all registered Rwandans with Tutsi identity cards, with especially “dangerous,” political or socially active, Tutsis assigned their own death squads. Hate propaganda and demonizing were used to poison public reason and opinion.[8] It even propagated in Hutu angry rock lyrics, such as those written by Simon Bikindi, a founding member of the hate radio who would later face an international tribunal on genocide charges: “I hate Tutsis. I hate Tutsis.

I hate Hutus who don’t think that Tutsis are snakes.”[9] Civilian militias were trained and armed and mass rape became a common manner of instilling fear in victims.[10] Thus, the signs were clear; the West can no longer use the argument that the signs were hidden or absent. The extremists were planning a genocide, and anyone interested could easily envision the deadly outcome; unfortunately the Western world and the United States were not interested.

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