Thought I’d make a post about the subject of Rwanda and the conflicts there during the 1990s. Most people know about the genocide and that the UN “did nothing”. I want to illustrate the scope of the tragedy and the depth of the corruption within the UN structure, as well as the involvement of France in the whole affair, including support of the “genocidaires” after 1994. I have compiled a little history of what happened, + other miscellaneous facts from various sources, primarily “The State of Africa” by Martin Meredith, Wikipedia.com (shoot me!). AFAIK, everything here is factually correct – which might not be saying much. Standing by to be corrected! Events leading up to 1994 and the genocide itself Rwanda is a tiny, landlocked country in central Africa. On most maps, it is too small to contain its name, and is marked with an “R”. It is one of the more beautiful African countries – famous for its misty hills, where Dian Fossey did her famous work. Historically, the Rwandan people, the Banyarwanda, where known to be hard working and orderly. With a high population density, almost every inch of the country was cultivated. Crime was almost nonexistent. The economic growth from 1965 to 1989 was nearly 5% per annum, inflation was low, and despite a rapidly increasing population school enrolment was high and the health care was good. Impressed by this, Western aid was high – Switzerland had Rwanda as their number 1 country, while Belgium was the main donor. This aid did constitute a considerable amount of the national income though – 22% by 1991. In simpler terms, things were looking good for Rwanda. They had managed, by the early 90s, to do what most other Sub-Saharan African countries had failed to do. What these figures don’t show, however, is the ugly undercurrent that had been festering there. Tribalism. Rwanda has two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and the Tutsi, where the Hutus constituted the clear majority (around 90% by the early 90s, IIRC). When Rwanda was still a Belgian mandate known as Ruanda-Urundi, the Tutsis had been “in power”, holding lucrative governmental and administrative positions, owning the most cattle, being the most successful businessmen, et cetera. There was an established monarchy before the Belgians invaded, IIRC. But, as “no condition is permanent, the Hutus took hold of power by the 1950s, and consequently Hutu politicians liked to portray the Tutsi minority as “the enemy”. This turned into a kind of ideology/dogma, where myths like “the Tutsi invaded and enslaved us all in the precolonial era” became rife. Because they were “invaders”, they were not a part of Rwanda, but an alien group. Even in the 50s, people described Rwanda as “two nations in a single state”. These theories were included into history books and used by Hutu politicians for their own purposes. And since the Hutu revolution of 1959, they had used this to justify persecution and to “divert attention” from other grievances by directing anger to the Tutsi minority. As the ruling Hutu clique felt growing dissension and an increasing amount of political opponents – both Hutu and Tutsi – they took this further, eventually culminating the 1994 genocide. Fighting between the Hutu and the Tutsi was not something new. Since independence in 1962, there had been inter-tribal strife, which the Hutu government used as an excuse to crack down further on Tutsi opposition. For example, a pamphlet published by the ruling Hutu in 1972 stated: “Tutsi domination is the origin of all evil the Hutu have suffered since the beginning of time. It is comparable to a termite mound teeming with every cruelty known to man.” President Kayibanda launched “purification” campaigns in the 60s and 70s to “keep the lid on the Tutsis”. Throughout that time period, there were several mass exoduses of Tutsis to neighboring countries, notably Uganda and Burundi. In 1973 fan when Kayibanda was ousted in a coup by General Habyarimana, a northern Hutu extremist. He duly installed a one-party dictatorship and required every single Banyarwanda to become a part of it – the Mouvement Revolutionnaire National pour le Development, or MRND. He increased the harassment of the Tutsis. He was reelected several times, lastly in 1988 with 99.8% of the vote. I don’t think I even have to mention election fraud. Despite the growth and prosperity during this time, the regime was encountering difficulty. The southern Hutu were fed up with his discrimination against them as well. Contracts, businesses, and top administrative positions were all from his local tribal area. Not only the Tutsis were fed up with him at this stage. His difficulties were compounded by a sharp drop in the price of Rwanda’s main exports, notably coffee. The national budget in 1989 had to be slashed by 40%. Overpopulation was becoming a problem in an already densely populated country. Whereas in 1950 a typical peasant community in the hills had a density of approximately 110 people per square kilometer, it had reached an average of 420 people per square kilometer in 1990. Furthermore, the elite were buying up a shocking amount of land for personal, recreational use. Corruption and inefficiency were increasing. In 1990 an army of exiled Rwandan Tutsis invaded from Uganda. Tutsi exiles in other African countries is a whole other story for itself, but suffice to say there was about half a million of them spread around in Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zaire. It is important to note that when Yoweri Museveni took power in Uganda in ’86, he was backed by a large number of Tutsis. The 1990 invasion was a disaster and achieved nothing but drawing France into the equation. The French had nurtured Rwanda since the 1970s, having financed and trained the national army. They regarded it as an essential part of Francophone Africa, important for French culture and influence. Rwanda’s mistake was lying situated close to Anglophone countries such as Uganda. Ever since the Fashoda incident, the French have been mindful about Anglophone encroachment on “their Africa”. In 1990, the French “Cellule Africaine”, responsible for Franco-African relations was led by Mitterands son, Jean-Christophe Mitterand, popularly known as “Papa told me so”. When the exiles invaded in 1990, the French duly took this as a sign of an “Anglophone plot” and Papa Mitterand authorized the dispatch of French troops to Africa. In the words of Jean-Christophe Mitterand, they were going to “bail out old man Habyarimana.” Old Habyarimana, meanwhile, milked the invasion for all he could. He staged a fake attack on Kigali with his own troops and then blamed it on “the enemy”. The French Ambassador duly noted “heavy fighting” in the capital. No sooner had Habyarimana received French support and beaten the exile army than he unleashed a wave of political terror. Thousands of people were put into detention. Hundreds were tortured, dozens died. He started calling the Tutsis “accomplices” in public speeches, and urged people to “track down and arrest infiltrators” who had tried to overthrow the government. Things were heating up. With French help, Habyarimana expanded the armed forces from 9000 men in 1990 to 28,000 in 1991. France provided staff, training, and weapons, and even financed the training of the compulsory “elite Presidential guard”. An estimated spent 100,000,000 Dollars on arms supplies in a tiny, impoverished country, much of it from foreign aid intended for economic development. Massive street protests in 1992 and national unrest prompted Habyarimana to relinquish some of his power and sharing it with Tutsis – and enraging Hutu supremacists in the process and just served to tighten the noose. Youth militias were formed to harass the Tutsis further, who were just beginning to reap the benefit of inclusion into the country. Propaganda activity increased, and even popular Hutu musicians joined in, making anti-Tutsi songs. A human rights group in 1993 with representatives from 10 different countries held Habyarimana responsible for widespread torture, murder, oppression. France continued to supply and support him. When a democratically elected Hutu president was assassinated in neighboring Burundi by extremist Tutsis, it was said that all Tutsi were bent on total domination. Propaganda intensified, Hutu paramilitary “self defense” groups were established, the population prepared. The final steps to setting the genocidal stage were being taken. Supported by France, the government started importing machetes at double the rate it had – an ominous sign. By late 1993 there were hidden caches of weapons around the country. The UN peace keep forcing, led by a Canadian general Dallaire, was pitifully small (the United States proposed a force of merely 500), and further under orders “not to interfere.” In the end, its numbers were about 2500, of which 400 or so were Belgian paras and the rest were poorly trained troopers from Bangladesh. It was massively insufficient. General Dallaire requested that he be allowed to undertake intelligence gathering missions, but this was also denied. The effect was to leave him blind in the field, with little power to act. After a spate of killings in northern Rwanda in early 1994, Dallaire sent an urgent letter to UN headquarters demanding more troops and the “go sign” to interfere. This was denied. For Habyarimana, things were coming to a point. His popularity was sinking, his options were running out. He responded by intensifying anti-Tutsi propaganda. He probably knew a coup was not far away... and he was right. Colonel Bagosora – responsible for arming the “Defense Militia” and a notorious Hutu extremist – took over. This is a guy who had previously stated that “the only and final solution is the complete elimination of the Tutsi.” Ring any bells? The first victims were carefully selected, the Tutsi intelligentsia. The government accused the Tutsi rebel RPF, based from Uganda, for the killing. RPF claimed Belgian troops had also been involved, although I did not find any hard proof to back this up. Things snowballed from there. Teachers killed their schoolchildren. Children killed everyone. Churches were filled with corpses to the effect that “they were piled several meters high”. In a 100 days, 800,000 died, about 75% of the Tutsi population. Western governments responded by hastily evacuating all of their citizens. French troops landed and headed towards their embassy, which was not filled with French citizens so much as with Habyarimana’s old clique. Examples are Madame Agathe Kanzinga, leader of a clique of northern Hutu extremists and the director of the main propaganda radio station. For their crimes, France flew them all to Paris and installed them in comfortable homes. Agathe Kanzinga, who orchestrated much of the anti-Tutsi campaign, was given a gift of 40,000 USD from the French government taken from a budget that the aid ministry had set up for “urgent assistance to Rwandan refugees”. Several of the members gained an audience with Mitterand. Among those the French refused to evacuate were Hutu moderates, embassy employees, and the five children of murdered minister Agathe Uwiligiyimana. To the credit of Belgium, they landed further troops and urgently called for the UN to allow them to stop the killings. The French adamantly opposed this plan, and instead the Belgians assisted in evacuation duties, passing scenes of slaughter on the streets. By the time the last evacuation plane had left, all that was left were a handful of idealistic Red Cross personnel and a poorly equipped UN force, who’s bases and outposts were soon crowded with Tutsi’s trying to escape the slaughter. Ten peacekeepers had died, and they had no supplies of electricity, petrol, drinking water or medical supplies. His position was precarious, but his requests went unheeded, and he received little or no support. The UN suggested that he evacuate, but he refused, stating that if they allowed him, he could still do much to help. Belgium, however, had had it and withdrew their UN soldiers, leaving thousands of Tutsis to fend for themselves at abandoned posts. A quote from General Dallaire: “I stood there as the last Hercules left… and I thought that almost exactly fifty years to the day my father and my father-in-law had been fighting in Belgium to free the country from fascism, and there I was, abandoned by Belgian soldiers. So profoundly did I despise them for it… I found it inexcusable.” While WW2 could be considered irrelevant, I think this serves to illustrate his frustrations. Albeit having received a hammering, the UN peacekeepers still protected some 30,000 Tutsis when a resolution was passed that withdrew all but a token force of 200 or so soldiers to “assist in peace keeping talks with the RPF”. The last hopes of stopping the genocide were gone, and this also illustrated that the UN considered it to be a civil war, and not a genocide. The Hutu “genocidaires” took total control of all the countries administration. Even the Church joined in on the killings – pastors urged Tutsis to congregate at their churches for safety, and then betrayed them to the army, were they were slaughtered en masse. The next chapter of this story would be the advance of the Tutsi RPF guerrilla southwards towards the capital (and the continued French support of the genocidaires), but I’m going to take a break now. Will write more.