IPS in the media
1994. A boy of fourteen years. Relieved that the day's toil at schooling has ended, he decides to relax. The aroma of the meal being prepared to silence his stomachs protests, comforts him. He drops his ridiculously heavy bag onto the floor with all the grace of a wrecking ball operator. He sits on the floor of his living room, gazing in a once slothful but now ethereal trance at the cathode ray tube altar before him. He glances at his watch. The long hand stutters, competently he supposes, towards the dozen. The short hand of the watch, as stubborn as ever, stares indiscriminately and unblinkingly on its current victim. Le Cinq. This resultant eradicates his momentary hope that it's a sick directors idea of entertainment and profit generation. He ponders "So if it's not a film. Then. It's. Real? "
The primary colour Red is prominent on the screen. Lifeless bodies of a slain commune are heaped in a pile; their escaping blood has pooled together and pastes nauseatingly to the soil. A blunted, claret stained machete lies ominously to the side. It seems to grin. Footage is shown of a river, where the blood of thousands has dyed it an unnatural burgundy. The pictures show the dismembered, the decapitated, the dead, and the betrayed. A reporter speaks of a little girl's body found which had been otherwise intact apart from the fact that it had been flattened by passing vehicles to the thinness of cardboard. Accounts are submitted of beheaded children, of the ripping out of pregnant mothers wombs, and of a massacred orphanage. Carrion everywhere. Then the estimated number of victims is announced. Over 800,000 people are assumed dead. "No" whispers the now tainted boy. The inscription on the gate at Aushwitz "Never Again" now seems meaningless and empty. The ultimate lesson of the 20th century not learnt. The questions rage and burn chasms through his idealistic mind. They cascade in torrents. Questions. Questions, which many parties never asked or answered. This essay will attempt to unearth the facts behind the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994, how did it happen? Why did it happen? What could have been done to prevent the conflict or stop the killing from spreading? Did some international actors know this was going to happen? Where was the United Nations during this time? These are the some of the questions that I asked myself nine years ago. Now I have the opportunity to document my own answer.
Creation of the Division
Genocides are a modern phenomenon - they require organisation -and they are likely to become more common in the future.
Research in social psychology shows that it takes very little to generate group competition. Henri Taijfel (1970) conducted a series of experiments to discover the minimal conditions that give rise to discriminatory behaviour. The subjects were shown slides of pictures by Klee and Kandinsky and asked to indicate which they preferred. They were then led to believe that they had been divided into groups according to their preference for one artist or the other. Next they completed a task in which they allocated small sums of money, and in which they could follow alternative strategies. Taijfel showed that group discrimination could be produced by simply telling subjects that they had been allocated to different categories, even though the categories themselves had no social distinction. It would seem that a belief of subjects that they share membership in some sort of group or team, even one randomly created, is sufficient to evoke a mild form of discrimination.
With this in mind let us trace through Rwandan history picking out significant moments where the difference between the Hutu and Tutsi was crystallized and subsequently embedded. For this experiment illustrates how the Hutu and Tutsi relationship could be so eroded, controlled and manipulated as to become an objective of one to exterminate the other.
To start it must be stated that the Hutu and the Tutsi could not even be described correctly as two different ethnic groups. They both speak the same language and respect the same traditions and taboos. There were some social differences though, but they were not based on racial or ethnic divisions. It was this stereotype that was exaggerated by the colonizers who supported one side against the other hence reinforcing and ultimately intensifying tensions between the two groups.
However, the Hutu - Tutsi antagonism has become absorbed by the people themselves even if it does not correspond to the anthropological distinction, and thus is politically relevant. This is a phenomenon known as 'Tribalism without tribes'. No one really knows the exact origin of the Hutu and the Tutsi. The two groups speak the same language, shared the same territory and acknowledged the same Tutsi king, Mwami. By all accounts this should qualify Rwanda as a nation in the truest sense. Social distinctions corresponded to a division of tasks, the Tutsi as cattle-raisers and the Hutu as workers of the land. On average it was an integrated society. When the Germans arrived they viewed the country, highly influenced by their contemporary scientific beliefs. None more so, than the Hamitic hypothesis. Up until the beginning of the 19th century, Europeans believed that the biblical story of Ham, Noah's son, explained the origin of Africa's peoples. The book of Genesis tells how Ham and his descendants were cursed for all eternity after he had seen his father naked. The 'Blacks' were believed to have been descendants of Ham, their colour as a result of that curse. This theory protects the church's claim that all people originated from Noah, but there is no serious proof to back this up.
Hence German and Belgian colonizers created a division by which they decided who resembled the African stereotype, the Hutu and who resembled the Hamitic stereotype, the Tutsi. Since they saw the Tutsi therefore as more like themselves and hence more civilised they gave them all the political power. The Belgian colonisers reorganised the customary relations between Tutsi lords and Hutu serfs and created chiefdoms and sub-chiefdoms, thereby reinforcing the Tutsi domination. The result was that in 1959, 43 of the 45 chiefdoms and 549 of the 559 sub-chiefdoms were under the control of the Tutsis. It was at this stage that identity cards were introduced. (Destexhe, 1995: pg 38 - 40). The Belgians also favoured Tutsi students; this was the policy from primary to tertiary level education. A very small number of Hutu gained education. Up to this point it is can be said that although the colonial powers did not invent the categories of Tutsi and Hutu but that their policies played an essential role in creating an ethnic split that fuelled a racial hatred.
The Hutu elite of that time began to define their own ethnic background. They saw themselves as the indigenous and rightful rulers of Rwanda. They saw the Tutsi as charlatans that have colonized 'our' land, nothing more than 'Ethiopian invaders'.
The Belgians seeing that the majority of the population, the Hutu, was becoming restless they decided to back that horse and instate policies that now discriminated unashamedly the once favoured Tutsi. The Hutu became the 'good guys' who have been 'dominated for so long by the Tutsi' and the Belgians now expressed 'sympathy for the cause of the suppressed masses'. In 1959 a series of riots allowed by the Belgians resulted in the killing of more than 20,000 Tutsi. This was the turning point in Rwandan history. It led to a huge exodus of Tutsis, the exclusion of all Tutsi from political life and a growing authoritarianism practiced by Hutu power base. Independence was declared in '62. From this moment on the Tutsi became the scapegoat in every political crisis.
At the beginning of the '70s, Hutu President Kayibanda imposed a quota on the Tutsi who were allotted only 10% of the places in school, universities and civil service positions. The economic situation led to further radicalization, and further insistence on ID cards. Juvenal Habyrimana then overthrew Kayibanda in a coup d'etat in '73. There were no massacres at all between '73 and '90, but the ethnic question remained very much alive.
Then in 1990 following a speech by President Mitterand requesting African states to open up to the democratic process, a protest was held in the summer asking for democratic reform. Also in Uganda the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, an army based on the Tutsi diasporas that were in exile since the purges of the late '50s and early '60s. They wanted to return to their homeland and be treated as equals.
The extremist Hutus saw the RPF as 'Tutsi aristocracy' that could only speak English and had no personal knowledge of Rwanda. After much pressure President Habyarimana began negotiations with the refugees. The RPF then invaded from Uganda on the 1st October 1990 to show their force and determination to become part of Rwanda again. The Hutu hardcore read this as an invasion and willingness to take control of the entire country. They spread a propaganda campaign based on fear, explaining over the radio and newspaper that the Tutsi wanted a return to power and would totally suppress the Hutu 'like before'. The slaughter of Tutsis occurred from 1991 to 1993, whilst the RPF battle with the Rwandan army. Thousands of Rwandans fled the country during this time. Then on the 4th of August 1993 the Arusha peace accords were signed, where a provisional government was set up incorporating a power sharing executive comprising RPF leaders and the current government. Hutu extremists were outraged. It seemed Peace was a possibility. Then the Presidents plane was shot down, no one has been found guilty so far, but it said that it could be the work of Hutu extremists, as the rocket launcher used was of French origin and they had, of course, been supporting the Rwandan government at this point. This was the trigger of the genocide, as within hours almost all the political opposition to Hutu power had been murdered along with their families.
This section of the essay shows how the coexistence of different social groups was transformed into an ethnic problem. The present generation has internalized the colonially modeled divide, with some groups deliberately choosing to play the trump card - some regimes actually need ethnic division to reinforce and justify their positions. " It was the ethnic classification registered on identity cards introduced by Belgians that served as the basic instrument for the genocide of the Tutsi people who were 'guilty' on three counts: they were a minority, they were a reminder of a feudal system and they were regarded as colonizers in their own country." (Destexhe, 1995: 47)
How was it done?
A fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the conflict contributed to false political assumptions and military assessments.
UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations
In the past, the Rwandan government had often mobilized the population for campaigns of various kinds, such as to end illiteracy, to vaccinate children, or to improve the status of women. It had executed these efforts through the existing administrative and political hierarchies, requiring agents to go beyond their usual duties for a limited period of time for some national goal of major importance. The organizers of the genocide similarly exploited the structures that already existed-administrative, political, and military-and called upon personnel to execute a campaign to kill Tutsi and Hutu presumed to oppose Hutu Power. Through these three channels, the organizers were able to reach all Rwandans and to incite or force most Hutu into acquiescing or participating in the slaughter.
The organization that ran the campaign was flexible: primacy depended more on commitment to the killing than on formal position in the hierarchy. Thus within the administrative system, sub-prefects could eclipse prefects, as they did in Gikongoro and Gitarama, and in the military domain, lieutenants could ignore colonels, as happened in Butare. This flexibility encouraged initiative and ambition among those willing to purchase advancement at the cost of human lives. To preserve appearances, an inferior might obtain the approval of his superior for decisions he made, but those receiving the orders knew who really had the power.
Individuals from other sectors-the akazu, the church, the business community, the university, schools and hospitals-backed the efforts of the officials. Soldiers and National Police, whether on active duty or retired, killed civilians. They also gave permission, set the example, and commanded others to kill. Although fewer in number than civilian killers, the military played a decisive role by initiating and directing the slaughter. In the first hours in Kigali, soldiers of the Presidential Guard and the paracommando and reconnaisance battalions, along with some National Policemen, carried out the carnage in one neighborhood after another. Soldiers, National Police and the communal police also launched the slaughter and organized all large-scale massacres elsewhere in the country.
Witnesses in Kigali and other towns have identified as killers certain soldiers and National Policemen whom they knew before the genocide. But elsewhere, witnesses found it difficult to identify the persons or even the units responsible for given crimes because soldiers and National Police wore the same uniforms and only sometimes wore the berets of different colors which indicated the service to which they belonged. Witnesses often say that soldiers from the Presidential Guard attacked them, but troops from other army units or from the National Police may actually have committed some of these crimes.
Regardless of the responsibility of individuals or units, the widespread and systematic participation of military personnel throughout the entire period of genocide indicates that the most powerful authorities at the national level ordered or approved their role in the slaughter. Other officers, as shown above, have identified Bagosora, as the leader who launched the genocide. General Bizimungu, named chief of staff with Bagosora's support, and Minister of Defense Augustin Bizimana at the least collaborated actively with Bagosora, while officers in charge of the elite units, Majors Protais Mpiranya, François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, and Aloys Ntabakuze, as well as others like Colonel Tharcisse Renzaho, Lieutenant Colonels Léonard Nkundiye and Anatole Nsengiyumva, Captain Gaspard Hategekimana, and Major Bernard Ntuyahaga carried out the killings of Tutsi and Hutu civilians.
On April 10, Colonel Gatsinzi, then temporarily chief of staff, and the Ministry of Defense each ordered subordinates to halt the killings of civilians, using force if necessary. The Ministry of Defense sent a second, weaker command on April 28 "to cooperate with local authorities to halt pillage and assassinations." But neither the general staff nor the Ministry of Defense enforced the orders, leaving subordinates to conclude that the directives had no importance. In fact, as some officers had observed from the start, the authorities countermanded the official orders by another message, passed discreetly to like-minded officers who executed the informal order to kill rather than the official directive to stop the killings.
The military also led militia and ordinary civilians in slaughter, giving orders to citizens directly and through civilian administrators. At the national level, civilian and military authorities directed the population to obey these orders, insisting that civilians must "work with," "assist," or "support" the army. According to a foreign witness, soldiers taught hesitant young people to kill on the streets of Kigali. When the young people balked at striking Tutsi, soldiers stoned the victims until the novices were ready to attack. In the prefecture of Gitarama, soldiers said to be Presidential Guards drove around in a black Pajero jeep, killing and inciting others to kill in the communes of Musambira and Mukingi. Others launched the killing of Tutsi at a market in the commune of Mugina. In Kivu and Kinyamakara communes in Gikongoro, soldiers or National Police directed crowds gathered at market and people found along the roads to attack Tutsi. Soldiers led killing in Cyangugu starting on April 7.
Soldiers and National Police distributed arms and ammunition to civilians discreetly before April 6 and openly after that date. They also provided reinforcements in men and materiel to civilians who found it impossible to overcome resistance from Tutsi. Authorities, military, administrative, and political, engaged in deception with three objectives in mind: they wanted to confuse foreigners in order to avoid criticism and perhaps even to win support; they wanted to mislead Tutsi to make it easier to kill them; and they wanted to manipulate Hutu into participating energetically in the genocidal program. Sometimes a given strategy served more than one purpose and misled two or even all three target audiences at once. The whole effort of deception was remarkably coherent, with diplomats abroad proclaiming the same lies as those told at home and with officials and politicians using the same pretenses in widely separated communities at the same time.
Just as the organizers used genocide to wage war, so they used the war to cover the genocide. Whether speaking in foreign capitals or at sector meetings out on the Rwandan hills, representatives of the interim government always began with a reminder that the RPF had invaded Rwanda in 1990 and from that deduced that the RPF was responsible for all subsequent developments, including the massive killing of Tutsi by Hutu. Without hesitation, they blamed the assassination of Habyarimana on the RPF, making it an illustration of the larger theme of Tutsi aggression and ruthlessness.
In early April, Sindikubwabo described the violence as a spontaneous outburst of rage sparked by "sorrow and aggressive feelings of frustration" after the assassination. Kambanda explained that Habyarimana was "not an ordinary man, not a man like any other," and asserted that his killing created "a certain frustration among people, a certain vague anger that made it impossible for people to keep control after the death of the head of state." The excuse of "spontaneous anger" echoed the attempts at justification during the Habyarimana period when authorities attributed killings of Tutsi to uncontrollable popular wrath.
The pretext of popular anger was meant not just to confuse foreigners about the organized and systematic nature of the violence, but also to encourage Rwandans to feel justified in participating in it. According to witnesses, many assailants declared during attacks that Tutsi deserved to die because the Inyenzi had killed the president. After the militia leader, Cyasa Habimana, led the slaughter of some 1,000 persons at the Saint Joseph center in Kibungo, the bishop confronted him to ask why he had killed. The militia leader pointed to the portrait pin of Habyarimana that he wore on his chest and said, "They killed him." In the days just after the plane crash, many Rwandans in the MDR stronghold of Gitarama prefecture began wearing such portrait pins, which had not been seen in the region since the end of the MRND monopoly of power in 1991. The widespread appearance of the pins demonstrated the success of the campaign to make a martyr of the president.
In another reprise from the Habyarimana years, authorities occasionally tried to shift the blame for violence from the guilty to someone else, even to the victims themselves. In the first days of the genocide, military authorities claimed that it was not soldiers of the Rwandan army but others wearing their uniforms who were slaughtering political leaders. When they could not sustain this pretense, they assigned guilt to a few unruly elements that were said to have disobeyed orders. Later, RTLM announcer Bemeriki asserted that Interahamwe attacks on the Hotel des Mille Collines and the Sainte Famille church were carried out by "people disguised as Interahamwe." Soon after she claimed that Tutsi were responsible for burning their houses as a way to trap and kill Hutu.
When the national authorities ordered the extermination of Tutsi, tens of thousands of Hutu responded quickly, ruthlessly and persistently. They killed without scruple and sometimes with pleasure. They jogged through the streets of Kigali chanting, "Let's exterminate them all." They marched through the streets of Butare town shouting "Power, Power." They returned from raids in Kibuye singing that the only enemy was the Tutsi. They boasted about their murders to each other and to the people whom they intended to kill next.
A lot of the world powers were all there with their embassies and their military attachés, and you can't tell me those bastards didn't have a lot of information. They would never pass that information on to me, ever.
General Roméo Dallaire, commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda
The Rwandans who organized and executed the genocide must bear full responsibility for it. But genocide anywhere implicates everyone. To the extent that governments and peoples elsewhere failed to prevent and halt this killing campaign, they all share in the shame of the crime. The massacred innocent blood stains us all. In addition, the U.N. staff as well as the three foreign governments principally involved in Rwanda bear added responsibility: the U.N. staff for having failed to provide adequate information and guidance to members of the Security Council; Belgium, for having withdrawn its troops precipitately and for having championed total withdrawal of the U.N. force; the U.S. for having put saving money ahead of saving lives and for slowing the sending of a relief force; and France, for having continued its support of a government engaged in genocide. In contrast to the inaction of the major actors, some non-permanent members of the Security Council with no traditional ties with Rwanda undertook to push for a U.N. force to protect Tutsi from extermination. But all members of the Security Council brought discredit on the U.N. by permitting the representative of a genocidal government to continue sitting in the Security Council, a council supposedly committed to peace.
From 1990 on, influential donors of international aid pressed Habyarimana for political and economic reforms. But, generally satisfied with the stability of his government, they overlooked the systematic discrimination against Tutsi, which violated the very principles that they were urging him to respect. They discussed but did not insist on eliminating identity cards that showed ethnic affiliation, cards that served as death warrants for many Tutsi in 1994.
When the Rwandan government began massacring Tutsi in 1990, crimes that were solidly documented by local and international human rights groups and by a special rapporteur for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, some donors protested. At one point, the Belgian government went so far as to recall its ambassador briefly. But none openly challenged Rwandan explanations that the killings were spontaneous and uncontrollable and none used its influence to see that the guilty were brought to justice.
In addition, the lack of international response to the 1993 massacres in Burundi permitted Rwandan extremists to expect that they too could slaughter people in large numbers without consequence. In September 1993, U.N. staff and member states wanted a successful peacekeeping operation to offset the failure in Somalia. They believed that Rwanda promised such success because both parties to the conflict had requested the U.N. presence and because the agreement between them, hammered out in a year of negotiation, seemed to have resolved all major issues.
Faced with escalating costs for peacekeeping operations, the U.N. staff and members wanted not just success, but success at low cost. Demands for economy, loudly voiced by the U.S. and others, led to the establishment of a force only one third the size of that originally recommended and with a mandate that was also scaled down from that specified by the peace accords. Peacekeeping staff had proposed a small human rights division, which might have tracked growing hostility against Tutsi, but no money was available for this service and the idea was dropped.
Belgium, too, wanted to save money. Although it felt concerned enough about Rwanda to contribute troops to the force, it felt too poor to contribute the full battalion of 800 requested and agreed to send only half that number. Troops from other countries that were less well trained and less well armed filled the remaining places, producing a force that was weaker than it would have been with a full Belgian battalion.
As preparations for further conflict grew in February 1994, the Belgians were sufficiently worried by the deteriorating situation to ask for a stronger mandate, but they were rebuffed by the U.S. and the United Kingdom, which refused to support any measure that might add to the cost of the operation. The concern for economy prevailed even after massive slaughter had taken place. When a second peacekeeping operation was being mounted in May and June, U.N. member states were slow to contribute equipment needed for the troops. The U.S. government was rightly ridiculed for requiring seven weeks to negotiate the lease for armored personnel carriers, but other members did not do much better.
At January 11, 1994 a telegram from General Roméo Dallaire, commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force, to his superiors was only one, if now the most famous, warning of massive slaughter being prepared in Rwanda. From November 1993 to April 1994, there were dozens of other signals, including an early December letter to Dallaire from high-ranking military officers warning of planned massacres; a press release by a bishop declaring that guns were being distributed to civilians; reports by intelligence agents of secret meetings to coordinate attacks on Tutsi, opponents of Hutu Power and U.N. peacekeepers; and public incantations to murder in the press and on the radio. Foreign observers did not track every indicator, but representatives of Belgium, France, and the U.S. were well informed about most of them. In January, an analyst of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency knew enough to predict that as many as half a million persons might die in case of renewed conflict and, in February, Belgian authorities already feared a genocide. France, the power most closely linked to Habyarimana, presumably knew at least as much as the other two. In the early months of 1994, Dallaire repeatedly requested a stronger mandate, more troops and more materiel. The secretariat staff, perhaps anxious to avoid displeasing such major powers as the U.S., failed to convey to the council the gravity of warnings of crisis and the urgency of Dallaire's requests. The paucity of information meant little to the U.S. and France, which were well informed in any case, but it led other council members with no sources of information in Rwanda to misjudge the gravity of the crisis. Instead of strengthening the mandate and sending reinforcements, the Security Council made only small changes in the rate of troop deployment, measures too limited to affect the development of the situation.
Because each one's need to maintain his own respect for himself was more important to him than his popularity with others - because his desire to win or maintain a reputation for integrity and courage was stronger than his desire to maintain his office - because his conscience, his personal standard of ethics, his integrity or morality, call it what you will - was stronger than the pressure of public disapproval - because his faith that his course was the best one, and would ultimately be vindicated, outweighed fear of public reprisal.
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage
There is no doubt that the perpetrators of this crime against humanity are the ones who take the individual responsibility for what they committed. From the hate filled propagandists of Radio Collines Millnes to the Hutu committing murder under duress, they are responsible for their actions and are being held accountable where possible. They all are guilty in committing the worst crime in the history of the world - Genocide. From the point of view of a 'western' student, I feel the need to attribute some blame to the International actors who closed their eyes to this tragedy. The main player was of course the U.S., the most powerful nation in the world. But they were not willing to do anything. In Somalia 30 U.S troops were killed, this is fewer than the number of taxi drivers murdered every year in New York. However, the policy, which followed this, PDD-25, clearly stated that the U.S had to begin to refuse some of the many demands made on it by the UN. The U.S blocked all attempts to send help to the region and even reduced the UN force from 2500 to 370 troops.
The unfortunate Tutsi were the first victims of this new policy. The Security Council betrayed the victims of the genocide and the entire human race by denying that what was occurring in Rwanda was genocide. The 'g' word as it was referred to, had become a vocabulary equivalent of the Ebola virus - no one wanted anything to do with it. The legal obligation was that it was to be prevented and stopped. This mentality of Washington D.C was actually more akin to that of Las Vegas, and one of a poker game. Problem: Somalia. Response: Intervention. Result: Failure. Conclusion: No more interventions.
The fact that our only response ended up being humanitarian assistance condemns us further. Human life is so much more than mere biology and human need cannot be fully met by humanitarian action alone, although this seems to be our general response to such tragedies. Humanitarian aid is similar to the case of an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff. It's worth nothing to the dead. These people could have been saved. We should have not let this happen. Bosnia could have been prevented. Kosovo could have prevented. But the political will is not there. Unless there is quid pro quo, the richest nation in the world is having none of it.
We live in a rapidly polarizing world, but even so it is not hard to see the moral bankruptcy when comparing the current military build up in Iraq, to the failure to get involved in Rwanda. Over 150,000 U.S and British troops are in Kuwait awaiting deployment. If they are deployed it will be at a cost of 100 billion dollars. The objective? - Oil, power and control. General Dallaire requested just 2,000 more troops and he could try to prevent the worst Genocide since the holocaust. He was ordered to pull out.
This is not right. Things must change.
It is the moral responsibility of each one of us, citizens of this planet, to contribute something to prevent this unique event from being forgotten. This is mine.
The eight stages of Genocide
At this stage, social groups are classified into "us versus them." Traditional Rwandan society was already classified into three groups, Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. A Tutsi royal clan, the Ganwa, ruled the country. Although many African historians have pointed out that the groups did not fit the normal definition of ethnic groups, since they shared the same language, culture, and religion, there was nevertheless preferential endogamy, marriage within the group, and a key characteristic of ethnic groups as well as of castes. In this strictly patrilineal society, a person took the group identity of his or her father. Mixed marriages did not result in mixed children. These groups came to be seen as "castes," by their German and Belgian colonial rulers, who ruled indirectly through the Tutsi elite. Germans and Belgians developed the "Hamitic hypothesis" that Tutsis were the lost tribe of Ham and had migrated from Ethiopia. The racist theories of the colonial era attributed superiority to Tutsis because of their aquiline noses and other "white" features. Tutsis were given preference in education, the church, the economy, and the government service. Colonial rulers thus exacerbated the traditional classification divisions. Ironically, the Hutu Power movement adopted these same theories, in order to portray Tutsis as foreign invaders who had dispossessed Hutus of rightful control over Rwanda. The most notorious expression of the Hamitic hypothesis was in the famous speech by Léon Mugesera on November 22, 1992 when he said the Tutsis "belong in Ethiopia and we are going to find them a shortcut to get them there by throwing them into the Nyabarongo River "[a source of the Nile.] This became an all too prophetic statement.
At this stage, the classifications are symbolized. Groups are given names and other symbols (yellow stars, for example) and are required to wear them either by cultural tradition or laws. In Rwanda, Belgium began to issue identity cards (ID's) around 1926 and required them in the 1933 census. The identity cards included each individual's group identity, Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. They thus reified group identity for each person, and made changes from one group to another much more difficult.
There were many urges to abolish these ethnic ID's, and that reform was included in the Arusha peace agreement signed in August 1993. New ID cards were even printed. But they were never issued. Hutu Power advocates wanted the ethnic designation retained. We now know why. During the genocide, ID cards became facilitators of killing, because they permitted the killers to quickly determine who was Tutsi. Those who refused to show their ID's at Interahamwe roadblocks were presumed to be Tutsi unless they could quickly prove otherwise. Nearly all Tutsis were immediately murdered.
This stage is where the death spiral of genocide begins. The victim group is dehumanized. It is called the names of animals or likened to a disease: vermin or rats, cancer or plague, or in Rwanda, "inyenzi" - cockroaches. The reason this stage is necessary is that it gives ideological justification to the genocidists, who claim they are purifying the society. It overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. If the other group is not human, then killing them is not murder.
In Rwanda, the dehumanization of Tutsis had already been a feature of genocidal massacres in 1959, 1962, and 1972. In December 1990, the Hutu Power hate newspaper, Kangura, published the "Ten Commandments of the Hutu." They included the injunction; "The Bahutu should stop having mercy on the Batutsi." The Ten Commandments called for continuation of the Habyarimana government's policy that the army is exclusively Hutu, and that officers are prohibited from marrying Tutsi women. Cartoons and articles in Kangura referred to Tutsis as cockroaches and snakes, and regularly expounded the myth that they had invaded from Ethiopia. Tutsis were "devils" that ate the vital organs of Hutus. Twenty other extremist newspapers also published regular hate propaganda against Tutsis. Radio Télévision Libres des Milles Collines amplified the hate propaganda from 1993 onward, and brought it to every corner of Rwanda using repeater antennae provided by Radio Rwanda, the government network. David Rawson, the U.S. Ambassador, said RTLMC's euphemisms were subject to various interpretations and he defended its right to broadcast as "freedom of speech." Is the incitement of genocide "protected speech"?
All genocides are organized. At this stage, hate groups are organized, militias are trained and armed, and the armed forces are purged of members of the intended victim group as well as officers and others who might oppose genocide. Propaganda institutions, such as the hate newspapers and radio station, are also strengthened and funded.
After the RPF invasion in October 1990, the Rwandan Armed Forces (Forces Armées Rwandaises or FAR), the all-Hutu government army, expanded almost overnight from 5,000 to 28,000 men. It got considerable assistance in training and arms from the French government. President Mitterand's son, Jean-Christophe, headed the Africa office at the Elysée Palace, and was a close friend of President Habyarimana. He was reputed to own a plantation in Rwanda and to be personally involved in the arms trade. 600 French paratroopers secretly took control of the counter-insurgency campaign. The Egyptian government, with the intervention of Foreign Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali, sold $5.9 million in ammunition, rifles, mortar bombs, rockets, and rocket launchers to Rwanda on 28 October 1990. South African arms dealers were also a major source. Between 1990 and April 1994, Rwanda spent an estimated $112 million on arms, making it the third largest arms purchaser in Africa, after oil-rich Nigeria and Angola. The purchases were likely made with money diverted from loans by the World Bank. It was the organization of extremist militias, however, that marked the organizational turn toward genocide. In 1992 the Interahamwe, the militia of the ruling MRND party, was organized. The Impuzamugambi, the militia of the CRD, an extreme Hutu Power party organized by the Akazu elite to make the President's MRND seem moderate by comparison, soon followed it. These militias were secretly trained in camps run by Rwandan army officers, armed with machetes, Kalashnikovs, and grenades from arms shipments to the government.
Moderates are targeted and assassinated. Hate propaganda emphasizes the "us versus them" nature of the situation. "If you are not with us, you are against us." There is no middle ground. Moderates who attempt to negotiate peace are denounced as traitors. Rwandan moderates had formed several opposition parties and had won seats in the National Assembly. On 6 April 1992, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a moderate Hutu, was named Minister of Education. When she proposed ending the quota system that restricted Tutsi access to higher education, twenty armed men attacked her in her home. In November 1993, after she had been named Prime Minister in the government formed after the signing of the Arusha Accords, Radio Télèvision Libre Des Milles Collines publicly called for her assassination. She was one of the first officials to be murdered during the genocide on April 7. (Her ten Belgian UNAMIR guards were also slaughtered. They had been found with their own penises rammed in their mouths. This made the Belgian governments decision to pull out mush easier). Kangura and RTLMC called anyone who opposed Hutu Power an "accomplice" of the Tutsis and a secret ally of the R.P.F.
Joseph Kavaruganda, President of the Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court), another moderate Hutu, was also targeted by the extremists. In January 1994, the head of the Interahamwe in Rugendo threatened Kavaruganda, and he complained to the President on January 15. On February 21, thugs broke into the Supreme Court building and did considerable damage. On March 19, 1994, Captain Pascal Simbiyangwa warned Justice Kavaruganda's guards that the judge was a "cockroach" whose days were numbered and that the group who would kill him had already been chosen. On March 23, 1994, an Interahamwe, Enoch Kayonde told Justice Kavaruganda he could be killed at any time. On the same day, Kavaruganda wrote a letter to President Habyarimana informing him of these death threats and asking for protection against the Presidential Guard. His pleas were to no avail. Justice Joseph Kavaruganda, was murdered on the first day of the genocide.
It is significant that General Dallaire's famous cable warning to the UN DPKO of the coming genocide was entitled, "Request for Protection of Informant." General Dallaire's informant asked to be evacuated from Rwanda, possibly after temporary asylum in a foreign embassy. UN DPKO rejected the General's plan. Thereafter, the informant, who was personally opposed to the extermination plan, understandably stopped informing UNAMIR about it. Physical protection of moderates is among the most important steps that can be taken to prevent genocide at this stage. The UN refused to do even that, although it was clearly within UNAMIR's mandate.
During the preparation stage, plans are made for the genocide. Death lists are compiled. Trial massacres are conducted, both as training for the genocidists, and to test whether there will be any response, such as arrests, international denunciations, or sanctions. If the murderers get away with their crimes, if there is impunity, it is a green light to finish the genocide.
The trial massacres began in Rwanda soon after the Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded. Hutus slaughtered 300 Tutsi civilians in Kabirira in October 1990. In January 1991, 500 to 1000 Tutsi were murdered in Kinigi. In March 1992, 300 Tutsi were massacred by Hutu militias in Bugesera. No one was ever arrested for these crimes, and there were no demands from international diplomats for such arrests. But the diplomatic community knew about the crimes. Cables from the U.S. Embassy in February 1994 described the Interahamwe massacre of 70 Tutsis in Kigali between February 22 and 26. On March 1, 1994, the Belgian ambassador reported that station RTLMC was broadcasting "inflammatory statements calling for hatred - indeed for extermination."
At this stage, the killing legally defined as genocide begins. Those who do it often think they are "purifying" their society, by "exterminating" those who are less than human and are a threat to them. In Rwanda, the mass murder began within hours of the crash of President Habyaramana's French plane on April 6, 1994. He was shot down after conferring with regional leaders about implementation of the Arusha Accords, which he had signed in August 1993. The Hutu Power elite saw the Accords as a direct threat to their power, because they called for sharing power with the Rwandan Patriotic Front. To this day, it is unclear who shot down the President's plane. What is clear is that the Hutu Power genocidists were well prepared, and began the slaughter immediately.
During and after every genocide, the perpetrators deny they committed the crime. They portray their murders as justified killing during war or repression of terrorism. They dig up and dispose of the bodies and try to minimize the number of victims. They try to blame the victims, often claiming that the victims' own behavior brought on the killing. They portray the murders as spontaneous outbreaks in response to the victims' depredations, or as the actions of rogue army commanders, rather than as intentional government policy. They challenge the veracity of the eyewitnesses and assassinate the character of their accusers. The perpetrators claim to have been powerless to prevent the killings by others, and even have the audacity to claim they assisted their victims. All of these strategies of denial operated during and after the Rwandan genocide. The presence of the Rwandan government representative at the very U.N. Security Council meetings that considered the situation provided an ideal forum for such denial. Since the genocide, despite massive evidence against them, this denial by perpetrators has continued both at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and in Rwandan courts and prisons.
Campbell, J. Kenneth. Genocide and the Global Village, Palgrave Publishers, New York, 2001.
Igwara, Obi (ed.). Ethnic Hatred - Genocide in Rwanda, ASEN Publications, London, 1995.
Taylor, C. Christopher. Sacrifice As Terror - The Rwandan Genocide of 1994, Berg Publishers, New York, 1999.
Destexhe, Alain. Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, Pluto Press Publishers, London, 1995.
Johansson, Kurt and Chalk, Frank. The History and Sociology of Genocide, Yale University Press, London, 1990.
This page was written by Liam Hogan