Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Rwanda Genocide, 1994

Starting yesterday, Rwanda begins a week of official mourning to mark the twentieth anniversary of the country's genocide. President Paul Kagame lit a torch which will burn for 100 days – the length of time the killings lasted.
 
From April to July 1994, at least 800,000 Rwandans – mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – died at the hands of the Interhamwe militia and Hutu extremists. Many of the victims were hacked to death with machetes.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


On the night of April 06, a plane carrying then President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi – both Hutus – was shot down over the Rwandan capital. Hutu extremists blamed the Rwandan Patriotic Front and immediately started their bloody campaign of slaughter. The RPF said the plane had been shot down by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.
 
The butchery was executed systematically, methodically and meticulously. Lists of people were handed out to militias who went and killed them, along with all of their families. Neighbors killed neighbors and husbands even killed their Tutsi wives. Their own children were not spared if they resembled their Tutsi mothers.
 
At the time, ID cards had people's ethnic group on them, so militias set up roadblocks where Tutsis were murdered in cold blood, often with machetes which most Rwandans kept around the house. Thousands of Tutsi women were taken away and kept as sex slaves.
 
The mass bloodletting only ended on July 04, when the RPF, a Tutsi-led rebel movement backed by Uganda’s army, marched into the capital, Kigali and seized control of the country.
 
Some two million Hutus – both civilians and some of those involved in the genocide – then fled across the border into DR Congo (at that time called Zaire), fearing reprisal attacks. Human rights groups say the RPF were no better as they took revenge and went about killing thousands of Hutu civilians as they took power – and more after they went into DR Congo to pursue the latter. The RPF denies this.
 
The brutal savagery in Rwanda have directly led to two decades of unrest in DR Congo, which have cost the lives of an estimated five million people. Rwanda's government, now run by the RPF, has twice invaded DR Congo, accusing its much larger neighbor of letting the Hutu militias operate on its territory. Rwanda has also armed local Congolese Tutsi forces. In response, some locals have formed self-defence groups and the civilians of eastern DR Congo have paid the price.
 
It took just one Rwandan life to trigger a bloodbath. And it took 100 days to massacre as much as 20 percent of the country's population, decimate its infrastructure and sow the seeds of regional conflicts still to come.
 
The cruelty of it all is that the world stood by and allowed the genocide to occur without any intervention. The week-long commemorations, therefore, represent an important opportunity to remind the world that it must do all it can to ensure such crimes never happen again. The problem with us, is that we forget easily and quickly.

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