Between the 7th of April and the 15th of July 1994, as many as 800 000 – 1 million Rwandans were murdered in the most rapid genocide ever to be recorded.
I watched the Hotel Rwanda movie countless times so I could wrap my head around the genocide that occurred in Rwanda, in as much as the movie is said to be a tell all it only sheds some light on a few issues and is not in-depth the focus is on the Hotel etc. Though in the movie there are a few scenes that spark the investigator in me and that resulted in the writing of this piece.
When the Belgian colonists arrived in 1916, they produced identity cards which classified people according to their ethnicity. The Belgians considered the Tutsis as superior in comparison to the Hutus, without any hassle the Tutsi’s welcomed the idea and for 2o years the Tutsi enjoyed better job and educational opportunities whilst the Hutus struggled.
This then resulted in the Hutus growing to resent the Tutsis gradually building up a culminating in a series of riots in the year 1959. More than 20 000 were killed and many fled to neighbouring countries of Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda.
When the Belgium relinquished power and ‘granted’ the people of Rwanda their independence back in 1962, the Hutus took their ‘rightful’ place and used the Tutsi’s as a scapegoat for any government related failures or issues.
Do note that the disagreements between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis have always been there, the animosity between the two grew substantially since the colonial period.
The two ethnic groups are in fact very similar- the language they speak is the same and they inhabit the same areas, following the same traditions. However, the Tutsi are often taller and thinner than Hutus, with some saying they originate from Ethiopia.
Years before the genocide, the Hutu continued to pin their governing mishaps on the Tutsis the economic situation worsened and the incumbent president, Juvenal Habyarimana began losing popularity. That time Tutsi refugees in Uganda with the support of some moderate Hutus formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Mr Kagame. Their aim was to overthrow Habyarimana and secure their right to return to their homeland.
Habyarimana chose to exploit this threat and used it to bring the dissident Hutus back to his side, resulting in the Tutsis in Rwanda facing accusations of being labelled as RPF collaborators.
In August back in 1993, after several attacks and months of negotiation a peace accord was signed between Habyarimana and the RPF, but it di little to stop the unrest. During the same period Habyarimana signed an agreement at Arusha in Tanzania calling for the creation of a transition government that would include the RPF. This power-sharing agreement angered the Hutu extremists which led to them taking swift action and committing horrible crimes to prevent it.
Whoever initiated the killing of the president, the president of Burundi, including chief staff members, remains a mystery hen they shot down Habyarimana’s plane at the beginning of April in 1994 literally hit the nail on the head and opened the door for terror to rain and paint the streets of Rwanda with the blood of the Tutsis.
The Mass Murders
In Kigali, the presidential guard initiated a campaign of retribution with immediate effect. Leaders of the political opposition were murdered and almost immediately, the slaughter of the Tutsi and moderate Hutus began.
It took a matter of hours for the results to be dispatched countrywide instructing the Hutu extremists to carry out a wave of slaughter. (They also went as far as recruiting boys into the militia groups).
The early organisers included military officials, politicians, and businessmen but soon many others joined in the mayhem. Organised gangs of government soldiers and militias hacked their way through the Tutsi population with machetes or blew them up in churches where they went to seek refuge.
The extremist Hutu regime in office back in 1994 appeared genuinely to believe that the only way it could hang on to power was by wiping out the Tutsis completely.
Encouraged by the presidential guard and propaganda pushed on radio an unofficial militia group called the Interahamwe which means those who attack together was mobilised. At its peak, the group consisted of 30 000 strong members.
Soldiers and police officers encouraged ordinary citizens to take part in some cases Hutu civilians were forced to murder their Tutsi neighbours by military personnel. Participants were often given incentives such as money or food and some were even told they could appropriate the land of the Tutsis they killed.
At ground-level at least the Rwandans were largely left alone by the international community. Most of the UN troops withdrew after the murder of 10 soldiers. In the movie there is a scene of a conversation had between Mr Rusese and a UN Peacekeeper- it touches on to the death of the 10 and how the west decided to turn a blind eye nd only send intervention to bring back their own and leave the Rwandans, a line that got to me was “You’re not even a nigger you’re an African” Did my blood not boil? Yhu!
The day after Habyarimana’s death, the RPF renewed their assaults on government forces, and numerous attempts by the UN to negotiate a ceasefire came to nothing.
The RPF captured Kigali in July. The government then collapsed and the RPF declared a ceasefire.
As soon as it became apparent that the RPF was victorious an estimate of 2 million Hutus fled to Zaire (now known as the DRC). The refugees include many who have since been implicated in the massacres.
In his article Nathan Wold exposes an ugly truth the catholic church seems to be shying away from, the catholic church is also said to have helped some of the perpetrators of the genocidal priests. The network smuggled criminals out of Rwanda to Europe, where they could be shattered from prosecution and even continue preaching in their churches! Many fled to Italy because the Catholic Church has a strong presence in the country and for their ability to fight extradition.
One of the priests was Father Athanase Seromba during the Rwandan genocide, he misled 2000 Tutsis into believing that his church was a safe space for them and that they could take refuge only for him to turn on his words a day later by instructing for the church to be bulldozed and flattened with the Tutsi’s inside. He then went on to shoot the remaining survivors with the assistance of his henchmen.
After the genocide, Seromba fled Rwanda with the assistance of ‘sympathetic clergymen’ he then continued with his practice as a priest for the Catholic church under a false identity in near Florence in Italy. He went unnoticed until 2002 when investigators working with the International Tribunal for Rwanda uncovered him. To think that was all, the chief prosecutor for the tribunal claimed the Vatican fought father Seromba’s extradition to face his trial and that the Vatican told the prosecutor, Seromba was doing ‘good works’ in Italy.
Can you imagine? A whole Catholic Church!
With that being said the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide had many prominent figures in the international community lamenting the obliviousness of the outside world to the situation and its failure to act in order for them to prevent the atrocities that too place from occurring.
As stated by the former UN Secretary-General: Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the Frontline news programme…” The failure of Rwanda is 10 times greater than the failure of Yugoslavia because in Yugoslavia the international community was interested, was involved in Rwanda nobody was interested.” Till today this line slaps because he was not lying the media could have reported on the issue objectively instead it did not and when the People of Rwanda needed assistance the West reminded them of their worth being close to nothing to them hence the delay of any intervention, lives could have been saved but no.
These are two of the many books that speak on the Rwanda genocide, do give them a read if you want to a clear and more full understanding of what actually transpired.
2 thoughts on “The Rwandan Genocide”
That movie does have a few loopholes, using it as a guide is better. A lot of our history has been scripted hence their energy towards funding these movies. To get their narrative out first.
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Couldn’t have said this any better!
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