Rwanda Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago in Rwanda, 800,000 people were murdered in 100 days and the world
didn’t stop it:

Rwanda?s extremist Hutu government and military led a campaign to exterminate
the minority Tutsis. One much practiced strategy was to drive Tutsis into
centers such as churches and schools and kill them en mass. Stories abound
by Tutsis
being disabled by having a leg chopped off and left on the ground to await
the return of their killers.
Tutsis pleading to be put out of their misery
quickly, children being slaughtered in front of their parents, women being
gang raped and subjected to unspeakable acts before being killed. United Nations
peacekeeping force stationed in the country stood by helplessly and watched
the massacre unfold.

After all was said and dead the U.S. and other countries said they had no idea
this was all happening and that they couldn’t have done anything except:

  • The CIA’s National Intelligence Daily, featured the slaughter in Rwanda
    on a daily or near-daily basis in April and May 1994.
  • The State Department’s intelligence briefing saw in Rwanda “genocide and
    partition” as early as April 26, reporting declarations of “a ‘final solution’
    to eliminate all Tutsis”.
  • The U.S. did not officially declare the killing genocide until May 25.

Rwandan officilas and some researchers argue:

We consider this more
of a totalitarian purge
, a politicide, rather than ethnic cleansing or
genocide. The evidence suggests the killers didn’t try to figure out who everybody
was. They erred on the side of comprehensiveness.

Oh whew, thank God! A totalitarian purge. Sort of like Cambodia? Comprehensivness meaning they
slaughtered everybody.

I have not immersed myself in A Problem From Hell yet – a thick tome
annotating the U.S. reaction to the genocidal events of the past century – usually
amounting to ‘those crazy tribal people’ don’t need us interferin’.

Human Rights Watch’s
report Ten Years Later
is a huge account of what happened then and
the efforts of the international war crimes tribunals.

I wonder where genocide is occuring right now – being masked and branded as
just crazy colored people getting their war on.






6 responses to “Rwanda Ten Years Ago”

  1. Andu Avatar


    Economist: Lessons of a genocide

    The Atlantic: Bystanders to Genocide

    Guardian: US chose to ignore Rwandan genocide

    Postcards from Hell

    De-classifed documents from the National Security Archive

    and of course I forgot We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

    If you wonder why the rest of the world had a reponsbility to act – reference the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide signed in 1948 as a reaction to WWII.

  2. Christian Avatar

    I’ll agree with you on this one. The US (and the rest of the world) should have acted. I support the action in Iraq, and I’d support similar actions elsewhere, where people are being killed as they were in Rwanda.

  3. Tim Z. Avatar

    Everybody has 20/20 hindsight. And the Rwandan genocide should have brought outside intervention at the earliest possible moment.

    But it’s useful to take a closer look at April, 1994 to understand why everybody dropped the ball on Rwanda.

    The Bosnian conflict, with its own genocide, was heading into its third year. Almost every day there was coverage of some new Bosnian Serb atrocity. The inept Europeans were still treating Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic as if they were legitimate national leaders rather than war criminals. The genocide didn’t end until summer of 1995 when President Bill Clinton sent in the US Air Force to clean up the mess that the EU was too timid to do.

    The big focus in Africa that month was on the campaign and election that led to the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela. In addition to that being the first ever democratic election in South Africa, there was also a lot of attention being devoted to the possibility of disruptions or even terrorism by far right Afrikaner groups.

    I have been interested in Africa (South Africa in particular) since I was ten years old. I even used my shortwave radio to listen to the BBC’s excellent program, Focus On Africa. And in the mid to late 1980s I was an anti-apartheid activist.
    So I consider myself relatively well informed about African politics.

    So after the plane crash that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, I recall first hearing reports about unrest and communal fighting going on between the Hutus and Tutsis. Such tensions were not unusual, there were major outbreaks of violence between the two ethnic groups in 1959 and 1963 as well as many less serious incidents. I thought they were just picking up where they had left off.
    It wasn’t until about ten or twelve days later that I got some sense of the enormity of what was taking place. This went far beyond the stereotypical tribal massacre.

    Rwanda was not as easy as Bosnia for Western reporters to gain access to. Because of this, there was much less direct coverage of the situation there. And as we all know, out of sight is out of mind.
    Since many more reporters than usual were camped out down in South Africa, one could get the impression that Africa was being very well covered at the time. Never mind that Rwanda is as far from South Africa as Portugal is from Belarus.

    If anything, most Americans are even more poorly informed about international events than we were in 1994.
    In the summer before 9/11, most “news” organizations spent about 50 times more air time on shark attacks than they did about the possibility of terror attacks from al-Qaida.

    We may all know the dating status of Jennifer Lopez and Justin Timberlake, but how many Americans can name the current prime minister of Canada or the president of Brazil?

  4. Andy Avatar

    the dating status of Jennifer Lopez and Justin Timberlake

    I’m proud to say I don’t know!

    I can’t name the leaders of Canada or Brazil but do I get any points for knowing about Aristide’s flight from Haiti to the African Republic and then evacuation to Jamaica?

    How much of the reaction to this do you feel is colored by racism? The old George Carlin “bombing brown people” thing.

  5. Tim Z. Avatar

    Canada’s Prime Minister is Paul Martin. He just took office a few months ago. Expect elections to be called soon to confirm his mandate.
    Brazil’s really cool president is Luiz In?cio Lula da Silva, but he is known to everyone simply as “Lula”.

    I wouldn’t say that media neglect of Rwanda was racist. The big news organizations actually did a better than expected job of covering South Africa in the 80s and 90s. The Western media’s presence in South Africa did much to showcase the idiocy of apartheid. Public opinion in the US caused the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 to be passed over the veto of Ronald Reagan.

    The media does favor coverage of events in developed countries over those in developing countries. South Africa, is sort of in between those catagories.
    Similarly, we will hear much more about a poison gas attack in the Tokyo subway which kills about 20 than a typhoon which kills tens of thousands in Bangladesh.

    And as lazy as we are with language, countries where English is spoken will receive better coverage than non-Anglophone countries.
    When those who instigated the genocide were captured or fourced out of Rwanda, one of the earliest actions of the new government was to make English an official language along with French and Kinyarwanda. This was a shrewd media and geopolitical move.

  6. Tim Z. Avatar

    Damn! I can’t get it into my head that category and catalogue aren’t from the same root.

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