Case Study Rwanda
Case Study: Rwanda
In 1994, one of the most horrific acts of ethnic violence had taken place in Rwanda. Within a span of one hundred days, more than three quarters of a million Rwandans were brutally murdered. Barbaric genocide was directed towards the Tutsis, Twa, and moderate Hutus who had opposed genocide. This systematic act of violence was carried out by the Hutus. This essay will examine the principle causes of conflict in relation to Rwanda. This essay will cover the following: the political history and events leading up to the Rwandan Genocide, the events that unfolded during the violent campaign, and the impotence and failure of the United Nations to resolve and intervene in a timely fashion.
Before we jump into the events that unfolded on April 6th, 1994, let us take a look back at the earlier history of the ethnic tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis that led up to the Rwanda genocide. History tells us that there has been a long campaign of hatred and ethnic tension between the Hutus and Tutsis that dates back to 1933. The Belgians had also played a large part in the conflict as well. The Tutsi aristocracy was used by the Belgians to dominate the region. This was all before the time of independence. The Belgians had exerted their power and domination by issuing identification cards. Once these identification cards were issued, the severance of the Hutus, Tutsis, and Twa was concretized. The Belgians had decided to switch sides in 1959. They had come to the realization that the Hutus had the capability to dominate Rwanda and it would better serve their own interests. There were far more Hutus than there were Tutsis and Twa combined. Then, there was a revolution. The revolution of 1959 had changed the course of history in Rwanda. Catherine Newbury (1995, p.12) tells us “To many Hutus in Rwanda the Revolution of 1959 was an important watershed, because it marked the end of the domination of the state by Tutsi and the accession of power to Hutu.”
The Hutu Revolution had put an end to Tutsi domination. The Tutsis were no longer in control and the Hutus had anointed themselves as the new elites. They controlled government administrations, education, the church etc. Numerous Tutsi had died as a result of the revolution and thousands more were turned into refugees trying to flee to Burundi and other neighboring countries. With the support of Belgium, a new Hutu president, and no Tutsis in the government, the Hutus were now unstoppable.
The M.R.N.D, a political party dominated by the Hutus, ruled the country for over twenty years. The Tutsis were relegated and discriminated against. From the Gitarama Prefecture, under the rulership of Gregaire Kayibana (1962-1973), the Tutsis were completely excluded from participating in politics or holding office in government. Juvenal Hanyarimana (1973-1994), who happened to be the successor of Gregaire Kayibana, had abolished several anti-Tutsi implementations, but even under his rulership life was still incredibly difficult for the Tutsis. All of this had built up and had essentially served as a catalyst to expedite the creation of the Movement Democratique Republican, a Hutu political party that supported the south. Civil war had broken out when the Rwandan Patriotic Front had invaded Northern Rwanda. In 1993, the fighting between the Hutus and the Rwandan Patriotic Front ended with the signing of the Arusha Peace Accords. The Arusha Peace Accords was meant to alter the political system of Rwanda. The objective of the Arusha Peace Accords was to reassert some Tutsi control in the political system. Radical Hutus ignored and refused to accept this.
There is cogent evidence that tells us that the genocide had been planned at least one year in advance. Interahamwe, a Hutu paramilitary death squad, had obtained weapons that came from Belgium, China, and several other countries. They had also obtained over five hundred thousand machetes that were shipped from China. This was a violation of the arms embargo. Roméo Antonius Dallaire, commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda and someone who would later witness and give an account of the horrific atrocities that had taken place there, had asked permission to seize the weapons that were smuggled into Rwanda. He was denied permission to do so by Kofi Annan, who at the time was the head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. The world would later witness that this was all conducive to chaos and bloodshed in Rwanda.
Everything started on April 6th, 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. That event triggered and started the violent campaign of genocide. Efforts by Colonel Bagasora and President Habyarimana’s wife, were made to restrain and abolish any sort of attempt by oppositional forces to take over. They tried to prevent chaos from unravelling in the region. This resulted in the barbaric and systematic killings of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Several Hutu leaders such as Agathe Unwilingiyimana, who served as Prime Minister, along with several other moderates, was among the first to be brutally murdered, because he was opposed to the genocide. From April until July of 1994, we are told that eight hundred thousand people were brutally murdered. In Villia Jefremovas’ (1995, p.28) article, Acts of Kindness: Tutsi, Hutu and the Genocide, we are told “Beyond the drama of perpetrators and victims of these crimes, however, there are many experiences left unreported. Amongst them lie the forgotten stories of humanity: those who struggled and resisted, as well as those who succumbed or fled.” There were obviously more than eight hundred thousand deaths. Within a time span of one hundred days more than eight hundred thousand Rwandans were systematically murdered. This was one of the world’s fastest and most systematically implemented plans of genocide.
The impotence of the United Nations is all too apparent. For one to fully realize and understand the weakness of the United Nations, one has to look back at some of the international forces that did or could have intervened to prevent violence from breaking out. Belgian and French military forces entered the region to protect and evacuate all the whites who were in the region. A few hundred UNAMIR troops were left in Rwanda. Hundreds were left after the United Nations Security Council had reached a decision to withdraw thousands of them from the area. Millions of refugees had tried to flee to neighbouring countries once the Rwanda Patriotic Front gained power. Many Hutus had fled to, what was then known as, Zaire. Many western countries had tried to support the Hutus by launching the “Support Hope” plan. What followed afterwards was more chaos and bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the genocide had died down The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established. Many who had participated in the genocide have and are facing trials for their involvement. The world can look back in disgust at how the United States of America, France, and the United Kingdom among many others failed to prevent bloodshed and chaos in Rwanda. What is even more appalling is the fact the United Nations Security Council, whose role it is to protect and decide when and where a peace keeping operation should take place, or so it says on their website, had failed to protect those who needed protection the most.
What still surprises people is that genocide had actually taken place after the Holocaust. It surprises many people that an ethnic group can carry so much hatred and can choose to do evil. In "Leave none to tell the story": genocide in Rwanda, Des Forges (1999, p. 6&7) says “They were people who chose to do evil. Tens of thousands swayed by fear, hatred, or hope of profit, made the choice quickly and easily. They were the first to kill, rape, mob and destroy.” The role of the United Nations Security Council is to protect and maintain international peace. They failed to do so. The United Nations Security Council along with many other prescient and active international powers could have, but failed to protect Rwanda. The people of Rwanda had no chance to escape and no choice but to suffer and endure a period of rape, torture, and cold blooded murder. Western forces along with the United Nations Security Council know that more could have and should have been done. Many of the victims who survived the Rwandan genocide may never have the opportunity to see the perpetrators of these immoral crimes face justice. A few are being charged for their involvement in the torture, rape, and murder of the Tutsis and moderate Hutus, but many more will never be caught and they will never have to spend a day in prison. The Rwandan Genocide has marred the lives of millions of people.
Newbury, C. (1995). Background to genocide: Rwanda. Issue: A journal of opinion, 12-17.
Jefremovas, V. (1995). Acts of human kindness: Tutsi, Hutu and the genocide. Issue: A Journal of Opinion, 28-31.
Des Forges, A. L., Human Rights Watch, & International Federation of Human Rights. (1999). "Leave none to tell the story": genocide in Rwanda (Vol. 3169, No. 189). New York: Human Rights Watch.