The Rwandan Genocide – II

 Skulls of those killed while seeking refuge in the church

Skulls of those killed while seeking refuge in the church

A US intelligence analyst during April 1994 stated in his report that “the plan is to wipe out RPF and its allies………. No end to the unprecedented bloodshed is yet in sight”. The unanimous opinion among historians, who contemplated Rwandan genocide, is that it could have been prevented by international community. The UN tried to keep peace and assist the Rwandan government from the early 1990’s. It tried to mediate between RPF and Rwandan military. But, despite all the overwhelming evidence for a possible genocide, the UN never made any robust response. US, which didn’t had any troops in Rwanda and held no major investments in the country, played a limited diplomatic role, confining themselves to public statements and passive appeals for ceasefire. Three of the five permanent UN members – China, France and Russia – had significant reasons to not stop the genocide, which is supplying the government & its opposition with arms. France and China spear-headed the weapons imports (machetes were made in China) into Rwanda. The resolution UN dated on December 9, 1948 (after witnessing Holocaust) was once again proved as a waste.

Back in the 1990’s, technology (even telephones) was scarce in Rwanda. The Hutu government issued free portable radios to armed men and effectively spread propaganda news on the Tutsi. The radical speeches in the radio rapidly kindled the hate of Hutu against Tutsi. Human right activists and historians note that only US had the technology to jam the radio waves (that could have stopped all the hate messages). US not only refused to use the technology, but also refused to lend it to UN. Of course, US & UK officially opposed what happened in Rwanda, but never fully intervened, since it had nothing to gain from that African country (other countries followed the same tone set by US).

cartoon by Paresh Nath of India's National Herald

cartoon by Paresh Nath of India’s National Herald

The phrase ‘Eat their cows’ is said to have both a symbolic and practical significance (as per ‘Princeton University Press’ release, written by Paul Magnarella). On a practical note, the phrase allows Hutu to loot Tutsi homes, farms and businesses. Symbolically, the phrase means dethroning Tutsi supremacy, which was taught to have built from cattle ownership. For decades, Tutsi were propagated (by Europeans) as privileged settlers, who ruled over Hutu. During Rwandan independence, Hutu revolution was gladly accepted by the colonizers. Later, these ethnic divisions led to Hutu Power and directly to ethnic cleansing. For ordinary Hutu, the Tutsi were not a neighbor or a fellow citizen; he or she is simply a face of repression or a colonial settler/ruler.


RPF troops, in early April 1994, started fighting Hutu militias and by July they reached Rwanda. With the help of moderate Hutu political parties, RPF formed a government on July 18, 1994. However, the death toll between April and June 1994 stood at 800,000 (all killed within a space of 100 days). Most of the slaughtered were Tutsi (moderate Hutu and Hutu political rivals were also slaughtered). Organized gangs of government soldiers with new weapons, funded by politicians and businessmen, hacked their way through Tutsi population. Thousands of Tutsi women were raped. Some were immediately killed, while others were kept as sex slaves for weeks. ‘Abominable’ would be a very simple word to describe the torture methods used by Hutu on Tutsi women. The radio waves repeatedly brought home the message ‘You have to kill the Tutsi, they’re cockroaches’. The extremist Hutu regime of Rwanda staunchly believed that genocide is the best way to stay in power. The churches, schools and hospitals that provided refuge to Tutsi were blown up.

On April 15th, the mayor of town (a Hutu) named ‘Nyarbuye’ asked Tutsi people to seek sanctuary inside a Roman catholic church, situated 60 miles east of Kigali. He gave all kinds of assurances to them and later betrayed them to Hutu extremists.One thousand and five hundred civilians inside the church were hacked to death. The ‘Nyarbuye massacre’ was just one in many of such horrific, betraying acts. Participants in the Hutu militias were also provided with incentives like food or money and mostly they were promised with Tutsi land. Even when the international community stated that the genocide is officially over, the massacres persisted in Rwandan borders (mainly in refugee camps). The post-genocide government, however, did abolish the ethnic identity cards & quotas.

Machetes used during the genocide

Machetes used during the genocide

Many of the anthropologists argue that the genocide was abetted due to increasing imbalance in land (to farm), food, hunger, periodic famine. Rwandan extremist leaders were said to have chosen a simple option for these problems: by eliminating Tutsi population and Hutu political rivals. Only those extremists could tell if they were instigated by indoctrinated thoughts or the country’s economic plight.

One of the top suspects for involvement in Rwandan genocide, Ladislas Ntaganzwa was arrested on December 10th, 2015 in Congo. He was accused of organizing mass rapes and massacre of civilians. Many of the suspects are still at large. Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, all the Western media outlets ran articles with titles ‘Portraits of Reconciliation’, ‘Land of Hope’, etc. Yes, it is true that under President Kagame (of RPF), Rwanda have strongly developed in healthcare and education. But, ‘Human Rights Watch’ accuses Kagame (he is in his 2nd seven-year term) of using strict laws to silence critics and to suppress demonstrations (there are also few forced disappearances).

The Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, Rwanda

The Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, Rwanda

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  • Political agendas, caste/race, greed and personal benefits have always been enemies of humanity. If carefully studied Rwandan Genocide is not alone. There would be hundreds more similar cases. It’s sad.