Lessons from Rwanda Genocide

Lessons from Rwanda Genocide

War is a form of coercive diplomacy in which what cannot be obtained through dialogue is achieved by force. Genocide has been described as a specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against particular groups, with the intent to destroy the existence of such groups. In my understanding, war is reasonable. Contrarily, genocide is unacceptable. For most cases, people kill who are not of the same ethnicity or the heritage for power. People who have different ethnicity even belong to two different tribes are always having deep national conflicts and hatred. In Rwanda, the Hutu-Tutsi distinction has become very salient, although they share a common language and religions, and have intermarried.

Aside from the machete wielding militias who are directly responsible for the killings, there are many silent co-conspirators who set the atmosphere for Apocalypse of 1994. Under the Treaty of Versailles, the former German colony of Rwanda was taken over to Belgium in 1918. The colony turned the traditional Hutu-Tutsi relationship into a class system. The minority Tutsi (14%) are favored over the Hutus (85%) and given privileges and western style education. The Belgians used the Tutsi minority to enforce their rule. With the support of Catholic missionaries, Tutsis were trained, educated and given jobs in the Belgian Colonial civil service while Tutsis had nothing. In 1926, Belgians introduce a system of ethnic identity cards differentiating Hutus from Tutsis. Belgians’ tactic established and worsened ethnic distinctions amongst the indigenous population. All of these tactics which were regarded as wisdom by Belgium colonials fueled the early animosity between the two tribes. In this sense, Belgium colonials played a major role in sowing the seeds of the conflict.

In 1959 Hutus rebelled against the Belgian colonial power and the Tutsi elite and Hutus won municipal elections organized by Belgian colonial rulers finally. Belgians withdraw. And Rwanda became an independent country. However, in 1987, the system of quotas established under the International Coffee Agreement. World prices plummeted, the State Coffee Stabilization Fund which purchased coffee from Rwandan farmers at a fixed price started to accumulate a sizeable debt. 1989 Coffee prices collapsed when the ICA reached a deadlock as a result of political pressures from Washington on behalf of the large US coffee traders. For Rwanda, the drop in price wreaked havoc. With retail prices more than 20 times that paid to the African farmer, a tremendous amount of wealth was being appropriated in the rich countries. It caused severe economic hardship in Rwanda. Western aid made an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide loans to Rwanda. However, these attempts were illusive since the actual political power in Rwanda largely rested in the hands of the donors largely after collapse of the coffee market. IMF and World Bank loans increased the level of poverty in Rwanda badly.

Experiencing Belgium colonials, struggle of independent and economic crisis, the animosity between Hutus and Tutsis became worse and more extreme. The tragedy happened finally owing to several factors: the struggle for political power in Rwanda, physical insecurity during periods of civil war, a Tutsi refugee crisis, and certain self-policed restrictions on intermarriage. The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority during the approximate 100 day period from April 7, 1994 to mid-July, which is planned, organized, and ordered by Hutu government. There are estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Rwandans were killed. As for Hutus and Tutsis, the president aircraft accident deepens the harbor suspicions between two races. However, the killings and other crimes that accompanied the slaughter were perpetrated by average citizens.

However, people did nothing effectively and timely to save life in the genocide. We were audience. After the acute genocidal situation was relieved, the mission would have been handed off to multinational force, presumably under UN authorization. U.S. could have sent its military to get the region under control. Coercion might have stopped the genocide quickly and thereby paved the way for a cease-fire in the civil war. Airborne policing could have protected some threatened Tutsi long enough to be saved by France’s Operation Turquoise or a similar follow-on deployment. Facilitation free passage likewise would have kept more Tutsi alive, albeit as refugees, and they might have returned home quickly upon the RPA’s victory in the civil war. In retrospection, if only a few interventions had been able to avert half these later killings, it could have spared about 75,000 Tutsi from death. No one would like to condemn themselves. However, the things that we can do are really a lot.

After crying for millions of innocent people’s death, I feel lamentable for UN actions and attitudes in this matter. As the most important and advanced organization in the world, however, it can’t take fast and effective actions to stop the cruel massacre. Europeans advocate human rights. They respect life. But they did nothing, facing the massacre. Objectively, UN is established by several countries, and represents different countries’ interest. It is difficult to make it take fast and positive actions in a certain matter after complicated process. People should respect human rights and take it into practice.

Most international human rights scholars argue that for the most part the UN has few teeth in terms of intervening in human rights disasters, primarily because of the power of the nations in the Security Council.

During this massacre in Rwanda, the UN was effectively silent despite what the report calls “incontrovertible” evidence that Western powers were wary of the dangers before and during the slaughter.

People learned from history. First, there is no alternative to the time-consuming business of diplomacy and negotiation. The concept was total wrong competing with time. The efforts by the international community in Rwanda before the genocide were ill-conceived and counterproductive. Western powers pressured the Hutu government of Rwanda to sign a peace agreement that in effect handed over power to the opposing Tutsi rebels. The ideal surrender threatened the vital interests of the entrenched extremist Hutu elite, who perceived the mass killing of Tutsi as the only way to retain power and avoid retribution. In this sense, the international community promoted the Rwanda genocide. The best way to stop genocide is not military intervention after the fact but wise diplomacy that prevents genocide from starting in the first place.

Second, international community pressures civil war combatants to sign a peace agreement while leaves both sides vulnerable. There’s no powerful authority to promise there will be no renewal. Therefore, only way to insure against a renewal of violence is to deploy a robust peace enforcement mission preventively. It might have reduced the fear of Hutu of impending retribution of the Tutsi. And it might have reduced Hutu’s motivation to launch the genocide.

Third, people should realize that the prospect of losing power and suffering potential retribution can make and lead the motivation of genocide and ethnic cleansing. And it is the only way to retain power and protect them. Therefore, it should be adequately sized and equipped to stop incipient violence when a peacekeeping force is deployed preventively to a fragile area like Rwanda.

Fourth, if the West is unwilling to deploy robust forces preventively, it must temper its use of coercive diplomacy against ethnically stratified states intended to compel rulers to surrender power overnight, so as not to inadvertently trigger massive violence.

Finally, once humanitarian military intervention is deemed necessary, time becomes of the essence because most violence can be perpetrated in a matter of weeks. Therefore, national security officials should better coordinate intelligence held by domestic and foreign allied intelligence agencies to determine in a timely manner the nature of prospective violence and possible remedies before and during any crisis. The UN secretariat also should enhance its coordination of available intelligence and the dissemination of that information to the Security Council as appropriate.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established in 1994 in order to judge people responsible for the Rwandan Genocide. So far, the tribunal has finished 50 trials and convicted 29 accused persons. Another 11 trials are in progress. 14 individuals are awaiting trial in detention. From 1996, the RPF government and the international community started to prosecuted participants in the 1994 genocide. The international War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania tried high level politicians who organized and ordered the killing of thousands of Rwandese. However, the proceedings were slow. Despite claims that the Rwanda National Court is part of national rehabilitation process, many believe that this court is simply a means of revenge by Tutsis in government.

During the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, radio broadcasts played an important role in inciting ordinary citizens to take part in the massacres of their Tutsi, and moderate Hutu, neighbors. From October 1993 to late 1994, RTLM was used by Hutu leaders to advance an extremist Hutu message and anti-Tutsi disinformation, spreading fear of a Tutsi genocide against Hutu, identifying specific Tutsi targets or areas where they could be found, and encouraging the progress of the genocide. In April 1994, Radio Rwanda began to advance a similar message, speaking for the national authorities, issuing directives on how and where to kill Tutsis, and congratulating those who had already taken part. In 2008, the Rwandan government, led by President Paul Kagame, passed Law No. 18/2008, which prohibits the incitement of genocide through, among other things, ethnic affiliation. People pay more and more attentions to protecting human rights.

The peoples’ rights paradigm is a viable and promising route for Rwandans and international human rights activists alarmed by the harmful effects of the Kagame administration’s controversial genocide ideology crusade. Rwanda genocide gives all humans a heavy and sorrowful lesson. We accuse to Traditional Tutsi monarchy, European colonialism and Hutu political extremists for creating an atmosphere of animosity and hatred between Tutsis and Hutus which caused the 1994 massacres. We blame that France, the U.S. and the United Nations didn’t stop the most violent 1994 genocide in Rwanda, once it started. We refuse the use of the weapons of machetes and the use of radio broadcasts to incite the killing. Hope all of these things that happened in Rwanda was deposited in history and engraved in our hearts.


Film: Hotel Rwanda

Abimbola Olaifa Temitope, & Dominic Danjibo Nathaniel (Sep., 2013). “The 1994 Rwanda Conflict: Genocide or War?”. International Journal on World Peace.  Vol. 30 Issue 3, p31-54. 24p.

Dalporto, & Casey (2012), “Genocide Ideology Laws: Violation of Rwandan Peoples’ Rights”, Cardozo Journal of International & Comparative Law., Vol. 20 Issue 3, p875-909. 35p.

Timothy P. Carney (2000), “United Nations Bills U.S. for 1994 Rwandan Genocide”, Human Events., Vol. 56 Issue 26, p6. 2/5p.

Alan J Kuperman (2001), the Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda, Washington, D. C: Brookings Institution Press,

Malaika Konjit Kamunanwire (1995). “Many Bloody Hands: Responsibility for Genocide in Rwanda”. Spelman College. the Department of Political Science Press.

Fergal Keane (1996). Season of Blood a Rwandan Journey. Penjuin UK. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rwanda/etc/cron.html

Alain Destexhe (1995). Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. Pluto Press.

Michel Chossudovsky (1997). “IMF-World Bank Policies and the Rwandan Genocide”. In the wake of the Rwandan Genocide. Third World Network Features. first edition.

“The Role of Radio”. Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies. Retrieved from http://migs.concordia.ca/links/RwandaRadioTranscripts.htm

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