HISTORY PROJECT – Romeo Dallaire’s Plight - The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda Introduction
Just 18 years ago (1994) in the small east-African country of Rwanda, in the space of 100 days 800,000 people were slaughtered by their own government and fellow citizens. Virtually the entire world turned away and did little to prevent the genocide. Hundreds of thousands of men, woman and children were murdered. This disturbing, recent event is perhaps the darkest and most brutal tragedy of our time. Background
For centuries Rwanda’s 10 million citizens viewed themselves as one people. In 1916, Belgium colonized Rwanda, introducing a system of identity cards separating the majority Hutus from the minority Tutsis. The Tutsis were given preference in education, jobs and power. In 1959, when Rwanda gained independence, the Hutus rebelled and took over the government, exiling and killing Tutsis. In 1990 a Tutsi-led, multi-ethnic rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Force (RPF), invaded from Uganda. French troops intervened. The invasion ended when both sides signed a peace treaty in 1993, a treaty the UN was sent to protect. In 1994, the Rwandan population of 7 million people consisted of three ethnic groups: the Hutus (85%), the Tutsis (14%) and the Twa (1%). Hutu extremists within Rwanda’s political elite blamed the entire Tutsi minority population for the country’s increasing social, economic, and political pressures. Habyarimana, the Rwandan president, deepened divides between Tutsis and Hutus through constant political manoeuvring and propaganda. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the president was shot down and violence erupted almost immediately. Under the cover of war, Hutu extremists launched their plans in exterminating the entire Tutsi population. Political figures opposing the Hutu extremists were killed immediately. Tutsis and people suspected of being Tutsis were murdered in their own homes and at roadblocks as they tried to escape the violence. Entire families were butchered at a time and women were systematically and brutally raped. Over 100 days 800,000 people perished. Perhaps as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population as well as moderate Hutus were killed. The genocide only stopped when the RPF defeated the Hutu regime and President Paul Kagame took control. The genocide was the result of the conscious choice of the elite to promote hatred and fear to keep itself in power. They set the majority against the minority to counter the growing political opposition in Rwanda. Although the Rwandans are fully responsible for the organization and execution of the genocide, governments and peoples elsewhere all share in the shame of the crime because they failed to prevent and stop this killing campaign. Policymakers in France, Belgium, the United States and at the United Nations were aware of the preparations for the genocide and failed to take the steps necessary to prevent it. Political leaders rejected what was going on and for weeks failed to challenge the legitimacy of the genocidal government, despite their political and moral obligations and authority. They did nothing to silence the radio that televised calls for slaughter to the Hutu public. Even after it had become indisputable that what was going on in Rwanda was genocide, American officials had shunned the g-word, fearing that it would cause demands for intervention. The systemic failure of the UN to prevent the genocide and lack of support from all nations, simply exemplifies the fact that human lives are cheap. As a world we have not improved from the abominations of the past (Holocaust, Khmer Rouge etc.) If there is no political advantage to helping people the UN or any other country will not intervene. The Rwandan Genocide is another gash on the face of humanity. Roméo Dallaire
Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire is a Canadian senator, a humanitarian, an author and a retired general. Dallaire was Force Commander of UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance...
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