Peoples and Cultures of Africa
7 December 2007
Rwanda: The Aftermath of the Genocide
By taking a closer look at Rwanda and its people, I came to realize that despite the genocidal violence that occurred, Rwanda was its' own country with its' own unique traditions, customs, and cultures. Nonetheless the media attention surrounding the genocide in Rwanda is unavoidable. By researching Rwanda I have come to find out that one thing the media does not cover is the aftermath of the genocide. I will take a closer look into why the genocide happened, what we could have done, and what happened after the genocide. When researching for this paper I came to a stark realization that all the people who died in Rwanda were just like you and me, and because we are so similar to our African brothers and sisters more should have been done to prevent these awful acts of violence that transpired not too long ago. Up to a million people died before the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), some of whose personnel were Hutu, was able to take full control. Unlike the instigators of the killings of Armenians in 1915, and Jews in 1941-45, no one tried to keep the genocide in Rwanda a secret. Journalists and television cameras reported what they saw, or what they found once the genocide had ended. (Barnett 19)There was even a UN force (UNAMIR) in place, monitoring the ceasefire and now were willing to watch as people were killed in the street by grenades, guns, and machetes. According to UNAMIR they "had no mandate to intervene." (Kuperman 52) They did their best to protect trapped foreigners, until they were pulled out of Rwanda altogether. But the genocide organizers were conscious of the risks of international analysis: over the radio the killers were constantly encouraged to continue, but "No more corpses on the roads, please." Corpses in the countryside were covered with banana leaves to screen them from aerial photography. (Chretien 84-93)
On a larger scale, the Rwandan genocide was unique because it was carried out almost entirely by hand, often by using machetes and clubs. The men who had been trained to massacre Tutsis were members of the civilian death squads, The Interahamwe (those who fight together). Transport and fuel supplies were given to the Interahamwe, and even remote areas were catered for. Where the killers encountered opposition, the Army backed them up with weapons and manpower. The State provided Hutu Power's supporting organization; politicians, officials, intellectuals, and professional soldiers deliberately provoked (and occasionally bribed) the killers to do their work. (Chretien 21-28)
Local officials assisted in rounding up victims and making suitable places available for their slaughter. Tutsi men, women, children, and babies were killed in thousands in schools. They were also killed in churches! Some clergy men were even involved in the crime. One survivor affirmed these events by stating, 'In the schoolrooms and church halls where they were slaughtered, many of the dead have been left unburied, to form their own memorial. The rooms are empty except for trestle tables on which collected bodies and bones have been laid, entangled. In one room the faded, shapeless clothes of the dead have been strung on motionless lines: curiously beautiful. In another it's the floor that supports the barely recognisable decomposed remains, lost in a sleep more fast than most of us get to know. There is no smell, there are no flies. The atmosphere is, in fact, intensely peaceful; the scene is deeply moving. It is also full of unspeakable sorrow.' (Barnett 5-17)The victims, in their last moments alive, also faced another appalling fact, their killers were people they knew; neighbors, coworkers, former friends, and sometimes even in-laws. Even aid agencies were helpless; having let into compound or hospital people injured or in flight they were forced to leave them there. Very few...
Bibliography: Barnett, Michael. Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002.
Chretien, Jean-Pierre. Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History. Zone Books, 2003.
Des Forges, Alison. Leave None to Tell the Story : Genocide in Rwanda. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999.
Exploring Rwanda and Darfur. Online posting. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. PBS 12 Apr. 2006.
Keane, Fergal. Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey. 1996.
Kuperman, Alan. The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda. 2001.
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