I watched a program recently on the genocide in Rwanda. It came slightly before the hurricane in the US and yet it was the events surrounding the aftermath of the hurricane that made me think of the program again because of the shared ambivalent reaction by those that could genuinely have helped.

Both events have a parallel in this area and also the fact that they show a continuing lack of having learnt from history, partially because of economic factors but primarily because the will simply wasn’t there to do so. Whether in Africa or America the poor and particularly the black disenfranchised are of no political or economic expediency and there is an institutionalised tacit racism that allows a policy almost of socio-darwinian proportions.

Taking Rwanda as an example, Rwanda was formerly a Belgian colony along with the Congo. During Belgian colonial rule ID cards had the bearers ethnicity on them, a lot of this was to do with patrician colonial anthropological studies and the demarkation of studying different races etc. Also during the Belgian occupation in 1959 Hutus attacked Tutsis -20,000 killed thus establishing a precedent for what we later witnessed in 1994.

In 1994 as a response to threats of unrest the UN sent a mission with 60 soldiers but no funding, they often did not have the money to make the calls back to head office in New York and they did not have a remit as such. The force was bolstered by Belgian UN soldiers (former colonial nations not normally involved but the Belgians were the only decently trained troops on offer) and Bangladeshis.

(1993/94 French, Belgian and Italian intelligence knew there was going to be a disaster of apocalyptic proportions, this was known across the board including at UN level.)

The UN forbad Gen. Dallaire the mission’s Canadian commanding officer from his plan to remove arms caches from Hutu militia before what was looking like an inevitable slaughter. They were instructed not to get involved to this extent. Shortly after this the Hutu moderate ministers and Tutsis taken away by Hutu militia (Interhanwe) and the incumbant President’s plane was shot down. Dellaire describes the actual point of the takeover as having been clearly both well-planned and well-executed.

The Interhanwe knew that glue holding UN force together was Belgian contingent so struck at that first resulting in the ambushing and brutal killing of 10 soldiers. Dallaire has taken criticism from Belgian quarters for not getting involved in trying to get the Belgians out, his defence is that they were ill-equipped to do so and any attempt could have resulted in the entire force being overrun.

First 3 days of hostilities the Italians Belgians etc. sent forces to remove ex-pats – total armed force of over 2000 trained troops was sent to carry out the evacuation, these troops could perhaps have been used to prevent bloodshed but they were not put at disposal of Gen Dellaire. They were under orders to simply remove all their own foreign nationals, thus leaving the Africans to die.

Gen. Dallaire asked UN for more troops, and was originally supported by the Belgian contingent but when it became clear the mission was not to be reinforced the Belgians ordered their troops withdrawl on Apr 19 1994. On Apr 21 1994 a specially convened session of the UN voted to withdraw all but 300 troops from Rwanda. This was effectively to ensure the genocide that was to follow and what happened is documented in much gory detail.

It is worth inserting here that the Catholic church could have stopped whole thing before it ever happened – it was the largest church in Rwanda by a long way. Had the church said that the killings and subjugation of Tutsis was a sin it would have drastically weakened the stength of the Interhanwe but the church refused to issue implicit condemnation. In my view this, as in so many other circumstances makes the church complicit in atrocities.

You can’t help but have enormous respect for Dallaire, a man described by the Medecin Sans Frontieres Dr. as having done everything in his power and personally by his actions and his presence having saved thousands of lives. Yet Dallaire still finds no comfort in this saying that he can see so many that he couldn’t get to. He clearly still feels a degree of responsibility for this happening ‘on his watch’ and yet the fault is clearly not his in so far as he is only the patsy. You can blame the General for following orders but that is tantamount to arresting the street drug dealer and thinking you’ve solved the narcotics problem. What he might have done had he been afforded the forces he both needed and requested is of course another story no-one will ever know.

And compare the shambolic response in Rwanda with the operations in Yugoslavia where so many thousands of troops were sent, where we heard the phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ where the security of Europe was under threat, where the clash of religions came to the bloody fore. The US spent millions bring Milosevic to trial amidst much hype and media coverage. Funny that the media covered the prosecution comprehensively until Milosevic’s defence started to appear a little too powerful and then suddenly it isn’t news anymore. The whole notion of victor’s justice was brushed under the carpet. That is not to say Milosevic is a good man, he patently isn’t, but there are many others in power across the world who are as bad, but because they haven’t pissed off the wrong people they are allowed to continue unabated.

In 1994 what do people in the West remember most of? Genocide in Rwanda or the OJ Simpson trial which was going on at the same time?

On the 10th anniversary of the genocide on 7th April 2004 a ceremony was held to commemorate the dead. There was little or no media coverage and the delegations sent hardly even justify the tag ‘Junior’

It took Clinton 4 years before he went to Rwanda to try to wash the blood off the hands of the US. His attempt to justify the ambivalence of the time by saying that they were not aware of the full horrors rang as hollow as indeed it was.

The fact that the world can have so little regard for something that happened in Africa, the fact that they have chosen to brush as much of their culpability under the carpet only serves to prove that the pledges made in 1945 to prevent a holocaust happening as it had done in Germany were mere political expediency. it was the expected mantra of the day but it meant nothing. The genocide in Rwanda not only happened, it was allowed to do so. The world stood by and averted its eyes because the struggle was in a country where black was fighting black, a country of no strategic importance or mineral reserves. A country in a part of the world where the perception of the West is that a decrease in population can only be a blessing.

So, what has the world done now, since no-one can deny any more that the genocide took place? There are still tens of thousands of women being raped on the Eastern Congo – Rwanda border coming in at a rate of 50 per week and ages ranging from 18 years to 10 months. The Interahanwe are still very active in this region though they are not the only militia there. Of course Congo is a country without any proper roads and ordinary people are subject to the monopoly barge captains for transport. Small wonder that it is an ideal place for paramilitary hideouts, again there is no move to alleviate this problem for either the Congolese people or with a view to ridding the area of war criminals.

We have seen through recent times that it is our apathy to the idea of changing things not our inability to do so that is the greatest weapon against us. It is all very well to make overtures that we have learnt the lessons of history but when this is vacuous rhetoric it will always be found out in the end.

Song Of The Day ~ Sisters Of Mercy – This Corrosion

Original Comments:

moog made this comment,
arg, wheres your blog board gone??? just wondering if you are buys on saturday, and fancy meeting up to go on the rally? i hope to be going with a few people, but it would be great to see you if you are about. 🙂
-Redbaron responds – The blog board is temporarily suspended until such time as the risk from spamming is reduced. I don’t wish to have a time delay on the board because then people just post multiple times because they don’t realise equally I don’t want every 2nd entry to be something about Texas Hold’em which I can play quite adaquately enough at home without risking wagering my shirt on online! –

comment added :: 19th September 2005, 19:49 GMT+01
rayts made this comment,
I only learned about this thing when I saw Cheadle’s movie and one episode in a tv program that tackles the 1994 Rwanda genocide…and back then , I never really understood why the Tutsis have to die or why there is even a separation in the first place.
-Redbaron responds – I think it would be worrying if you were to understand it, there is no reason for the Tutsis to die. The sepearation is tribal and one exploited by the colonial masters who had their own agenda and simply allowed a wedge to be driven between the 2 groups. –

comment added :: 21st September 2005, 06:01 GMT+01