Sec 3 The Regional And Rwandan Consequences Of The Genocide


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Sec 3 The Regional And Rwandan Consequences Of The Genocide

  1. 1. 3. The Regional and Rwandan Consequences of the Genocide Upon the completion of the genocide and war, Rwanda—which was already horribly ‘under-developed’ (eg infrastructure and resource poor)—was not left with much, though it had little to begin with. Nearly a million people were killed, over a million people fled for fear of revenge and retribution from the incoming Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Schools, churches, roads, and hospitals were shells of their former selves. The international community felt guilt that it did not do enough to prevent the genocide. Aid, development, humanitarian and rights organizations felt like they had let the people of Rwanda down and they had. Rwandans were traumatized, displaced and treated without dignity or humanity. When the RPF took the country over, they had nothing. Immediately the repercussions of the genocide were felt throughout the region and globe. The million displaced from Rwanda mostly wound up in the Eastern Congo where they were put in camps in record numbers by organizations and bodies like the UNHCR that were unable to handle them. Disease and more fighting broke out in these camps. Hutu and Tutsi groups in the camps—many who had just fought in Rwanda—sparred in the camps, making that region unstable. Peacekeepers could do nothing. At the same time, the dictatorship in the Congo was on the edge of falling to a group of rebels from the east—where Rwanda is located. Since the Burundian president had been killed in the same plane as the Rwandan, a power struggle re-ignited in Burundi. In Tanzania, the refugee camps were over-run by both Burundians and Rwandans fighting for the same few resources. And in Uganda, the president was now closely aligned with the RPF—which had entered Rwanda through Uganda—thus marginalizing the Hutu’s that were fleeing throughout the region. Immediately, to facilitate justice, tolerance and cooperation, the RPF set up a strong security infrastructure. Large amounts of international funding and technical assistance came for this. Again, the international aid came with few political strings attached—an approach that had directly contributed to the environment for genocide in the first place. Another consequence of the genocide was the RPF inviting Rwandans in exile to ‘return home’ and help re-build their country. This meant bringing Tutsi’s from all over the world back into Rwanda to engage in civil society but many of these exiles had never set foot in their ancestral home. The consequence of this was a divisive land-grab in Rwanda. Lands abandoned by new Hutu refugees were claimed by old Tutsi refugees—which would eventually lead to further animosity between the ethnicities. This is still a spark for tension in contemporary Rwanda when Hutu exiles return to Rwanda. As the security apparatus strengthened in Rwanda, the RPF built its governing confidence and began to seek out perpetrators of the genocide through force or other means. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set-up in Arusha to try perpetrators. The RPA hunted down perpetrators in the Congo, feeding the ongoing conflict there. The conflict in the Congo went beyond the Tutsi-led RPA hunts. The general instability of the region in the late 1990’s led to a drawn out war over minerals and resources of eastern Congo—often considered the first world war of Africa. About a dozen countries were said to have troops exploiting people, land and killing one another in the eastern Congo at any one time between 1994-2003. Some estimates say over 4 million people lost their lives related—directly or indirectly—to the conflict there. Included
  2. 2. were many Rwandan refugees and rebel groups. Often international business corporations paid government armies or rebel groups to extract valuable resources no matter the human costs. The coltan in your cell phone probably comes from the eastern Congo. The war there finally came to an end with a peace treaty in 2003.i Stepping back to the post-genocide years: The education system which had divided Hutu and Tutsi children was in shambles and the governing RPF decided that the learning of Rwandan history was unnecessary when the new textbooks were being written. Still, today, Rwandan children know more about the American and French Revolution than the Rwandan one. Countless children had been orphaned and infinite numbers of women had been raped—as a tool of genocide and ethnic cleansing—many being left HIV+. The hospitals were in complete disarray with little equipment or qualified personnel. There was no justice system and very few living, trained lawyers. After the genocide, RPF was given a unique chance to ‘re-interpret’ Rwandan history and to revise ethnic identity in Rwanda. They immediately instilled the idea that ‘we are all Rwandans—no longer are we Hutu’s and Tutsi’s’ -- later to be written into the constitution. Language became an issue for the first time in Rwandan history, as so many of the exiles had come in from countries where they had to learn English, French, or Swahili. The RPF decided to make kinyaRwandan the language of government again, but it meant learning it for the first time for many returning exiles. It also meant that English would be the colonizing language of choice, and not French. The new government re-invented, or re-interpreted, language, education and ideology in Rwanda. They call(ed) the war one for ‘liberation,’ while Hutu’s call(ed) it a civil war— after all, a war for liberation would be an acknowledgement that liberation was needed. As one might imagine, this kind of change in the public life of Rwanda would have repercussions on reconciliation through tolerance, cooperation and justice. The major ‘re-interpretation’ of promoting the idea that everyone is a Rwandan and no longer Hutu or Tutsi was an attempt to eliminate the idea of ethnic difference in Rwanda. But this is clearly problematic. How do you eliminate whole ethnic groups through language? Difference—whether real or imaginary, whether given by colonizers or promoted by the ethnic groups themselves—cannot simply disappear. Imagine the child who returns home from school where they are told everyone is a Rwandan and she is neither Hutu or Tutsi, but the father greets her at home and says ‘I hope you did not have to be in class with those Hutu’s who killed your mother during the genocide!’ What is the child to do? This issue will be confronted in Section 4 and in the discussion of the Constitution and democratic principles. Looking forward, it is important to remember how little Rwanda had to build from at independence and at the end of the genocide and civil war. While there are countless problems that emerged regionally and internally due to the genocide, it is important to remember that this gave the new Rwandan government and people an opportunity to ‘create’ the perfect Rwandan citizen—or at least imagine what that citizen would be like in accordance to democratic, peace-building values of justice, tolerance and cooperation. QUESTIONS:
  3. 3. • How did the Rwandan genocide impact the region around Rwanda? Likewise, how did the region around Rwanda help exacerbate the genocide? • How might you look at Rwanda and its post-conflict context and compare it to that of Palestine and the Middle Eastern/Near Eastern context? • What responsibility should international bodies and organizations have in preventing and/or intervening in conflicts in sovereign/autonomous regions of the world? What responsibility do they have after conflict or crisis? • If you were the new governing power in Rwanda after the genocide what would you do to promote unity and reconciliation? Immediately after the conflict? 10 years down the line?
  4. 4. i Though currently in the DRC, we are seeing a rebellion led by a Tutsi commander against local military and para-military. He says he is trying to protect the Tutsi way of life in the Congo. Many eyewitness accounts have seen RPA soldiers cross the border to help out. This is 2008.