Dear reader, what comes to your mind when you hear about the country Rwanda? Do you think about their recent economic growth and how the country is developing rapidly? Or Paul Kagame, their President comes to mind? For me and like many, anytime I hear about Rwanda it is an imagery of the gruesome massacre and the near apocalypse of innocent people who could have played several roles in building up Rwanda to match countries all over the world in terms of economic growth, infrastructural development and betterment of the entire African continent.
This piece focuses on the Rwandan genocide which nearly wiped off an entire generation. This although difficult to deal with looking at how inhumane and appalling the situation was has become necessary for emotions and sentiments to be relegated to the background to address the issue as appropriate as my knowledge will permit. For clarity purposes sake, the writer is by no means trying to remind the good people of Rwanda and the rest of the world about this bizarre and most calamitous atrocity.
Rwanda, a beautiful country known for its great valley and lakes shares its borders with Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These countries have also seen some mayhems in the form of civil wars or political volatility which have put them in dark ages but their issues will be dealt with in a later piece.
Rwanda freed itself from the shackles and chains of colonialism from Belgium when it gained its independence on 1 st July 1962. The ordinary and reasonable man would have thought this period was the appropriate time for Rwandans to be united and correct all anomalies inflicted upon them as a result of this distasteful and shameful regime of imperialism but this was not meant to be. As heterogeneous as most African countries are, Rwanda is no exception as the country is divided into two main ethnic groups. The Hutus being in the majority ethnic group with an estimated 85% of the population and 14% being Tutsis who form the minority. History has it that when the Belgians ruled these people, they pitched camps with the Tutsis thus elevating the Tutsis above the Hutus who were in the majority. The Hutus are said to believe that the Tutsis are strangers and therefore do not belong to the country. More so, before independence, the Tutsis occupied most of the vital positions in the country as Rwanda before its independence, practised the monarchical system of governance and these monarchs were mostly Tutsis.
In 1959, about 20,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists and leading thousands of them to flee to Uganda and other neighbouring countries. These killings became rampant when Rwanda gained its independence in 1962. After president Gregoire Kayibanda; Rwanda’s first president after independence who was a Hutu won the direct election which resulted in a representative government dominated by majority Hutus, they the Hutus thought they had had their person being at the helm of the country’s affairs as President and as such could behave recklessly. From
my point of view, this was a bright opportunity for the President to have stamped his authority to ensure matters did not escalate but no, President Kayibanda danced to the barbaric tunes of his extremist Hutus resulting in the displacement and killing of many Tutsis.
In 1973, the Tutsis will heave a sigh of relief as President Kayibanda’s government was toppled by Juvenal Habyarimana and his cohorts. With the seizure of power, many thought this was a perfect opportunity to see in action the Lex talionis. To wit, many expected Habyarimana’s government to have ironed out their differences with the Hutus and see to it that the constant persecution of the Tutsis was brought to an end and also that all the Tutsis refugees in the neighbouring countries returned home but this was not the intention of the new government as the government’s aim was intended at deepening the woes of the Tutsis.
With the various host countries facing difficulties in harbouring these refugees coupled with the insatiable desire of the Tutsis to go back to their motherland, the situation became tough and complicated leading to the formation of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) a formidable force which later became the ruling party after the genocide. The RPF was first led by Fred Rwigyema who took some moderate number of RPF troops into the borders of Rwanda but died three days into the operation. At that time, Paul Kagame, the current President of Rwanda was in the United States of America furthering his military education and upon his return, took over as one of the leaders of the RPF.
With the help of the RPF, Ugandans were able to overthrow the tyrant regime of Idi Amin and restored President Milton Obote who had fled to neighbouring Tanzania when Idi Amin seized power. Obote as fate will have it failed to treat the Rwandan refugees fairly as he also inflicted many wounds on them. In a bid to help matters for his people, Paul Kagame and his abled men joined forces with the current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and ousted the government of Obote in 1985. Even with the overthrow of the Obote’s government, the RPF and the refugees were not content as they desired, even more, to go back to their motherland Rwanda. In their quest of making a return journey home, the RPF released a series of attacks on the Rwandan government which will go on to bring sleepless nights and incubus to President Habyarimana and his government. The RPF had laid a stronghold of some parts of the country and moved gradually towards the capital Kigali. With their limited military resources, the gallant Kagame and his men defeated the French and Belgian troops which according to locals believed funded and continued to fund Habyarimana’s government. The RPF thus became an irresistible and solid force to deal with. It is no surprise that they were able to defeat the Rwandan army and brought an end to the genocide.
To ensure that the civil war came to an end, there was a peace agreement brokered between the Rwandan government and the RPF. This took place in Tanzania on 4 th August. This agreement was known as the Arusha Peace Agreement or Arusha Negotiation. But as to whether this agreement will see the light of day, only God knew. The cold approach taken by the President in addressing the issue brings to the memory of a similar incident occurring in Nigeria during the
Biafra War. A peace accord which was signed on the hills of Aburi in Ghana was stalled as the head of state General Yakubu Gowon, timidly and selfishly did not implement the peace deal but rather plunged his country into turmoil. Same did happen in Rwanda as the government was sluggish in executing the agreed-upon arbitration.
The most unfortunate and regrettable incident occurred thus plunging the country into one of the deadliest and most inexplicable killings in human history. On 6th April 1994, President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot close to the Kigali airport. Onboard that plane was the Head of state of Burundi, President Cyprien Ntaryamira, also a Hutu and others who were with them. Till date, there have been no concrete findings as to who shot at the President’s plane. Some accused the RPF, but the RPF vehemently denied it. Others also asserted that it was the extremist Hutus who shot at the plane so there will be genuine grounds for them to perpetuate their mad atrocities. Others also opined that it was a coup d'état because the armies were not pleased with his administration. The questions demanding truthful answers are: “where was the world when these killings started?” Where was the United Nations (UN)? Where was the conscience of these warlords? In one of the most powerful books which give many details about what transpired in Rwanda and as an account from an eyewitness is General Romeo Dellaire’s book “Shake Hands with the Devil the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda". He recounts how the incidents happened and how the most powerful countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom sat aloof for these barbaric atrocities to happen. Even the UN that aims at providing international peace and security to the whole world including Rwanda went to sleep. He recounts that he had less the number of troops he required to combat this massacre when issues got out of hand. Begrudging anyone who tries to exonerate the US and the other countries for not providing the needed assistance when it mattered the most will be the least.
It is believed that all the hegemonic countries had taken a clue from what had happened in Mogadishu the capital of Somalia on 3 rd - 4 th October 1993. The events of these days were very unfortunate as eighteen (18) American soldiers had been killed and were dragged on the streets of Mogadishu in a brave attempt to send a strong signal to the Western world to stop intervening in matters of the kind on the African continent. This warning seemed to have sunk deep in the heads and hearts of folks from the western world and informed their decisions about not intervening in matters of the sort in Africa.
In a similar incident like what happened in Somalia, ten (10) Belgium troops were killed by Hutu extremists to send a strong signal to the world, and this triggered an immediate evacuation of all foreign nationals from Rwanda. French troops, as well as the Belgian troops, were also withdrawn from the mission. The UN hinted of closing the mission to leave the fate of the people in their own hands. By 10 th April 1994, all foreign nationals were evacuated from Rwanda. In what will go down as one of the most horrendous calamities in the history of mankind, is what took place in Rwanda from April to July 1993 and within the space of 100 days saw about 800,000 people being exterminated and over half a million people fleeing into refugee camps or going into hiding for fear of losing their lives. Who caused what or who started what is inconsequential. What amazes many like myself is how the world looked on unconcerned for this barbaric act to proceed without the conscience of humans being brought to bear.
It is still inconceivable what the Hutu extremists tried to achieve with their hatred towards the minority Tutsis. A question that comes to mind is whether the elimination of the minority Tutsis would have taken away the challenges of the Hutus. Could that have brought or put food on their table? Could that have developed the country? When I think of these callous leaders who masterminded and systematically orchestrated these unhallowed acts I cringe and wail. They rendered the most disservice thing to their country.
However, the remnants of the genocide would see light at the end of the tunnel as three amazing and brave men contributed in ensuring ceasefire with the hope that genocide will be a thing of the past and never repeat itself in the history of the people of Rwanda. These three gallant men were General Romeo Dellaire, a Canadian officer who was the commander of the UN troops, Paul Kagame, the leader of the RPF who is the current President of Rwanda and a highly skilled Ghanaian military officer Brigadier General Henry Kwami Anyidoho who was the commander of the Ghanaian troops in Rwanda. The contribution of these great and courageous men can never be underestimated and overlooked in the history of the genocide. In concluding this piece, I must say that I feel very ashamed for all the shameful atrocities which have happened on this continent especially what happened in Rwanda.
This is so because in the first place, how could we allow Satan to get hold of our hearts and minds? How could we be greedy and selfish like that? If we resort to these vicious and crazy styles of killings, how do we expect to develop? Was there nobody to have pointed out to them what happened in Nigeria about the Biafra War from 1967 to 1970? We make a mockery of ourselves if we engage in such kinds of senseless fights. Nobody can develop the continent for us. We are responsible for it and if we do not, posterity will hold us in judgement. As a continent with a rich culture of divergent celebrations, why don't we come together and learn from one another and grow? This is our motherland! Africa must unite and learn from its darkness of ethnic bigotry. It will not save us but will rather cripple our development. Imagine what 800,000 people could have contributed to the development of a country. However, that option was never explored but rather sending them to their early graves with many weeping and gnashing their teeth till the point of their horrific deaths remained the goal.
This is the most barbaric and shameful incident that can happen to any country and a continent such as ours not to talk of the loss of properties and other essential stuff lost in the course of this unwarranted genocide. We must feel ashamed for all these insane and callous acts.
I write as a patriotic citizen of Africa and I am through this medium calling for an end to any form of uncivilized incidents like this. Together we can develop but divided we will diminish. Africa must unite. Rwanda must rise again and say no to any ethnic pogrom. Rwanda must work again, and Africa must work again, YOUNG POSITIVIST a concerned citizen of Africa.