THE SHOCKING GENOCIDE IN RWANDA
The most terrible genocide of the late twentieth century, in Rwanda in April-May 1994, is also one of the least well understood. Too often it is seen as the product of tribal savagery. In reality it was the outcome of war and political conflict, in which ethnicity was manufactured and exploited by the powerful. It was also a contributory factor in new wars which continued to bedevil central Africa into the twenty-first century.
President Juvénal Habyarimana's one-party regime had ruled since 1973, when it originated in a coup d'état backed by a pogrom of the minority Tutsi population. This followed genocidal massacres in 1959, which first brought to power parties of Hutu ascendancy, and in 1963 and 1967. Large numbers of people fled to neighbouring countries; Habyarimana prevented their return. Many exiles in Uganda fought in Yoweri Moseveni's National Resistance Army, which overthrew the dictatorship of Milton Obote in 1986, and subsequently formed a military-revolutionary force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, to topple the Rwandan regime.
FROM WAR TO GENOCIDE
In 1990, the RPF launched a war against the regime, in which hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. Regime supporters carried out increasing numbers of massacres and other human rights abuses; the government had to allow multi-party politics, and faced demands for democracy. By 1993, the RPF were striking towards Kigali (the capital); only French troops enabled the regime to halt their advance. International pressure forced the regime to negotiate with the RPF, and the Arusha Accords were signed. These provided for the rule of law, power-sharing, repatriation of refugees and integration of the RPF and Rwandese Armed Forces.
As Habyarimana blocked implementation of the accords, his supporters in the state machine planned mass killing, establishing the interahamwe militia that would be its main organizer on the ground, in order to maintain their hold on power and prevent peace. On 6 April 1994 as the President was flying back from an international meeting in Tanzania, where he had been pressured to stop prevaricating, his plane was shot down (probably by elements of the regime).
This was the signal for the planned genocide to begin. The first targets were opposition politicians, Hutu as well as Tutsi; then journalists and other potential dissidents; local officials and other educated people. From here, the campaign spread rapidly, fanned by the notorious Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines, into comprehensive massacres of the Tutsi population.
The genocide was well planned and organized by politicians, army officers and local officials, with extensive complicity of the Church, and claimed up to a million lives. Army, police and 'professional' interahamwe used guns; unofficial militia and the large numbers of Hutu civilians who joined (or were pressed) into the campaign often slaughtered with machetes and clubs. Among the majority of the Tutsi people who were killed, young men were particular targets; while women were raped and enslaved by militia. Huge numbers of people of all ages were hacked to death or mown down, in their homes, on the streets, in churches where they had taken shelter. Hundreds of thousands fled to Tanzania and other neighbouring states where international agencies supplied makeshift camps.
The small UN forces that were stationed in Kigali were withdrawn after they were attacked, but only after they had rescued most of the resident European population. UN troops abandoned the Rwandans to their fate, even handing over to the génocidaires thousands of men, women and children who had taken refuge with them. In New York, the Security Council debated and resolved, and the Secretariat prevaricated; the Western powers failed to provide the forces which might have halted the genocide; neighbouring African states did not manage to put their concern into practice. Only France intervened, its Opération Turquoise in southwest Rwanda saving some victims, but also protecting some perpetrators.
FROM GENOCIDE TO WAR
The genocide was ended, and the genocidal regime dispatched, by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which renewed its war and took over the country. In the face of the RPF's advance, over a million Hutus -- including most of those implicated in the genocide -- fled to Zaire (the name given to Congo-Kinshasa by the corrupt Mobutu regime which had ruled since the early 1960s). This second wave of 'refugees' was also supported by international agencies, but the camps (mainly around Goma in western Congo) became bases for the regrouped interahamwe. These forces allied themselves with the army and local administration of the distintegrating Zairean regime, terrorizing local Banyumalenge (people linked ethnically to Rwanda's Tutsis) in a new, potentially genocidal campaign.
In 1996, as this new war in the Congo escalated, the West once again began to discuss a 'humanitarian' intervention (to be led by Canada). Again, however, they were pre-empted by local military actors. Rwandan forces, with support from Uganda, allied with the Congolese opposition led by Laurent Kabila. They first dispersed the Goma camps, forcing the majority of Hutu exiles to return to Rwanda, while sending the militia fleeing further into Congo. Kabila's forces then advanced across the vast and shambolic territory of Congo to overthrow Mobutu and take power. Kabila (once linked to the romanticised guerrilla leader, Ché Guevara) rapidly disappointed the hopes placed on him both within and beyond the Congo. His forces were responsible for numerous atrocities, and once installed in Kinshasa his regime rapidly became almost as autocratic as Mobutu's.
By 1999, a new war was raging in the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments now supported the anti-Kabila opposition. Zimbabwe, Angola and other states backed Kabila. While this could be described as an internationalised civil war, it reflected the general breakdown of state power across a wide region of central Africa -- comparable to that in west Africa and Somalia. At the beginning of the new century, the war in the Congo had degenerated into local tribal conflict in the north-west of the territory.
In Rwanda, the aftermath of the genocide is appalling. Those who were mutilated and raped, and who lost children, husbands, wives, parents continue to suffer; they coexist uneasily with the returnees, including many suspected killers; prisons are full of tens of thousands of alleged killers that the judicial system cannot cope with.
[Key text: African Rights, Rwanda: Death, Despair and Defiance, London: 1994]
Some Victims Of The Rwanda Genocide
THE STORY OF CHRISTELLE -- AN ORPHAN FROM THE RWANDA MASSACRE
Date of birth: December 7th, 1984 (age 22)
Place of birth: Nyanza, Rwanda
Christelle is the youngest daughter of Jean Basesekaza and Grace Mukazayire. Her Kinyarwandan name, Umutoni, means, “a father's beloved.” Before the genocide, she had three older brothers and a large extended family in the area around Nyanza. "My father worked in a travel agency in Kigali and my mother worked for a business enterprise. We were not poor. In 1990 we all moved to Kigali to be closer to my father and because my mother had found a better position there. Before, my father could only spend his weekends at home, and had to spend the week in Kigali."
“During the genocide they killed my parents, my mother and my father, and also my brother who had stayed behind in Kigali. In Nyanza, they killed our large, extended family; all of my relatives.”
Though Christelle and her family lived in Kigali, whenever they had time off, they would go visit the rest of the family in Nyanza and stay there as long as possible. The genocide of 1994 took place during a school vacation, while three of the children, including Christelle, were visiting their grandparents. Christelle's parents, however, had to work. As a result, the family was split up when the horror commenced. “My father drove me and my two brothers to our grandparents' house in Nyanza. My oldest brother stayed with my parents in Kigali. During the genocide they killed my parents, my mother and my father, and also my brother who had stayed behind in Kigali. In Nyanza, they killed our large, extended family; all of my relatives. They also killed my second oldest brother who was there.”
When Christelle was asked how she managed to escape, she began to weep, recalling these terrible events. However, she continued with her story: “It was around five in the afternoon. We heard people crying and shouting. My uncle and my second oldest brother started shouting. I ran with the youngest of my brothers, Eric, into the forest to hide. I was only ten years old then and he was not much older. They came to my house and they killed my brother who was still there. They did horrible things to him before he died. I hid with my brother in the forest. We hid there for quite a while; for months. After the war, we discovered that an aunt of ours in Kigali had survived. She had been raped by the Interahamwe [the Hutu paramilitary squads] during the genocide. We went to stay with her, but she had contracted AIDS from being raped and died in 1997. It was then that I came to the orphanage Le Centre Memorial de Gisimba.”
When she was living with her aunt in Kigali, Christelle joined a traditional dance troupe, practicing an art form which had been prohibited by Major General Juvenal Habyarimana's authoritarian government. When her aunt died, it was through this dance troupe that she was brought to the attention of the Gisimba orphanage and came there to stay. Her brother, unfortunately, was not so lucky.
“My brother was traumatized by what happened during the genocide. He refused to come to the orphanage. He refuses to study. He lives nearby the center with a group of other teenagers his age. It's up to me to look after him. I give him money to eat and to dress himself, but I have so little myself.”
Christelle and her brother Eric Tuyishime (whose Kinyarwandan name means: “Thank you, God”) continue to live in the shadow of the genocide. “It was only last year that they buried my family at Nyanza. It was during a big commemoration of the genocide and its victims. I did not enjoy returning to Nyanza. There were all those hills that used to hold the houses of the people that I knew and loved, and now there is nothing left. There are no more houses on those hills and no more people there. My story is a sad one.”
In 1997, after her aunt died, Christelle began her secondary (high school) studies, which she completed in 2002. She focused on the humanities and learned about an assortment of topics, including psychology, history, literature, philosophy and sociology. Her first three years were at Kigali, but after she garnered a remarkably highscore on the third-year exam, she was given a scholarship to go to a boarding school in Ruhengeri for the last three years. Unfortunately, she fell ill with spinal meningitis in 2001 and was bedridden for three full months. She continues to have problems with her back to this day.
“In August of 2004, our director, Jean-Paul, came to some of us and told us that some Americans had offered money so that we could study at the university. It was out of one of my dreams. I was so happy, but I could almost not believe it.”
Christelle nonetheless took the national exam for entrance into the university in Ruhengeri and despite the illness and her shattered home, “I passed. However, I was very sad because I did not have the means to continue my studies. In August of 2004, our director, Jean-Paul, came to some of us and told us that some Americans had offered money so that we could study at the university. It was out of one of my dreams. I was so happy, but I could almost not believe it. I completed the four months of English language training, and now I am in my first year of sociological studies. I chose sociology, because I don't like math, but also because it is what I enjoyed in high school. I want to understand African society. One reads all these stories about problems in Africa. One could call it the African curse, but then again, we see these problems everywhere in the world. That's why I have so much hope for the future, because they can be solved.”
Christelle is thrilled to be able to pursue her university studies. She would like to go on to get her doctorate and find a job. She plans to spend much of her future income helping orphans like herself complete their studies. She would also like to help rebuild houses in her home region, so her family's history is not forgotten. The Interahamwe tried to erase all traces of her family and community, but she is determined to keep their memory alive. Christelle continues to take part in a traditional dance troupe when she finds time between her studies and looking after her brother. She is very thankful to the donors who have made it possible for her to study and appreciates their kindness. She prays that God will watch over them.
Read more orphan profiles at: ORPHANS OF RWANDA
"DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS" WORKING IN DARFUR, SUDAN
Increased insecurity in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur, combined with decreased international aid, is adding to the misery of the population there. Access to those in need is at an all time low, while disease and violence remain a daily fact of life for the millions who have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict in 2003. Today, most are entirely reliant on the dwindling external humanitarian aid, and the threat of full-scale war is once again looming.
MEDICINES SANS FRONTIERS (Doctors Without Borders) has been running projects in Darfur since early 2004 and today has 123 international and 2,233 national staff working across the region's three provinces. With a total budget in Darfur for 2006 of nearly $25 million, it is one of the most significant operations in the world for MSF.
North Darfur and the Jebel Mara
In Kebkabiya, some 200 kilomters to the north of the provincial capital, El Fasher, MSF is running three dispensaries and providing logistical support and medical supplies to the 67-bed hospital. In El Fasher itself, a cholera outbreak is currently being followed up by the MSF teams. By September 8, 120 cases had been reported, with 6-7 admissions daily. MSF is working to set up a cholera treatment center in the hospital.
A recent spate of insecurity is severely hampering operations in this area, with the projects in Kebkabiya only accessible by helicopter from El Fasher, due to a number of incidents against humanitarian agencies on the road. In Sarif Umra, following an attack by armed men, the project is being run by a skeleton team, while in Korma, the project has been closed due to security constraints.
Ambulatory medical projects are particularly vulnerable to attack on the roads, and an outreach project to Kaguro in the Jebel Mara region has also been put on hold. The Jebel Mara, a mountainous area in the center of Darfur, has been especially affected by the increased insecurity. In June 2006, MSF began work in clinics in Killin and a month later in Gorni. However, the project was evacuated for security reasons on July 22, when an MSF convoy was attacked on the Guildo-Golo-Killin road (only access road to Killin). The convoy was robbed and the staff beaten up.
Niertiti is a town of around 3,000 residents and as many as ten times that number are displaced in the foothills of the Jebel Mara. MSF has been running a hospital here since March 2004 and is today the only medical agency working in Niertiti. In the first six months of 2006 1128 hospital admissions were registered. Mobile clinics from Niertiti for local nomadic populations were abandoned in the summer, once again due to insecurity.
In the Jebel Mara itself, MSF has been running a health center in rebel-held Kutrum since March 2006. However, this project was evacuated on September 14.
In Zalengei, which today counts a population of approximately 20,000 residents and 95,000 displaced people, MSF operates a surgical ward and provides pediatric (around 180 admissions per month) and post-operative care (including an influx of 52 injured during several days in December).
In Mornay, the vast camp for the displaced houses around 80,000 people and the population is virtually cut off from external aid. MSF has been working here since 2004 and has constructed a hospital and a health center. In the first half of 2006, an average of nearly 4,900 medical consultations were carried out every month and 293 children were admitted into the MSF nutritional center between April and July.
Bordering Chad, in Um Dukhun, MSF offers surgical care, in-patient care, laboratory services, and general out-patient care including basic health, antenatal, and nutrition.
Outreach workers assist with health education and referrals. Following a recent influx of 12,000 refugees and displaced people, MSF assisted with medical care, a measles vaccination, and provision of non-food items.
In Shangil Tobaya, MSF provides health care services for the displaced people living in the Shangil and Shadat camps, as well as in Shangil Tobaya village. This project was evacuated on July 23 after a security incident and due to the overall deterioration of the security situation in the area. It officially re-opened on August 20 but with reduced activities and international staff.
In Habilah, which houses over 22,000 displaced people and a 7,000 resident population, MSF runs a medical clinic with 20-bed inpatient ward. This includes therapeutic feeding for severely malnourished children and antenatal care and delivery. Outreach workers assist with health education and referrals. In Kerenek, with over 22,000 displaced, MSF runs a clinic with a 30-bed ward. Combined, these two projects carry out over 4,500 consultations per month. Mobile clinics provide medical care for mostly nomadic populations around these two areas.
In October 2006, a new project opened in the northern corridor of West Darfur, in the town of Seleah, where about 160,000 people live with very little assistance and access to medical care.
With around 90,000 people, Kalma remains one of the largest displacement camps in the world. MSF is running a primary health clinic with almost 1,000 consultations per week, a women's health center with antenatal and postnatal care, delivery assistance, and treatment for sexual gender-based violence. The project is complemented by community outreach activities and a mental health program addressing the profound psycho-social stress and trauma experienced as a result of the current living conditions and uncertainty, as well as past and continuing conflict-related psychological trauma.
In Muhajariya, a town with a population of more than 45,000, MSF offers surgical care to war-wounded, emergency obstetric services, and inpatient and outpatient departments. Mobile clinic teams provide basic health care services weekly to the towns of Labado and Angabo, as well as assisting displaced communities in the countryside.
In Shariya, despite numerous evacuations due to insecurity, MSF manages to support the local primary health clinic and has mobile teams visiting the displaced around the region, including weekly clinics to Khazan Jedid, Um Shegera, and Teisha when possible.
A primary focus for MSF is to be able to react quickly to outbreaks of disease, fighting or new displacement throughout the whole region. In the past months, emergency teams have responded to an outbreak of watery diarrhea and cholera in Kalma camp, organized measles and meningitis vaccinations, and distributed plastic sheeting and emergency food rations to new groups of displaced. Currently, MSF is also working in Mornay to combat a cholera outbreak which has already claimed eight lives.
MSF is also continuously lobbying for increased aid and improved access in the region. MSF has worked in Sudan since 1979.
Website: MEDICINE SANS FRONTIERS
MSF PHOTO GALLERY
APPALLING CONDITIONS FOR CHILDREN AND TEACHERS IN DARFUR, SUDAN
[Inter Press Service (IPS) April 18, 2007]
The protection and well-being of children in Sudan are at a critical juncture, according to a report released Wednesday by Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a global network of non-governmental organisations.
Despite the 2005 peace agreement that ended 21 years of civil conflict between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, Darfur remains host to one of the largest humanitarian operations in the world: 92 NGOs and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and 14 UN agencies maintain a presence there.
According to the report, "Sudan's Children at a Crossroads: An Urgent Need for Protection," Sudanese government restrictions, deteriorating security, poor roads, and limited staffing and funding have prevented aid agencies from reaching children and other vulnerable populations in the western region Darfur. "Children in Darfur face appalling levels of violence and abuse," said Watchlist chairwoman Kathleen Hunt at the report's launch. "With little hope and resources, these children can become the source of future violence."
In Southern Sudan, girls are now more likely to die in childbirth than attend school, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"Many teachers continue to teach every day without pay," said Jenny Perlman Robinson, of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, a partner of the New York-based Watchlist. "Some children walk two hours back and forth to school without breakfast or lunch," added Robinson, who has worked on the ground in Sudan.
The new report details violations against children in each of the six major categories of children's rights abuses identified by the landmark 2005 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1612, which implements a monitoring and reporting mechanism regarding the use of child soldiers.
Violations in Sudan include killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, abduction, denial of humanitarian assistance, attacks on schools and hospitals, and recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups. In addition, the report outlines various other violations that continue to be committed against children and their families, such as forced labour, displacement and trafficking.
U.S. President George W. Bush, comparing the violence in Darfur to the Holocaust, threatened to tighten U.S. economic sanctions on Sudan by barring 29 Sudanese companies from the U.S. financial system and expanding an arms sales embargo.
Washington has also been pushing for UN Security Council sanctions against Sudan.
Asked whether the UN should consider sanctions, Watchlist director Julia Freedson told IPS, "The use and recruitment of child soldiers should be the first area that the Security Council considers when making a decision on whether or not to impose sanctions. This has already occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Security Council has now listed an end to the use and recruitment of child soldiers as one of the prerequisites for removing sanctions."
Members of the Security Council are divided on imposing sanctions against Sudan.
The United States and Britain, alongside France, Ghana, Italy and Panama, support sanctions. China, Russia, South Africa, Qatar and Indonesia are reluctant to support sanctions.
Of note is that China and Qatar have huge oil exploration concessions in Sudan. In fact, China is the largest purchaser of Sudanese oil. China and Russia are also Khartoum's biggest sources for weapons imports.
Asked whether she has seen a Chinese NGO presence among the 92 humanitarian organisations active in Darfur, Robinson told IPS, "I haven't noticed any."
The Watchlist report highlights that "key trading partners and allies of Sudan, notably the People's Republic of China and members of the League of Arab States, should use all available means to ensure that the Government of National Unity upholds its commitments and obligations outlined in Security Council resolutions."
One of the key international tools to improve protection for children is the Resolution 1612's Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM), which feeds timely information on violations to the Security Council and other UN agencies. "The goal of the MRM is not simply to track trends and identify areas where action is needed, but to prevent violations of the rights of children and end impunity for those who perpetrate violence and abuse," said Canada's High Commissioner to Kenya, Ross Hynes.
However, restrictive government policies and administrative procedures have hindered access to information from Darfur, the east and other volatile regions in Sudan, according to the report. "Information about abuses against Sudanese children is increasingly difficult to obtain," said Watchlist's Sarah Spencer. "The deteriorating security situation in Darfur and the unstable situation in the east have prevented many humanitarian actors from accessing severely vulnerable populations, documenting abuses and providing services."
Robinson told IPS: "Organisations working in Darfur are very scared. They are concerned that sharing information will trigger retributive attacks against their staff and operations or beneficiaries. The Government of National Unity must ensure humanitarian agencies unrestricted and secure access."
The Watchlist report notes as a high priority that the Government of National Unity must allow humanitarian access to affected populations. Furthermore, "Genuine and sustained commitments by the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan to protect and assist children are crucial," Hunt said. "Generations of children in Sudan have suffered the effects of violent, protracted armed conflict. We must seize this opportunity to guarantee them a safe and healthy future."
Southern Sudan still lacks an adequate health infrastructure and qualified health personnel, with only one primary health care centre for every 79,500 people, according to the UN "The Security Council and other international actors should not only remain seized of the issue of Sudan but must ensure that the protection of children is placed at the forefront of all efforts to bring peace and stability to Sudan," according to Hunt.
"Though the situation in Darfur has received widespread public attention, it has done little to improve the protection of children there. Education cannot wait until the fighting is over."
Map courtesy of SITES ATLAS
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