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The Rwanda genocide that occurred in 1994 led to the loss of about 800,000 lives of the Tutsi community. The assassination of the president Juvenal Habyarimana triggered the genocide where the Hutu militia together with the Rwandan military organized systematic attacks on the Tutsi who were the minority ethnic group in Rwanda.
The Rwandan genocide was quite strange because it was a speedy mass killing, which led to the loss of about 800,000 lives in just 100 days. The United States of America president at that time Bill Clinton during his visit to Rwanda apologized and told the Tutsi that he felt like other people “…who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror” (Power Para. 7).
The Rwanda genocide becomes the extreme genocide that occurred in the 20th century. This essay explores the history of the genocide, the reasoning of the Hutu government and establishes why the international community did not intervene.
History of the Genocide
Hutu and Tutsi are the two tribes of Rwanda who have always been political enemies, fighting for power since independence in 1952. Belgians who colonized Rwanda favored Tutsi while they neglected the Hutu, but after independence, Hutu begun to enjoy the privileges of the government. “…independence ushered in three decades of Hutu rule, under which Tutsi were systematically discriminated against and periodically subjected to waves of killing and ethnic cleansing” (Power Para. 17).
Many Tutsi went to exile in the neighboring countries and formed rebels who constantly attacked the Hutu government. In 1990, Tutsi formed the Rwanda Patriotic Front, which attacked the Hutu government leading to the Rwandan civil war.
The Rwandan civil war led to the signing of the Arusha Accord that compelled the Rwandan government, which Hutu dominated, to form a government of national unity by incorporating marginalized Tutsi and the Hutu who were in opposition. For the realization of peace, the deployment United Nation peacekeepers helped in demilitarization of the civilians for Tutsi and Hutu to live in harmony.
Hutu thought that the Tutsi and the Belgians wanted to enslave them again as during colonization and they vowed never to agree with the terms of the Arusha Accord. By 1993, “Hutu extremists rejected these terms and set out to terrorize Tutsi and those Hutu politicians supportive of the peace process …thousands Rwandans were killed, and some 9,000 were detained while guns, grenades, and machetes began arriving by the planeload” (Power Para. 18).
Subsequent periodic attacks on Tutsi set the stage for the genocide in 1994. Then, there was evident militarization of Hutu in readiness to exterminate the Tutsi and Belgian peacekeepers, who the Hutu perceived as their enemies.
The assassination of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana triggered systematic mass killings of Tutsi by the Hutu military where they killed about 800,000 Tutsi in about 100 days. Though many diplomats perceived it as civil war, they alter discovered albeit late, that genocide had occurred. Now the genocide is a great scar in the land of Rwanda.
Hutu government emerged after independence in 1952. Prior to the independence, the Tutsi enjoyed much privilege from the colonial government because they cooperated with the Belgians in undermining the Hutu struggles for independence. Therefore, the Hutu government reasoned that Tutsi were their enemies and they fought them both politically and by use of military.
Democracy was difficult to achieve because political parties and Tutsi were defiant to the Hutu government and it perceived them as dissidents. The enmity of the Hutu and the Tutsi became feasible when the Hutu government in three decades consecutively discriminated against the Tutsi tribe leading to their exile.
“In 1990 a group of armed exiles, mainly Tutsi, who had been clustered on the Ugandan border, invaded Rwanda…next several years the rebels, known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front gained ground against Hutu government forces” (Power Para. 16). After the Rwandan civil war, the Hutu government realized that the Tutsi were a great threat to their government and their existence, hence devised ways to exterminate them.
The Hutu government also perceived the signing of the Arusha Accord that led to the formation of government of national unity as a scheme to overthrow them out of government.
The Arusha Accord was just a paper as the then United Nations assistant executive; Beardsley confessed that, “we flew to Rwanda with a Michelin road map, a copy of the Arusha agreement, and that was it … under the impression that the situation was quite straightforward; there was one cohesive government side and one cohesive rebel side” (Power Para. 21).
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The Hutu extremists in the government rejected the implementation of the Arusha Accord and did not implement it to the letter. Consequently, anyone who was supporting the Arusha Accord became an enemy to the Hutu government.
The Hutu government reasoned that Tutsi, opposition leaders and foreign diplomats wanted to overthrow them from the government, thus organized systematic mass killings as a way of defending their its rule. The assassination of their president was a clear indication of a scheme to overthrow the government.
The international community did not intervene in the Rwanda genocide because of the bureaucracies in their policies. For instance, the United States foreign policy did not provide for Bill Clinton to intervene the occurrence of Rwanda genocide. George Bush in 2000 issued his statement concerning Rwanda that, “I don’t like genocide, but I would not commit our troops … genocide could happen again tomorrow and we wouldn’t respond to any differently” (Power Para. 40).
The foreign policies of the United States are full of bureaucracies and that is why it took long for them to respond but with apologies that could not help. They did not consider Rwanda genocide as a humanitarian crisis, thus, they kept quiet while 8000 lives are lost per day.
There were slow responses from the international community because the situation of Rwanda was a combination of civil war and genocide. Power argues that, “it is true that the precise nature and extent of the slaughter was obscured by the civil war, the withdrawal of U.S. diplomatic sources, some confused press reporting, and the lies of the Rwandan government” (Para. 26).
Other nations relied on the United Nations and the United States of America but they all kept quiet leaving them to rely on confusing news from the Rwandan government and the media. If the international community could have intervened, it could be justified as a humanitarian war because it could have saved many lives
The Rwandan genocide is a shocking experience to the world because it depicts how human lives can be lost in such an inhuman way. The situation of Rwanda became much worse as the international community never responded effectively to save the situation.
The international community never imagined that mass killings of that extent would occur as many thought that what was happening was just a normal civil war. Thus, ethnical politics of Rwanda and the international community are responsible for the occurrence and the extent of the genocide.
Power, Samantha. “Bystanders to Genocide.” The Atlantic Monthly 288.2 September 2001. Web. <https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571/>