Rwandan Genocide: Will We Ever Learn Anything from Crappy Foreign Policy?

If the United States cared to pay attention to great examples of crappy foreign policy, it could have easily noticed what hell Belgium wrought in Rwanda during most of the 20th century. Belgian intrigue paved the way for the hatred, persecutions, and massacres that followed their arrival.

During the genocide of 1994, when it would have been wise for someone--anyone--to come to the aid of Rwandans in distress who had asked for outside help, the United States was busy licking wounds sustained from becoming involved in Somalia, a place we were neither needed nor wanted. When our help isn't asked for, we usually cause more problems by jumping into the fray. When our assistance is wanted, we are most often too busy running with our tails between our legs from the effects of our own crappy foreign policy.

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For centuries the Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis shared the same culture, the same language, and the same religion, and they lived in relative peace. They often intermarried. In 1916, that all began to change. In that year, Belgium, seeing itself in every way superior to the blacks on the African continent, took control of Rwanda and established a colonial system that ended up being a kettle of racial classification and exploitation.

In a move eerily similar to the British elevation of the Iraqi Sunnis to government domination over the Shia majority, the Belgians placed the minority Tutsi at the head of the Rwandan government, creating massive and deep resentment of the Tutsi among the Hutu majority.

After carefully and constantly stirring up a hornet's nest of internecine hatred, Belgium gave Rwanda its independence in 1959. Control of the country fell into the hands of the Hutu majority, many of which now perceived themselves as morally entitled to settle a score with the Tutsis. What followed were years of segregation and persecution of the Tutsi people, mixed with the occasional round of killing. Rather than suffer persecution and death, hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, along with their moderate Hutu brethren, left their homeland.

By 1988, a critical mass of these expatriates came together to form the Rwandan Patriotic Front, with its main goal of reclaiming their country. In 1990, the RPF began its first foray into Rwanda from their bases in Uganda. The offensive was put down with the help of the Belgian and French military.

Nonetheless, for three years, war and massacre flared. The United Nations eventually stepped in, hoping to broker a power-sharing agreement between the two factions. Reveling in their power, Hutu extremists resisted the United Nations agreement. The result was one of the most horrifying genocides in human history.

What would Rwanda look like today if Western colonizers had not gotten involved in dictating the course of its future? A lot better--just like a lot of other cauldrons of Western social experimentation would have. What changed? The Hutu and the Tutsi lived in relative peace before the white man came.

Prior to the fervent appearance of the Belgian "missionaries", little distinguished Hutus from Tutsis. After Belgium made its imprint on Rwandan culture, that distinction made all the difference. Where once they married each other and laughed and socialized together, now their perverse delight is in killing one another.

Nearly every time the West has gotten involved in colonization or overlordship, the "solutions" they have created have been far worse than the original problems. One would think that intelligent governments could learn from others' mistakes, or even from their own. They haven't. Might it have been planned that way?



Comments

  1. I have three observations that may somehow be deemed misleading to most of non-Rwandans.

    1) “The Hutu and the Tutsi lived in relative peace before the white man came”.

    This is not true. Can we say that Iraqis were better of under Sadam Hussein regime? Does Rwanda have peace now? No. Peace does not mean absence of war.

    The current power of horror in Rwanda (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/04/11/power-horror-rwanda) is very similar to the one that characterized Rwandan feodal (Tutsi) monarchies where a small minority oppressed the majority for nearly 4 centuries.

    Absence of violence, riots because because the population is terrorized by a nationwide militarization does not translate into “relative peace”.

    Such a situation is even worse than the overt war times because during war times one can cry out and get some help while actually in Rwanda most of the people are denied the most basic rights and nobody cares about their sufferings apparently because Rwanda has a relative peace!

    2) “When our assistance is wanted, we are most often too busy running with our tails between our legs from the effects of our own crappy foreign policy”.

    I completely agree with you. The US corporative interests are the one to blame. Please find here the untold stories about KBR and the Rwandan genocide (http://suzieqq.wordpress.com/2008/07/21/kill-burn-loot-27/).

    3) “Hutu extremists resisted the United Nations agreement”.
    This is another fly in the face of the historical evidence.

    Several eye witnesses and reliable research documents attest that on April 6th, 1994 the RPF fired two missiles, shot down the Falcon 50, and killed at scene two African Heads of State: the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and the Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira.

    This terrorist act achieved two goals: Firstly, by killing the Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, the RPF halted, at least temporarily, the democratic process in Burundi and stabilized its back-up base in this country. Secondly, by killing the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, the RPF triggered the resumption of the Rwandan civil war and at the same time halted the implementation process of the Arusha Peace Agreement.

    In the aftermath of signing the Arusha Peace Agreement, the RPF deliberately resumed the recruitment of new combatants long before the April 6th 1994 terrorist act.

    In strong violation of the Arusha Peace Agreement which clearly stated in its first article that the Rwandan civil war was over (http://www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/services/cds/agreements/pdf/rwan1.pdf), these new RPF recruits were enlisted in the APR late in March 1994.

    The consequences of this enlistment are well-known: crimes of genocide, collapse of the Rwandan government, exodus of 2.5 million Rwandans to Tanzania, then to Burundi, and finally to the DRC, which alone received more than 1.5 million Rwandan refugees in its two eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, provinces that are up to date war torn.

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  2. Nzinink,

    Thank you for your insights. When I stated "relative peace", what I intended to imply was that it was more peaceful relative to (before) the time that the Belgians came to Rwanda.

    From your perspective, would Rwanda be having the problems it is having today if it had never been colonized?

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  3. Dear Frank,
    Thank you for the article and the comment. I am veru convinced that we can always learn from each other and reach some common ground.

    You’re right.
    The colonization had something to do with the spiral of violence because it emancipated the Hutus to expenses of the ruling Tutsis.

    In the absence of colonization, many Rwandans would still be ignorant until now. Their Leaders (Kings) would still be oppressing the mass without this mass knowing that they are being oppressed. This would falsely be construed as a perfect harmony between the ruling King and his subjects.

    Education is the key issue here and our Rwandan leaders need to learn from the many mistakes of the past and be smart enough so that they can always decide what is right for their own people (the majority of which are peasants, hence ignorant).

    I do believe that emancipating (educating) your people so that they can choose by themselves their destiny is something to encourage.

    For that I give credit to the Belgians (White Fathers) and put all the blame to the Rwandan leaders (all Rwandan leaders from pre colonial era to present time).

    They always put forward their own interests and use ethnicity to gain support the ignorant mass so that they can hold on power.

    We saw it many times in the past and we still see it at this very day with some western powers acting as cheerleaders.

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  4. Frank,

    I am sorry to disagree with you as well on some points in your article. I do agree with some of the points you make as well.

    One thing I would like to start off with is that Rwandans Hutu and Tutsi continued to intermarry even days before the genocide. I was born in the period between the 1967 and 1990 invasion of Rwanda by Tutsi rebellions. My parents are Tutsi and Hutu and I know many like me.

    You are right to say that any help would have done wonders in Rwanda. The Rwandan genocide was one of the most horrible events of our time. The perpetrators were both extremist Hutus and extremist Tutsis who preyed on the peaceful Rwandan Tutsis and Hutus.

    Please check the congressional records in 1994 and you will realize that the RPF opposed ANY intervention by the international community. The records are there for all to see. Also, this is the same RPF that launched a terrorist attack that killed 2 presidents and violated international law and the Arusha UN peace accords. It was not the exteremest Hutu. Please see mounting evidence coming out showing the extremist Tutsi elements touched off the Genocide. The UN court in Tanzania has been looking for evidence that it was done by the Hutu and has totally failed to prove such.

    On the historical context you give, please check the history of Hutus being enslaved by Tutsi Kings (Monarchists). Rwandan Hutus and Twas were made to work for the Tutsi kings and chiefs for years without getting paid and without being allowed to return home to their families. This was before teh arrival of the Germans and later the Belgians.

    You talk about persecution of the Tutsi's mixed with an occasional round of killings. Persecution and descrimination are horrible. But are you aware of the various attacks and invasions by the Tutsi Extremist who left Rwanda in 1959 and 1961? Are you aware that Rwanda was invaded several times from 1960 to 1967? Are you aware that many Tutsis left in 1959 as a result of violence that resulted from an attack by Tutsi youths against a Hutu leader who was demanding that Rwanda become a democratic country? Are you aware that many more left Rwanda after Rwandans voted by over 70% in favor or a republic instead of a monarchy?

    Having said that, I agree that many times, the US foreign policy is crapy and that the involvement should be where needed and asked (like Rwanda) instead of where not needed and not wanted (like Somalia).

    Having said that, the genocide in Rwanda was preventable and even after it started, it could have been stopped. It was horrible and my heart bleeds for my family members slain by the extremists among the Hutus and Among the Tutsis.

    The European colonialism made matters worse in Rwanda. However descrimination, forced free labor and governance by force resented by the masses existed in Rwanda before the Belgians.

    I hope you will engange in trying to prevent another genocide being perpetrated in the Congo currently where the Rwandan extremest Tutsis are the instigators and have claimed over 5 million lives. Please take time to call on the international community to protect the Congolese and stop pretending that the problems in Congo are Ethnic. Let us call a spade a spade and the conflict in Congo and the 5 million plus killed are a result of Rwanda and Uganda's invasion and plundering of the Congo's minerals. Let's try to stop that genocide.

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  5. Is Rwanda heading towards another Genocide? The answer is a massive yes.

    Can Rwanda Prevent it? Yes. if the current Tutsi dominated government recognises that as Hutus are the majority they aught to be the most in any structure. Just naturally. If there is a school whose students are tutsis in the majority there is something wrong with that school. If the government counts more tutsi than Hutus there is something wrong with that government. If the military , intellingence, the police are dominated by tutsis something is for sure wrong with those structures. I am not talking about the private sector, the state has been privatised and greed is in Rwanda to stay.Any single day that goes by, without looking at those issues, it is a day too late!

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  6. Caroline and Anonymous,

    Thank you for contributing to the discussion.

    I am glad that I wrote this article, because I have learned a great deal from your and from Nzinink's comments.

    It was not clear to me in the movie I saw ("Sometimes in April") who was responsible for downing the Rwandan and Burundian presidents.

    It is helpful to know that there existed ethnic strife before the Belgians came, but that Belgian involvement made it worse.

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  7. Frank,

    I thank you for allowing an open forum for exchanging idea. The truth shall set Rwanda free. Reconcilliation is a must in Rwanda and it will be done by Rwandans facing the truth about our country. Democracy and respect if human rights will go a long way in Rwanda. Again, thank you for your article and leaving an open forum for discussion.

    ReplyDelete

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