Rwanda is a central African country with a population of 7 million people. The majority of Rwandans claim membership in one of two ethnic groups: the Hutu majority (85 percent of the population) or the Tutsi minority (14 percent of the population). Once a Belgian colony, Rwanda gained independence in 1962, but the Belgian colonial experience shaped Rwanda in two key respects. First, in the 1930s Belgian colonial officials issued identity cards classifying all Rwandans as Hutu or Tutsi. This classification system remained in place until 1994. Second, Belgian colonial officials generally favored the Tutsi minority over the Hutu majority.
Following independence there were frequent clashes between Hutu and Tutsi. In 1973 General Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, seized power, inaugurating a one-party state that severely limited Tutsi economic and political rights. In 1990 political dissidents founded the Rwandan Popular Front (RPF), a Tutsi-led guerrilla movement committed to bringing political reform to Rwanda. To head off civil war, in 1993 at Arusha, Tanzania, President Habyarimana agreed to a multiparty state and recognized the legitimacy of Hutu and Tutsi opposition parties. The United Nations (UN) endorsed the Arusha Accords and sent a small military mission, the United Nations Aid Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR),toKigali, Rwanda’s capital, to monitor all parties’ compliance with the Arusha Accords. On 6 April 1994, President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down, killing all on board. Although it now seems likely that Hutus, dissatisfied with President Habyarimana, shot down his plane, Tutsis were immediately blamed for the presidential assassination. Starting on 6 April 1994, and continuing for one hundred days, more than 800,000 Rwandans, the majority of whom were Tutsis, were brutally slaughtered. The small UNAMIR force in Rwanda could not stop the killings. Major-General Roméo Dallaire, the UNAMIR commander, requested 5,000 troops to stop the genocide, but the UN refused to send them. The United States refused to intervene and refused to support the eight African nations who tried to stop the genocide. Beginning in the summer of 1994 the RPF, under the leadership of Defense Minister Paul Kagame, launched an invasion of Rwanda from Uganda, and in August 1994, RPF forces took Kigali and installed Pasteur Bizimungu as president. By September 1994 nearly 2 million Rwandans were in refugee camps in Zaire; 800,000 were in refugee camps in Tanzania and Burundi. Although a semblance of order has returned to Rwanda, it remains a devastated and shocked country. The UN has established an International Tribunal in Arusha to prosecute the perpetrators of the genocide, and more than 50,000 Rwandans are in jail awaiting trial. Echoes of genocide reverberate in refugee camps in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo (formerly Zaire). On 28 March 1998, President Clinton flew to Kigali and apologized for America’s refusal to assist in stopping one of the most concentrated and brutal genocides in history.
Suggestions for Term Papers
1. Some scholars argue that the Belgian colonial legacy in Rwanda, particularly in education, health care, and economic development, was overwhelmingly positive. Write a paper that examines and evaluates Belgian colonial rule in Rwanda.
2. Some anthropologists and ethnologists conclude that the classifications Hutu and Tutsi are artificial. If there were at one time distinct differences between the two tribes, by the 1990s these differences had become blurred through intermarriage. The more important differences may be those having to do with economic status, levels of educations, and political connections. Read about the two tribes and determine whether the classifications used are appropriate. Provide reasons for the position you take. 3. The Rwandan genocide, because of its compressed time frame and brutal methods of killing, was a horrific event. Assess the reasons the United Nations Security Council initially refused to label it genocide.
4. Compare and contrast the UN arguments for intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo (see #93, “The Dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s”) with the UN refusal to intervene in Rwanda. How do you account for the difference?
5. Four years after the killings began, President Clinton flew to Kigali and apologized for America’s refusal to stop the genocide. Review U.S. policy during the genocide and write a paper defending or refuting this policy.
6. How successful has the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, been in bringing those charged with “crimes against humanity” to justice?
In addition to the boldfaced items, look under the entries for “The Holocaust, 1941–1945” (#34), “Pol Pot and the Cambodian Incursion, 1970–1978” (#72), and “The Dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s” (#93). Search under genocide, human rights, and Organization of African States (OAS).
DesForges, Alison. Rwanda: The Crisis Continues. New York: Human Rights Watch Africa, 1995. An objective study that relies heavily on statistics to make its case.
United States Congress. Rwanda: Genocide and the Continuing Cycle of Violence … May5,1998. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1998. Good official documentation of the horrors in 1994 and afterwards.
Destexhe, Alain. Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. Translated by Alison Marchner. New York: New York University Press, 1995. A careful appraisal of the genocide that compares it to others in the twentieth century. Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. A prize-winning account that is the starting point for an understanding of the tragedy.
Keane, Fergal. Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey. New York: Penguin, 1995. A reliable short summary with a helpful chronology.
Prunier, Gérard. The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. A good summary of the early killings.
Ratner, Steven R. Accountability for Human Rights Atrocities in International Law: Beyond the Nuremberg Legacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. It has the international statute for crimes against humanity in Rwanda.