Rwanda: Atrocious Behavior


August 30, 2010: The UN leaked a draft of a report on atrocities in eastern Congo. The report details the mass murders committed by Rwandan Tutsi troops, who entered the country in 1994, in pursuit of millions of Hutus who had fled Rwanda after they murdered a million Tutsis. That led to Tutsi exile groups in Ugandan entering Rwanda and defeating the Hutu militias that did the killings. It's long been known that the Tutsis slaughtered thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of Hutus in the Congo. The release of this UN document has angered the Tutsi dominated government of Rwanda, which now threatens to withdraw their peacekeepers from UN sponsored operations. The Tutsi despise the UN because the international community stood by while the Hutus slaughtered Tutsis in 1994. This massacre was, however, part of a centuries old battle between Hutu farmers, and Tutsi herders who have been moving into the area now occupied by Rwanda, Burundi and parts of eastern Congo. All these areas lie in the fertile highlands surrounding Lake Victoria. All have large ethnic Hutu populations and significant ethnic Tutsi minorities.

In the 1500's the Tutsi (plural- Watutsi) moved south from their original home in the Sahel. They were tough warriors and successful invaders. With a different complexion (an important point for the Tutsi) and standing (on average) several inches (5-10 cm) taller than the local Hutu, it did not take long for the Tutsi to take over and install their own brand of Apartheid. The area eventually evolved into two Tutsi ruled empires, each roughly covering the territory of modern Burundi and Rwanda. In 1899 the Germans moved in and made both areas colonies. The British replaced the Germans in 1916 and passed the area over to the Belgians in the 1920's. It was assumed that, when the areas became independent nations, the Hutu (over 80 percent of the population) would run the countries. The more aggressive and warlike Tutsi had other ideas, and the Hutu knew it. In 1959 the Hutu of Rwanda rose up against the Tutsi (who held most positions of local power), slaughtered thousands of them and drove several hundred thousand into exile (mainly in Uganda). Several thousand of these exiles formed an army and attempted a comeback in 1990. This comeback waxed and waned until the Hutu of Rwanda struck back in 1994, slaughtering over 800,000 people (Tutsi and Hutu "sympathizers") in a three month period. The Tutsi rebels in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), better organized and trained than the Hutu dominated Rwandan army, took control of the government. The Hutu who led the genocide (many of them in the Interahamwe movement) fled to refugee camps in Congo and other neighboring countries. The Tutsi-led Rwandan government continued to fight a low-level battle with the Hutu rebel organizations (eg, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR), with eastern Congo providing the battleground. Many of the Hutu rebel groups had once served in the Hutu-led regime’s Armed Forces of Rwanda (FAR, Forces Armées Rwandaises, the Hutu-dominated Rwandan army). Rwanda also ran a “national reconciliation program” to attempt to resolve the ethnic conflict. Many Hutu went to jail for murder, but a far greater number were admonished and shamed --often using tribal rituals as well as legal proceedings – and then allowed to return to their homes. Rwanda has also begun sending soldiers to serve in African Union peacekeeping operations. But now that the UN has decided to accuse Rwanda of war crimes, Rwanda will fight back, full of righteous indignation at yet another attack by arrogant Western imperialists.

In response to this sort of thing, Rwanda is depending more on China (which doesn't care about local history much) for military equipment and economic development. This is going on throughout Africa, and China sees the UN war crimes investigators as a valuable, if unwitting, ally.

The situation was a little different down south. After 1959, the Tutsi in Burundi took the hint and were successful in repressing the Hutu rebellion that occurred in 1965. With 14 percent of the Burundi population Tutsi (contrasted with only nine percent in Rwanda), the Tutsi were numerous, and savage, enough to hold onto their power. Periodic massacres of the Hutu kept that majority people out of power for years. But the ballot, and Hutu numbers, eventually prevailed. By the 1980s, Hutus occupied most senior government positions. But the Hutu-Tutsi animosity remained, and was intensified by the mass murder that took place in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. The Rwanda killings were organized by the Hutu dominated Rwanda government, and the Tutsi in Burundi feared the same thing might happen to them. The Burundi Hutu saw what happened in Rwanda and were not encouraged. The fighting in Burundi got worse from 1994 through 2000, with as many as 100,000 people dying in the fighting or from exposure. Over the last decade, peace deals have been worked out with all the Hutu rebel factions, and Burundi has avoided the large scale bloodshed found in Rwanda and eastern Congo.

In Burundi, hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned, but many have found all the good land taken. This has left many of the returned families jobless and destitute. To make matters worse, a recent corruption survey found Burundi the most corrupt nation in the region, with neighboring Rwanda being one of the least corrupt.

August 22, 2010: Uganda, Guinea and Burundi have pledged an additional 2,000 troops for the Somali peacekeeping mission. This would bring the total strength of the force to 8,000. New rules of engagement (ROE) would allow the peacekeepers to be more aggressive against the Islamic radical militias causing most of the mayhem there. The new troops and ROE are not expected to be in place until early next year.

August 19, 2010:  Rwandan police say they have rounded up a gang responsible for grenade attacks in the capital.

August 11, 2010: Two grenades were thrown into a bus station in the Rwandan capital, killing two  and wounding five.

August 8, 2010: President Paul Kigame won the Rwandan presidential election with 93 percent of the vote. This was about what he got in the last election (2003). While accused of harassing other candidates and manipulating the entire elector process, Kigame is widely popular for the success of his economic policies, and for the fact that he led the Tutsi exile army that invaded from Uganda in 1994, ended the genocide of Tutsis and imposed peace. Despite Kigame's success, there are several Hutu, and Tutsi, opposition groups. Some are just pushing to get more for a particular tribe, but many want more political freedom. Kigame says that eventually that will happen, but the economy comes first. Most Rwandans agree with that, partly because the deadly ethnic animosities still exist, and could again break out in genocidal rage.

July 30, 2010: The ruling CNDD-FDD party in Burundi won the senatorial elections which, as with other elections, opposition parties have boycotted (because they believe the voting is rigged.) This does not bode well for avoiding the resumption of rebel activity.





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