History Project – Romeo Dallaire’s Plight - the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
Just 18 years ago (1994) in the small east-African country of Rwanda, in the space of 100 days 800,000 people were slaughtered by their own government and fellow citizens. Virtually the entire world turned away and did little to prevent the genocide. Hundreds of thousands of men, woman and children were murdered. This disturbing, recent event is perhaps the darkest and most brutal tragedy of our time. Background For centuries Rwanda’s 10 million citizens viewed themselves as one people. In 1916, Belgium colonized Rwanda, introducing a system of identity cards separating the majority Hutus from the minority Tutsis.
The Tutsis were given preference in education, jobs and power. In 1959, when Rwanda gained independence, the Hutus rebelled and took over the government, exiling and killing Tutsis. In 1990 a Tutsi-led, multi-ethnic rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Force (RPF), invaded from Uganda. French troops intervened. The invasion ended when both sides signed a peace treaty in 1993, a treaty the UN was sent to protect. In 1994, the Rwandan population of 7 million people consisted of three ethnic groups: the Hutus (85%), the Tutsis (14%) and the Twa (1%).
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Hutu extremists within Rwanda’s political elite blamed the entire Tutsi minority population for the country’s increasing social, economic, and political pressures. Habyarimana, the Rwandan president, deepened divides between Tutsis and Hutus through constant political manoeuvring and propaganda. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the president was shot down and violence erupted almost immediately. Under the cover of war, Hutu extremists launched their plans in exterminating the entire Tutsi population. Political figures opposing the Hutu extremists were killed immediately.
Tutsis and people suspected of being Tutsis were murdered in their own homes and at roadblocks as they tried to escape the violence. Entire families were butchered at a time and women were systematically and brutally raped. Over 100 days 800,000 people perished. Perhaps as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population as well as moderate Hutus were killed. The genocide only stopped when the RPF defeated the Hutu regime and President Paul Kagame took control. The genocide was the result of the conscious choice of the elite to promote hatred and fear to keep itself in ower. They set the majority against the minority to counter the growing political opposition in Rwanda. Although the Rwandans are fully responsible for the organization and execution of the genocide, governments and peoples elsewhere all share in the shame of the crime because they failed to prevent and stop this killing campaign. Policymakers in France, Belgium, the United States and at the United Nations were aware of the preparations for the genocide and failed to take the steps necessary to prevent it.
Political leaders rejected what was going on and for weeks failed to challenge the legitimacy of the genocidal government, despite their political and moral obligations and authority. They did nothing to silence the radio that televised calls for slaughter to the Hutu public. Even after it had become indisputable that what was going on in Rwanda was genocide, American officials had shunned the g-word, fearing that it would cause demands for intervention. The systemic failure of the UN to prevent the genocide and lack of support from all nations, simply exemplifies the fact that human lives are cheap.
As a world we have not improved from the abominations of the past (Holocaust, Khmer Rouge etc. ) If there is no political advantage to helping people the UN or any other country will not intervene. The Rwandan Genocide is another gash on the face of humanity. Romeo Dallaire Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire is a Canadian senator, a humanitarian, an author and a retired general. Dallaire was Force Commander of UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda), the ill-fated UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the genocide, between 1993 and 1994.
Dallaire is known for his desperate efforts in trying to prevent the Rwandan genocide. General Dallaire, as well as 454 other peacekeepers, chose to stay behind after the UN and the rest of the world abandoned Rwanda. Under Romeo’s command they helped save 32,000 Rwandans, who would have otherwise been murdered. Dallaire is commended for his courage to stand alone and bear witness to what the rest of the world didn’t want to see in his fight against indifference. Original Mission In 1993, Dallaire received his commission as the Force Commander of UNAMIR.
UNAMIR’s aim was to assist in upholding the Arusha Accords, a set of five protocols signed in Arusha, Tanzania on August 4, 1993, by the government of Rwanda and the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The UN attempted to negotiate with Hutu forces and President Juvenal Habyarimana and the RPF commander, Paul Kagame, who is the Rwandan president today. When Dallaire arrived in Rwanda, his mandate was to supervise the implementation of the treaty during a transitional period in which Tutsis were supposed to be given positions of power within the Hutu government.
There were early signs that something was amiss when a French aircraft landed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, loaded with ammunition and weapons for the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR – FAR was the Hutu army under Habyarimana’s control) on January 22 1994. Through an informant, Dallaire learned that these weapons were to be used for an attack on Tutsis after the Belgians would have been forced to withdraw by violence orchestrated by the Interahamwe. Despite his sufficient evidence in his telegram to the UN, Dallaire was not permitted to seize the weapons as this was deemed to be an action beyond his UN mandate.
The Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army told Dallaire that since the munitions were ordered before the treaty, the UN was not allowed to detain the shipment. He also displayed paperwork showing that the weapons had been sent by Belgium, Israel, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Egypt. In addition to the arms deliveries, troops of the government began checking identity cards which identified individuals as Hutus or Tutsis. This would later allow Hutu militias to identify their victims with accuracy. Genocide Preparations The genocide was very well organised.
When it began, the Rwandan militia numbered 30,000 – one militia member for every ten families. It was organised nationwide and consisted of members in nearly every neighbourhood. Members received AK-47 assault rifles by completing requisition forms and grenades without any paperwork. Machetes were also a common weapon among the militia. 581,000 machetes were imported in 1993 for Tutsi killing use because they were cheaper than guns. Genocide was discussed openly at cabinet meetings. On a local level, genocide planners included Burgomasters, mayors and members of the police force.
Identity cards were used to distinguish between Tutsis and Hutus, however, skin colour was used as a general physical trait used in ‘‘ethnic’’ identification. Light-coloured Rwandans were generally Tutsi while dark-skinned Rwandans were generally Hutu. Militia groups such as the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi were responsible for much of the violence. Without these killing groups, the genocide would not have been nearly as effective and gruesome. Genocide On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and the Hutu president of Burundi was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali, killing everyone on board.
Responsibility for the attack was put on both Tutsis and Hutus. In January 2012, a French investigation confirmed that the missile fire which brought down the Rwandan president’s plane came from a military camp and not Tutsi rebels. Many people believe that the death of these two Hutu presidents served as a Catalyst to the genocide. On the first day of the genocide the Rwandan Armed Forces killed all political figures opposed to the genocide including moderate Tutsis. This included Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, who Dallaire had provided security for.
The RAF killed ten of the soldiers who were Belgian and released the Ghanaian ones. The Rwandan military and Hutu militia groups systematically set out to murder all the Tutsis they could reach, regardless of age or sex as well as moderate Hutus. They incited Hutu civilians to participate in the killings or be shot in turn, using radio broadcasts to tell them to kill their Tutsi neighbours. Most nations evacuated their nationals from Kigali and abandoned their embassies in the initial stages of the violence.
Following the withdrawal of Belgian forces from Rwanda, whom Dallaire considered his best-trained and best-equipped, Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Pakistani, Canadian, Ghanaian, Tunisian, and Bangladeshi soldiers in urban areas and focused on providing areas of “safe control” in and around Kigali. Most of Dallaire’s efforts were to defend specific areas where he knew Tutsis to be hiding. Dallaire’s staff — including the U. N. ‘s unarmed observers — often relied on its U. N. credentials to save Tutsis, heading off Interahamwe attacks even while being outnumbered and outgunned.
Dallaire’s actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 32,000 persons of different races. Dallaire gave the major force contributors different evaluations for their work. In his book, he gave the Tunisian and Ghanaian contingents high praise for their valiant and competent work. Ghana lost three peacekeepers. On the other hand, he criticized the Bangladeshi contingent for being poorly trained and poorly equipped. He was especially critical of the Bangladeshi contingent’s leadership because of their incompetence and lack of loyalty to the mission and UN chain of command.