Sunday, September 25, 2005

Rwanda Remebered

The year is 1994 and unrest is prevailing. In Rwanda a civil war unfolds to mask a genocide, the story will embarrass anyone with a heart. In a country whose resent history still defines the people, a cry is heard and abruptly muted. The West shuts it eyes and turns away leaving the people of Rwanda to fend for themselves. In the 2005 movie Hotel Rwanda, film makers follow a story of a man and his plight for safety. Though some artistic right was invoked the story told was that of Paul Rusesabagina, here we will remember.

The Genocide

Our movie follows Paul Rusesabagina for the most part of the Rwanda genocide of 1994. It starts with a brief introduction to the tension within the country then jumps into the action. Though our movie is told as a story of love and survival of personal sprit it ends before the genocide. The two hours and two minutes of film is not nearly long enough to tell the whole story from beginning to end but it is long enough to teach us to remember and not to close our eyes to that which we do not like to see. The price is too high, an estimated 800,000 people died in this genocide, however some made it out alive. For 1268 refugees of the Des Milles Collines hotel in Kigali, there is Hotel Rwanda.
On April 7, 1994 the people of Rwanda where beginning to fight for their lives. The Hutu mass murdered many people for the mere fact they were Tutsi or assisting Tutsi. With radio play feeding the Interhamwe the illegal militia was formed and would grow to near 30,000 strong at their peak ( The next 100 days would see the end of many lives by the blade of a machete. Some were taken in as slaves and others killed as quickly as anger arose. The goal was to extinguish all Tutsi young and old, babes and degenerates, no one Tutsi was exempt from the finality of death by the Hutu.
The end of the genocide would come before the end of the Tutsis, however, and justice would have it’s turn. By the June 18th evacuation of the Milles Collines the genocide was near an end. The Tutsi rebel forces would annex the capitol Kigali by mid-July and the Hutu government would escape to Zaire. “Although disease and more killings claim additional lives in the refugee camps the genocide is over.” ( html). Rwandans returned to their homes but for our hero there would be no return, he instead stayed in Belgium.
Though none of the Milles Colline refugees fell at the hand of the Hutu their story was not the only one of hope in desperation. There was also a hospital ran by the Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross but there was not enough sites of protection to save everyone (
rusebagina.htm). The most touching and heartbreaking part of the DVD of Hotel Rwanda was not the movie itself but the extras which showed Paul’s return to Rwanda and the sheer desperation in the memorial sites remaining.

UN Involvement

In the case of the Tutsi Genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 the United Nations took many actions to try to facilitate an easy transition of the peace accords the country had negotiated between its two rival parties. The United Nations tried at first to contain the conflict and later to alleviate as much damage from the violence as possible. Regardless of the many actions the United Nations took during the Tutsi genocide it cannot be ignored that the United Nations rarely acted in a way consistent with the needs of Rwanda to prevent one of the largest mass killings to occur in the twentieth century. Though given ample forewarning of the possibility of genocide occurring, and regardless of the obviously apparent need of military support to keep the peace, the United Nations both failed to act early enough and to provide support that could have prevented this tragedy.
After years of negotiations the Rwandan Government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) signed the Arusha Peace Agreement on August 4th, 1993. The Agreement included a role for the United Nations through what was termed the Neutral International Force (NIF). The NIF was to participate in the implementation of the Agreement during the twenty-two month transition period. According to the Arusha Peace Agreement the NIF had a multitude of responsibilities: supervise the protocol of the integration of the armed forces of the two parties, to guarantee the overall security of the country and verify the maintenance of law and order, ensure the security of the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and many others (Carlsson et al 6).
One week after the signing of the Agreement the United Nations received a report from the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. It was at this time that Waly Bacre Ndiaye was in Rwanda from April 8th through April 17th, 1993. Ndiaye determined that massacres, among many other human rights violations were taking place in Rwanda at the time. Because the crimes were primarily against Tutsi or Tutsi supporters, Ndiaye considered whether the term genocide should be applied. At the time Ndiaye determined that there was not enough information to coin the crimes as genocide, but did note the Genocide Convention and went on to make the point that in the cases of intercommunal violence he had been made aware of that “very clearly that the victims of the attacks, Tutsis in the overwhelming majority of cases, have been targeted solely because of their membership of a certain ethnic group and for no other objective reason” (Carlsson et al. 7). In addition to this warning Ndiaye recommended several steps to help prevent a furtherance of the violence he had seen, but his report and recommendations went largely ignored by those in the United Nations who could have made a difference.
In June, 1993, the Security Council established the United Nations Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UNOMUR). UNOMUR’s purpose was to observe the border of Rwanda and Uganda to ensure that military assistance could not be provided across it. Events in Rwanda prompted the UN to withdraw UNOMUR. UNOMUR was officially closed on September 21, 1994 (DPI), after the RPF had taken control of Rwanda. Also, in October 1993 the Security Council established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). It was UNAMIR’s responsibility to help the two Rwanda parties, the Rwandan Government and the RTF, to “implement the agreement, monitor the implementation and support the transitional Government” (“UNAMIR” United Nations). UNAMIR arrived in Rwanda and set up operations on Novermber 1st 1993. The UN solicited troops, but only Belgium and Bangladesh contributed, with a total of 400 troops each; five months later the UN reached its authorized strength of 2,548. Due to many disagreements between the two Rwandan parties the transitional government was never inaugurated.
In April 1994, when the president of Rwanda was killed, a sweep of ethnic and political killings was the result, with government officials and UNAMIR peacekeepers some of the first casualties. Most of the killings, targeting mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were mainly carried out by the presidential guard and the Hutu’s youth militia, among other armed forces. The RPF began to advance again from the north and the east. The UN tried to broker a ceasefire, but was unsuccessful. Once the situation had escalated so severely many members of the UN decided to withdraw their contingents and the Security Council decided to reduce the number of UNAMIR peacekeepers from 2,548 to 270. Though UNAMIR’s strength had been severely reduced the remaining troops were able to protect thousands of Rwandese (“UNAMIR” United Nations). And considering how effective a mere 270 troops turned out to be, it is worth noting much more effective would 2, 548 have been. Or 10,000. Or perhaps even 20,000. With the resources the UN and members of the UN were capable of contributing, it is a sad reflection on the United Nations that one million people had to die, and an entire ethnicity be almost entirely eradicated, before they began to take the Rwanda situation more seriously.
In May 1994 the Security Council imposed an arms embargo against Rwanda, and called for an urgent international intervention, thereby increasing UNAMIR’s strength to 5,500 troops. It did, however, take over six months from this decision (October 1994) for member states to provide the necessary troops. In July 1994 the RPF took control of the country thus “ending the civil war, and established a broad-based government” (“UNAMIR” United Nations). The new government assured UNAMIR it would help facilitate refugee return and begin to work under the 1993 peace accords.
In October 1994 it was determined that out of a populations of almost eight million, “at least half a million had been killed. Some 2 million had fled the country, and as many as 2 million were internally displaced” (“UNAMIR” United Nations). UNAMIR continued in its efforts to maintain stability and the United Nations made a humanitarian appeal and received over $760 million to assist in aid relief and reconstruction in Rwanda. In November 1994 the International Tribunal for Rwanda was established “for the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994” (“UNAMIR” United Nations).
Since this time the Security Council has publicly accepted responsibility, and endured much ridicule for allowing genocide to occur. In 1999 the Security Council called for an independent inquiry into the actions of the United Nations and its Member states during this crisis, the findings of which were made public on December 15, 1999. That report is available in its entirety through the UN website, and was in fact one of the sources used here. In all the UN made grievous errors in judgement, and since have tried to atone and correct for the errors that allowed genocide.

Hutu vs. Tutsi

Hundreds of years ago, the Hutu and the Tutsi lived together in Rwanda. Most were farmers, some raised cattle. The word Tutsi was first used to describe this elite group of people with more wealth and power. The Hutu were the others, the common people. When the Europeans arrived in Rwanda, the terms began to be used more generally. Because the Hutu and the Tutsi usually reproduced within their own group, each group came to have their own common features. The Tutsi tended to be tall, thin, lighter skinned with narrow noses. The Hutu people tend to be shorter, stocky, and dark skinned with wide noses. The different groups had identification cards issued to them indicating which class they belonged to, Hutu or Tutsi.
In the 1930’s the Belgians removed the Hutu from positions of power. Instilling the hatred towards the Tutsi that many Hutu rebels grew up with and thus setting the stage for the events in 1994 Rwanda. In 1946, Rwanda became under United Nations trusteeship and Belgium was to prepare them for independence. In 1952, the United Nations required that the King increase the number of Hutus in the Rwanda administration. Just before that, the Belgians were set to leave Rwanda in 1959 when they began putting the Hutu back into power positions. The Hutu goal was to take over control of Rwanda. This led to violence against the Tutsi where thousands of people died and even more fled the area. For the next 30 years, and some, there were repeated attacks of violence against the Tutsis that could have predicted what was to come in the future. The years that the major killings of Tutsi took place were as follows: 1963, 1973, and 1975, 1990-1993.
The Rwanda Patriotic Front and the Government, in 1993, signed the Arusha Peace Agreement. After the agreement was signed, on April 6, 1994, the plane carrying President Habyarimana and the Hutu President of Burundi was shot down. It remains unclear who was actually responsible for shooting down of the presidents plane but we know that the assassination acted as a signal to begin the mass murders of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and many Hutu as well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Aftermath of Hotel Rawanda

In the aftermath of Hotel Rwanda, we remember the 800,000 innocent men, women, and children that should not have died in the mass killing spree. People were forced out of their homes with nowhere to go and no food or shelter. Innocent people sent out of his or her home, sent out either to be shot or to die from a disease. The movie, Hotel Rwanda it portrays a man by the name of Paul Rusesabagina who was a normal man that housed hundreds of refugees as well as his wife and children. If it were not for this man these people would have died and it would have added to the death toll in Rwanda.
The killings were brought on by people’s ethnic background. They were not combatants of war rather they were men, women, and children. One saw discrimination, segregation, and humanity diminished in the movie and the sad thing is that this is still happening in Africa as well as other part of the world. In addition, the children that had to see his or her parents killed, as well as other family members, was and still is very disturbing for the kids that are now adults. Paul Rusesabagina spoke at Fresno City College on September 20, 2005 about the impact this event made on his and his families life. For his son that show someone killed right in front of him was very traumatizing for this young man and to this day Paul said he still has nightmares about the killings in Rwanda. Poor innocent men, women, and children have to live with what happened in 1994 everyday of their lives. For some this has become easier for them to do but for others like Paul’s son this is a difficult situation to have to face.
The movie was made to show people what was going on in Africa and what is still a problem to this day. We need to be thankful to live in a country where we do not have to worry about having a mass killing spree break out one day and kill hundreds of thousand of people. The people in Africa have to worry about what is going to happen on any given day, whether they are going to live or day. I will leave you with some questions that will get you thinking. Why did the United States wait so long to get involved and why should innocent people have to fear for their lives when they have done nothing wrong?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Works Cited

“A Rwandan Hero: Paul Rusesabagina.” Rwanda Info Exchange. 2005. .

Carlsson, Ingvar, Han Sung Joo, and Rufus M. Kupolati. Report of the Independent Inquiry into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. United Nations. 1999. September 21, 2005.<>
Path: <>; Made Public; Report of the Independent Inquiry.

“Frontline: the Triumph of Evil.” 1995-2005. shows/evil/etc/slaughter.html>.

“Highlights of Rwanda’s Recent History.” The Rwanda Embassy. 1999-2002>.

Hotel Rwanda, Dir. Terry George. Perf. Don Cheadle Djimon Hounsou, Nick Nolte and Joaquin
Phoenix. MGM, 2005

“Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda.” Defending Human Rights
Worldwide. 01 April 2004 #P196_82927>.

“Rwanda: How the Genocide Happened.” 1April 2004>.

“UNAMIR.” United Nations. United Nations. 21 September 2005 <>

“UNOMUR.” Department of Public Information. United Nations. 2003. 21 September 2005 <>