Zarana Papic on Mon, 12 Jul 1999 04:10:27 +0200

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Syndicate: [Fwd: The presentation on the lessons of the Rwandan genocide]]

-------- Original Message -------- Subject: The presentation on the
lessons of the Rwandan genocide Date: Mon, 31 May 1999 11:25:26 +0100 (BST)
From: Dr Peter Hall To: zpapic@F.BG.AC.YU, HelveticaPHYSICIANS
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS - UK "...from harm and injustice..." To: Ms Z Papic Belgrade
Women's Studies Charter GenevaDear
Ms Papic, Thank you for you note and kind comments at the meeting in the
Hague. I am sorry for the delay - I work only in my spare time on human
rigths and it has taken some time to sent this. I wish you the very best
of luck with your work yours sincerely Peter Hall ===========================================================
My remit is to discuss the lessons from the Rwandan genocide - in 10 minutes.
Only a few weeks ago William Schabas (a senior fellow of the US Institute
for Peace Studies) said on Voice of America that there have been three
real genocides this century. They are the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust
and the Rwandan genocide. Anyone who considers these three inappropriately
restrictive will perhaps acknowledge them to be the worst genocides this
century. I spent two weeks in Rwanda documenting massacres during those
terrible 100 days. Between the beginning of April and the end of July 1994
an estimated 800,000 Tutsis along with politically moderate Hutus were
brutally murdered. More people were killed in Rwanda in 100 days than Britain
AND the whole of the British Empire lost in the four years of WW1 [or the
US lost in four years of Civil War]. But there were two huge differences
- rather than soldiers those killed in Rwanda were all civilians - men
woman and children (one third were children) and those in Rwanda came from
a much smaller population base . I have only heard one person speak with
appropriate emotion about the Rwandan genocide. It was in Nov 1995 at the
5 day conference organised by the Government of Rwanda. I was waiting my
turn to make a presentation, it was well past lunch time, the Prime Minister
had overrun his allotted time and I was thinking about my imminent talk
when I became aware of the anger in the tone of the speaker, a woman survivor
of the genocide. She was describing how she had been at home with her family
when the interahamwe arrived. They first killed her husband outside the
house and then came inside and macheted her and her 5 children. Philip
BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES"] vividly describes the hard work and considerable
force that he had observed was required to cut up a cows hind leg with
a machete. For the next three days, this woman, who had watched her children
receive terrible, fatal injuries lay partially disembowelled amongst their
mutilated bodies whilst the interahamwe and others repeatedly entered the
house to steal goods and out of curiosity. Time and again she pleaded with
them to finish her off yet no one had the humanity to do as she asked.
On the third day she managed to drag herself outside to get some water
and later the RPF arrived and she survived. The first lesson is that we
did it again - despite the Convention on Genocide. The existence of laws
does not prevent crimes - something more proactive is needed to prevent
genocide. The second lesson is that genocide is never spontaneous - in
1995 HRW published a report (1) demonstrating that the murder of civilians
because of their ethnic, religious or racial affiliations are almost always
the result of government manipulation, rather than ancient animosities.
In Rwanda the genocide was organised by Hutu supremacists within the interim
government, the military, the gendarmerie, the civil service and by other
accomplices and was intended to eliminate political opposition. The tendency
of the international community to erroneously label the killings as tribal,
compounded by confused responses on the part of the United Nations, allowed
the impetus of the slaughter to develop a critical momentum that only the
slaughter of every Tutsi and moderate Hutu or the military defeat of the
Rwandese Government Forces could end. The third lesson is that you do not
need sophisticated weapons to commit genocide. The killing was largely
carried out with low technology weapons such as machetes and masus (clubs
with nails sticking out). Philip Gourevitch calculated that "The dead of
Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish dead during
the Holocaust." The fourth lesson is the tremendous power of propaganda
in the hands of a ruthless government which has monopoly control of the
nation's main source of information, the radio, whose listeners were predominantly
people with limited education. The fifth lesson is that the educated and
professional classes not only failed to reject the lethal ideology but
tended to lead from the front. The sixth lesson is that the demonisation
that encourages the perpetrator to 'permit' him/herself to kill neighbours,
relatives and even spouses generates dreadful cruelty, that can be and
often is gratuitous. The seventh lesson is that being active christians
as 90% of Rwandan people ostensibly were does not prevent participation.
The eighth lesson is that the West is partially responsible for the what
happened - from the Belgium's deliberate amplification of the ethnic differences
within the Rwandan people for their own ends in the first half of the century,
through Belgium's tacit support of the massacres of Tutsis in the 1950's
and '60's, to the French moral and military support of the clique that
ultimately led the genocide and later the French 'Operation Turquoise'
which allowed the genocidal regime to escape to Zaire from where they later
continued the genocide in north west Rwanda. In the years leading up to
the genocide World Bank imposed austerity measures and US coffee buyers'
manipulation of coffee prices helped to destroy economic activity, fuel
unemployment and create a situation of generalised famine and social despair
in Rwanda. The ninth lesson is that, if the ample evidence that a genocide
was being planned had been acted upon, the UN could have prevented it -
either before or immediately after it started, or could have ameliorated
at any stage subsequently. Jean-Damascene Bizimana, the then Rwandese government
permanent representative to the UN and coincidentally a member of the UN
Security Council, was, bizarrely, allowed to take part in the Security
Council debate on the genocide and to depict the killing as spontaneous
acts. The initial UN response to the genocide was to drastically reduce
it force, and it was not until fully eight weeks later, by which time most
of the genocide had taken place, that Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali
acknowledged in his report to the UN Security Council that the conflict
amounted to genocide. The western leaders had an investment in denying
that genocide was taking place because its recognition would have mandated
action. HRW say that the Americans were interested in saving money, the
Belgians in saving face, and the French in saving their ally. Later, when
the genocidal regime had escaped into bordering countries, colossal amounts
of international aid was channelled into refugee camps controlled by the
very politicians and killer militias who carried out the massacres, allowing
them to regroup and later continue the genocide in north west Rwanda, from
bases in Zaire. The international community were offered the opportunity,
but failed to support initiatives by the UN to separate former genocidaires
from their power base - the genuine refugees. The subsequent invasion of
Zaire by Rwanda, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of those
refugees, is a direct result of that failure - as is the current chaotic
battle for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) involving eight armies
and at least 12 other armed groups The tenth lesson is that the Rwandan
people are not intrinsically any more susceptible to participating in genocide
than any other people. The reason the genocide took place, as with many
disasters, was not due to any one factor but rather the unfortunate conflation
of many factors promoting ethnic conflict, all at the same time. The Rwandan
people were simply the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The penultimate lesson is the incomparable capacity that African people
exhibit to tolerate truly unbearable conditions. The Rwandans, having experienced
one of the cruelest conflicts ever involving perhaps the largest mass participation
in human rights abuse ever to take place (a UNICEF survey found that eighty
percent of the children had witnessed relatives being murdered), are currently
rebuilding their nation. In July 1994 a novice government had inherited
a country with no money, no administration, no infrastructure, 10% of its
population dead and 70% displaced, and who knows how many genocide perpetrators.
The fastest human exodus ever recorded took place April 28th 1994, when
250,000 Hutus crossed the Rusuma Falls bridge into Tanzania - only 3 months
later at the opposite end of Rwanda, a Red Cross official was describing
"a nation on the move" as over a million moved into Zaire ahead of the
victorious Rwandese Patriotic Front soldiers. There the horror of civil
war was replaced by that of Vibrio cholerae let loose in tent cities perched
on volcanic rock that yielded neither water nor a place for effluent disposal.
No one escaped infection and soon 46,000 more were dead. The war ended
with two million living in camps in Zaire, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania,
where the militia and civil administrators that led the genocide maintained
their hold on power by controlling food and aid distribution. Since then
huge numbers of the refugees in Zaire, caught up in the civil war there,
trekked countless miles through jungle in appalling conditions and many
have been killed. Five years on few members of the two ethnic groups, once
so polarised by genocide, relish living cheek by jowl as they are forced
to do, and widespread denial continues despite massive population complicity.
And yet in the face what are truly uniquely formidable adverse circumstances,
not only is there peace in Rwanda but the economy is beginning to gain
strength. The last lesson, penned as it is by the satirist Jonathan Swift
(who wrote Gullivers Travels) in the eighteenth century, is not new. His
observation serves as an epitaph to the 800,000 men women and children
brutally killed in 1994 "falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after;
so that when men come to be undeceived it is too late; the jest is over
and the tale has had its effect " 1. In Playing the Communal Card. HRW
1995 HelveticaYours sincerely,
Dr Peter Hall MBBS, MRCPI, DGM Chair PHR-UK Tel: +44 (1923) 464908 Physicians
for Human Rights UK Fax: +44 (1923) 856329 "...from harm and injustice..."
Physicians for Human Rights - UK exists to channel the humanity, influence
and unique skills of the medical profession into securing worldwide observance
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights