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Lessons for Nigerian political leaders and armed opposition groups (i.e. Boko Haram insurgents) from the Rwandan Genocide of April 1994

By Emeka Umeagbalasi on 15/04/2014

Views: 3,151

As this month (April 2014) marks the 20th tragic anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide of April 1994, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety resolves to revisit what has become known globally as “one of the darkest events in recent world”. This international public statement is also in honour of late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana; the late courageous prime minister of the then Rwandan transitional government.

The following account by Amnesty International summarises the modern age butchery in Rwanda under reference: “Hundreds of thousands of women were slaughtered in a genocidal onslaught against the Tutsi ethnic group by soldiers and allied Hutu militia between April and July 1994. The victims included pregnant women, nuns, young girls and old women (vulnerable class). For nearly 12 weeks, women, men and children were murdered without mercy: most because they were Tutsi, but many others because they supported human rights or opposition political parties. The majority of those who escaped to neighbouring countries were women and their children. More than 300,000 Tutsis fled to save their lives.

“As the Rwandese Patriotic Front took control of the country, at least a million Hutu refugees left in fear of reprisals. Conditions in the refugee’s camps are atrocious: in one camp in Zaire, up to 80,000 people died within weeks in a cholera epidemic. Violence against women in the camps is rife. Those who wish to return to Rwanda are threatened, attacked, sometimes killed by armed Hutu gangs and former government soldiers. Some refugees have braved the journey back, but many women who have returned and found their husbands dead, found themselves homeless, landless and destitute.” (Source: AI’s Join Our Campaign pamphlet). The above is the summary of the genocidal events during and after the genocide in Republic of Rwanda in 1994.

Historical Backgrounds of Genocide & Other Mass Killings In Rwanda & Burundi: Republics of Rwanda and Burundi are twin countries with triplet tribes. The two countries were colonized by Germany from 1890 to 1916 and Belgium from 1916 to 1962. They are populated by three tribes: Hutu (84%), Tutsi (14%) and Twa (1%) with a combined pre genocide population of approximately 14 million people. While Hutus are predominantly herdsmen and largely illiterates, the Tutsis are mostly farmers and largely educated with strong influence in the countries’ armed forces. The differences between Hutus and Tutsis are three-folds: ethnic hatred promoted by their colonial masters, grazing land and farmland destruction conflicts and political domination including overbearing influence in the armed forces.

Before the genocide under reference, there have a series of mass killings in the two countries, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of their nationals and hundreds of thousands of injuries. One of the earliest mass killings took place in 1959, followed by those of 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1988 and 1993. Most of the killings were perpetrated against the Tutsi tribe and encouraged and funded by the Hutu controlled central governments in Kigali (Rwanda) and Bujumbura (Burundi). Before the genocide of April 1994 in Rwanda, there were two mass killings in Burundi in October and November 1993.

Circumstances that Led to the Genocide: Following the mass killings targeted at the Tutsi populations in Rwanda and Burundi in 1967, 1972, 1973 and 1988, there was mass exodus of the Tutsi populations to the Republic of Uganda. Some who settled in the Democratic Republic of Congo decades ago are called “Banyamulenges”. There was also an ethnic massacre targeted at the educated Hutus in Burundi in 1972. The then Tutsi controlled central government of President Micombero was accused of masterminding it. The Tutsi refugees in Uganda later became willing tools in the hands of various rebel groups fighting to overthrow the then governments in Uganda. One of such rebel groups is the National Resistance Army (NRA) of present President of Uganda, Lt. General Yuweri Museveni. The Museveni’s NRA fought and sought to overthrow the then dictatorial regimes of late Milton Obote and late “Field Marshal” Idi Amin Dada in the 70s. His rebel group fought until 1986 when he emerged from bush warfare and dethroned the military regime of Generals Tito and Basilio Okello.

Prior to General Museveni’s successful coup d’ etat in 1986, his NRA (National Resistance Army) had recruited 13,000 Tutsi refugees into its combatant fold and out of its 40,000 strong rebel force, Tutsis accounted for 13,000 or 34%. This made Tutsis to rise steadily in the NRA’s command cadre, to the extent that Major General Fred Rwigema (a Tutsi) was made Uganda’s chief of army staff and Brigadier Paul Kagame (another Tutsi and current president of Rwanda) became the country’s army chief of Intelligence. Major General Rwegema was sacked in 1989 over suspicion of overbearing Tutsi influence in the Ugandan army.

In a bid to reward his Tutsi fellow combatants in the NRA, President Yoweri Museveni assisted the duo of Rwigema and Kagame in forming the military wing of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which governs Rwanda presently. Other financial and technical supports came from USA, which allowed the formation of the political wing of RPF in the country in 1988. Burundi government then under Major Jean Pierre Boyoya (a Tutsi) also supported the RPF rebels tactically and financially.

The Tutsi’s Rwandan Patriotic Front, having been formed in late 80s, declared a total war against the then Kigali central government, led by President Juvenal Habyarimana (a Hutu) in October 1990. The neighbouring Burundi then was also under the Hutu led central government of democratically elected President Melchior Ndadaye, who got assassinated in 1993 in a bloody military revolt led by former military head of State, Major Pierre Jean Buyoya. The killings that followed President Ndadaye’s gruesome murder became widespread and led to beastly burning of schoolgirls at a petrol station in the city of Kibimba.

To find permanent solutions to these mass killings and political instabilities in the two twin countries, the Arusha Peace Accords of August 1993 were arranged for Hutu and Tutsi political combatants in the two countries by the leaders of the Great Lakes Region including former President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. Arusha is a city in Tanzania. The Arusha Accords included ceasefire, power sharing, creation of transitional government, unification of armed forces, etc.

After months of extensive deliberations and consultations, the Arusha Accords were signed by the representatives of the two warring tribes from the twin countries (Rwanda and Burundi) including two Hutu Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi: Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira (who succeeded late Melchior Ndadaye in Burundi in 1993) as well as the leaders of Tutsi rebels in the two countries. The Accords were signed on April 6, 1994 in Arusha, Tanzania. Moments after signing the history Accords, a Falcon 50 plane carrying the two Hutu presidents (Habyarimana of Rwanda and Nkaryamira of Burundi) alongside others on board was hit by suspected missiles near Kigali, capital of Rwanda.

 The plane burst, killing all on board. Swift accusing fingers were pointed at the leadership of the RPF as the mastermind. Before the plane crash and signing of the Arusha Accords, a good number of RPF rebel soldiers were already stationed in Kigali to be absolved into the proposed unified armed forces of Rwanda. They were entrapped and formed part of those killed at the beginning of the three months genocide. The presidential plane crash under reference marked the beginning of the Rwandan genocide of April 6 to July 21, 1994.

This is Part One of this article. Emeka Umeagbalasi, whose photo appears alondside this piece, is Intersociety Board Chairman. He cane be reached via +234(0)8180103912, +234(0)8033601078 or by e-mail via;

Source News Express

Posted 15/04/2014 3:46:09 PM





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