Posted 2000 Updated: March 13, 2004

Rwandan Genocide:
Crisis in Central Africa

In 1994, during a 100-day period approximately 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered in the Rwandan genocide.

Extract From: BBC
Rwanda: How the genocide happened June 07, 2001

Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Most of the dead were Tutsis - and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.

Even for a country with such a turbulent history as Rwanda, the scale and speed of the slaughter left its people reeling.

The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994.

Within hours, a campaign of violence spread from the capital throughout the country, and did not subside until three months later.

Extract From:
Rwanda 'black box' turns up in UN drawer March 13, 2004

An embarrassed United Nations was struggling to defend itself yesterday following the discovery that a data recorder, that may have come from an aircraft shot down in 1994 while carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, had been hidden in a locked drawer in New York for 10 years.

Called a "first class foul-up" by UN secretary general Kofi Annan, the affair surfaced after questions were put to UN officials earlier last week by reporters from Le Monde newspaper of France. The world body initially responded by ridiculing the suggestion it had the recorder. But, by Thursday, it found itself performing a humiliating about-face.

The chief UN spokesman, Fred Eckhard, confirmed a recorder that could have come from the aircraft had been found in a drawer in the Air Safety Unit of the UN, in a building across the road from its New York headquarters. He further admitted it had apparently never been opened, nor its tapes analysed.

The Assassination of former Rwandan President Habyarimana? March 12, 2004, By Robin Philpot

Extract From:
UN investigates 'loss' of Rwanda black box March 12, 2004

An independent report on the UN role in the genocide, commissioned by Mr Annan, concluded in 1999 that the organisation and its member states lacked the political will and resources to prevent or stop the genocide.

The US, in particular, blunted any efforts to get the security council more deeply involved in the Rwanda crisis in 1994. Mr Annan and then-US president Bill Clinton both apologised to Rwandans in the late 1990s for the failure of will that allowed the genocide to continue unchecked.

According to Le Monde, the six-year investigation led by France's leading anti-terrorism judge concludes that the chief suspect in the fatal attack on the plane is former Tutsi rebel leader turned president, Paul Kagame.

The magistrate has concluded that Mr Kagame gave direct orders to fire two rockets at the plane on April 6 1994, the paper says. Mr Kagame denied yesterday that he or his former rebel force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), were responsible.,3604,1168183,00.html

Timeline: Rwanda - A chronology of key events BBC

Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda


According to many scholars, Hutus first settled in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa between five hundred and one thousand BC. Generally speaking, Hutus were an agricultural people who lived in large family groups.

The Tutsis, also known as Watutsis, were a nomadic people who began arriving in the Great Lakes region from Ethiopia some four hundred years ago. Eventually, the Tutsis settled amongst the Hutus - adopting their language, beliefs and customs.

But economic differences between the groups soon began to form. The Tutsis as cattle-herders were often in a position of economic dominance to the soil-tilling Hutus. That is not to say that all Tutsis were wealthy and all Hutus were poor, but in many areas, like Rwanda, the minority Tutsis ruled the Hutus.

According to some historians, like Congolese Professor George Izangola, the only difference between the two groups were economic, rather than ethnic. In a 1996 interview with Charlayne Hunter Gault, Professor Izangola explained:

"In Rwanda, the Tutsi and the Hutu are the same people. They are all people--large grouping or communities which go from seven regions of Cameroon to Uganda--all the way to South Africa, in the same culture," Izangola said. "People used to be Tutsi or Hutu, depending on the proximity to the king. If you were close to the king, you owned wealth, you owned a lot of cattle, you are a Tutsi. If you are far away from the king, you are a cultivator, you don't own much cattle, you are a Hutu."

Germans and, after World War I, Belgians colonized the region. A 1934 Belgian census arbitrarily classified anyone owning more than 10 cows as a Tutsi. Roman Catholic schools educated Tutsis and largely ignored Hutus. But after the Second World War, as decolonization began to sweep Africa, the Belgians did an abrupt about-face.

Colonial rule, which began in the late 19th Century, did nothing to bring the groups together. The Belgians, who ruled what would later become Rwanda and Burundi, forced Hutus and Tutsis to carry ethnic identity cards. The colonial administrators further exacerbated divisions by only allowing Tutsis to attain higher education and hold positions of power.

The modern conflict

Following independence in 1962, Ruanda-Urundi split into two countries: Rwanda and Burundi. In Rwanda, the Hutu majority lashed out at the minority Tutsis - killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to neighboring Uganda. In Burundi, the minority Tutsis maintained their control of the military and government through a campaign of violence against the Hutus. Although they lost multi-party elections in 1993, two assassinations and a military coup have allowed the Tutsis to remain in power.

When Yoweri Museveni, a rebel leader of Tutsi descent, seized power in Uganda in 1986, it was largely through the assistance of Rwandan Tutsis. With a power base in Uganda, the Rwandan Tutsis formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front and began attacks against the Hutu-led government. After years of fighting, the Rwandan government launched a genocidal campaign against Tutsis living in Rwanda. According to reports, over 800,000 people were slaughtered over a period of 100 days.

Eventually, the tide turned against the Hutus and the Rwanda Patriotic Front defeated the Rwandan Army, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, mostly to Tanzania and Zaire.

From refugee camps in Zaire, Hutus continued the fighting by launching cross-border raids on Tutsis and moderate Hutus living in Rwanda and Uganda. When Zaire's government, led by President Mobuto, was unable or unwilling to assert control over his eastern frontier, the Tutsi governments of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi backed a rebellion that toppled the state. The rebel leader they supported, Laurent Kabila, renamed Zaire the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the Hutu raids continued, the Tutsi-led states encouraged a second rebellion against Kabila.
With Tutsi rebels continuing to fight in the former Zaire and Hutus waging guerilla battles in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, the ethnic strife that sparked the slaughters in Rwanda continue to infect the region.

The main problem is a problem of power. In Rwanda, you had a majority in power. You have these divisions called Tutsi, Hutu, and in Rwanda, you had the Hutu in power, and the minority Tutsi excluded. In Burundi, it was the other way around. You had the minority Tutsis in power, and the majority excluded. And this is--this is the problem we have to deal with, that power, really virtually since independence has been in the hands of the minority, supported by the army. And that is really basically the problem we are dealing with.

The solution will be a reconciliation. We'll have--we will have to negotiate a system under which both the majority and the minority feel reasonably happy.

The biggest obstacle at present is that those who are in power, the minority--the minority is in power--they are like one riding on the back of a tiger. And they really want almost a water-tight assurance before they get off the back of the tiger because they feel if they get off the back of the tiger it will eat them.

The problems we are now handling in Africa, some of the mess we're trying to clean up in the continent we have inherited, the mess of the borders we have inherited.

The colonial powers drew the borders

Yes. The colonial powers and some none colonial powers in Africa have supported regimes which are very corrupt. I think now they should stop backing these corrupt regimes and let Africans in their own way try and establish regimes which can care about people. Some of the governments of the West, including the United States, has really been very bad on our continent. They have used the Cold War and all sorts of things to back up a bunch of corrupted leaders on our continent. I think they should stop now and let the people of Africa sort out their own, their own future.

Crisis in Central Africa

by Ted Grant
London, November 1997

The recent threat of the main G7 imperialist powers to intervene in Zaire "in order to protect refugees" highlights the growing crisis in central Africa.

It was pure hypocrisy. The "protection of refugees" was simply a cover to hide the real intentions: to maintain imperialism's grip on the rich natural resources of the region. However, Western military intervention has been dealt a serious blow by the successes of the Zairean opposition forces in defeating the Rwandan Hutu militias and allowing the mass return of refugees to Rwanda. The pretext for sending imperialist troops to the region has been removed - temporarily.

The bulk of the problems facing the peoples of Central Africa, particularly in Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi, originated through the policy of the former colonial power, Belgium imperialism, which deliberately played off the Tutsis against the Hutus, and granted the Tutsi minority the top administrative posts. Previously, various nationalities lived together and intermarried. It was a classic case of divide and rule, leading to the present devastating conflict. However, Belgian support for the powerful Tutsi minority waned in the 1950s when the Rwandan National Union pressed for independence. The Belgian government set up the Party of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Bahutu, sparking communal strife. In 1959 there was a war in which the Hutus drove out the Tutsis, and Rwanda declared a Hutu republic in 1962. A parallel situation developed in Burundi where the Hutus were suppressed. The Tutsis in Burundi attacked Rwanda in 1963. This resulted in 250,000 refugees, mostly Tutsi, living in Uganda, Zaire and Burundi.

A major part of the refugee problem in eastern Zaire came about when France intervened in Rwanda in 1990 and 1993 to prop up the Hutu government of Juvenal Habyarimana, and finally in 1994 to create so-called "safe havens". Then, the mainly-Tutsi opposition Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded Rwanda and routed government troops and its allied Interahamwe militias, which had engaged in genocide and the murder of more than 500,000 Tutsis.

The success of the opposition forces forced the Interahamwe to flee. This, in turn, resulted in the domination of the army and the militias over the one million refugees, who were forced to flee to Zaire. The Interahamwe dominated the camps and even the food rationing supplied by the international aid agencies. They launched attacks into Rwanda and prevented the return of refugees on pain of death. The Interahamwe's subsequent defeat by the Patriotic Front, freed the refugees to return to Rwanda.

In the 1950s the Belgian imperialists, through the United Nations, moved against independence leader Patrice Lumumba, who was betrayed and murdered by troops under the command of Mobutu - trained and educated by the Belgian regime. Mobutu came to power, backed by imperialism. His authoritarian regime bled the people dry, and Mobutu turned himself into a billionaire.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The opposition Patriotic Front wants to establish a more democratic regime in Zaire and has seized control of the eastern part of the country, with the support of the Tutsis, who have lived there for 200 years. The Mobutu regime had been trying to discriminate against them as "foreigners".

What motivates the imperialists, especially French imperialism, is the fear that the Mobutu regime, which is on its last legs, may collapse and open the road to possible revolutionary developments in Zaire, or even precipitate the break up of the country. This is not new. Apart from its intervention in Zaire in the 1960s, using its Moroccan surrogates, France intervened to safeguard Mobutu in 1977 and 1978. They did the same thing in Rwanda to protect the government during the first half of the 1990s.

The Patriotic Front has out manoeuvred the imperialists by attacking the refugee camps and forcing the Interahamwe to flee to the bush, so opening the way for the hundreds of thousands of refugees to return. However, this has not totally defused plans by the imperialists to intervene. France and Canada are still pushing hard for a full scale intervention. "Now is not the time to pause and reflect. We still have to have very direct action," stated Canadian Foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy. The United States and Britain, however, are having cold feet. Overseas minister Baroness Chalker, described the French plan as "daft".

Any foreign intervention would now meet with hostility and even military opposition. This was made clear by both Rwanda and Laurent Kabila, leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire. The Canadian advance force had difficulty getting out of Rwanda's capital, Kigali due to the opposition of the government.

The dis-United Nations has played the same baneful role as always. It represents the interests of the imperialists in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The strategic, economic and political considerations are prime. The very last considerations would be the needs and interests of the peoples involved. Britain and the US have pulled back from military intervention, putting pressure on France to do the same. However, it is not excluded that they may intervene again if civil war breaks out in Zaire - in order to protect the economic interests of world imperialism, particularly the enormous natural resources of this huge area. They will want to prop up the same interests as Mobutu represented.

The United States and the other imperialists have been converted to "democracy" in the ex-colonial areas of the world because they find such regimes much more reliable that the dictators that they supported previously. That is why they wanted to abandon Mobutu if they could, and why they came out for elections in Zaire (which were rigged in any case). They made a ghastly mess in Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and elsewhere in Africa. This is not due to the innate qualities of the Blacks (which was the imperialist's old argument), but the class interests involved. The imperialists interest in the so-called Third World is to bleed these countries economically through adverse terms of trade, where these countries' commodities are sold below their value, while those from the West are sold at high rates. Thus impoverishing these countries and peoples.

Even if "democracy" is established, it will suffer the same fate as all those "democracies" in Africa - all of which were run in effect by one-party states. There is no solution on a capitalist basis. In the long term, on the establishment of a Socialist Federation of Africa, linked to a federation of European socialist states could offer a real way forward. In the immediate period, the Labour movement should argue for the right of self-determination and allow the peoples to decide their own future without outside military intervention from imperialism. This is a principle. Despite all the hypocrisy about humanitarian intervention, what decides the policies of the imperialist powers is the interests of capital. That means that the Labour movement in the West must have a clear idea that the enemy of these countries is the same enemy they face at home - capitalism and imperialism. Only with that understanding can the movement see through the hypocrisy of imperialism and lay the basis for the real emancipation of the peoples of the third world.

Behind refugee crisis is the struggle for control of central Africa

By William Pomeroy

The plight of over a million Rawandan refugees is being used to put a righteous gloss on the call for western military intervention. However, other, less admirable, purposes than the feeding of hungry people are being nourished.

A complex drama has developed in this large strategic region of central Africa with several contending forces involving diverse African ethnic groups that spread across state boundaries as well as rival western imperialist powers that never left the scene despite "independence" and who are now jostling for control of the region's natural resources.

Although bloody warfare between Tutsis and the Hutus which led to the flight of over a million Hutus to Zaire has drawn the most attention, resolution of the problem in those two small countries is not the central principle in the larger drama. That "principle" lies in Zaire, a vast territory with some of the richest mineral deposits in Africa. Zaire, the former Belgian Congo, as is the case with virtually all African countries, is made up of numerous ethnic groups in provinces that have repeatedly threatened to secede. It has been held together by the ruthless dictatorship of General Mobutu Sese Seko, the willing neo-colonial ally, who has literally looted the country to amass colossal personal wealth, while millions of Zairians exist in extreme poverty.

Over time Mobutu, who carried through the CIA plot to assassinate Patrice Lumumba at the time of independence in 1960, shifted his loyalty from Belgian interests to an alliance with those of the U.S. and France, the only colonial power to keep armed forces in its former colonies. French troops have been used to intervene not only in Zaire to put down anti-Mobutu and secessionist revolts, but also in Rwanda and Burundi, both former Belgian colonies.

In the up and down struggles to govern these states, the French have supported the Hutus who are the majority group.

In the recent period Zaire has slid toward chaos with rebel movements growing in the provinces, a situation complicated by the presence of the refugees in Zaire's eastern Kivu province.

In 1994 an extremist Hutu militia called the Interahamwe (those who kill together) rose up against the then-coalition government in Rwanda of Tutsis and moderate Hutus and massacred at least half a million Tutsis. It was the threat of retaliation by the Tutsi-led army that caused the mass flight of Hutus to Zaire. At this point the French army intervened with "Operation Turquoise," enabling the Hutu militia to escape and establish a base in the huge refugee camps in Zaire.

There the refugees established towns and two years elapsed before their plight became front-page news with appeals for emergency international aid, with France taking the initiative on the question.

The reason: the increasing success of a rebellion led by the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADLF) which has won control of most of Kivu province, driving out Mobutu's Zaire army and threatening to move against the Hutu militia in the camps. France faced the loss of its foothold in both Zaire and Rwanda-Burundi, and, unable to intervene unilaterally without risking a major war, called for an international intervention force, to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees.

The ADLF, a coalition of left and conservative groups from Kivu, Kasai and Shaba provinces, is headed by Laurent Desire Kabila, leader of the People's Revolutionary Party which he founded in the mid-1960s. He was a friend of Lumumba and was together with Che Guevara in 1965 when the latter joined with liberation forces in the Congo.

The ADLF is supported by the Tutsi-led armies in Rwanda and Burundi and has the support of Tutsis living in Zaire who number 400,000. Kabila announced that ADLF forces would regard any French troops as the enemy and would open fire should they intervene.

France accused the U.S. and Britain of dragging their feet over sending in an interventionist force of at least 10,000 that would supervise the delivery of aid to the refugees. It was generally recognized that the chief problem in the camps was the Hutu militia that controlled aid shipments and killed anyone seeking to return to Rwanda and Burundi, which have been ready to receive them. The removal of the Hutu militia was obviously essential, but at French insistence the international force declared that it would not be used for that purpose.

As the question of a joint intervention was argued, some influential voices were raised in France assailing the role of the United States. The man who has reportedly masterminded French policy in Africa for the past 40 years, Jacques Foccart, called the fighting in Zaire an undeclared battle for influence between Paris and Washington, and insists that France's real enemy in Africa is the United States.

On Nov. 6 the leading French paper Le Figaro claimed that the U.S. was responsible for the Tutsi (i.e. ADLF) attacks in Zaire, that there were a number of U.S. military advisers in Kigali (the Rwandan capital) and that "there is a Rwandan-Ugandan plot to destabilize Zaire and Washington is behind it."

The intervention issue was settled when ADLF forces attacked and drove out the extremist Hutu militia from the main refugee camp. Freed from intimidation, half a million refugees poured back into Rwanda and Burundi. It was a move that undermined the French strategy, leaving the anti-Mobutu liberation movement in a commanding position in eastern Zaire.

A theory that a U.S. "destabilization" of Zaire is occurring could be credible in view of what is believed to be the impending demise of Mobutu. In that case a link with the forces capable of assuming power in Zaire is important. For Zaire, the crucial question is the nature and substance of that link.

Warfare in Africa since Independence

By Eric Young

Open conflict between parties, nations, or states in Africa since European decolonization.

Since most of Africa gained independence in the 1960s, numerous conflicts have erupted into open warfare. Most of these wars have been internal, effecting no changes in international borders. Yet many have nonetheless had disastrous consequences, displacing communities, exacerbating poverty, and killing hundreds of thousands. Although warfare has existed in Africa for centuries, the scale and deadliness of armed conflicts has increased dramatically in the past several decades.The exact toll is difficult to measure, however, given the indirect casualties caused by famine, disease, and displacement.

Modern wars in Africa fall into roughly three categories. The first type is a product of postcolonial state formation, which in many African countries has failed to forge a common identity or VALUE SYSTEM. Struggles to write a young nation's political rules and gain access to state power and resources have driven some rebel groups to attempt government takeovers, while others have fought for regional autonomy or even independent statehood. An example of the latter was the secession attempt by Eastern Nigeria in 1967, which led to the Biafran war.

In Angola and Mozambique, the rebel groups National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and RENAMO justified their wars against communist-leaning central governments on ideological grounds. In the long-running civil war in Sudan, religious and other cultural differences fuel southern Christians' and animists' struggle for autonomy from the Islamic government in Khartoum. In Burundi, Liberia, and Rwanda, governments and rebel leaders alike have used ethnic identity to mobilize forces against each other. Many observers have noted that ethnic nationalism has become an increasingly common source of conflict in the post-cold war era, while ideology has become relatively less important.

The second type of postcolonial war in Africa arises from competition between states for regional influence and resources. Libyan forces, for example, fought Chad, Sudan, and Tunisia in an effort to access natural gas deposits and expand Libya's influence in the Maghreb. South Africa fought wars and supported insurgents in Angola, Mozambique, and Namibia from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. More recently, Angola has sent its own troops into neighboring countries; one of its chief priorities is to assure control over trade in Angolan diamonds. Nigeria and Uganda have also intervened militarily in regional conflicts. Non-African governments concerned with preserving political influence or access to valuable resources have at times exacerbated internal and cross-border conflicts by supporting one side or the other. Although former colonial powers such as Belgium and France have historically been particularly active on this front, nations ranging from Cuba to China to the United States have also intervened in African territorial conflicts.

The third type of modern African war concerns disputed international borders, most of which were drawn by European colonial powers with little heed to preexisting territorial claims. Some of these conflicts are also over resources for example, Cameroon and Nigeria have fought intermittently for years over a border defining which country has access to valuable petroleum reserves on the Bakassi peninsula. Violent border disputes have also taken place between Algeria and Morocco, Ethiopia and Somalia, Chad and Libya, Burkina Faso and Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, and Morocco and the Western Sahara. Yet internal pressures and the Organization of African Unity's doctrine on the inviolability of colonial boundaries have almost always prevented the redrawing of borders, with the exception of the border created between Ethiopia and the new nation of Eritrea in 1993.

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