AlterPolitics New Post

The Spark That Incited Rwanda Genocide Finally Comes To Light

by on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm EDT in Africa, Rwanda, World

Though deep seated prejudices had existed for generations between the two major Rwandan ethnic groups (the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority), it appeared at least from the surface in 1993 that the two groups might actually implement a power-sharing government as outlined in the Arusha Accords — the peace agreement signed between the Hutu dominated Rwandan Government and the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The UN instituted the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to oversee the implementation of the new power-sharing government.  Hutu extremists within the government, however, had no plans on allowing such a government to formulate.  They methodically engineered the genocide of the Tutsi population by promoting hate-filled, fear-inducing programming on the two main radio stations (Radio Rwanda and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines).  Listeners were warned of an impending Tutsi attack and were encouraged to take up arms.  In addition, Hutu extremists in the Rwandan government secretly armed two Hutu extremist militias (the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi).  These would be the forces that would carry out the mass murders using mostly machetes.

The much-needed catalyst for the impending genocide against the Tutsi people came in the form of the assassination of Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira (both Hutus).  Their plane was shot down, as it prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda.  The Rwandan government along with the two radio stations immediately pinned the blame on the Tutsi rebels and the bloodbath ensued.

Over the course of approximately 100 days, between 800,000 and 1.2 million Tutsis and Hutu moderates were exterminated in Rwanda.

Responsibility for the assassination of the two leaders has long been in dispute.  The Hutu extremist government — who quickly blamed the Tutsi rebels — denied UNAMIR access to conduct an investigation of the crash.  Roméo Dallaire, force commander of UNAMIR, revealed in his book, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, that he was convinced the Hutu extremists in the Government had orchestrated their leader’s assassination.

And now, some fifteen years after the genocide, the new Mutsinzi Report is released — a “massive new report by a Rwandan investigative commission into the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana”.  Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker reveals this from the report’s findings:

the assassination was a coup d’etat. At the time of his death, Habyarimana was on the brink of implementing the Arusha Accords, a power-sharing peace agreement with the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel army led by Paul Kagame (who is now Rwanda’s president). But the Hutu Power genocidaires wanted to consolidate their power through their campaign of extermination. Habyarimana, then, appeared to have been killed as a traitor to the Hutu Power cause; but his death was blamed on Kagame and the R.P.F. and turned into fuel for the Hutu Power cause.

The new Rwandan report—known, after its lead author, Jean Mutsinzi, as the Mutsinzi Report—lays out this story in remarkably convincing detail. It draws on a number of previous international investigations and on a remarkable collection of more than five hundred interviews that its own investigators conducted with former officers of the Hutu Power regime and other eyewitnesses, who describe the events before, during, and after the assassination with convincing consistency.

The broad findings are not surprising. What makes the Mutsinzi Report most remarkable is the thoroughness and seriousness of the underlying investigation, which covers not only the events leading up to the downing of the plane. It traces the history of earlier investigations into Habyarimana’s assassination and the genocide, and draws on these findings (which have never before been collected and cross-referenced) to build its own. The Mutsinzi commission brought in independent British ballistics experts to establish the trajectory and origins of the missiles that struck the plane; and, in passages of the report that read like pure farce, they traced the mystery of the black box from the cockpit, which kept disappearing and reappearing and ultimately vanished.

So it appears this case is finally closed.  The Hutu extremists assassinated the Rwandan President (a fellow Hutu) as the catalyst for the Tutsi genocide.