“Is it Hutu and Tutsi or Tutu and Hutsi?”
This quote from the book really sums up, in my opinion, the U.S.’s reaction and response to the Rwandan genocide. Hardly anyone one, specifically many of the diplomats and policy advisers (and even the Clinton administration), was was well-informed regarding the events occurring from April 1994 to July 1994. Under Bill Clinton, the U.S. did not condemn the slaughters in Rwanda. Rather, they withdrew all of the UN peacekeepers stationed there: “The Clinton White House agreed that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations needed fixing and insisted that the UN ‘learn to say no’ to chancy or costly missions” (341). From April 7 onward, it was a genocide, with the Hutu controlled army, the Interahamwe, leading the killings, along with other militia and youth groups. It was a genocide people people were specifically pursued due to their ethnicity.
The Radio Mille Collines had a LIST of future victims and their addresses, including Tutsi and moderate Hutus. Some people wanted to neutralize Radio Milles Collines, but it was “too expensive” according to former diplomat Frank Wisner. I think that it is absolutely abhorrent that the U.S. would not interfere with the radio signal because it was “too expensive”. The number given was $8500 for every hour the plane would be flown. The governments in the US collect about $4.1 trillion in a year income and payroll taxes (2017 figure). Could they not sacrifice… a few thousand dollars… that could potentially save thousands of peoples lives? Is money really more important than human lives? A striking quote for me was when a three year old boy was heard saying, “‘Please don’t kill me, I’ll never be Tutsi again.’ But the killers, unblinking, struck him down” (334). Honestly the fact that money was the deciding factor in determining whether or not to aid the hundreds of thousands of people in imminent danger really shows how important non-American lives are to the American government.
Prior to this, there were government-supported killers and 3 major massacres of Tutsi between 1990 and 1993. The UN had been in Rwanda, as there are embassies stationed there, yet no one really thought of the killings as anything more than “tribal violence”. Many people were just ignoring it all, as they did not want it to be “another Somalia with dead U.S. soldiers”. As a way to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again, Richard Clarke created his 16 factors: “In the words of Representative David Obey of Wisconsin, the restrictive checklist tried to satisfy the American desire for ‘zero degree of involvement, and zero degree of risk, and zero degree of pain and confusion’” (342). Bushnell also focused on immediately evacuating Americans before anyone else. This makes sense to me. I understand that the most important people to a nation are its own citizens. Most countries follow that as well. But I thought that aid would follow. The US knew of the “ethnic cleansing” (Joyce Leader)... but they did nothing! When the natural rights of people are being violated, when there are crimes against humanity being committed and that country’s own government is leading it all… isn’t that a sign that other nations need to step in and stop the destruction? If there was foreign presence, it really would have helped. One time, many UN soldiers helped to aid the Tutsis at the Hotel de Milles Collines. There were 10 peacekeepers and 4 military observers that helped to protect several hundred civilians sheltered there for the duration of the crisis. The Hutus were reluctant to carry out the killings if there was foreign presence!! Just think, if there were more UN peacekeepers and troops there, would the genocide have happened to the extent that it did?
An exception to this lack of interference was Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda. When he originally came, Dallaire and Beardsley, one of Dallaire’s colleagues, thought that the government and rebel side had already signed the Arusha agreement, and they were just coming to help Rwanda implement it. The Arusha agreement was supposed to helped the Hutus and Tutsis “coexist in harmony”. That did not happen. He saw the violence, he experienced the plights of the Tutsis firsthand, and he repeatedly asked for help. However, he and his troops were ordered to not interfere. Dallaire proposed an arms raid, but he was shot down. If the arms raid occurred, what could have been the outcome? It would have significantly slowed the rate of the killings. It may not have stopped it all, but it certainly would have helped until more outside help arrived.
In the cities, killing was done with firearms, whereas in the countryside with more unskilled weapons, namely machetes, masu, and other easily obtained items like knives and handlebars from bikes. The easy accessibility of the weapons was for the sole reason to kill as many Tutsi as possible, in as little time as possible. Not only this, but bodies were left in the streets and stacked on top of each other carelessly because “If the killers had taken time to tend to sanitation, it would have slowed their efforts to “sanitize” their country” (334). Not only this, but there was an article posted in the Kangura newspaper called the “Ten Commandments of the Hutu”. There was so much receptiveness for hate. Its reach was everywhere in Rwanda. The hatred for Tutsis was an epidemic, backed by government support and years of simmering animosity. Now, there was an opportunity for it to all boil over.
When all of the UN peacekeepers were pulled out, 2000 Rwandans gathered at Ecole Technique Officielle under the protection of 90 Belgian soldiers. On April 11th, Belgian peacekeepers had to leave to help with the evacuation of European civilians. 2000 Rwandans were then killed by Hutu militiamen.
Dallaire realized that the only way for the genocide to gain attention was through use of the media. He shuttled reporters around Kigali whenever possible. Sometimes, though, this worsened the situation. Some reporters didn’t report everything accurately-- they said it was solely tribal violence, and the hatred was there BEFORE European colonization (which is quite untrue, the Belgian colonizers worsened everything). They also reported on the Tutsis killing Hutus… there were hardly any cases of that during the genocide, and if there were it was most likely in self defense BECAUSE THEY MASSACRED TUTSIS. However, there was still good coverage of it and many people still became more informed than they previously were.
One of the main reasons why the genocide continued, was the lack of the use of the term “genocide”. Christine Shelley danced around using the term genocide to describe what was occurring in Rwanda because that would mean that the U.S. would have to intervene (they didn’t want to) because of the 1948 Council for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. No one was allowed to use it until May 21st, and that was under conditions, only calling it “acts of genocide”. It got to the point where Madeleine Albright (former US Secretary of State and Ambassador to the UN) received a memo saying “‘You should be mostly in a listening mode during this meeting. You can voice general sympathy for the horrific situation in Rwanda, but should not commit the USG to anything’”. Another scary fact is that in the 3 months of the genocide, President Clinton never brought together his policy advisers to talk about the killings. This lack of communication, the lack of actually speaking about the Rwandan genocide and trying to resolve everything contributed IMMENSELY to its outcome: at least 800,000 Tutsis dead.
I just want to end with a quote that really struck me: “‘The most effective way to avoid the recurrence of genocidal tragedy is to ensure that past acts of genocide are never forgotten”.