Rwanda Marks 25 Years Since the Genocide. The Country is Still Grappling With Its Legacy.


It was a paroxysm that inscribed new chapters in the annals of genocide and turned a spotlight on the failure of international peacekeepers to come anywhere close to living up to their name.

Twenty-five years ago, on April 7, 1994, the dominant Hutus of Rwanda turned with well-planned violence on the Tutsi minority whom they held to be traitors. One hundred days later, when the killing finally stopped, the death toll stood at as many as one million, mostly Tutsis but also including some moderate Hutus who had opposed the bloodletting.

[For more stories about the experiences and costs of war, sign up for the weekly At War newsletter.]

The scale of the fatalities was shocking, but more was to come as the torrent of killings washed into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, igniting years of strife in Africa’s Great Lakes region. And, along this bloodstained way, sexual violence became woven into the horrors of war. Women suffered untold rapes and gang rapes, accelerating the spread of AIDS. The offspring of these assaults were stigmatized as “children of the killers.”

In the same year in which Nelson Mandela was installed as South Africa’s first black president — the very emblem of a continent’s hope and triumph over adversity — Africa was also in the public eye for cataclysmic anarchy and violence.

But Africa had no monopoly on blame.

The United States, scarred by the killing and humiliation of its soldiers in Somalia during the Battle of Mogadishu a few months earlier, had no appetite to intervene. President Bill Clinton, who was in office as the killings unfolded half a world away, said years later during a visit to Rwanda, “I don’t think we could have ended the violence, but I think we could have cut it down. And I regret it.”

France, a significant player in French-speaking Africa, has long faced charges that it supported the Hutu leadership before and even during the massacres. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has called French soldiers “actors” in the genocide — a charge denied by the former French prime minister, Édouard Balladur, as “a self-interested lie.” But on Friday, President Emmanuel Macron of France ordered a two-year government study of France’s role in the Rwandan genocide.

As in Cambodia after the atrocities by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, future generations inherited a national nightmare, memorialized in the exhibited skulls of victims stacked in rows.

In 1994, the genocide also ruptured a cease-fire in a civil war that had been raging since 1990 between government forces and insurgents from the Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by the Tutsi Mr. Kagame (who was to become Rwanda’s president).

The Patriotic Front launched a broad attack to take the capital, Kigali, in early July. The killing in Rwanda itself came to a halt, but not the ethnic recriminations. With the land ruined, crops untended and the population diminished by the killing of Tutsis and the subsequent flight of Hutu refugees into Congo, Rwanda entered a new, gradually prospering but ambiguous era. The following years raised questions about post-genocide justice and the price Rwandans paid for well-being and stability under Mr. Kagame.

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here