A Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts

By Samuel Totten; William S. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13

The Rwanda Genocide

RENÉ LEMARCHAND

Since April 1994 Rwanda has become a synonym for one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. An estimated half a million people, mostly Tutsi, were killed in the course of a carnage that claimed twice as many victims in one month as the Bosnian civil war in two years. To this must be added almost as many deaths caused by military engagements, cholera, dysentery, famine, and sheer human exhaustion.

As much as the appalling scale of the bloodletting, it is the element of planned annihilation that gives the Rwanda killings their genocidal quality. The parallel with the 1972 genocide in Burundi immediately comes to mind (see Chapter 10, "The Burundi Genocide"). Although the threats to the ruling ethnocracies-the Hutu in Rwanda, the Tutsi in Burundi-came from identifiable groups of armed opponents, in the end entire civilian communities became the targets of ethnic cleansing (i.e., large-scale ethnic massacres)-the Hutu in Burundi, the Tutsi in Rwanda. In both states, the enemy was demonized, made the incarnation of evil, and dealt with accordingly; in both instances, the killings were planned and orchestrated from above, and owed little or nothing to a supposedly spontaneous outburst of anger from below.

Where Rwanda differs from Burundi is not just that the "rebels" happen to be Tutsi, but Tutsi refugees, or sons of refugees, who were driven out of the country in the wake of the 1959-1962 Hutu-led revolution. Few would have imagined that 30 years later the sons of the refugee diaspora in Uganda would form the nucleus of a Tutsi-dominated politico-military organization-the Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR)-

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