Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Is Reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsis Possible?

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Is Reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsis Possible?

Article excerpt

April 1994: Rwanda, a little country in Central Africa, is propelled to the forefront of the international stage. It is the site of the greatest genocide in African history, the genocide of the Rwandans--essentially the Tutsis--who in three months suffered between 500,000 and 800,000 deaths. Hutu militias were principally responsible for the massacres. This explosion of violence began the morning of 7 April 1994, following the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a movement of Tutsi exiles fighting against the authority of Habyarimana since 1 October 1990, was accused of the murder. This assassination occurred in a context of extreme tension between the two principal ethnic groups of the country, the Hutu and the Tutsi, which made the tragedy of the genocide possible. Despite the appalling images appearing on television, the international community did little to stop the horror; the 2,500 UN peacekeepers stationed in the country since 1993 stood by and watched without lifting a finger to stop the massacres.

On 7 April, while the massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were beginning, the RPF took advantage of the chaos to resume the civil war which had been ostensibly halted by the Arusha Peace Agreement signed in August 1993. In its wake, the RPF left thousands of dead Hutu men, women and children. No journalist spoke of this because the RPF prohibited access to the places where the massacres were being committed. In July 1994, the RPF took power in Kigali and intensified the massacre of the Hutus who remained in Rwanda. In a statement made public in December 1995 after his defection, former RPF intelligence chief Sixbert Musangamfura alleged that 312,726 people were murdered in a selective and deliberate fashion between July 1994 and July 1995. (1) A November 1995 statement by ex-Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu corroborated reports of massacres by the RPF above and beyond those reported by the international media, citing "irrefutable proof" that 200,000 people were killed.

When the RPF took power, several million Hutus took refuge in neighboring countries. More than a million of them gathered in camps around the cities of Goma, Bukavu and Uvira in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In October 1996, the RPF invaded THE DRC and destroyed refugee camps. Thousands of Hutus were killed during these attacks; others had to re-enter Rwanda, while still others found refuge in the mountains and forests of the Congo. The RPF and its allies followed this last group all the way to Mbandaka, a town 2,000 kilometers from Bukavu. Approximately 200,000 Hutu refugees were killed in this pursuit. (2) The massacres of the Hutu refugees in the DRC were described by independent and UN committees of inquiry as "acts of genocide." (3)

Since the end of the war in July 1994, reconciliation has become a priority for many Rwandans and some international organizations. Some initiatives to prepare the Hutu and Tutsi populations for reconciliation have been taken, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the creation of the Gacaca tribunals, the removal of ethnic designation from identity cards, the construction of a statement of the case on genocide and the institution of an indemnity fund for victims of the genocide. Until now these initiatives have been concerned only with crimes committed by Hutus and only with Tutsi victims. The crimes committed by the RPF are being largely ignored, and the Hutu victims of the genocide and its aftermath have been nearly forgotten. (4) Faced with this situation, opponents of the Kagame regime, as well as certain experts, think that such initiatives not only fail to contribute to reconciliation, but also create frustrations among Hutus and consequently enlarge the gap that exists between the two ethnic groups. What the Hutu-Tutsi conflict is really about and what initiatives taken for ethnic group reconciliation have really achieved is what we will see in the following pages. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.