Magazine article Insight on the News

Western Ideals Aren't Found in Killing Field

Magazine article Insight on the News

Western Ideals Aren't Found in Killing Field

Article excerpt

In a tiny central African country that most Americans have never even heard of, people on the wrong side of a tribal divide are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands. The heartfelt cry going up in the United States about Rwanda is: Why are people doing such horrible things? But the wrong question is being asked.

Given the violence prevalent in most parts of the globe and the eruptions of mass slaughter in dozens of countries, the question should be: Why doesn't spontaneous outburst of indiscriminate slaughter, or anything similar, happen in the Western world?

Because if you think people are killing each other indiscriminately in Washington or even Bosnia (which I'm not certain is even part of "the West"), you've never seen Rwanda. Nor adjacent Burundi, another African microstate given to outbursts of mayhem. A country of only 5 million people, with the same Tutsi-Hutu mix as Rwanda, Burundi holds the record for central-African massacres, almost 200,000 people -- more than the population of Little Rock, Ark. -- racked up in a few days of uninhibited slaughter in the early 1970s.

This part of central Africa was once inhabited by the Twa, a Pygmy group, until the invasion of the Hutu, a Bantu people, who massacred the Twa. In the early 16th century, the Tutsi, a people thought to come from Ethiopia, massacred the Hutu -- but with moderation, keeping most of them as serfs. The overall population of the Rwanda-Burundi area remains roughly 10 percent Tutsi and 90 percent Hutu.

During the 19th century, German colonists preserved the overlordship) of the Tutsi as did Belgian colonists during the first half of the 20th. But since independence in the early 1960s, the Tutsi and the Hutu have been battling it out with more massacres -- most of them of a genocidal nature that easily would qualify for a Nuremberg trial if the perpetrators were white.

I single out central Africa only because Rwanda is in the news, but I'm not forgetting that in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Cambodia deaths of this general nature total more than a million; in East Timor (Indonesia) into the hundreds of thousands, and recently in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Colombia, Sri Lanka and in several other places into the tens of thousands. Even in Liberia, a small west African country established for freed American slaves under the auspices of the United States, a three-way civil war has killed 150,000. …

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