Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Cyangogu, Rwanda

It says something for the change that David Cameron has already wrought in his party that I find myself in Rwanda courtesy of Andrew Mitchell, the Conservatives' international development spokesman, and Lord Ashcroft (who provided the plane). Aid, trade and conflict resolution provide one of the six policy themes on which the Tories are working, and the hardest of Tory hard men now pursue the subject. Mitchell says that the party's 'Victor Meldrew' dislike of international development is to be banished. Rwanda is a good first stop to study the problems because it was probably the greatest disaster of international intervention ever. In 1994 the 'international community' proved its semi-fictional status by willing the end -- an agreement for broadbased transitional government leading to multi-party elections -- but not the means.

The UN force in the capital, Kigali, was constantly denied the men, money and rules of engagement needed to prevent bloodshed.

According to the then Force Commander, Gen. Roméo Dallaire, this actually ensured the ensuing genocide. Extremist Hutu leaders persuaded the people to kill everyone they thought was a Tutsi, and they did so at a faster rate than Hitler killed the Jews -- more than 800,000 people in three months. A speciality was cutting off each limb of a child in front of the parents before killing it and, afterwards, them. The weakness of the UN force also permitted the Tutsi-dominated Rwandese Patriotic Front, under the command of Paul Kagame ('the Napoleon of Africa'), to take advantage of the genocidaires' indiscipline and defeat them, causing an exodus of Hutu refugees who died in their hundreds of thousands from disease. Now Kagame is the President of Rwanda, and wants his country to join the Commonwealth. Despite its lack of historic links, Britain is the biggest aid donor in Rwanda, paying £46 million per year. Only 17 per cent of the national budget comes from domestic revenue, so some of our money is used to teach the Rwandan government how to get more tax out of its own people. This is a skill in which Gordon Brown is an acknowledged world expert.

Genocide victims were selected by identity cards. In a rule inherited from Belgium's unenlightened imperium, Rwanda insisted that everyone's ID card must state whether he was a Tutsi or a Hutu. The Hutu killers herded people into stadiums, churches etc. , separated them according to what their cards said, and then murdered all the Tutsis. I hope the Tory team takes this lesson home as we debate ID cards in Britain. Naturally I am not suggesting that Mr Blair is planning genocide (though it seems to tempt Mr Prescott in relation to toffs), but now that ethnicity is information required by the census, it would be a small step to include it on a card. That way murderous madness eventually lies.

Isay 'madness', but if it were merely mad, it would not be nearly so likely to happen. To its perpetrators, genocide presents itself as a 'solution' -- a 'final' one -- to a 'problem'. A decision is made that one part of the human race is not really human. Thus Tutsis were always described in Hutu Power propaganda as 'cockroaches'. Once the fanatic identifies a race as subhuman, or evil, it seems logical to him to try to exterminate it. As Julian Manyon notes on page 14, the 'martyr's oath' of Hamas, which has just won the elections in Palestine, quotes Muslim scripture: ' The day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews). …

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