Rwanda's Long Road Back to Humanity, 17 Years on; Up to One Million Lost Their Lives When Rwanda Exploded into Inter-Ethnic Genocide between Hutus and Tutsis in 1994. Almost Two Decades on, a Group of Welsh Volunteers Have Been Surveying the Progress Made in the Former Belgian Colony. Darren Devine Reports

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

Rwanda's Long Road Back to Humanity, 17 Years on; Up to One Million Lost Their Lives When Rwanda Exploded into Inter-Ethnic Genocide between Hutus and Tutsis in 1994. Almost Two Decades on, a Group of Welsh Volunteers Have Been Surveying the Progress Made in the Former Belgian Colony. Darren Devine Reports


Byline: Darren Devine

W HEN the violence that swept through Rwanda like a medieval plague in 1994 reached its most frenzied pitch, a 30,000-strong unofficial Hutu militia swarmed the country looking for Tutsis to maim and murder.

But the violence extended beyond an organised mob - soldiers and police officers encouraged ordinary people to join the orgy of killing.

And in some cases, Hutu civilians were forced by military personnel to murder their Tutsi neighbours.

On other occasions, force wasn't necessary - money, food or even land owned by Tutsi families would be used to bribe people to kill.

Of those who died in the violence, triggered on April 6, 1994, when Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down, most were Tutsis, though 250,000 Hutus also lost their lives.

Habyarimana was Hutu and his death was blamed on the country's current leader Paul Kagame, a Tutsi who was then commanding the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

But 17 years on, a group of Welsh volunteers who recently toured Rwanda insist hope is returning to a place where some of the darkest crimes of the last half of the 20th century were committed.

Among them is Action Aid's Jonathan Tench, from Cardiff, who points to progress on education and the country's tax system to suggest the central African state, though far from problem free, is improving.

Mr Tench, a government relations adviser whose charity has been working to help rebuild the country after the genocide, said: "In 2000, the UK Government gave a pounds 20m grant to Rwanda to help them reform the tax system.

"From 2000 they have quadrupled the amount of money they collect in taxes."

This has meant that from being in a position where 85% of the government's spending came from aid, this is now down to 45%.

Also in 2000, just six in every 10 Rwandan children went to primary school - this is now up to nine.

Mr Tench was joined on the Tory party-organised trip at the end of July by Stephen Crabb, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, and Karen Robson a disability services manager at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

While there, the group held meetings with the British High Commissioner in the country Ben Llewellyn-Jones, who is originally from Newport.

Mr Crabb, as with all those involved in the trip, is keen to stress the strides the country has made, thanks in no small part to the British taxpayer.

Having given the country, where nearly two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line, pounds 53m in 2009-10, we are its largest single donor and the aid has risen to pounds 83m a year until 2015.

And despite concerns that President Kagame has been suppressing opposition in the name of "strong government", Mr Crabb believes it's right funds continue to pour in. …

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Rwanda's Long Road Back to Humanity, 17 Years on; Up to One Million Lost Their Lives When Rwanda Exploded into Inter-Ethnic Genocide between Hutus and Tutsis in 1994. Almost Two Decades on, a Group of Welsh Volunteers Have Been Surveying the Progress Made in the Former Belgian Colony. Darren Devine Reports
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