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Rwanda Genocide

Tag Archives | Rwanda Genocide

Capt. Mbaye Diagne: The UN’s Forgotten Hero during the Rwandan Genocide

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BBC
BBC

BBC

In 1994, a plane carrying Juvenal Habyarimana, then the President of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the President of Burundi was shot down close to the airport in the Rwandan capital Kigali. The assassination and existing ethnic tensions set off a catastrophic chain reaction of events, in which the minority Tutsi people were systematically targeted and murdered by the majority Hutu peoples. In the span of 100 days, an estimated 500,000 - 1,000,000 Tutsi, and Hutu who resisted and opposed the perpetrators, were brutally murdered and a further two millions people were displaced.

Rwanda had already been ravaged by a civil war between Habyarimana’s government, whose policies favored his own ethnic group- the Hutu and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a paramilitary force, comprised mostly of Tutsi refugees in neighboring Uganda.

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Rwanda and Reflection - 20 Years after Genocide

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A French soldier at a Rwandan refugee camp in Gikongoro, Rwanda. John Isaac/UN

“I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God.” – Roméo Dallaire, Shake Hands With The Devil

A French soldier at a Rwandan refugee camp in Gikongoro, Rwanda. John Isaac/UN

In a time when civil strife is becoming ever more common, with examples of sectarianism in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic; it seems pertinent that the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson made an address to participants at a memorial event at the UN Headquarters in New York on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. Eliasson said that, “When people are killed or violated in the name of religion, race or ethnicity, everybody’s humanity is diminished.” To reflect on such atrocities, in which the population of Rwanda was literally decimated, may help contemporary politicians avoid similar catastrophes when religious and cultural groups are being slaughtered.

In 1993 President Habyarimana of Rwanda was forced to sign a power-sharing agreement with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (a Tutsi-led multi-ethnic force that began a coup in 1990), this allowed equal access for both ethnicities to participate in the political process in Rwanda. This could have been the time of redemption for a previously divided state, plagued by inter-ethnic violence for half a century. However, as history tells us this did not happen. On the 6th of April 1994, President Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali and the Hutu extremists, desperate to maintain the status quo, had their fall guy. The horror that was about to take place was led by Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, who shortly after being sworn in called for a genocidal rampage of the formerly ostracized Tutsi minority.

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Rising from Ashes: The Rwandan Genocide and Conflict Resolution through Sports

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Rising from Ashes Foundation
Rising from Ashes Foundation

Rising from Ashes Foundation

It has been twenty years since the genocide that devastated Rwanda. Over 800,000 people lost their lives—for no other reason than belonging to the wrong tribe. The slaughter by the Hutus of the minority Tutsis took place in 1994. The Clinton administration stood by not wanting to admit that genocide was taking place. It was one of our darkest chapters in history. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, special assistant to President Bill Clinton on African affairs at the time, advised him not to become involved. It was a political decision not to call the slaughter of ethnic Rwandans genocide. “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election,” Rice had stated.

Rising from Ashes is an internationally acclaimed documentary, about hope for the future, for a generation of young men who went through the Rwandan genocide–survived and overcame adversity—but lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, and other family members. The conflict was about hatred, killing neighbors and friends, and destroying entire communities. The documentary tells the story about the first Rwandan National Cycling Team– composed of both Hutu and Tutsi riders–making history representing Rwanda internationally, and qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics.

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Rwanda’s Development Drive

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2013.  Photo: Moritz Hager

For many Rwanda is synonymous with genocide. However, since the inter-ethnic conflict has ended, President Paul Kagame’s government is focused on revolutionizing Rwanda’s public image and converting the nation into the economic powerhouse of East Africa.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2013. Photo: Moritz Hager

After coming into office in 2000, Kagame outlined his primary economic objectives: privatize state-owned industries, reduce financial regulation for businesses and transform Rwanda from an agricultural economy to a knowledge-based economy. What is helping to achieve these objectives is the government’s wide-ranging advisory support from institutions such as the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Clinton Foundation and the African Development Bank.

In terms of infrastructure development, Rwanda ranks 96th out of the 144 countries surveyed in the Global Competitive Index. This is due to major transport deficits which impede national and regional connectivity and contribute to the high costs of doing business. In response, the government has instituted the National Transport Sector Policy which provides the implementation framework for transport development. Among the envisaged projects is an ambitious transnational railway line which will link the Rwandan capital, Kigali, with the Kenyan port city of Mombasa. Since the Rwandan section costs an estimated $1.5 billion the railway line will rebate its cost by creating a cheaper and more efficient trade route for Rwanda to export its agricultural products and mineral wealth to international markets. More importantly, the railway line is expected to reduce the cost of importing machinery and construction material - both of which are imperative in the development of Rwanda’s infrastructure.

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Syria’s Escalating Refugee Crisis

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Relief effort for Syrian refugees in the Kawrgosk refugee camp, northern Iraq. Source: IHH

The world has abandoned the Syrian people. This is probably the worst case of world indifference towards an international crisis since the Rwandan Genocide.

Relief effort for Syrian refugees in the Kawrgosk refugee camp, northern Iraq. Source: IHH

Since the Syrian Civil War started, 110,000 people have lost their lives and over 2.5 million have become internally displaced or are camping in squalled refugee camps in neighboring countries. That number is expected to increase to 3 million by the end of the year. The amount of money donated by relief organizations is not even close to the amount needed by these refugees. The world is ignoring the plight of these refugees, half of them being children.

The United States is debating the use of force in Syria which would not make a dent in the overall conflict and will not address the issue of thousands of Syrians fleeing their homes every day. They just reached a deal with Russia to destroy chemical weapons in Syria by 2014. Every world leader is ignoring the fact that the Syrian refugee crisis is a major issue and should be front and center in their discussions. Not only that, ordinary people seem oblivious and indifferent to the plight of the Syrian refugees. Donations towards the various NGOs and UN agencies that work with Syrian refugees in neighboring countries have been weak at best.

How indifferent is the world towards the Syrian refugee crisis? CARE International has only raised $1.86 million for its response to the refugee crisis. Compare that to over $17 million it raised in just three weeks after the 2004 Haitian Earthquake or the $94 million it raised in three weeks after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Mercy Corps has only raised a mere $900,000 in 27 months compared to the 2.5 million it raised in just a few weeks for the Israeli-Hezbollah Conflict in 2006. The United Nations has already officially dubbed this the “biggest displacement crisis of all time.”

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From Rwanda to Mali: France’s Chequered History in Africa

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French armored vehicles patrol a road as they take part in operation Serval to assist Malian troops to push back an islamist rebel advance, North of Bamako, Mali. Arnaud Roine/EPA

Why the French intervention in Mali?

French armored vehicles patrol a road as they take part in operation Serval to assist Malian troops to push back an islamist rebel advance, North of Bamako, Mali. Arnaud Roine/EPA

Last week, French daily Le Monde asked this question of André Bourgeot, specialist on Sub-Saharan Africa with France’s National Centre for Scientific Research. Bourgeot gave two main reasons, the first of which was that without intervention, Islamist troops that had already conquered the north of the country were likely to take over the international airport at Sévaré, blocking access for any international military intervention, and opening the way to take over the capital, Bamako.

The second reason? Because they were asked to. Interim president Dioncounda Traoré appealed to his French counterpart François Hollande to help prevent an Islamist takeover of his country. The French action is conducted within the framework set out in UN Security Council Resolution 2085 of 10 December 2012, on the situation in Mali. A special meeting of the Security Council further supported the action, calling on all member states of the UN to provide support to Mali.

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Is Rwanda an African Success Story or a Tarnished Donor Darling?

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President George W. Bush and President Paul Kagame shake hands following the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to formally open the new United States Embassy in Kigali

More than 18 years after leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) into power in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has become a flashpoint of debate in the country that he has, in many ways, come to singularly personify.

President George W. Bush and President Paul Kagame shake hands following the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to formally open the new United States Embassy in Kigali

Tall, skinny, and professorial in demeanour, Kagame has been called “one of the greatest leaders of our time” by Bill Clinton and a “visionary leader” by Tony Blair, who has also declared himself “a believer in, and supporter of, Paul Kagame.” Yet, despite such high-profile praise, the Rwandan leaders critics present a different story. Opponents say that Rwanda, under President Kagame, has become an authoritarian state where political opponents, journalists and other dissenting voices are subjected to a widespread campaign of harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, repression and even murder. Critics charge this has made Rwanda inhospitable to opposition and an unwelcome environment for dissidents and those willing to challenge the status quo.

Accusations of politically motivated violence have stretched beyond Rwanda’s borders to its diaspora communities in other African countries and Europe. According to The Guardian, Scotland Yard recently warned two exiles “the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life.” Additionally, there have been a number of suspected incidents in African cities ranging from Nairobi and Kampala to Johannesburg, including two high profile attempts to assassinate former Rwandan general, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, in South Africa. Which has been attributed by some to Rwandan intelligence.

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Left Behind: Re-Evaluating American Hegemony

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President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China attend a meeting with business leaders in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Jan. 19, 2011. Samantha Appleton/White House

President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China attend a meeting with business leaders in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Jan. 19, 2011. Samantha Appleton/White House

Over the past decade, amidst appalling civilian casualties in one war of questionable legality and another of dubious wisdom, American foreign policy became the great bogey-man of the political left the world over. For liberal Americans, the bullish behavior of the Bush Administration induced the pretension of Canadian citizenship abroad and a previously unimaginable mainstream audience for leftist favorites Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky at home. Polled Europeans named the United States as the greatest threat to world peace.

Failure to intervene in Darfur only added further evidence to the conclusion that American foreign policy was, as Bill Clinton said in reference to Rwanda, driven by American interest, and American interest alone. Just as American foreign policy seemed excessively unilateral, Europe’s cohesive opposition to the Iraq campaign rendered perceptively possible an alternative world-order. In a decade in which the United States was the lawless school bully and Europe the measured school principal, when principled Continental opposition illuminated self-interested American hubris, America’s critics had the luxury of imagining a rules-based international system characterized by regulations governing everything from torture to pollution.

With this alternative in mind, liberal-leftists were right to leverage a no-holds-barred critique of the ends to which the United States leveraged its hegemonic might.

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Review: Iara Lee’s Cultures of Resistance

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Youtube
Youtube

Youtube

When we think of “resistance,” what mostly comes to mind is guerrilla warfare: Vietnamese closing in on the besieged French at Dien Bien Phu; Angolans ambushing Portuguese troops outside of Luanda; Salvadorans waging a war of attrition against their military oligarchy. But resistance doesn’t always involve roadside bombs or military operations. Sometimes it is sprayed on a Teheran wall, or rapped in a hip-hop song in Gaza. It can be a poem in Medellin, Colombia—arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world—or come from a guitar shaped like an AK-47.

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Enter the Dragon: Will China’s Deal of the Century Save Congo?

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UN Peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Martine Perret/UN

Twenty-four trillion dollars. It is a number that beggars the imagination, almost 40% of the global economy, and it is buried in one of the world’s poorest and most violent countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN Peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Martine Perret/UN

Failed state, rape capital of the world, humanitarian catastrophe…Congo personifies all these but beneath the surface its dark earth holds $24 trillion of copper, cobalt, coltan, the bones and blood of information age manufacturing. For this reason, if for no other, the world cannot ignore Congo. It can’t afford to.

Called Congo’s “deal of the century,” in 2007 China recognized the beleaguered nation’s importance to the global economy with an unprecedented $9 billion resources-for-infrastructure agreement which holds the potential to unlock Congo’s vast mineral wealth and improve the material lives of its seventy-one million people with new roads, rails, hospitals, and universities. Now, five years later, Congo’s eastern frontier remains a lawless battleground with conflict minerals undermining regional stability and the $9 billion question remains: Will Chinese investment be the cornerstone for Congo’s development or a grave marker for dead dreams in the green hills of Africa?

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International Criminal Court: Successes and Failures of the Past and Goals for the Future

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The International Criminal Court in The Hague has roughly 700 employees and a budget over the past decade of several hundred million euros. Source: The Guardian

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has roughly 700 employees and a budget over the past decade of several hundred million euros. Source: The Guardian

In 1998, a groundbreaking idea turned into reality, and 50 years of debate ended as the first International Criminal Court (ICC) was established as a result of the Rome Statute. This judicial body took shape and created the foundation of a permanent court to prosecute persons that committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The idea of an international criminal court came about from many factions. At the end of World War II the Allied Powers responded swiftly after the discovery of crimes committed by the Axis Powers. They therefore created the Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis and the Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT).

The IMT contained the first definition of crimes against humanity, which would later be included in the Rome Statute and fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Specifically in Article 6(c) the definition was as follows: “Crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against civilian populations, before or during the war; persecution on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.”

Shortly after, a similar document was drafted in response to the crimes committed by the Far East Axis powers, namely Japan, labeled the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. These two tribunals laid the groundwork for the prosecution and convictions of soldiers and commanders that committed crimes in World War II. The importance of these tribunals comes in its direct definition of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the initial recognition for the need of a global criminal system.

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A Proposed U.S. Regional Strategy Towards the Horn of Africa

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U.S. soldier training Ugandan soldiers

Paul Williams’ paper has accurately and thoroughly pulled together the webs of conflict in the Horn of Africa. It is not a pretty picture. I would even suggest that the Horn of Africa has been the most conflicted corner of the world since the end of World War II. Other regions have had more death and conflict over briefer periods of time. I don’t know of any region that has had the number and variety of conflicts comparable to those in the Horn. The problem for the United States is what it can do to help mitigate conflict in the region.

U.S. soldier training Ugandan soldiers

Historically, the vast majority of U.S. efforts to resolve or mitigate conflict in the Horn have involved intervention in or attention to individual, discrete disputes, in pursuit of U.S. policy goals prevailing at the time. Through the late 1980s, the Cold War determined U.S. policy in the Horn. Emperor Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia served as the center piece in the region for U.S. economic and military support. Ethiopia was a reliable ally of the United States. When Ethiopia was threatened by Somali irredentism or Eritrean separatism, the United States backed the Haile Selassie government. Even after the left-wing Mengistu Haile Mariam junta seized power in 1974, the United States tried briefly to maintain close economic and military relations with Ethiopia. When it became evident that Ethiopia had slipped into the Soviet camp, the United States switched its support to Somalia, then led by dictator Siad Barre.

Although the United States was not providing military assistance to Somalia when it invaded Ethiopia in 1977, it began military support not long thereafter. It was not until the late 1980s as the Cold War was coming to an end that the United States concluded Siad Barre was no longer a satisfactory ally.

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Can Humanitarian Intervention be Humanitarian?

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A pregnant couple enters a twelve-bed hospital in Port-au-Prince. Sophia Paris/UN

Not since the debate about the Kosovo War of 1999 has there been such widespread discussion of humanitarian intervention, including the semantics of coupling ‘humanitarian’ with the word ‘intervention.’

A pregnant couple enters a twelve-bed hospital in Port-au-Prince. Sophia Paris/UN

At one extreme of this debate about language stands Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia, who is a staunch advocate of displacing the discourse on ‘humanitarian intervention’ by relying on concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ (known as R2P). Evans was, in fact, co-chair of the ICISS that came up a decade ago with the idea of R2P. This approach to intervention was skillfully marketed to the international community, including the United Nations. Arguing the conceptual case for R2P, Evans writes, “[b]y changing the focus from the ‘right’ to ‘responsibility,’ and from ‘intervene’ to ‘protect,’ by making clear that there needed to be at much attention paid to prevention as to reaction and non-coercive measures, and by emphasizing that military coercion—which needed to be mandated by the UN Security Council—was an absolute last resort in civilian protection cases.”

Insisting that the coercive actions in the Ivory Coast and Libya show the benefits of this approach, as contrasted with the supposed failures of the 1990s to take action in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo, Evans feels so vindicated by recent events as to make the following plea: “So let us please lay ‘humanitarian intervention’ language to rest once and for all.” This raises three questions: should we? will we? does it really matter? My answer to the first two is ‘no,’ and to the third, ‘not much.’ My basic problem with the R2P approach is that it downplays the role of geopolitics in the diplomacy of both decisions to intervene and to not intervene. By hiding this fundamental element in the decision process behind a screen of moralizing language talking of R2P rather than humanitarian intervention invites misunderstanding, as well as encourages imperial ambitions.

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Living in an Age of Violence

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Just after the invasion of Iraq, historian Eric Hobsbawm noted there being an unprecedented world situation.

Oslo, Norway shortly after the mass shooting by Anders Behring Breivik. Photo: Dmitry Valberg

The great global empires of the past, Hobsbawm wrote, bear little comparison with the present United States empire. A key novelty of the American imperial project is that all other empires knew that they were not the only ones. Nor did they aim at global domination. However, the demise of the Soviet Union left the United States as the only superpower. The emergence of a ruthless, antagonistic flaunting of US power in the post-Soviet world is hard to understand, he wrote, all the more so since “it fits neither with long-tested imperial policies nor the interests of the US economy.”

Despite this, a public assertion of supremacy by military force was dominant in the policymakers’ thinking in Washington. The question Hobsbawm asked was whether it was likely to succeed. Apart from nationalistic passions witnessed in times of war, there are several myths associated with this industrial-scale killing and destruction. That war is “good for the economy” and “good for population control” are among most often heard.

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