Rwanda 1994

By | June 6, 2022

More than six years after the massacre that cost the lives, in 1994, of hundreds of thousands of moderate Tutsis and Hutus, in Rwanda the situation still seemed highly precarious and at times dangerously incandescent. In fact, no significant steps had been taken in the country towards national reconciliation. Between 1997 and 1998, the creeping war in the western regions between the forces of the Armée patriotique Rwandaise, the army of the government in power since July 1994, and the Hutu armed groups killed thousands.

According to Homosociety, in this difficult internal context, the high level of conflict in the entire Great Lakes region was one of the main obstacles to start the normalization of Rwandan political life, primarily due to the strong involvement of the Rwanda alongside the Congolese rebels in the civil war. erupted in the summer of 1998 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). Invoking legitimate security reasons, namely the need to identify and capture the Hutu Interahamwe militias responsible for the 1994 genocide present on the Congolese territory, the Rwanda did not bother to hide its aspirations to exercise control over the eastern regions of Congo, unleashing rivalries and tensions with other countries involved in the conflict. But it was above all the presence of Rwandan refugees throughout the region (in particular Tanzania, Burundi and Congo) that represented the most dramatic aspect of the story and at the same time a potential factor of conflict and instability, which risked periodically bringing to light the rivalries between Hutu and Tutsi, as had already happened in Burundi between 1996 and 1997. Indeed, among the refugees, the Hutu guerrillas responsible for the genocide were hiding and their presence led to a strong increase in terrorist activity in the countries where the reception centers had been organized. Almost two million people, the vast majority of Hutu ethnicity, abandoned the Rwanda after the massacre and many have lost track: between 1996 and 1997, during the advance towards Kinshasa of the Alliance des forces démocratiques pour the liberation du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL) by L.-D. Kabila, at that time also supported by the government of Rwanda, numerous crimes were committed against the Rwandan Hutus refugees in the refugee camps of Kivu and many tens of thousands of people were missing, often victims of a sort of counter-genocide.

Internally, the Rwandan authorities found themselves having to face three major problems: the urgency of economic recovery, the problem of the reintegration of refugees, voluntary or imposed by the host countries, often the cause of serious problems of immediate assistance, and finally the difficulty of bring those responsible for the genocide to justice. As the country’s first judicial investigations were launched, the UN Security Council established the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in November 1994 with headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. The Tribunal was set up with the task of trying people suspected of genocide or other crimes against humanity committed on Rwandan territory between 1 January and 31 December 1994. In September 1998 the court imposed the first sentence of genocide ever handed down by an international court of justice: the former mayor of Taba, J.-P. Akayesu, was sentenced to life in prison. Within a few days, the former Rwandan prime minister, J. Kambanda, who had pleaded guilty, was also sentenced to life in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity. At the same time, the Rwandan authorities were carrying out a very high number of arrests and intense judicial activity. In April 1998 the decision to sentence to death for genocide 22 people provoked the outrage of the international community and of many humanitarian organizations who expressed their reservations about the defense guarantees granted to the accused. Political life in the country, after the takeover of power by the Front patriotique rwandais (FPR) in 1994, seemed frozen. In December 1994, a provisional Parliament of 70 members was appointed from which the Mouvement républicain national pour la démocratie et le développement (MRNDD) was excluded, as had already happened a few months earlier for the government, due to its links with the massacres. The public activity of the parties was severely limited and in June 1999 the mandate of the transitional government formed in 1994 was extended for a further four years, since, according to the leaders of the FPR, the country did not yet present guarantees such as to allow the normal conduct of electoral consultations.

At the end of 1999, a United Nations report on the Rwandan genocide drew the attention of the international community to those terrible events, denouncing the indifference shown by all the member countries of the United Nations, and in particular by the United States, at that juncture. The report did not spare the criticism of the entire hierarchy of the organization, responsible for having ignored the repeated warnings received about the imminence of the massacre and for having reduced the contingent present in Rwanda (from 2500 men to a few hundred) just as it exploded. violence, only to send back thousands of soldiers to the country when the genocide was already complete. In April 2000 Fr Kagame, a strongman of the regime, became president, the first Tutsi to hold this office since 1962, the year of independence.

Rwanda 1994