Actually I was contemplating on writing about Taliban. Unfortunately the scope is too wide, covering its history, ideology, treatment of women, etc. After reading through 25 pages of information on wikipedia, I'm not entirely sure where to begin.
While reading through some Taliban articles on the TIME magazine last night, I came across the word genocide and the idea of writing about Rwanda came to my mind.
There were a lot of genocides in history; most of us know about Adolf Hitler, the man who tried to wipe the Jews off this planet. By the way a study reveals that some Singaporean thought that Adolf Hitler was a fictional character.
German soldiers tormenting a Jew
Had he not pull the trigger that ended his life, he would've been the savior of modern Palestine. But let's not dip ourselves into the topic of Israel and Palestine today. For it has always been, and will always be a controversial issue. This issue can no longer be resolved simply by listening to both sides of the story. It has evolved and reached an unprecedented level of complication.
But most of us are unaware of other genocides occurring elsewhere. The 1994 Rwanda, for example, showcased the brutal decapitation of 800,000 innocent lives, mostly Tutsi and some moderate Hutu civilian, whilst the world stood by and what's worse; the United Nations let the killings went on unabated after 10 Belgian peacekeepers were killed in the early days of the genocide.
4 years later, in 1998, Bill Clinton, then the President of the United States, visited the war-torn country and stated his regret over his negligence, which is now known as the "Clinton Apology". Clinton stated that he believed that if he had sent 5,000 U.S. peacekeepers, more than 500,000 lives could have been saved.
Alright, that was supposed to be the introduction =P I know it's long but.. shit I should've kept it short.
Rwanda is made up of approximately 80% Hutu, and 15% Tutsi. What's the difference between the two? Well, they speak the same Bantu tongues as well as French, and generally practice Christianity, though the Tutsi have generally been noted to be taller.
Many observers would be surprised to learn that the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi has nothing to do with language nor religion
Many believed that German and Belgian colonizers tried to find differences between the Hutu and Tutsi in order to better categorize the natives in their censuses. Now that's the problem with colonizers. The same was done onto us in Malaya during British-colonial time. They segregated the people to prevent them from uniting on the same front, and thus making administration work easier.
Generally, the Hutu-Tutsi strife stems from class warfare, with the Tutsis perceived to have greater wealth and social status (as well as favoring cattle ranching over what is seen as the lower-class farming of the Hutus). The Tutsis were thought to have originally came from Ethiopia, and arrived after the Hutu came from Chad.
For centuries, the Tutsi monarchy had controlled most of the power in Rwanda. The monarchy continued under colonial rule. The Belgian colonizer divided the people and granted the Tutsis government post and better job opportunity. This caused resentment against the Tutsis. By 1950s', the Hutu overthrew the monarchy and took control of the government. They in turn persecuted the Tutsis, especially those previously in power, and many of the most educated fled the country for refuge in Uganda and other areas.
There were many events that happened along the way--Hutus killing Hutus, or both ethnics engaging one another. In 1994, a plane carrying the President of Rwanda, a Hutu, was shot down by an unknown attacker. The political scene of Rwanda, which had hitherto been unimaginably violent, suddenly turned into hell. Both sides accused the other of killing the president. The Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, two militias associated with political parties, used the incident as a stepping stone to trigger the genocide. The Hutu Power group known as the Akazu directed the genocide, which lasted for 100 days, killing 800,000 innocent lives, averaging 8000 lives a day.
The killing was systematically organized by the government. Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and that
"...one cabinet minister said she was personally in favor of getting rid of all Tutsi; without the Tutsi, she told ministers, all of Rwanda's problems would be over."
Former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda
Due to high rates of illiteracy at the time of the genocide, radio was an important way for the government to deliver messages to the public. It was used as a propaganda tool to mobilize Hutus to kill their Tutsi neighbors. People were killed by their best mates, women were raped and killed afterwards. There was this video about a little girl who narrowly escaped death by hiding under her grandmother's corpse.
Paul Kagame, the current President of Rwanda, a Tutsi who lived through the genocide says:
"Fathers were killing their own children because they resembled their wife, who was a Tutsi."
Hutu gangs searched out victims hiding in churches and school edifices. Local officials and government-sponsored radio incited ordinary citizens to kill their neighbors, and those who refused to kill were often murdered on the spot.
"Either you took part in the massacres or you were massacred yourself."
There was also a case where the Tutsis went hiding in a church, believing that the pastor would "seek and protect all children of God". But they were wrong.
Once inside, the pastor contacted the military and the people became target for shooting practice. The pastor was then given incentive for helping in "cleaning up the pests".
There was another case where a Tutsi boy was confronted by his childhood friend of Hutu ethnicity. He was told that if they do not kill him, the military will kill his family instead. So the Tutsi boy was tied up and thrown into the river, all the while witnessed by soldiers from the military. Fortunately he managed to untie the knot and swam to safety.
On April 12, more than 1,500 Tutsis sought refuge in a Catholic church in Nyange, then in Kivumu commune. Local Interahamwe, acting in concert with the authorities, used bulldozers to knock down the church building. The militia used machetes and rifles to kill every person who tried to escape.
The genocide has totally torn the compassion image of religion; when you cannot even trust the church for protection, who will you trust?
After the genocide, a review highlighted adherents of Islam. Always on the fringe in Rwanda, the Muslim community had acted as a unit to save as many Tutsis as they could. In certain places such as Kigali, some Tutsi Christians sought out Muslim homes; in places such as Mabare, Muslims actively searched for Tutsi to protect and save.
As a result of the positive actions of the Muslim community, Rwanda saw a rush of conversions to Islam among Tutsi after 1994. Some did it in order to honour the community which had saved them or their family members; some converted out of religious conviction; some converted because they had to find God somewhere other than in their former religion; and others converted to seek protection from future ethnic purges, as Muslims had not participated in the killings.
Women and girls were raped repeatedly before killed, mutilated and displayed as trophy in public places. Decapitated head were used for target practice. Some foreign armies were also accused of participating in the killing, most notably the French and the Belgian. To sum it all up, Rwanda was turning into an abyss, and that lasted for three grueling months.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) battalion of Tutsi rebels stationed in Kigali, then headed by Paul Kagame, the current President of Rwanda, battled the government forces fiercely. They eventually took control of the government, overthrowing the Hutu regime and ended the genocide on July 1994, 100 days after it began. As a result of their victory, approximately 2 million Hutus; participants in the genocide, and bystanders, with anticipation of Tutsi retaliation, fled from Rwanda to Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and for the most part of Zaire.
After the RPF took power, they established a coalition government made up of both Hutu and Tutsi. The current government prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race or religion.
Under Kagame's rule, death sentence has been abolished, oppositions are given seats in his Cabinet, and Rwanda has since morphed into a stunning new nation. Its economy has grown an average of 6.4% since 2001; last year the World Bank named Rwanda its most improved country; roads, schools, running water and phones are widespread; disease is down; literacy and life expectancy are up; even the mountain gorillas are thriving.
Long Live President Paul.
He, however, is subjected to several accusations--dubbed tyrant by Human Rights Watch(HRW), although they did not deny the efficiency of his government.
"If I'm solving my people's problems, he tells TIME,
"it doesn't matter how much you abuse me."
Well, most of his people aren't complaining, which is a good sign. And that is another problem with western capitalists. Their towering ego and their thoughts for every little issues make them incredibly fastidious; be it human rights problem, or ethnic clash, or break-and-rule system.
They were the ones that spawned the problem in the first place with their ethnic division. Next they granted them independence and watched as the country suffered the worst genocide of the 20th century.
Now that Rwanda has managed to overcome all that problem without seeking help in the process, the colonizers, now losing their entertainment and pride, start to fuss around, capitalizing on issues of small implication.
If I were a Rwandan, I would choose to believe in my president who had shown results, not outsiders, who spent too much time talking and doing nothing. And certainly not the church, the one that displayed the true meaning of betrayal.
Rwanda is a perfect example of how ethnic clash could destroy a nation. Almost 20% of its population were decimated in 1994 alone. Should we not learn from history?