10 June 2006

Genocide as Compensation for Loss

The invasion of Rwanda by the Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF; initially based in Uganda) in October 1990 threatened to reverse these Hutu gains. Early RPF military successes led to the convening of the Arusha peace talks beginning in July 1992.

Four factors then led to an extraordinary evocation of the domain of losses. First, very early in the talks, it became clear that the presidential system that had favored Hutu power would be replaced by a parliamentary system combined with a council of ministers. Later in the talks, the strongest advocate of Hutu power, the Coalition pour la Défense de la République (CDR) was to be excluded from any transitional political institutions. At about the same time, it was decided that the number of seats in the new assembly and government ministries would favor the opposition to the Hutu-led government party, the Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRNDD, formerly MRND).

Second, after the massacre of several hundred Tutsi, the RPF renewed its offensive in February 1993, and within two weeks had doubled the amount of territory under its control. Only French intervention prevented the RPF from taking Kigali, the Rwandan capital. A consequence of this success was the agreement to allow 50 percent of the armed command of the RPF to be composed of Tutsi, despite the 10 percent representation of Tutsi in the population at large. Refugees abroad, including of course many Tutsi in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa, were to be allowed back in the country as envisioned by the earlier Dar-es-Salaam declaration on the Rwandan refugee problem.

Third, the assassination on October 30, 1993, of Melchior Ndadaye, the first Hutu president of Burundi by the Tutsi-dominated army began a series of killings of thousands of Hutu in that country. According to Bruce Jones, "The assassination and killings were rich material for the extremists in Rwanda, who used the events to lend credence to their claims that the Tutsi of the RPF were returning to Rwanda to reestablish their historic dominance over the Hutu."

Finally, as in our other two cases [the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide], the presence of refugees grievously accentuated the dimension of loss. The refugees were of two types, both Hutu, but from different locations. First were the Hutu from Burundi who fled the Tutsi-led massacres of 1972 and again in 1993. In 1988, poor harvests led to near starvation in Burundi, leading to an additional refugee influx. The latest of these, however, was to be the most consequential. After the assassination of President Ndadaye of Burundi in 1993, waves of violence spread that led to some 400,000 refugees from Burundi, mostly Hutu, crowding into Rwanda. Many of the génocidaires would be drawn from this group. According to Gérard Prunier, "The psychological impact of the Hutu President's murder and the arrival in Rwanda of hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees spreading tales of terror and massacre at the hands of the Tutsi army of Burundi had enormous negative consequences on the already overcast Rwandese political weather."

The assassination and refugee arrivals solidified the position of the extremist "Hutu-power" advocates. Supporters of a hardline approach suggesting virtually a "final solution" of the Tutsi now secured additional public support. Many of these Burundi Hutu participated in the genocide, even to the point of committing extraordinary torture and atrocity.
SOURCE: The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century, by Manus I. Midlarsky (Cambridge U. Press, 2005), pp. 163-164

Selah. This concludes Genocide Week here at Far Outliers. On to cheerier thoughts but less frequent postings next week.

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