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Ethnic Conflict in Rwanda
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda is, by all accounts, the worst war related disaster since the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in World War II. In Rwanda, 800,000 people died in less than one hundred days. As the well wishers of Europe and the United States turned a blind eye to what was happening in Rwanda, thousands of machete-wielding youths turned Rwanda into a mass grave. Although, the United Nations sent its peacekeepers they were few, severely underfunded, and with a mandate limited only to self defense and protection of foreign interests. In short, the peacekeepers could only watch helplessly as the Rwandese butchered each other. By considering Gourevitch’s arguments, this essay analyzes the reasons why the Europe and the United States turned a blind eye to the genocide in Rwanda. It will also outline the strengths and weaknesses of those arguments, and finally put forward arguments that UN officials should have made in order to convince Europe and the United States to intervene in Rwanda. GOUREVITCH’S ARGUMENTS
The economic underdevelopment of Rwanda made the well-wishers of Europe and the United States doubt the Hutu government’s capacity to carry out systematic attacks aimed at exterminating the Tutsi’s. To them Rwanda was a third world country and, as such, it did not have the economic muscle required in the commission of genocide. They compared Rwanda with Germany and stated that the reason why the holocaust happened was because the Germans had advanced weapons. They forgot to accept one fact, it was not the advanced weapons that killed the Jews but rather it was the Germans who killed the Jews. Hitler was able to turn the Germans into weapons. Similarly, Rwanda was a third world country but its government, with the aid of the media, was able to turn the Hutus into weapons and in a span of a hundred days they massacred more than 800,000 people. The reason why Belgium was indifferent to the plight of the Rwandese was because its policies during the colonial period and the early 1990s entrenched ethnic hatred in Rwanda. According to Gourevitch, the Belgians were more racist than the former German Administrators (128). They encouraged the Tutsi minority to dominate the Hutus. They called the Tutsis “Europeans” because they are tall, athletic, and intelligent, while the Hutus were the “Africans” because they are short. In addition, in 1991 Belgian troops stood in silence as Zaire troops massacred the Tutsi and looted their villages. These injustices by the Belgians created tension between the Hutus and the Tutsi’s and it is what led to the genocide. The actions of Belgium barred her from intervening to stop the genocide in Rwanda. There was no political will in France because of its economic interests in Rwanda. The French President, Mitterrand, derived a steady supply of income from the supply of weapons to the Rwandese Hutu government. His son was a major arms dealer in the region. Intervening in Rwanda would therefore jeopardize their economic interests because these interests depended on the cordial relationship between the Rwandese president and the French president. The French president was also heavily involved in narcotics trade this trade with the President’s son rumored as being one of the people managing the trade in Rwanda. The French could therefore not risk its economic interests by intervening in the conflict. Although Belgium had been supporting the Tutsis during colonialism, they supported the Hutus during the genocide because they suspected that the Tutsis received support from the English speaking countries like the US and Great Britain (Gourevitch 90). The French were fearful of the rising influence of Britain and the US in East and Central Africa. To counter this influence, Belgium and France supported the Hutu government by supplying it with weapons, troops, and money. Gourevitch recalls how the French Ambassador to...
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