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The Captivating history of the African Country Rwanda; its Culture and People Part III


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The story of Rwanda will be incomplete without mentioning other countries involved such as Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When you look at today’s Rwanda it is hard to believe there was a civil war before the genocide in 1994.

Read in part II tales of the captivating history of Rwanda.

When the genocide happened in 1994, the world was amazed at the inhumanity of Hutu against Tutsi but it was because of the long years of indiscrimination against Hutu record in part I of this article and the influence of colonial powers on the Tutsi.

Skyline der Stadt mit Bäumen im Vordergrund gesehen von Gartenanlage des Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, Kigali, Kigali Province, Ruanda, Afrika

The Rwandan genocide (1994)

The President of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the Hutu President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, were shot down just before it landed at Kigali, on April 6, 1994. The plane crashed and both presidents died.

After this happened, militia groups started gathering and killing Tutsi en masse. They also killed political moderates without considering their ethnic backgrounds. The killing spread swiftly from Kigali to the whole country.

From April 6 until the beginning of July almost 1,000,000 people were killed. Hutus who were politically moderate were killed at the hand of militia (Interahamwe).

Local officials called on ordinary citizens to help with the killing of neighboring Tutsis who were called Inyenzi (cockroaches) publicly by the local radio stations inciting fear and hatred.

The sole party MRND belonging to the president was implicated in organizing many facets of the genocide. The radio station, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, aided with the Hutu genocidaires.

They consistently advocated broadcasted hate speech and encouraged violence against the Tutsis. Its broadcast time was the same as Radio Muhabura, a Ugandan radio station that sponsored the RPF and their Ugandan allies.

The Captivating history of the African Country Rwanda; its Culture and People Part III

Paul Kagame and the RPF forces

The RPF continued its civil war against the Rwanda Hutu government when they heard of the genocidal massacres. The leader of the RPF, Paul Kagame, did not direct the RPF Forces from the surrounding countries. They had been in Rwanda for three and a half years battling the Hutu forces and the Interahamwe.

The civil war that happened continued for over two months. The Tutsi-led RPF began to advance the capital. They soon occupied the northern, eastern, and southern parts of Rwanda by June. Thousands of civilians lost their lives in the conflict.

UN member states did not respond to UNAMIR’s request for money and troops. France in Operation Turquoise occupied the remaining part of the country under RPF control. The French Operation prevented mass killings.

It is alleged that the deployment of French troops was done to allow Hutu militias to escape. They also allege that killings continued in French-controlled areas.


Post-Civil War Rwanda

The Captivating history of the African Country Rwanda; its Culture and People Part III
Children were especially susceptible to disease, Zaire, 1994.

In the months between July and August 1994, Kagame’s Tutsi-led RPF troops entered Kigali and shortly after captured the rest of Rwanda.

The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the genocide. Approximately two million Hutu refugees who had participated in the genocide fled to surrounding countries in Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire. They left for fear of Tutsi retribution. This exodus came to be known as the Great Lakes refugee crisis.

In 1994, after the Tutsi RPF took control of the government, Kagame made a government of national unity. A Hutu president, Pasteur Bizimungu, headed it. Kagame became the Minister of Defence and Vice-President, and he was the de facto leader of Rwanda.



The Captivating history of the African Country Rwanda; its Culture and People Part III

After the uprising by the ethnic in October 1997, the Banyamulenge Tutsi people in eastern Zaire began a huge movement of refugees. This brought more than 600,000 people back to Rwanda. This happened in the last two weeks of November.

In December 1996, another 500,000 people returned from Tanzania.

There are some remnants of the defeated army of the former genocidal government and its allies in the civilian militia. They are known as the Interahamwe and soldiers recruited in the refugee camps before 1996.

There are innocent Hutu who remained in the forests of eastern Congo such as the Rutshuru, Masis, and Bukavu, who were misinformed by rebel forces that they would be killed should they return to Rwanda.

Rebels used force to prevent people from returning as they served as a human shield. In the northern part of Rwanda, the Hutu militia members killed three Spanish aid workers, three soldiers, and the wounded on January 18, 1997. Most refugees have returned and tourists are safe now.


Rwanda & Coffee

Coffee made in Rwanda began to gain importance internationally after international taste tests pronounced it as the best in the world. The United State responded with a contribution of 8 million dollars. Rwanda earns revenue from coffee and tea export even though they found it difficult to compete with larger coffee-producing countries.

The major source of revenue in Rwanda is tourism and especially gorilla visitation. Other parks such as Nyungwe Forest and Akagera National Park have become popular on the tourist circuit. The lakeside resorts of Gisenyi and Kibuye are also getting more prosperous.


Kagame became Rwanda’s president

In 2000 when Bizimungu began to criticize the Kagame government, he was removed and Kagame became president. Bizimungu then found an opposition party (the PDR) but the Kagame government banned it.

He was arrested in 2002 for treason and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released by a presidential pardon in 2007. The postwar government placed a high priority on development. They opened water taps in the remote areas; they provided free and compulsory education. The Kagame government promulgated progressive environmental policies.

Their Vision 2020 development policy has the aim of achieving a service-based society by 2020 with a good number of the middle class. There is little corruption in the country.

Hutu Rwandan genocidal leaders were put on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the Rwandan Court system, and through the informal Gacaca program.

Some recent reports state there have been some reprisal killings of survivors who gave evidence at Gacaca. The trials were overseen by the government established National Unity and Reconciliation Commission.

Gacaca is a traditional adjudication mechanism at the Umudugudu village level where members of the community choose some elders to serve as judges. The entire community is present for the case. This system was modified to try lower-level génocidaires, those who had killed or stolen but did not carry out high-level crimes like massacres.


Gacaca – Rwandan Court System

The prisoners dressed in pink stood trial before the members of their community. Judges gave sentences widely varied such as returning to prison, repayment of goods stolen, or the choice of working in the fields of the families of victims.

Gacaca was concluded in June 2012. For many Rwandans, Gacaca was closure and the testimonies of the prisoners helped families locate the victims.

Gacaca often happens once a week in the morning in every village across Rwanda and it is obligatory.

Ethnicity is formally outlawed as a vehicle to promote a culture of healing and unity. Today, one can stand trial for discussion of different ethnic groups.


The Captivating history of the African Country Rwanda; its Culture and People Part III

First and Second Congo Wars

Intending to protect Rwanda against the Hutu Interahamwe forces, who fled to Eastern Zaire, RPF forces invade Zaire in 1996, after talks by Kagame with the US officials earlier the same year.

During the invasion, Rwanda allied with Laurent Kabila, a progressist revolutionary in Eastern Zaire who was a foe of Zaire’s longtime dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko.

In addition to Rwandan forces, Laurent Kabila’s AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) forces were buttressed by Ugandan forces. Kagame had trained them in the late 1980s. they invaded Eastern Zaire from the northeast. This became known as the First Congo War.


Belligerents of the Second Congo War

During the second Congo war, militarized Tutsi elements in the South Kivu area of Zaire also known as Banyamulenge to hide their original Rwanda Tutsi heritage. They allied with the Tutsi RDF forces against Hutu refugees in the North Kivu area. This included the Interahamwe militia.

In the middle of this conflict, Kabila, intending to depose Mobutu, moved his forces to Kinshasa. In 1997, when Mobutu Sese Seko died of prostate cancer, he captured Kinshasa and became president of Zaire.

He then renamed the country Democratic Republic of the Congo. With Kabila’s success in Congo, he was no more interested in any alliance with the Tutsi-RPF Rwandan army or the Ugandan forces.

In August 1998, he ordered the Ugandans and Tutsi-Rwandan army out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Nevertheless, neither Kagame’s Rwandan Tutsi forces nor Museveni’s Ugandan forces intended to leave the Congo. The framework of the Second Congo War was laid.

During the Second Congo War, the Tutsi militia in the Banyamulenge in the Congo province of Kivu wanted to annex themselves to Rwanda. Kagame also wanted this so that he could increase the resources of Rwanda by adding the people from the Kivu region.

Added to the Tutsi population, represented by the Banyamulenge, in Rwanda, this would reinforce his political base and protect the indigenous Tutsis living there. They had suffered massacres from the Interhamwe.


Second Congo War – Kabila’s Forces

During the second war, Uganda and Rwanda tried to take power from the Democratic Republic of Congo from Kabila’s forces and nearly succeeded. However, the DRC, which was a member of the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) organization, President Laurent Kabila called this regional organization to the rescue.

Armies were sent to aid Kabila, especially those of Angola and Zimbabwe. They beat back Kagame’s Rwandan-Tutsi advances and Ugandan forces.

The great conflict between 1998 and 2002 saw Congo divided into three parts. Mai Mai, who are opportunistic militia sprang up. They were supplied by arms dealers from different parts of the world such as the US, Russia, China, and other countries, that profit from small arms trading. More than 5.4 million people died during the conflict as well as many of the animals in the region.

Laurent Kabila was assassinated in DRC in 2001. His son, Joseph Kabila, succeeded him. The political class chose him unanimously because of his role in the army. As the de facto officer in charge of well-trained battalions who defeated Mobutu and fought beside SADC coalition forces.

Joseph was multilingual and spoke English, French, and Swahili, one of the four languages spoken in DRC. He had schooled in Tanzania and Uganda as a young man. He completed his military training in China. More than five years after serving as a transitional government president, Congo freely elected him to be president in 2006 largely based on his support in the Eastern Congo.


The battle for territory between Uganda and Rwanda

The forces of Uganda and Rwanda in Congo began battling each other for territory. The Congolese Mai Mai militias, who were more active in the South and North Kivu provinces, took advantage of the conflict to settle legal scores. They widened the conflict and battled each other, the Ugandan and Rwandan forces and the Congolese forces.

The war ended under Joseph Kabila’s leadership. They signed a ceasefire and the all-inclusive Sun City talks in South Africa convened to decide on a two-transition period before they organized the free and fair elections.

The Rwandan RPF troops left Congo in 2002. They left Congo in disease and malnutrition and this killed thousands monthly.

Rwandan rebels continued to operate in the northeast of Congo and Kivu regions as recently as May 2007.

There are claims that they are remnants of Hutu forces who cannot return to Rwanda. They will face genocide charges yet they are not welcomed in Congo and are on the run from DRC troops.

In the first half-year of 2007, more than 260,000 civilians were displaced. Congolese Mai Mai rebels continue threatening people and wildlife.

Efforts are still being made to disarm militia with the aid of UN troops; the last militias are only being disarmed in 2007. However, some violent conflicts in the northeast regions of Congo between local tribes in the Ituri region were not involved in the Hutu-Tutsi conflict but were later drawn in, continues.


Rwanda today

The country is still undergoing the healing and rebuilding process. They show rapid signs of economic development. There is growing international concern about the decline of human rights in the country.

When it comes to economics, the major markets for Rwandan exports are Belgium, Germany, and China.

An investment and trade agreement worked in April 2007 and Belgium and Rwanda contributed €25–35 million per year to Rwanda.

The cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry with Belgium continues to develop and rebuild agricultural practices in the country. They distributed agricultural tools and seeds to help rebuild the country. Belgium helped to relaunch fisheries in Lake Kivu at a value of US $470,000 in 2001.


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