As usual, I listened to this radio program of travelling last night and the guest on that program talked about Rwanda.
Rwanda is a small country in Africa. Look for it in a world map, you’ll have a hard time of finding it. Look for it in a map of just Africa, it’s still quite hard to spot this small piece of land. It’s right below Uganda, on the right of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), and on the left of Tanzania. And in this small country, a calamity of great horror took place in a short duration of 100 days.
The 100 Days of Slaughter – first by the extremist Hutu to Tutsi and moderate Hutu, then towards the ends of that 100 days, by both Hutu and Tutsi to each other – In just a short 100 days, it’s estimated that about 800,000 Rwandans were killed.
800,000 lives in 100 days.
That is 8,000 everyday; 333 every hour; 5 every minute…
One every 12 seconds.
Just look at your watch and see that hand ticks for 12 times. A life is gone.
The ironic thing is Hutu and Tutsi share a common culture and language. They are divided into two groups when an elite group took shape and formed ‘Tutsi", which in the language refers to people with many cattle, and the masses became to be known as Hutu. Colonial administrations, first German, then Belgian, took this convenient classification and believed that Tutsi were more capable in taking government jobs. Tutsi themselves also believe that they’re more superior and had the right to rule. Hutu was suppressed.
And suppression lead to hatred.
On 6 April 1994, the moderate Hutu president was killed as his plane was shot down. Hutu extremists were believed to have done this. On the very same night, the slaughter began.
The assassination of the president was planned, so was the killing of 10 Belgian soldiers on the next day. With the death of 10 soldiers, Belgium decided to withdraw their peacekeeping forces and all other Western countries involved in peacekeeping followed suit.
Rwanda was left by herself flooded with blood.
The interim government led by the Hutu extremists made use of the radio and kept broadcasting to the people messages like Tutsi are cockroaches and must be eliminated. The long bedded hatred among the suppressed Hutu against the wealthier Tutsi was aroused. With incentives like food, materials, and even cash, plus threats, killing spread like a plague. People were burnt to death. Children were smashed against the wall. Men were put to death by bullets or machetes. Women were raped then put to death. A large number of the Tutsi rape survivors were later tested HIV positive. Even the church was not a safe place. Two nuns and one priest were found guilty in international tribunal for their involvement in the genocide. In 1994, 60 percent of Rwandans were Catholic but many of them converted to Islam as they felt the Church failed them.
But who cared about the Rwandans back in that April in 1994? And who cares about them now?
The film, Sometimes in April, says it best through a Rwandan militia, “we have no oil, no dams, there is nothing in Rwanda for you."
Then take a look at what’s going on in Iraq. In 1994, U.S. didn’t send a man to Rwanda where there is no oil. How many American soldiers have been sent to Iraq? And now Bush is planning to send another 20,000 soldiers to the oil field.
Four years after the genocide, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general then, apologized to the parliament of Rwanda, “we will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people Rwanda."
The world did not respond to the devastation in Rwanda and thus failed them. Rwandans themselves let hatred and desire of power and wealth override humanities and they failed themselves as humans, too.
Look back in history, how many times have we failed ourselves as humans? Will history be repeated again?
May God have mercy on us.