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Apr-15-2019 13:40printcomments

25th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide

A power vacuum was created in Rwanda when the President's plane was shot down. A catalyst for genocide.

Nyamata Memorial site
Nyamata Memorial site, the Rwandan Genocide

(SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.) - April 7, 2019, marked the 25th anniversary of what we now know as the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

It was just one episode in the 20th century Hutu-Tutsi conflict in that part of the world, from the slaughter of 80,000 to 200,000 Hutus by the Tutsi army in Burundi in 1972, to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide of more than 800,000 to 1 million Rwandans — both Tutsis and Hutus — in just 100 days.

In 2004, my wife and I visited Rwanda primarily to visit the mountain gorillas in Volcanoe National Park. We also visited the Kigali Memorial Centre (the so-called Genocide Museum). It was a sobering experience. The Museum is set up much like the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

There is video footage of Rwandans being murdered, oral testimony of witnesses and piles of victims' skulls and bones. Outside the museum, a number of concrete vaults hold the bodies of the genocide victims.

As bodies are recovered, they are placed in caskets. When a vault is full of caskets, a concrete cover is lowered over the vault and sealed. The banner over the entrance to the Museum states, "Never Again."

Kagame’s government has manipulated public sympathy by promoting a highly politicized ideology of the 1994 genocide. Anyone who challenges the "official story" is branded a "genocide negativist," a "genocide revisionist," or "killers of remembrance" by the Kagame regime.

The antagonism between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi is not a tribal conflict or really an ethnic conflict. Hutus and Tutsis have the same language, the same religion, and the same culture.

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 conflict leading up to the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda was a political power between the Hutu-led coalition government of Juvénal Habyarimana supported by France and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) backed Tutsi forces backed financially and militarily by the United States.

The Hutu-Tutsi rivalry was used deliberately in the pursuit of U.S. strategic and geopolitical objectives by establishing a U.S. sphere of influence in Central Africa, a region historically dominated by France and Belgium.

What was at stake? The region's vast geostrategic mineral wealth, i.e., cobalt, oil, natural gas, copper, uranium, tin, coltan, cassiterite, gold, and diamonds,

In April 1994, the plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down, creating a power vacuum in Rwanda. This was the catalyst for the genocide. It is still uncertain who was responsible for downing the plane although many blamed Paul Kagame’s RPF.

According to In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front by Judi Rever, the RPF incited Hutus to commit massacres against Tutsi civilians. In some cases, she writes, the RPF even actively killed Tutsi villagers in staged attacks that were blamed on Hutu mobs.

By July 1994, the Kagame-led RPF completed its coup d’etat and consolidated its power in Rwanda. Kagame has became president-for-life, crushing opposition and dissent to retain his power.

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