by Emeka Umeagbalasi
“The killings have stopped, not because of changing of heart, but because there are few people left to be killed” – (Brig General Paul Kagame (as he then was), leader of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), responding to a Radio France International question as why the genocidal butcheries had stopped in July 1994
I woke up this morning of April 17, 2016 and the Facebook reminded me of my contributing article of 17th of April 2014 (20 Years of Rwandan Genocide). The article comprised of three parts. I also remembered vowing to remember for the rest of my life those who died unnaturally preaching for the repentance of regime atrocities perpetrators particularly on African Continent as well as those victimized by non-regime atrocities perpetrated by malicious and murderous non State actors or armed opposition groups. In Criminology & Security Studies where I measured and graduated with second class upper division, I had the opportunity of being in the know of the sufferings of victims of crime, particularly political crimes perpetrated by malicious State and non-State actors. The scientific study of it in criminology is called “victimology”. It is a branch of criminology that is very dear to me. My concluding post-graduate study (M.Sc.) in Peace & Conflict Studies is also influenced by the above.
According to Chinese perspective or definition of “Conflict”, “conflict is an opportunity to change”; this means that it is neither positive nor negative. For instance, a person who perceives conflict as fighting, disagreement, chaos, destruction, killings, suppression, crises (i.e. Gen Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria), etc; sees conflict negatively and manages same destructively. On the other hand, a person who perceives conflict as a necessary and inevitable dimension of peace, progress, change, development, understanding, resolution, friendship and interaction; sees conflict positively and manages it constructively. In all, conflict is inevitable so long as there are human interactions and relationships; but how it is managed is solely responsible for today’s violent conflicts around the world mostly visible at the intra state levels.
Destructive management of conflict has led to human calamities and tragedies of the long and recent past and reminded us that the 5,000 years of the long past were submerged by 14,500 wars globally with only 300 years of peace. That is to say that, historically, the then world lived 5000 years with 14,500 wars and only 300 years of peace (International Alert). It also reminded us that in recent centuries, the 20th century is the most tragic and destructive in terms of human butcheries and signs are clear that the 21th century will not be different. Apart from the 1st and 2nd World Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945; wars (violent conflicts) fought between 1900-1910 were mostly inter-State wars, while those fought between 1990 and 2000s were intra-state or civil wars. There were also Asian wars of 50s, 60s and 70s as well as super-power proxy wars waged in a number of countries; followed by the cold war (1945-1990) between the US and the defunct Soviet Union (now Russian Federation) and their allies.
Further, between 1945 and the 2000s, a period of over 55 years, 165 wars were fought around the world with 34 wars waged in Africa as at 1994 including wars in the Great Lakes Region. Again, between 1945 and 1985, a period of 40 years, 22 million people died in wars around the world (UNDP) and out of 21 million refugees around the world in the 2000s, 14 million were generated by African bloody conflicts, mainly located on the Continent’s Great Lakes Region. In the 2nd World War alone (1939-1945), 35 million people including 20million civilians or noncombatants and 15 million combatants were killed.
Between 1945 and 2010s, 110 intra-state violent conflicts were waged; killing tens of millions of people; and as at 2015, 64 active intra-state violent conflicts were ongoing involving 591 armed opposition groups; out of which 30 were ongoing in Africa involving 167 armed opposition groups; with Democratic Republic of Congo parading 36 armed opposition groups alone. The humanitarian and environmental consequences of these butcheries are saddening, shocking and controllably tasking. The internal armed conflicts around the world have also as at 2015 generated 60 million refugees and internally displaced persons with Syria, Afghanistan and Burundi as the largest generators; leading to over four million Syrians taking refuge in 107 countries (UNHCR June 2015).
As I write this piece in honour of late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyamana and victims of regime atrocities in Africa, let me sound another informed warning and alarm that signs of Rwandan Genocide are steadily looming in Nigeria; owing to destructive and violent conflict management styles adopted by Gen Muhammadu Buhari and his murderous security chiefs. Apart from over 1,000 state killings in his personal and vicarious name, the Buhari administration is also aiding and abetting a government proxy militia called “Nigerian Fulani Janjaweed”, which had butchered since the inception of the Buhari administration in late May 2015, between 1000 and 1500 unarmed and defenseless citizens mostly of rural Christian farming backgrounds. This is a clear replication of the Janjaweed militia atrocities in Darfur Sudan, fully backed by iron fisted and dictatorial regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, leading to the latter’s indictment and issuance of international arrest warrant, which still haunt him till date.
Remembered alongside late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyamana in Rwanda are leading human rights activists who were butchered in the genocide. They include Charles Shamukiga, Fidele Kanyabugoyi, Ignace Ruhatana, Patrick Gahizi, Rev. Father Chrysologue Mahame, Abbe Augustin Ntagara, Mathieu Uwizeye (activist judge) and Charles Mbabaje (secretary of a human rights outfit: LIPREDHOR). Late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyamana; as a moderate Hutu accepted to serve as a transitional prime minister of the troubled country; following the Arusha Peace Accord of 1993. She was brutally murdered alongside her husband by the presidential guards in the early hours of April 7, 1994. She is not only the pride of African womanhood, who gave up her life and that of her husband and her kids safety so as to save millions of her people; but she also went down in history as one of the earliest, if not the first African woman to become a prime minister.
Genesis of Rwandan Genocide Leading to the Death of Agathe Uwilingiyamana:
Following the presidential plane crash of April 6, 1994 that killed murderous President Juvenal Habyarimana and a number of his top aides, butcheries erupted. Months before the plane crash, strong accusations were leveled against the Hutu controlled central government of President Juvenal Habyarimana to the effect that plans had been successfully hatched by the regime to massacre the Tutsis, moderate Hutus and rights activists in large numbers. To actualize this, mass recruitment of the unemployed Hutu youths was ordered. The killer exercise was reportedly supervised by two Hutu extremist political movements called “the National Republican Movement for Democracy (MRND)” and “the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR)”. Those recruited were later named “the Interahamwe militias”. They were trained by the presidential guards, indoctrinated and brainwashed. Their tribal killing operation code was “operation nettover” or “operation cleanup”. The Tutsis and moderate Hutus were labeled “enemies” and “traitors”, who deserved not to live or be spared alive. The Tutsis were also labeled “cockroaches”, warranting treatment of insecticides (butchering, clubbing, macheting, lynching, shooting, poisoning, strangulation and burning).
The murderous messages of ethnic hatred and campaigns of calumny against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus were widely spread across the country using the State run radio station called “Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines”. The indoctrinated Hutu extremists were firmly directed not to spare any “enemy” or “traitor”, including newly born children. Externally, there were massive supports for the cleansing policies and operations of the then Hutu controlled central government in Kigali, which included arms supplies and technical supports. There were strong accusations that such killer supports came from Egypt and South Africa. France was also accused of providing expertise for the killer presidential guards and the “Interahamwe” militias.
The butchering spree exploded hours after the aviation assassination of then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart, President Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6, 1994. One of the earliest victims of the genocidal killings was the then transitional Prime Minister, Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana. She was 41 years old and became prime minister in July 1993 following a power sharing arrangement brokered in Arusha, Tanzania. A moderate Hutu, she was dragged out of her official home, alongside her husband by the killer presidential guards on April 7, 1994, tortured and killed. Their five children were miraculously hidden and saved by courageous friends and colleagues.
Other prominent victims of the genocidal massacre were Lando Ndasingwa, a Tutsi cabinet minister in the transitional government, who was executed alongside his Canadian wife, their two children and mother; Joseph Kavaruganda, the then president of the Supreme Court and ten peace keepers from Belgium. Key members of the human rights groups were also felled by the genocidal knives and bullets. They included Charles Shamukiga, Fidele Kanyabugoyi, Ignace Ruhatana, Patrick Gahizi, Rev. Father Chrysologue Mahame and Abbe Augustin Ntagara. They were butchered by the rampaging presidential guards. Others like Mathieu Uwizeye (activist judge) and Charles Mbabaje (secretary of a human rights outfit: LIPREDHOR) were executed in the Rwandan cities of Kibundo and Byumba by the advancing rebels of the Rwandese Patriotic Front.
Some Catholic nuns and priests also paid dearly with their lives in the hands of “the Interahamwe” militias and the presidential guards. In turn, scores of defenseless civilians, especially women and children were massacred through homicidal collaboration of some priests and nuns when they sought refuge in churches and missionary school compounds. Barriers were mounted on all roads by the presidential guards and the “Interahamwe” militias so as to prevent the fleeing civilians from getting through. An estimated 20,000 people were executed in Kigali few hours into the genocidal operations. It was a killing by anybody against anybody in sight. Women also killed men as well as fellow women.
Amnesty International account, for instance, quoted one Hutu woman as saying: “I killed three people, three men. I know them, they were my neighbors, I didn’t have any alternative. When I refused initially to kill, the government soldiers banged a gun on my child’s head and she died. She was six weeks old”.
On the other hand, the Rwandese Patriotic Front rebels fiercely matched to Kigali from their main base in Uganda. Some of their colleagues, stationed in Kigali following the failed peace accords, which included a cease fire, got entrapped and endangered. The genocidal killings went down following the successful capture of Kigali by the RPF rebels on July 4, 1994.
This forced mass exodus of the Hutus and their failed central government into the then Zairian city of Goma as well as Burundi and Tanzania. There were 1.5million refugees in Zaire, 500,000 in Tanzania and 270,000 in Burundi. The genocide lasted from 6th April to 21st-23rd July, 1994. The then leader of the RPF rebel, Brig General Paul Kagame told an international news agency that “the killings have stopped not because of changing of heart, but because there are few people left to be killed”.
A new central government was formed in Kigali on July 21, 1994 with the appointment of Mr. Pasteur Bizimugu (a moderate Hutu) as president and Mr. Faustin Twagiramungu (a Tutsi) as prime minister. The leader of the Rwandese Patriotic Front rebel, Brig General Paul Kagame became the vice president and commander-in-chief of the new armed forces. He took over as the president in the year 2000 and remains so till date.
There were also reported cases of post genocide killings and deaths in Rwanda. Cases of genocidal revenge massacres were rife, leading to killing of hundreds of Hutu extremists.
The new RPF government and its sympathizers killed scores of suspected Hutus. The ousted Hutu central government, which escaped with bank funds, computers, vehicles and other luxury items to Tanzania, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and Burundi later regrouped and rearmed. Some of their victims were Tutsi communities living in the DRC, called “Banyamulenges”. They were systematically targeted and killed in large numbers. The ousted Hutu government forces and their “Interahamwe” militias also launched a series of cross border attacks into Rwanda and killed scores of innocent civilians.
In neighboring Burundi, similar massacres were also the order of the day. The then central government of President Sylvestre Ntibantinganya was helpless. The rift between the Tutsi dominated Army of Burundi and the Hutu backed rebel groups turned the country into killing fields leading to massacre of thousands of innocent nationals. The massacres reared their ugly heads after the gruesome assassination of President Cyprien Ntaryamira. The butchery came down after a bloodless coup in 1996 led by the former military head of State, Major Jean Pierre Buyoya. While light weapons were scarcely used in the butcheries, small arms and other dangerous weapons were freely and massively used.
In all, the Rwandan genocide cost an estimated death of between 800,000 and 1 million people and generated over 2.5million refugees and millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Up to 200, 000 more died of post genocide diseases and starvation. In the Amnesty International account, “in one refugee camp in Zaire (DRC) alone, up to 80, 000 people died within weeks in a cholera epidemic”. Over 100,000 were also believed to have been killed in attacks and counter-attacks between the ousted Hutu government and its allied armed persons and the incumbent Tutsi controlled government and its allies since the end of genocide in July 1994. In Burundi, it was estimated that up to 60,000 people were killed between 1994 and 2002. The butcheries and insecurity in the Great Lakes Region of Africa have also led to the development of a new concept, called “return wars”, “proxy wars” or “new wars”.
This month marks 22nd sad anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide with high probability of its replication looming steadily in Nigeria. If 800,000-1 million people could be slaughtered within three months, in a small country like Rwanda with a population of about seven million; generating over 2.5million refugees, what will happen to a large country like Nigeria with estimated 174 million people (25 times larger than Rwanda) if looming politically engineered genocide is to take place? This question is expressly thrown in the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari and his murderous securitization establishments and policy makers. Again, General Paul Kagame said: “the massacre/killings have scaled down/stopped, not because of changing of heart but because there are few people left to be killed”. Gen Buhari Beware!!!
This piece is written to further honour all the victims of regime atrocities in Nigeria particularly over 700 murdered Shiite members in Zaria and over 80 murdered IPOB members in Onitsha, Aba and Igweocha (Port Harcourt) as well as victims of other State killings and non State actor atrocities such as those committed by Boko Haram and murderous Fulani Janjaweed, backed by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
We must collectively say no to grooming, arming, aiding and abetting Nigeria’s newest Janjaweed and Interahamwe butcher-militias in the country by the Government of the day!
Emeka Umeagbalasi is board chairman of International Society for Civil & Liberties & the Rule of Law. He is a recipient of a number of local and international rights and humanitarian awards; he is a graduate of Criminology and Security Studies and holds master’s degree candidate of Peace And Conflict Studies. HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.