By that time Habyarimana, the Hutipresident of Rwanda, was clearly uncomfortable and was desperately looking for stoppage of the armed Tutsi activities.
Friendly neighboring countries Burundi, Tanzania and Congo come to his rescue. Tutsis did not like to fight in the jungles either. They just wanted positions according to their abilities in all spheres of life, peace and cessation of state sponsored (at least supported) animosity to them. Uganda also was agreeable and wanted the long standing armed struggle to end. In 1993 a peace deal was struck which apparently could satisfy both the parties, if properly executed.
Unfortunately there always are interested quarters in every dispute and armed struggle, who benefit from the trouble. Such elements within Hutu leadership did not let the peace treaty come into force. Trouble continued with Tutsi activities of RPF armed struggle gaining momentum. They were threatening toggling the government and again in 1994 another round of tatx's were concerned in Dar-es-Salaam between the regional leaders. Tutsis led by Paul Kagami were hopeful that this time the problem will be solved. To their utter despair thus summit ended without a positive result.
Till then Rwanda did not have its own Airlines. They had only one airplane, a gift from the French President for their President and other VIP movement. Even the pilot was a French. After the failure of the Tanzania meeting Habyarimana, along with 10 of his top negotiators and the President of Burundi, his friend, also a Hutu, were flying back to Kigali.
As luck would have it the plane crashed while landing in the campus of Presidential Palace killing all on board. The fateful date was 6 April 1994. Enquiries followed one another, but yet the real cause of crash has not been unveiled. The debris of the ill-fated plane in pieces are still lying there as the official enquiry is incomplete and the erstwhile Presidential Palace being a museum now visitors can have a view. Pictures are not allowed to be taken. The Palace and the crash site is just adjacent to the Kigali International Airport.
It is said that some Hutu Generals and high ups met the just widowed First Lady and a decision was arrived at on 6 April evening itself that Tutsi cleansing will be carried on with immediate effect assuming that the plane crashed being hit by a missile fired by RPF rebels from the mountains overlooking the airport. Rumors also spread that Paul Kagami himself ordered the missile to be fired being present on the spot.
From 7 April the Genocide started in an unprecedented way and with unbelievable momentum. Hate speeches were broadcast on Radio and was spread in a planned manner. Tutsis, be it a man, woman, child or newborn were killed indiscriminately with machetes. Hutus of all ages and denominations took part. At places Tutsis were made to kill fellow with machetes. Even Hutu wives of Tutsis were not spared.
Renowned Tutsis were looked for; their names announced in different ways and were executed once found. Hutu youth organization Intara Hamoji was deployed as a striking force in the Genocide (something in line with Al Badars and Rajakars during our war of liberation). Massacre of Tutsis and a few progressive Hutus continued for 100 days in which over one million lives have perished. It is close to the rate of killing during our 1971 Genocide in which we lost three million lives in nine months.
United Nations peace keeping forces were there. But different contingents from different countries were taken aback and having no nod from their Government or Authorities did not venture to come out of their barracks. Only our brave boys of Bangladesh Armed Contingent did whatever possible to save innocent population.
They were later landed by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in his memoirs. All big powers kept silence and did nothing to stop the Genocide. French, who could play a vital role and was clearly the guiding force behind the Hutu leadership could not rise to the occasion. The loss of Tutsi lives went unabated. Tutsi strongman Paul Kagami thought enough is enough and pushed his way through to Kigali from the mountains.
Of course he had discreet support from Uganda. RPF forces won battle after battle because they were now desperate for survival of their people and themselves. The war was over in 100 days with a decisive win for Kagami's RPF forces. Paul Kagami became new President and with his strong handed leadership stopped all hostilities between the two sides. Perpetrators were apprehended and peace restored. Demands were made to UN and the International community to deal with the Genocide.
In the beginning the demands were not taken seriously and were tried to be side lined. But persistent endeavor by the Rwandese Government and International Peace loving community finally paid dividends. The killings were recognized as Genocide and International Tribunal was formed to try the leaders of the Genocide. The tribunal sat in Dar-es-Salaam. It has worked for 19 years. 93 perpetrators were tried 64 of whom were handed punishment orders, 10 acquitted, 12 were referred to the Rwandese courts, 2 died during trials and charges against two others were withdrawn. Three were absconding.
This Tribunal did wonders. In Geneva Convention Genocide was not properly defined. The Tribunal gave a proper definition to Genocide which included Mass killing, Crime against humanity, War crimes, Superior responsibility for carrying out Genocide, Rape as a tool of aggression during Genocides. It also has made press related to hate spreading which leads to Genocide also responsible for Genocide. The Tribunal also has fixed it as their responsibility to apprehend absconders.
Since capital punishment is not permissible under Rwandese Constitution none of the leaders of the Genocide could be hanged but most of them are still behind the bars. Recently a few of the perpetrators serving their sentences sought apology in public to the survivors whom they tried to kill. A few survivors agreed to forgive and their cases may be disposed of.
Since the Genocide issue was dealt with severely, with diligence and patience and due justice was achieved the Kagami Government decided to close the issue once for all and is trying its best to go back to the pre-colonial era of one Rwanda. No one talks about being a Hutu or Tutsi in Rwanda anymore. They are progressing hand in hand and Rwanda is an example in Africa of a disciplined Nation progressing rapidly forward.
We had an elaborate visit of the National Genocide Memorial in Kigali which recently observed silver jubilee of the Genocide. Over three lacs of the unnamed victims are buried there in mass graves. You walk through the Rose gardens above the beautifully manicured mass graves and shed a drop of tear for the victims. They show you a short picture depicting the history leading to the Genocide, description by witnesses and survivors and after that you walk through a small museum having exhibits of torture, pictures of the victims, document leading to the massacre.
We stood in silence for some time showing respect to the souls of the victims.
At the same time, I thought, we should still keep on working for achieving the UN and International recognition of the 1971 Genocide on our Nation and achieving an apology from or on behalf of the perpetrators. It is never too late. Long way to go before we sleep in peace.
The writer is a columnist and
Leave Your Comments