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The Aftermath: Rwanda in 1995

By Eve Donegan, Sales & Marketing Assistant

Gérard Prunier is off exploring Southern Sudan but fear not, we have excerpted from Africa’s World War to feed your Africa fix while he is gone. Below, is a piece about the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Somehow life went on in Rwanda at the beginning of 1995. Amid the ruins. With the killings and the “disappearances.” With the government of national unity staggering on, hoping to provide a modicum of leadership in this broken society. The Rwandese had coined an expression for what so many people felt: imitima yarakomeretse, “the disease of the wounded hearts.”

The economy was in shambles; of the $598 million in bilateral aid pledged in January at the Rwanda Roundtable Conference in Geneva, only $94.5 million had been disbursed by June. Of that money, $26 million had to be used to pay arrears on the former government’s debt. The perception gap between the international community and what was happening in Rwanda was enormous. The international community talked about national reconciliation and refugee repatriation, but suspicion was pervasive. Gutunga agatoki (showing with the finger) denunciations were commonplace: survivors denouncing killers, actual killers denouncing others to escape punishment, bystanders denouncing innocents to get their land or their house. Women survivors tried to band together to help each other, but even then, some Hutu widows might be refused access to the support groups because of ethnic guilt by association, and Hutu orphans in orphanages would be roughed up by Tutsi kids as “children of interahamwe.” Some transport had restarted and the electricity supply was slowly becoming less erratic. Very few schools had reopened. The January 1995 public debate between Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu and Vice President Paul Kagame had not settled the matter of the violence, which everybody knew about but which the UN remained blind to.

This violence eventually led to the Kibeho massacre of April 1995 and to the unraveling of the national unity government. The process leading to the massacre is worth describing in detail because it offers on a small scale all the characteristics of what was eventually to take place in Zaire eighteen months later: non treatment of the consequences of the genocide, well-meaning but politically blind humanitarianism, Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) resolve to “solve the problem” by force, stunned impotence of the international community in the face of violence, and, finally, a hypocritical denial that anything much had happened.

Gérard Prunier is a widely acclaimed journalist as well as the Director of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. He has published over 120 articles and five books, including The Rwanda Crisis and Darfur: A 21st Century Genocide. His most recent book, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophefocuses on Congo, the Rwandan genocide, and events that led to the death of some four million people. Living in Ethiopia allows Prunier a unique view of the politics and current events of Central and Eastern Africa. Be sure to check back on Tuesdays to read more Notes From Africa.

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