Monday, 27 November 2006

The French Are OUT!!!

[JK: I am rather certain that the French would have quite a different perspective on this story]

"Business in Kigali city paralysed on Wednesday (22 November 2006) when thousands of infuriated Rwandans singing anti-France slogans and praising President Paul Kagame, staged a peaceful demonstration.

The impromptu demo was a public reaction to Monday’s call by a French magistrate, Jean Louis Bruguierre, for the arrest and trial of Kagame and nine Rwandan top military officers, accusing them of downing the plane that was carrying former Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana.

An estimated 15,000 demonstrators from all corners of the city took to the streets, many carrying placards and banners that described Kagame as a hero, and others condemning the French government over its alleged role in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. Some of the placards read: “France = Arrogance, ‘Stop France and its politicians from our Lovely Country;’ France, Let us mind our business and not you; Les Francais = Interahamwe (French is equivalent to Interahamwe).”

Genocide witnesses at the stadium said the French trained and worked with Interahamwe to plan and execute the killings, which claimed at least one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutu.“In 1992, French troops pitched camp near our home in Shyorongi (on the outskirts of Kigali) and they always mocked Tutsis until April 1994 when they worked with Interahamwe to kill them (Tutsis). I saw it myself,” Epiphany Mukasekuru, who nearly broke down, said in a brief testimony.

The president of Ibuka, an umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors, Francois Xavier Ngarambe, described Bruguierre’s allegations as scandalous and said that Paris should instead try itself together with the ringleaders of the Genocide who stay in France. “Have you ever heard of a serial killer calling for the prosecution of a policeman? They should first try Agathe Kanziga (Habyarimana’s wife), who chaired many meetings that planned the Genocide; Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who raped women and owned a gun while he was a priest here,” said a furious Ngarambe. Kanziga and Munyeshyaka, who a week ago was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Military Tribunal over Genocide crimes, live in France.

In particular, Ngarambe blamed French troops for the butcher of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in the areas that fell within a French-manned buffer zone called Zone Turquoise at the height of the Genocide. The zone, which stretched from Cyangugu in the Southwest to Gisenyi in the northwest of the country, is said to have provided safe passage to Genocidal forces which fled to the DR Congo as they lost power to then RPA forces. Kigali City Mayor, Dr.Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, accused the French of attempting to shift the guilt of their involvement in the 100-day slaughter to Rwandan heroes that stopped the French ‘barbaric actions.’ “We are here to remember barbaric actions of the French. Their hands are stained with the blood of innocent Rwandans and continue to be arrogant. However they will not accomplish their ill-intentions,” said the mayor.

The protesters sang patriotic songs with words that affirm their dedication to unity of Rwandans. “They should leave our defendant alone. Paul Kagame restored humanity, he is our all-time hero,” another witness, one Mukamusana, said. She accused the French military of killing Tutsi families in the former Ruhengeri province, now in the Northern Province. Bruguierre has already issued warrants for the arrest of Chief of General Staff (CGS), General James Kabarebe, Chief of Staff (Land Forces), Lieutenant General Charles Kayonga and Rwanda’s Ambassador to India, Lieutenant General Kayumba Nyamwasa. Others indicted include Joint Five (J5) head, Brigadier General Jack Nziza, Chief of State Protocol, Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Rose Kabuye, MP Colonel (retired) Sam Kanyemera alias Kaka and Major Jacob Tumwine. President Kagame on Wednesday lambasted the French government and Bruguierre, calling the accusations rubbish."

Article courtesy of The NewTimes (Rwanda's Leading Newspaper).

Friday, 17 November 2006

Wednesday night soccer adventures in Europe

JK: Contrary to popular belief, it has not been one continuous wild party since "the wife" departed for Rwanda. In fact, week one sans Mélanie was marked by life spent mostly in solitary confinement, as I worked on some PhD deadlines.

But in an attempt not to completely lose my sense of humanity, I agreed to join a posse on a kamikaze Brussels-Paris-Brussels-in-one-night trip to see France and Greece play a soccer friendly. How is that for footballing dedication? Going all the way to France to see a meaningless game and -- quite predictably -- watch another totally mediocre Hellenic performance.

Still, the experience was fun. I drove down with two Gaulic supporters, my mates Fabrice and Frederic (aka together known as "Fabric"). We met Dénis "the soccer nazi" Trigylidas and two of Fabrice's connections at the stadium.

The Stade de France is a joy to behold; a beautiful stadium with a saucer-like roof. Its only shortcoming is its location, in the heart of "le 93", the notorious banlieu of St-Denis (where some of the worst riots occured last year). On the walk back to our car, I noticed three fresh piles of broken glass -- on our street alone! Fortunately, our, uh, uber-chic white Peugeot was not a target.

Here are some pics from the match.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Melanie: Our Woman in Rwanda!

JK: Well, after our rather text-heavy and earth-shattering, four part educational series on Rwanda, I will spare your eyes and keep this short.

I can confirm that our fair maiden is now safe and sound in the capital, Kigali! She has already started work at the Sustainable Livelihood Unit of UNDP/Rwanda -- and enjoying it. What a great and interesting challenge it will be! Once she is settled, she will post an update on her first few weeks in Kigali, Rwanda.

Click here for the first pics our "Woman in Rwanda" has uploaded. The photo on this post shows children who died during the 1994 genocide.

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Looking for Older Posts on our Blog???

MK & JK: If you are new to our blog, don't forget to check out our previous posts that may not be found on this page. Instead, they are located in the "Archived Posts" section organised by month located on the right hand side of our blog. Relax, pour a glass of chilled pinot grigio, and enjoy our tales!

Monday, 6 November 2006

Rwanda 101 - Part IV (Its Present and Future)

[JK: YES YES YES, your session at the dentist, uh, I mean your history lesson of Rwanda, is over! This is the last installment.]

Rwanda Today

Rwanda today is struggling to heal and rebuild, but showing signs of rapid development, but some Rwandans continue to struggle with the legacy of genocide and war. In 2004, a ceremony was held in Kigali at the Gisozi Memorial (sponsored by the
Aegis Trust
) to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide, attended by many foreign dignitaries, and the country observes a national day of mourning each year on April 7. Rwandan genocidal leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the Rwandan National Court system, and, most recently, through the informal Gacaca village justice program. The current Rwandan government, led by Paul Kagame, has been praised by many for establishing security and promoting reconciliation and economic development, but is also criticised by some for being overly militant and opposed to dissent. The country now plays host to many international travelers and is regarded as a safe place for tourists.With new indepedent radio stations, Rwanda is finally attempting a free press, but some wonder how free the media really is with journalists disappearing and being apprehended whenever articles question the government.

The challenge ahead is to diversify Rwanda’s economic base, to fight poverty, to create a highly skilled and productive workforce that will drive Rwanda towards industrialization and development in the years to come. All these are included in the VISION 2020 as objectives it assigned itself.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Rwanda 101 - Part III (The Genocide)

[JK: just one more "lesson" after this to go! Relief is in sight! ;)]
This lesson expands on Part II (History) by delving deeper into the 1994 Genocide.

The Strategy of Ethnic Division
President Juvenal Habyarimana, nearing the end of two decades in power, was losing popularity among Rwandans when the RPF attacked from Uganda on October 1 1990. At first Habyarimana did not see the rebels as a serious threat, although they stated their intention to remove him as well as to make possible the return of the hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees who had lived in exile for a generation. The President and his close colleagues decided, however, to exaggerate the RPF threat as a way to pull dissident Hutu back to his side and they began portraying Tutsi inside Rwanda as RPF collaborators. For three and a half years, this elite worked to re-define the population of Rwanda into “Rwandans,” meaning those who backed the President, and the “ibyitso” or “accomplices of the enemy,” meaning the Tutsi minority and Hutu opposed to him.

In the campaign to create hatred and fear of the Tutsi, the Habyarimana circle played upon memories of past domination by the minority and on the legacy of the revolution that overthrew their rule and drove many into exile in 1959. Singling out most Tutsi was easy: the law required that all Rwandans be registered according to ethnic group. Residents of the countryside, where most Rwandans lived, generally knew who was Tutsi even without such documentation. In addition, many Tutsi were recognisable from their physical appearance.

But shattering bonds between Hutu and Tutsi was not easy. For centuries they had shared a single language, a common history, the same ideas and cultural practices. They lived next to one another, attended the same schools and churches, worked in the same offices, and drank in the same bars. A considerable number of Rwandans were of mixed parentage, the offspring of Hutu-Tutsi marriages. In addition, to make ethnic identity the predominant issue, Habyarimana and his supporters had to erase — or at least reduce — distinctions within the ranks of the Hutu themselves, especially those between people of the northwest and of other regions, those between adherents of different political factions, and those between the rich and the poor.

From the start, those in power were prepared to use physical attacks as well as verbal abuse to achieve their ends. They directed massacres of hundreds of Tutsi in mid-October 1990 and in 5 other episodes before the 1994 Genocide. In some incidents, Habyarimana’s supporters killed Hutu opponents — their principal political challengers — as well as Tutsi, their declared ideological target.

Habyarimana was obliged to end his party’s monopoly of power in 1991 and rival parties sprouted quickly to contend for popular support. Several of them created youth wings ready to fight to defend partisan interests. By early 1992, Habyarimana had begun providing military training to the youth of his party, who were thus transformed into the militia known as the Interahamwe ("Those Who Stand Together" or "Those Who Attack Together"). Massacres of Tutsi and other crimes by the Interahamwe went unpunished, as did some attacks by other groups, thus fostering a sense that violence for political ends was “normal”.

Preparations for Slaughter

Through attacks, virulent propaganda, and persistent political manoeuvering, Habyarimana and his group signficantly widened divisions between Hutu and Tutsi by the end of 1992. During 1993, a dramatic military advance by the RPF and a peace settlement favourable to them — which also stipulated that officials, including the President, could be prosecuted for past abuses — confronted Habyarimana and his supporters with the imminent loss of power. These same events heightened concerns among a broader group of Hutu, including some not previously identified with Habyarimana. Increasingly anxious about RPF ambitions, this growing group was attracted by the new
Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and by a movement called Hutu Power, which cut across party lines and embodied the ethnic solidarity that Habyarimana had championed for three years. In late October, Tutsi soldiers in neighboring Burundi seized and murdered the Hutu President, freely and fairly elected only months before. In massacres touched off by the assassination, tens of thousands of Burundians died, both Hutu and Tutsi. The crime, energetically exploited by RTLM, confirmed the fears of many Rwandan Hutu that Tutsi would not share power and swelled the numbers supporting Hutu Power.

Meanwhile the Habyarimana circle was preparing the organization and logistics to attack the minority. During 1993, some loyalists from Habyarimana’s party expanded the recruitment and training of the Interahamwe. But others, perhaps concerned that the militia were too tainted by partisan rivalries, proposed a “civilian self-defense force” which was to recruit young men through administrative rather than party channels. The recruits were to be trained by former soldiers or communal police who would direct them in attacking the “enemy” in their communities. In early 1993, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora sketched out elements of the program in his appointment book, the intellectual Ferdinand Nahimana advocated such a force in a letter to friends and colleagues, and administrators began preparing lists of former soldiers who could command its ranks.

Soldiers and political leaders distributed firearms to militia and other supporters of Habyarimana in 1993 and early 1994, but Bagosora and others concluded that firearms were too costly to distribute to all participants in the “civilian self-defense” program (NOTE: it is also important to know that France was supplying weapons to militia forces). They advocated arming most of the young men with such weapons as machetes. Businessmen close to Habyarimana imported large numbers of machetes, enough to arm every third adult Hutu male.

Aware of these preparations, the RPF anticipated further conflict. They too recruited more supporters and troops and, in violation of the Peace Accords, increased the number of their soldiers and firearms in Kigali. They understood the risk that renewed combat would pose to Tutsi, particularly those who had come out publically in support of the RPF in the preceding months, and warned foreign observers to this effect.

The Attack
By late March 1994, Hutu Power leaders were determined to slaughter massive numbers of Tutsi and Hutu opposed to Habyarimana, both to rid themselves of these “accomplices” and to shatter the peace agreement. They had soldiers and militia ready to attack the targeted victims in Kigali and in such outlying areas as Cyangugu in the southwest, Gisenyi in the northwest and Murambi in the northeast. But elsewhere they had not completed the arrangements. In the centre of the country, they had successfully disseminated the doctrine of Hutu Power, but they were unsure how many ordinary people would transform that ideology into action. In other areas, particularly in the south, they had not won large numbers of supporters to the idea, far less organised for them to implement it.

On April 6, the plane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down, a crime for which the responsibility has never been established. A small group of his close associates — who may or may not have been involved in killing him — decided to execute the planned extermination. The Presidential Guard and other troops commanded by Colonel Bagosora, backed by militia, murdered Hutu government officials and leaders of the political opposition, creating a vacuum in which Bagosora and his supporters could take control. Soldiers and militia also began systematically slaughtering Tutsi. Within hours, military officers and administrators far from the capital dispatched soldiers and militia to kill Tutsi and Hutu political leaders in their local areas. After months of warnings, rumours and prior attacks, the violence struck panic among Rwandans and foreigners alike. The rapidity of the first killings gave the impression of large numbers of assailants, but in fact their impact resulted more from ruthlessness and organisation than from great numbers.

The killing swiftly spread from Kigali to all corners of the country. Between April 6th and mid-July 1994, a genocide of unprecedented swiftness is estimated to have left between 800,000 to 1,071,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead at the hands of organised bands of militias.

Most of the victims were killed in their villages or in towns, often by their neighbours and fellow villagers. The militia members mostly killed their victims by chopping them up with machetes, although some army units used rifles. In some towns the victims were forcibly crammed into churches and school buildings, where Hutu extremist gangs massacred them. In June about 3,000 Tutsis sought refuge in a Catholic church in Kivumu. Local Interahamwe then used bulldozers supplied by the local police to knock down the church building. People who tried to escape were hacked down with machetes.

For the rest of the story, please read "
Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda" by Human Rights Watch or read Wikipedia's background on the Rwandan Genocide.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Rwanda 101 - Part II (Its History)

Rwanda's History:
As early as the 15th century there were three distinct groups of people, the Hutu, the Tutsi, and the Twa living in Rwanda. The Tutsi, from further north, conquered the area, and became the ruling power, and forced the Hutu into a feudal type system that was strictly enforced. The Twa, the smallest minority group, were court jesters and often exploited. John Speke became the first European to visit Rwanda, and in 1895 the Rwandans accepted German rule to become part of German East Africa. The Germans, however, were at first completely dependent on the existing government; they did nothing to develop the country economically. The German authority kept the indigenous administration system by applying the same type of indirect rule established by the British Empire in the Ugandan kingdoms.

After Germany's loss in World War I, the protectorate was taken over by Belgium with a League of Nations mandate. Belgian rule in the region was far more direct and harsh than that of the Germans. However, the Belgian colonisers did realize the value of native rule. Backed by Christian churches, the Belgians used the minority Tutsi upper class over the lower classes of Tutsis and Hutus. Belgian-forced labour policies and stringent taxes were mainly enforced by the Tutsi upper class, whom the Belgians used as buffers against people's anger, thus further polarising the Hutu and the Tutsi. Many young peasants, in order to escape tax harassment and hunger, migrated to neighbouring countries. They moved mainly to Congo but also to Ugandan plantations, looking for work.

After World War II Rwanda became a UN trust territory with Belgium as the administrative authority. Through a series of processes - including several reforms, the assassination of King Mutara III Charles in 1959 and the fleeing of the last Abega clan monarch, King Kigeli V to Uganda - the Hutu gained more and more power. Upon Rwanda's independence in 1962, they virtually held it all.

Gregoire Kayibanda was Rwanda's first president (1962-1973), followed by Juvenal Habyarimana (1973-1994). The latter, who many view as a ruthless dictator, was unable to find a solution to increasing social unrest, the calls for democracy and the long-running problem of Rwandan Tutsi refugees. Rwanda had by the 1990s up to one million refugees scattered around neighbouring countries, the majority of them in Uganda and Burundi.

In 1990, the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda from Uganda. During the course of the fighting, top Rwandan government officials, mainly Hutu, began secretly training young men into informal armed bands called Interahamwe ("coming together"). Government officials also launched a radio station that began anti-Tutsi propaganda. The military government of Juvénal Habyarimana responded to the RPF invasion with pogroms against Tutsis, whom it claimed were trying to re-enslave the Hutus. In August 1993 the Rwandan government and the RPF signed a cease-fire agreement known as the Arusha Accords in Arusha, Tanzania to form a power sharing government, but fighting between the two sides continued. The United Nations sent a peacekeeping force named the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), under the leadership of Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire. UNAMIR was vastly under-funded and under-staffed. More details of this aspect of the conflict are starkly explained in Dallaire's 2003 book Shake Hands With the Devil.

During the armed conflict, the RPF was blamed for the bombing of Kigali. These attacks were actually carried out by the Hutu army as part of a campaign to create a reason for a political crackdown and ethnic violence. On April 6 1994, President Habyarimana was assassinated when his Falcon 50 trijet was shot down while landing in Kigali. It remains unclear who was responsible for the assassination — most credible sources point to the Presidential Guard, spurred by Hutu nationalists fearful of losing power, although others believe that Tutsi rebels were responsible, possibly with the help of Belgian mercenaries. Over the next three months, the military and Interahamwe militia groups killed between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates in the Rwandan Genocide. The RPF continued to advance on the capital, and occupied the northern, the eastern, and the southern parts of the country by June 1994. Thousands of civilians were killed in the conflict. U.N. Member States refused to answer UNAMIR's requests for increased troops and money. Meanwhile, French troops were dispatched to stabilise the situation under Opération Turquoise, but this only resulted in an exacerbation of the situation, with the evacuation limited to foreign nationals.

On July 4 1994, the war ended as the RPF entered the capital Kigali. In the resulting Great Lakes refugee crisis over 2 million Hutus fled the country after the war, fearing Tutsi retribution. Most have since returned, although some Hutus remained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including some militia members that became involved in the First Congo War and the Second Congo War. In 1996, after repeated unsuccessful appeals to the UN and the international community to deal with the security threat posed by the remnants of the defeated genocidal forces on its eastern border, Rwanda invaded eastern Congo (then Zaire) in an effort to eliminate the Interahamwe groups operating there. This action, and the simultaneous one by Ugandan troops, contributed to the outbreak of the First Congo War and the eventual fall of long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko (former President of Zaire).

Friday, 3 November 2006

Rwanda 101 - Part I (Geography and Climate)

Everything you wanted to know about Rwanda but were afraid to ask. Thus, here begins your class on "Introduction to Rwanda":

Rwanda, officially the Republic of Rwanda, is a small landlocked country in the
Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, with a population of approximately 8 million. It is bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. Its fertile and hilly terrain gives it the title "Land of a Thousand Hills" (in French, le Pays des Mille Collines or Igihugu cy'Imisozi Igihumbi in Kinyarwanda). Rwanda supports the densest populations in continental Africa. It is best known to the outside world for the 1994 Rwandan genocide that resulted in the deaths of up to one million people.

Rwanda's Geography:
Rwanda is a small republic in Equatorial Africa, situated a few degrees south of the Equator and on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley, on the watershed between Africa's two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Much of the country's 26,338 km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Parc des Volcans. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but numerous other lakes are dotted around the country, notably Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi and Mugesera, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them. Rwanda is separated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley to the west; it is bounded on the north by Uganda, to the east by Tanzania, and to the south by Burundi. The capital, Kigali, is located in the centre of the country.

Rwanda's countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rolling hills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes in the northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from north to south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 9,000 feet (2,740 m). On the western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley, and constitutes part of the Great Rift Valley. The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region (hence Rwanda being fondly known as "Land of a Thousand Hills"). Recently, a British-led exploration announced that they had located the longest headstream of the River Nile in Nyungwe Forest.

Rwanda's Climate:
Rwanda is a tropical country; its high elevation makes the climate temperate year-round. In the mountains, frost and snow are possible. Temperatures rarely stray above 30 degrees Celsius by day or below 15 degrees Celsius at night throughout the year. The exceptions are the chilly upper slopes of the Virunga Mountains, and the hot low-lying Tanzania border area protected in Akagera National Park. Throughout the country, seasonal variations in temperature are relatively insignificant. Rwanda is considered the lightning capital of the world, due to intense daily thunderstorms during the two rainy seasons (February to May and September to December). Annual rainfall averages 31 inches (830 mm) but is generally heavier in the western and north-western mountains than in the eastern savannas. Most parts of the country receive in excess of 1,000mm of precipitation annually, with the driest months being July to September and the wettest February to May.

Current Problems:
High dependence on subsistence agriculture, high (and increasing) population density, decreasing soil fertility, and an uncertain climate make Rwanda a country where chronic malnutrition is widespread and poverty endemic.