The Jungle Massacre: African rebels who revel in their machete genocide
Wednesday 03 March 1999
The nationwide killing spree lasted 100 days.
Called the interahamwe, which means those who stand together, the Hutu extremists of Rwanda attempted their own Final Solution on their fellow countrymen, the minority Tutsis.
To hold on to control of a country that was set to switch to power-sharing between Hutus (85 per cent of the population) and Tutsis - they engineered a campaign of mass murder.
For months leading up to the massacres the interahamwe distributed racist propaganda against the "cockroaches" (the Tutsis). Playing on the Hutus' deep-rooted sense of inferiority, they convinced them that their very survival depending on eliminating the other side.
On the evening the Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, died in a mysterious plane crash, the first wave of killings began. The interahamwe organised road blocks at which terrified Tutsis were stopped, asked to produce their identity cards - on which ethnicity had been recorded since colonial times - and then them led away or hacked them to death on the spot with farm implements and machetes.
The killing did not break out everywhere at once. While some Hutus were happy to take up the machete and the gun against their neighbours, and even relatives and spouses, others were understandably reluctant to kill. Even in the prevailing culture of obedience - where what the headman said was slavishly followed - some villages held out against the madness. But the interahamwe roamed the country, stoking the fire, keeping mass murder going.
They led by threat and by example. They were never slow to lift a machete and hack a child to death, or to rape a young girl after forcing her to witness the murder of her family. Reluctant Hutus - adults and children - were shown just how easily it was done.
When millions of Hutu refuges - led, post-genocide, into exile in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) by their leaders - returned to Rwanda in 1996, the interahamwe had to stay behind. They sent their children home alone. They were easy to spot. Sad, bewildered little souls carried along by the crowd.
But Rwanda's jails were already bursting with 130,000 men and women implicated in the genocide. The architects of mass murder could never return home.
So they have remained in Congo, launching regular attacks across the border. The threat they continue to present to Rwanda has already caused two regional wars.
They have grown more and more audacious, creeping across the Congolese border and infiltrating north-west Rwanda, the traditional Hutu homeland. It was a nightmare for local Hutus. Caught between a frustrated Rwandan army and the Hutu thugs, civilians have been murdered by both sides.
Last year interahamwe attacks were spreading across Rwanda, even closing on the capital, Kigali. There was panic. And late last year the government fought back.
With a combination of military attacks, and a campaign to win over the local Hutu population, the Rwandan army has successfully flushed out many of the extremists. Controversially, the government is currently moving 600,000 Hutus from their isolated hillside homes into villages. It says it is doing this to protect civilians. But it is also a method of social control, allowing its forces to separate Hutu insurgents from the local population.
Success within its own borders has displaced the murderers, who are becoming more and more desperate. More are holed up in Congo, where Rwandan troops arehunting them down, and hiding in the wilder parts of south-west Uganda from where the Western tourists were abducted this week.
Reports that Americans and Britons were singled out by the Hutu militiamen who struck in Uganda's Bwindi National Park are gruesome. They echo the selection of all those hopeless Tutsis for death by machete in 1994.
Yesterday Anne Peltier, France's deputy ambassador to Uganda, who escaped the attack, relayed another message from the kidnappers. The interahamwe were unhappy with America and Britain for supporting Rwanda's new Tutsi- led government "against the ethnic Hutu majority".
Ms Peltier, had managed to negotiate the freeing of hostages of other nationalities.
Rwanda's government is undoubtedly led by the minority Tutsis. That is not the democratic ideal but then this is a country where the majority tried to wipe out their minority countrymen. And the government can claim to be attempting reconciliation. More than half its ministers are moderate Hutus.
America and Britain strongly support the new regime, filling a diplomatic gap left by the French. France was a strong supporter of the Hutu government which presided over the genocide, and its troops stand accused of helping tens of thousand of Hutu murderers escape into exile in Congo after the killings in the infamous Operation Turquoise.
France is hated by the new Rwandan regime. And the Hutu extremists, who continue to incite Hutus to rise up and complete the genocide, hate the British and Americans for supporting the new government.
The murders in Bwindi Park are power to the Rwandan regime's refusal to negotiate with the desperate remnants of the Hutu militias who all but destroyed the country in 1994.
The only "political" objective of the interahamwe seems to be the completion of its Final Solution. The Rwandan government compares speaking to the interahamwe to asking the Jews to negotiate with the Nazis in the Second World War. On yesterday's showing, who would disagree?
Cook's statement, page 8
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