Guide to the Zaire crisis: 'Nazi' militia that incited genocide

The Hutus
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The Independent Online
The Interahamwe - "those who stand together" - is a civilian militia, created by Rwanda's former ruling Hutu elite before the 1994 genocide of 800,000 minority Tutsis, along with moderate Hutus.

The Interahamwe extremists incited the slaughter. Those who met them, wielding machetes at road blocks during the killing spree or later when they led the Hutus into exile in Zaire and assumed control of the refugee camps, compare them to the Nazis.

Just as the Nazis disseminated propaganda against the Jews, the Interahamwe was fed - and fed others - a diet of anti-Tutsi propaganda. It played on deep-seated fears. Under Belgian colonial rule the minority Tutsis were the educated elite and the Hutus mostly second-class citizens. The Hutus seized power before independence in 1959, killing tens of thousands of Tutsis. Many Tutsis fled to Uganda and and there were frequent pogroms against those who remained.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front, formed by the Tutsi exiles, fought the Hutu government from 1990. By 1994, a power-sharing agreement seemed likely but the Hutu government was playing a double game. The Interahamwe was strengthening and the country's radio stations were fostering hate; warning that the Tutsis, or "cockroaches", were conspiring to once again enslave Hutus.

On the evening that the genocide started - precipitated, finally, by the death in a plane crash of the Hutu President, Juvenal Habyarimana - a Kigali radio station broadcast the message "Tutsis need to be killed". The Interahamwe started work.

In exile, the Hutu militias turned UN refugee camps into military bases from which to attack Rwanda, which now has a Tutsi-led government. They taxed their two million refugees, many employed by UN associated organisations, to buy weapons and lynched those who tried to go home.

Analysts put the Interahamwe's present strength as high as 70,000, when combined with former members of the Rwandan army in exile.

The would-be international rescuers have been insisting that disarming the Interahamwe and separating them from the refugees was not part of their mandate. They appeared to miss the point. Without that separation there is little hope for the region.