Thursday, December 03, 2009

What happened in Rwanda?

Having a previous article of mine reproduced over at Black Agenda Report (apparently it has been nominated for some award) reminded me of an important essay on the Rwandan genocide that I read a while back, and which is worth citing here. Written by two academic researchers who were briefly involved in assisting the ICTR's research, Allan Stam and Christian Davenport, it discloses an intriguing tale of how they reached some surprising findings, and the efforts by the ICTR prosecution and the Rwandan government to cover them up. The key points:

  • While the killings were initiated by the FAR (government forces) in response to the RPF invasion, the bulk of those killed were not Tutsis but Hutus. The findings support the caim that the FAR bears responsibility for the "vast majority" of killings. However, he pattern of killings suggests that a programme of anti-Tutsi genocide was not responsible for all, or even most, of the deaths. The genocide caused, by their estimate, 100,000 of a total of 1 million deaths, with the remainder attributable to civil war, localised struggles for power, revenge killings and so on.
  • In addition, the RPF itself bears significant responsibility for a significant tranch of the killings and behaved as an army of conquest, not of liberation. It did not merely carry out "spontaneous revenge killings", but large-scale massacres in, eg, refugee camps. Moreover, the killings in FAR-controlled territories abated dramatically whenever the RPF relented, thus belying the idea that the invasion had to continue to save lives.
  • When the initial statistical data was disclosed to the prosecution, they rapidly lost interest in that kind of research and decided to rely on testimonies instead. They also attempted to obstruct the release of maps detailing FAR military bases, which would provide further evidence as to the pattern and nature of killings.
  • When the researchers were going about their tasks, they were arrested and detained by the Rwandan military, who questioned them for a day about their motives and who they were working for. When they presented their findings regarding the pattern of killings and the victims to a conference in Kigali, they were interrupted by a member of the armed forces, who advised them that the Minister of Information had taken exception to their findings and that they were to be deported the following day, never to return to Rwanda. Following the conference, the prosecution team abruptly dropped the two researchers. The Kagame government and the prosecution has since worked to ensure that there is a single-minded, purblind focus on the FAR suspects, and none at all on the RPF.

Much of this is unsurprising, and the authors do not venture too far into the political context of the war, but it bears out some of the arguments I have previously made.