Today in My History

2001:  The Courage to Change
Falling Leaves
Catching Up on my Reading
Written in Stone
2005 Stop the Presses!!!
2006:  A Flurry of Excitement
2007:   Jack's Back!
2008:  Plastics
2009:  It's a Plane...It's a bird
2010:  From the Southland
2011:  Guess Who We Saw Today
Sunday Stealing
2013: Italy
2014:  Toast
2015: An Afternoon with a Good Book

Bitter Hack
Updated: 1/10
"Driving Miss Daisy"

Books Read in 2016
 Updated: 1/9
"The Gravity of Birds"

Mirror Site for RSS Feed:
Airy Persiflage

Letter from Brayan

The Philosophy of Juice & Crackers

The story of Delicate Pooh

The story of the Pinata Group

Who IS this Gilbert person anyway?

mail to Walt

mail to Bev  


16 January 2016

I worked at the hospital yesterday.  It was very quiet.   I think in four hours I gave directions to two people. The difference between working in the hospital and working at Logos is that on a slow day at Logos, I can count on having customer interaction at least a few times throughout the day.

But sitting all alone at the desk with absolutely nothing to do gave me chance to read my book and I haven't quite finished it but I should finish it by the end of today.

The book is called "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families."  The subtitle is "Stories from Rwanda" and it is written by Philip Gourevitch, who spent several years in Rwanda following the genocide there and has written a shocking expose of what happened and how the world reacted

After World War II and the liberation of the concentration camps the world promised "never again."  I have heard that over and over again throughout my life.  Never again will we allow the mass murder of a whole group of people happen.  The world will be there.  We will protect the innocent.

And that's a good thing.  Should someone decide to kill all the Finnish people in the world, for example, you know that all the nations of the world will gather together and wipe out those who wish to exterminate the Finns.

Where they in 1994 when genocide was taking place in Rwanda?

I remember being vaguely aware of what was happening.  Something about Hutus and Tutsis and a war going on.  I remember wondering, innocently, why black people were killing black people and how could you tell who was Hutu and who was Tutsi and what it was all about anyway.  I watched the movie Hotel Rwanda and I took on sponsorship of a young girl in Rwanda, but I still was not really aware of what happened in Rwanda.

I learned, in this book, that the Tutsi people supposedly are descended from Abel (you know--Adam and Eve's kid).  Abel was a rancher and that was why he was hated by his brother Cain, who was a farmer from whom the Hutus descended.  Apparently the enmity between tillers of the soil and those who raise cattle has existed...forever (remember that song in Oklahoma where they talk about how the farmer and the rancher should be friends?)

In the 1990s, about 85% of the population of Rwanda was Hutu and the rest Tutsi.  Everyone had to have ethnic cards which identified to which group they belonged (sound familiar, Mr. Trump?) In 1959 there was a Hutu revolution which drove as many as 300,000 Tutsis out of Rwanda, making them an even smaller minority in the country.

In 1990, a bunch of Tutsi refugees in Uganda invaded Rwanda and the hostilities lead to negotiations between the two sides and an agreement calling for a transitional government, sharing power between Hutus and Tutsis. which angered the Hutu extremists.

In 1992 the extremists began to stockpile weapons.  The economic situation in the country left tens of thousands of young men without any prospect of a job, resentful of their idleness, which made them ripe for recruitment. The goal was to wipe out the Tutsis.  "The people were the weapon and that meant everybody the entire Hutu population had to kill the entire Tutsi population...If everybody is implicated, then implication becomes meaningless. A Hutu who thought there was anything to be implicated in would have to be an accomplice of the enemy  'we the people are obliged to take responsibility ourselves and wipe out this scum'" (sound familiar, Mr. Trump?)

In April of 1994 a plane carrying Major General Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu and leader of the Rwandan government for 2 decades, along with the president of Burundi, was shot down.  It was never proven who shot down the plane, but Hutu militia groups were suspected.  Within an hour of the plane crash militia groups began setting up roadblocks and barricades and slaughtering Tutsis.

Over the next several months over 800,000 people were slaughtered while local officials called on Hutus to kill their Tutsi neighbors.  Men, women and children were killed, many by machete lopping off their heads.

The international community mostly remained on the sidelines during the genocide.  UN troops in the country offered little resistance and foreign governments shutdown their embassies and evacuated their nationals. Rwandans who pleaded for rescue were abandoned. A radio broadcaster gloated "You cockroaches must know you are made of flesh.  We won't let you kill.  We will kill you."

People frantically reached out to anyone they could.  Though telephones were cut off, there was a fax machine in the Hotel des Mille Collines, where many Tutsis took refuge (this is the hotel in Hotel Rwanda, where the manager managed to save more than a thousand lives).  Hutus didn't know the phone number so were unable to disable it.  They called the King of Belgium and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France. They sent faxes to Bill Clinton,   They sat up through the night sending faxes, calling, and ringing the whole world.  But those who vowed to never let something like this happen again remained silent and let it happen

The UN finally sent in troops, several months after the genocide was over.  The French sent in troops, but after the slaughter and only to provide humanitarian aid.

Take the best estimate:  eight hundred thousand killed in a hundred days.  That's three hundred and thirty-three and a third murders an hour--or five and a half lives terminated every minute.  Consider also that most of these killings actually occurred in he first three or four weeks, and add to the death toll the uncounted legions who were maimed but did not die of their wounds, and the systematic and serial rape of Tutsi women--and then you can grasp what it meant that the Hotel des Mille Collines was the only place in Rwanda whereas many as a thousand people who were supposed to be killed gathered in concentration and, as Paul [the manager] said, 'Nobody was killed.  Nobody was taken away.  Nobody was beaten.

The church was of no help. One bishop, who could have sheltered people, refused, carried a gun himself and when soldiers came to slaughter his flock, served them drinks.  "59 bishops have been killed.  I don't want to be #60." After it was over, a strong case could have been made for his arrest, but "the Vatican is too strong and too unapologetic for us to go taking on bishops.  Haven't you heard of infallibility?"

Ironically, the UN came in to help when they learned that in the death camps in Rwanda there were dogs who were eating the dead.  "They never used their excellent weapons to stop the extermination of civilians, but it turned out that the peacekeepers were very good shots.  The genocide had been tolerated by the so-called international community but the corpse-eating dogs were a health problem."

On July 12, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross pronounced that a million people had been killed in the genocide.

Who the hell cared about Rwanda?  I mean, face it. Essentially, how many people really still remember the genocide in Rwanda?  We know the genocide of the Second World War because the whole outfit was involved.  But who really is involved in the Rwandan genocide?

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, many prominent figures in the international community lamented the outside world’s general obliviousness to the situation and its failure to act in order to prevent the atrocities from taking place. As former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali told the PBS news program “Frontline”: “The failure of Rwanda is 10 times greater than the failure of Yugoslavia. Because in Yugoslavia the international community was interested, was involved. In Rwanda nobody was interested.” Attempts were later made to rectify this passivity.

An International Tribunal set up to investigate the genocide shut down after 20 years and $2 billion during which time only 61 people, mostly high ranking government officials, were indicted.



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