The Tale of the Rwandan Genocide

We all are little men serving great causes, but because the cause is so great, something of that greatness falls upon us also. This is the story of Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of the Hotel des Diplomates in Kigali, Rwanda. This is the story of all those people who were slaughtered in the 100 day, 1994 genocide. This is the story of how the safeguards of peace turned their backs and watched an African nation in flames and covered in blood. This is the story of a genocide, the Rwandan genocide.

April 6, 1994, was the start of the bloodiest massacre in the history of an African nation. The Hutus began to slaughter the Tutsi population terming them as cockroaches and the root cause for all the problems faced by the nation. The genocide was primarily the action of two extremist Hutu militias, the Interahamwe (military wing of the MRND) and the Impuzamugambi (military wing of the CDR), against dissenters to their Hutu extremism. The Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed, in his testimony, before the International Criminal Tribunal, that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and UN had information about the genocide.

Paul Rusesabagina, who was a mixed Hutu and Tutsi, could not flee the country as his wife was a Tutsi. During the 1994 Rwandan genocide Rusesabagina used his influence and connections as temporary manager of the ‘Mille Collines’ to shelter 1,268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from being slaughtered by the Interahamwe militia.

The international community retrieved their forces and left the Rwandans all alone.

The hotel was not safe when the UN troops left the country. Rusesabagina used his influence to ensure the safety of more than 1,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians staying in the hotel.

He recalled in his book, An Ordinary Man , how horrifying the killings were –

“We all knew we would die, no question. The only question was how. Would they chop us in pieces? With their machetes they would cut your left hand off. Then they would disappear and reappear a few hours later to cut off your right hand. A little later they would return for your left leg etc. They went on till you died. They wanted to make you suffer as long as possible. There was one alternative: you could pay soldiers so they would just shoot you.”

After more than 8,00,000 Rwandans had been slaughtered on basis of purity of their blood, the United Nations and its powerful western allies came back to help the innocent to flee the country. The first attempt however failed when the UN convoy with Rusesabagina’s wife and children and other Tutsi was attacked on their way to the airport. The convoy was safely brought back to the hotel again where Rusesabagina had stayed back as he felt that the people at the hotel needed him.

Rusesabagina is just one man who didn’t even posses a gun. But circumstances made him stand up for a cause, a cause to save the life of more than 1,000 civilians who he had sheltered in the hotel. He was just an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. He was awarded the US Presidential Medal for Freedom by George W Bush in 2005.

The genocide is not the story of one man; it is a recital of thousands of people of that African nation who suffered a mass killing in the name of class difference.

The genocide which killed more than 10,00,000 Rwandans, made one point loud and clear, that political and economical stability of a nation depends only on the power a nation possesses. It also made clear that United Nations is nothing else but a puppet in the hands of the western powerhouses.

Every genocide the continent witnessed has made the world realise that the situations faced by Africa then was a by-product of what the westerners had left for them. Even then, what did they do? They just watched the news, felt sad for those who were dying directly and indirectly because of them, switched the tube off and merrily sat down for dinner thanking God for everything.

Aakanksha Ahluwalia

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