By The Ovi Team 2009-12-27

When Rwanda’s president was killed in a plane crash the country was plunged into a blood bath and genocide. The Hutu majority slaughtered the Tutsis and a half a million people lay dead. A missionary exclaimed, “There are no devils left in hell. They are all in Rwanda.”

The killing was well organized and by the time it had started, the Rwandan militia numbered around 30,000 — one militia member for every ten families — and was organized nationwide, with representatives in every neighbourhood. Some militia members were able to acquire AK-47 assault rifles by completing requisition forms. Other weapons, such as grenades, required no paperwork and were widely distributed. Many members of the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi were armed only with machetes.

Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed, in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal, that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and that “one cabinet minister said she was personally in favour of getting rid of all Tutsi; without the Tutsi, she told ministers, all of Rwanda’s problems would be over.” In addition to Kambanda, the genocide’s organizers included Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, a retired army officer, and many top ranking government officials and members of the army, such as General Augustin Bizimungu. On the local level, the genocide’s planners included Burgomasters, or mayors, and members of the police.

Both Hutus and Tutsis were given ID cards which specified an ethnic group. These cards served as symbols in which the Interhamwe could check via the threat of force. Skin colour was a general physical trait which was typically used in “ethnic” identification. The lighter collared Rwandans were typically Tutsi, the minority group, while the darker skinned Rwandans were typically Hutu, the majority group in Rwanda. In many cases, Tutsi men, women, and children were separated from the general population and sometimes forced to be Hutu slaves. As for the Tutsi women, they were often referred to as “gypsies” and frequently fell victim to sexual violence.

Government leaders communicated with figures among the population to form and arm militias called Interahamwe, “those who stand (fight, kill) together”, and Impuzamugambi, “those who have the same (or a single) goal”. These groups, particularly their youth wings, were responsible for much of the violence.

According to recent commentators the news media played a crucial role in the genocide: local print and radio media fuelled the killings, while the international media either ignored or seriously misconstrued events on the ground. The print media in Rwanda is believed to have started hate speech against Tutsis which was later continued by radio stations. According to commentators anti-Tutsi hate speech “became so systemic as to seem the norm.” The state-owned newspaper Kangura had a central role, starting an anti-Tutsi and anti-RPF campaign in October 1990. In the ongoing International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the individuals behind Kangura have been accused of producing leaflets in 1992 picturing a machete and asking “What shall we do to complete the social revolution of 1959?” – a reference to the Hutu revolt that overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and the subsequent politically orchestrated communal violence that resulted in thousands of mostly Tutsi casualties and forced roughly 300,000 Tutsis to flee to neighbouring Burundi and Uganda. Kangura also published the infamous “10 Hutu Commandments,” which regulated all dealings with Tutsis and how Hutus are to treat them, and generally communicated the message that the RPF had a devious grand strategy (one feature article was titled “Tutsi colonization plan”).

Due to high rates of illiteracy at the time of the genocide, radio was an important way for the government to deliver messages to the public. Two radio stations key to inciting violence before and during the genocide were Radio Rwanda and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). In March 1992, Radio Rwanda was first used in directly promoting the killing of Tutsi in Bugesera, south of the national capital Kigali. Radio Rwanda repeatedly broadcast a communiqué warning that Hutu in Bugesera would be attacked by Tutsi, a message used by local officials to convince Hutu that they needed to protect themselves by attacking first. Led by soldiers, Hutu civilians and members of the Interahamwe subsequently attacked and killed hundreds of Tutsi. At the end of 1993, the RTLM’s highly sensationalized reporting on the assassination of the Burundi president, a Hutu was used to underline supposed Tutsi brutality. The RTLM falsely reported that the president had been tortured, including castration of the victim (in pre-colonial times, some Tutsi kings were castrated defeated enemy rulers). From late October 1993, the RTLM repeatedly broadcast themes developed by the extremist written press, underlining the inherent differences between Hutu and Tutsi, the foreign origin of Tutsi, the disproportionate share of Tutsi wealth and power, and the horrors of past Tutsi rule. RTLM also repeatedly stressed the need to be alert to Tutsi plots and possible attacks and called upon Hutu to prepare to ‘defend’ themselves against the Tutsi. After April 6, 1994, authorities used RTLM and Radio Rwanda to spur and direct killings, specifically in areas where the killings initially were resisted. Both radio stations were used to incite and mobilize, then to give specific directions for carrying out the killings.

The RTLM had used terms such as inyenzi (cockroach in Kinyarwandan) and Tutsi interchangeably with others referring to RPF combatants and warned specifically that RPF combatants dressed in civilian clothes were mingling among displaced people fleeing combat zones. These broadcasts gave the impression that all Tutsi were necessarily supporters of the RPF force fighting against the government. Women were part of the anti-Tutsi propaganda prior the 1994 genocide, for example the “Ten Hutu Commandments” published in December 1990 by “Kangura” included four commandments which portrayed Tutsi women as tools of the Tutsi people, as sexual weapons that would be used by the Tutsi to weaken and ultimately destroy the Hutu men. Gender-based propaganda also includes cartoons printed in newspapers depicting Tutsi women as sex objects. Examples of gender-based hate propaganda used to incite war rape include statements by perpetrators such as “You Tutsi women think that you are too good for us” and “Let us see what a Tutsi woman tastes like”.

Source: http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/5242

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