UN accuses Rwanda of Genocide and proves once more that UN officially exists to stop countries from defending themselves
As, I have been working in Rwanda for the last two weeks, I can tell you a couple of things from my work on the ground. First, people here love the current government of Paul Kagame. Second, they are highly critical of the UN.
Rwanda impresses me. There is order and cleanliness of Kigali. The people are generally more educated and happy than I would have expected. Downtown Kigali is scattered with cranes from the new buildings rising. The businessmen tell me that it takes $50 and one day to setup a company. They have sold off nearly all their state owned companies.
There is a hope and an optimism here. It didn't come cheap. Just 15 years earlier, the government army and militias but also to a large extent the general population, killed between 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis.
|Hotel Chez Lando of Kigali|
My business partner here, has lost 99% of his family. He has no parents, brothers or sisters. He has also adopted a baby that had both of her parents killed during the genocide. Another one of my good friends here had four of his brothers killed in Kigali by either the militia or neighborhood watch groups with machetes. The sad thing is that these stories are not very unique. Most people that I have spoken with have lost members of their families.
One out of every ten people living in Rwanda at the time was killed. To give you some perspective, that would mean killing 30 Million people in the United States or almost the population of California.
As brutal as it has been, Congo has suffered a tragedy on a similar extent. An estimation between 5 and 7 million people have been killed or died as a consequence of the fighting, much of it by malnutrition and disease, in a conflict most people don't know about.
War is Hell
The United Nations is pointing the blame at the nations that have been involved in the fighting in Congo that either sent troops or arms, namely, Angola, Uganda, Burundi, and especially Rwanda. I have read the UN report, and I have also read the reply by the government of Rwanda.
Did Rwanda commit atrocities? I'm sure of it. Did they knowingly slaughter innocents? I'm sure at some point someone in their army did. Was it condoned at the highest levels? That, I'm not sure of.
The biggest tragedy is the Rwandan Genocide where 1 Million to 800K were killed. That is and should be the starting point. The rebuttal of the UN report clearly states the difficulty of bringing a militia to justice that clearly played a major role in the genocide. Especially difficult is the popular support that the slaughter had with everyday Rwandans. This is something that even Rwandans have difficulty accepting. Most of the killings were done by un-uniformed, citizens and militias. The Interehamwe militia was estimated to have 30,000 armed fighters at their peak.
After the slaughter, the killers fled to Congo, where they continued to carry out attacks in an attempt to finish the genocide and get rid of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), that had entered the country and overthrown the genocidal military government.
The problem comes in when the UN and other quasi-judicial bodies look at the fruits of war (killings, displacement, etc), instead of the causes of war. It should be understood that despite modern warfare's attempt to make conflict into a civil engagement, it is and will likely always be the devils engagement. Even a just war will have extra-judicial killings, collateral damage and even plunder. That is why war is hell and should be avoided at all costs.
The Fruits of War
Looking at the fruits of war, instead of the causes of war is a mistake. Counting bodies to determine guilt causes the victor to almost always be guilty of war crimes. Indeed, policework is bloody. If one counts the people killed by police versus killings of police, it will seem like the police are the bad guys.
I see the same finger pointing in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israelis are being killed by suicide bombers and rocket attacks. It is the right of any individual to defend themselves in the face of slaughter, and it is the military that exercises that collective right. War is a blunt instrument and as such, there will be innocents that die.
Body counts are not the way to assign blame. Indeed, a good military desires to protect its own troops while inflicting the maximum damage upon their enemies. Almost all wars are won by the side that does most of the killing.
War is a series of gruesomely difficult choices and soldiers and their commanders, ultimately decide who gets to live and who dies. Its intuitive that the life of the home countries soldiers are worth more to them than the lives of the enemy soldiers. It is also equally true, that the home countries soldiers are worth more to them than innocent civilians. In other words, if the choice is between the life of a soldier and an innocent bystander, the soldier must err on the side of their own life, even if it means killing someone that posed no threat.
Where that innocent poses no threat to their own life of course, retribution should be avoided.
Total wars, are ones which the military counts everyone within the country as an enemy. World War II was an example of a total war. In this war, the United States valued US troops on the ground as more valuable than civilians in Dresden and thus carpetbombed that city and others in an effort to weaken popular support. The bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are further examples of this. The United States could have suffered hundreds of thousands of military losses in an effort to take Tokyo.
Most wars today are limited wars. Limited wars try to limit civilian casualties to a minimum.
That is why uniforms are so important in civilized warfare. It allows distinction between the enemy and a civilian. Most modern warfare however seems to be fought between one side who is obeying the concept of limited war, wears a uniform and can be distinguished by the civilian population, and another side who follows none of those concepts.
Uniforms are important. They allow for easy identification of warring parties and stops a limited war from descending into a total war.
Indeed, one wonders if, given the state of the United Nations, the US would not be drawn up on war crimes during WWII.
Rwanda, UN and war crimes
At the time when the RPF took over the whole of Rwanda, there was a mass exodus of the Hutu population from Rwanda. Most fled to Congo and to a lesser extend Burundi. Congo was French speaking and Uganda and Tanzania were English speaking and Kagame and many of the RPF came from Uganda, so there was little sympathy for the Hutu plight there.
The refugee camps in those countries were sufficiently close to the Rwanda border to make their proximity convenient for those Hutu militants who wanted to return and finish the job. The United Nations was overseeing those refugee camps and they were advised on several occasions to move the camps further away to make them ineffective as an attack point. They never accommodated the request.
This was the same United Nations which was powerless to come to the aid of the Tutsi and moderate Hutus when they were being slaughtered. The United Nations in this case was at best powerless and at worse, aiding and abetting the enemy. What would a fearful government do?
The situation became even more difficult because the over 30,000 militia members, and the other uncounted non-uniformed killing squads were indistinguishable from those who had nothing to do with the slaughter. Indeed, the killing squads, in many instances, were nothing more than neighborhood youths with machetes. Armed men crossed over regularly into Rwanda from those camps and then retreated back, melting into the mass of refugees.
The mass exodus from Rwanda came because the Hutus expected Kagame to take revenge upon the Hutus living in the country. They expected another counter slaughter. To Kagame's credit, that never came. There were executions and mass graves outside of the country in Congo, however. Once the Rwandan Army crossed into Congo, it appears that there was some score settling going on. Using the blunt instrument of violent force, I'm sure innocents were caught in the crossfire.
This is the backdrop of modern warfare. Against this backdrop, Israel, the United States and Rwanda are accused of war crimes.
The Streets of Kigali
All is quiet in Kigali now. In fact, they told me that Kigali is the cleanest city in Africa. I was surprised how clean and orderly this city is. Paul Kagame, was once the leader of the RPF. He is now the President of Rwanda. Although I am concerned about having one leader run their country for so long, he was voted in by the majority of Rwandans.
When in my taxi, I have the habit of asking about the politics of the place where I am visiting. In the case or Rwanda, the people really do love him. I was preached to about how much better this country was than before. I think they are right. See below my video taken from a taxi in Rwanda. Notice how clean and orderly the place is. They have every right to be pound.
UN Statement on Congo assigning blame to Rwanda and other nations for atrocities
NY Times: UN report angers regional players