Alison des Forges lecture transcript
Tuesday, November 21, 1995
LYDIA PERRY: The program previously scheduled for tonight, “Genocide in Cambodia and the Failure of International Response,” with David Hawk had to be cancelled. Instead tonight, we will present the lecture we could not have last week because of the government furlough. We apologize for any inconvenience.
This is part of a series of lectures addressing a number of major genocidal events of the 20th century. To present tonight’s lecture, “War, Genocide, and Mass Slaughter: Shades of Horror in Rwanda and Burundi,” I am pleased to introduce Alison des Forges. She is uniquely qualified to speak to us on the subject of Rwanda and Burundi.
A historian and human rights activist, she was educated at Radcliffe and earned a Ph.D. in African history at Yale. She is an adjunct associate professor at SUNY Buffalo. A founding member of Human Rights Watch Africa, she is currently a consultant there. She is co-chair of the International Committee on Human Rights Abuse in Rwanda and chair of the International Committee on Human Rights in Burundi. She has made numerous missions to Rwanda and Burundi in the last several years relating to human rights abuses. Alison.
ALISON DES FORGES: Thank you, Lydia. Good evening. When I was looking through some clippings recently on the situation in Rwanda, I found a commentary by someone who’s native language was not English and who made a slight error in English, but which seemed to me completely appropriate for the situation. The journalist wrote: Rwanda buckles the mind. In many ways, Rwanda does buckle the mind. The closer you get to it, the longer you examine it, the more your mind takes on waves.
The horror of the situation in Rwanda overwhelmed us all in April of 1994 and continues to pose, for all of us, the prospect of new waves of horror. At the same time, Burundi, which has attracted far less attention on the international scene, has shown its own continuing image of anguish with a weekly death toll of some perhaps 800, which by the end of this year will mean some 10,000 people dead.
How to understand these horrors? We must begin, first of all, with a context of enormous poverty, a poverty which most of you probably cannot even imagine. Not that poverty in and of itself necessarily leads to such massive destruction, but in this case it forms a very important part of the context.
In both Rwanda and Burundi, the economy is very substantially dominated by the state. There is very little of a private sector. Because of this, winning or losing political power takes on an astonishing importance.
Here in the United States or in Western Europe, if a politician loses power he has many choices. He or she can write memoirs, become a college professor, become a TV commentator, go back to the law firm, there are lots of choices. But in the context of Rwanda/Burundi, a politician who loses power has very few avenues to continue playing a role of importance, continue to enjoy the kind of wealth and privileges which really only state association can bring. This gives us some sense of the ruthlessness with which political power is contested and that forms a special element of the context of the genocide and the massive slaughter in Rwanda and Burundi.
The populations in both countries include a majority group who are called generally the Hutu and the minority known as the Tutsi. There’s also in each country a very small minority group, less than 1 percent of the population, the Twa, who are frequently not discussed because in numerical terms they are, in fact, very few. And most of us in here, I include Human Rights Watch, have paid insufficient attention to their particular case. But in general tonight, let’s talk about the two major groups of the Hutu and the Tutsi.
The population proportion in both countries is approximately the same, somewhere in the vicinity of 85, 87, perhaps as much as 90 percent Hutu and a small minority of 10 to 15 percent Tutsi. Now we aren’t sure of the exact population statistics because there is a substantial amount of intermarriage between these groups.
When the violence began in Rwanda and Burundi and the newspaper commentators began to trot out their usual clichés which they rely upon when talking about African affairs, the word that came first to the headlines was “tribalism.” But tribes, in fact, are not appropriate -- is not an appropriate term at all for the situation in Rwanda and Burundi because the Hutu and the Tutsi in each country have lived as part of a single culture, they speak a single language, and they have been part of a single political system for centuries. So that the -- that sense of separateness which defines a kind of tribe really has no meaning in the situation of either Rwanda or Burundi. The people of those two groups have lived intermingled over a period of centuries.
And in fact, it’s really only been in the past year that there has been a substantial residential separation which has been the result of violence rather than the cause of the violence.
The differences between the groups were greatly accentuated as a result of the colonial experience. Before the arrival of Europeans, which really is a case of 1900, it’s a very short colonial period in both Rwanda and Burundi, before the arrival of Europeans both countries had a clearly defined state system with a ruler and an aristocracy.
Now the aristocracy in each country, like any aristocracy anywhere in the world, had a clear sense of its own superiority. I mean, have we ever known an elite that thought it was inferior? It just doesn’t come with the game. So there was a sense in which the aristocracy felt themselves a superior group, but it was an open aristocracy in that people of the majority group could move into positions of power in both systems.
There was a certain amount of intermarriage between the groups and the flexibility of the system and the relative openness of the power structure meant that the distinctions between Hutu and Tutsi were not of great political importance. They were important in terms of a personal identification, but not in terms of a group identification.
With the arrival of the European powers, which first was Germany and then Belgium, there was established a system of indirect rule because the Europeans, of course, wanted to rule as cheaply as possible and the cheapest way to do it was to use the structure that was in place, that was there on the ground when they arrived. So they ruled through this aristocracy.
In doing so, they made certain changes in it because they wanted to use it, but they also wanted it to be usable in their sense, which meant tidying up the edges. It meant sort of changing it from an organic multifaceted system into an orderly right-angled kind of system that would fit into an organizational chart. And in doing so, they altered the dynamics within the society and gave much greater opportunity to the aristocracy to exercise repressive control than it had ever had before.
At the same time that it made changes in the structure, it also made changes in the personnel in the system. The Europeans came with the heritage of 19th century of racism. They looked at the population of Rwanda and Burundi and they saw that the aristocrats at the court, most of them, were tall, slender, and looked more European than did the majority people. Believing, of course, that those who looked more like them were also superior, they then made the leap that Tutsi were a superior group of people to the Hutu.
In the European literature beginning from the very, very beginning of the colonial period, you find these incredible expressions about how the Tutsi are really Europeans with black skin, how they’re -- how the Tutsi are born to rule, how they are an aristocracy of enormous potential as opposed to the Hutu, who are your ordinary, standard variety Africans, you know, people with a wonderful sense of humor and great athletes and dancers, but you wouldn’t really want to put them in a position of power.
The Europeans set about putting this idea into effect and they systematically excluded from positions of power and removed from positions of power Hutu and, by the way, women as well because that also didn’t fit in their conception of what a ruler should look like.
At the same time, because their educational system, their formal educational system was meant to train people for positions of power, they also excluded Hutu from opportunity to get higher education.
Now the Tutsi hierarchy were people with a very highly developed political sense. Because these were centralized states over a period of centuries, there was a political culture which was enormously sophisticated. They quickly caught on to the advantages of playing the European game. So the Tutsi aristocrats benefited from the European power structure to intensify and expand their control over the great mass of Hutu in a variety of ways.
In this process, the divisions between Hutu and Tutsi became much clearer with the Tutsi defining themselves increasingly, with the assistance of European ideology, as a racially distinct superior group while the Hutu increasingly began to identify themselves as an oppressed majority being exploited unceasingly by this aristocratic minority.
The distinction between the groups was difficult to implement because there had been intermarriage between them and the physical differences between Hutu and Tutsi were not always readily apparent. There were some Tutsi who represented sort of the ideal Tutsi type as, for example, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Swede might represent for you an ideal Scandinavian type. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t brown-haired, brown-eyed Swedes, right, or blond-haired, blue-eyed Sicilians, right? So there was a certain variety among the physical types of Hutu and Tutsi, but there was also this question of intermarriage. Children of mixed couples took the legal classification of their father, but they might resemble their mother, so the situation was very confused.
To clarify this once and for all, the Europeans imposed a system of population registration. This was in the 1930s, where everyone was registered at birth as Hutu, Tutsi, or that one smallest group that I mentioned, the Twa. This was -- the population registration involved not just being registered at birth at the commune, but also carrying an identity card on which was stated your group.
In the 1930s, this identity card was the guarantee of the privilege of the Tutsi. It was your ticket into school. It was your ticket into an occupation in the colonial administration. It was even a guarantee that if you violated the law you would be fined rather than beaten. But in one of those ultimate ironies of history, these little documents which guaranteed the privilege of the Tutsi in the 1930s became, by the time of the genocide, the death warrant of that same group.
In the same way the exploitation of the idea of the Tutsi as a superior group, which was an idea that they bought into, they bought into it in terms of self-interest, but they also bought into it because it was an idea that was enshrined in the schoolbooks of the colonial administration. I’m sure of you know enough about the effect of colonial educational systems to know that the ideas brought by the colonial system, the colonial books, the colonial teachers exercised enormous influence in shaping the values of people.
Well, that was true in Rwanda and Burundi, as well. What those books taught was Tutsi are superior, Hutu are inferior, and what’s more, Tutsi come from somewhere else.
There was no evidence really at the time when Europeans arrived that Tutsi came from somewhere else, but arriving and finding these incredibly sophisticated state systems, the Europeans had a little bit of a problem in explaining to themselves how this could be. Their fundamental racism made it difficult for them to acknowledge that peoples in Central Africa could develop sophisticated states.
To explain to themselves the existence of these states they then postulated a foreign origin for the Tutsi; and, of course, the closer to Europe, the better. So the Tutsi were made to come from Egypt perhaps, Ethiopia perhaps, Somalia perhaps, somewhere up there in the northeastern corner of Africa where they were closer to us, right, which would explain why they were superior and able to descend into the heart of Africa and create these organized states.
This idea of the foreign origin of the Tutsi was accepted by Hutu and by Tutsi as a result of the colonial education and assimilated even into the oral tradition, so that Rwandan and Burundian historians themselves talked about how they were the sons of Ham or how they had come from the Nile Valley, something like that.
This isn’t to say that the Tutsi did not include eventually, tracing them back, some strains of people who certainly came from other parts of Africa and why not northeastern Africa. But the Tutsi as a people and the Hutu as a people were groups formed on the spot as a result of the development of the local states. So to talk about Tutsi coming from any other place at any other given period of time is essentially a futile exercise. But it was not futile in the eyes of the people in those countries because this was part of the education which was brought to them by the Europeans.
Because of the success of these ideas there was created this expectation -- this -- not expectation, but this understanding of the Tutsi as being of foreign origin. This is an important element in the ideology of genocide. Because the Tutsi are said to be not of this region, they have no right to be here, they come from somewhere else.
That strain comes out most clearly in the earliest call for genocidal violence, which was in November 1992 in Rwanda when a man close to the power structure, a man with a Ph.D. in linguistics from a Canadian university, gave a very famous speech in which he said: “Send the Tutsi back where they came from. Send them back to Ethiopia via the Nyabarongo River,” which was a river that flowed through the central part of Rwanda and ultimately, by linking up with the Akagera River, flowed into Lake Victoria. Since Lake Victoria was the source of the Nile people thrown into that river, in a sense, would end up back in Ethiopia where they began. Of course, the assumption was that they would be thrown into the river dead. So here one of the earliest calls for -- in the current genocidal period, was a specific reference to that “Aryanness” of the Tutsi.
Another element of the ideology was the reference to this historical period of Tutsi repression. The people who are alive today, the oldest of them, remember the colonial period, but not the pre-colonial period.
At the time when the revolution was made against the Tutsi control, which was 1959-60, the sons of the revolution justified their violence by building up this image of Tutsi repression. Their historical references to Tutsi repression was, in fact, underlined by and reinforced by the personal experience of many people alive today.
So another element of the ideology of genocide has been a reference back to the evil days of Tutsi repression and a conscious effort to manipulate the fear of people that the Tutsi regime would be restored. The old days of the monarchy, the old days of the beatings, the old days of the forced labor will be restored if the Tutsi are allowed to come to power.
The colonial regime, shortly before the end of the colonial period, changed its policy dramatically for a number of reasons and decided to begin increasingly including the Hutu into political power: admitting them to schools, giving them positions in the administration, instituting a partial electoral system. These changes were enough to frighten the Tutsi who were afraid that by the time the Belgians left they would no longer be in control, but were not enough to satisfy the Hutu who were afraid that by the time the Belgians left they would not yet be in control.
The situation became increasingly polarized and the last years of colonial rule saw a revolution in Rwanda, not in Burundi.
The differences are complicated. Let’s just say in this case, to deal with it briefly, that the power structure in Burundi was more flexible and open and that the ruler in Burundi was able to play the game very well in balancing off different interest groups to keep a revolution from happening there. In Rwanda, the ruler who had been in power for a number of years died suddenly and was replaced by an inexperienced young man who was manipulated by extremist groups and was unable to keep a handle on things.
So the revolution took place in Rwanda. The monarchy was overthrown. The top peak of the aristocracy was driven away, driven out of the country, and thousands of them were killed. Those refugees who left the country in 1959, 1960, 1961, ’62, formed a penumbra, a circle of refugee communities around Rwanda, including in Burundi as well as Zaire, Tanzania, and Uganda. From this out-of-periphery outer circle they launched a series of incursions into Rwanda.
When they did so, the reaction inside the country on the part of the local authorities, who are by now Hutu authorities in charge of a Hutu-dominated republic, was to unleash reprisal attacks on local Tutsi communities, the Tutsi who were left within the country, the poorer Tutsi, the people who have not been part of the aristocracy. So the original target of violence at the time of the revolution itself gradually widened to include a larger part of the group so that it was no longer just those people who had actually held power, but it was also the people who might be associated with them because they also were called Tutsi.
This set a pattern which became important again in the 1990s. In the interim, there was a period of calm, a military takeover, but, again, by a Hutu leader, who initially was popular, who initially was praised both within the country and outside the country, but who stayed in power for 20 years.
Anyone who stays in power for 20 years becomes essentially very focused on his own interests, his own family interests, his own regional interests, so he began to lose popularity generally throughout the country. This was in the late 1980s.
At the same time, Rwanda, which had done up until then relatively well in economic terms, experienced a serious downturn because the bottom fell out of the coffee market. This was an agricultural country where 95 percent of the people live from farming and where the chief cash crop for export was coffee. So when the cash price on the world market declined 50 percent in 1 year, this meant instant impoverishment for a substantial part of the population. And for the first time, Rwanda was forced to go to the World Bank and accept the structural adjustment measures which the World Bank had by then imposed on almost all other African countries. So the economic situation got worse.
The political situation was becoming increasingly unfavorable to the Hutu leadership in power. They reacted by tightening their bonds among themselves and digging in, in an effort to hold onto control. The pressure from the international community and from internal opposition, however, was so great that eventually the government was forced to accept the beginnings of multipartyism.
It was just at that point that the refugee population in Uganda of Tutsi who had lived outside the country, some of them an entire generation outside the country, organized to come back. They did this forcefully with an army. They crossed the border and invaded Rwanda.
The reaction of the people in power was to use this invasion as an opportunity to try to rebuild the slipping power base within the country. How did they do that? They did that by a standard technique, which was to begin scapegoating the Tutsi minority within the country, accusing them of being collaborators of the invaders.
This pattern of attack on the Tutsis was established within 2 weeks of the invasion. There was the first massacre of Tutsi. That was in October of 1990. Some more massacres followed in January of 1991, then again in March of 1992, then again in February of 1993, January and February of 1993.
International human rights groups reported on these, called attention to them, described them even as acts of genocide because, in most cases, the victims were targeted for no other reason but that they were Tutsi. This produced some temporary flutters of concern in various diplomatic communities, but never enough to bring about a substantial change in direction. It was clear from the start that state authorities were involved in carrying out the killings.
During the colonial period, there had been a form of obligatory communal labor that everyone had to do one day a month, free labor: Build the roads, build the schools, repair the health clinic. It was called umuganda. When the first massacre took place in October 1990, I went and questioned some of the survivors. And they said to me these attacks were done by people at the direction of the local government official, the burgomaster, who told people that it was their umuganda, their communal obligation of labor for the month to kill people.
Now my training up until that point had been as a historian working in oral sources. I said to myself this is symbolic speech, right? This is a way of telling me the state is involved, but don’t take this literally. They don’t really mean that somebody said to them this is your labor obligation for this month to go out and attack your neighbors.
Then I went and examined the depositions, the legal statements, made by the people accused of the killing. Those statements said yes, I killed; I killed because the burgomaster told me to. He said it was the umuganda for this month.
How to understand the use of a state system to mobilize a population to kill, that’s the challenge here. I was on a platform not too long ago with a Rwandan colleague and someone said to her, how is it possible? How is it possible that the Rwandans, ordinary men and women, killed their neighbors, the people they drank with, the people whom they borrowed from, the people who carried them to the hospital when they were ill?
And she said, don’t think that Rwandans are different from anyone else. Rwandans are like Americans or Poles or Japanese, anyone in the world. There are among them people who do evil things. But, she said, here is the difference: In the case, for example, of the American who bombed in Oklahoma City, he had a powerful urge to do that and he did it, even knowing that the state would be against him, that everything would be put out to try to catch him and punish him. Imagine, she said, a system where the state is not there to punish this kind of evil impulse, but to encourage it.
In fact, that is what happened in the Rwandan case. The structures of the state and the parallel structures of political party and the military, which are in and of themselves neutral or even beneficial structures -- structures that could be used for economic development, for building schools, for building roads, for protecting security -- these structures were turned from their ordinary purposes and put instead to the use of destruction.
In that context, I’ve tried to understand how people could react to the pressure to kill. Those of us who function in a society which is ordinarily one where we can rely on a certain form of protection -- especially if we happen to be white -- from the forces of order, find it hard to imagine being put in a context where the authority structure says to you kill or be killed. But in fact that happened in a number of cases, in many cases.
Recently, I’ve been working in documents that come from a prefecture in the southern part of Rwanda. In many places the documents of the genocidal period have been destroyed, but in this particular prefecture the documents were still there. I’ve been reading in these documents the minutes of meetings of the security committees at various levels and reading the correspondence between the local prefect, the governor, and the people underneath him, the burgomasters.
I read references to authorities saying anyone who does not participate in seeking out the accomplices, which was the word -- the standard word used, ibyitsi, the accomplices of the invaders, anyone who does not participate in that is himself guilty.
So those Hutu who chose not to participate in the nightly rounds when people were attacked and killed found themselves also being attacked. Those people who hid Tutsi in their ceilings or who brought food to them when they spent 2 months hiding in a hole. Those people, if they were caught, were also killed.
So that when we try to imagine in this scene in Rwanda, when we picture a situation of enormous poverty, when we picture a situation where the state has become itself geared to killing, then I think we can begin to understand genocide on such an enormous scale.
We know that tens of thousands of people were involved in the killing. We don’t know exactly how many. We don’t know exactly how many victims there were. But we do know that as opposed to the kind of genocide of Nazi Germany, which was essentially an industrial genocide, this was instead a cottage industry genocide, an artisanal genocide, carried out often with simple weapons by people in large numbers rather than by gas chambers and a special SS force.
When the genocide began, Tutsi and Hutu alike fled to places that had in the past been sanctuaries -- churches, schools, hospitals -- thinking they would be protected. In some cases, they were actively invited to come to those places by the local government officials who said things are not safe at home, come here so we can put some guards around and protect you.
Then once those people were assembled in large numbers, the authorities would arrive and request that all the Hutu leave. To make sure that only Hutu left they would check the identity cards. Once the population inside the church or the school or the hospital was only Tutsi or people who chose to identify themselves with Tutsi because they were married to Tutsi, then the grenades would be thrown in, and following the grenades the people would storm the building with machetes, with clubs.
The killing in some places, like, for example, the church at Cyahinda in the southern part of the country, the killing would begin at 8 o’clock in the morning, because that’s when communal labor would begin, and it would continue until 4 in the afternoon. Then the killers would go home to come the next morning at 8 o’clock and continue until 4, until all the victims had been killed. Even in people’s homes the killers would often come and kill the man in the family and say to the wife we’ll leave you till tomorrow. We’re too tired tonight, let it wait.
I had a call from an old friend in the middle of the night at the end of May in 1994. Her husband had been killed that afternoon. She had a 16-month-old baby and they had told her they were coming back for her the next day. I said, but Esperance, you have to flee. She said to where? To where? There was no place to flee.
Barriers cut not only roads, but also paths everywhere in the country. At those barriers you were asked for your identity papers. If your identity card said Tutsi, you would be killed. If you avoided the barriers in some way, they were circulating patrols to catch people who were out on foot. Some people were hunted for weeks on end, living in swamps, climbing trees, burrowing into holes in order to stay alive.
There was this inexorable quality to it, which certainly justifies calling it a genocide. One which was possible only because the structures of authority -- the state, the military, and the political parties -- were pulled together for the single purpose of killing.
Now it wasn’t everyone. There were people who resisted. But those who resisted, those in authority who attempted to buck the orders to kill, were themselves quickly killed or neutralized in some other fashion so that the ordinary people saw an overwhelming success on the part of the killers.
In that context it’s important for us to take account of the role that we as the international community played in this situation. There were United Nations troops present at the time when the great genocide began in April. Partly as a result of pressure from the United States, the Security Council decided to withdraw those troops 2 weeks after the genocide had begun. In an attempt to honor apparently the spirit of neutrality of the UN, there were lots of proclamations made about how in a case of a civil war the UN can’t take sides and it has to withdraw, in a clear distortion of the evidence which showed that this was, yes, a civil war, but also a genocide, a genocide being used to win a civil war. As a result, UN troops withdrew and the rest of the international community as soon as it had its own nationals evacuated turned away.
We now know that the genocide which began in Kigali, in the capital, began simultaneously in a couple of other regions in the country, but not everywhere. Those authorities who tried to resist saw the writing on the wall very soon. They saw that the international community would do nothing to stop the genocide. They were faced with the prospect of themselves being killed if they did not participate. As a result, they went along.
Had there been, early on, a clear indication from the international community that this was going to be stopped, that it was not going to pay, that the people who were carrying this out would certainly be punished, had that been made clear at the start many others who had the courage to resist in the first few days would have been able to resist a much longer time. So we need to have an appropriate sense of our own involvement in this situation.
In Burundi, there had been a pattern. There had been a massacre carried out much earlier than the killings we’re talking about in Rwanda in 1972, again, for very much the same political purpose: the effort of an elite to hold onto power. In doing so, they killed perhaps 100,000 Hutu. It created absolutely no response in the international community. That was in 1972, before we all paid attention to human rights, right?
In 1993, the political scene in Burundi had changed enough for an election to be held and a Hutu to be elected as president. He managed to make some changes quickly in the civilian administration, but not in the military which remained in the hands of the Tutsi. So that in October of 1993, the Tutsi military assassinated the Hutu president and in the weeks thereafter, there was a pattern of massacres. Hutu killing Tutsi, Tutsi killing Hutu, perhaps 50,000 people killed; as far as we can tell, about equal numbers.
Since that time, the hard line Tutsi interests have gradually increased their control within the government, often by using terrorist tactics on the streets: by bringing all life to a halt in the city of Bujumbura by what are called dead city demonstrations, making it impossible for people to move about; attacking and killing people who tried to go to work. Gangs of young Tutsi terrorists have been able to force changes in the composition of the government.
So a government which was initially popularly elected with the Frodebu Party having 60 percent of the vote, has increasingly become a situation where hard line Tutsi extremists dominate more and more of that government. More or less, as if at the start, it had been the dog that had been wagging the tail and then it was the tail that was wagging the dog and now it’s the tip of the tail that’s wagging the tail that’s wagging the dog, so that you now have a very small, very hard line group of Tutsi extremists who are able to call the shots and who have been able to force changes in the prime minister, in the president of the assembly, in the number of cabinet ministers and how they’re allocated to political parties.
In this situation, there has been, as I mentioned at the start, widespread killing; increasing numbers of people killed in the last 18 months, particularly in the last year. But yet, not yet a genocide. Why not yet a genocide?
Well, the minority, the Tutsi, have control of the military, but they don’t yet have control of the complete civilian administration. Much of the civilian administration remains in the hands of the Hutu. The military, because it has been for decades the source of suffering and oppression of the Hutu, will never be able to muster a popular base among them and elicit from them the kind of obedience that the state structure has been able to elicit in Rwanda.
So at this time, there are conditions of great conflict in Burundi, where you have a Tutsi-dominated military that is carrying out repeated attacks on the Hutu. You have, on the other hand, the organization of an increasingly active Hutu guerilla movement. Several guerilla movements, in fact -- one based in Tanzania, one based in Zaire -- which are beginning to attack Tutsi. But their attacks have been largely on Tutsi military so far rather than significantly on Tutsi civilians. As a result, it looks like Burundi could become more a classic case of civil war rather than a genocide of the kind that we saw in Rwanda.
There is a potential nonetheless for massive killings there because the army is equipped with [indecipherable] from China and then the subsequent arrival of a number of North Koreans – [indecipherable] kind that we have seen in Rwanda because there is not the structure there to make it happen on the kind of massive scale that it happened in Rwanda.
The ideology of fear and hatred, the classic attempt to identify the Tutsi as alien outsiders and so on is an element that occurs in genocides in other parts of the world. The use of the genocide also as a political tool, as an attempt to reinforce the power of a small ruling elite, is something that we find in other parts of the world. What perhaps makes the case different in Rwanda is the poverty of the countries which has produced a genocide of massive proportions where many people are involved rather than a smaller number of killers in response to the state directives, but also in response to economic drives.
We have records of meetings where the assailants, the attackers, the killers before going to someone’s house, sit down and divide up what they expect to find inside. In communities that are as tightly knit as these everyone knows who owns a radio and whether the radio is working or not; who owns a bicycle; who owns a stuffed chair, a sofa as opposed to a hard chair; or if you happen to be in the city, who owns a VCR; who owns a television set. And we find examples of the goods being divided up before the attack.
This is not just in terms of the immediate pillage, but also in terms of access to land. These countries are the most densely populated countries in Africa. They are agricultural countries. And land constitutes the greatest basis of wealth for the majority of the people.
The prospect of destroying completely a neighboring family, if that destruction can produce for you also the possibility of enough land for your own family to survive, for your son to marry and establish his household, if you put that kind of economic incentive together with the element of fear -- which is part of the ideology, the fear of the alien Tutsi -- together with the impetus that comes from a state organization to make it all happen, then you begin to get some understanding of how a horror of this dimension could have taken place and could have taken place so quickly: in a 100 days, half a million to a million victims; we’ll probably never know for sure. Very fast.
All of which I think goes to prove that far from Rwanda being a failed state, which was the phrase that often was used at the start -- it’s a current phrase that a lot of observers like to use in discussing African societies, African countries, they’re failed states. They haven’t made it, right?
But nothing could be further from the truth in the Rwandan case. This is not a failed state, but a state that succeeded. It succeeded too well in what it set out to do.
The rest of the international community looked on in horror at the results of its withdrawal. Very soon after withdrawing the troops, it decided to try to have the judges do what the generals had not done.
This led to the creation of an international tribunal for Rwanda, an extension of the tribunal which had already been created for former Yugoslavia, and the expectation that the chief perpetrators of the genocide would rapidly be brought to justice. That has not happened. It must happen. There is some progress. We expect there will be indictments before the end of the year, but it has I think been most regrettable that it has taken so long.
If we are learning that given the state of popular disinterest in situations like these and the reluctance to commit troops to peacekeeping operations, if we’re learning that those kinds of limits cannot be used, cannot be hoped for to restrain genocide and massive ethnic conflict, we have got to find some other way to deal with this. It’s perhaps putting too much on the shoulders of judges to ask them to take up this burden that the generals are putting down. But I see no other choice at this point but to establish a rigorous form of justice to bring to account the people who carried out this genocide because if it is not certain that justice will deter future genocides, I think we can say it is certain that lack of justice will certainly encourage such future conflicts.