Chapter 1: Invasion? What invasion?
The vanquished always has a better memory than
the victor who tries to make us forget.
The “right and proper tale ” would have it that the Rwandan Patriotic Front under the brilliant military and political leadership of current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who along with many fellow officers was trained in the best American and British military academies, ended the genocide by taking Kigali on the fourth of July 1994 and by forming a new government on July 19, 1994. A patriotic liberation movement with the right friends puts an end to the worst crime imaginable, similar to the Holocaust, and all that happens on the fourth of July.
The first problem with this part of the right and proper tale is that Kigali was not taken on the fourth of July. The decisive battle that allowed the RPF to take the capital city of Rwanda was fought on July 2. Paul Kagame marched into Kigali on July 3. Wasn’t Paris liberated when Charles de Gaulle marched in on August 25, 1944? Nobody changed that date to make others happy. But for Rwanda, important people in influential positions preferred the fourth of July. So that day chosen. It was also important not to be too close to July 1, which was Rwandan Independence Day since 1962 and still a powerful symbol of the social revolution that now had to be erased from people’s memories. The victors then just had to declare the fourth of July the new Rwandan National Day and for the pipers to play the tune. Everybody knows of course which tune was to be played.
The second problem is that the massacre of civilians did not end with the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Civilians have been massacred in Rwanda steadily ever since and massacres have continued even more seriously in the neighbouring Congo.
The choice of the fourth of July may be a minor point, but in politics nothing is left to chance, especially not the symbols. Hopefully, it will be like an alarm bell that might lead people re-read the right and proper tale with an eye out for those optical illusions so often used to distort and misinform.
The army led by Paul Kagame was never a liberation army. Most people knew that from the beginning. The Rwandan Patriotic Front and its leader were more like the paid arsonist masquerading as firemen than the patriot who saved the people from the fire as the official story would have us believe.
Until October 1, 1990, the troops that invaded Rwanda were uniformed soldiers in Ugandan National Army who marched to the orders of Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda and commander in chief. The invading troops consisted mainly of Rwandans who had lived in Uganda since the social revolution and independence of Rwanda in 1962. They had been at war in Uganda since 1981 as part of the guerrilla forces known as the National Resistance Army until it took power in Uganda in 1986 and Yoweri Museveni became President.
On September 28, 1990, 4000 Ugandan soldiers and officers, including former army Commander and Ugandan Defence Minister Fred Rwigyema left their barracks fully equipped with weapons and vehicles. They travelled hundreds of kilometres in Uganda to the Rwandan border and attacked the few Rwandan border guards on October 1. They then advanced some 70 kilometres into Rwanda. By October 4, the invading troops were within 70 kilometres of the Rwandan capital Kigali.
Everywhere in the world, that attack on October 1 would be described as an invasion of one country by another. It was not an incursion, nor a civil war, nor an increase in ethnic tension. The word is invasion. In legal terms and according to principles established at the Nuremberg trials that are so often referred to in the Rwandan tragedy, that invasion is no less than the worst war crime because it is a crime against peace. However, that invasion has been at best trivialized ever since it happened, at worst omitted altogether from the tale of events. One of the worst examples was a long article in the New York Times Magazine on September 15, 2002, entitled The Minister of Rape. Not a word is mentioned about the invasion. We only learn that “tensions increased in 1990.” 5
A crime of that magnitude should normally have provoked a sharp international reaction, especially considering that when Ugandan troops invaded, Rwandan President Habyarimana and Ugandan President Museveni were both in New York for a UNICEF meeting. Moreover, two days earlier, on September 28, President Habyarimana told the United Nations General Assembly that his government would offer citizenship and travel documents to all Rwanda refugees wherever they were and that it would repatriate all those who wanted to return to Rwanda.
International reports on the invasion hinted that the invading army had taken or was about to take Kigali. American authorities jumped suspiciously quickly to offer President Habyarimana political asylum in the United States. Moreover, according to a story that is surely not very right and proper but still stubbornly tenacious, the late Rwandan president met the United States Ambassador in Kigali before leaving the country and asked him if the United States had any information about an invasion by Uganda. The Ambassador offered to make some intelligence inquiries–the CIA–and then informed President Habyarimana that there was no such information and that he could safely go to New York.
On learning of the invasion, the Rwandan president immediately returned home but stopped off in Belgium where, suspiciously, he also received an offer of asylum. Belgian news reports amplified the invaders’ military success. Meanwhile, Ugandan President Museveni remained in the United States even though his army had just suffered the worst mutiny in its history that involved troops, officers and military equipment. Though he is an army man to the very core and the champion of professional and disciplined armies that Africa supposedly needed so badly, the president of Uganda decided to sit back in New York while a whole section of his cherished army revolted and invaded another country wearing their Ugandan uniforms.
The same Yoweri Museveni had become the darling of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and United States Diplomacy since the middle of the 1980s. He was another of the former leftist guerrilla leaders who came over to the gospel of good governance, structural adjustment, privatization and, judging by the turn of events, the remodelling of African geography. The United States saw Uganda as a rampart against Islamic fundamentalism in Sudan, and its president Yoweri Museveni as a trustworthy ally to aid US covert operations in Southern Sudan. Former President Jimmy Carter described Museveni as “one of Africa’s most important leaders”. Madeleine Albright spoke of him as “a beacon of hope for Africa”, whereas the journalist with the New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch promoted him for years as the “éminence grise of the new leadership in central Africa”, before making a surprising flip-flop in May 2003 when he called him an “arsonist masquerading as a fireman” in a confusing article on the Congo. 6
President Museveni unconvincingly distanced himself from the invasion by pleading ignorance and surprise and by complaining about how his officers and comrades-in-arms, who became the commanders of the RPF, had tricked him in October 1990. Though totally disingenuous, Museveni’s excuses satisfied his friends in the “international community”. “The truth of the matter is,” he declared in a 1991 address, “that these people conspired, took us by surprise, and went to Rwanda, which was not particularly difficult…. We had some information that the Banyarwanda in Uganda were up to something, but we shared it with the Rwandan government. They actually had, or should have had, more information because, after all, it was their business, not ours, to follow up who was plotting what.” 7
The eminent President Museveni would like us to believe that the intelligence agency of one country–Rwanda in this case–should spy and monitor all the movements and actions of entire regiments of another country’s army–Uganda–and take the necessary action to prevent mutiny, revolt and aggression against neighbours. Let’s apply the infallible logic to other countries on other continents. What would happen if Cuba or Mexico did to the United States what Museveni said Rwanda should have done to Uganda? And what if they took action to protect themselves from U.S. interference? What if Ireland did the same in the United Kingdom? Or Algeria in France? France in Canada? India in Pakistan? China in Vietnam? It is obviously ridiculous. Are we expected to believe him just because it is in Africa?
Countries that spy on each other as Museveni suggested Rwanda should have done are asking for war. Yet we are invited to believe that the Rwandan government made a serious mistake by not spying on the Ugandan army and by not intervening to prevent it from invading Rwanda. That error was so serious that the “new éminence grise of Africa” Yoweri Museveni was justified in not punishing the mutineers in his army.
The man who refused to punish the senior officers who mutinied in his own army is the same man that US diplomacy, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund adored particularly because of his unbending leadership and his vision of a professional and disciplined army in Africa. All of Museveni’s speeches convey the message of a professional and disciplined army. He talked that way before and after he took power in Uganda, before and after the invasion of Rwanda in 1990, before and after the Rwandan Patriotic Front took power in Kigali. Museveni knew what he was talking about. He took power in 1986 after a long guerrilla war, and then, between 1986 and 1990, he mercilessly suppressed revolt in his army.
In his address five years after taking power and four months after the invasion of Rwanda, Museveni left no doubt about his views on military discipline. “As you know, we have dealt very harshly with discipline. There is a very strict code of conduct for the National Resistance Army and a mechanism for dealing with wayward soldiers. No soldier is spared, whatever his rank may be.” 8
One month before the invasion of Rwanda, in August 1990, President Museveni addressed Ugandan army officers including, undoubtedly, those who were already preparing to invade Rwanda. His subject was combating counterrevolutionary insurgency and his main message was the importance of discipline, loyalty, military training, unity and the size of the army. He also made a plea in favour of using military intelligence however it may be obtained. All these elements converge in the fight against insurgency. 9
A month after making this speech, the strict disciplinarian, raised and trained in a world of conspiracies and rebellion, sat passively watching his own troops mutiny and invade Rwanda, thereby threatening peace and security throughout central Africa. These were not a few low-ranking officers. Entire regiments invaded, led first by Uganda’s former Defence Minister Fred Rwigyema, killed in the invasion, and then by the Ugandan Chief of Military Intelligence, Paul Kagame, who quickly returned from the United States where Museveni had sent him for military training. The invading Ugandan troops that would soon be known as the Rwandan Patriotic Army comprised many senior officers, 150 middle level officer and even some of President Museveni’s own bodyguards.
In the next three and half years, Museveni continued to watch “passively” as his former troops went in and out of Uganda as they liked. Uganda became the conveyor of men, munitions and materiel to an army dedicated to overthrowing the Rwandan government. Despite Uganda’s obvious implication in this war, no imperial power ever once threatened to punish President Museveni or to cut off support to his country.
Yoweri Museveni’s August 1990 address to the officers of the Ugandan National Resistance Army on “How to fight a Counterrevolutionary Insurgency” reads like a blueprint for the invasion and war that some of his officers were soon to conduct in Rwanda against President Habyarimana. The difference is that Museveni’s officers would soon become be calling themselves Rwandan “insurgents” or “rebels”. 10
“We had to reject the concept of ‘a small but efficient’ army…” he said. “This notion is nothing but suicidal. Insurgents do not have to do much, but they will have succeeded in their devices if they simply terrorize the population, stop them from producing wealth for the country, dismantle the network of civil administration and block communications. Once the state does not stop insurgents from doing this on a large scale, the country will rapidly lose income and find it impossible to support the army… Insurgents will be in a position to create a situation of strategic stalemate or even to launch a strategic counteroffensive to seize state power.”
That is exactly what happened between 1990 and 1994. Moreover, shortly after the Ugandan officers led the October invasion of Rwanda, President Museveni demanded that Rwanda agree to a cease-fire and negotiate with the insurgents, now called the Rwandan Patriotic Front. That was the “strategic stalemate” he had talked about in his August 1990 address.
Rwanda is so tiny. What in the world would the United States want in such an insignificant remote place?
The notion that Africa is, at best, on the fringe of the international community, at worst, completely cut off from it, has been common currency for centuries. Africa is supposedly of no interest to major powers in the world, except as a means to soothe guilty consciences or to receive charity and benefit from the altruism of those powers. That idea is deep-rooted. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien echoed it in April 2002 shortly before the G8 Summit at Kananaskis when he announced that Africa would become part of the international community in the twenty-first century. It seems to have escaped Jean Chrétien that most African countries had been members of the United Nations since becoming independent in the 1960s.
In 1885, when Europe was set to pounce on Africa, the official British position was that of the “reluctant empire” that was compelled to leave the hallowed isles to look after Africa. Historians consolidated this idea. In a famous address first published in 1883, J.R. Seeley observed that the expansion of England in America and Asia was perceived to be almost accidental. It was “an empire acquired in a fit of absence of mind”. 11 Subsequently, historians showed that England was not as selfless as it let on and that expansion of the empire closely followed British commercial expansion – the flag followed commerce.
The same image of the “reluctant empire” prevails in all descriptions of the United States in central Africa at the end of the twentieth century, and now in the twenty-first. Moreover, the U.S. State Department carefully and successfully cultivated that image, which could be summed up as follows: We don’t want to be there, we don’t want to be forced to intervene, we have no interests there, we are only the honest broker working for the good of humanity.
The proof that the United States succeeded in imposing that image is the virtual absence of publications dealing critically with the United States’ strategic goals in Africa. Discussion of the American role is always couched in talk of democracy, human rights, good governance, trade, and the American determination not to repeat the Somalia fiasco during which 18 U.S. soldiers were killed. Washington has adopted exactly the same tack in its approach to Liberia.
Although former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was not convinced of the United States’ strategic interest in Rwanda – “I have no real information to that effect”, he told me in a November 2002 interview” – he has nod doubt about the Congo. “In the Congo, yes, absolutely! There’s tremendous wealth there.” Boutros-Ghali added that British intelligence services were very active in the region through Ugandan President Museveni. He also pointed out that the 1898 Fashoda incident, which is seen as a French defeat in Africa, “still dominates people’s minds”. 12
Facts contradict the image of the “reluctant empire. For the United States, Uganda as well as Rwanda and Burundi became increasingly important both for economic and strategic reasons in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The importance of building a front to counter the expansion of Islam in Africa through the Sudan cannot be underestimated. Uganda had a strong, experienced army and was led by a president willing to work for the Americans. U.S. support for the Christian rebellion in southern Sudan was funnelled through Kampala and with the help Museveni’s army. South Africa at that time was also unpredictable. Despite official American anti-apartheid position, South Africa remained an important ally and Washington was concerned about what might happen should that country be lost as an ally.
When Ugandan troops invaded Rwanda, the future leader Paul Kagame, who had been Uganda’s Chief of Military Intelligence, was training at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under the International Military Education and Training program known as IMET. In fact, the majority of Ugandan military personnel sent to the United States through the IMET program would soon become commanders of the Rwanda Patriotic Front.
IMET was established in the mid 1970s. It is described as an “instrument of influence” by which the United States is able to affect the internal and external policy behaviour of recipient military institutions and governments in a manner congenial with U.S. foreign policy interests. 13 The IMET program, and a modern version known as Enhanced-IMET, was also used to prepare Rwandan troops for the invasion of Zaire starting in 1996.
The United States obviously placed much hope in Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda. In addition to the military links, American non-military aid to Uganda between 1989 and 1992 totalled $183 million, which was twice what the United States granted to Rwanda during the same period.
It has been said that the invasion of Rwanda by Ugandan troops in 1990 was aimed at Kinshasa not Kigali. The war that has followed in the Congo and the scramble by Western corporations for control of the vast Congolese natural resources makes that interpretation very plausible. The British and the Americans have coveted resources in eastern Congo since the end of the nineteenth century. With President Mobutu’s health failing and his grip on power weakening, the void foreseen whet the appetite of an American empire giddy after fall of the Soviet Union.
Since the war began in the Congo in 1996, the rush of American, Belgian, Canadian, British and French corporations for diamonds and gold and other natural resources in the region has been widely documented and denounced. An internet search with the words “Congo AND diamonds”, “Congo AND gold mines” or “Congo AND coltan” produces numerous reliable studies with figures and details on the corporations that have snatched up Congolese wealth. Before the war, these resources belonged to Zaire and were a major source of income. Now they are under the direct control of foreign corporations protected by proxy armies set up since the 1996 invasion.
The economic determinism of these documents is their main weakness. Their eloquent and detailed descriptions of how American and European interests have taken over African wealth are undermined by credence they give to imperial cant that has allowed it all come about. That cant would have it that Western powers led by the United States are involved in Africa to defend human rights and democracy, to combat the evils of corruption, dictatorship, impunity and genocide, and to favour development. There is not much new under the sun. When England colonized Africa, people were supposed to believe the goal was to stamp out the Arab slave trade and uplift Africans through Christian civilization.
In spring 1993, the United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher declared to the African-American Institute that “The people of Africa know where their future lies: not with corrupt dictators like Mobutu, but with courageous democrats in every part of the continent. From Senegal to Benin, from Madagascar to Mali, African nations are building strong democratic institutions.”
What was Warren Christopher’s real message? First, the United States was staking out the areas it targeted. These just happened to be all countries with close ties to France - note that every country mentioned is a member of the Francophone Summit. Secondly, Washington had decided that Mobutu, who had faithfully served the United States for thirty years as an anti-Communist strongman, was now on his way out, and that the Africans’ desire for change and their revolt against Mobutu would be used to advance American pawns in Africa.
The anointed strongman in Africa would now be Yoweri Museveni, even though the Ugandan president thumbed his nose at the sacrosanct notions like human rights, democracy, multiparty systems and economic transparency. In retrospect, though a large number of Congolese wanted to get rid of Mobutu, were they to have a choice now, even the most militant among them would prefer Mobutu’s Zaire to the Congo killing fields that war launched in 1996 has foisted upon their country and their people.
The official position of the United States and of most European countries regarding Africa remained that of reluctance and disinterest. Nonetheless, their diplomatic, economic, political, legal and military involvement increased exponentially between 1990 and 2003. This involvement has became much more direct and very often bypasses the official recognized channels that should govern international relations.
The Rwandan government reacted sharply to the invasion and was supported by France, Zaire and Belgium, though the Belgians soon turned on the Rwandan government. The invasion pitted Ugandan troops that had been at war for years in Uganda against a small Rwandan army that had not seen in combat since 1969. President Habyarimana’s government also took action internally and, not surprisingly, arrested some 8000 Rwandan citizens, mainly Tutsis, holding them for periods varying from a few days to six months.
The intrepid representatives of the New York based Africa Watch (formerly Human Rights Watch/Africa) immediately claimed that the arrests provided verifiable proof of serious human rights violations. Later with their 20/20 hindsight, the arrests became the proof of the genocidal intentions of the Rwandan Government leaders. Africa Watch rang the alarm and it has not stopped ringing ever since.
Foreign diplomats from Belgium, the United States, Switzerland and Canada deplored the action of the government of Rwanda. The Belgian Ambassador Johann Swinnen rushed to the stadium in Kigali where the prisoners were held and, to the joy of those arrested, he condemned the Rwandan government for its human rights violations - would that they had been so prompt when Pinochet locked up thousands in a stadium in Santiago, Chile. Those Western powers obviously wanted to warn President Habyarimana that the going would be tough and that his days were probably numbered.
A few questions must be raised before we delve deeper into this story.
Is it normal in the search for justice to condemn one side in a war for human rights violations and not even question the morality of the aggressors, those who violated the principles of all the charters of rights humanity has ever drafted? Is it right to shout about how a government violates rights and turn a blind eye to the launching of an aggressive war?
The vast majority of Western human rights organisations and their representatives appear to consider it perfectly normal to whitewash the invaders and denounce the invaded country, its leaders and its people. At the top of the list is Alison Des Forges, an ubiquitous American Rwanda activist who has written reams of reports including the Africa Watch report on the arrests. In a statement made under oath in a 1995 Montreal hearing, Ms Des Forges declared that human rights activists “do not examine the issue of who makes war. We see war as an evil and we try to prevent the existence of war to be an excuse for massive human rights violations.” It is like an armed break and entry during which the homeowner defends himself. The Justice Department arrests the home owner for possession of arms and lets the robber off scot-free.
The refusal of human rights organizations to condemn the worst human rights violation, namely the invasion, invalidates all the reports they have published and weakens the foundations on which the “right and proper” tale has been built. It bears sad witness to the lightness with which many of theses groups undertake their work, and also reveals the tacit agreement between them and the big Western powers who wield much more influence than the Rwandan government could dream of having. Worst of all, however, is the blatant double standard they have in respect to Africa. The same groups would never dare apply the same criteria in cases of war in or by their own countries.
In his important Discourse on colonialism published in 1955, Aimé Césaire denounced a similar double standard observed among European humanists. Though many humanists were anti-nazis in the Second World War, they avoided taking up the fight against colonialism. “And that is the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism,” wrote Césaire. “For too long it has diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been - and still is - narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist”. 14
Eight thousand Rwandans were arrested by the Habyarimana government, but all were released within six months. For a country that has been invaded, neither the number of arrests nor their duration is excessive, especially considering the revelations of former leaders and collaborators of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. One such leader is Valens Kajeguhakwa, a business man and one of the RPF’s main financial backers. In 2001, his former comrade-in-arms Paul Kagame forced him to leave the country. Kajeguhakwa, who had also been close to President Habyarimana before he joined the RPF in 1990, published a book in which he described himself as the “bridge that clandestinely united the action of patriots outside and within Rwanda.” 15 He boasts of the invaluable role of his vast network of civilian and military informers that he had carefully developed and who were infiltrated throughout Rwanda up to the highest echelons of the Government of Rwanda.
“They were placed in the army, in the Gendarmerie, in government ministries, in all the main public and private companies, in the National Bank of Rwanda, in parishes, in markets in Kigali, Butare, Ruhengeri, and Gisenyi, in the University in Butare and Nyakinama, in the prisons in Gisehyi and Ruhengeri.” Valens Kajeguhakwa left Rwanda for Uganda just before the invasion in October 1990. He points out in his book that he ensured his network would continue working for him and the Rwandan Patriotic Front in his absence.
Leaders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front claim that they had 36 clandestine cells operating inside Rwanda on October 1, 1990. The number of cells grew steadily as the invaders gained ground and especially as they gained international recognition and support. The same sources boast that by 1993 the RPF could activate 146 clandestine cells in Kigali alone. 16 Ever since the Spanish Civil War, an expression accurately describes such cells: a fifth column. In Rwanda, however, that fifth column was and still is conveniently qualified as innocent human rights activists.
The number of arrests and their duration were limited. Since memory is always selective and always very poor in powerful dominating countries, a few comparisons would be helpful.
According to Professor Panikos Panayi who has studied the question of minorities in wartime, “Some of the most systematic persecution of racial and ethnic minorities in recent history has taken place during the two World Wars. Anyone studying the twentieth century cannot avoid this conclusion. In fact, the historian dealing with any period of human development would find that the years 1914-18 and 1939-45 witnessed unprecedented heights of intolerance towards outgroups.” 17 Professor Panayi also deplores the lack of research conducted about minorities in wartime.
In 1914, Canada was automatically drawn into the First World War by England when it declared war on August 4, 1914, but the country was not invaded. In fact, it has not been invaded since 1812. Nevertheless, two weeks after the war began in Europe, the Parliament of Canada adopted the War Measures Act granting the government power to arrest, detain, exclude and deport individuals. Under the Act, the government could refuse release on bail and suspend habeas corpus for any person suspected of being an enemy alien. Canada interned 8579 people in “concentration camps”–the term coined in the Boer War was still fashionable. Most were Ukrainians that Canadian officials mistook for Austrians.
As war progressed, naturalized German Canadians including many born in Canada soon went from being “among our best immigrants, white people like ourselves” as J.S. Woodsworth noted, to “sub-human” or “blood-crazed madmen”. 18 In 1917, to the applause of much of English Canada, the Parliament adopted the War-time Elections Act that took away voting rights from tens of thousands of naturalized Canadians, most of whom were Ukrainian.
During the Second World War, Canada interned 21,000 of the country’s 22,086 residents of Japanese origin. Ninety-one percent of those interned were Canadian citizens. Officially, Canada “evacuated” the Japanese Canadians, who were dispersed throughout Canada, sometimes up to 5000 kilometres from their homes. All their property was confiscated, farms, homes and fishing boats, never to be returned. When the war was over, none was allowed to return to British Columbia, and 3000 Japanese Canadians were deported to Japan.
The United States interned all Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Pearl Harbour, it should be noted, was not an invasion and did not touch continental United States. The 1940 U.S. census established that 116,947 American residents were of Japanese origin. Sixty percent were born in the United States. In 1942, that country interned - evacuated according to the official euphemism - all the 119,803 men, women and children of Japanese origin. 19
Countries are obsessed with the loyalty of their citizens in wartime. Every minority and every internal nation becomes suspicious. In 1917, Londoners rioted against Jews who were they accused of being opposed to conscription. In the United States, suspicious minorities were tarred and feathered or even lynched. In Canada, the loyalty of French Canadians was immediately questioned in both World Wars, as it was during the Boer War. French Canadians were called Zombies during the Second World War because of their opposition to conscription.
Former colonial possessions are inevitably among the first suspects of countries at war. Ireland, for instance, was independent from England since 1922 and remained neutral during the Second World War. When Winston Churchill suspected these former subjects of Her Majesty to be sympathetic to the Germans, he threatened to bomb all the ports in Ireland.
The treatment of minorities in wartime requires much further study. Suffice it to say that self-righteous human rights activists in Europe and North America would have been well advised to look closely at their own countries’ records before pouncing on Rwanda.
The invading army known by the “right thinking” as a liberation army, settled in for a prolonged guerrilla war when they realized that the Rwandan army was tougher than had been expected. At the end of October 1990, the RPF pulled partly back into Uganda which it used as a base to launch guerrilla attacks. In November, however, Belgium joined Uganda in calling on Rwanda to negotiate with the invading army. Here was the “strategic stalemate” Ugandan President Museveni had talked about on August 1990. The United States and Britain soon joined the chorus of calls for negotiations.
Though the RPF was talking liberation and human rights in all its international press relations in English and French, its writings in Kinyarwanda left no doubt as to its desire to return Rwanda to a pre-independence situation in which the Tutsi minority would dominate. 20 This was confirmed as the RPF behaved like all occupation armies do. They attacked and terrorized civilians, forcing them to flee in large numbers, and targeted the Hutu peasants rather than the Rwandan troops.
What liberation army can boast that it emptied one of the country’s, and the world’s, most densely populated areas? Two and a half years after the invasion, only 1800 people lived in an area of northern Rwanda that previously had a population of 800,000. As the “liberators” advanced, the Hutu peasants fled. By April 1993, Rwanda had more than one million internal refugees. That means one million farmers (one seventh of the total population) who are no longer producing on the most fertile lands in the country. It also means one million people to house and feed, and hundreds of thousands of children absent from school which caused great anxiety among parents.
The Rwandan Minister of Agriculture, Husbandry and Forests in 1992, James Gasana, described the situation in the war torn Byumba prefecture north of Kigali in a book published in 2002. “A prefecture that had been the country’s breadbasket now had the largest population in need of welfare and the highest mortality rate due to malnutrition.” 21
When have we seen a people flee from its liberators? It didn’t happen in France (1940-1945), nor in Cuba (1951-1959), nor in Algeria (1954-1962). The “right and proper tale” would have us believe, however, that the invading RPF army were “liberators”.
These “liberators” were also able to count on a powerful ally. That ally known as the Structural Adjustment Program or SAP was being imposed in unison by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and USAID. Acronyms have a canny way of transmitting messages, and in this case it is particularly eloquent, both in English, SAP, and in French, PAS (Programme d’ajustement structurel). The message could not be clearer: PAS d’argent (no money) unless you SAP the very foundations of the society you built since 1960. That means deregulating the economy, devaluating currency, eliminating agricultural subsidies, privatizing utilities and state-owned corporations, laying off civil servants and more.
The impact in Rwanda was felt immediately. Inflation increased from 1 percent in 1989 to 20 percent in 1991. Devaluation of the currency was even more brutal. In 1990, one U.S. dollar was worth 82 Rwandan Francs. In 1993, it was worth 183 Francs.
The taskmasters at the World Bank, the FMI and USAID knew exactly what was happening. They could see an offshoot of the army led by their friend Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni pitted against a government led by Juvénal Habyarimana. Whereas Museveni was calling on Africa to abandon its anti neo-colonial rhetoric and state loud and clear that Africa’s problems were of its own making, Rwandan President Habyarimana had a relatively prosperous and stable economy but was not as favourably disposed to the new dogma brought down by the by the Bretton Wood institutions.
Privatization and a totally free-market economy presented specific problems for Rwanda. The social revolution of 1959 and independence combined with the growth of a public sector had enabled Rwandan Hutus to gain some economic power and prestige. The private sector, where incomes were much higher, remained largely dominated by Tutsis. The aggressive privatization and deregulation imposed by the Structural Adjustment Program meant an inevitable return towards what had been rejected since the 1960s and a reinforcement of the Tutsis’ power in the economy.
Structural adjustment had another perverse effect on Rwanda. Funds would be given to countries for downsizing their armies. When Ugandan troops invaded Rwanda, the country officially reduced the size of its army. On paper all those Ugandan troops at war in Rwanda were no longer part of the Museveni’s army. Funding to Uganda therefore increased proportionally. Under the same policy, funding to Rwanda was cut since the Habyarimana government increased the size of its army threefold in order to fight the invaders. These were the funds used by Uganda to finance the war in Rwanda. James Gasana, who became Rwandan Defense Minister until he left the country in 1993, wrote a scathing criticism of that policy. “It is no secret that funds granted to two poor countries at war are used to procure weapons. That undercover funding by international development banks prevented international public opinion from understanding the international nature of the war.” 22
Each time the government of Rwanda hesitated to negotiate with the invader or showed reluctance during negotiations, the bankers in New York and Washington would put the pressure on Kigali by refusing to provide the funds the government needed and counted on. Each time the RPF would gain new international recognition, the moral of the Rwandan armed forces would plummet as they increasingly got the impression they were fighting against the whole world. As could easily be predicted by anyone who cared to look, the war aggravated latent hostility between Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority.
As could be expected, the expression “peace process” had quietly crept into the vocabulary of the international community led by the United States and Britain. The “peace process” was to be initiated at Arusha in Tanzania. Peace process essentially means war, a war in which the sponsors of the process choose the winner before the meeting they call takes place. They then pretend to be neutral during negotiations. Having bought time, they tighten the noose on the designated loser and prepare the ground to install a government that is totally subjected to their will. Peace process was on the lips of all the right thinking people, as of course was multiparty democracy.
5 “The Minister of Rape”, New York Times Magazine, Sunday, September 15, 2002, p. 1.
6 Philip Gourevitch, The Congo Test in The New Yorker, May 30, 2003.
7 Yoweri Museveni, What is Africa’s problem?, University of Minnesota Press 2000, p. 106.
8 Ibid. p. 178.
9 Ibid. p. 132.
10 Ibid. How to fight a Counterrevolutionary Insurgency, pp. 132-140.
11 J. R. Seeley, The Expansion of England, Chicago and London, 1971, p. 12.
12 Fashoda was a fort located on the Upper Nile (Now in Sudan). French and British military missions met there on September 18, 1898. France wanted to set up a series of forts from west to east across Africa – Dakar to Djibouti. The British wanted to build a railway from Uganda to Egypt and link its “possessions” in Africa from south to north – the Cape to Cairo. In November 1898, France withdrew from Fashoda and conceded it to the British. It was subsequently decided that the head waters of the Nile and the Congo rivers would delineate the British and French spheres of influence.
13 McNair Paper Number 44, Chapteer 6, October 1995. Institute for National Strategic Studies.
14 Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, Monthly Review Press, 1972, p. 15.
15 Valens KAJEGUHAKWA, Rwanda : de la terre de paix à la terre de sang et après?, Éditions Rémi Perrin, 2001, p. 223.
16 William Cyrus REED, Exile, Reform and the Rise of the RPF, Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3, 1996, pp 479-501.
17 Panikos PANAYI, ed. Minorities in wartime : national and racial groupings in Europe, North America, and Austrialia during the two world wars, Oxford (England) Berg, 1993, p. 3.
18 J.S. Woodsworth, Strangers Within Our Gates, cited in John Herd THOMPSON, Ethnic Minorities during Two World Wars, Ottawa, 1991, Canadian Historical Association.
19 Roger DANIELS, Concentration Camps : North America, Japanese in the United States and Canada During World War II, Krieger Publishing, FL USA, 1981.
20 Enjeux nationaux et dynamiques régionales dans l’Afrique des Grands lacs, Journée d’Étude, Lille, June 20, 1992, under the direction of André GUICHAOUA, URA Tiers-Monde/Afrique.
21 James K. GASANA, Rwanda : du parti-état à l’état-garnison, L’Harmattan, 2002, p. 89.
22 GASANA, op. cit. p. 76