NYT Coverage of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Rwandan “Genocide”

February 4, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Michael M'Gehee: This April will mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan “genocide.” I put the word in quotations not because I assert there was no genocide, but that the genocide was not what is commonly understood.

A recent New York Times article by Maia de la Baume referred to it as “the slaughter of more than 800,000 people -- most of them Tutsi -- in just 100 days.”

This is a pretty standard description. The prevailing narrative is that the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government, or elements of it, were carrying out a systematic extermination of the Tutsi population and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi exile group, quickly invaded to stop the massacres, and overthrew the government. This lie has been made famous by Samantha Power, who is currently the American ambassador to the United Nations. The problem with de la Baum's comment is the figure. Two researchers, Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, have reported: “According to the census, there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in the country in 1991; according to the survival organization Ibuka, about 300,000 survived the 1994 slaughter.” Do the math. If 300,000 of the 800,000 killed were Tutsis then how does de la Baume conclude that Tutsis account for “most” of the deaths? Facts like these should raise questions. Unfortunately, they are not being raised because space is provided to people like de la Baume, who does not raise them. And twenty years later, commemorations continue to get so much of the facts wrong. Another common error in the narrative is that the world did not intervene to stop the massacres.

In a recent UN press release we are told that "the international community had been ineffective in preventing" the genocide. The reason the "international community" was "ineffective in preventing" the genocide is because certain powerful members were complicit in it, as we will see.

Another example of common errors comes from Michael Dobbs, who oversees a project for the Rwandan “genocide” for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Security Archive. He penned an op-ed, which was also recently published in the New York Times. Dobbs wrote about the infamous “genocide fax,” which was mentioned in the UN press release above.

The fax claims that an informant was worried a slaughter of Tutsis was coming and he wanted to get out. However, there are serious concerns about the legitimacy of the fax itself. One of the defense attorneys at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Chris Black, discussed the fax eight years ago:

This fax is the single document upon which the claims of a planned genocide rest. It was supposedly sent by General Dallaire to General Baril, another Canadian general at the Dept of Peace Keeping Operations in New York. It sets out the claims of a UN informant named Jean Pierre Turatsinze that the ruling government party planned to exterminate Tutsis, was training civilians for that purpose and that there was a plan to kill Belgian soldiers to provoke the withdrawal of UN forces. This fax has been trumpeted by the ICTR prosecution as the key to the plan to commit genocide. However, all the evidence presented at the Tribunal and elsewhere establishes that, in fact, the fax is a fabrication.

On November 5th, 1995 the RPF organized a conference in Kigali to amplify support for their claims of genocide and for the trial and punishment of those responsible. This conference failed to provide any documentary evidence of such a claim. At the same time a UNAMIR commission was created by its new head, Mr. S Khan and which included several UN officers who went through all the UNAMIR cables, faxes and reports to determine whether there had been any prior indication of such a plan. Not one document was found, especially the “genocide” fax. That report is dated November 20th , 1995.

Then, mysteriously, a few days after the release of the UN report, on November 28th, 1995 a fax machine at the UN offices in New York received a fax of a copy of a code cable dated January 11th 1994 sent by Dallaire to General Baril. The problem is that the person who sent the fax to New York that day was a Colonel R. M. Connaughton of the British Army, based at Camberly, Surrey, England, the home of the British Military Academy, Sandhurst as well as several other British Army establishments. His name and fax number appear at the top of the document. There was no cover letter explaining who sent it, why it was sent, nor is there anything indicating why this document was accepted by the UN in New York and placed in the DPKO files.

However, even if it were a real document sent by Dallaire, about an informant making these claims, the ICTR has since ruled on the matter. After looking at more than what the informant was allegedly going off of at the time, the court found that "in the context of the ongoing war with the RPF, this evidence does not invariably show that the purpose of arming and training these civilians or the preparation of lists was to kill Tutsi civilians," but rather that it was "consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle" in lieu of "the immediate aftermath of the RPF’s violation of the cease fire agreement."

To his credit, Dobbs does at least recognize that "tribunal judges were not convinced that the purpose of that training was the 'extermination' of Tutsis," but were "preparation for renewed hostilities with the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front." Furthermore, Dobbs writes that the ICTR "found that the Interahamwe had drawn up lists of 'suspected opponents of the regime,' ” and that "such lists were 'not focused exclusively on ethnicity.' ”

And Dobbs does manage to bring up some good points. He writes that, “Records that could shed light on whether it could have been prevented are still classified in Washington, New York, Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Arusha and Kigali — unavailable to the public despite pledges by international leaders to fully investigate the tragedy." He further writes, “Important documents that could shed light on the unresolved mysteries and ambiguities of the Rwanda genocide remain under lock and key." That it is the US government, along with their Western and African allies, who have locked up key documents, says something about the dominant narrative.

Also, Dobbs is absolutely correct that, “In order to draw the correct lessons from history, we must first establish all the facts.”

But, despite this, Dobbs continued to both put forward false information, and failed to note some of the more damaging things we do know.

For example, like de la Baume, Dobbs gets the figures wrong when he claims that, “Hutu militia groups murdered at least half a million members of the Tutsi minority.” We know that at most 300,000 Tutsis died, but to say it was at the hands of "Hutu militia groups," is deceptive, because, even if Dobbs does acknowledge what the ICTR called the "military power struggle" that was going on, there is no evidence presented as to who killed who.

Missing in Dobbs' op-ed, and that of de la Baume’s article, are important pieces of information needed to make sense of the event. Their omission is revealing.

Rwanda’s current President, Paul Kagame, who has led the country since 1994 and has held close relations with the West, was born in Rwanda but moved to Uganda when he was two. In Uganda Kagame joined Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army, where he was the head of military intelligence. The NRA eventually became the Ugandan People's Defence Force after the group overthrew the then Ugandan government. Kagame later, along with other Rwandan exiles, formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (which has since become the Rwandan Patriotic Army, or RPA).

The RPF were part of the US-backed Ugandan national army. They wore Ugandan military uniforms. This is important to understand when considering the Ugandan/RPF invasion on October 1, 1990. At the time, Kagame was in the US at Fort Leavenworth, receiving military training at the Command and General Staff College, but he quickly became the Major-General of the RPF.

It was this event, the 1990 invasion, that is integral to understanding what transpired. Uganda, via the RPF, invaded Rwanda with the sole goal of destabilizing the government, and then overthrowing it. This is what Museveni did in Uganda. And from October 1990 to April 1994 that is precisely what happened in Rwanda. This is recognized in an unclassified "History of Rwanda," where it is written that the RPF, which consisted of "mainly Tutsi refugees serving in the Ugandan NRA [...] invade Rwanda from Uganda."Dobbs does recognize this when he writes that the “massacres took place against the backdrop of a war that pitted the Hutu-dominated regime against Tutsi-led insurgents who had invaded Rwanda from neighboring Uganda.”

The second-in-command for the UN forces in Rwanda before the "genocide" was a Belgian officer, Luc Marchal, and he testified to the ICTR that, "From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves." Marchal also stated that, "Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus.” He told the court that, "It was almost a daily struggle, and I received remarks because of the violations of the agreement,” and that, "All these elements led me to the conclusion that their goal was certainly not to concretize the peace process.”

Dobbs is correct when he writes that, “The immediate trigger for the Rwandan genocide was the shooting down of a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994,” but he says nothing about who shot down the plane.

According to a November 2006 cable Private Bradley Manning leaked to Wikileaks, one of the “talking points” diplomats are informed to use is: “The USG takes no position on the shooting down of the Habyarimana presidential jet in 1994. There are several competing theories of responsibility.”However, when a civil lawsuit was brought forth in a US court accusing Kagame of the assassination of Habyarimana it was President Obama who filed a "Suggestion of Immunity" on behalf of the Rwandan president.

The affidavit of U.N investigator Michael Hourigan—whose recent death received considerable silence by the mainstream press—reported "considerable detail about information implicating President Kagame" in the assassination of former President Habyarimana.

This was confirmed by an FBI investigator, James Lyons.

There have been other investigations, and studies. Spanish and French courts have even ruled on various matters related to the Rwandan and Congo conflicts (more so for the Spanish court), and both found the RPF responsible for the assassination of President Habyarimana, and the genocide that followed.

Dobbs’ claim that “Hutu militia groups murdered at least half a million members of the Tutsi minority, along with tens of thousands of ‘moderate’ Hutus,” suffers from other problems as well. It puts the blame on the “Hutu-dominated regime.” But, according to Davenport and Stam:

Perhaps the most shocking result of our combination of information on troop locations involved the invasion itself: The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased. The data revealed in our maps was consistent with FAR claims that it would have stopped much of the killing if the RPF had simply called a halt to its invasion. This conclusion runs counter to the Kagame administration’s claims that the RPF continued its invasion to bring a halt to the killings.

And the killings by the RPF were horrific. They also reduce Ambassador Power's claim that "the Hutu government of Rwanda and its extremist allies very nearly succeeded in exterminating the country's Tutsi minority" in "the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century" to fabrication.

The UN’s Gersony report depicts a "scene of systematic and sustained killing and persecution of civilian Hutu populations" by Kagame's forces.

A US State Department Memo to Secretary of State Warren Christopher refers to how "RPA and Tutsi civilian surrogates had killed 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the RPA accounting for 95% of the killing."

It was during this time, and acting on Gersony's report, that UN forces were blocking refugees from returning. This was reported in the New York Times in late September of 1994: “the United Nations has stopped encouraging Rwandan refugees to return and is refusing even to assist those who wish to go home because of a report that the new, Tutsi-dominated Government in Rwanda has killed thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group.”

Going back to the Gersony report, we know that the RPF carried out "large-scale indiscriminate killings of men, women, children, including the sick and the elderly," and they did so with tactics such as:

Local residents, including entire families, were called to community meetings, invited to receive information about "peace," "security," or "food distribution" issues. Once a crowd had assembled, it was assaulted through sudden sustained gunfire; or locked in buildings into which hand-grenades were thrown; systematically killed with manual instruments; or killed in large numbers other means.

Dobbs writes of “refusal by United Nations officials to approve the general’s plan for raids on suspected arms caches, “ and how they have “been widely condemned as paving the way for one of the worst genocides since the Holocaust,” but he says nothing of the fact that in April of 1994 it was the Rwandan government who was asking for more UN troops, while the U.S was pushing for total withdrawal. This last fact is significant to undermining Ambassador Power's notion of "bystanders to genocide."

And it is important for readers interested in knowing what paved “the way for one of the worst genocides since the Holocaust” that a US-backed army invaded a country, violated cease fire agreements, assassinated the president, and then unleashed a killing spree on the population. Only, instead of “the slaughter of more than 800,000 people -- most of them Tutsi -- in just 100 days” (as de la Baume referred to it) by “Hutu militia groups” (as Dobbs put it), most of the killings were Hutus, and largely the result of RPF offensives.

This carnage spilled over into Democratic Republic of Congo after the “genocide” when Uganda and Rwanda invaded, and began butchering people. As reported in Australia's Herald Sun:

By early 1995, the displaced persons' camp at Kibeho was the biggest in Rwanda, sprawling for 9sq km and containing 80,000 to 100,000 people.

The 32 Australian soldiers and medical officers arrived there as part of the UN peacekeeping force on April 18, 1995.

There were daily random killings by the Rwandan soldiers, but the slaughter exploded out of control soon after 10am on April 22. The Australians had a grandstand view of the nightmare from the Zambian compound.

The RPA soldiers murdered women and children right up to the UN wire. Bodies were everywhere. For the Diggers behind the wire, the next few hours were agonising.

For the refugees, there was nowhere to run.

As the Australians collected the wounded from among the piles of dead, the crisis began to escalate as panic-stricken Hutus overran the Zambian compound, driven forward by machete-and rifle wielding militia.

Hundreds were killed in the crush and the Australians were forced to repel at bayonet point the terrified victims they were supposed to be protecting, pushing them back into the RPA killing zone.

The RPA went wild and cut loose with another hail of fire on the panicking crowd.

Considering the upcoming 20th anniversary of the "genocide" in Rwanda it would be a service to the commemoration to recognize that this pattern of foreign armies invading their neighbors is also what happened in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), when Museveni and Kagame invaded and overthrew President Mobutu, and kicked off another genocide that killed an estimated 6-10 million people. The two US-backed armies have looted the Kivu region of resources, much of which has found its way into the hands of Western companies.According to the UN Mapping report, which looked into the invasion and occupation of DRC by Uganda and Rwanda they found evidence of “systematic attacks, in particular killings and massacres perpetrated against members of the Hutu ethnic group”:

These attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked . . .

The UN report also found evidence of, "A growing number of foreign actors [that were] directly involved in exploiting the DRC’s natural resources." The report mentions that Uganda and Rwanda have done this "either through the intermediary of their Congolese partners or connections or by directly occupying a part of the country."

Dobbs is right when he writes that, “In order to draw the correct lessons from history, we must first establish all the facts,” and his comments on important documents remaining classified, are useful to readers in that they illustrate our governments know more than they are telling. Where Dobbs errs is in what is missing from his op-ed: available information that has been essential to challenging the prevailing narrative of what actually happened.

Rather than the "international community" being a "bystander to genocide," leaving the RPF to step in and end "the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century," there is sufficient information to draw another conclusion: that the US government backed a rebel army in Uganda to destabilize and overthrow the government, only to create an ally who helped repeat this process in Rwanda, killing nearly a million people and producing a totalitarian environment where there is a serious clamp down on dissidents, including recent assassinations abroad.

And, again, this supporting rebel armies to destabilize and overthrow the government was used in Zaire. The result was the deaths of 6-10 million people, the displacement of millions more, the creation of an epidemic of rape and starvation, and all while foreign countries and foreign companies looted the country of its natural resources, a process which is still going on today. All of this has largely been overseen by the dominant super power: the United States government. As just one closing example, when the UN was set to release a report on Rwanda's support of rebels in DRC it was initially blocked by the US government.


Readers Comments (0)

Sorry, comments are closed on this post.

Read previous post:
Today’s NYT DIFFS February 3, 2014

The New York Times's invisible but growing corrections glacier... An Olympian Snow Endeavor This article has been modified 2 times....