Shame on the continent for forsaking Kigali

Monday April 15 2024

Hundreds of Photographs of victims are displayed inside the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi- Kigali City, Rwanda. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


On April 7, Rwanda began commemorative events to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. The genocide started on April 7, 1994, and ended on July 4, 1994. In those 100 days, Hutu soldiers, police, militia and villagers slaughtered close to one million members of the Tutsi ethnic group.

The genocide had been long in the making. The Kigali Genocide Memorial archives the genesis, propaganda and manifestations of genocide ideology over the decades since independence of Rwanda from Belgium in 1962. The genocide ideology depicted the Tutsi as an oppressive and foreign community.

When the Rwanda Patriotic Front began its insurgency in 1990, the genocide propaganda went into overdrive. Tutsi were depicted as animals, and as the genocide got under way, as ‘cockroaches’ , who needed to be eliminated if the Hutu were to save themselves. Radio Mille Collines broadcast to villagers the why and how to kill their own neighbors and friends.

There was nowhere to hide. Militias, with blood dripping from machetes, sought out those hiding in churches and schools, and chopped them to death after humiliating and torturing them. Women were raped before being killed. Bodies were strewn in the streets and floated in rivers. Hell had come to Rwanda.

Read: OBBO: We can’t outrun the shadow of genocide even in a century

Despite the killings being televised, the world did nothing to help. Incredibly, the United Nations, instead of bolstering its peacekeeping force in Rwanda, withdrew it. The US under Bill Clinton, still smarting from setbacks suffered in Somalia, refused to intervene.


But it is Africa that has to bear the most shame. The Organisation of African Unity, which was formed to promote and protect the welfare of African people in 1963, did absolutely nothing.

This was in keeping with Africa’s shameful post-independence history. In 1979 when Julius Nyerere invaded Uganda, intent on getting rid of Idi Amin, the bloodthirsty tyrant, the OAU called an emergency session in Addis Ababa at which Tanzania was roundly condemned for interfering in the sovereignty of a member country.

The OAU had never condemned the killing of thousands of Ugandans by Idi Amin, much less call for an emergency summit to discuss the murderous regime in Kampala. According to OAU warped conscience, it was Idi Amin who represented the sovereignty of Uganda and not the people he was killing. The OAU, once labelled the “trade union of dictators” by President Yoweri Museveni, had convened an urgent meeting to protect one of its members.

It was left to the Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame, to stop the genocide. As the RPF captured territories, the genocidal army and militias melted away. On July 4, 1994, the RPF captured Kigali and put a stop to the genocide. That in itself was a remarkable feat.

Even more remarkable was how the country was able to rebuild from that horrible history and become a shining example for Africa which had looked away in Rwanda’s hour of need. During Kwibuka commemorations, Africa should look down in shame.