The pains of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was relived sometime in 2018 when it was reported that four mass graves were discovered traced to the genocide in the East African country.
The discoveries raised fresh concerns over how long the sites were known to the locals. Another worrisome issue was that many of those convicted of perpetrating atrocities during the genocide are released, but they have done little to reveal the whereabouts of the missing persons.
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The Rwanda 1994 genocide, which is regarded as the greatest tragedy in the country, is a very sad reminder. The incident degenerated to the point that churches, where the Tutsis have gone to seek refuge, were invaded by the militias. The church scenes even constituted the worst massacres. For example 2, 800 murders were recorded in Kibungo; 6, 000 in Cyahinda, and 4, 000 in Kibeho. It was intense that the family links were of no effect.
The mass media contributed to the escalation of the violence. A statement credited to Radio Mille Collines at the end of April reads thus: “By 5 May, the country must be completely cleansed of Tutsis. Even the children were targeted: We will not repeat the mistake of 1959. The children must be killed too”. It is alleged that the media directly influenced the Hutu peasants, with a strong conviction that they were under threat, thereby encouraging them to make the Tutsis smaller by decapitating them.
Furthermore, allegedly there was no balanced reportage of the massacre by the world press as reviewing headlines in the French and English language press in the first weeks did not capture the massacre in its true picture but presented it as a civil war. Such headlines were ‘Rwanda on fire’, Fierce clashes’, ‘Slaughter’, ‘Massacre’, ‘Civil War’, ‘Bloody Horror’, ‘Rwanda Anarchy’, ‘Fall of Kigali Imminent’, among others.
Unfortunately, the genocide spread at an astronomical progression to cover the whole of the country under the control of the government army and the estimation is that by the end of April there were 100,000 persons killed. Amid this, there was no known effort by the media to draw a distinction between assassinations of specifically targeted Hutus and the systematic elimination of the Tutsis.
For instance, it took not less than three weeks before world-leading media houses in their editorials finally compared the genocide in Rwanda with Germany under Nazism and referring to it as genocide. The world ‘genocide’ rarely appeared in the main headlines.
In world history, genocides are heralded by warning signals just like the ‘killer herdsmen’, ‘the bandits’ are ravaging parts of Nigeria leaving in their trail scores of deaths, rape, maiming, etc.
The irony of the whole episode is that the most appropriate quarters pay lip service to it by branding the vicious killers in a lesser robe or painting the situation in a lighter scale.
Between 1991 and 1994, the signals were very strong in Rwanda, and the alarm bells rang intensely. The UN Human Rights Commission even reported some of these signals. Thousands of militia members received arms and military training by the Rwanda Armed Forces (FAR) between 1993 and 1994. The number grew from 5000 to 40,000. This enabled the militias to take on both the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and internal opposition.
It will be recalled that in 1992 a document allegedly emanating from the FAR headquarters drew the distinction between the principal enemy and their supporters.
Racist ideologies are evil and should not be supported, and ethnocentrism as a variant of tribalism sees members of an ethnic group as superior to others. In Germany Hitler’s grand plan was built on intense European anti- Semitism which was carried out by singling out Jews as the source of all Germany’s ills. In Rwanda, the Hutu radicals are inheritors of the colonial lunacy of classifying and grading different ethnic groups in a racial hierarchy.
In Nigeria, it is high time the appropriate quarters confronted the situation lest we drifted to anarchy.
Okechukwu Ukegbu can be reached on email@example.com