Friday, October 10, 2008

Rwandan Patriotic Front

In 1959 there was a series of riots due to a build up in resentment between the Hutus and Tutsies. Many Tutsies fled from Rwanda to neighboring countries including Tanzania, Burundi, and Uganda. Many of these refugees stayed in these countries and started families here. A few years before the genocide, the president of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, was losing popularity. During this time, the refugees in Uganda were forming the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Most Tutsies and moderate Hutus supported this group. The goal of the RPF was to overthrow President Habyarimana and secure their right and safety for their return to their homeland. Habyarimana found this out and used this information to gain back the support of the Hutus. The Tutsies inside the Rwandan borders were also accused of being RPF collaborators.
In August 1993, a peace accord was signed between Habyarimana and the RPF, but there still continued to be tension. When the president's plane was shot down in April 1994, just eight months after signing the peace agreement, the Hutus exploded with acts of violence. Some people believed the Hutus shot down the presidential plane and some people believe the RPF shot down the plane. The day after the plane was shot down, the RPF renewed their attack on the government forces. All of the UN efforts to negotiate a ceasefire were done without success.

In July, the RPF captured Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) and this ended the genocide; the government collapsed and the RPF announced a ceasefire. After seeing that the RPF was victorious, over two million Hutus have fled the country and moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of the Hutus that left Rwanda were the ones who had taken a part in the mass murdering of the Tutsi people. Although a ceasefire was declared, after the genocide the RPF soldiers killed many unarmed civilians. Many of these people were thought to be part of the interahamwe (Hutu killers), but the RPF also killed many women and children and also families or connections with the genocidal Hutu killers. The RPF is known for having clear commands and control within their army, and since these killings happened over a widespread area for a long period of time, the commanding officers, such as General Paul Kagame, must have known what was happening. The officers were probably in support of these actions.

On July 19, 2004, a new multi-ethnic government was created and it gave all refugees a safe return to Rwanda. This government was led by Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, who was elected president.

On a personal note:

Although there was tension between Habyarimana and the RPF, I do not think the RPF shot down President Habyarimana's plane. I think the Hutus shot down the plane but used the resentment between the RPF and the president to make it seem like the RPF had committed the crime and therefore made many of the Hutu people panic because the media had been telling them that the Tutsies were out to hurt the Hutus. However, the Hutus had been planning a genocide and I think the shooting of the plane was an event that some Hutu fighters used to justify their killings.

(Picture above: RPF soldiers; Picture below: General Paul Kagame)


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