New Internationalist

Conspiracy to Murder - The Rwandan Genocide

Issue 372

At the end of World War Two the great powers vowed never to allow genocide to take place again. Nearly 50 years later the international community failed to meet their legal obligation under the UN Genocide Convention to act to prevent the brutal murder of one million Rwandan Tutsis by their Hutu compatriots.

Ten years in the making, Conspiracy to Murder is a meticulous reconstruction of how the genocide happened. The killing was carefully planned by an élite group within the military who used fear and propaganda to enlist local youths into Interahmwe militia and coordinated their campaign with the help of the ‘hate radio’ station RTLM.

Although vital evidence has been withheld or destroyed, we know that the French supported and trained the architects of the genocide, while the US did the same for the Rwandan Patriotic Front who came to power after the war. Other writers – such as Wayne Madsen – have gone further in setting the genocide in the context of neo-colonial control of Africa by these rival powers.

General Dallaire – the leader of a small UN peacekeeping force – comes across as acting impeccably in the face of great danger, doing all he can to protect innocent civilians and arguing tirelessly for reinforcements. Just a small number of extra troops could have saved thousands of lives.

Many questions remain unanswered and crucial lessons have not been learnt. Calls for a genocide prevention unit within the UN have been unheeded and a similar foot-dragging is portentously evident today as a comparable crisis unfolds in Darfur in Sudan.

Phil England

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