Rwanda: Beyond ethnic conflict'

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Universidad de Sevilla]On: 24 November 2014, At: 04:29Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Development in PracticePublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Rwanda: Beyond ethnicconflict'Anne MackintoshPublished online: 01 Jul 2010.</p><p>To cite this article: Anne Mackintosh (1997) Rwanda: Beyond ethnic conflict',Development in Practice, 7:4, 464-474, DOI: 10.1080/09614529754297</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of allthe information (the Content) contained in the publications on ourplatform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensorsmake no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy,completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Anyopinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions andviews of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor&amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information.Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilitieswhatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly inconnection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private studypurposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution,reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access</p><p></p></li><li><p>and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>idad</p><p> de </p><p>Sevi</p><p>lla] </p><p>at 0</p><p>4:29</p><p> 24 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p><p></p></li><li><p>A shared vision, a global cause</p><p>Let me begin with a personal reminiscence. Likemany others, I vividly recall the day of NelsonMandelas release from prison in February 1990.It was the eve of my departure to Rwanda for athree-month assignment for Oxfam. I was athome watching televis ion. I still recall theexcited antic ipation of Mandel as walk tofreedom, the overwhelming sense ofachievement (utterly insignificant though myown part in the South African struggle hadbeen), the tears of jubilation when he finallyappeared. He did it! He did it! I cried, punchingthe air. I well know that my feel ings wereheightened by apprehension of the challenges Ianticipated facing in Rwanda, though these wereas nothing compared with what I was actually toexperience. Nevertheless, I was conscious ofsharing an extraordinary moment with millionsof sympathisers around the world.</p><p>With hindsight, I wonder whether this was thelast time the world community united effectivelybehind a just cause (though one should notoverrate or idealise the role of external actors in</p><p>bringing about the end of apartheid). However, itis no exaggeration to say that the Anti-ApartheidMovement, and the campaign to release NelsonMandela from prison, inspired a generation.There was almost a sense of loss when the goalwas achieved: what would replace the rallyingcry of Free Nelson Mandel a!? While thissentiment could rightly be regarded as self-indulgent (and as demonstrating the failure tounderstand that solidarity was needed as neverbefore after al l, the hard part was justbeginning), it also reflected something not sotrivial: the loss of a shared vision, a universalaspiration uniting people across national andcontinental boundaries. I shall return to this later.</p><p>The following day, I departed for Rwanda. Ihad no idea that this would eventually lead to mybeing drawn into one of the greatest cataclysmsof the twentieth century. It was partly as aconsequence of this assignment that I laterbecame Oxfams Regional Representative inKigali. I took up this post in June 1991, just oversix months af ter the outbreak of fightingbetween the Rwandan government army and theRwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The war had by</p><p>464 1364-9213-11 Oxfam UK and Ireland 1997</p><p>Rwanda: beyond ethnic conflict</p><p>Anne Mackintosh</p><p>This paper 1 explores some of the reasons for the failure of the international community to actdecisively in preempting the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. These are rooted both in long-distant historyand in the dynamics of post-Cold War international politics. Drawing on a decade of experience inCentral Africa, the author looks critically at the widely accepted explanations of the genocide and itsaftermath as simply tribal fighting, and considers the role of external agents journalists and aidagencies alike in fostering this view. The paper ends with a reflection on the complex challengesposed by reconciliation in the wake of the genocide.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>idad</p><p> de </p><p>Sevi</p><p>lla] </p><p>at 0</p><p>4:29</p><p> 24 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>then reached a semi-quiescent phase. However,over the next three years, violence graduallyescalated unti l, on 6 April 1994, PresidentHabyarimanas plane was shot down, triggeringthe genoc ide with which we are now sodreadfully familiar.</p><p>Paradox ically, while my experi ence inRwanda inflicted terrible wounds even forone who escaped so lightly it was a tre-mendous learning experience. Through thecrisis, I was exposed to people, ideas , andchal lenges I would never otherw ise haveencountered, and I have undoubtedly grown as aresult. It also brought me a certain minorprominence, such as appearing on CNN andpublishing papers such as this one! I have mixedfeel ings about this: the Rwanda crisis hasprovided career opportunities for many, andgenerated material for Masters degrees ,doctorates , and academic conferences fordecades to come. It has led to a proliferation ofrelief NGOs, electronic information networks,and conflict-resolution initiatives a band-wagon of which I am now a small part. Billionsof dollars continue to be spent on the reliefeffort, yet the international community com-pletely failed to act before the genocide. Why?</p><p>In this paper, I shall explore some of thereasons for the failure to act, which are rootedboth in long-distant history and in the dynamicsof international politics in the contemporaryworld. I shall also look critically at the widelyaccepted explanations of the genocide and itsaftermath as simply tribal fighting . I concludewith some reflections on the nature of ourinternational responsibilities in the modernworld, and on the complex challenges posed byreconciliation in the wake of such an extremeexperience as genocide.</p><p>A failure to act: indifference,indecision, and incomprehension</p><p>The short answer to the question why theinternational community failed to take decisiveand timely action is that Rwanda did not matter.A tiny, landlocked country with few naturalresources, it was considered strategically and</p><p>materially unimportant. Unlike Kuwait, it doesnot produce oil and was of no consequence to theinfluential members of the UN Security Council,with the exception of France.</p><p>The French government played a bafflingrole in relation to the former Rwandan regime,attributable in part to its preoccupation withretaining its influence on the world stage byfostering the community of French-speakingnations known as la francophonie. Hence theprevious French-speaking rgime in Rwandareceived unwavering support, despite mountingevidenc e of human-rights abuses instigatedlargely by Habyarimanas inner circle; and hencethe hostility and suspicion with which the currentgovernment mainly English-speaking isregarded by the French. However, as I write, eventhe French government is announcing its intentionno longer to intervene politically or militarily inthe affairs of its former colonies in Africa, pre-ferring to support African solutions to Africanproblems the euphemism for disengagementnow current in international circles.</p><p>Another reason for the international com-munitys failure to respond to danger signals inRwanda was the Somalia factor . The UNsintervention in Somalia had been so disastrous,and the humiliation of US troops in particular soprofound, that the Security Council hesitated torepeat any such exercise.</p><p>Coupled with this reticence was the inc-reasingly prevalent analysis epitomised byRobert Kaplans paper The Coming Anarchy of conflicts in Africa as controlled by dark,unpredictable forces, impenetrable to outsiders,and impossible to influence. Kaplans paper wascirculated to all US embassies early in 1994, asrequired reading for US diplomats. Thefollowing quotation illustrates Kaplans drift: </p><p>Sierra Leone is a microcosm of what isoccurring ... throughout West Africa and much ofthe underdeveloped world: the withering awayof central governments, the rise of tribal andregional domains, the unchecked spread ofdisease, and the growing pervasiveness of war.(Kaplan, 1994).</p><p>The belief that several African countries werethreatened by an anarchic implosion of criminal</p><p>Rwanda: beyond ethnic conflict</p><p>465Development in Practice, Volume 7, Number 4, November 1997</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>idad</p><p> de </p><p>Sevi</p><p>lla] </p><p>at 0</p><p>4:29</p><p> 24 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>violence reinforced the tendency of powerfulNorthern nations, since the end of the Cold War,to pull back from meaningful engagement withAfrica. Detachment can more easily be justifiedif African States are perceived to be disinte-grating along internal fault-lines. The impact ofexternal factors, such as structural adjustmentpolicies and international terms of trade, appearsto have been conveniently forgotten. </p><p>Yet, nearly two years before the genocide,Oxfam UK and Ireland commissioned a reporton the question of Rwandese refugees andmigrants in the Great Lakes region. The authorhad warned that the ... region remains poten-tially extremely unstable, and ... unless seriouswork is done on all fronts to tackle the economic,social and political problems of the region ...{t}he potential for further explosive conflict isconsiderable (Wiles, 1992). He made a series ofrecommendations, emphasising the need for aconcerted approach, arguing that regional co-operation and development offered the onlylong-term solutions. </p><p>One year later, Oxfams former Repre-sentative in Kigali wrote: </p><p>Rwandan society is now more violently dividedagainst itself than at any time since Inde-pendence. The war has done incalculabledamage to the economy and environment, andmuch needs to be done to encourage people towork together to heal the wounds of sectarianhatred ... Rwanda stands on the brink of anuncharted abyss of anarchy and violence, andthere are all too many historical, ethnic,economic, and political pressures that are likelyto push it over the edge. (Waller, 1993)</p><p>However, despite the unequivocal nature of suchwarnings and the urgency of their tone, it seemedimpossible to push Rwanda higher up anyonesagenda even within the aid-agency world whether in terms of programme funding or as afocus for lobbying and communications work.One reason for Rwandas marginalisation wasthat, as a former Belgian colony and part of lafrancophonie, it was virtually unknown in theEnglish-speaking world. Many agency staffwere simply unable to read reports about oremerging from the region.</p><p>Then, in February 1994, just as the situationwas becoming more grave, the South Africafactor supervened. Elections were forthcoming;given South Africas place in the Britishconsciousness, there was real potential tointerest Members of Parliament and the generalpublic. In addition, Oxfam (like many other aidagenc ies) had a long-term commitment toadvocacy on South Africa. When the genocidebegan, many of the sympathetic parliament-arians whom we would have lobbied, or seriousjournalists who might otherwise have reportedon Rwanda, were in South Africa. As a result,the crisis was not covered until the genocide wasvirtually over, by which time it had been over-shadowed by a refugee crisis as the RPF gainedcontrol of the country, prompting the massexodus of mainly Hutu refugees (including theformer army and militias) into Tanzania,Burundi, and eastern Zare. Coming in at thislate stage helped to create a distorted view ofwhat the crisis was about. Genocide and therefugee crisis became conflated. Refugees werenot, as some journalists and aid agencies stated,fleeing the genocide: they fled with those whohad perpetrated it, fearing revenge.</p><p>Long-term neglect, instant expertise</p><p>Suddenly, everyone was there: a plethora of aidagencies, some of them newly created, and over500 journalists were operating out of Goma (theprincipal city of North-Kivu in eastern Zare) atone point. Yet, only a year before, Oxfam hadeven had to pay journalists to visit Rwanda andKivu, and help them place their stories, simply toensure some serious coverage in the Britishmedia of the region and its latent conflicts.</p><p>It appeared that, having failed to act on thepolitical front, governments were anxious toraise their profile in the relief effort. In effect ,commented the Steering Committee on a majorjoint evaluation exercise, humanitarian actionsubstituted for political action (Joint Evaluation,1996). In lieu of meaningful involvement at anearlier stage, donors were now running after apiece of the action, eager to fund high-profile but</p><p>Anne Mackintosh</p><p>466 Development in Practice, Volume 7, Number 4, November 1997</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>idad</p><p> de </p><p>Sevi</p><p>lla] </p><p>at 0</p><p>4:29</p><p> 24 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>relatively short-term interventions, in order toconceal a policy vacuum.</p><p>Describing and shaping events</p><p>As I have already mentioned, there was so littleinterest in the Great Lakes region before theevents of 1994 that Oxfam had facilitated visitsby selected journalis ts, in order to raise theprofile of the area, and to generate internationalconcern about what was taking place. However, foreign news stories in the major nationalmedia are strictly rationed; even the BBC WorldService will rarely feature more than oneAfrican story during a half-hour news program-me. When a foreign news story is featured ondomestic radio or television, it is generallybecause there is a crisis of some kind. But thereis seldom much exploration of the background,even in a situation given as much exposure as thewar in former Yugoslavia. For parts of the worldconsidered to be of less importance, all too oftenthere is just a one-off report which is neverfollowed up.</p><p>In the wake of the Goma experience, NGOshave been criticised for competing for favour-able media exposure (for months, one agency oranother featured on every news bulletin), andunduly influencing reporters by facilitating andeven financing their v...</p></li></ul>


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