|Memorial in St John's Gardens, Liverpool (Rodhullandemu)|
A private jet was shot on April 6, 1994, near Kigali International Airport, Rwanda. Two heads of state, Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira who were aboard the plane, were killed instantly.
Only a few minutes later, the Rwandan military and civilian groups from the Hutus began distributing machetes to slit the necks of the Tutsis. The assassination of the two presidents from the Hutus finally became the pretext for cleansing the Tutsis in Rwanda for 100 days afterward. Government forces and civilian militias hunted down, looted, raped, and killed the Tutsis.
The United Nations recorded that around 800 thousand Rwandans had died. The Rwandan government recorded the number of victims reaching 1,074,017 people. A source quoted by Survivors Fund estimated that six men, women, and children were killed every minute from April to July 1994. The massacre only ended when the Front patriotique rwandais (FPR) gained control of Kigali in mid-July.
One of the bloodiest events at the end of the twentieth century was the aftermath of a long conflict between two ethnicities. Atrocities, imprisonment, and political assassinations of the Tutsis even occurred several years before April 6, 1994, under the rule of Habyarimana.
Historically, the Tutsis were part of the Rwandan elite under Belgian colonialism. Since the Rwandan Revolution which dissolved the monarchy and replaced it with a republic in 1959, the Tutsis had been driven out and displaced to various countries in Africa.
But, the Habyarimana's chair began to falter in the late 1980s. The Isaac A. Kamola's study titled Coffee and Genocide published in Transition showed that the price of coffee, Rwanda's largest export, had fallen since 1986. The sales had fallen from 14 to 5 billion Rwandan francs. The economic crisis was followed by conflicts between urban and village elites, as well as competition between the moderate camp supporting Habyarimana and the extremist camp.
To stem the unrest at the grassroots, Habyarimana, known to be corrupt, played ethnic sentiments and began to blame the Tutsis as the mastermind of the crisis. From there came Hutu Power, an ideology that required that the state was absolutely held by the Hutus. The same ideology also wanted the purification of the Hutus from mixing blood with the Tutsis.
In October 1990, Habyarimana found a pretext that he could use. The FPR, a political group that received funding and weapons from the Ugandan government, launched a border attack. Since then, the Civil War erupted which just ended with the 1994 massacre. The FPR, the party now in power in Rwanda, consisted of refugees and other Tutsi diasporas.
In 1993, the Habyarimana's party, the Mouvement républicain national pour la démocratie et le développement (MRND), established a youth wing organization called the Interahamwe. This thug organization would later become involved in acts of violence against the Tutsis even a few years before the 1994 massacre. Most of the Interahamwe members were people who lost their jobs during the economic crisis of the late 1980s.
To this day, the Rwandan genocide was a topic that social scientists continued to study. Rwanda was one of the latest examples of large-scale extermination of people after the Cold War. The 100 Days of Slaughter also showed how the international community had been very slow to respond to the genocide.
Not only that, but the series of the bloody events from the Civil War to the extermination of the Tutsis were also often referred to as the French foreign policy which supplied weapons and logistical assistance prior to and during the massacre.
Another thing that was not less often mentioned was the propaganda behind the cruelty. Not only the army, the Interahamwe, or other militias played an important role in the massacre, some extremists also worked to propagate Hutu supremacy and spread hatred towards the Tutsis over the radio.
In the contemporary term, these broadcasters were the buzzers who worked to demonized the Tutsis and justified acts of mass violence against anyone they considered the enemy. "Do not kill those inyenzi (cockroaches) with a bullet - cut them to pieces with a machete," said Valérie Bemeriki, a presenter on Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). The radio presenter reread the broadcast content that aired in April 1994 to the crew of the documentary film 7 Days in Kigali. Later known as "Radio Machete," RTLM pumped anti-Tutsi hatred towards and during the massacre.
RTLM was established in April 1992 and began operating in July the following year. Journalist Pierre Lepidi of Le Monde reported, among 50 donors were names of several Habyarimana's relatives and all members of the Akazu, the Hutu extremist paramilitary group led by Agathe Habyarimana, the president's wife.
In A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide, Linda Melvern said that the position of RTLM's board of directors was held by Félicien Kabuga, Habyarimana's financial advisor and in-law. In addition to funding the Interahamwe, Kabuga was also the person behind the massive import of machetes and weapons in 1993.
RTLM was originally intended to rival Radio Muhabura which was affiliated with the FPR and was increasingly popular in the midst of the Civil War. However, Muhabura's listeners were limited because they spoke English, which was used by the Tutsis, while the Hutus spoke French and Kinyarwanda. Not only that, but RTLM was also intentionally established as an alternative to Radio Rwanda which was considered too official.
RTLM recruited the best journalists from Kinyarwanda and French speakers, including a Belgian named Georges Ruggiu. RTLM broadcasts took place during the day and several hours at night by borrowing the frequency of Radio Rwanda. Not surprisingly, RTLM had a broad list of listeners, and its message could reach them as fast as the fire burning wood. The presenters even knew when and how the Tutsis would be killed.
Still, according to the Le Monde report, an RTLM presenter was free to discuss the genocide plan a few days before the blood first spilled. The hunt for the Tutsis was facilitated by the ethnic column on the Rwandan identification. Those who were discovered the Tutsis were immediately quartered and killed. From April to July 1994, national troops and militiamen blocked the road and ransacked people's homes, including the Hutus. On the streets, the Interahamwe militias were often drunk.
Although the Tutsis were targeted, the butchers also killed the moderate Hutus for hiding or refusing to kill the Tutsis. Bemeriki said in 7 Days in Kigali, at RTLM, a journalist had to work like the military or militias. They could not let the enemy escape. They had to announce the enemy's hideout, even places that became a sanctuary for the Tutsis.
In July 1994, "Radio Machete" broke up. The RTLM office was bombed by the FPR forces. The presenters and technicians fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, and other neighboring countries.
Valérie Bemeriki was arrested in 1999 in South Kivu Province, the DRC. In the Nyakabanda court, Kigali, in 2009, she was sentenced to life imprisonment. Bemeriki pleaded guilty to provoking ethnic hatred in 1994 and hoped for the forgiveness of all Rwandans.
Georges Ruggiu was arrested in Mombasa, Kenya, in 1997. In 2000, the court sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
Other presenters were more unlucky. Kantano Habimana died of AIDS in the DRC, allegedly before 2002. Editor-in-chief Gaspard Gahigi also allegedly died.
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