He­len Epstein

The New York Review of Books - - Contents - He­len Epstein

In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front by Judi Rever

In Praise of Blood:

The Crimes of the Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front by Judi Rever.

Ran­dom House Canada, 277 pp., CAN$32.00

Dur­ing the 1990s, un­prece­dented vi­o­lence erupted in Central Africa. In Su­dan, the civil war in­ten­si­fied; in Rwanda, there was geno­cide; in Congo mil­lions died in a con­flict that sim­mers to this day; and in Uganda, mil­lions more were caught be­tween a heart­less war­lord and an even more heart­less mil­i­tary coun­terin­sur­gency.

This wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen. Al­though the US had for decades backed dic­ta­tor­ships and right-wing rebels across the con­ti­nent, Ge­orge H.W. Bush had de­clared in his 1989 in­au­gu­ral speech that “a new breeze [was] blow­ing .... For in man’s heart, if not in fact, the day of the dic­ta­tor is over. The to­tal­i­tar­ian era is pass­ing . . . . Great na­tions of the world are mov­ing to­ward democ­racy through the door to free­dom.”

Bush and his suc­ces­sors sup­ported peace on much of the African con­ti­nent by fund­ing democ­racy pro­mo­tion pro­grams and sanc­tion­ing, or threat­en­ing to sanc­tion, South Africa and other coun­tries if their lead­ers didn’t al­low mul­ti­party elec­tions and free po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers. But in Uganda, Ethiopia, and a small num­ber of other coun­tries, the Bush and Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tions lav­ished devel­op­ment and mil­i­tary aid on dic­ta­tors who in turn fun­neled weapons to in­sur­gents in Su­dan, Rwanda, and Congo. In this way, Wash­ing­ton helped stoke the in­ter­linked dis­as­ters that have claimed mil­lions of lives since the late 1980s and still roil much of east­ern and central Africa to­day. The com­plic­ity of the US in those dis­as­ters has not yet been suf­fi­ciently ex­posed, but Judi Rever’s In Praise of Blood ex­plores how Wash­ing­ton helped ob­scure the full story of the geno­cide that dev­as­tated Rwanda dur­ing the 1990s and cover up the crimes of the Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front (RPF), which has ruled the coun­try ever since.

The fa­mil­iar story about the Rwan­dan geno­cide be­gins in April 1994, when Hutu mili­tias killed hun­dreds of thou­sands of Tut­sis, mostly with ma­chetes and other sim­ple weapons. The RPF, a Tutsi-dom­i­nated rebel army, ad­vanced through the may­hem and fi­nally brought peace to the coun­try in July. The RPF’s leader, Paul Kagame, even­tu­ally be­came pres­i­dent of Rwanda and re­mains in power to­day. He has over­seen a tech­no­cratic eco­nomic re­vival, the in­stal­la­tion of one of the best in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy net­works in Africa, and a sharp de­cline in ma­ter­nal and child mor­tal­ity. Po­lit­i­cal dis­sent is sup­pressed, many of Kagame’s crit­ics are in jail, and some have even been killed—but his Western ad­mir­ers tend to over­look this. Bill Clin­ton has praised Kagame as “one of the great­est lead­ers of our time,” and Tony Blair’s non­profit In­sti­tute for Global Change con­tin­ues to ad­vise and sup­port his govern­ment.

Over the years, less valiant por­traits of Kagame and the RPF have ap­peared in aca­demic mono­graphs and self-pub­lished ac­counts by Western and Rwan­dan aca­demics, jour­nal­ists, and in­de­pen­dent re­searchers, in­clud­ing Filip Reyn­t­jens, An­dré Guichaoua, Edward Her­man, Robin Philpot, David Him­bara, Gérard Prunier, Bar­rie Collins, and the BBC’s Jane Corbin. Taken to­gether, they sug­gest that the RPF ac­tu­ally pro­voked the war that led to the geno­cide of the Tut­sis and com­mit­ted mass killings of Hu­tus be­fore, dur­ing, and af­ter it. In Praise of Blood is the most ac­ces­si­ble and up-to-date of these stud­ies. Rever’s ac­count be­gins in Oc­to­ber 1990, when sev­eral thou­sand RPF fight­ers in­vaded Rwanda from neigh­bor­ing Uganda. The RPF was made up of refugees born to Rwan­dan par­ents who fled anti-Tutsi pogroms dur­ing the early 1960s and were de­ter­mined to go home. Its lead­ers, in­clud­ing Kagame, had fought along­side Uganda’s pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni in the war that brought him to power in 1986. They’d then been ap­pointed to se­nior Ugan­dan army po­si­tions—Kagame was Mu­sev­eni’s chief of mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence in the late 1980s—which they de­serted when they in­vaded Rwanda.


Au­gust 1990, two months be­fore the RPF in­va­sion, the Hutu-dom­i­nated Rwan­dan govern­ment had ac­tu­ally agreed, in prin­ci­ple, to al­low the refugees to re­turn. The de­ci­sion had been taken un­der enor­mous in­ter­na­tional pres­sure, the de­tails were vague, and the process would likely shave dragged on, or not oc­curred at all. But the RPF in­va­sion pre­empted a po­ten­tially peace­ful so­lu­tion to the refugee co­nun­drum. For three and a half years, the rebels oc­cu­pied a large swath of north­ern Rwanda while the Ugan­dan army supplied them with weapons, in vi­o­la­tion of the UN Char­ter and Or­ga­ni­za­tion of African Unity rules. Wash­ing­ton knew what was go­ing on but did noth­ing to stop it. On the con­trary, US for­eign aid to Uganda dou­bled in the years af­ter the in­va­sion, and in 1991, Uganda pur­chased ten times more US weapons than in the pre­ced­ing forty years com­bined. Dur­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion, roughly a mil­lion Hutu peas­ants fled RPF­con­trolled ar­eas, cit­ing killings, ab­duc­tions, and other crimes. An Ital­ian mis­sion­ary work­ing in the area at the time told Rever that the RPF laid land­mines around springs that blew up chil­dren, and in­vaded a hos­pi­tal in a town called Nyarurema and shot nine pa­tients dead. Ac­cord­ing to Alphonse Fu­ruma, one of the founders of the RPF, the pur­pose was to clear the area, steal an­i­mals, take over farms, and, pre­sum­ably, scare away any­one who might think of protest­ing. The Ugan­dan army, which trained the RPF, had used sim­i­lar tac­tics against its own Acholi peo­ple dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s, so these ac­counts seem plau­si­ble.

At least one Amer­i­can was an­gry about the RPF in­va­sion. US am­bas­sador to Rwanda Robert Flaten wit­nessed how it sent shock waves through­out the coun­try, whose ma­jor­ity-Hutu pop­u­la­tion had long feared a Tutsi at­tack from Uganda. Flaten urged the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion to im­pose sanc­tions on Uganda for sup­ply­ing the RPF, not­ing that Sad­dam Hus­sein had in­vaded Kuwait only two months ear­lier and been met with near-univer­sal con­dem­na­tion, a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­mand that he with­draw, and a US mil­i­tary as­sault. By con­trast, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, which was then sup­ply­ing most of Uganda’s bud­get through for­eign aid, treated the RPF in­va­sion of Rwanda with non­cha­lance. When it took place, Mu­sev­eni hap­pened to be vis­it­ing the US. He as­sured State Depart­ment of­fi­cials that he’d known noth­ing about it, and promised to pre­vent weapons from cross­ing the bor­der and court-mar­tial any de­fec­tors who at­tempted to re­turn to Uganda. He then did nei­ther, with the ap­par­ent ap­proval of US diplo­mats. In 1991 and 1992 US of­fi­cials met RPF lead­ers in­side Uganda and mon­i­tored the flow of weapons across the bor­der, but made no ef­fort to stop it, even when the Rwan­dan govern­ment and its French al­lies com­plained.

Years later, Bush’s as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for Africa Her­man Co­hen ex­pressed re­gret for fail­ing to pres­sure Mu­sev­eni to stop sup­port­ing the RPF, but by then it was too late. At the time, Co­hen main­tained that the US feared that sanc­tions might harm Uganda’s ro­bust eco­nomic growth. But he hasn’t ex­plained why Wash­ing­ton al­lowed the RPF—by in­vad­ing Rwanda—to ruin that coun­try’s econ­omy, which had pre­vi­ously been sim­i­larly ro­bust. Robert Grib­bin, a diplo­mat then sta­tioned at the US em­bassy in Kam­pala, has claimed that sanc­tions weren’t con­sid­ered be­cause they might have in­ter­fered with Uganda’s “nascent demo­cratic ini­tia­tives,” with­out men­tion­ing that Mu­sev­eni’s se­cu­rity forces were tor­tur­ing and jail­ing mem­bers of Uganda’s non­vi­o­lent op­po­si­tion and also pur­su­ing a bru­tal coun­terin­sur­gency in north­ern Uganda that would claim hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ugan­dan lives.

The UN may also have turned a blind eye to Mu­sev­eni and Kagame’s schemes. In Oc­to­ber 1993 a con­tin­gent of UN peace­keep­ers was de­ployed to help im­ple­ment a peace agree­ment be­tween the RPF and the Rwan­dan govern­ment. One of its man­dates was to en­sure that weapons, per­son­nel, and sup­plies didn’t cross into Rwanda from Uganda. But when the peace­keep­ers’ com­man­der, Canadian gen­eral Roméo Dal­laire, vis­ited the Ugan­dan bor­der town of Ka­bale, a Ugan­dan of­fi­cer told him that his peace­keep­ers would have to pro­vide twelve hours’ notice so that es­corts could be ar­ranged to ac­com­pany them on pa­trols. Dal­laire protested, since the el­e­ment of sur­prise is cru­cial for such mon­i­tor­ing mis­sions. The Ugan­dans stood their ground, and also re­fused to al­low Dal­laire to in­spect an arse­nal in Mbarara, a Ugan­dan town about eighty miles from the Rwan­dan bor­der, which was ru­mored to be sup­ply­ing the RPF.

Dal­laire has not said whether he brought Uganda’s ob­struc­tion to the at­ten­tion of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, and he didn’t re­spond to my interview re­quests. But in 2004 he told a US con­gres­sional hear­ing that Mu­sev­eni laughed in his face when they met at a gath­er­ing to com­mem­o­rate the tenth an­niver­sary of the geno­cide. “I re­mem­ber that UN mis­sion on the bor­der,” Dal­laire said Mu­sev­eni had told him. “We ma­neu­vered ways to get around it, and of course we did sup­port the move­ment [i.e., the RPF in­va­sion].”

The likely rea­sons why Wash­ing­ton and the UN ap­par­ently de­cided to go easy on Uganda and the RPF will be ex­plored in the sec­ond part of this ar­ti­cle. But for Rwanda’s Pres­i­dent Ju­vé­nal Hab­ya­ri­mana and his cir­cle of Hutu elites, the in­va­sion seems to have had a sil­ver lining. For years, ten­sions be­tween Hu­tus and Tut­sis in­side Rwanda had been sub­sid­ing. Hab­ya­ri­mana had sought rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Tut­sis liv­ing in Rwanda—so-called in­ter­nal Tut­sis—by re­serv­ing civil service jobs and univer­sity places for them in pro­por­tion to their share of the pop­u­la­tion. Though desul­tory, this pro­gram was mod­estly suc­cess­ful, and the great­est rift in the coun­try was be­tween the rel­a­tively small Hutu clique around Hab­ya­ri­mana and the mil­lions of im­pov­er­ished Hutu peas­ants whom they ex­ploited as bru­tally as had the Tutsi over­lords

of by­gone days. While the elites fat­tened them­selves on World Bank “an­tipoverty” projects that cre­ated lu­cra­tive ad­min­is­tra­tive jobs and other perks but did lit­tle to al­le­vi­ate poverty, they con­tin­ued to sub­ject the Hutu poor to forced la­bor and other abuses. Hab­ya­ri­mana, like the lead­ers of Malawi, Ghana, Zam­bia, and other coun­tries, was un­der pres­sure from the US and other donors to al­low op­po­si­tion par­ties to op­er­ate. Many of these new par­ties were eth­ni­cally mixed, with both Hutu and Tutsi lead­ers, but they were united in crit­i­ciz­ing Hab­ya­ri­mana’s au­to­cratic be­hav­ior and nepo­tism and the vast eco­nomic in­equal­i­ties in the coun­try.

The RPF in­va­sion seems to have pro­vided Hab­ya­ri­mana and his cir­cle with a po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity: now they could dis­tract the dis­af­fected Hutu masses from their own abuses by reawak­en­ing fears of the “de­mon Tut­sis.” Shortly af­ter the in­va­sion, Hutu elites de­vised a geno­ci­dal pro­pa­ganda cam­paign that would bear hideous fruit three and a half years later. Chau­vin­ist Hutu news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, and ra­dio pro­grams re­minded read­ers that Hu­tus were the orig­i­nal oc­cu­pants of the Great Lakes re­gion and that Tut­sis were Nilotics— sup­pos­edly war­like pas­toral­ists from Ethiopia who had con­quered and en­slaved Hu­tus in the sev­en­teenth cen­tury. The RPF in­va­sion, they claimed, was noth­ing more than a plot by Mu­sev­eni, Kagame, and their Tutsi co­con­spir­a­tors to reestab­lish this evil Nilotic em­pire. Car­toons of Tut­sis killing Hu­tus be­gan ap­pear­ing in mag­a­zines, along with warn­ings that all Tut­sis were RPF spies bent on drag­ging the coun­try back to the days when the Tutsi queen sup­pos­edly rose from her seat sup­ported by swords driven be­tween the shoul­ders of Hutu chil­dren.

In Fe­bru­ary 1993 an RPF of­fen­sive killed hun­dreds, per­haps thou­sands of Hu­tus in the north­ern pre­fec­tures of Byumba and Ruhen­geri, fur­ther in­flam­ing anti-Tutsi sen­ti­ment. At the time, the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of African Unity was over­see­ing peace ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the RPF and the govern­ment, but the process was fraught. Hab­ya­ri­mana knew the RPF was bet­ter armed, trained, and dis­ci­plined than his own army, so un­der im­mense in­ter­na­tional pres­sure he agreed in Au­gust 1993 to a peace ac­cord that would grant the RPF seats in a tran­si­tional govern­ment and nearly half of all posts in the army. Even Tut­sis in­side Rwanda were against giv­ing the RPF so much power be­cause they knew it would pro­voke the an­gry, fear­ful Hu­tus to rebel, and they were right. Hutu may­ors and other lo­cal of­fi­cials were al­ready stock­pil­ing ri­fles, and govern­ment-linked anti-Tutsi mili­tia groups (in­clud­ing the no­to­ri­ous In­ter­a­hamwe) were dis­tribut­ing ma­chetes and kerosene to prospec­tive géno­cidaires. In De­cem­ber 1993, a pic­ture of a ma­chete ap­peared on the front page of one Hutu-chau­vin­ist pub­li­ca­tion un­der the head­line “What Weapons Can We Use to De­feat the Inyenzi [Tutsi Cock­roaches] Once and For All?” The fol­low­ing month, the CIA pre­dicted that if ten­sions were not some­how de­fused, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple might die in eth­nic vi­o­lence. This pow­der keg ex­ploded four months later, when on April 6, 1994, a plane car­ry­ing Hab­ya­ri­mana was shot down as it was pre­par­ing to land in Ki­gali, the cap­i­tal. The

French so­ci­ol­o­gist An­dré Guichaoua hap­pened to be in Ki­gali that even­ing. The coun­try was tense, but peace­ful. But Hutu mil­i­tary per­son­nel pan­icked when they heard about the crash. That night they be­gan hastily erect­ing road­blocks around govern­ment and army in­stal­la­tions, while mili­ti­a­men, many from the pres­i­den­tial guard, be­gan mov­ing into po­si­tion. The killing of Tut­sis be­gan the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon. Ac­cord­ing to Guichaoua, Tut­sis sus­pected of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the RPF, which the killers blamed for the plane crash, were sought out first, but soon the mili­tias were killing ev­ery Tutsi they could get their hands on. The vast ma­jor­ity of the vic­tims would turn out to be in­ter­nal Tut­sis, who had noth­ing to do with the RPF.

For decades, blame for the plane crash that set off the geno­cide has fallen on mem­bers of Hab­ya­ri­mana’s army who were be­lieved to be un­happy about the terms of the Au­gust 1993 peace ac­cord. How­ever, a grow­ing num­ber of aca­demic stud­ies, ju­di­cial re­ports, and other in­ves­ti­ga­tions now sug­gest RPF re­spon­si­bil­ity. They are based on eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mony from mul­ti­ple RPF de­fec­tors who say they were in­volved in the plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of the plot, as well as ev­i­dence con­cern­ing the ori­gin of the mis­siles.

It’s un­clear what mo­tive the RPF would have had for shoot­ing down the plane, but it may have wanted to ig­nite a war in or­der to ab­ro­gate the Au­gust ac­cord, which called for elec­tions twen­tytwo months af­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion. The RPF, dom­i­nated by the un­pop­u­lar mi­nor­ity Tut­sis and widely hated for its mil­i­tancy, in­clud­ing by many in­ter­nal Tut­sis, would cer­tainly have lost.

The RPF be­gan ad­vanc­ing al­most as soon as the plane hit the ground, and even be­fore the geno­cide of the Tut­sis had be­gun. Ac­cord­ing to Rever, the rebels ac­tu­ally made the sit­u­a­tion worse. While Hu­tus were mas­sacring in­no­cent Tut­sis, the RPF was fur­ther in­cit­ing eth­nic ha­tred by mas­sacring in­no­cent Hu­tus. In mid-April RPF of­fi­cers as­sem­bled some three thou­sand Hutu vil­lagers in a sta­dium in Byumba and slaugh­tered vir­tu­ally all of them. In June RPF sol­diers at­tacked a sem­i­nary in Gi­tarama, killing sev­eral Hutu priests, and then, ac­cord­ing to a fourhun­dred-page re­port com­piled by a re­spected priest and hu­man-rights activist named An­dré Si­bo­mana, pro­ceeded to mas­sacre roughly 18,000 oth­ers in the pre­fec­ture. RPF de­fec­tors told Rever that the pur­pose of these mass killings was to strike fear in the Hutu pop­u­la­tion and pro­voke them to es­ca­late the geno­cide into such a hor­rific crime that no po­lit­i­cal com­pro­mise with the former lead­ers would ever be pos­si­ble. The Au­gust 1993 peace ac­cord would then be ir­rel­e­vant, and the pop­u­la­tion would have no choice but to ac­cept an RPF takeover. Some RPF op­er­a­tives told Rever that they had even in­fil­trated Hutu mili­tia groups to stoke eth­nic anger and in­cite ever more in­dis­crim­i­nate reprisals against Tut­sis. Again, this seems plau­si­ble to me. Kagame and other RPF com­man­ders may have learned such strate­gies in Uganda while fight­ing along­side Mu­sev­eni, whose rebel army re­port­edly com­mit­ted sim­i­lar “false flag” op­er­a­tions in the 1980s. Af­ter the geno­cide, war broke out in neigh­bor­ing Zaire, as Congo was then known. When as­sailants killed hun­dreds of Con­golese Tutsi refugees in­side Rwanda in De­cem­ber 1997, US of­fi­cials, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, and The New York Times all blamed Hutu in­sur­gents, but RPF sources told Rever that they them­selves had done it. “Ev­ery­one knew that the RPF staged that at­tack. It was com­mon knowl­edge in in­tel­li­gence cir­cles,” a former RPF of­fi­cer told Rever. It was a “bril­liant and cruel dis­play of mil­i­tary theater,” said an­other.

Dal­laire, the com­man­der of the peace­keep­ers, re­mained in Rwanda dur­ing the geno­cide. In his har­row­ing mem­oir, Shake Hands with the Devil, he ex­presses puz­zle­ment about the RPF’s troop move­ments. Rather than head­ing south, where most of the killings of Tut­sis were tak­ing place, the RPF cir­cled around Ki­gali. When Dal­laire met Kagame at the lat­ter’s head­quar­ters, he asked him why. “He knew full well that ev­ery day of fight­ing on the pe­riph­ery meant cer­tain death for Tut­sis still be­hind [Rwan­dan govern­ment] lines,” Dal­laire writes. Kagame “ig­nored the im­pli­ca­tions of my ques­tion.” By the time the RPF reached the cap­i­tal weeks later, most of the Tut­sis there were dead.


May 1994, while sup­plies con­tin­ued to flow to the RPF from Uganda, the UN placed the Rwan­dan govern­ment army, some of whose sol­diers had par­tic­i­pated in mas­sacres of the Tut­sis, un­der an arms em­bargo. By the end of July, the much stronger RPF had taken con­trol of nearly all of the now ru­ined coun­try. As it ad­vanced, some two mil­lion Hu­tus fled, ei­ther to the gi­ant Kibeho camp in south­west­ern Rwanda or to camps over the bor­der in Tan­za­nia and Zaire. Some Hu­tus re­turned home in the fall of 1994, but ac­cord­ing to a UN re­port pre­pared by the hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tor Robert Ger­sony, many of them were killed by the RPF, ei­ther on sus­pi­cion of sym­pa­thy with re­van­chist Hutu mil­i­tants or sim­ply to ter­rify oth­ers.* These killings stopped dur­ing the run-up to a donor meet­ing in Geneva in Jan­uary 1995, but then re­sumed af­ter $530 mil­lion in aid was pledged.

Hu­tus once again fled to Kibeho, where they thought they would be pro­tected by UN peace­keep­ers. But in April 1995 the RPF fired on the camp and then stormed it while help­less aid work­ers and UN troops, un­der or­ders to obey the RPF, stood by. At least four thou­sand Hu­tus, prob­a­bly more, were killed, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous women and chil­dren. Thomas Odom, a re­tired US army colonel sta­tioned at the em­bassy in Ki­gali, blamed the killings on Hutu in­sti­ga­tors within the refugee pop­u­la­tion who, he says, stirred up the crowds, pro­vok­ing pan­icked RPF sol­diers to shoot. Sev­eral eye­wit­nesses dis­pute this.

In the enor­mous refugee camps in Zaire, Hutu mil­i­tants—many of whom had par­tic­i­pated in the geno­cide— be­gan mo­bi­liz­ing to re­take the coun­try and launched spo­radic at­tacks in­side Rwanda. The RPF’s re­ac­tion was fierce, swift, and cruel. Hutu vil­lagers who had noth­ing to do with the mil­i­tants were in­vited to peace-and-rec­on­cil­i­a­tion meet­ings, then shot point-blank or beaten to death with gar­den hoes. In 1997, thou­sands of Hu­tus flee­ing in­dis­crim­i­nate RPF reprisals sought refuge in caves near the Virunga Moun­tains, where they were trapped and killed by RPF sol­diers. Thou­sands more were killed in the en­vi­rons of the town of Ma­hoko around the same time.

In or­der to neu­tral­ize the mount­ing threat from the Zairean refugee camps, the RPF crossed the bor­der in 1996, in­vaded them, and herded most of the refugees home. But hun­dreds of thou­sands re­fused to re­turn to Rwanda and fled deeper into Zaire. Some were ex-géno­cidaires and other Hutu mil­i­tants, but most were or­di­nary Hu­tus un­der­stand­ably ter­ri­fied of the RPF. Kagame’s com­man­dos, who had by *Af­ter the geno­cide, nu­mer­ous hu­man rights re­ports de­scribed the on­go­ing killing of Hu­tus in­side Rwanda. Ger­sony’s con­cluded that af­ter the geno­cide of­fi­cially ended, the RPF killed over 25,000 civil­ians, most of them Hu­tus, in­side Rwanda, as well as two Canadian priests, two Span­ish priests, a Croa­t­ian priest, three Span­ish NGO vol­un­teers, and a Bel­gian school di­rec­tor who at­tempted to re­port on RPF atroc­i­ties. Ger­sony sub­mit­ted his re­port to UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, who passed it on to UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi An­nan, who de­cided to de­lay its re­lease. Ti­mothy Wirth, then US un­der­sec­re­tary of state for global af­fairs, met Ger­sony in Ki­gali and said the find­ings were “com­pelling.” But at a brief­ing back in Wash­ing­ton, he down­played the re­port, claim­ing the au­thor had been mis­led by his in­for­mants. Wirth ad­mit­ted the RPF had killed peo­ple, but said it wasn’t “sys­tem­atic.”

then re­ceived train­ing from US Spe­cial Forces, tracked them down in towns and vil­lages across the coun­try and killed them. Hun­dreds of thou­sands re­main un­ac­counted for.

To hunt down flee­ing Hu­tus, RPF spies de­ployed satel­lite equip­ment pro­vided by the US. The RPF also in­fil­trated the UN refugee agency and used its ve­hi­cles and com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment. US of­fi­cials in­sisted that all the flee­ing refugees were Hutu géno­cidaires and down­played the num­ber of gen­uine refugees iden­ti­fied by their own ae­rial stud­ies, but in 1997 Rever, then a young re­porter for Ra­dio France In­ter­na­tionale, trekked through the for­est and found vast en­camp­ments of mal­nour­ished women and chil­dren. She in­ter­viewed a wo­man who had seen her en­tire fam­ily shot dead by Kagame’s sol­diers, a boy whose fa­ther had drowned while flee­ing the RPF, and aid work­ers who told her they had seen mass graves that were too dan­ger­ous to visit be­cause they were be­ing guarded by Kagame’s sol­diers.

Ver­sions of Rever’s story have been told by oth­ers. While all con­tain con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence against the RPF, some are marred by a ten­dency to un­der­state the crimes of the Hutu géno­cidaires or over­state the RPF’s crimes. But some, in­clud­ing the work of Filip Reyn­t­jens, a Bel­gian pro­fes­sor of law and politics, have been both mea­sured and soundly re­searched. Kagame’s regime and its de­fend­ers have dis­missed them all as pro­pa­ganda spouted by de­feated Hutu géno­cidaires and geno­cide de­niers. But Rever’s ac­count will prove dif­fi­cult to chal­lenge. She has been writ­ing about Central Africa for more than twenty years, and her book draws on the re­ports of UN ex­perts and hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors, leaked doc­u­ments from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for Rwanda, and hun­dreds of in­ter­views with eye­wit­nesses, in­clud­ing vic­tims, RPF de­fec­tors, priests, aid work­ers, and of­fi­cials from the UN and Western gov­ern­ments. Her sources are too nu­mer­ous and their ob­ser­va­tions too con­sis­tent for her find­ings to be a fab­ri­ca­tion.

The of­fi­cial UN def­i­ni­tion of geno­cide is not re­stricted to at­tempts to erad­i­cate a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group. It in­cludes “killings...with the in­tent to de­stroy, in whole, or in part, a na­tional, eth­ni­cal, racial or re­li­gious group” (my em­pha­sis). The RPF’s op­er­a­tions against the Hu­tus in the Byumba sta­dium, in Gi­tarama, Kibeho, the caves near Virunga, around Ma­hoko, and in the forests of Zaire do seem to fit that de­scrip­tion. The RPF’s aim was, pre­sum­ably, not to erad­i­cate the Hu­tus but to frighten them into sub­mis­sion.

And yet in Jan­uary, the UN of­fi­cially rec­og­nized April 7 as an In­ter­na­tional Day of Re­flec­tion on the 1994 Geno­cide Against the Tut­sis—only the Tut­sis. That is how the con­fla­gra­tion in Rwanda is gen­er­ally viewed. And while the French army has been ac­cused of sup­ply­ing the Rwan­dan govern­ment with weapons dur­ing the geno­cide, US of­fi­cials have faced no scru­tiny for lav­ish­ing aid on Uganda’s Mu­sev­eni while he armed the RPF in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional treaties and the Au­gust 1993 peace ac­cord. Why have in­ter­na­tional ob­servers over­looked the other side of this story for so long? And why are the RPF’s crimes so lit­tle known out­side of spe­cial­ist cir­cles? That will be the sub­ject of the sec­ond part of this ar­ti­cle.

Rwan­dan pres­i­dent Paul Kagame re­ceiv­ing the Pearl of Africa Medal from Ugan­dan pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni, Kap­chorwa District, Uganda, 2012

Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front sol­diers pre­par­ing to march into Ki­gali, Rwanda, 1994

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