Conflicts Without End and Regionalization

Cross-posted at The Global Sociology Blog.

The story that attracted my attention was from the Guardian:

“A 90-year-old Rwandan genocide survivor has been stabbed and burned to death by a gang that included four assailants who had confessed to taking part in the 1994 slaughter.

Generosa Mukanyonga, a widow who lost her husband and children during the 1994 killings, was murdered because of her petition for compensation, said Benoit Kaboyi, the executive secretary of Ibuka, a body representing genocide survivors.

She had sought compensation from her attackers for damage to her property during the genocide, in which 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed within the space of 100 days.”

Ms Mukanyonga is not the first victim of such attacks. Since January, 12 such survivors have been murdered, the same number as last year. It seems like small number but murder is the most extreme action taken against genocide survivors seeking compensation. Fourteen years after the genocide, a lot of survivors have to live alongside the “genocidaires”, as they are called and many survivors have been victims of attacks.

Large numbers of survivors have lived in abject poverty since the genocide, especially widows with children (surprise, surprise, that women with children would be the most affected).

This conflict is, in a sense, not over precisely because a lot of the genocidaires ended up much better off than the genocide survivors. Towards the end of the genocide, as it became clear that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (the Tutsi rebel army, led by Paul Kagame) would win and control the country, a lot of Hutus who had actively contributed to the genocide fled to neighboring DRC, into refugee camps where they were fed three times a day by international aid, and would conduct raids into Rwanda.

They also contributed to the never-ending war in the DRC, especially in Eastern Congo, as explained in this other Guardian article :

“[The Rwandan Hutus leaders’] presence, and Mobutu’s continuing support for his old Hutu allies, sowed the seeds of much of the upheaval that was to come and the Zairean leader’s own downfall as the new Tutsi-led government in Rwanda vowed not to stand idly by while another genocide was prepared next door.

The United Nations played an important part in this. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) took the fateful decision to recognise the Hutu extremists as leaders of the refugee camps and gave them control of food distribution. That ensured that the military men remained well fed and fit, and gave them considerable control over the sprawling camps which were soon transformed into armed bases to continue the war against the new government in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

The extremists infiltrated Rwanda, planting mines and massacring civilians. They hauled people off buses, separating the Tutsis and then shooting them, and forcibly recruited young Hutu men into their ranks.

Two years later, in 1996, Rwanda decided it could no longer tolerate the camps keeping the threat of genocide alive on its border and it invaded Zaire. The Tutsi-dominated army surrounded the refugees and drove hundreds of thousands of people back across the border.

Those who went home were largely unmolested but those remaining in Zaire, who included the former soldiers and militiamen and their wives and families, were remorselessly perused and slaughtered. The bodies of women and children were dumped in the mass graves left by the Rwandan army and its Congolese rebel front led by Laurent Kabila.”

Kabila prevailed, as is well-known, and Mobutu fled the country (with a lot of money deposited in Swiss bank accounts) and Zaire became the DRC and Paul Kagame thought he could use him as his puppet to finish off the Hutu leadership. That was not to be the case and Rwanda invaded again in 1998, this time, against Kabila who then hired the Hutu genocidaires to fight on his side.

And, of course, no conflict in that part of Africa is free from plunder of natural resources. In the case of the DRC, diamonds, gold and coltan:

“But for the Congolese the wars meant only more misery. That five years of slaughter after the second Rwandan invasion in 1998 cost so many lives that it has been called Africa’s First World War. Millions died, mostly from disease and hunger, which means a high proportion of women and children. It was also a conflict marked by mass rape.

A shaky peace agreement in 2002 saw the withdrawal of foreign armies from Congo, although local rebel groups tied to the Rwandan government continued to control much of the east of the country. (…)

In 2006, the UN security council declared the Hutu rebels “a serious threat to stability”. Their menacing control of swaths of eastern Congo is also arguably the single most important factor in the continuing conflict in the region despite numerous peace deals.

The Hutu extremists on Rwanda’s border unnerve the Tutsi-led government in Kigali which fears that they may one day gain enough strength to do what they threaten and finish off the genocide.

From Congo, Rwanda is seen as a belligerent power plundering its wealth. But Rwanda sees itself as besieged and fighting for the continued existence of the Tutsi people.”

And that’s not all that the Hutus are doing in Eastern Congo: they are training the next generation of genocidaires: Hutu child soldiers , those who were babies when the genocide ended and their families fled to the DRC. They are now coming of age and are being indoctrinated with the same propaganda that worked so well fourteen years ago:

“The boy with the shaved head and Kalashnikov slung across his legs is uncertain about a lot of things, even his age. He pulls at the long, dry grass around him and in a quiet voice says he thinks that he might be 13 years old because he was a baby when his mother wrapped him with the last of her possessions and made her escape across the border. Asked where he is from, he gestures toward the lush hills rippling to the east. Somewhere among them is an unmarked frontier with a country the boy calls home, although he has no memory of the last time he was there.

What’s over the hills? Rwanda, he says. Where are his parents? He doesn’t know. Dead, he thinks. He doesn’t remember them, only what some people told him.

And what was he told? He was very small when everyone ran away from those they called the inyenzi – the cockroaches. His mother carried him across the border, out of Rwanda. But then something happened to her. Perhaps she was among the multitudes who died then or in the ensuing years; he was left alone and the other people in the refugee camp looked after him. His father was a soldier. He just disappeared. No one said anything about him.

That was in 1994 and the boy has been on the move ever since, tramping from one part of the Democratic Republic of Congo to another, growing up as part of a caravan of killers and their families who, for a long time, dared not stay still if they wanted to survive, until he came full circle to the place where he was separated from his mother.

He falls silent again for a while, watching Congolese villagers who live in fear of children such as him. Then he begins to speak about what he does know. It is the Tutsis, those inyenzi, who are to blame for his predicament, he says, and he must kill them. He hates them all. They stole his country, Rwanda – a Hutu country, he calls it – and he wants them dead.”

These children have been raised in exile and constantly on the move. They are trained to hate to Tutsis (even though most of them have never met a Tutsi in their lives) and it is only a matter of time before the Hutu genocidaires unleash them to finish what they started in 1994. They are recruited as young as 10 years-old.

This is typical new war, as analysts of globalization call this kind of conflict: long-lasting with no clear end in sight in spite of a few attempts at ceasefire, usually brokered by the international community. These conflicts involve private militias and private military contractors, sometimes the presence of peacekeepers on inadequate mandates, and especially child soldiers. These conflicts tend to become regionalized, that is, they overflow into several neighboring countries, destabilizing and generating region-wide humanitarian catastrophes (mass rapes, increase in HIV-AIDS infections and plunder of natural resources).

And usually, these conflicts last a very long time because war is a more profitable business than peace, at least for the warlords involved. The three Guardian reports cited here contain many more stories that are well worth reading.

For a more extensive description of new wars, see here as well as the Global Tensions section of the reference list).

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