Aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide

 

            By the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 over 800,000 people, mostly men, were killed.  Today adult males make up only 20% of the population.  Many families are headed by women, which is a drastic change from the typical patriarchal households that used to exist.  Women are still learning to take on this role and often find it very difficult to do so in a culture that characteristically placed men in a dominant role.  Nearly 100,000 children were left orphaned after the genocide.  Most of them live in one of the more than 42,000 households in the country today which are headed by children, in which the eldest may be as young as nine or ten years old.  It is estimated that by 2010 the number of orphans will be 350,000, mostly due to HIV that spread tremendously during the genocide due to rape.

 

Both children and adults faced devastating psychological damage – those who saw atrocities, those who were forced to commit them, and those who were victims of attack.  Many of these victims remain disfigured and handicapped, which makes daily life a struggle not only physically but psychologically, as well.  Furthermore, 91% of survivors did not have a chance to bury their relatives or perform mourning ceremonies, and nearly as many had not yet seen the remains of loved ones.  In 1994 a new word appeared in the Rwandan vocabulary specifically to describe psychological problems that were the result of genocide.  “Ihahamuke” is used to describe post traumatic stress and chronic traumatic grief.  Symptoms include constant fear, anti-social behaviors, promiscuity in young adults, and aggression and irritability towards everyone.

The economy and education system are extremely slow to recover.  Most children do not attend school.  Rwandans struggle to make a living and survive despite the failing economy.  They face extreme poverty and starvation and with little education they are not developing as a nation; the children are the leaders of the future, but with little education that future looks bleak.

The International Criminal for Tribunal Rwanda was created after the genocide to bring to justice those who have committed genocide crimes.  Many people have been tried and convicted, but the committee is slow, unprofessional, and has often failed.  Thousands have died in jail awaiting their trials because of unsanitary conditions. 

Despite the so-called end of the genocide in 1994, conflict continues today.  The genocide spilled over to the neighboring Republic of Congo, where Hutu rebels fled for fear of Tutsi revenge.  Here they settled in refugee camps and their ideology of Tutsi extermination was reborn.  They continued killing Tutsi refugees in this country, drawing funds from foreign aid dollars. 

  In 1996 Rwanda and Uganda, led by President Yoweri Museveni, invaded the Congo. Rwanda wanted to eliminate any possible threat from the former Rwandan army and militia who were re-organizing and re-arming in the refugee camps. Uganda sought greater political influence and control over resources in the region. The Congolese allied with Rwanda and Uganda and together the three nations began hunting down the remnants of the Rwandan Hutu from the refugee camps.  In 1998, however, a new Congolese government was established, led by Laurent Desire Kabila.  Congo turned against its former supporters. Kabila told the Rwandan and Ugandan troops to go home. A second war began in Congo that at one point involved seven African nations and many rebel movements and other local armed groups, all fighting to control the territory and vast wealth of the Congo. Casualties among civilians were enormous, stemming from problems such as lack of food, medical care, and clean water as well as from direct attack by the various forces.

In 1997 and 1998, in the time period between the two Congo wars, soldiers and militia of the genocidal government, supported by thousands of new recruits, crossed from the Congo and led an insurrection in northwestern Rwanda. The RPF forces suppressed the rebellion at the cost of tens of thousands of lives, many of them civilians who happened to live in the area. Some number of the rebel combatants had not taken part in the genocide and seemed more focused on overturning the government than on hunting down Tutsi civilians, but others continued to harbor genocidal intentions and singled out Tutsi to be attacked and killed.

Despite the supposed cessation of hostilities, massacres continue in eastern Congo, though United Nations peacekeepers have been deployed. Rwandan Hutu militiamen fear returning to Rwanda, believing they would be targeted by revenge-seeking Tutsis. These Hutu remain in the forests of east Congo, preying on villages for food and money.           

The head of the Rwandais forces democratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Ignace Murwanashyaka, announced in April 2005 that his group was abandoning its war against the Rwandan government and that its 10,000 combatants, and their families, would return to Rwanda.   In May 2005 it was reported that these Rwandan Hutu rebels, along with another Hutu rebel group called the Rastas, were responsible for hundreds of summary executions, rapes, beatings and hostage-taking of Congolese civilians in the territory of Walungu, South Kivu Province, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

“With the rebels returning home Many Tutsis are increasingly convinced that the only way to ensure their survival is to repress the Hutus. Many Hutus believe they have been proclaimed guilty by association and that no one cares about their sufferings under the current Tutsi-led government.  Extremists on both sides retain the belief that the only solution is the annihilation of the other. These groups are preparing for a future struggle, one that could include another wave of mass slaughter.” 

 

Not only do the genocide survivors face trauma and psychological stress caused by the events of the genocide itself, but they face psychological stress of anticipating the recurrence of the mass slaughter.  The stress and fear is highly elevated due to the fact that known killers and genocide victims are living side by side as neighbors.  Many of these people do not live in real homes.  They do not have doors that lock.  For the killers there is not only a fear of a new genocide but of retaliation by the hundreds of thousands of victims.  The living situation makes a new wave of violence a very realistic possibility.