Today, April 6, 2014, marks twenty years since the day someone shot down a plane on approach to the Kigali, Rwanda airport, killing everyone on board. That plane was carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, who had just returned from Arusha, Tanzania-based negotiations over a power-sharing arrangement intended to put an end to Rwanda’s civil war. All hopes of a peaceful settlement ended with the plane’s destruction. Overnight, roadblocks went up around the capital as some extremist Hutu leaders (who opposed the power sharing arrangement and thus had a strong incentive to want Rwandan President Habyarimana dead) directed their supporters to carry out a genocide they had been planning for many months. In the next 100 days, hundreds of thousands of innocent Rwandan civilians, mostly members of the Tutsi ethnic group/class, were slaughtered.
Everything that has happened on and since that day twenty years ago is under dispute. From the question of who shot down the plane, to which members of the regime were involved in planning and executing the genocide, to the number of people killed overall, to whether and how revenge killings unfolded, to the continuation of Rwanda’s civil war on the soil of Congo/Zaire and the tremendous suffering that has occurred there, too, to whether the Rwandan government’s success in poverty reduction is justified by its repressive authoritarianism – all of it is contested. There are an overwhelming number of reports and analyses of the situation this week; here’s my attempt to curate a list of the best reads on Rwanda 20 years later.
Accounts from journalists & aid workers there at the time
- Human Rights Watch, Confronting Evil: Genocide in Rwanda
- The BBC’s Mark Doyle on one of the genocide’s few heroes: Senegalese peacekeeper Captain Mbaye Diagne
- Oxfam’s David Bryer reflects on the international community’s refusal to acknowledge what was happening
- The Washington Post‘s then-Africa correspondent Keith Richburg reflects on his experiences reporting the genocide
The international community’s (non-) response to Rwanda and subsequent mass atrocities
- Did “never again” really mean never again?
- LSE’s Omar McDoom on how Rwanda changed the international community‘s focus of attention and modes of response in mass atrocity situations
- Linda Melvern argues the world failed to learn anything from the Rwandan crisis
- Rachel Strohm on the “right” analogy for understanding Rwanda
Development, repression, intervention, and the Rwandan regime
- Rwanda’s development authoritarianism: good for development, bad for political freedom
- Michaela Wrong on the Rwandan dissidents who keep turning up dead.
- “Managing Paul Kagame,” on South Africa and Rwanda’s fallout over the attacks on Rwandan dissidents on South African soil
- Details on the death of Rwandan dissident Patrick Karegeya
- “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina, who saved hundreds of Tutsis during the genocide, is a critic of the current regime.
- Kagame tells Jina Moore why he doesn’t “give a damn”
- US Rep. Ed Royce’s efforts to cut US aid to Rwanda
- Rwanda’s use of Twitter as a means of intimidation and silencing dissent.
Contesting the genocide’s memory and meaning
- France withdraws from official genocide commemorations after Kagame accuses France of participating in the genocide.
- Who shot down the plane?
- Critics call on then-French Prime Minister Alain Juppe to explain France’s political position in the genocide.
- Effects of the genocide and its aftermath continue to affect millions in the DR Congo.
- Kris Berwouts talks to ordinary people about their views of Rwanda after 20 years.
Above video: Human Rights Watch, featuring Rwanda expert Alison Des Forges, who died five years ago in a Buffalo, NY plane crash.