Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Even today, the true story of Rwanda is little known in popular circles. The common misconception – fuelled by the conveniently racist Western government and media propaganda of the time – is that “two tribes went to war’ with tragic consequences. Then UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali summed up this whitewash three weeks into the slaughter as one of “Hutus killing Tutsis and Tutsis killing Hutus’.
The background to the Rwandan genocide is inseparable from the destructive legacy of first German, then Belgian and finally French colonialism on the country’s inter-ethnic politics. Rwanda gained “formal’ independence from Belgium in 1961 after decades of social engineering that promoted the Hutus as the colonial master’s preferred ruling elite. In July 1973, following a decade of anti-Tutsi violence and murder that had forced over 350,000 Tutsis into exile, the Hutu elite split and the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND), led by Hutu Major-General Juvnal Habyarimana, installed itself as a one-party dictatorship in a bloodless coup. Although discrimination continued against the Tutsi community, there were no further ethnic massacres between 1973-1990.
From its inception, the Habyarimana regime was a bulwark against those states in the region that sought to protect their independence and effect progressive structural change (for example, neighbouring Tanzania under the progressive president, Julius Nyerere, one of the African leaders of the non-aligned movement). It was thus actively backed by Western powers, particularly Belgium, France and Switzerland. In 1975, France signed a military cooperation and training agreement with Rwanda and gradually replaced Belgium as the dominant imperial power.
By October 1990, however, a growing democratic opposition movement was joined by returning Tutsi refugees who had formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF’s attempted overthrow and replacement of the Habyarimana regime with a progressive non-ethnic government was brutally put down. Agreement was reached in 1992 to set up a transitional government in which the RPF would be included. Habyarimana, however, had no intention of sharing power and continued to arm and train militias and secretly import weapons with French assistance while using the regime’s own radio station to broadcast extreme anti-Tutsi propaganda and denounce the peace agreement.
On 6 April 1994, just as the preparations for genocide were being threatened by huge international pressure on the regime to comply with the transitional power-sharing arrangements, Habyarimana was assassinated when his aircraft was shot down. Within hours the Hutu prime minister had also been executed and extremists took control of the government. The genocide had begun.
Corbyn just won a prize for peace activism - so why is the Labour Party still committed to renewing trident? Lily Sheehan investigates.
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny