The paper “ Hotel Rwanda – the Film about Atrocities That Have Been Committed against the Basic Principles of Humanity and That We Must Not Forget” is a breathtaking variant of a movie review on film studies. In 1994, the world witnessed one of the worst cases of mass murder ever since World War II when the Hutus who made up 85% of the Rwandan population turned against the Tutsis, killing an estimated 800000 people. Subsequently, a movie based on the true events of the Rwandan genocide was made called “ Hotel Rwanda. ” It basically tells the story of the heroism of one man, called Paul Rusesabagina who uses his skills, wit, and courage to rescue the lives of the people affected by the genocide.
Hotel Rwanda was a historical drama film directed by Terry George, a Northern Irish filmmaker with the main character of the movie, Paul Rusesabagina played by Don Cheadle. A large portion of the filming was done in South Africa and the capital of Rwanda. Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo were nominated for the Oscar’ s Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress but failed to win both.
In the context of the movie and the real-life events which occurred in the Rwandan genocide, the issue which I would like to discuss would be how the United Nations (UN) and the West thought of the problem that was happening in Rwanda. But before that, it is important to know the events which led to the genocide. A chieftain in Rwanda managed to merge several of its neighbors and formed the Kingdom of Rwanda. The Hutus made up about 85% of the total population but were mostly poor peasants, compared to the kings who were the Tutsis.
Centralization of power amongst the kings meant that land was distributed among the rich as well as their families and relatives rather than to be shared amongst the lineage groups who were made up of a majority of the Hutus. From the period between 1860 and 1895, Mwami Rwabugiri carried out land distribution via a patronage system where Tutsi chiefs only allowed the return of land to the Hutus if the Hutus provided manual labor.
Rwabugiri did not classify the ethnicity of the Hutu and Tutsi people but classified them as either being Hutu or Tutsi which later when on to represent one, a class of power, the other servitude (Mamdani 5-6). After the Berlin Conference in 1885, Rwanda and Burundi were ceded to Germany which held it until 1918 when it was then ceded to Belgium. Racial identification cards were issued to every Rwandan and preferential treatment was given to the Tutsis in terms of education, business and economic opportunities (Doyle). In 1959, the social revolution in Rwanda led by the Hutu party Parmehutu formed a republic which was led by the Hutu people and it caused the death of approximately 20000 Tutsis whereas another 200000 fled to neighboring countries.
Independence was only declared in 1961 (Human Rights Watch). The Tutsi refugees regrouped and joined the rebel fraction in Uganda, the National Resistance Movement which won the Bush War in the 1980s and formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). On October 1, 1990, the RPF army invaded Rwanda and demanded their return to the country. The Rwandan government thought that the invasion was an attempt by the Tutsis to return to power and the Hutus rallied around then-president, Juvenal Habyarimana.
On August 4, 1993, the RPF and the Rwandan government signed the Arusha Accords which hoped to end the civil war. President Habyarimana lost most of his power to the Transitional Broad Based Government (TBBG) which also included the RPF who at the last minute, decided to oppose the move to sign the accord. Interahamwe, which were armed militias were formed by youth group leaders in cooperation with government leaders.
On January 11, 1994, Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire who was the UN Force Commander in Rwanda notified the Military Advisor to the Secretary-General, Major General Maurice Baril that the Hutus were planning mass extermination of the Tutsis. The message conveyed by Dallaire was that demonstrations were held in order to provoke the RPF in Kigali to fire upon demonstrators and Belgian United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) troops to use force. If this were to occur, the Interahamwe would have a good reason to retaliate against the Belgian troops and the RPF.
Immediate plans were made to seize the weapons cache of the Interahamwe but the United Nations (UN) headquarters, in a return notice stated that it was beyond the mandate given to the UNAMIR (Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations 4-5). The killing then started, and with a militia of 30000 strong, the unarmed Tutsi families were no match. On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying President Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi was shot down as it was preparing to land in Kigali, leading to the death of both men.
This was the catalyst of the genocide, and a sign for the extremist Hutus to start attacking the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. All captured Tutsis were killed as well as the moderate political leaders, mostly by their own neighbors and fellow villagers. As there were no attempts to record the number of deaths, estimates of 800000 to 1000000 was killed. During this time, the UNAMIR was restricted from intervening as a few members of the UN Security Council were against being involved (Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations 4-5).
Lt General Dallaire was forced to consolidate his soldiers in urban areas and this saved the lives of 20000 Tutsis. The US government, led by President Bill Clinton refused to be involved in Rwanda, a decision which was later regretted. A new Rwandan government which was led by interim president Theodore Sindikubwabo tried to minimize international criticism. On May 17, 1994, the UN finally concluded that genocide may have been committed in Rwanda, which by then approximately 500000 Rwandans had been killed.
Troops were sent to quash the killings. The RPF too fought back and on July 4, 1994, the genocide ended, a hundred days after it had started. Two million Hutu refugees, including those who were involved in the genocide, fled to Burundi, Uganda, and Burundi where thousands died of cholera in the refugee camps (Prunier). The size of the UNAMIR was increased and remained in Rwanda until March 8, 1996 (Homepage for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda).
Genocide trials were carried out and subsequently, in March 1999, the first local elections were carried out. Subsequently, many military leaders within the Rwandan army were put on trial including Bernard Ntuyahaga, a former major in the Rwandan Army, who was found guilty in a Belgian court of killing 10 United Nations peacekeepers from Belgium at the start of the Rwandan genocide (Simons).