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Truth behind the tragedy

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Jeremy Dewar explains what is really happening in Rwanda

"The graves are only half full - we must complete the task... we must complete the task thirty years ago of letting them flee into exile, this time none will escape... When you kill the rat do not let the pregnant one escape."

This transcript from a Radio Millies Collines broadcast in Rwanda last month gives some indication of the genocidal terror that has gripped the central African republic. What is shocking is the enormous scale of the massacres--which have claimed between 500,000 and one million lives - and the incredible speed with which this "final solution" is being perpetrated. The massacres only began on 7 April.

The genocide has not been the spontaneous response of pent up "Tribal rivalries" as some commentators would have us believe. Reports suggest a distinct pattern to the pogroms. Civil servants and local government administrators round up all Tutsis, and all Hutus known to be sympathetic to power sharing. They herd the victims into crowded churches and unleash army fire-power onto the defenceless masses. Finally, the Hutu-chauvinist youth militias, the interahamwe, are sent in to finish them off with machetes and knives. Government earth diggers are then used to bury the corpses, up to 5,000 at a time, in mass graves.

Bodies of the mutilated are thrown into rivers to serve as a warning to those further downstream. Tens of thousands of these corpses are now being fished out of Lake Victoria in Uganda, 150 miles away, threatening a cholera epidemic of enormous proportions.

How did this carnage begin? Why has Rwanda witnessed a genocide which rivals even the Nazis' holocaust in its ferocity and clinical precision, if not yet its scale?

The four year civil war between the Hutu-chauvinist government of General Juvenal Habyarimana and the predominantly Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) appeared to be edging towards a conclusion earlier this year. But President Habyarimana delayed implementing the power-sharing conclusions of the Arusha accords. When the president was killed by a rocket attack on his plane on 6 April, the Hutu-dominated army, the presidential guard and the interahamwe started the killings, initially concentrating. not just on Tutsis, but on all oppositionists to power sharing between the government and the RPF. Even Prime Minister Agathe UWilingiyimana was killed.

The murder of the President was used as cover for a palace coup. However, if the forces who are determined to hold onto privileges for a Hutu elite had hoped to catch the RPF off guard, they have severely miscalculated. Although their forces are outnumbered by government troops by 40,000 to 15,000, the RPF now control two thirds of the country.

Most observers agree that the Superior discipline of the RPF forces has been the deciding factor on the 'battlefield. The French armed and trained government forces have been routed. As RPF Captain, Emmanuel Regema put it, "We have met little resistance, because the government forces are used to killing unarmed men and babies. Most of the time, they just run away.”

“Whilst the initial reaction of the western media to Rwanda was to paint it up as "tribal war between savages" news reports, particularly from journalist Andy Kershaw are increasingly reporting the fact that the RPF represents, at least in principle, just and organised resistance to the government massacre. Socialist and Internationalists in Rwanda would Inevitably find themselves in a military bloc with RPF forces in the struggle to defeat the current wave of massacres. But it would be wrong to give the RPF political support.

As we said in Workers Power 178, "It would be wrong to see the RPF as the solution to the crisis or to back its attempted seizure of power." In fact, as the RPF forged southwards towards the capital, 200,000 Hutus fled across the border into Tanzania in just 24 hours. This mass exodus reflects a real fear of retaliation or future reverse pogroms on the scale of those regularly meted out to the Hutu majority by the Tutsi dominated army in neighbouring Burundi.

No doubt such fears have been whipped up by the government propaganda machine. Nevertheless, recent reports suggest that RPF troops have also been engaged in retaliation pogroms.

More importantly, there are clear signs that the USA is now backing the RPF as the only force that can restore capitalist order in the short to medium term.

The USA has consistently used its influence in the UN to block or delay any armed intervention. After their humiliation at the hands of General Aideed in Somalia, the USA is reluctant to get involved in another African civil war where they have no strategic or economic interests. Their reluctant agreement to phase in a limited blue beret force of 2,500 at the end of May exactly matched the upper figure of UN troops the RPF said they would be prepared to work with.

The USA itself is preparing for a full scale military intervention in Haiti. Its European allies are enmired in Bosnia and have reacted to the Rwanda crisis with what one US newspaper described as “a tear and a helpless shrug.”

Having created the ethnic power struggle in Rwanda, having armed the government to the teeth, having sucked the African continent dry, the imperialist powers cannot help bring any progressive solution to the conflict.

Many people, not only in Rwanda but across the world, might view the UN as the best chance of stopping the killing, especially if the UN troops are drawn from the ranks of African nations. They are wrong. The UN is not an impartial world police force. It is fundamentally a tool of the big imperialist powers. Any UN force will be only as effective as the imperialist nations allow it to be. In fact, unless the USA provides the necessary logistical support, no such force can even arrive in Rwanda.

What is more, the African governments who are likely to provide the bulk of the troops-Ethiopia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria-all have rotten track records of ethnic oppression, corruption and kow-towing to the Western imperialists.

When a similar UN "peacekeeping" force operated In Liberia in 1992-93, the UN consistently blamed the rebel forces for government atrocities, enforced an arms embargo which unilaterally disarmed the rebel NPLF and blocked vital food and medicine supplies to rebel held areas, killing thousands of civilians in the process. All this was done to defend the commercial interests of the respective governments.

The workers and peasants of Africa do have a direct and immediate interest in stopping the killing. Sub-Saharan Africa is in a chronic state of economic collapse and political instability. Of the 57 nation states in Africa 21 of them have a per capita GDP less than it was in 1979. Total debt has more than doubled, whilst the AIDS epidemic has now assumed mass proportions. In Zaire, in particular - one of the four biggest nations in the subcontinent and home to tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees - the state machinery has disintegrated. Cholera, AIDS and mass malnutrition are adding to the miseries of warlordism.

Africa in the 1990s proves the truth of the revolutionary slogan "socialism or barbarism". In the 1960s and 1970s, the western powers backed ethnically based dictatorships in their bid to defuse the anti-colonial revolutions. These dictatorships were set up on the economic foundations of third world state capitalism. Multi-ethnic states were held together by the creation of a bourgeoisie based in the state-owned industries and the military. Now the neo-liberal strategy of the big capitalist powers is trying to break up these dictatorships because the multinationals want to buy up the state capitalist enterprises they control.

As the ruling elites attempt to whip up ethnic divisions in order to maintain their wealth and power, more Rwandas could follow-unless the working class and peasantry of the region impose their solution.

Just like Yugoslavia without Stalinism, Africa without state-capitalist dictatorships is on a slippery slope to further barbaric atrocities, disease and starvation. That is no reason to mourn the passing of the one party dictatorships and the break-up of state capitalist elites. But it undermines the truth that only socialism can develop Africa, feed its population and over come its ethnic and national divisions.

The strategy of permanent revolution-where the working class, in alliance with the peasantry, seek to combine the struggle for democracy, land and national rights with the struggle to smash capitalism - is the only solution to the crisis in Rwanda and Africa as a whole. If revolutionary parties are not built to fight for this strategy on each national terrain, more genocides, even more horrific than the one in Rwanda, will inevitably follow.