American Politics · Muhammad · Sociology · The Lighter Side

A tale of two countries

So this then is the tale of two African countries, both lived in isolation, albeit isolation of a varying kind. Both had rulers that were corrupt, both had people that were divided, subdued and subjected to anguish. Both saw uprisings, in their own decades. Both saw the international community react to their internal turmoil. In the case of one, the world at large, denied at first, and later apologetically accepted the depletion of 20% of the country’s population. The second saw reaction within days, resolutions passed, allied forces accumulated, attacks launched, once again in the name of democracy and freedom, human rights and sympathy.

Rwanda (pronounced /rü-ˈän-dä/),[4] officially the Republic of Rwanda (Kinyarwanda: Repubulika y’u Rwanda; French: République du Rwanda), is a unitary republic of central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.1 million (2010). Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days from the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6 through mid-July, at least 800,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate. Other estimates of the death toll have ranged between 500,000 and 1,000,000, or as much as 20% of the country’s total population. It was the culmination of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu peoples, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959–1962 and overthrown the Tutsi monarchy.

The UN’s mandate forbids intervening in the internal politics of any country unless the crime of genocide is being committed. France has been accused of aiding the Hutu regime to flee by creating what is known as Operation Turquoise. Canada, Ghana, and the Netherlands provided consistent support for the UN mission under the command of Roméo Dallaire, although the UN Security Council did not give it an appropriate mandate to intervene. Despite emphatic demands from UNAMIR’s commanders in Rwanda before and throughout the genocide, its requests for authorization to end it were refused, and its intervention capacity was reduced.

In 2000, the UN explicitly declared its reaction to Rwanda a “failure”. Then Secretary General Kofi Annan said of the event “The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret.”

Prior to the war, the U.S. government had aligned itself with Tutsi interests, in turn raising Hutu concerns about potential U.S. support to the opposition. Paul Kagame, a Tutsi officer in exile in Uganda who had co-founded the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1986 and was in open conflict with the incumbent Rwandan government, was invited to receive military training at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, home of the Command and General Staff College. In October 1990, while Kagame was at Fort Leavenworth, the RPF started an invasion of Rwanda. Only two days into the invasion, his close friend and RPF co-founder Fred Rwigema was killed, upon which the U.S. arranged the return of Kagame to Uganda from where he became the military commander of the RPF. An article in the Washington Post of August 16, 1997, authored by its Southern African bureau chief Lynne Duke, indicates that the connection continued as RPF elements received counterinsurgency and combat training from U.S. Special Forces.

There were no U.S. troops officially in Rwanda at the onset of the genocide. A National Security Archive report points out five ways in which decisions made by the U.S. government contributed to the slow U.S. and worldwide response to the genocide:

  1. The U.S. lobbied the U.N. for a total withdrawal of U.N. (UNAMIR) forces in Rwanda in April 1994;
  2. Secretary of State Warren Christopher did not authorize officials to use the term “genocide” until May 21, and even then, U.S. officials waited another three weeks before using the term in public;
  3. Bureaucratic infighting slowed the U.S. response to the genocide in general;
  4. The U.S. refused to jam extremist radio broadcasts inciting the killing, citing costs and concern with international law;
  5. U.S. officials knew exactly who was leading the genocide, and actually spoke with those leaders to urge an end to the violence but did not follow up with concrete action.

Most importantly however, there are absolutely no socio political or economic impacts of the Rwandan Genocide. Meanwhile, as soon as the revolution in Libya started, in London Brent crude rose by more than $2 a barrel to $108.5. In New York, US light sweet crude oil rose by $7.37 to $93.57 a barrel. US shares also closed heavily down. Asian stocks had closed down, and European shares also fell before recovering by mid-afternoon. At close in New York, the Nasdaq was behind by 2.74%, the Dow by 1.44%, and the S&P 500 by 2.05%. At close France’s Cac 40 had fallen by 1.15%, Germany’s Dax by 0.05%, and the London FTSE by 0.30%. Spanish oil firm Repsol-YFP was joined by Italy’s Eni in closing down production in Libya. Libya, with only 2% of the global crude oil production, while the extent of the massacre a is mere fraction of the Rwandan genocide, the global economic impact is immense.

UN resolutions of a no fly zone, followed by an organized allied attack less than a month of the revolution, is at best, contrasting. The world needs to mourn the million lives lost in Rwanda, and mourn more so when we act so swiftly when the impact of a social unrest reaches beyond borders. If the same UN charter is to apply to Libya that were used in case of Rwanda, there is absolutely no need for a UN intervention, less so of an allied forces invasion. One would also consider the haste caused by the tragic events in Japan that have caused further havoc to global markets and this meltdown upon Libya is no more than an effort to restore investor confidence. After all, the only wave rocking the boat here is investor confidence. With only 2% of global oil production, even if all crude or refined exports from Libya would come to a standstill, the actual trading price of oil assuming a constant investor reaction would remain unchanged. The gulf will be bridged ever so easily by the OPEC cartel. A greater threat to investor confidence was the uprising in Egypt, which sees 55% of all the fossil fuel production in the world pass through it in form or the other. A tightened noose on the Suez Canal had to have a much higher impact on commodity prices, truth is, the entire fortnight of the Egyptian uprising, saw the securities market perform above the curve.

One stoops to wonder however, if we can perhaps control investor confidence, we can perhaps control everything. Surely, if the investors were scared of the papal fallacies and were not entering the securities markets because the pope kept saying stupid things, we would see the allied forces launch a joint attack on the Vatican or other so called holy sites of the organized religion clan. Is that the solution to all our problems?


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