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Kenya Charles Ms.

Mechbach CPW 4U December 9, 2010 The Inaudible Circumstance Paul Rusesabagina was the manager of the Hotel Mille Collins in Rwanda. During the Rwandan genocide Rusesabagina saved hundreds of thousands of Tutsi refugees. In An Ordinary Man Rusesabagina examines the gruesome genocide. What happened was devastating; there is no excuse for the attempted eradication of an entire race. Rusesabagina believes that many contributing factors over the years not only instigated the genocide but did nothing to bring it to an end. Historical discrimination created by Speke and the Belgians is what began the ancient hatred for the Hutu against the Tutsi. The Hutu revolution, which began on July 1, 1962, sparked the moment when the Hutu became the ruling class and the systematic killing of the Tutsi began. The Radio-Tlvision Libre des Mille Collins was created to be a propaganda tool for President Habyarimana to spread hateful messages that incited odium in the hearts of many Hutu. The United Nation/United States did not impede any of the occurring massacres even though they had the resources to aid the Rwandans. British explorer John Hanning Speke helped create the theory that the Tutsis were superior than the Hutu because they measured their wealth in cows, drank milk, ate beef, and seemed to be taller and have slightly more angular noses than their subjects1. Speke thought that the Tutsi were royalty because they were a lost tribe of Christians who had migrated from the deserts of the Middle East2. Compared to the Tutsi, Speke described the Hutu as curly headed, flab nosed, pouch-mouth Negros3. Speke thought that the Hutu were descendants from Noahs son Ham. According to the ninth chapter of Genesis, Ham looked at his father

1 2

Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 17. Ibid, 17. 3 Ibid, 17.

K. Charles 2 lying naked in a tent while he was drunk on homemade wine. For this sin Noah damned Hams descendants-the lowest of slaves he will be to his brothers.4 The Belgians were another factor in creating the ancient hatred between the Hutu and Tutsi. Belgian scientists were sent to Rwanda to measure the noses of citizens. A typical Tutsi nose is at least two and a half millimeters longer than a Hutu nose5. In 1933 all Rwandan citizens acquired identity cards called books that specified their ethnic class6. The notion of the Tutsi superiority was taught in schools, preached in churches, and reinforced in thousands of invisible ways in daily Rwandan life. The Tutsi were told over and over again that they were aristocracy and physically attractive while the Hutu were told they were ugly and stupid and worthy of working in the fields7. An image became projected of the Hutu as souls sad and passive, ignoring all thoughts for the morrow and who viewed their Tutsi masters as demigods8. The Hutu had to live with constant discrimination, humiliation, and cruelty from the Tutsi. The Hutu could only take so much abuse from the Tutsi before they violently retaliated. Their retribution came in the form of the Hutu Revolution. Throughout the 1950s there was an increase in sympathy towards the Hutu. There was always a larger population of Hutu than Tutsi-the Hutu slowly assumed power as the ruling class-for example the military was assembled of 14%Tutsi and 86% Hutui. The death of the King on July 27, 1959 marked the very first outbreak of systematic ethnic murders in Rwanda. The homes, fields, and stores of the Tutsi often went into the hands of those who had hacked them apart9. National elections were held and Hutus won 90% of the open seats. The Hutu Revolution occurred on July 1, 1962 when Belgian and the United States departed Rwanda with a Hutu government in power. The Hutu Revolution marked the first time in history when the Hutu had more power than the Tutsi.
4 5

Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 17. Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 23. 6 Ibid, 23. 7 Ibid, 23. 8 Ibid, 23. 9 Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 26.

K. Charles 3 With their new found authority, many of the Hutu soon became corrupt and began abusing their power by taking revenge against the Tutsi for the violence inflicted upon their ancestors. The RTLM (Radio-Tlvision Libre des Mille Collins) was created on August 8, 1993. It broadcasted that it could be trusted to tell ordinary citizens what was happening inside the country. The truth was that it was a major propaganda tool for Hutu President Habyarimana, who was the largest shareholder10. President Habyarimana used RTLM as a tool to broadcast and circulate odious comments. He knew how much respect Rwandans have for high education so RTLM would always have professors and experts to help spread hate11. Some of the hateful messages that were broadcasted on RTLM both before and during the genocide were: we know where the cockroaches are. If they look for us, they had better watch out12, what weapons shall we use to conquer the cockroaches once and for all13, we say to the cockroaches that if they lift up their heads again, it will no longer be necessary to fight them in the bush. We will start by eliminating the internal enemy. They will be silenced14, clean your neighbourhood of brush and do your work15. If anybody had been paying attention, they would have noticed the suspicious activities surrounding RTLM. For example, in early November 1993 one of the financial backers for RTLM received 987 cartons of inexpensive machetes. Between January 1993 and March 1994, he received half a million more machetes imported from various overseas suppliers16. Machetes were the main weapon used during the genocide. The United States refused to believe that what was happening in Rwanda was a
10 11

Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 63. Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 64. 12 Ibid, 64. 13 Ibid, 64. 14 Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 65-66. 15 Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 82. 16 Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 66-67.

K. Charles 4 Genocide. They claimed it was a spontaneous uprising of grief among the villagers at the assassination of President Habyarimana and not something that had been carefully planned17. Both the United Nations and the United States were fearful to act due to an incident in Somalia the past October when eighteen Army Rangers were killed in the Black Hawk Down incident that seemed to symbolize everything that could go wrong with peacekeeping missions18. During the Black Hawk Down incident, Americans soldiers went into Somalia to provide humanitarian relief. The Somalians however, attacked the Americans and shot down their helicopters. Due to these events, the UN was reluctant to become involved with the Rwandan genocide. The United States decided that the mandate of the UN troops was not to halt the killings but to ensure orderly evacuation of all non-Rwandans. On April 12th the evacuation began. Anyone with white skin or a foreign passport was given a free trip out. Even their pet dogs were taken with them; the Tutsi and their sympathizers were left behind to die19. For example, some UN troops were stationed at a technical school in Kicukiro. They were not offering protection but nonetheless two thousand of the hunted took shelter there until the troops were given their orders to leave-the massacre of two thousand people began immediately after the last UN jeep had disappeared down the street20. The United Nations did not intervene in the genocide, even though they could have saved hundreds of thousands of people. Their disregard and inaction will be forever remembered by Rwandans. Through reading An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina and Shake Hands with the
17 18

Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 135. Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 137. 19 Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 97. 20 Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man, (New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007), 98.

K. Charles 5 Devil by Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, it is clear that there are some discrepancies in their perception of the Rwandan genocide. Rusesabagina believes that the United Nations, United States, and Romeo Dallaire himself could have done something more to help the Rwandans or even stop the genocide. Rusesabagina believes that since Rwandans have such great respect for authority figures, all it would have taken was a little intervention from the United Nations to prevent thousands of needless deaths. What Rusesabagina did not know was what was happening behind the scenes. As much as Dallaire wanted to aid the Rwandans, he could not if his supervisors did not permit it. Dallaire was told that if he could not negotiate with the RPF (Rwandanese Patriotic Front) and create a ceasefire, then his troops would be pulled out of Rwanda. However, the RPF had a long list of demands for Dallaire, such as the slaughter of innocent civilians must stop, the indiscriminate shooting by the RGF (Rwandanese Government Forces) and CND(Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) must stop, the Presidential Guards must be disarmed and returned to their camp and arrested, the Crisis Committee should produce a joint communiqu with the RPF regarding the true state of affairs and broadcasted to the nation and the Crisis Committee had to fully account for all officials who died or disappeared.21. If these conditions were met the RPF was willing to consider negotiating a ceasefire. Dallaire also had to handle his fellow troops and refugees dying from dehydration, malnutrition, the cold, disease, the departing Belgians who were giving the blue berets a bad name and pressure from his supervisors to make some sort of progress. As much as Dallaire wanted to save the lives of Rwandans, there were procedures and regulations that Rusesabagina was not aware of. An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina is a chilling but true tale of the horrendous acts preformed during the Rwandan genocide. In his autobiography, Rusesabagina comments on


Dallaire, Romeo, Shake Hands with the Devil, (Toronto: Vintage Canada Edition 2003). 266,

K. Charles 6 the causes of the genocide, the ineffectiveness of the United Nations, and the appalling acts he experienced and witnessed. Rusesabaginas arguments were very convincing and well explained due to his meticulous details. He told of the slaughters that took place in churches, schools, homes and shockingly even on the side of the road. He spoke of the roadblocks that were made by piling human corpses on top of one another. Rusesbagina weaves his own personal experience with detailed facts from past and present Rwanda. He clearly explains the history of Rwanda, the events leading up to the genocide, and the aftermath of the genocide. Rusesabagina not only describes the effect that the genocide had on Rwanda, he also describes how he and his family were affected. An Ordinary Man is a truly inspirational tale of a man who saved several thousand lives without violence. Rusesabagina was a man who believed in using his words instead of violence. Whenever the soldiers would come to kill refugees in the Hotel Milles Collins he would take them into his office, give them a drink, and appeal to their sense of humanity. Whether it was greed, arrogance, or sympathy; Rusesabagina saved hundreds of thousands of lives using his words instead of violence. Rusesabaginas account of the Rwandan genocide is a truly moving piece of literature. It is a prime example of how malicious, malevolent, and merciless human beings can be to one another. An Ordinary Man is a rousing and emotional chronicle that should be read by individuals interested in politics in African culture.

Works Cited Dallaire, Romeo, and Brent Beardsley. Shake Hands with the Devil. Toronto: Vintage Canada Edition, 2003. Rusesabagina, Paul, and Tom Zoellner. An Ordinary Man. New York: Viking Penguin Books, 2007.