Pol Pot is the former prime minister of Cambodia and leader of the Khmer Rouge. He was also General Secretary of the communist party of Kampuchea (1963-1981). Pol Pot became leader of Cambodia in April 17th, 1975 and ran a totalitarian dictatorship. Throughout his rise in power Pol Pot caused executions, bad working conditions, malnutrition, and poor medical care which resulted in 25% of the population (7-8 million) to die under his rule. In 1979, the Vietnamese Army invaded and deposited the Khmer Rouge, which was the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Pol Pot’s form of government controlled every aspect of a civilians life from money, property, jewelry, and even having a religion was outlawed. His brother in law was Ieng Sary also known as “Brother Number Three” who was also a co-founder of the Khmer Rouge. The Viet Minh was a Communist Organization led by Ho Chi Minh, it elevated a lot of nationalism and was made to fight back the French and Japanese forces. Later in 1956 there was the Dien Bien Phu Battle which ended the French involvement. One thing that I found interesting from learning about this was the phrase “year 0” and that a country can declare that and essentially re-do they’re entire way of life. Year 0 was announced in this case in 1792 and even resulted in the re-doing of the calendar.
Khmer Rouge (April 1975)
The second part of the Rwandan genocide, Gourevitch labels as “Part Two” in his book. It is mainly focused on reprisal killings, the flight of the Tutsis, and the endless Zaire civil war. Throughout Philip Gourevitch’s writing however, he seems to give a pro-Kagame, pro-tutsi view. Paul Kagame was at the time the Vice President of Rwanda but is now the 6th and current president. Kagame has also maintained relatively close relations with the US. He was also the commander of rebel force that ended the 1994 genocide. The main event that occurred after the genocide was the The first Congo War which was from October 1996 – May 1997. The war took place mainly in Zaire and was a foreign invasion of Zaire led by Rwanda. One important result of this war was the renaming of Zaire to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is what it is known as today. Another important event was Operation Turquoise which was a French military led peace making-op. The violence in this region in these years were massive and catastrophic, roughly 4-6 million died in total. Many tried to flee the region and became refugees that were sent to camps. These camps carried deathly diseases that spread quickly and caused even more deaths. The camps of Zaire were known as “Goma” because that is where they were located. Today Joseph Kabila is the current president of Congo and his term ends in 2016. There is still presently killings and violence happening in the area which leaves the country open-ended for the possibility of another civil war occurring.
Zaire / DR of Congo 1980-2001
I found the movie Hotel Rwanda very inspirational. Paul Rusesabagina was the main character in the film and played as the owner of a hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. He was a Hutu man but was married to a Tutsi which made matters difficult. The movie portrayed the time when Hutu power was rising and violence was increasing in Rwanda. Rusesabagina was portrayed as kind of the hero in the movie, by taking in countless Tutsi children, families, and anyone trying to find a safe haven into the hotel. He protected them any way he could and strived to stop the killings. Georges Rutaganda was a supplier for the hotel but also the leader of the local interahamwe which was the violent Hutu militia. Rusesabagina later bribed him to help protect the hotel until he could figure out how to save them from dying. Rutaganda also knew of Ruseabagina’s Tutsi wife and was only a matter of time till he acted upon it. There was rising violence between the Hutu’s and Tutsis but the violence got extremely bad when the president Habyarimana was killed and his death was blamed on the Tutsis. There was mass violence on the streets and it spread everywhere. People were armed with machetes and guns ready and fired up. Rutaganda told Rusesabagina that the local interahamwe bought thousands of machetes “from China for 10 cents each”. I found the use of radio propaganda quite interesting. It was their main media outlet and the Hutu power used it to almost brain wash all Hutu’s. Constantly saying things like “remember one cockroach can start an infestation”. Once the president died they were saying “killed by the Tutsi cockroaches! Let us go to war, let none of them escape”. The UN was there from time to time, but didn’t do much to help the situation, they were portrayed as almost an accessory or task force that was there to help but didn’t do much helping till the very end when the refugees of the Hotel finally got to a safe zone to be transported out. One thing that I was curious about was the children of intermarried parents. All people had ID cards that were labeled either Hutu or Tutsi but there were children of mixed identity. It made me wonder what their cards are labeled as or if checked did the Hutu parents just show their card for them?
“The dead of Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish dead during the Holocaust” (Gourevitch)
The book We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families – Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch is an informative read. It’s a narrative of many personal stories containing a lot of facts and useful information. I found it had the perfect balance to make it a enjoyable to read yet hard at times due to the content. The book is based on the Rwandan genocide, one of the most tragic events in history. Rwanda is overwhelming catholic, which was something I hadn’t known before and played a big part in society. Catholic schools were very popular but once the violence started discrimination spread into the educational system also. Catholic schools started discriminating against Hutu’s and were in favor of Tutsi’s. I think this must’ve added to the tension between the two greatly since many were religious people. I can’t imagine a religion discriminating against a race and in this case Catholicism. Hutu’s were Bantu, cultivators, vassals, mostly peasants/farmers, and were generally darker, shorter with curlier hair. While on the other hand Tutsi’s were herdsmen, cattle workers, and generally taller, more slender, with lighter skin. These were the most popular distinctions between the two. I found the whole concept and uprising very interesting since it was not in their nature before. In Kigali there was a plane that was shot down and everyone was killed and thats when the real violence started. In 1994 the French led a military operation in Rwanda in efforts to establish a “safe-zone”, this movement was called Operation Turquoise. The Rwandan genocide was a genocidal mass murder led by the Hutu government against the Tutsis. It began by extreme Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali and lasted from about April 7th – July 1994. With casualties ranging from 500,000 to 1 million.
“It was the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” (Gourevitch)
Operation Turquoise- French military with Hutu refugees