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28 years ago, on 6 April 1994, one of the most dreadful campaigns of mass murder was unleashed upon the Tutsi people of Rwanda. In just 100 days, more people had been slaughtered with machetes and clubs than have died from atomic weapons in all of history.
At the time, world media attention was focused on South Africa's first "One Man, One Vote" elections. When the genocide was launched on 6 April 1994, most African correspondents were in South Africa covering the elections. The MRND government in Rwanda meticulously organised the genocide. The French-trained Presidential Guard, the army, the gendarmes and civil administrators were mobilised to slaughter the Tutsi minority.
Central to the MRND strategy was to sow confusion so that no one would know what was happening. They isolated their victims by imposing a news blackout, cutting telephone links, establishing a dense network of roadblocks and imposing a nationwide curfew. These measures kept people in their homes and prevented most people from fleeing. By cutting communications and restricting travel, they isolated their victims and sought to stifle the flow of news.
Following the assassination of the president, by surface to air missile, the MRND government (Mouvement Revolutionnaire National pour le Development) launched a campaign of disinformation. It portrayed the killings as a spontaneous outbreak of tribal violence. It sought to confuse the mass killing of defenceless people with "the war", and it played the humanitarian card by pleading for emergency aid. All this was a smokescreen to conceal the state-sponsored genocide. Amidst this calculated confusion, many foreign aid workers assisted in the disinformation campaign by contributing ill-informed comments such as: "Everyone is killing everyone!"; "It's uncontrollable violence"; "The Hutus and Tutsis are killing one another again!"
Spread of Disinformation
Having killed opposition politicians, Rwandese journalists, human rights activists and others who might present an accurate report on the cold-blooded campaign of mass murder, the MRND campaign continued their strategy of disinformation by portraying the violence as spontaneous rage in response to the assassination of the president.
Evacuation of Foreigners
Initially, international attention generally focused on the plight of foreigners. Camera crews were, understandably, only prepared to travel with international troops - whose mission was to evacuate foreigners. This naturally led to a slanted and incomplete picture being portrayed to the world. The murder of ten Belgian soldiers on 7 April only heightened this pre-occupation with the evacuation of foreigners. It is very probable that the killers were instructed to murder the Belgians precisely in order to make the evacuation of foreigners the international priority. It also further encouraged the withdraw of UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda).
This strategy of disinformation and terror was spectacularly successful. To this day, most people worldwide do not understand what happened in Rwanda, or why it happened. That is why after my mission to Rwanda I was compelled to produce a compact book that would not only expose what had happened in the horrific massacres in homes, hospitals, churches and on the streets, but the reasons why this systematic slaughter was unleashed. Holocaust in Rwanda reveals the events leading up to the intense and widespread violence, and more importantly the lessons we need to learn from the genocide in Rwanda.
Carnage in the Church
No words could adequately convey the shocking impact of seeing a Church building filled with corpses. No photographs could communicate the foreboding silence, the overpowering smell of death and the continuous buzzing of swarms of flies at this site of slaughter in the sanctuary. The victims of this atrocity at Ntarama had been left basically as they were after the massacre of 22 April 1994. Well over 1,200 people, mostly women and children, were slaughtered within the walls of this church building. An estimated total of 6,000 were killed in the surrounding Sunday school classes, at a nearby school and throughout the bush surrounding it. Survivors described how the Hutu Interahamwe had first thrown grenades into the church building. Then they moved into the packed congregation with machetes, chopping off limbs and heads. Some survived by hiding under the corpses and pretending to be dead themselves.
Slaughter in the Sanctuary
The church at Ntarama had been left untouched. Human skulls littered the altar. The charred remains of others were visible inside burned-out Sunday school classes a few metres away from the church sanctuary. During my years as a missionary to persecuted Christians, I had witnessed some horrific atrocities, particularly in Mozambique and Angola, but nothing could compare with the enormity of this atrocity. The scope and the intensity of the genocide in Rwanda was unique. Blood-stained altars, bullet-ridden doors and shattered windows all bore testimony to the hatred. Bloodied, desecrated and looted. Blackened by fire, shattered by blasts of hand grenades, virtually every room testified to this time of madness. In addition to Ntarama, congregations in Rukara, Cyahinda, Karama, Shangi, Kibeho and Gishamvu were other sites of genocidal mass murder. I looked up and saw bullet holes and shrapnel holes in the corrugated iron roofs of the churches.
How could these things happen? Rwanda had been described as: “the most Catholic country in Africa.” Yet the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Monsignor Vincent Nsengigumva had also been a member of the Central Committee of the ruling MRND cabinet for 14 years. The Anglican Archbishop, Augustine Mshamihigo, was close to the MRND president Habyarimana. Not only did the most prominent religious leaders in the country fail to condemn the government campaign of promoting hatred and mass murder, but they neglected to provide any real support for the victims. The participation of numerous Catholic priests in the genocide is documented in Holocaust in Rwanda. Plainly, these Church leaders had failed to preach the whole counsel of God. Testimony was lifted higher than teaching. Blessings were sought rather than Biblical instruction. A naïve support for those in power enabled the genocide.
Targeting Their Tutsi Neighbours
Also shocking was the role of many doctors, nurses and teachers who directly participated in the Interahamwe mass murder of their Tutsi neighbours. The treachery of the UN was documented by General Romeo Dallaire, the military commander of UNAMIR, in his book “Shake Hands with the Devil.”
“The World Failed You”
The United Nations official most responsible for the treacherous betrayal of the people of Rwanda, Kofi Annan, after a decade of being pressured to accept responsibility, declared: “the world failed you!” Not the United Nations failed you. Not I failed you. The world failed you. That was a classic example of how secular humanists avoid personal responsibility.
Traumatised by Treachery
Quite understandably, the people of Rwanda were traumatised and outraged at the treacherous treatment they had received at the hands of the United Nations. The UN were banned from the country. The role of the French government in aiding and abetting the genocidal MRND government and providing sanctuary for many of the architects of the genocide afterwards, led the people of Rwanda to abolish French as the national language and establish English as the national language of Rwanda, instead.
Plague of Rats
During my mission to Rwanda, we were plagued by swarms of rats. Rats as big as cats ran rampant. We went to sleep with a mag-lite torch in one hand and a machete in the other to ward off the ferocious rodents.
The Samaritan’s Purse team that I stayed with donned wellington boots and overalls each day and waded into the sewerage system to remove the hundreds of corpses and body parts which were clogging up the entire drainage system at Kigali House Hospital. In order to get the Hospital operational again, this was essential. The myriads of flying, crawling and biting insects and the ever-present rats complicated everything. 7,000 people had been killed at Kigali Central Hospital. One of the American volunteers, a lady who was particularly paranoid about rats had chosen to sleep on the top bunk, assuming that that would provide her the best protection. She woke up the whole house with her screams as rats descended on top of her from the ceiling.
Medical Mass Murderers
Many psychiatrists, obstetricians, surgeons, gynaecologists, dentists and nurses were involved in the murdering of their own patients, fellow doctors and nurses.
Also, many school teachers, journalists, civil servants, doctors, judges had been involved in murdering their Tutsi neighbours. Evidently, the Hutus of Rwanda had AIDS – An Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome. “All those who hate Me love death.” Proverbs 8:36
As I walked through the killing fields of Rwanda, many thoughts rushed through my mind. Here I could clearly see the depravity of man and the total failure of man’s attempted solutions. If the United Nations really was meant to be any kind of answer to the complex problems caused by man’s rebellion against our Creator and His Laws, then we are doomed. From what I saw in Rwanda, the United Nations and the humanist agenda it represents, is part of the problem – not the solution.
Rwanda was a Gun-Free Zone
Contrary to what humanists claim, man is not basically good, nor is he evolving and improving. Mankind has fallen into sin and is intrinsically evil. We need strict laws, checks and balances, decentralisation and armed citizens to restrain the evil within men’s hearts. Rwanda was a gun-free zone. Armed citizens save lives, but unarmed citizens just become helpless victims. A free people need to be armed. Disarmed people can easily be exploited and oppressed. Where the government does not trust its citizens with weapons, then the citizens cannot trust the government with power. A government that fears its people is itself to be feared. No government should have a monopoly of force or weaponry.
The Martyr’s Prayer
As I was overcome by the sights and smells of death around the church, I knelt down amidst the remains of the martyrs on the church steps. I prayed the Martyr’s Prayer of Revelation 6:10: “How long, O Lord Holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” I prayed for God to judge the wicked, to comfort the relatives of the victims and for God to have mercy on us all. Then I praised God for the reality of His Resurrection victory over death. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and His church is unshakeable, untakeable, unstoppable and unbeatable. “God is our Refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” Psalm 46:1-2
The cemetery at Nynaza was another place visited. The cemetery contains the graves of 3,500 people who were massacred after being abandoned in a schoolyard by UN peacekeepers. This incident was dramatized in the film Shooting Dogs, also released as Beyond the Gates.
Every night I could hear ear-piercing screams of people plainly terrified. By the time I returned from Rwanda, I was very sick. My mother, through her medical contacts, organised for me to have a whole battery of tests, which at the end concluded: “Virus – Tropical.” My mother commented that Virus – Tropical, means that they do not have a clue! The Rwandan Holocaust left me literally sick; body, mind and spirit.
Liberal Church Participation
The Holocaust In Rwanda book is unique in that it examines the disgraceful involvement of liberal church leaders, gun control and media manipulation. Rwanda was a gun-free zone. The mass murderers successfully manipulated and abused the media to vilify the targeted Tutsis, and to mobilise masses of Hutus to kill their neighbours. The scandalous role of the French government in providing assistance, training and weapons to the mass murderers and the French military expedition to create a safe zone for the fleeing Hutu mass murderers, providing sanctuary even for many of the architects of the genocide, is also revealed in this book.
The Challenge to the Christian Church
In addition Holocaust In Rwanda looks at the challenge the Rwandan holocaust presents to the Christian church. The killers did not merely kill people in churches, they killed church workers - pastors, ministers, priests and nuns. However, the most shocking aspect of the anti-Christian mass murders was how many people responsible for the slaughter were trusted members of the congregations. On many occasions even priests, nuns and ministers were directly involved in the genocide! Several heads of denominations co-operated with the Interahamwe, by betraying their Tutsi congregations and co-workers into the hands of mass murderers.
Compromise and Cowardice cause Catastrophe
The role of these Christian traitors, blood-stained bishops and murderous ministers of Rwanda are an indictment upon our theological seminaries and church councils. Those who do not wholeheartedly love the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word are not qualified to be spiritual leaders. The Rwandan Holocaust exposes the emptiness of the superficial and self-centred easy believism, which all too often masquerades as the Gospel. Compromise and cowardice helped cause the catastrophe. Most importantly, Holocaust In Rwanda looks at some of the lessons, which need to be learned in order to ensure that such atrocities do not reoccur. Far more important than the concerns for retribution is the urge and need to lay foundations for the future that will prevent such nationwide oppression from ever occurring again. These are Biblical principles which are not only important for Rwanda but for every society which values life and liberty. Rwanda was a gun free zone. Tyrants prefer disarmed victims. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Armed citizens save lives.
Holocaust In Rwanda concludes with the Biblical principles which had they been adhered to, there would have been no holocaust in Rwanda.
Holocaust In Rwanda is available in both English and French (70 pages with 20 photographs, maps, or charts) from:
Christian Liberty Books
P O Box 358
Holocaust in Rwanda is also available as an E-Book.
Click here to listen to From the Frontline podcast on this topic.
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
Lessons From the Rwandan Holocaust
Kofi Anan, the UN, the Rwandan Holocaust and Oil-for-Food Scandal
Click here to listen to the audio of the Kofi Anan article