Rwanda’s Butchers: the Interahamwe and Former Rwandan Army
Special Report No 13
Military history will record the Interahamwe and allied Rwandan soldiers uniquely. Back in April 1994, they achieved a dramatic tactical success, while failing entirely in their strategic vision. When faced with having to share power both with a Tutsi guerrilla movement (RPF) and with moderate Hutu politicians, their leaders decided that if they could just eliminate both elements they could stay in power. Over the ensuing weeks, they and their followers successfully managed to kill about 800,000 people, including nearly all of Rwanda's moderate Hutu political activists and at least half of the country's then-resident Tutsi population. Yet, they still lost the war.
Today, the propensity of the surviving Interahamwe and former Rwandan Army elements to carry out seemingly irrational acts of terrorism should not be underestimated. Even before they embarked on genocide, these same forces were responsible for a wave of bombings of civilian markets as well as landmines left on rural roads. These killed mostly their own fellow Hutus in the cynical hope that Hutu survivors would blame these attacks on Tutsis.
Isolated now in the jungles of central Zaire, the Interahamwe and former Rwandan forces have nowhere to go. Collective starvation, like death from disease, is a palpable scenario. These forces are unlikely to allow any of the civilians still travelling with them to leave. And they still may have access to funds from radical supporters in the diaspora, and could use them to buy arms either through or from the Zairian Army. And unlike the latter, the Interahamwe and former Rwandan combatants now have nothing to lose by fighting.
The Interahamwe and their allies are well-supplied with small arms, including Kalashnikov, R-4 and Belgian FN assault rifles, FN MAG Belgian machine guns, RPG-7 grenade launchers, hand grenades, and mortars. These forces have also used landmines and South African No 2 mines modeled upon the US Claymore.
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