Interahamwe Part II

It was almost as if we WANTED Zaire to be the Heart of Darkness; perhaps the notion suited our understanding of the natural order of nations.
Philip Gourevitch, journalist and author
(Gourevitch, 284)

Congo mapCourtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd

For the past twenty years, a brutal war has been going on in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. The death toll so far is at least 5 million people{Rosen}, or maybe even 6 million{World Without Genocide}. ‘Its victims live deep in the mountains of central Africa, and despite the efforts of a few intrepid journalists, scholars, and human rights observers, their suffering goes largely undocumented.’ {Rosen}

This conflict is the direct outcome of the Rwandan Genocide.

Once the genocide ended in July 1994, people would flee across the borders, as many as 2 million{}. Many of these would find themselves in the Great Lakes region of Zaire. The UNHCR organised camps for these people considering them refugees. ‘Food, shelter, water, health, sanitation – we do good aid,’ commented an official in Goma{Gourevitch 268}.

These “refugees” were mainly Hutu – and including many Interahamwe, FAR and other genocidaires. In the Frankenstein tradition, they did not realise the monster they were incubating. The ‘camps were themselves havens for war criminals and champions of atrocity, and their very existence placed everyone in and around them in mortal danger.’ {Gourevitch 187}

The first atrocities against Zairean natives of the Great Lakes, who were mainly Tutsi, began soon after the exodus. This culminated in the massacre at Mokoto Monastery, who had sheltered many people fleeing the new violence, in May 1996. {Gourevitch 278}

By 1996, the new Tutsi controlled government of Rwanda had had enough. They launched an invasion across the border, against the menacing genocidaires. From here, they would march all the way to the capital Kinshasa.

Zaire’s long-term dictator Mobuto See Seko had supported the Hutus. He would be deposed in 1997, by the Rwandan army. Mobuto died of cancer on 7 September. He was replaced by rebel leader Laurent Kabila, and the country reverted to the ironic name Democratic Republic of the Congo. This was appropriately called the First Congo War.

The Second Congo War began in 1998, when Banyamulenge Tutsi began fighting back against the Hutu atrocities, supported by the Rwandan army. Congo fought back, involving so many nations: Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan and the Ugandan LRA. Kabila was assassinated in 2001, replaced by his son. This conflict became known as the African World War {McGreal}.

All this is barely mentioned in our news, it only makes headlines when Western people become the victims of these genocidaires, such as 8 tourists abducted then tortured to death in Bwindi National Park in 1999. “The abduction and killing of tourists is now seen as an important tactic for a rebel movement anxious to boost its profile abroad and to cause fresh security worries for the authorities in Rwanda and Uganda.” {Simpson @ BBC}

There was a ceasefire in 2003, but the violence continues, known as the Kivu Conflict. It will continue until the Hutu militia can be dislodged from their bases in Eastern Congo, but not even UN intervention has achieved this.

In a republic which isn’t democratic, the Interahamwe now dare to call themselves the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). They are known as a terrorist group. The FDLR sits at the heart of two decades of war and instability in Democratic Republic of Congo, in which millions of people have died from violence, hunger and disease. {Jones@Reuters}

Firstly, there are the shocking casualties, ‘the biggest bloodbath since the Second World War’. {Robertson 791} Secondly, some of the militias have been guilty of recruiting child soldiers. Finally, it is one of the worst areas for women, being called “the rape capital of the world”. {Viner@Guardian}

So this is how it continues, more than 20 years after the Rwandan Genocide. Like a particularly gruesome movie, the horror seems to continue on and on and on. . .with no end in sight.



Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda. London: Picador, Macmillian Publishers, 2000.

Robertson, Geoffrey. Crimes Against Humanity. 4th Edition. London: Penguin Books, 2012.


2 thoughts on “Interahamwe Part II

  1. This is a good informative post regarding what is happening in the region today. For 20th century literature it would have been good to make a connection back to the book. Perhaps tell us to which tribe or section of people are mentioned in heart of darkness as followers of Kurtz. Perhaps link the genocide back to the indiscriminate killing of the natives by the French. .. recalling that section in the book that the French boat fired unto the bushes at unseen ghosts.
    I look forward to reading further blogs as you move on to 1st world war poets and modernists. I know it’s your passion but maybe for blog posts you needn’t do so much research but rather comment on the text. Blessings Dave

  2. Actually, the link here is that Conrad’s novel is about a voyage up the Congo River into the heart of Africa. I was talking here about events in the modern day Congo.

    The horror! The horror!

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