January 7, 1998
Battles between the Hutus and Tutsis have resumed in the northern part of Rwanda. Both sides are turning farmers into soldiers. Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports.
LINDSEY HILSUM, ITN: Rekindling past glory, Rwandans soldiers celebrate how they ended genocide in 1994, but today these soldiers are at war again. The enemy are bands of Hutu extremists, who attack and run and hide in the hills. The most powerful man in the country, Vice President General Paul Kagame, encourages the troops.
MAJOR GENERAL PAUL KAGAME: (speaking through interpreter) There are individuals who are violating our peace. We are fighting them, and I'll tell you here, we'll carry on fighting them.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Last month, the army failed to prevent two attacks on Tutsi settlements just near here. Hundreds were slaughtered by the Hutu militia, the Inherahamwe, and the former army. The memory of the dead hangs over the New Year morale boost. Everything here goes back to the genocide. The insurgents that this army are fighting are the Hutu extremists who still are trying to wipe out the Tutsis. But as the war intensifies and the soldiers get harsher, increasingly, it's the ordinary Hutu peasants in the hills who are defined as the enemy. This morning, the peasants have been summoned to hear the big man speak.
The soldiers say that those who carry a hoe one day carry a gun the next. Many Hutus got military training in the two years they spent in refugee camps in Zaire. Their mass return to Rwanda foreshadowed today's war. But they say the army tars all Hutus with the same brush. This man tells General Kagame that his soldiers are murdering young Hutu men. Relatives returning from exile are disappearing, and everyone dreads the soldiers' knock on the door. The general accepts that some soldiers misbehave, but he challenges the peasants to identify infiltrators among themselves. No one steps forward.
MAJOR GENERAL PAUL KAGAME: I'm sorry, some people will have to die in this way. So-called civilians are part of the very groups that are causing problems in the North. Killing like this is hard in the North--where they have been killing refugees; they've been killing people in their homes, and they've been doing that. They come as a mixture of armed people, others and armed in the sense that some have rifles; others have spears; others have machetes. They descend on another section of the population, and they start killing people.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Jean, a young man from Gisenyi, is terrified of the government. In October, he witnessed the Inherahamwe attacking mini-buses and killing Tutsis in the market where he worked. Then he saw the army response.
JEAN: (speaking through interpreter) We noticed it was the soldiers not the Inherahamwe who killed the people. The Inherahamwe were all mixed up with the civilians. When the soldiers came, they couldn't tell the difference, so they massacred many people.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Peasants fleeing such incidents have abandoned their houses and fields. In parts of Northwest Rwanda, no one is cultivating today. The wages of fear are starvation. At the entrance to these underground caves near Gisenyi, the flies tell the story. The army says insurgents hid in the caves and were killed inside, but the rebels are believed to have had with them hundreds, maybe thousands, of Hutu civilians.
LINDSEY HILSUM: If there were many civilians, women, children, down there hiding, it's just hard luck?
SOLDIER: It's really bad luck because we didn't know. We only came--we simply because we were pursuing the enemy we were fighting with.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The sense of threat is palpable. These Tutsis have gathered together in a camp for security, but 40 of their number have already been killed in a Hutu rebel attack.
MAN: (speaking through interpreter) We used to live together. Hutus and Tutsis used to share things and consult each other. But now when you see a Hutu, you flee because you know if you approach him, he will kill you.
LINDSEY HILSUM: In case the army fails next time the men say they're ready to fight back. International pleas for reconciliation sound meaningless here.