January 6, 2008
Kenya and the Rwandan Genocide
When the church was burned in Eldoret on New Year's Day, there began
to be many comparisons made between the situation here in Kenya and
the Rwandan genocide. Moreover a number of the politicians here in
Kenya have been using the term "genocide." Any comparison
at this time between what is happening in Kenya and what happened in
Rwanda in 1994 is ridiculous.
Let us start with the church burning. In Rwanda churches were not burned.
Rather the Tutsi who took refuge in the churches--sometimes by the
thousands and even tens of thousands--were hacked to death by machetes.
The church was surrounded by others so that anyone who tried to flee
was killed. In Kenya, at the church in Eldoret, there were hundreds
of people inside when it was burned down. Most fled. While the papers
indicated 35 to 50 people were burned to death, the Red Cross now puts
the numbers at 17. Clearly unlike the situation in Rwanda, the intention
of the attackers was not to kill the people in the church.
The papers state that 355 people have died since the election. While
I think this is an underestimate, at least 850,000 people were killed
in the Rwandan genocide. The official total here in Kenya is .04% of
the numbers killed in Rwanda.
Also, in Rwanda the specific intention of the genocedaries was to kill
Tutsi. They hunted them down for one hundred days. If the Kenyan looters
had the intention of killing Kikuyu and others, the death toll would
be magnitudes higher. Rather, here in Kenya, the intention of the rioters
is to destroy Kikuyu property--vehicles, shops, animals, farms, and
The most important difference is that in Rwanda the government in power
at that time organized and implemented the genocide. This is one of
the criteria for genocide--it is the government itself which implements
genocide. In Kenya there is no doubt that the Kenyan Government is
not organizing any killings. Government security forces are trying
their best to restore order and stop the destruction of property. The
fact that they have failed for so long is of major concern, but this
has nothing to do with genocide. While the Orange Democratic Movement
has been accused by the Government of promoting the violence, I see
no evidence that ODM is organizing it and in fact, I think, that they
have no ability to stop it. The ODM leaders have asked for the end
of the violence, but this has had no effect.
I myself try never to use the term "genocide" unless it completely
fulfills the legal definition of genocide as in the case of Rwanda.
In Darfur there is a major debate whether the situation there is genocide
or not. This, to my thinking, is a complete distraction from the real
issue of solving the problem in Darfur. If you are killed, you are
dead regardless whether it is genocide or not. It is the deaths from
violence, whether by a government or rebel groups, which we must focus
on and attempt to end.
In the case of Kenya, the term "genocide" should not be used
by anyone. If you hear the term being used, then you know it is propaganda.
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