Special Report: A Scourge of Small Arms; June 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Boutwell, Klare; 6 Page(s)
Most media accounts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide emphasized the use of traditional weapons-clubs, knives, machetes-by murderous gangs of extremist Hutu. As many as one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu perished, many of them women and children. To outsiders, it appeared as if the people of Rwanda had been caught up in a violent frenzy, with common farm implements as their favored instruments of extermination.
But this isn't the whole story. Before the killing began, the Hutu-dominated government had distributed automatic rifles and hand grenades to official militias and paramilitary gangs. It was this firepower that made the genocide possible. Militia members terrorized their victims with guns and grenades as they rounded them up for systematic slaughter with machetes and knives. The murderous use of farm tools may have seemed a medieval aberration, but the weapons and paramilitary gangs that facilitated the genocide were all too modern.