This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 03, 1999.
A horrible crime in Uganda heads much of the news today. A bunch of British and American tourists in the state of Uganda, apparently seeking mountain gorillas, were kidnapped by some renegade Rwandan soldiers, and about half were slaughtered in grisly fashion. By this I mean that they were hacked to death by machete and tortured, including at least one rape, before that denouement. The remaining prisoners were turned over to Ugandan authorities with a note explaining that these Rwandans objected to British and American interference with their nation's affairs. To review, those affairs involve warfare between the two primary tribes shared between Berundi and Rwanda, and the efforts of the UN to stop the ghastly bloodshed.
The bloodshed is indubitably ghastly, but it does not take much to note in the above briefing a whiff at least of the old western canard about Africa, especially equatorial Africa: the dark continent. The Dark Continent where ghastly things happen, especially to white people, especially to white women. That these Rwandan soldiers are guilty of these crimes is not at issue: they said so, deliberately so informed the remaining prisoners, put it in writing. This is the dream of the white racist justifying his bigotry and own blood lust. The savages of Africa, etc., must not be allowed to bloom in Anglo America.
Rwanda, Berundi are tiny, silly nations at the southeast end of Kenya. Both massive watersheds of the continent, the Nile and the Kongo, drain from these nations, making them in that regard the very center of this huge and hugely ignored continent. What sympathy emerges for the central Africans is generally contained in pity for the widely condemned slave trade that ended nearly two hundred years ago. Western whites have assuaged their distant guilt by blaming most of it on those awful Arab and conveniently Muslim slave traders, and sighed with pride over the work of their own Christian missionaries. In any case, all that was over in the 1820's, and these horrible desecrations by the Rwandan soldiers cannot be blamed on something so distant, so conveniently exculpatory.
Indeed, they cannot. But the tribal, gang-like warfare of the Tutsis and Hutus, the murder of Diane Fossey, the poaching trade of all the central African tribes annoyed that stupid animals get more attention than their starving people do have far more recent stimulants than ancient slavers. Before the first World War, for example, a neighboring tribe found themselves under the kindly, pre-Nazi rule of Kaiser William's Germany. In the early 1900's, this written order, still in existence, was issued. "Within the German boundaries every Herero, whether found with or without a rifle, with or without cattle, will be shot….Signed: the Great General of the Mighty Kaiser Von Trotha." Between 1903 and 1906, over sixty thousand people were killed by that order. When people try to present Naziism as an aberation to German culture, they do not focus on those years of the Kaisar as counter evidence.
Of course, Americans were slaughtering mountains of Filipinos and central Americans, not to mention their own natives, and Britain is not a cherished memory among its many former colonies, but they are not as hated as Germany, Japan, and most especially Holland and Belgium are. This is primarily because in the Anglo nations, a strong and relatively free press exposed many of the horrors, and there were always organizations of various competencies and powers to try and assist and do the right thing. Not so in Germany. Nor Japan. Nor Holland ruling the East Indies with a brutality that cringed Roosevelt when he had to ally with them during the Second World War.
But the very worst was a King who owned the biggest nation in Africa personally. He never set foot in it, and plundered it for billions of 1900 dollars. He was Leopold II of Belgium, for whom the former Leopoldville was named. Among his hired lackeys was Henry Morton Stanley, the man who bothered Livingstone. He ruled, owned, and oppressed the entire Congo basin and had hegemony deep into the current Rwanda, Berundi, and Kenya. The machete killings this week owe much to King Leopold and his minions, who pro-vided Joseph Conrad with the basis for Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. Several of them surrounded their offices with the skulls of recently dead warriors who opposed them. They enslaved the women for their own purposes, which in any civilized nation of today would constitute slavery and rape. They cut off hands and feet to prevent escape of their workers and miners, to verify census, and to collect bounties from the main office. They entire nation was plundered to provide gold and rubber to the world. To this day the phrase 'harvest rubber' in parts of Africa means to undergo hideous torture. It is not just the American South where the past is not even past.
Much of this survived, in isolated pockets, beyond the Second World War. So while the FBI and all western outrage is focussed on those soldiers on foreign soil who kidnapped, murdered, and raped, let's not judge them any differently than those, some still living, who used to rule there in our name and killed more than some of the Nazi criminals still hunted down today. After all, eight white people get killed around the globe and the FBI is called in to assist. A thousand times that number of victims, if they were black, would barely quiver the voice of a news anchor today. Even today.