Mr. Speaker, I will be dividing my time with the member for Fraser Valley East.
I have lost track of the number of times in the last three decades that tribalism or ethnic nationalism, whatever we want to call it, has led to widespread violence and suffering on the African continent. This is one of the most unhappy legacies of colonialism on the continent when Africa was artificially divided up into countries in a way which had no bearing whatsoever upon their ethnic make-up. Within the borders of those colonies the colonizing powers practised the policy of divide and rule. Some tribes would be favoured to the detriment of others, thus accentuating pre-existing ethnic divisions.
The Belgians in Rwanda and Burundi were especially good at this. They set up an administration completely staffed by the minority Tutsi tribe and these people, in turn, lorded it over their Hutu majority and they have subsequently paid a very high price.
Most politicians in Africa publicly deplore tribalism but to consolidate their power almost all of them continue to pander to it. Civil services, armies and educational institutions have all been essentially staffed by members of whatever tribe happens to be ascendant in a given country at a given time.
It is said that the current Government of Rwanda is making an honest attempt to break this pattern in the interests of national reconciliation. We shall see.
In any event, the outside world will not settle the problems of Central Africa with a four to six month military mission. This mission may offer a bit of breathing space, but the underlying problems can be solved only by Africans themselves.
The Tutsis originally arrived in Central Africa in the 17th century, migrating in from somewhere in the area of Ethiopia. Nobody knows exactly where they came from. They subjugated the indigenous Hutus and they set up a feudal system with a Tutsi aristocracy. This arrangement was continued with, as I have said, the official sanction of the governments during the colonial era. It led to the first massacres in Rwanda, which actually took place in 1959, prior to the end of colonial rule. The Hutus rose up, overthrew their Tutsi masters and killed about 100,000 people. Nobody seems to remember this anymore.
Pogroms of the Tutsi minority continued until 1964, two years after independence. Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis fled the country, many of them into Uganda. All this was 30 years ago.
Taking a lesson from the events in Rwanda, the ruling Tutsi minority in neighbouring Burundi launched a pre-emptive strike against the Hutus. Any Hutu who was well educated, who had acquired any degree of wealth was summarily executed. About 200,000 people were killed in 1972.
The world, including Canada, yawned and looked the other way. The conscience of the world was finally aroused by the largest massacre of all, the slaughter of the Rwandan Tutsis in 1994, but nobody except the NGOs actually tried to do anything until the Tutsi rebellion in eastern Zaire brought violence to the refugee camps there.
All of a sudden somebody dialled 911 and Canada, as usual, said "ready, aye ready". As the hon. member for Don Valley North has already stated, there is indeed a certain urgency to the present situation but surely it pales compared to the situation in 1994 and the one in Burundi in 1972 when the world just closed its eyes until the killing was nearly over.
I smell a very large political rat in the government's anxiety to get troops into Zaire and Rwanda right now. Sometimes governments do the right thing for opportunistic motives.
I support this humanitarian initiative but with grave misgivings. I do wonder how this government, having continued the 20 year process of eviscerating our armed forces, proposes to support three simultaneous peacekeeping efforts. This is a government which likes to have its cake while continuing to eat it in great gobs. It makes public brownie points by cutting the defence budget and then makes more points by calling on our undermanned, poorly equipped forces to polish the Prime Minister's image in Canada's perpetual role of policemen for the world.
We have these take note debates time after time. Sometimes I wonder why when the decisions have already been made. However, I guess we are on course. The Hercules are already landing in Kigali. I only hope that our troops are not going to be put to any large degree into harm's way in order to give a bit of political polish to the government across the way.