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David Rawson Collection on the Rwandan Genocide

 Collection — Box: MS.60
Identifier: MS-60

Content Description

24 gray archival boxes containing Rawson's research materials, book manuscript materials, cables addressed to Rawson and other correspondents documenting steps taken regarding the Rwandan genocide in the peace process, and stances and responses of various national and international communities to the Rwandan genocide. Newspaper and magazine clippings are included, both from Rwanda and from other countries in response to events in Rwanda, including some first-hand testimonials. The cables document the proceedings of peace talks and negotiations, receptivity or non-receptivity of either party in regards to the suggestions and stipulations set forth by US and UN peace delegations, and the differing opinions amongst US committees and other nations' formal assemblies (especially French and Belgian) regarding what action or inaction should be taken in and concerning the ongoing conflict in Rwanda. Included are also articles exploring suggestions and possibilities for how Rwanda is or might get back on its feet as a country after the genocide and recover as a people, and scholarly articles and press releases questioning how a second holocaust like this was allowed to happen for so long without world response and how it might have been prevented.

Documents, articles, pamplets, newspapers, and books are included in this collection.

This collection is essential for research on Rwandan history, foreign politics and U. S. diplomacy in Africa, the origin and execution of the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, UN process and UN/OAU involvement in peacemaking and peacekeeping, the Rwandan genocide, world response to genocide, and studies in the origin and future prevention of genocide. It may also be helpful for researching large scale conflict resolution between opposing parties or factions.


  • 1991-1997


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in English, as Rawson's first language. However, Rawson is bilingual, and there are multiple French documents, pamphlets, and books. The national language of Rwanda is French, so newspaper clippings from Rwanda are in French.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

George Fox University owns the copyright to some, but not all, of the materials housed in its archives. Copyright for materials authored or otherwise produced as official business of George Fox University is retained by George Fox University and requires its permission for publication. Copyright status for other collection materials varies. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

David Paul Rawson was born September 10, 1941 in Addison, MI. He attended Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, MI and has a Ph.D. from American University in Boston, MA. He married Sandra Miller, with whom he had two children. Rawson served in the U. S. Foregin Service since 1971 as a diplomat. He worked as an assistant to a Zaire desk officer in the Department of State for Rwanda and Burundi (1971-2), then as a political officer in Kigali, Rwanda (1973-5) and Bamako, Mali (1975-8). He was in the chief political section in Dakar, Senegal (1978), then became the Special Assistant for Trade and Development in the Pearson Fellowship Program put on by the Trumbull County Commissioners in Warren, Ohio. Rawson was appointed Deputy chief of Mission for Antananarivo, Madagascar (1983-1985) and for Mogadishu, Somalia (1986-1988). He then became a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University and Director of the Office of West African Affairs for the Department State (1989-1990). He was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Study of Foreign Affairs (1991-1992), before he became an advisor for the Council on Foreign Diplomacy's Executive Exchange Program of Mobil South, Inc. (1993). Rawson became Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Rwanda (Nov. 22, 1993 [arrived Jan. 8, 1994] - Jan. 6, 1996) and Mali (Dec. 19, 1995 [arrived Mar. 1, 1996] - July 26, 1999), and Dept. Chief of Mission in Mogadishu, Somalia (1986-88). Rawson arrived on Kigali Hill in Rwanda as an ambassador to help ensure the establishment of a government and a national assembly as part of the Arusha peace process. Now retired, Rawson is a member of the African Studies Association, Mande Studies Association, Lenawee County Farm Bureau, and American Foreign Service Association.

Rwandan ethnic conflict between the Hutus (85% of population) and the Tutsis (15% of population) has been ongoing for at least an estimated 400-500 years. It started when the tall cattle herding Tutsi invaded Rwanda from the north, conquering the short and stocky Hutu farming people who had long before cleared much of Rwanda's forests to create farmland. After dominating the Hutu, the Tutsi immediately established a monarchy, an expert warrior class, and complete ownership of all land and cattle. Tutsi-Hutu relationships were based around the Buhake, which was the name of the contracts formed between the ethnicities. A Buhake would stipulate that a Tutsi patron would provide his Hutu client with protection in the event of a blood feud, along with an agreed upon amount of cattle. In exchange, the Tutsi patron could ask for any service he wished. Normally, this resulted in the Hutu providing the Tutsi with a portion of his food crops. The Buhake could be inherited, a Hutu client could have multiple Tutsi patrons, and the Buhake could be ended by either party, but ending it resulted in all cattle being returned to the Tutsi, even newly born calves. Under this system, which continued for hundreds of years until about 1960, all of the Tutsi lived in leisure while their Hutu clients provided for them. The Tutsi even sang poetry thanking the cow for saving them from needing to farm, which they considered shameful work.

In 1899, Germany occupied Rwanda as its colony. German rule would be short lived, as in 1916 Belgian troops removed the Germans, taking control of the colony. Both the Germans and the Belgians left the Tutsi monarchical system intact, choosing to rule indirectly through the Tutsi as it was much easier than completely rearranging Rwanda. Due to the traditional Rwandan system being as it was, the Tutsi had the wealth and time available to seek European educations. The only path to European education for a Hutu was through the Catholic Church. By 1960, two years before independence, only three of Rwanda's 604 cheifs were Hutu. Nevertheless, European influence was slowly chipping away at Tutsi domination, as the introduction of cash crops had provided Hutu peasants with their first taste of an income large enough to leave their Tutsi masters. Thus, the Tutsi advocated an early end of European colonization, so that they could retain their status over the Hutu. The Hutu were terrified of a return to total Tutsi control, and supported the continuation of Belgian colonization.

Rwandan political violence truly began in 1959, when the Tutsi king died suddenly before he could name an heir. The chaos allowed a Tutsi extremist group to install their pick, the king's nephew, as the new king. A popular Hutu movement quickly sprung into action to oppose the extremist move. This resulted in the king along with thousands of his followers fleeing Rwanda. At this decisive moment, Belgian policy, influenced by the pro-Hutu Catholic Church, swung strongly in favor of the Hutu. Belgium installed a Hutu operated government, and UN-supervised elections were held in 1961, which further cemented the Belgian-supported Hutu control of Rwanda. Serious political violence occurred leading up to the election, but the final results incited violent hatred of Belgium among the Tutsi and was a signal for all-out conflict. Political violence would escalate over the following decades, with multiple invasions of Rwanda being launched by Tutsi refugees living outside the country. These invasions would enrage the Hutu, who in return slaughtered tens of thousands of unconnected Tutsi, which caused more Tutsi to flee, bolstering the ranks of the invading Tutsi refugee militias. This cycle continued for decades.

In 1990, a Tutsi named Paul Kagame took command of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) after the previous leader died in one of the many Rwandan invasions. The RPF was the name of the Tutsi refugee faction that had organized itself in Uganda. Under Kagame, the RPF had captured a significant portion of Rwanda by 1993, leading to a ceasefire and peace talks. This is roughly where this collection of documents begins. The collection contains diplomatic correspondance, news clippings, and personal letters that chart the mid 1990s peace process from the perspective of the United States officials involved, including the eventual failure of the peace process. With both sides of the Rwandan conflict deeply distrustful of the other and fearful of genocide and subjugation, hindsight shows that the diplomats working towards a democratic peace were unlikely to be triumphant.


12 Cubic Feet (24 archival boxes)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection given directly by David P. Rawson to George Fox University Archives

Processing Information

Multiple books used as research material by David Rawson were removed from the collection and added to George Fox University's library collection. The following French book was in disrepair, removed from the collection and not added to the university's library collection: Etudes sur l'Histoire des Religions 7: L'ame du Murundi by Dr. Bern Zuure of the Africa Missionaries (Peres Blancs), Troisieme edition, Beau-Chesne-Croitt 1932.

Guide to David Rawson's Collection on the Rwandan Genocide
In Progress
Danielle Thompson, Evan Conant
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the George Fox University and Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Archives Repository

416 North Meridian Street
Newberg Oregon 97132 U.S.A.