Horrors of the Rwandan Genocide Essay Example
The most underestimated of human instincts is the consuming need to fit in and find safety in being a part of a whole. As humans continue to develop and progress the need to separate into groups of commonalities persists; being surrounded by others like yourself provides a semblance of security more appealing than the alternative of standing alone. Thus segregation, intentional or not, is a continuous factor of society and while not dangerous in its most basic form, these clear distinctions can easily be manipulated to a radical point of conflict.
In the context of Rwandan Genocide, the pre-established feudal order of minority Tutsi rule over Hutu majority was in itself not detrimental to the workings of society. Only with the introduction of foreigners who made clear distinctions of race that reached farther into socioeconomic standing and class privilege did a hatred begin to grow in the neglected Hutu race. By giving preferential treatment to the Tutsi race, segregation of the three dominant ethnicities in the area (Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa) formed a fostering ground for the unstable racial tensions that lead to the massacre of thousands of Tutsis and Hutu moderates at the hands of radicalistic Hutu.
During the first world war, in 1916 Belgium gained control of the previously German dominated colonies in East Africa, including Ruanda-Urundi, now known as Rwanda, and following the war the United Nations (UN) mandated Belgium sole rights to the Ruanda-Urundi area. Belgium created clear distinctions between the three dominant races through scientific racism, popular at the time, including measurements of the skull (to determine intelligence), height, and bone structure and acceptance that Europeans are the superior race (Baines, 481). Thus, Tutsi, not being indigenous to the Rwandan area, were seen as superior to the Hutu and Twa; Twa especially was considered of lesser intelligence due to their small physical stature.
Separation between races had been prevalent since Tutsi’s introduction to the Rwandan area, but the influence of foreigners exacerbated the tensions to a level threatening to efficient society. Through the introduction of identity cards for every citizen of ages 16 and above, containing what ethnic group one belongs to allowed discrimination to become systematic in operation (Langford, 2). Systematic racism created a detrimental inferiority complex in the hearts of the Hutu that will lead to the extremist nationalism of a homogenous Hutu state and impact the types of violence used in the genocide of the Tutsi.
New challenges to Tutsi rule began to emerge as ethnic tensions moved towards a point of climax. The introduction of Hutu dominated PARMEHUTU political party and the oppositional Tutsi UNAR political party created the first true political competition between the longstanding Tutsi monarchy and the modern ideas of Hutu political governance (Langford, 5). Nationalism aimed towards the rights of the indigenous peoples inspired opposition to foreign rule, especially in roles of government. With the introduction of opposition parties, this new nationalism was being realized and moved towards a sole Hutu state. In the Hutu Bahutu Manifesto, published March 1957, the long-held idea of Tutsi as the superior race was switched and replaced with a narrative of native rights and weakening of outside influence (Eltringham, NP). The accepted idea of the foreigner being superior due to closer relations to European’s was polarized and now the indigenous people were encouraged to take what rightfully belongs to them.
By villainizing the previously esteemed Europeans the power of European influence waned and the reasoning behind Tutsi rule began to diminish in the face of new ideas. Additionally, Hutu expanded attacks on Tutsi rights outside of politics and towards the Tutsi race as individual people. This movement towards criticism of the Tutsi individual is demonstrated in the Hutu Power Ten Commandments that was distributed nationwide prior to the genocide. It was directed towards Hutu men and called upon the need for protection of the home against the temptation of promiscuous Tutsi women used to sway Hutu favor (Baines, 485).
This call upon the home expanded the reach of genocide radicalism past pure politics into the very roots of human interaction. Moreover, Tutsi were commonly degraded as animals and insects which not only lessened the power of the race, but painted them as something less than human. This dehumanization of the Tutsi contributed to the relative ease in which the genocide was carried out.
In 1959 the Hutu staged a social revolution and took control of the government, pushing the majority of the Tutsi to neighboring countries (“100 Days of Slaughter”, NP). Exiled Tutsis came together in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and invaded Rwanda from Uganda and fighting continued until a compromise was reached in 1993. The compromise, known as the Arusha Accords, called for a cease fire and moved Rwanda in a transitional government that included the RPF as one of its political parties.
The compromise went unsupported by Hutu extremists and radical measures were taken to prevent acceptance of Tutsi back into Rwanda. In 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down and Hutu extremist immediately blamed Tutsi (“100 Days of Slaughter”, NP). This opened the gates to the brutal Genocide of Tutsi and all who didn’t follow a radical Hutu ideology.
In one hundred days 800,000 victims were brutally murdered, cornered by roadblocks and militias with a specified list of victims took to killing. Radio propaganda pulled the participation of regular people; neighbors, husbands, teachers all turned upon those around them with Tutsi heritage. The cruelty of the genocide was exacerbated by the fact that the chosen weapon was a machete over the quicker-to-kill gun (“100 Days of Slaughter”, NP). By painting Tutsi’s in a negative light for decades, it allowed the Hutu to feel less remorse than if they saw Tutsi’s as human beings deserving of the same respect as themselves.
Victims of the genocide were left out in the open, naked and unburied, a sacrilege against the courtesies toward the dead in Rwandan culture (Baines, 487). This exposure of the body at its most vulnerable was a symbol of complete submission to the perpetrators who sought a confirmation of superiority over their long-time oppressors. This confirmation was needed in the face of the long-ingrained subordination that was fixed into the Hutu through years of colonial conditioning. This Hutu inferiority complex spreads past crimes of murder and delved into the humiliation of Tutsi women through mass rape and sexual humiliation and mutilation (Baines, 488). Rape has been a common weapon of war since the beginning of human conflict, and the Rwandan genocide is no different.
In response the mass extermination of Tutsi the RPF waged a civil war against the Hutus facilitating the genocide. By July 1994 the RPF had regained control of most of Rwanda and forced out two million Hutu into neighboring countries as refugees (“Rwandan Genocide”). A coalition government was agreed upon in the wake of the genocide where Pasteur Bizimungu (Hutu) was appointed president and Paul Kagame (Tutsi) appointed vice president and defense minister.
Coalition governments are notorious for being weak and short lived because often multiple parties with opposing ideas must come together to represent as one. Although this government, now under the control of Paul Kagame alone, is still functioning in present day. Other stipulations of the new Tutsi victors were that the NRMD party, previously headed by president Habyarimana, that enabled the genocide must be outlawed. The identity cards that had continued throughout the rule by colonizers, Tutsi, and Hutu respectfully must be outlawed (“Rwandan Genocide”, NP). This Genocide altered the structure of Rwandan society where the old reliance upon ethnicity to dictate the social structure was now not only abolished but feared.
Perpetrators of the genocide faced charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that took place from 1995 to 2008. At these trials the most well known of Hutu radicals were found guilty (“Rwandan Genocide”, NP). This process was made difficult because many perpetrators fled to other countries when the RPF retook control of the country. Within Rwanda itself, community courts, known as Gacaca, were established to speed up the process of determining the hundreds of thousands of those suspected to have participated in the genocide (“100 Days of Slaughter”, NP). These community courts convened once a week until 2012, trying about 1.2 million cases in total.
Rwanda is currently under the leadership of Paul Kagame, who was recently re-elected in 2017 with 98.63% of the votes. He has successfully increased the economic standing of Rwanda and cooled ethnic tensions. Although he has been criticized for despotism and the suspicious disappearance of any who oppose him. Under his rule ethnicity is illegal to discuss given its inflammatory nature, especially given how recent the genocide was. People who had lived through its horrors are still alive today. Children that had come about through the mass rape of women are growing up today. The genocide has reached into the lives of the people and influenced culture and life in Rwanda forever; with this genocide a lesson of racial tension and influence of foreign powers on a country must be understood and learned from.
When foreigners become involved in the culture of a country the societal architecture is altered and often results in negative implications. Belgian influence in Rwanda resulted in heightened ethnic tensions that lead to mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. The Rwandan Genocide shows how dormant ethnic tensions can become aggravated to the point of no return, a point of radicalization where violence is the only option left.
This can be seen in today’s society; the middle east as a whole is wrought with ethnic, religious, and tribal tensions which can largely be attributed to the old boundary lines drawn by European powers in the 20th century with the intent of separating common groups. The influence of foreign powers in the middle east has created tensions that have radicalized to the point of violence much like the racial tensions in the Rwandan Genocide. The lessons that are being taught by this Genocide must be accepted and applied so in the future conflict that is tearing apart the middle east and that tore apart Rwanda can be avoided.
Baines, Erin K. “Body Politics and the Rwandan Crisis.” Third World Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 3, June 2003, p. 479. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/0143659032000084429
Eltringham, Nigel. “‘Invaders Who Have Stolen the Country’: The Hamitic Hypothesis, Race and the Rwandan Genocide.” Social Identities, vol. 12, no. 4, July 2006, pp. 425–446. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/13504630600823619.
Editors, History.com. “Rwandan Genocide.” History.com,24 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/Topics/africa/rwandan-genocide#section_2
Langford, Peter. “The Rwandan Path to Genocide: The Genesis of the Capacity of the Rwandan Post-Colonial State to Organise and Unleash a Project of Extermination.” Civil Wars, vol. 7, no. 1, Spring 2005, pp. 1–27. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/13698280500074412.
“Rwanda Genocide: 100 Days of Slaughter.” BBC News, BBC, 4 Apr. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26875506