The Rwandan Genocide
The Rwandan genocide first began in the 1990s.
There were two primary groups, the Hutu and the Tutsi, who as of now make up approximately 85% and 10% of the population respectively, though the Tutsi used to be at 15%.
Strangely enough, both groups are extremely similar, they both:
- Primarily speak Rwanda-Rundi
- Live in Rwanda, Burundi, as well as part of the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Have similar naming conventions, such as the name Mutarambirwa, which means "the one who never gets tired."1
- Follow the same traditions, such as marking death by "prayers, speeches, and rituals."1
The only apparent, visual difference between the two groups is that Tutsis are usually taller and more skinny than Hutus.
However, there was a also a class difference between them, with the Tutsis tending to be high-and-mighty cattle herders, and the Hutus usually being lowly farmers.
In 1916, Belgians came in contact with the groups, they created IDs which classified Hutus as inferior to the Tutsis.
This meant that the Tutsis were given even more of an advantage.
Because of the power they had, people started to scapegoat them as the perpetrators of many major crisese.
Eventually, it came to the tipping point when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), made up of predominately Tutsis attempted to attack the Hutu-led government, and the Hutus responded in kind.
In August of 1993, a peace deal was signed, though it didn't make much of a difference.
On April 1994, an unknown person disabled President Habyarimana's plane, killing him, which was promptly blamed on the Tutsis, beginning the slaughter of both Tutsis and the Hutus who supported them.
After only 100 days of fighting, over 800,000 Tutsis had died.
The extremist Hutu government in 1994 believed that the only way they could keep its power was by getting rid of Tutsis entirely.
Radio propaganda was used to encourage this to continue, calling them such things as "...inyenzi, meaning non-human pests or cockroaches, which must be exterminated."4
Outside of propaganda, civilians were also encouraged to fight Tutsis for material benefits such as money, food, or the land of those they killed.
In July, Kigali was captured by the RPF, leading the government to crumble and a ceasefire being declared.
Approximately 2,000,000 Hutus fled to the now Democratic Republic of Congo.
Many of these refugees were later revealed to have been related to the genocide.
After everything was resolved, a multi-ethnic government was set up, with President Kagame being the head.
An Rwandan refugee camp in Benako, Tanzania. Taken by Sebastião Salgado5
Responses to the Genocide
The Rwandan government now observes the International Day of Reflection on the Rwandan Genocide every year on April 7th.
They now also have laws against "genocide ideology," as well as "divisionism."4
Hutu militia groups have continued to operate in The Democratic Republic of Congo, to the chagrin of the Rwandan government.
There are also Tutsi led groups, worried about there being another genocide.
What We Can Do Going Forward
In order to take root, genocide requires civilians to be apathetic towards others, or to view others as inferior.
Taking a step back to realize that everyone else is human too, and are deserving of the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that you enjoy is the best way to stop something like this from happening again.
As well, make sure that you educate yourself and others on how these events happen, in order to stop history from repeating itself.
- Image: publicdelivery.org