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The Rwandan Genocide: Humanity Against Itself. A Research Paper.

8 pages
1931 words
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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In just one hundred days, over 800,000 Tutsi men, women, and children were slaughtered at the hands of Hutu majority population and government. An estimated 333 human beings were slaughtered per hour during this period. This amount of violence divided the nation for years to come and altered the countrys future immensely. The Rwandan Genocide affected the countrys ability to progress socially, economically, and also politically by dividing the nation. This event essentially stunted the countrys growth as a nationality.

The genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 was one of the darkest and most dramatic episodes in the history of the so-called black continent, the murder of between 500,000 and one million people, mostly belonging to the Tutsi ethnic group at the hands of the Hutu ethnic group has undoubtedly left a great mark on the society of that country, which has not yet been completely overcome; In addition to the murder of Tutsis, many other crimes against humanity were committed not only against the Tutsis but also against "moderate" Hutus, which means that anyone who did not share the opinion of the Hutu elites was considered an enemy of the State.

Background of The Event

In this sense, the genocide in Rwanda responds to many of these characteristics, since although it was a conflict between the most important ethnic groups of Rwanda, this conflict was created over time due to the actions of foreign powers that were looking for a model of society according to their principles and values (using the existing social structure in the region), this is something that must be taken into account since although these powers did not seek to create a conflict between these ethnic groups if they created some of the conditions for it to be carried out due to its intervention in the life of said society and later with the changes that were implemented in the existing social structure.


It is also important to see that many of the elements that influenced the development of the genocide are quite old, the social structure, the environment and the actions of those who intervened in the social life of Rwanda have remote backgrounds that must be taken into account in order to understand with more depth why the events occurred in such a way. One of these elements (perhaps the most important) is the European colonialism which had a strong impact on the development of Africa because (at least in the case of Rwanda) laid the foundations on which subsequently the construction itself was given to the Rwandan State, which would be seriously affected by what happened during the entire period of colonial occupation, other essential elements would be the First World War and decolonization;

It should be noted that although all these elements were not determining, they did have a significant weight for the genocide to be carried out in the way it happened. In summary, it can be seen that the ethnic complexity of Rwanda played a significant role in the origin and development of genocide, which is due to factors both internal and external to Rwandan society. While this area was initially occupied by Germany (then Prussia), such occupation was scarce and at least the role of Germany would not have severe repercussions on the overall dynamics of the country (Aptel, 167) (Jones 130). It would be during the First World War that this area would be invaded by troops from the Belgian Congo and then, through the Treaty of Versailles, that this region would remain under the administration of Belgium until 1962, the year in which it would achieve its political independence; this administration would seek to implement a model of society according to the own values of the Europeans. It is in this period where the elements and events that would give rise to a growing social nonconformity on the part of the lowest social group would be gestated.

The presence and influence of the Belgians in this area would be greater than that of the Germans in past years. To achieve better management of these lands, the Belgians would use the existing social structure and grant a series of concessions to the ruling class (Tutsi) to use the "natural influence" they had on the lower social class (Hutu). To achieve a greater and better exploitation of the resources of the area; although the Belgians would make changes to this structure this would cause dissatisfaction of the Hutus towards the Tutsis. The form of domination and exploitation that the Belgians used in Rwanda would be influenced by the racial theories of the time that were used by the Belgians and considered (based on them) the Tutsis as a social class superior to the Hutus; Over time the Tutsi abuses on the Hutus would cause the dissatisfaction of the latter to be directed towards the Tutsi elite and not at all towards the colonizers.

It is also important to point out that the administration policy that Belgium implemented in the region would have a strong paternalistic sense, due to the idea that was had about the indigenous population of the region and that sought to leave in the hands of the local elite the direction of both the country as society, this always dividing society into elite and mass. Already in the twentieth century, two years after the start of the First World War (1916) troops from the Belgian Congo crossed to the Rwanda-Urundi region and managed to take control of the Great Lakes region of Germany and later defeat of Germany, in 1919 and due to the agreements of the Treaty of Versailles and by mandate of the League of Nations was granted the administration of that region (Verwimp 430). With the arrival of the Belgians, there would be a series of changes in the social structure which would have profound repercussions in the future.

The Belgians were supporters of Ham's theory regarding the superiority of the Tutsis over the Hutus, to sustain this theory they used cranial anthropology to argue and claim that the Tutsis had "more noble and aristocratic" traits than the Hutus, otherwise, they were based solely on the physical aspect of the region's inhabitants to grant them certain privileges and a better treatment. Another aspect that changed radically with the arrival of the Belgians was the fact that the application of the terms Hutu and Tutsi was limited both to the physical appearance of a person as well as to the amount of livestock that he possessed, leaving aside the possibility that formerly there was change from one social class to another, both terms became static when introduced in 1934 identity cards that among other things indicated to which class belonged (the title of Tutsi was granted to who had more than ten heads of cattle, without the possibility of being able to change from one class to another if they won or lost livestock as before. In this sense, I think it is convenient to make some observations regarding the policy that the Belgians established in this region to understand what their vision was about the inhabitants of this region.

The Belgian colonialist policy can be considered as paternalistic since on many occasions it sought to organize the material life of the natives in order to obtain the maximum possible yield, many Belgian patrons implanted this policy which generated abuses against which protests were generated by the local government and even of some of the great patrons of the region. In spite of this, the Belgian authorities put into practice a different paternalism based on the Colonial Charter and later on that of the United Nations (Article 73), which specify that the general protection of the indigenous peoples must be exercised by the colonizers. This principle manifests itself especially in the field of relations between employers and indigenous labor, in the contract specifying that "the employer must provide the worker with a healthy diet as well as accommodation and clothing for sleeping."

Other Causes

The Power of the Media

In August 1993 the Rwandan radio station RTML (Radio Television Libre de las MilColinas) amusedly disseminated his political messages against the Tutsis. They were so preposterous that the Tutsis themselves preferred to listen to the RTLM instead of their own radio station. "The tombs are only half full" - repeated the radio of the Thousand Hills while the Hutus executed their planned hunt. They were provided with more than half a million machetes bought a few weeks before to China. The murderers were scheduled every morning at the Nyamata soccer field to sharpen his tools with stones and start the tracking.

The radio of the Thousand Hills offered details of those who were to be harassed and murdered: individual descriptions and registration numbers. During its broadcasts, the RTLM encouraged the roadblock "and congratulated the perpetrators of the massacres of the Tutsis that took place in these blocks. ""The station was in all the controls, and there were thousands" - assured a researcher of the police - "Many people told us that they killed because the radio was asking for it." "Tutsis do not deserve to live, - repeated the voice of the announcer - you have to kill them. Even at pregnant women, you have to cut them into pieces and open their bellies to rip baby". In 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda tried those responsible for the station and sentenced them to life imprisonment for genocide and public incitement to commit it. "They did not respect the responsibility that comes with freedom of expression - said the judge and poisoned the minds of their listeners.The media" paved the way for the genocide "- he said, and he remembered that radio was" the means of communication that reached more people in Rwanda. "

Role of Western Media in the Rwandan Genocide

The role of the Western "media" in the Rwandan genocide has deserved long reflections. The fundamental reason is the fact that the actual genocide was not filmed or photographed or had too many editors. The reporters were called to their headquarters simply because what happened "at the end of the world" was not interesting. Nor did the civil war between the Rwandan Army and the RPF forces deserve too much attention from our media.

News coverage came with Operation Turquoise and the exodus of Hutus for July. What was filmed and photographed massively were the Hutus already located in Zaire (present-day DR Congo) and their Western humanitarian benefactors? The drawback was that the victims who appeared before the cameras were the victims of cholera and that the instigators and organizers of the genocide were among them. The "international community" fed and attended to the view of the entire world. But the victims of the genocide were never seen.

The Role of Religion

Rwanda is a predominantly Catholic country (65% Catholic, 15% Protestant). In 1987, a Catholic named Little Pebbles announced that the Virgin had appeared to him and had announced a time of blood and slaughter until the return of Jesus on Easter Sunday in 1992. The Catholic Church investigated the apparitions on Mount Kibeho, and he declared them reliable. The president's wife, Agathe Habyarimana, believed in the apparitions and maintained a close relationship with the bishop of Kigali (capital of the country), Monsignor Vincent Nsengiyumva. This bishop was also a member of the central committee of President Habyarimana's one party, the NRMD (National Revolutionary Movement for Development, for its acronym in English). This party used to encourage Catholic activists to attack stores selling condoms. With time, the idea that the prophecy would be fulfilled expanded.

When the massacres began in 1994, many Tutsi and Hutu dissidents sought...

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