The Rwandan Genocide occurred in 1994. At first glance it may seem that the sole reason for the genocide was the division of power among the Hutu and Tutsi. On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying Rwandan President and the Hutu president of Burundi was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali, killing everyone on board. Mystery still surrounds who exactly was responsible, but the attack was the ultimate spark responsible for killing close to ten thousand people every day. Over a 100-day period between 500 000 and 2 million people were massacred. Imagine the city of Halifax Times 2 wiped out that is the extent of the genocide. Those who committed this genocide were Hutus who targeted an ethic minority in the country known as the Tutsi people. The genocide killed about 70% of tutsi people. You would think the world would have intervened in such a situation, but it only ended once a Tutsi back paramilitary group took over the government.
The killings were well organised by the government.
Local media, print and radio played an important role fuelling the violence. People were encouraged to turn in their neighbours or be killed themselves.
Rwanda still lives with the scars of these 100 days today. Let’s explore what happened, what caused it and come to an idea of how to never let something like this happen again.
3. Rwanda before the genocide
In 1890, Germany was awarded control of Rwanda during a conference in Brussels.
There was no foreign influence in Rwanda until World War I. Following WWI, Germany turned control of the country to Belgium. Immediately, the Belgians began altering the class system of Rwanda. At the time there were three different classes: the
Hutu, the Tutsi and the Twa. The Belgians decided that the Tutsi should rule over the Hutu who should rule over the Twa. This class hierarchy was set up because the
Belgians felt that the Tutsi looked more “white” because they tended to have thinner noses and thus viewed them as superior to the “blacker” looking Hutu.
Later in 1935 the Belgiums also implemented ID cards which labelled everyone in the country either as tutsi, Hutu, Twa or naturalized. This had a massive effect on Rwandan society. Before a wealthy Hutu could become an honorary Tutsis, but now with strict racial category, and ID cards, this became a ridgid cast system.
The Belgians only put the Tutsi into government positions. For decade, the Tutsis had better education and secured better jobs. Shortly after, the Tutsi began to feed into the belief that they were far superior and began to oppress the Hutu.
4. The Uprising of the Hutus
This Tutsi rule did not last. In the 1950’s, Belgians were being pressured by the United Nations to give independence to Rwanda. Just before doing so the Belgians began evening out the power in the country between the Tutsi and the Hutu. They appointed several Hutu to administrative positions and even began admitting Hutu to secondary schools and higher education. Conservative Tutsi were hoping that the Belgians would leave before the majority Hutu gained power. Radical Hutu hoped to gain power of the political system before the Belgians left. In 1959, Mutara Rudahigwa, the ruler of Rwanda and a Tutsi, unexpectedly passed away. Although he was replaced by a conservative Tutsi, the Hutu began gaining power. Rwanda gained independence in 1962. Following their gain of independence, the PARMEHUTU decided to change the political structure. They established a one party rule system based around Hutu nationalism. They even organized programs to rid the country of the Tutsi. In 1964 and 1974, programs were organized by the PARMEHUTU to kill many Tutsi and force others into exile. The Tutsi population that was once 17.5% of the total population in Rwanda dropped to 8.4% during this period.
At this same time, angered Tutsi refugees who were forced to flee the country began attacking. This would occur 10 times over the next 6 years. The Hutu, to gain and sustain control in Rwanda, used these attacks to say the Tutsis were “the enemy.” The Tutsi, were now seen as inferior and were discriminated against by the Hutu because they looked too European.
5. Agricultural Society (agriculture and plane)
Rwanda’s population grew as it modernized becoming one of Africa’s most densely populated countries by the late 80’s. In an agricultural society, many began to have anxiety over competition for land. In 1990 this tension resulted in a civil war between the Hutus led government and a militia consisting mainly of Tutsis refugees. The war lasted until 1993, when international pressure put it to an end with a power sharing agreement. However, many conservative hutus despised this agreement and saw it as a concession to the enemy a Hutus power movement began to take hold and it portrayed tutsis as alien non christians who wanted to enslave the Hutus, and rule with a tutsis king. With all this tension, a small spark could set off mass violence. This came on April 6th of 1994 when a plane carrying presidents of both Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, killing everyone and ending the process. The killings began the next day.
6. It was a planned attack (ID cards)
This was not just a spontaneous break out of violence, this genocide was a plan, looking for an excuse to go into action. Many members of the political elite in Rwanda were planning this genocide. Soldiers, police officers and government backed milita officers murdered key tutsi leaders as well as moderate Hutus who might take power after the death of the President and end the plan prematurly. They set up check points and looked over ID cards to identify and massacre any Tutsi’s they could find. Murderers used machetes, clubs and other weapons to encourage regular people to kill and rape their neighbours, and feel free to take their property.
7. During the Rwandan Genocide (RPF, church, radio, text)
Over the next 3 months between 500 000 and 2 million people were slaughtered. At the same time, that tutsi milita called the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) renewed its offensive reigniting the civil war. 2 things made the massacre even worse. The church and radio.
Many Tutsi’s fleeing the genocide took refuge in churches, however the catholic churches in Rwanda leaned heavier on supporting the Hutus. So overcrowded churches filled with thousands of fleeing people were turned over to the Hutus.
During the genocide, radio stations sent messages targeting specific tutsis and justified the genocide. they tried to frame it as a rebellion and dehumanized the tutsis. calling them coachroaches. Radios were used as a means to anger and encourage the Hutus to murder their tutsis neighbours. This platform of a hate speach gave a measured effect studies have shown that these broadcasts had a significant impact to these mass killings as there was nothing to counter what is being said on the radio do to not having freedom of speech. Therefore,
The broadcast motivated about 51,000 perpetrators in total representing approximately 10% of the overall violence. Exposure and social interactions brought about by mass media can had a considerable role in participation of violence.
8. The international community did nothing to stop the massacre
Another tradgedy of the Rwandan genocide is the international community by in large did nothing. The UN security council in 1994 pulled peace keepers out of Rwanda the month the killings began. Eventually the UN voted to send in 5,000 peacekeeper troops but by the time they got there, the genocide was over. In 2014, a canadian Leutenant general Romeo dellaire, who headed the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda, claimed the genocide could have been prevented if the UN hadn’t pulled out of the region.
Many lives could have been saved with the more immediate intervention.The French were in Rwanda before the Genocide occured to help support Rwanda’s President. As we learned from class readings, Frances goal was to come into Rwanda to set up a humanitarian zone. They sent 2,500 troops into Rwanda, but they were limited to the southwest due to the quick advance of the RPF. There were over 1.5 million people in their humanitarian zone but they were also holding Hutu killers. Because they couldn’t single out any of them, there was violence and some of the Hutu’s escaped. They couldn’t bring justice and eventually the French left. The french lost no troops but they also didn’t help prevent anything. Many people to this day still question if France really helped with the terrible genocide.Recent reports showed the French also helped some of the genocides plotters to escape as the Rwandan government in power was a french ally. The genocide officially ended when the RPF took over Rwanda on July. 3 months after the beginning of the killing.
UN- The UN was in a very difficult situation during the genocide. In 1993 the UN already had over two thousand troops in Rwanda to help the governments transition. Early in the genocide ten Belgium troops were killed with Rwanda’s prime minister. Later that week on April 21, the UN decided to withdraw all their troops except 270 of them. With the violence still happening the UN had to step in as they proposed a plan called the UNAMIR II. The plan was to send 5,500 troops but the plan never happened. It was to difficult to send that many in troops into Rwanda because of the intense violence. Later when the genocide was almost over they sent in a small force. The UN was in Rwanda for 3 more years as one of the largest relief efforts ever recorded. To this day it is still debated if the UN made the right decision by not sending in troops because the violence continued.
US- The United states role in genocide didn’t help Rwanda at all. In many ways it hurt Rwanda. When the UNAMIR II was proposed by the United Nations they needed the United States to contribute troops. A few years earlier the United States sent in many troops in Somalia and only came back with a few. They didn’t want to risk losing anymore so they didn’t agree to the UNAMIR II. The US may have hurt a relief effort but they thought that losing more lives was not worth it. With the United states not agreeing to UNAMIR II may have continued the violence. The US would have helped stop the violence which may have ended the genocide. To this day many people debate on whether the United States made the right decision.
Paul Rusesabagina- One of the true heroes of this genocide was Paul Rusesabagina who saved 1,300 refugees from being slaughtered. Paul was an ordinary man, he was a manager of a hotel. Paul showed bravery and courage in the face of death. Even today, Paul has not given up on his efforts to save the innocent victims of genocides. It is important to remember this genocide and the heroic actions taken by Paul Rusesabagina to save the lives of so many innocent civilians. By remembering Paul’s heroic actions and following the example that he sets today we can prevent future genocides and honor those lost in past genocides.
Capt. Diagne, the peackeeper who died for Rwandans in ’94
Capt. Mbaye Diagne went out of his way disobeying orders and risking his life to save the Tutsi. He believed that as a peacekeeper, he could not sling his weapon to his shoulders and watch as innocent civilians were butchered in broad-day light.
The Senegalese peacekeeper did not fear death, if it was for a justice cause. It it is estimated that he saved between 600 to 1,000 lives before he was killed on the morning of May 31, 1994, in line of ‘his’ duty to protect humanity. The United Nations Security Council created a medal in honour of Diagne’s courageous acts in Rwanda; called the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage”.
9. Post-Rwandan Genocide (pic with captain of together, pics of all the pics)
Today, Tutsis live in Rwanda often close to those who perpetrated the killing of their families. There have been some remarkable break throughs in reconciliation, but there still is a lot of mis trust and anxiety.
There have been attempts to bring in some form of justice for this crime against humanity. In October of 1994, the International Criminal tribunal for Rwanda was established as an extension for a similar body for former Yugoslavia. Some high-ranking people were tried for their roles in the Rwandan genocide. But in the chaos, many of them have escaped justice. The Trials themselves lasted more then 15 years. more recently in 2008, three Rwandan defense officials were convicted of organizing the genocide. Rwanda has tried to go through a process of apologies, atonement and trying to look towards the brighter future. Rwanda today is a different place then in 1994, but the deep scars remain.
10. Convictions from the Rwandan Genocide
Few people have been tried and sentenced for the genocidal killings. The country’s prisons are jammed full. Little attempt has been made to hear cases: the judicial system and police investigators are non-existent. In Giterama prison, 8000 men live in a building designed for 1,300.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was an international court established in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 955 in order to judge people responsible for the Rwandan genocide and other serious violations of international law in Rwanda, or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states
11. Rwanda cuts ties with the French Why Rwanda said adieu to French?
Rwanda has been trying to repair its life after the genocide, and that struggle, in part, has led to a change in language. The Rwandan government replaced French with English as the language of business, diplomacy and scholarship.
Perhaps this was due to the exiles learning english after fleeing to the English speaking countries of Uganda and Tanzania. Once they returned, they brought an English-speaking culture with them.
The reason the government gave for the switch was the fact that Rwanda is working extremely hard to recreate itself as the IT hub of Africa and as a country that will be a tourism and business destination. And their argument is English is increasingly the language of international business. It’s the language of technology, and they say this is the way forward. English is the language that holds the promise for young Rwandans. The French cultural centre, international school and radio station were closed.
The change is to reposition Rwanda as a member of the East African Community, an organisation made up mostly of English-speaking countries such as neighbours Uganda and Tanzania.
However, Stephanie Nolen a correspondent for the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail after her trip to Rwanda in 2008 says the switch mostly came from tension. She stated
“The French government, of course, was arming and training and equipping the Hutu forces who carried out the genocide, not only up until the genocide but long after it had started. And the French, it’s become increasingly obvious since 1994, are deeply implicated in what happened there. The relationship between the governments of Rwanda and France has been severed, and they have no interest, essentially, in speaking French, in being part of the international community of French-speaking nations.”
12. Present day Rwanda (Gacaca)
Rwanda went through a lot of hardships in the past twenty years but they have seemed to have come through and are starting to make changes that will rebuild the country in a better way. Over the past two decades, Rwanda has done an impressive job of rebuilding its institutions and economy. To bring perpetrators of the genocide to justice, the United
Nations has conducted more than 70 tribunal cases, Rwanda’s courts have tried up to 20,000 individuals, and the country’s Gacaca courts have handled some 1.2 million additional cases. Incredibly, Tutsis and Hutus, survivors and former killers, now live side by side. The government of President Paul Kagame has transformed Rwanda into order and relative prosperity to the region. Despite this, the genocide has left a legacy of unanswered questions and uncorrected failures. It is time to face them.
Atrocities Prevention Board
Recognizing the need to respond appropriately to such situations, President Obama created the
Atrocities Prevention Board in 2012. But as events in the Central African Republic, Syria and Sudan make clear, the United Nations, regional organizations and allied countries also need to set up international contingency plans to deal with mass atrocities.
It is time for France to open its records to public examination. France had close relations to the
Hutu-dominated government that planned and incited the genocide. A lack of clarity about France’s role has poisoned its relationship with the Kagame government
Rwandan Genocide taught in schools
. History of the genocide is a mandatory part of the curriculum in schools.
The practice of doing regular community work, which was grounded in the Rwandan tradition of “umuganda,” was reintroduced not only as part of the effort to rebuild the country but to foster a community spirit. Once a month, Rwandans are called upon to perform communal tasks such as building a house for the needy, laying a road or sweeping a square.
The legal process of investigating the genocide and restoring justice proved to be one of the most difficult aspects that had to be dealt with. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up immediately in 1994 in Arusha, Tanzania, in order to prosecute those mainly responsible for the genocide.
Kigali is seen as a symbol of Rwanda’s progress
The capital, Kigali, has 1.2 million inhabitants. It is regarded as a symbol of Rwanda’s progress.
In the city center, one commercial skyscraper after the next is being built. Mayor Fidele Ndayisiba is convinced that “if the pace of development continues, in 10 years time Kigali will be a modern, flourishing city.”
The Gacaca courts played a significant role in finding out the truth of what happened during the genocide against the Tutsi. They allowed communities across Rwanda to meet, face to face, and talk about the events of 1994. In this way, they laid the foundation for peace and reconciliation.
Gacaca is arguable the most extensive post-conflict justice system in human history. The courts produced an enormous archive of documents and audio-visual files related to their work and the genocide against the Tutsi. There are an estimated 60 million pages and over 8,000 audio visual records from the 1,958,634 cases processed by the courts.
Many who took part in Gacaca say they paved the way for reconciliation among Rwandans, even though the memory of the genocide is still present, and the work of the courts was not perfect. Former genocidaires and survivors now live side by side and do business with each other. This would not have been possible without bringing together Rwandans through Gacaca.