Our world seems to be a violent place for the most part. Wars and conflicts erupt for various reasons, political, economic, religious and other reasons. If Islamic extremists aren’t attacking the United States, then Protestants are blowing up Catholics in Northern Ireland, the Palestinians and Israelis killing and attacking each other in Middle East, The Kikuyus and Luos wielding each other down in East Africa, or the Hutus and the Tutsis, shooting and killing each other in Rwanda, Central Africa. Relatively speaking, some of these conflicts start at very low levels, but eventually they heat up and cause genocides. Sometimes they are caused by a third party who come in between two groups of people with false ideologies, that cause a distinction between the groups and categorizes them under certain social groups. A case in study of such an example is the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi in Central Africa.
Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the central part of African continent. It’s about a third of Belgium size who colonized it from 1919 under a league of Nation Mandate until its independence in 1962. The Rwandan population consists of two major groups; the Hutus and the Tutsi. The Hutus, who Rwanda is their native land were traditionally crop growers. The Tutsi, on the other hand, originally migrated from North Africa and were traditionally herdsmen. Tutsi and Hutu speak one language and reside one geographical span (Marger 473).
Colonial administrators openly favoured people that they classified as Tutsi or Hutu. The Belgium’s recognized the Tutsis as being the most capable tribes to rule Rwanda. The Belgium’s chose the Tutsi with regard to their physical features and phonotypical appearance. They reasoned that the Tutsi were brighter skinned, tall, long nosed, polite and intelligent and therefore were almost similar to them in looks (Belgiums). They were contrasted with Hutus, who the Belgiums claimed to be aggressive, short and didn’t appear that intelligent.
For this reason, The Belgiums considered the Tutsi to be superior to the Hutu and therefore favoured them in all areas. They got the chances to education, hold leadership positions, run churches, join military training and even control the countries’ economy. European colonial powers also introduced modern weapons and modern methods of waging war which only the Tutsi were allowed to learn using, especially the young military recruits. Hutus were therefore rendered subordinate to both Whites and Tutsis under the same regime, being thought of as merely agricultural workers.
For over 20 years, the Tutsi enjoyed many privileges than their neighbours. As a result of the many advantages they had, a majority of the Tutsi people began to oppress and look down upon the Hutu. The Hutu, tired of this unfairness and mistreatment from the Tutsis, decided to take an affirmative action against them. They foresaw the Tutsi intentions of eventually enslaving them and therefore decided on resisting them. In 1959, there has been increasing hatred of the Tutsi’s by the Hutu. In that year, 20,000 Tutsi’s were killed by Hutus leading many of them fleeing to neighbouring Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, and Congo ( Samujenga).
The Hutu- Tutsi conflict reached a crisis in 1994. By this time, a power struggle for the top had heated up between these two dominant tribes. The main catalyst for this genocide was the controversial murder of the then Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana (Marger 474). The assassinations occurred on April 6th 1994 when his airplane was shot as it prepared to land down in Kigali, Rwandan capital and he died when the plane crashed. Tensions arose up in the country as a result of throw propaganda fueled by the Rwandan local radio which called the Tutsis “cockroaches”. An unofficial militia group called the “Interahamwe” (those who attack together) was mobilized.
Local officials also assisted in rounding up victims and making suitable places available for their slaughter. Tutsi men, women, children and babies were killed in thousands in schools. They were also killed in churches: some clergy colluded in the crime. The victims, in their last moments alive, were also faced by another appalling fact: their cold-blooded killers were people they knew - neighbors, work-mates, former friends, sometimes even relatives through marriage. Even aid agencies were helpless; having let into compound or hospital people injured or in flight, they were forced to leave them there. Few survived (Marger 474).
Finally in July 1994, The Rwandan Patriotic Front was capable of stopping these horrible killings, seized power, and immediately ordered a cease fire. As soon as it became apparent that the Rwanda Patriotic Front was victorious, an estimated two million Hutus fled to Zaire; the Democratic Republic of Congo. These refugees include many who have since been implicated in the massacres.
The 1994 Rwandan massacre resulted in a lot of negative impacts which are still evident even in recent times. According to Marger, nowhere has conflict based on based on ethnic nationalism been more virulent than in Rwanda (Marger 496). Within those 100 days of mass killing and destruction, about a million people lost their lives with an approximately equal amount getting displaced. Properties were destroyed and burnt down to ashes (Marger 475). Some individuals are still suffering from mental trauma as a result of this genocide.
The group that was heavily affected by this massacre was the women. Very many women lost their husbands in the liberation war. Most of these women were not well educated and had many children to take care of. This made life very hard for them. They found it difficult to get school fees for these children, feed them, get them clothes and house them as well.
Women were also victims of rape during the genocide. The “interahamwe” militias sexually harassed and raped women and young girls. Some of these “interahamwe” were Aids victims and all the women and young girls that were victims of rape ended up getting infected. Some of these young girls and women got pregnant hence gave birth to infected children. The rape victims therefore had the responsibility of raising children infected of Aids and of whom they are not aware of their fathers. These children, often referred to as “unwanted children or children of the “Interahamwe” are often rejected, especially by the mother's family.
Overall, Rwanda is still in the process of healing from the wounds of this crisis. It’s not easy getting things back to normal, no wonder the country is still ranked one of the poorest in Africa despite its vast natural resources and favorable weather conditions. The relations between the two tribes have improved but there are still a few fights here and there.
Marger, N Martin. 2009. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives. Belmont, CA: Wadswoth Cengage Learning.
Semujanga, Josias. 2003. Origins f Rwandan Genocide. New York: An Imprint of Promotheus Books.