The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 was one of the massacres that country witnessed in the course of its history. The genocide was responsible for the death of approximately 800000 Rwandans in a span of only three months. This death toll translated to about three quarters of the Tutsi community, which was a minority ethnic community in Rwanda. Ever since Rwandan’s colonization, ethnic composition played a significant role in shaping the political structure of the country. This implied that Belgium colonizers had a great impact on influencing the genocide that took place during 1994. With this regard, the principle cause of the genocide can be said to be a separation of the ruling class that mainly consisted of the Tutsi and the Hutus. During the onset of the colonization by the Belgians, they initially favored the Tutsi’s, who during the 1950s decided to claim an independent Rwanda. The Belgian colonizers did not find this welcoming and decided to provide military aid to the Hutus, resulting to their political mileage and increased military power due to the aid from supplies and aid from the colonizers. This rivalry between the Hutus and Tutsis is one of the key causation factors for the 1994 genocide. This research paper attempts to outline the various factors that could have caused the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.
The research paper attempts to investigate the roles that Belgians colonizers played in separating the Hutus and Tutsis. The paper also provides an insight into the political faction that was in power during the onset if the genocide and the final event that triggered the onset of the massacre. With this regard, the paper reports about the people who were responsible for training the militia, established the RTLM and distributed the extermination list. In addition, the research aims at providing an overview of the genocide and the aftermath of the genocide.
The Rwandan Genocide took place in rather recent times with rather
barbaric means. What social, political, or economic factors lead to
this event? In addition, who armed the perpetrators of the genocide, and
handed out the "extermination list"? Finally, what changes if any did
this event foster.
Causation factors for the Rwandan Genocide
The causation factors for the genocide cannot be complete without a critical analysis of the external forces that played a significant role in influencing the onset of the massacre. In addition, internal pressures and other psychological factors came to play causing the genocide. The political state of Rwanda during the time was a central causation factor that accelerated the onset of the genocide. The key players involved during the actual genocide were the Rwandans themselves, with a few political actors. Arguing from the fact that Rwanda as a state influenced the onset of the genocide, it is important to analyze the pre-colonial tribal legacies and the colonial strategies that determined the establishment and the political structure of the country up to the times of the genocide.
Roles that the Belgians played in separating the Tutsis and Hutus
One of the possible causation factors of the genocide can be deduced by analyzing the roles that Belgian colonizers played in separating the Hutus and Tutsis. These historical pre-colonial legacies played an imperative role in fuelling the genocide that occurred later in the history of Rwanda. During the colonization era, the Tutsis, who were the ruling class, got an initial favor from the Belgians. The Belgians seemed to favor the Tutsi, even though they constituted a small percentage of Rwanda’s population compared to the Hutus, who comprised of about 85 per cent of the population. Such privileges awarded to the Tutsis only served to fuel the separating between the Tutsis and the Hutus, with the Tutsis being portrayed as superior to the Hutus, as a result, they formed most of the elite ruling class and received western treatment compared to their Hutu counterparts. Initially, the Belgians manipulated the Tutsis in order to rule Rwanda. The Belgians further accelerated the separation of the Tutsis and Hutus by focusing on race, they carried studies that were proved and claimed that Tutsis were superior to the Hutus. For instance, the studies conducted by the Belgians reported that Tutsis had larger brains than Hutus. In addition, the Tutsis were taller and more light skinned compared to their Hutu counterparts, because of this, the Belgians claimed that they had a Caucasian origin. This resulted to the issuance of racial Identity cards. This differences portrayed by the Belgians played a significant role in facilitating the separation between the Tutsis and the Hutus. The onset of the 1950s saw the Tutsis claim their bid to make Rwanda independent. Because of this, the Belgian colonizers began to provide military supplies and facilitated political aid to the Hutus. This led to the rise of new ruling elite that mainly consisted of the Hutus. In this privileged position, the Hutus had a better chance of overpowering their rivals, the Tutsis. The new leadership at the national level was under the leadership of the permahutu, whose main composition comprised of the Hutus and their main objective was to remove all the Tutsis who were holding positions of power, both at the national and local level. It can be argued that Rwanda was vulnerable to manipulation by the Belgian colonizers that resulted to political rivalry between the two ethnic communities. This ultimately resulted to the principle cause of the genocide, since the one of the driving factors for the genocide can be perceived as an ethnic cleansing strategy directed towards the Tutsis by the Hutus.
Social, political and economic factors that caused the genocide
Apart from historical accounts, there are social, political and economic accounts have been suggested as possible explanation for the 1994 genocide that rocked Rwanda. The three significant explanations for the genocide include the external influences, which are both colonial and postcolonial; domestic issues, which mainly constituted of ethnic factors and demographic issues; and psychological issues influenced by social conformism associated with Rwanda. An overview of the above accounts reveal that Rwanda’s fragile democracy was vulnerable to colonial manipulation that resulted to social and ethnic differences. In addition, overpopulation and its related social problems can also be a possible explanation for the cause of the genocide. All the above explanations have some factual basis with regard to explaining the principle cause of the 1994 genocide. With respect to external factors, it is believed that the genocide in Rwanda was a response to imperialist interventions that played a prime role in fostering social differences among the Rwandans. In addition, the genocide also served as a response to the social pressures associated with overpopulation and ethnic loyalties (Hintjens 252).
One of the most evident social factors that caused the genocide was ethnic divisions in Rwanda, with the genocide aiming at inflicting mass killings towards the Tutsis. Such differences were evident after colonialism, with the Tutsis being subjected to more high profile lifestyle compared to the majority community, the Hutus. The Hutus felt disadvantaged due to historical aristocracies. Perhaps the only way to respond to such ethnical tensions was to organize mass murders that would eventually result to genocide. The political class of Rwanda was among the key players in facilitating hatred among the Tutsi community. In fact, the political affiliations in Rwanda were primarily based on ethnical orientations. As a result, the ethnic tensions were engineered in order to stimulate hatred directed towards the Tutsi community; this could later develop to genocide that resulted to mass killings of the Tutsi communities. Another element of ethnicity that steered the genocide was the need by the Hutus to eliminate their racial enemy, which in this case was the Tutsi community. The Tutsis had been branded as racial enemies because of the historical aristocracies and perceived superiorities over the Hutus. As a means of social response to such social differences, the Hutus organized a mass killing with the aid of their political elite. Reports indicate the main organizers of the 1994 genocide were the political class of the Hutu community under the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Hintjens 250).
A number of political factors also came to play in influencing the onset of the 1994 genocide. The differences in the political factions of Rwanda also played a significant role in accelerating the genocide. During 1990, the RPF, which a political group comprising Tutsi refugees and later turned into a rebel group conducted an invasion on the northern part of Rwanda in order to overthrow the government led by the Hutu community. This saw the onset of the Rwandan Civil war during 1990 that was between the Hutu Regime and the Tutsi’s RPF, who had support from Uganda. This civil war resulted to ethnic tensions that later aggravated to the 1994 genocide. The Hutu Power ideology meant that the Hutus were to exercise control over Rwandans resources including the media. This ideology suggested that the Tutsis had the objective of enslaving the Hutus; as a result, the advance of the Tutsis towards power was to be opposed with every possible means. This resulted to ethnic rebels that resulted to an ethnic strife that saw killings of the Tutsis and Hutus any time they made contact. The peak of the ethnic and political differences was when the president of the government led by the Hutus was assassinated. This resulted into the Hutus embarking on a mass murder mission to eliminate the Tutsis and those Hutus who were promoting peace, usually being branded as traitors or cooperating with the Tutsi in their quest to defeat the then Hutu-led government (Hintjens 250). Reports suggests that the organizers of the genocide comprised of the Hutu political faction, referred to as the Akazu, and consisted of mainly top government officials, who played a significant role in issuing directives to the militia and civil officials in lower level government offices. It can be seen that the differences in the political factions played a significant role in influencing the onset of the genocide. In addition, the Hutus political party, the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) was strongly opposed to the concept of power sharing with the Tutsi political faction RPF (Destexhe 23).
Various economic factors also influenced the onset of the 1994 genocide. With the coffee prices falling significantly during 1987, the economic situation of Rwanda deteriorated significantly resulting to increased external debts because of foreign conditions. Initially, Rwanda had no internal management problems. Because of this, the trade deficit increased and the welfare policies resulted to increasing pressures. The only viable solution to this problem was to foster Hutu cohesion, with the intention of ensuring that the Hutus had absolute control of the prices and that economic enterprises were to be under Hutu control. The Tutsis on the other hand exhibited economic success and professional careers, which did not go well with the elites from the Hutu community. The 1990 saw the state limiting the economic operations of the Tutsis and the levels through which they supposed to seek employment in the sense that they had limited access to public offices. This resulted to a coexistence characterized by tension between the political and elite class from the Tutsi and Hutu communities. In addition, the RPF invasion of the 1990 worsened the economy of Rwanda (Dallaire and Brent 30). For instance, the devaluation of the currency by two-thirds, increased famine and budgetary shortages. This whole state of affairs made the life of Rwandans worse, with the blame being directed towards the Tutsis because of their invasion. The RPF invasion was brewing something that could later be a potential cause of the genocide; the state expenditure of Rwanda was being militarized, and the increase in corruption levels among the political elite in the Rwandan government. This saw the military size grow from 7000 troops to 30000 troops in a span of five years from 1989-1994. Coupled with military assistance from France, there were budgetary misappropriations that saw the state’s expenditure being directed towards to the purchase of military equipments while avoiding many basic needs of the Rwandans. The outcome of this was that Rwanda was witnessing a Para-militarization, with the intent of combating the RPF rebels (Hintjens 250). This misappropriated spending resulted to intense economic crisis, which the country did not respond to, instead directing their blame to the RPF. The Hutu-led government reduced to share power with the RPF so that the IMF could intervene in helping the situation. As result, the Hutu politicians, military officials saw mass killings of the Tutsis as a solution to the then economic problems that the country was facing. As the political problems and economic crises increased, the mass murders were extended to include all the Rwandan Tutsis, the Hutus who refused to cooperate, and any devotee of the Arusha Accords.
Another political factor that could be a possible cause of the genocide was the political reforms adopted during 1991, which resulted to political divisions. This political division was not based on ethnic orientations; rather, they were aimed at doing away with the one-party state that resulted to divisions between the Hutu community in the Northern Rwanda and those in the Southern Rwanda. The northern Hutus were somewhat collaborating with the Tutsis as opposed to those from the south who were political elites and members of the military administrations. Just like the Tutsis, the southern Hutus faced discriminations that limited their right to use public services (Hintjens 250).
It is not complete to summarize the cause of the genocide without taking a closer look to the roles that the militia, Radio Television Mille Collins (RTLM) and the extermination list played in accelerating the 1994 genocide. The media openly announced the plans to conduct a genocide directed towards the RPF and the Tutsi community. The ruling party MRND was responsible for organizing the execution of the genocide. In addition, the MRND trained and provided the militia with arms in order to execute the genocide effectively. The militia and the army conducted most of the killings during the genocide. The militias were equipped with various fighting techniques so that they could embrace violence. Their operations were within the local communities through avenues such as community self help groups in order to help hide their identity and their intentions towards genocide. The RTLM, which broadcasted in Kinyarwanda, was established by the ruling party. The RTLM played a significant role during the genocide since it used to broadcast the genocide plans and announcing the names of the Tutsi targets. In addition, the radio influenced the genocide by reporting the locations of those who were hiding from the militia (Dallaire and Brent 25). The militias were able to determine the whereabouts of its targets from the broadcast of the RTLM radio.
Aftermath of the genocide
The genocide resulted to approximately 2 million Hutus migrating to neighboring countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire. Those migrating were of the view that the Tutsis would retaliate after the genocide. The genocide saw the victory of RPF, thereby resulting to an increase in the size and strength of UNAMIR. The Ruling party, MRND was outlawed. The RPF strategized in organizing a coalition government in order to foster political healing in Rwanda. Despite the mass killings, the genocide of 1994 was an avenue for elimination of discrimination that is based on ethnicity or race (Lemarchand 23). In addition, the government aimed at fostering unity between the Tutsis and the Hutus by banning any political activities or affiliations that have ethnical backgrounds.
Currently, the biggest problem that Rwanda faces is to the need to shift away from the genocide crisis and focus on long-term developments strategies. The post genocide effects also continue to haunt the Rwandan population and regaining the trust between the conflicting communities will not come easily (Dallaire and Brent 25).
It is evident that the genocide took place in recent times in barbaric manner. This implies that alternative strategies could have been adopted in order to solve crises that Rwanda was facing before embarking on genocide as a means of getting the solution to the problem. Approaches such as dialogue and involving the international community could have functioned effectively in this context, rather than engaging in a genocide (Rusesabagina and Zoellner 23). The current societal context does not warrant the concept of ethnic conflicts that would result to ethnic cleansing. Such strategies that the Rwandan ruling party deployed during the genocide is barbaric. This implies that the post genocide period was a time for Rwanda to practice political healing and eliminate any ethnical differences that would instill hatred between the ethnical communities in Rwanda (Verwimp 54).
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