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Essay: The Rwandan Genocide: A History of Ethnic Conflict

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Words: 1,346 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 6 (approx)
  • Tags: Genocide essays

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Throughout history groups of people have tried to eliminate other groups for various reasons, such as religion, skin color, and ethnic background. But, these efforts have been made clear by the human race's refusal to ignite and participate in the act of systematic extermination. Unfortunately, in 1994 the global community collectively turned a blind eye toward the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The Rwandan Genocide revealed the governments of the world's ignorance and indifference, as well as their continuing egocentricity and refusal to take blame. The policies binding Rwanda throughout history, made people turn on people.

The killings of the Rwanda genocide were initiated by the Hutu power and the purpose was to eliminate the relatively small minority group, the Tutsis. The genocide was ruled in 1994 and began when a plane carrying the president of Rwanda, was shot down and he was killed. Directly after the plane crash, the Hutu militia started intentionally murdering innocent Tutsis. This did not come at any surprise, because their intentions were set far before the plane crash. Months before the plane was shot down, the Hutu militia were being trained and armed. Over the radio across several channels, was a message that would turn Rwanda upside down. A message that stated they were going to exterminate the Tutsis. After the crash, anyone who came in or out of the country had to have documentation, and if they were Tutsi, they were killed immediately. This trend surpassed the capital and began to take place all over the country. The Tutsis were the obvious target, but Hutus not willing to participate in the genocide were also being slaughtered.

The genocide has not been the only history between the Hutu and Tutsis. There has been a mass history between the two tribes, which means “the death of the president was by no means the only cause of Africa's largest genocide in modern times” (BBC 1), it was one of the tipping points. In 500 BC, the Hutus settled in Central Africa and they were known as a sedentary group. The Tutsis were nomads and they began to arrive in Central Africa, originally from Ethiopia. The Tutsis began to settle in with the Hutus and truly embrace their culture and language. The Tutsis became the minority within the community. The first rebuttal between the two tribes was an economic dispute. While the Tutsis were the minority, they still ruled over the Hutus because of agricultural pursuits. Tutsis were cattle herders and they brought in more money over the Hutus, who were tillers. The main difference between the tribes at the time were economics, not culture. Dr. George Izangola states “In Rwanda, the Tutsi and the Hutu are the same people. They are all people–large grouping or communities” he continues “people used to be Tutsi or Hutu, depending on the proximity to the king. If you were close to the king, you owned wealth, you owned a lot of cattle, you are a Tutsi. If you are far away from the king, you are a cultivator, you don’t own much cattle, you are a Hutu” (Izangola 1). It became nothing about where you came from, it was all about how much money you had that ruled you a wealthy Tutsi or a poor Hutu.

The Belgium rule made an impact that would remain on Rwanda even past 1962, when they gained their independence. Belgium inherited the colony and the Belgians brought some founding politic principles to Rwanda and allowed the rich to rule over the poor, which intensified the tension between the Hutu and Tutsis. It was economic class that stated who was the privileged minority and who was the working class. This created ethnic division and fueled the conflict because the Hutus were the founders of the land and they cultivated it but, yet they were bottom class. This rule allowed the process of colonization without a need to have a heavy presence from the Belgians. They provided military and political support when the Tutsis needed reinforcements. There was a sudden shift in power when after World War II when the Hutus increases their activism and they were tired of the political system they’ve been adhering to. This made Belgium empathetic for the Hutus and then the Tutsis government got flipped upside down. Belgium endorsed Hutu leaders which ended up overthrowing the Tutsi leaders. Then, after Rwanda gained independence, the Tutsis began to be forced out of Rwanda and they fled to countries such as Burundi and the notable Uganda. Tutsis were forced to leave and those who would not leave were killed by military.

The genocides were described as “one of the heaviest moments in human history” (United End Genocide 1). When comparing these events with other genocides or tragedies, there is some sort of reinforcement that comes in to try and stop these events from happening. In this genocide, there could have been several forces that could’ve put a stop to so many deaths. Belgium had forces in Rwanda, but they were never given a mandate to stop killing. This was because the United States was hesitant to be tied up in another African conflict. After the US cut ties, then Belgium pulled all remaining forces, leaving only the Hutus and the Tutsis. It’s ironic that the government would pull all source of help in a situation they so long ago created. Each act of terror has been government influenced, such as the social and economic classes that placed the Tutsis over the Hutus, creating economic tension that lead to violence. It is said that “Rwanda always remained free of foreign interference until the coming of the White Man” (Prunier 2)The referencing the Belgium who overthrew the government and switching tables on their own political system, inevitably leading to the killing of over 800,000+ people in the country of Rwanda.

After the genocide the country was completely devastated. Those who survived were ultimately psychologically damaged from seeing their own people get slaughtered. They were also physically damaged because some suffered injuries from surviving the brutality. The country was displaced, as millions of people fled the country. Those who fled included the Hutus who inflicted the violence and those who were trying to escape the violence. There were children who were fleeing the country because their parents were killed, and they were looking for safe shelter and a place to ground their roots. Today, Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, and the children make up for more than half of that population. There are several issues in Rwanda today like HIV and AIDS which broke out during the genocide from rape. There is extreme malnutrition for both children and adults. Since everyone fled the country, this left Rwanda’s infrastructure and social structure in shambles because a lot of the political and public figures had been killed. The years after the genocide were about gaining justice for those who were killed by punishing those who were responsible for the genocide. The International Criminal Court was established many years after the genocide, so it was impossible to put the leads of the genocide on trial. In constant effort to gain justice, they developed the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. They were able to prosecute 93 people who were convicted of genocide, all of those people happened to be Hutus.

In conclusion, there is no words to explain the terror that happened in those years of the government turning innocent people against each other. The genocide was an act that was enticed by the government throughout history, in support, it “emerged from a century or more of injustice and brutality on both sides” (Epstein 1).  The Hutu and the Tutsis were two very similar tribes who ran off of the same cultures and values, only to be turned against each other due to economic hierarchy. The genocide and the direct aftermath of a city in shambles is a prime example in which we see the worlds ignorance and indifference, as well as the governments egocentrism and failure to take blame.

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