100 days, 800,000 lives... what happend?

May 22, 2011

The Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan Genocide did not just happen by accident or even with only one incident; it was an explosion caused by multiple actions and built up hate. The Tutsis were the victims in this unfortunate occurrence and they have an interesting history surrounding them. The major physical fighting between the Tutsis and the Hutus started after Rwanda’s independence in 1962. These were not the first clashes, however, but they were the larger ones that were closer to the genocide. There was also an fascinating aftermath of the genocide that included a trial of those involved in the mass murder. The Rwandan Genocide was an ethnic conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis and the conflict had interesting history surrounding it and an intriguing aftermath.

            The Hutus and the Tutsis were once tribes in Africa. In 1894 the Germans colonized the area and put the two ethnically different groups together in a situations where they would have to work together. The Belgians gained Rwanda as a territory as one of Germany’s World War Two reparations. In this country there was a caste system; the Tutsis were the rich landowners and the Hutus were the poor farmers. If a Hutu were to come across some land he would be considered a Tutsi and if a Tutsi were to become poor he would be considered a Hutu. This is possible because these to ethnic groups were almost identical. They spoke the same language, practiced the same religion, ate similar foods, and shared the same culture. It would be almost impossible to tell if a Rwandan was a Hutu or a Tutsi. There is one thing that does distinguish them, however; their appearance. The Tutsis are generally tall, thin, and European in stature. The Hutus, on the other hand, are shorter and stockier in their appearance.

Because of these differences in appearance the Belgians and the Germans thought that the Tutsis were superior because they looked more European than the Hutus do. The Belgians let the Tutsis hold beneficial positions in the government and later in the Belgian reign they gave all Rwandans identity cards. These cards stopped the flexible caste system so any poor people at the time that the cards were issued were officially Hutus and could not eventually move up to be a Tutsi. Same for the Tutsis at the time, they could never fall out of there privileged, at the time, position. Once independence was in sight, however, the Belgians started to give the Hutus more rights and gave the people education. The Tutsis, the more educated of the pair, were leading the rebellion against the Belgians so the accordingly the Belgians switched sides and supported and educated the Hutus. In the end in nineteen sixty two Rwanda won its independence and many Tutsis had fled the country because of attacks from the Hutus. The remaining Tutsis had their rights and privileges taken away under the leader JuvĂ©nal Habyarimana’s regime installed in nineteen seventy three.
In response to being kicked out of their home land the Tutsis in Uganda formed a guerilla group called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Their main goal was to invade Rwanda and overthrown the Habyarimana regime. In the August of nineteen ninety three the Habyarimana government agreed to let the RPF share some power in the government. There were many Hutu extremists who did not like this though.

The breaking point was April sixth nineteen ninety four when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down by a mystery person. Nobody knows if it was a Hutu or Tutsi. Either side makes logical sense because the Tutsis did not like him because he was a Hutu but the Hutus did not like him because he was not exterminating the Tutsis. Once the president was killed all hell broke loose. The Interahamwe (Hutu extremist killers, means “those who attack together”) blockaded the exits, separated the Hutus from the Tutsis, and started hacking  at the Tutsis. The Interahamwe were ruthless and did not even check to see if the Rwandan was really a Tutsi all the time, they just killed all of the taller people. The moderate Tutsis were also targeted because they did not mind the presence of the Tutsis in Rwanda. After the Tutsis and moderate Hutus were out of the way Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the moderate Hutu Prime Minister, was next on the list. The remaining United Nations soldiers anticipated this move and sent some troops to protect the Prime Minister and her children. They hid her in her compound and placed their forces around the compound but their small numbers could not withstand the blows from the Interahamwe. The Hutus got in and murdered the Prime Minister. Her children, however, survived. In only two weeks, a quarter of a million moderate Hutus and Tutsis were killed. The genocide would not end for another two months. In response to the Interahamwe, the RPF stood up and started pushing towards Kigali, the counties capitol. The stopped genocide wherever they were and provided a source of hope for the Tutsis of Rwanda. Because of the RPF’s fearless fighting Kigali fell to them on July fourth nineteen ninety four, approximately three months after the genocide started.
Experts say that eight hundred thousand people died, but the killing was not systematic so that is only a best guess. The number of the murdered is continually rising as more dead bodies are found. Approximately seven hundred fifty thousand Tutsis were killed, only one hundred thirty thousand survived. Approximately fifty thousand moderate Hutus were killed in the fighting as well. In the two thousand and two census it was found out that over one million Rwandans had died and about ninety four  percent of them were Tutsi.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up by the United nations to try the leaders and major supporters to the genocide. It was located in Arusha Tanzania nineteen ninety eight. The first convicted criminal was Jean-Paul Akayesu, the mayor of Taba. Then it was Jean Kambanda, former Prime Minister. Thirty two other major Hutus were going to trial. The New York Times, however, declared that the tribunal was a fail because it took five years to do the limited amount that they did. In Rwanda the trials had been much more effective. By two thousand there had been two thousand five hundred trials and admitted three hundred death sentences. 
The aftermath of the genocide was very horrible. There was terrible economy and education was down so there were not as many educated personnel as would be ideal for the society. There was lack of public things like; roads, bridges, and telephone lines. The because of the bad economy the Tutsis blamed their problems on the Hutus and tried to oppress them and the Hutus did the same to the Tutsis. 
The Rwandan Genocide was not a freak event, it had a lot that lead up to and followed it. There was a huge history of disagreements and discrimination between the two groups long before the actual genocide happened. This includes the aspects of appearance and social stature. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was not very successful but the trials actually in Rwanda were very effective.  The history leading up to the Genocide in Rwanda and the genocide’s aftermath were both intriguing and yet very simple.


Death Toll

This chart compares the death tolls of many major mass murders. As is shown on the graph, the Rwandan conflict had the second highest death toll. In came in second with five hundred thousand. That is an insanely huge for a country that is only nine thousand six hundred and thirty three square miles and a population of nine million, seven hundred twenty, six hundred ninety four (9,720,694). In present time we are concerned about the Iraq war and as you can see by these statistics the Iraqi war is nowhere near as large as the Rwandan death toll. Which conflict did the US chose to help out with? The war that had the lower amount of deaths, Iraq. It is also interesting that the Rwandan conflict, the mass killings, happened in three to four months and had a higher death rate than every other conflict besides the Afghanistan civil war. The conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda that was provoked by the Belgian decision to have the Tutsis rule had a huge affect on the population of the small country. The amount of killings were out of the window in a matter of months. This is one of the conflicts the United Nations and United States should have gotten involved in, no matter what had just happened in Somalia. 

Systematic Human Massacre

"The most horrible and systematic human massacre we have had occasion to witness since the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis." British Philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1964, as quoted in A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide by Linda Melvern, 2000.
            This quote speaks to the fact that the Rwandan Genocide was one of the worst mass murders since the holocaust. This is written by a British citizen and was written a couple years after the genocide. At this point in history the world was regretting its decision not to get involved in the Rwandan genocide. The United Nations and the United States had tried especially hard to stay out of the genocide and did not even want to recognize it as a genocide because then, morally, they would have had to do something. The Rwandan genocide was really unnecessary and could have been prevented if the area that is now Rwanda was never colonized and if Belgium had never recognized the Tutsis as the master race over the Hutu people. So, it is now apparent that this all goes back to imperialism and when Europe decided to divide up Africa during the Berlin Conference. The human greed led to this mass murder and the human greed watched and let it happen. The reason that the United States did not get involved in the Rwandan Genocide was because of the nineteen soldiers in Somalia and because it was not in the countries common interest. That sounds like greed if nothing else.

The Boy With The Scars

This is a picture of a young Rwandan boy who has deep scars across his head that he got during the genocide. These scars are most likely from being hacked at by machetes. It is a very gruesome image and to think about how this poor boys life was effected from that one moment in time is appalling. This is deeply upsetting to see just how much the genocide has affected the survivors today. This young boy probably was in his home when he got attacked. He probably had no idea what was going on at the time and why it was such a big deal that he was a Tutsi instead of a Hutu. His parents are most likely dead now, making him an orphan survivor.  He was just an innocent young boy who had his whole life ahead of him and now he has to live with the scars and memories of that horrible point in history. This is a disgrace that a child so young was attacked and now has to live with the memories. The opposing side had no reason to attack a child so young who did not know the difference between the two races. It also upsetting because it makes people think about all of the other children that were in his same predicament and now have to live with the recollections of those horrible three months. The Rwandan Genocide was not just a moment in time, it has had lasting affects that will stay with the survivors for the rest of their lives.