GENOCIDE AGAINST THE TUTSI
IN 1994 AN ESTIMATE OVER ONE MILLION TUTSI AND MODERATE HUTUS WERE KILLED.
BY UN ESTIMATES, THAT MEANS 6 PEOPLE WERE KILLED EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY FOR 100 DAYS
When Belgium colonized Rwanda they transformed Hutu and Tutsi from two social classes (who spoke the same language, inhabited the same areas, and followed the same traditions) into static ethnicities documented by identity cards. Belgium favored the Tutsis, considering them superior, and gave them greater access to education and positions of power. This favoritism sparked tension. In 1957, the Rwandan king requested independence. Endeavoring to keep their hold on the country, Belgium switched sides and portrayed the Tutsis as the enemy of Hutus. In 1959, resentment erupted into riots. Many Tutsis were killed, and many more fled to the neighboring countries.When Belgium finally granted independence in 1962, Hutus came into power and over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were portrayed as the scapegoats for every crisis. At the same time, Tutsi refugees in Uganda were forming the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which aimed to secure the repatriation of Rwandans in exile and reform the Rwandan government to get political power sharing.
In the 1990s President Habyarimana exploited this threat to bring dissident Hutus back to his side. Tutsis inside Rwanda were accused of being RPF collaborators. When Habyarimana's plane was shot down at the beginning of April 1994, the Rwandan armed forces, the gendarmerie, and the government-backed Hutu militia incited civilians to murder neighbors and even family members who belonged to the Tutsi. They made lists of Tutsis to be killed. Presidential guards, soldiers, and Hutu militia groups erected roadblocks and barricades on main roads to stop Tutsis from escaping. They checked IDs at roadblocks when in doubt of a person’s tribe. Hutu civilians armed themselves with machetes, hammers and clubs to rape and loot. The extremist Hutu-supported Radio-Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) also played a major role in mass killings by broadcasting hate propaganda. Evidence shows the genocide was a planned campaign to exterminate all Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The international community failed to stop the genocide and the systematic massacres were brought to an end only when the RPF (led by Paul Kagame) took control of the country.
The genocide devastated Rwanda. With severe loss of population, the national economy was paralyzed. Many houses were looted and national infrastructure was destroyed. The RPF military victory and ascent to power prompted many Hutus, including the genocidaires, to flee to neighboring countries in fear of retribution. Meanwhile, many Tutsi exiles flooded back to Rwanda to restart their lives.
Further resources on genocide:
5 Staggering Statistics, Huffington Post UK
Statistics of the Genocide, Survivor's Fund
First They Killed My Father (2000)
The Best We Could Do (2017)
Sometimes in April, a film by Raoul Peck (2005)
Black earth rising, a film by Hugo Blick (2018)
Picture Header: Burnt-Out Schoolroom at Kabgayi Hospital - Genocide Site - Outside Muhanga-Gitarama, Rwanda. Picture by Adam Jones, Ph.D.