The Genocide in Rwanda
For one to even begin to comprehend the massive and brutal killings of the Tutsi tribe by the Hutus in Rwanda in early April of 1994, one must first understand the history of the two tribes. The intent of this research paper is to step back in time and see how one tribe that shares so much in common with another could turn and almost completely annihilated the other in less than 100 days. I will also find out what actions or lack thereof that the United States and the United Nations (UN) took to help the people of Rwanda who were under attack.
Finally I will look at the action plan that UN has since then set in place in order to be better prepared or to be able to prevent genocide from occurring in the future. I will go over the way in which the people of Rwanda are rebuilding and reconciling today from such a horrific tragedy 13 years ago. History The history of Rwanda dates back to 1000 A. D. when Rwanda was dominated by the Twas, who were hunters and gatherers. The Hutus later began to settle in the area, this group of settlers was farmers and considered a clan-based monarchy, and were the majority in the region.
During the 16th century another group of settlers known as the Tutsis arrived. The Tutsi people were said to be from the Horn of Africa and were believed to be more dominant. They set up their own monarchy system and raising cattle was their livelihood. There were no real physical distinction between the Hutus and the Tutsis, the distinction between the two was more of a class distinction. The Tutsis were wealthier than the Hutus because they had cattle and were connected to the powerful.
Switching from Hutu to Tutsi was quite easy since it all depended on their wealth and status in the community. Another way in which they were able to change class was through marriage, and mixed marriages were not uncommon (Shah, 2006). Around 1897 German colonialist and missionaries arrived in Rwanda. During this period many Europeans became obsessed with the study of race, consequently this had an enormous impact on the lives of the people in Rwanda. The Germans believed that because the Tutsis originated from the “Hamitic” Horn of Africa, then they were more “European” than the Hutus.
Because of the Tutsis seemingly taller stature, more “honorable and eloquent” personalities, straighter noses, lighter skin, and their willingness to convert to Roman Catholicism, the Tutsis were favored by the colonist and powerful Roman Catholic officials, and were placed in charged of the farming Hutus, the newly formed principalities, and were given basic ruling positions. After World War I and Germany was defeated, Belgium took over the control of Rwanda. The Belgian government continued to rely on the Tutsi’s power structure for administering the country.
Due to the continued favoritism towards the Tutsis, Hutus and Twas were denied higher education, land ownership and positions in government. The Tutsis were granted the privilege to receive an education in Catholic schools, which only widen the ethnic rift. Under the Belgian rule, all Hutu chiefs were replaced with Tutsi and each person was issued identification cards which noted the person’s ethnic identity. When the colonial rulers began to impose forced labor and taxes, and transformed the economy from survival crops to export crops, such as coffee, the Hutus were not happy and neither were the Tutsis (Shah, 2006).
As the years went by tension between the Hutus and Tutsis grew stronger. Once Rwanda was granted their independence in 1962 from Belgium, complete chaos echoed throughout Rwanda, there was a power struggle between the Tutsi and the Hutu. The Hutus overthrew the Tutsi government and declared an independent republic and elected the first Hutu president. During this transition it was estimated that 20,000 to 100,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutus. Power (2001) noted that;
Before Rwanda achieved independence from Belgium, in 1962, the Tutsi, who made up 15 percent of the populace, had enjoyed a privileges status. But independence ushered in three decades of Hutu rule, under which Tutsi were systematically discriminated against and periodically subjected to waves of killing and ethnic cleansing (para. 16). In 1990 a group of armed exiles, consisting mainly of Tutsi along with a few Hutus oppositionist formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They lived along the Ugandan border, and later invaded Rwanda.
In 1993 Tanzania brokered peace talks, from which the Arusha Records otherwise known as the power-sharing agreement was formed. The Arusha Records basically agreed that the Rwandan government would divide the power equally between the Hutu opposition parties and the Tutsi minority (Power, 2001). According to Mills and Norton (2002); The UN became involved in efforts to broker a peaceful settlement and, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 872, a small peacekeeping force known as the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was deployed in country.
UNAMIR’s mandate authorized traditional peacekeeping missions, including monitoring borders for the shipment if weapons, observing and reporting on the status if the ceasefire and so on. UNAMIR numbered only 2,500 personnel from several countries, with the most technologically sophisticated forces being supplied by Belgium. UNAMIR was not intended nor equipped to engage in wide-ranging, conventional military combat with other military or even paramilitary forces (para. 10). Hutus and Tutsi were living along side each other until colonial times. The Tutsi who were the minority were put in charge of the Hutu majority.
The Tutsi were lead to believe that they were better and more important than their neighbors, thus stirring up a controversy and a dislike among the two groups and the making of genocide was in the making centuries before April, 1994. The Genocide of 1994 As history unfolds itself, we can now see that the brutal killings of an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and Hutus along with almost all the Twas that were in Rwanda by their neighbors, the Hutus, did not just occurred overnight. This was a series of events, where mutual feelings of rivalry and hatred between groups eventually lead to a tragic ending.
Kuperman (2004) believed that, “Rwanda’s 1994 genocide was a retaliation by the state’s Hutu regime to a violent challenge from the Tutsi rebels who invaded from Uganda in 1990 and fought for over three years to seize effective control of Rwanda” (para. 2). On April 6, 1994 the presidential plane carrying the president of Rwanda and the president of Burundi was shot down with a missile as it was leaving the airport in Kigali. No one knows for sure who is responsible for killing president Habyrimana, but critics believe that it was the Presidential Guard that carried out this action.
From April 6th through the 7th the Interahamwe, a special trained militias, along with the Rwandan Army, civilians, both willing and unwilling set up road blocks and began to check the identification cards of each person as they pass through. Anyone that was Tutsi, Twa, human right activist or belonged to an opposition party was killed. People were chopped, clubbed, shot, burned or strangled to death. Women were being raped; property, clothing and anything that belonged to the dead were being stolen. The brutal killing of all these people was done in approximately 100 days.
Why the United States and the United Nations did not help Stanton (2004), suggest that there are eight stages of genocide and each with it own distinctive warning sign. The stages are as follows: 1. Classification – At this stage, social groups are classified into “us versus them. ” 2. Symbolization – At this stage, the classifications are symbolized. Groups are given names and other symbols (yellow stars, for example) and re required to wear them by cultural traditions or laws. In Rwanda, Belgium began to issue identity cards (IDs) around 1962 and required them in the 1933 census. 3.
Dehumanization – This stage is where the death spiral of genocide begins. The victim group is dehumanized. 4. Organization – At this stage, hate groups are organized, militias are trained and armed, and the armed forces are purged of members of the intended victim group as well as officers and others who might oppose genocide. 5. Polarization – Moderates are targeted and assassinated. Hate propaganda emphasizes the “us versus them” nature of the situation. “If you are not with us, you are against us. ” There is no middle ground. Moderates who attempt to negotiate peace are denounced traitors. 6.
Preparation – During the preparation stage, plans are made for the genocide. Death lists are compiled. Trial massacres are conducted, both as training for genocidists, and to test whether there will be any response, such as arrests, international denunciations or sanctions. 7. Extermination – At this stage, the killing legally defined as genocide begins. 8. Denial – During and after every genocide, the perpetrators deny they committed the crime. They portray the murders as justified killing during war or repression of terrorism. The United States claim that they did not have any knowledge to the extent of what was happening in Rwanda.
The United States refused to use the word “genocide” while the killings were taking place in Rwanda, in fear that if the word was used they would be obligated to help. Glanville (2006) stated, “Lacking strategic and material interest for intervening, the United States and the International community as a whole chose not to respond to the atrocities being committed” (para. 1). When Dallaire, commander of the UNAMIR continuously told the UN and United States of what was taking place in Rwanda, they ignored him; they held decision meetings while people were dying.
He asked for more men, but instead of receiveing more troops, the UN pulled the soldiers out from Rwanda. Schmidt (2004) explains that the UN was Born in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the United Nations, if nothing else, was supposed to protect the innocent and ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. Shortly after the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that identified 30 core human rights principles, which the United Nations was expected to promote and defend (para.
5). He continues to emphasize, that when these principles that the UN were founded on, the genocide in Rwanda strikes an example of UN failure. The United Nation’s plan to prevent genocide General Kofi Annan spoke about his new Five Point Action Plan, during the commemoration ceremony of the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda on April 7, 2004. The Plan includes: 1. Preventing armed conflict 2. Protection of civilians in armed conflict 3. Ending impunity through judicial action 4. Information gathering and early warning through a UN Special Advisor for Genocide Prevention.
5. Swift and decisive action (“Action Plan to Prevent Genocide”, 2004). Almost all of these plans these plans were already in place when the genocide in Rwanda took place. Prevention of armed conflict, protecting of civilians, and ending impunity through judicial action was already at part of the UN’s mission from the start. General Dallaire was gathering information and sending it to the UN and the United States, instead of receiving the aide he requested, they withdrew the troops. Having and decisive action is the only knew idea that he has implemented.
Reconciling and Rebuilding The people of Rwanda are now trying to reconcile their differences and live together as one. They have already begun the rebuilding process by implementing the gacaca courts. Gacaca is a communal court where people who were suspected to have participated in the genocide, once released from prison have to face justice. The courts are overseen by nine locally elected judges. Gacaca was founded on the idea that a community should reintegrate the people that it punishes (Clark, 2005).
Staub, Pearlman, and miller (2003), believes that in order “for reconciliation to unfold, perpetrators must begin to open themselves to the suffering of others and to the responsibility of their actions” (para. 7). On December 31, 2001, the country unveiled its new flag. It was designed by a local artist with the colors blue, yellow, and green. All the colors of the flag have a significant meaning. Blue represent happiness and peace, yellow symbolizes economic development, and green represents hope and prosperity. They are trying to start from a new place and put the past behind.
In conclusion, the Tutsi and the Hutu has had their difference from colonial times. The Germans and the Belgians walked into the lives of these people and caused an enormous conflict by instilling racist ideas in the mind of the Tutsi people. The brutal killing of almost a million people did not just occurred overnight, and in order to develop a better understanding of what really took place in those 100 days the history of these individuals had to be revisited. I could not have said it better than Stanton (2004), “Ultimately the failure the failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide was a political failure.
Those with power failed to protect the powerless. The world still lacks the international institutions and the political will to stop genocide” (para. 60). Reference Action Plan to Prevent Genocide. (2004). Retrieved August 18, 2007, from http://www. preventiongenocide. org/prevent/UNdocs/KofiAnnansActionPlantoPreventGenocide Clark, P. (2005). When the Killers Go Home. Retrieved August 18, 2007, form Expanded Academic ASAP database. Glanville, L. (2006). Rwanda Reconsidered: A Study of Norm Violation. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 24 (2) 185-202. Retrieved August 18, 2007, form Academic Search Premier database. Kuperman, A.
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