Genocide by definition is the systematic and intentional destruction of cultural, racial, or political group. It can also be defined as systematic and deliberate destruction of religious, racial, ethnic, or political group. In the 194 United Nations General Assembly declared that genocide was punishable crime. From the declaration, genocide may be committed by government, group, or individual either against an individual’s own people or to other people either during peacetime or wartime (Merriam Webster, Incorporated, 2013).
Both Rwanda and Burundi were the last places to be occupied by the Europeans. For many centuries, the Tutsis – tall cattle-rearing individuals hailing from the upper reaches of the River Nile and had infiltrated the area that had been previously dominated by the Hutu and they would later begin dominating them. From the historical records, there was the reign of Rwabugiri in the 1860 and he controlled the region the size of the current Rwanda (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.). This realm was constituted on the feudal basis where the Tutsis were aristocratic whereas the Hutus played the second fiddle as their vassals. The country is located in central Africa toward the east. It is surrounded by bigger nations such as Tanzania on the East, Democratic Republic of Congo on the West, Uganda on the North East and Burundi on the South (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.).
Rwanda has 26,338 square kilometers, an equivalent of 10,169 square miles. It is 149th largest nation and compares to the Maryland State in the United States or Haiti. The country has an altitude that is generally high with the lowest point being Rusizi River with 950 meters or 3117 feet above sea level. It is a landlocked country that lies a few degrees to the equator’s south. Its capital is Kigali which is almost at the center of the country (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.). The country has rivers such as Nyaborongo, Ruvubu, and Kager. It also has mountains which dominates the western and central Rwanda. It has lakes such as Ihema, Rweru, Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi, and Kivu being the largest of them all. Rwanda was first colonized by the Germans and later the Belgians took over the reigns of colonialism until 1962 when the nation achieved its independence. The Belgians administered colony from 1924 in Ruanda-Urundi. The Belgian rule took two centers of power administration. The first administration was centered in Brussels – the Belgian Congo. Whereas, the Ruanda-Urundi’s administration was left at the hands of aristocrats of Tutsi people. The Belgians ruled on the basis of distinction between the Hutu and Tutsi as the epitome of their system of colonialism (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.).
Before the genocide, Rwanda was occupied by three tribes with a total population of seven million people divided into three ethnic groups. The Hutu had 85%, the Tutsis had 14% and lastly, the Twa had 1%. The Twas were the remnants of the indigenous pygmies who had originally occupied the area. The Hutus were a subject of forced labor while. They were well know agriculturalists as they grew crops. On the other hand, the Tutsis were traditionally herdsmen and the two ethnic groups had coexisted from time to time through the farming business (The United Human Rights Council, 2013). Their cultures had also been shared through languages, and also intermarriages played a significant role in merging the two cultures. However, due to the nature of the Tutsis as pastoralists, they were more of landowners with the Hutus working on their lands. This labor division was perpetuated a balance in population where the Hutus basically outnumbered the Tutsis. To the colonialists, they wanted people who could act as intercessors between the governor and the governed, and that select group was the Tutsis (The United Human Rights Council, 2013).
This is because the Tutsis were landowners, tall and they also had the aristocratic gait. They were given education and other privileges along with that in order that they remained loyal to the colonialists. This was the strategy used by the colonialists. The introduction of such distinction in terms of class unsettled Rwandan stability. To the Hutus, they felt being treated like mere peasants, the Tutsis on the other hand started behaving like aristocrats and that gave birth to strange political divide. Rwanda currently has two main tribes – Hutu and Tutsi. However, since the coming into power of Paul Kagame as the President of Rwanda, there has been constant reconciliation between the two tribes with Kagame maintaining that Rwanda is one and all citizens and Rwandans. The talk concerning one tribe or the other is not taken lightly and people would rather keep quiet than raise the issue of tribe (The United Human Rights Council, 2013).
The prelude to the 1994 genocide was characterized by the Hutu beginning talking up the need for attacking Tutsis. President Juvenal Habiyarimana himself a Hutu, disappointed his supporters when he started negotiating with the Tutsi-led rebel group RPF contrary to the wishes of the Hutus who wanted the Tutsis wiped out of Rwanda. This was as a result of the hatred the colonialists had planted in them (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.). The Hutus suffered from inferiority complex as they were always the subjects of the Tutsis and the less educated. The killing of president Habyarimana accelerated the desire the Hutus wanted toward the Tutsis. They had wanted to get even with the Tutsis. After the death of the president, radio broadcasts encouraged the people to do what they had to do. They were to seek the Tutsis and their sympathizers who lived among them (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.).
The president died on April 6, 1994 and the Hutus began the killing of Tutsis. The Hutus were going to work and the message spread among the Hutus was that the cockroaches had to be wiped out. The most notorious media tool used to spread the message of war was the Radio Televison des Milles Collines (RTLM). The massacre was based on women, children, and the even the unborn in the wombs as strategy for thoroughness in executing the act. No generation was to come out of the Tutsis. The bloodletting moved from April through to July. The predominantly used tool for massacre was the machete the tool for agricultural tilling. The most peaceful of the tools that hitherto had been used for agricultural uses turned out to be the most dangerous in terms of killing (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.).
Other than the killings, millions of people flee from their homes with most of the populations being the Hutus who were afraid of war, and also the Tutsis flee from the killings. The war was not only about the Hutus killing the Tutsis, but the Tutsis also executed the killings as a form of retaliation. The United Nations forces though present at the time could just watch without doing anything. In roughly 100 days, 800,000 people were massacred. The French troops could not help the situation and international organizations watched haplessly as the people of Rwanda turned against each in one of the most heinous of attacks ever witnessed after the infamous Holocaust (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.).
The genocide came to an end in July 1994 after RPF took over the control of the country and stability began returning the country. Those who flee to neighboring countries such as Congo and Tanzania began coming back slowly, but were a bit skeptical of the possible war. The Hutus in camps in Congo self-confessed how they killed the Tutsis, some were actually bragging about the massacre. So it was not very difficult getting the killers and putting them behind bars. There were those who admitted to the killings and wanted to be forgiven. As such, peace and reconciliation was the only choice to be taken by the two tribes. It was a painful affair considering that the people who rose against each other are the ones who knew each other very well. There was an establishment of a Tribunal that dealt with International War Crimes in Arusha Tanzania (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.).
It was meant to try the perpetrators of the genocide, this saw high-profile former government officials admitting to fuelling genocide. Those who raped women and children were slapped with death sentences to serve as a lesson to others in future. The survivors of the genocide narrate their stories with much bitterness. At the waterfall in Kagera River, the human corpses fell into the deep ends. They explain how death just refused to take even when they faced the killers eye-to-eye. They say what happened during the genocide was so horrific that no one could bear the sight for a second time. Most of the remains of the dead in the churches and schools have been left unburied and have formed memorials of their own sorts. The essence is that, to the witnesses, the situation was so scary and was like watching a movie yet it was happening right in broad daylight (Peace Pledge Union, n.d.).
Merriam Webster, Incorporated. (2013). Genocide. Retrieved from http://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/genocide
Peace Pledge Union. (n.d.). Rwanda 1994. Retrieved from http://www.ppu.org.uk/genocide/g_rwanda.html
The United Human Rights Council. (2013). Genocide in Rwanda. Retrieved from http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm