Genocide in Rwanda

Genocide in Rwanda

The definition of genocide as given in the Webster’s College Dictionary is “The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” This definition depicts the situation in 1994 of Rwanda, a small, poor, central African country. The Rwandan genocide was the systematic extermination of over eight hundred thousand Tutsi, an ethnic group in Rwanda, by the Hutu, another ethnic group in Rwanda. In this essay I will briefly describe the history of the conflict of the Hutu and Tutsi, the 100 days of genocide in 1994, and the affects of the massacre on the economy and the people of Rwanda.

To fully understand why this slaughter occurred, we must first look at the history of the Hutu and the Tutsi. In the early 1900’s, the Tutsi were placed in positions of power by Belgium, because they looked “whiter”. Governed by Belgium’s racist way of thought, ethnic identity cards were introduced. The Catholic Church supported the Tutsi and the new social order and educated the Tutsi and imposed their religion on them. Though the population of Rwanda was ninety percent Hutu, they were denied land ownership, education, and positions of power. In the 1950’s, the end of the colonial period, the Hutu overthrew the Tutsi government. The Hutu maintained the practices of ethnic division, and the Tutsi were forcibly removed from positions of power. Many Tutsi fled from Rwanda and were not allowed to return. Many Tutsi that stayed in Rwanda were killed. Supported by Uganda, the Tutsi formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel army. The rebel army was anxious to regain citizenship and their homes in Rwanda, and began a civil war that lasted four years. The world wide coffee market crashed, and coffee being the main export of Rwanda, led to unemployment and hunger of many Rwandans. This, along with pressure from Belgium forced the Hutu to agree to share power with the Tutsi. This was a hoax, for the Hutu government was secretly planning revenge on the Tutsi. The revenge being planned was the extinction of the Tutsi. With help from Hutu extremists, hate propaganda, sub-humanization of Tutsi, firearms, and machetes were distributed among the Hutu citizens. The extremists assassinated the president for fear of giving in to the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s demands.

Through these elements necessary for genocide, the killing began on April 6, 1994. Checkpoints were set up, covering the major routes and borders around Rwanda. These checkpoints consisted of Hutu military checking ethnic identity cards, if they were Hutu they lived, if they were Tutsi they were killed immediately. Many of the Tutsi gathered in churches, which were considered sacred, but they turned into slaughterhouses where many were massacred. The killing lasted for one hundred days. More than eight hundred thousand people were massacred, one third of the Tutsi population being wiped out. During this time there was no outside help from the United States or any other country. The UNAMIR (United nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) were given orders to stay on “stand by” and were not allowed to intervene because they would breach their monitoring mandate. Eventually, though, the Rwandan Patriotic Front defeated the militias and the Rwandan army, and the genocide ended.

Although the genocide is over, disease and war still plagues this small, poor country. Many Tutsi, trying to regain their lives in Rwanda, are still tortured and harassed by the Hutu. This is because there are many witnesses to the brutal crimes of the Hutu, and many have not been put on trial yet. Painstakingly lengthy trials have prevented many of the accused murderers from ever being put on trial. The Rwandan economy remains dependant on coffee and tea exports and foreign aid, and “the economy suffers greatly from the failure to maintain the infrastructure, looting, and neglect of important cash crops and lack of health care facilities”.

In conclusion, the 1994 massacre in Rwanda deserves attention. Many will argue that use of the term “genocide” is incorrect in describing the war of 1994. They argue that there were only two, true genocides in the twentieth century, of the Armenians, and of the Jews. This is only a matter of opinion. As the Webster’s College dictionary defines “genocide”, we can conclude that the Rwandan War