Rwandan Genocide





Rwandan Genocide

Many people have tried to explain why the Rwandan Genocide happened. Although much blame is placed on western countries for their lack of intervention and the colonial past, it is clear that other factors aggravated the situation. The western countries did have a significant role to play. However, the tension between the Hutu and the Tutsi had started way before the colonialists arrived in the country. For a long time, the Tutsi had always believed that they were more superior owing to their privileged position. They believed they were entitled to be the main rulers of the land. This is despite the fact that they were a minority population. It was hard for them to let go of the position they held once the Hutu came to power. They believed that they had a right to fight for what belonged to them. The Hutu were the majority, but they had suffered for a long time under the minority Tutsi. They had experienced mistreatment, inequality, and injustice under some of the Tutsi

Different theories have emerged, which try to explain the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The symbolist political theory is based on the social-psychological perspective. It asserts the importance of the group myth, which is a main contributor towards people’s actions. Supporters of this theory claim that the main dynamics that caused the genocide were mass hostility, security dilemma, and chauvinist political mobilization. Another theory is the rational choice theory, which posits that the genocide occurred because of the need to maintain power and the fear and threat of losing power. This need and desire for power led some leaders to provoke, manipulate, and persuade the people into taking violent actions (Jean 2-3).

Despite the differences between the two groups, they had always managed to coexist peacefully. The caste system that was present in the country might have been unfair, but it had worked for a long time for a majority of the people (Valentino 178). Therefore, other factors must have contributed to the situation that later led to the genocide in 1994. The death of president Habyarimana was a contributing factor to the genocide. He was a Hutu, and there was speculation as to what might have caused his death. He was hated by both the Hutu and the Tutsi because of his poor leadership and corrupt practices. Therefore, any of the groups could have been responsible for his death. However, the Tutsi were the main suspects, and many of them suffered because of this. The Hutu government ordered the authorities to murder the Tutsi civilians as they escaped the country. They used their power against the innocent minorities.

Contrary to popular belief, the colonialists were not solely responsible for the rising tension between the two groups. Prior to the arrival of the Germans and Belgians, the Tutsi had always felt that they were superior. They held the most wealth, were well trained in military strategies, and their diets were better as they had access to animal and farm produce. They believed that the Hutu were beneath them and were meant to be their servants. The Tutsi leader applied different degrees of justice to the people as he favored his own people. However, the arrival of the colonialists aggravated the situation. The colonialists were impressed by the Tutsi leadership, and this made the Tutsi feel more superior. Thus, more Tutsi got administrative posts. On the other hand, this form of treatment intensified the tension between the Tutsi and the Hutu.

One can argue that the 1994 genocide actually began in the 1960s when the colonial administrators began replacing the Tutsi chiefs with the Hutu ones. The increased levels of power gave the Hutu the freedom they needed to persecute the Tutsi for the many years of mistreatment they had endured. Many Tutsi were killed at the time and others fled to neighboring countries (Saha 116). The ethnic killings continued in the seventies. In Burundi, some of the Hutus rebelled against the military regime, which was Tutsi. This resulted in the death of more than 100,000 Hutus and others fled to Rwanda. In retaliation, the then president of Rwanda, who was a Hutu, killed the Tutsis in the land and he forced others to flee to Burundi (Saha 117). These events were critical to the 1994 genocide. The form of leadership that was present in Rwanda and Burundi determined the level of peace that was there in the country. The election of a Hutu leader in Burundi in 1993 led to the persecution of many Tutsis in the area.

It is hard to determine the sole conflict that led to the 1994 genocide. Many reasons led to the increasing tension between the two principal groups in Rwanda and Burundi. The increase in population meant that the people could no longer sustain their lifestyle. The Hutu were searching for land on which to farm while the Tutsis wanted land to graze their animals. There was massive unemployment and lack of food. These factors coupled with the age-old tension that had existed between the Hutu and Tutsi. Whenever one group was in power, it felt the need to eliminate the other and this led to massive killings prior to the recorded genocide. No leader emerged to unite the people. Each of the leaders acted for the benefit of his own people, and none considered the nation. This emphasized the existing differences, and it led to the eventual conflict and genocide experienced in 1994.

Works Cited

Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 2000. Print

Jean, Moise. The Rwandan Genocide: The True Motivations for Mass Killings. Emory Endeavors in World History. 2007. Web. 24 March, 2014

Saha, C. Santosh. Perspectives on Contemporary Ethnic Conflict: Primal Violence or the Politics of Conviction. Oxford, UK: Lexington Books, 2006. Print

Valentino, A. Benjamin. Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005. Print

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