The 1994 Genocide in Rwanda was one of the most awful massacres the world has ever seen. No other genocide has matched the fast paced killings that the Hutu’s accomplished in those dreadful one hundred days. This Genocide like most others started from a widely believed prejudice that had been passed down for generations. There are three main ethnicities in Rwanda, the Hutu’s who were a majority in Rwanda (85%) and were more commonly short and round. The Tutsi’s who were an elite minority (14%) and were tall, thin. And finally the third ethnic group was the Twa, a minority of 1% they were a tribe Pygmies who were found in the forests of Rwanda. The main conflict was between the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s and ultimately they were the two groups of people who were involved in the genocide.
|This picture shows the three main ethnic groups in Rwanda.|
Far left is a Tutsi, the middle is a Hutu and the far left is a Twa.
Through out history the Tutsis were always a minority in comparison to the Hutus. They were believed to have come over from the southern highlands of Ethiopia in the 1300’s and migrated over into Rwanda as conquerors. They were cattle herders and warrior similar to the Massai tribe in Kenya. When they came over to Rwanda in the 1300’s they brought a new type of cow, a “hump-less” cow from the south.
|This picture shows the “hump-less” |
cattle that the Tutsis brought from Ethiopia.
At the beginning, before the Belgians came to colonize Rwanda, the Tutsis and Hutus married one another and so their different biological traits varied and mixed into the generations to follow. The stereotypical traits that each group carries can some times be very hard to distinguish. A genocide survivor named Eric Irivuzumugable says “the truth is, it is difficult to tell who is Tutsi and who is Hutu just by outward characteristics.” Although it may have been common for the two groups to intermarry and have relations with one another, once the Belgians came that was not only impossible but was no longer something many in either group wanted.
The Belgian colonists arrived in Rwanda in 1916. And the way that they colonized Rwanda created unnecessary social and tribal differences between the Hutus and the Tutsis. One of the main factors of this are the identity cards created by the Belgians. These cards were used to classify the people according to their ethnicities. The two groups were distinguished by their nose size, their height and their eye type. The number of cattle they owned also distinguished them.
|This is a picture of an identity card. |
|This is a picture of a Rwandan having his nose|
measured in order to distinguish his ethnicity.
The Belgians always had considered the Tutsi’s more favorable because they thought they were more “white” and were more capable of being rulers than the Hutus. And for the next forty-six years of their rule they provided the Tutsis with more opportunities then the Hutus. Giving them better jobs, education and places in the government. This of course angered the Hutus, and hatred towards the Tutsis began to bubble up. Even when the Rwandans got independents from the Belgians in 1962, the Tutsis remained at the head of government in both Rwanda and Burundi.
|This picture shows early Tutsi leaders in Rwanda|
On June 6th 1994 the Tutsi president Jouenal Habyariman’s plane was shot down above the Kigome airport and he was killed along with a few other colleagues. This was a climax in the Hutu and Tutsi conflict. After this major event, the genocide lasting three months began. It is not to say this event was the only thing that triggered the genocide, but it was in fact the tipping point. Today it is still a mystery as to who shot down the president’s plane but it is suspected that either Paul Kigame and his close associates or Hutu extremists caused these deaths.
During this one hundred day period mass murders broke out among Hutu and Tutsi neighbors and full villages were being killed off. No matter what age, sex or economic standing, the only thing that mattered was weather or not you were a Tutsi, and if you were, you would most likely be killed. Hutu citizens were told through Hutu extremist radio and from other Hutus around them to wipe out any moderate Hutu and Tutsi that they lay their eyes on. They were told it was their duty because the Tutsis were their enemies. Most if not all of the genocide was carried out by hand. Hutus used machetes and clubs to mutate and slaughter any Tutsi or moderate Hutu they could find.
|This is a picture of a mass grave in Rwanda.|
The inhuman brutality of these murders were shocking, and the survival stories of children and adults hidden under the dead decaying bodies of their loved ones were even more incredible. While thousands of bodies were thrown in the Kigara River to float down stream eventually ending up in Lake Victoria, there was a story of young Tutsi child who survived. Hutu men with machetes threw her in the water while she was still alive. Her body floated with the dead and eventually a Hutu who was near by on the bank of the river saved her. This small act of kindness reminded me of how although these heartless people are killing everyone that crossed their path, there is still hope that people want to do good and create peace between the two ethnicities.
Eventually the genocide died down, once the Hutus were running out of Tutsis to kill. After the one hundred day genocide the RPF (Rwandese Patriotic Front) took control of Kigali on July 4th and took control of the whole country by July 18th 1994. The government was then taken over by the Tutsis and today Paul Kagame is serving his second seven year mandate as president of the Republic and the Cabniet.
|Paul Kagame, President of the |
Republic and the Cabinet.
Today national understanding has been difficult to reach especially because of the 80,000 people in jail awaiting a trial to see weather or not they plead guilty or not guilty for contributing to the mass murders in the genocide of 1994. Many trials will take place in local community tribunals called Gacaca, but most serious cases will take place in Arusha, Tanzania by the UN’S International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. These trials are definitely going to take some time to sort out but it is a major step forward in finding the people accountable for killing innocents.
(This is a video clip of a "Gacaca Justice"
trial held by the peoples court in Rwanda.)
Today there are also major steps forward in the restoration of the economy. Although the progress in the economy may seem small for the rest of the world, in sub-Saharan Africa it is well over average. There is a more than fifteen per cent annual growth between 1995 and 1999, and 7.4 per cent in 2000 to 2002. For the most part Hutus and Tutsi have also learned to live and work with one another. Cyangugu provincial Governor Musa Fazil Harerimana told a Swiss news agency that the town is building itself back up. It is doing so by building new schools, hotels, and markets. Although this city was nearly emptied after the Genocide loosing thousands of Tutsi residence, it seems as though today there is a glimpse of hope.
These glimpses of hope appear in many villages, towns and cities as people start to move on with their lives and even forgive the past. Dwelling on the past only makes life hard, and although survivors will never forget the awful events that happened in 1994, they have started to smile and laugh and bring life and love into Rwanda instead of death and hate. The prejudice between the Hutus and the Tutsis may never go away but there is always hope in the few who pass down morals of equality and love to the younger generations.