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The issue of the rwandan genocide and its history

A detailed report from Human Rights Watch in 1999, looked into how the killing campaign was executed, using oral testimony and documentation from a wide variety of sources. It explained how this was planned for a long time and how the international community was aware of what was going on yet ignored it, and were even present during the systematic killings. At least half a million people perished in the Rwandan genocide, the report notes.

Perhaps as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population. At the same time, thousands of Hutu were slain because they opposed the killing campaign and the forces directing it. But one issue about the whole tragedy was how it was portrayed in some of the mainstream media of some western countries. The genocide was often attributed to ancient tribal hatreds.

However as Human Rights Watch notes, this genocide was not an uncontrollable outburst of rage by a people consumed by ancient tribal hatreds. This genocide resulted from the deliberate choice of a modern elite to foster hatred and fear to keep itself in power.

  1. Troops from other countries that were less well trained and less well armed filled the remaining places, producing a force that was weaker than it would have been with a full Belgian batallion.
  2. The more luxurious living conditions of prisoners held by the Tribunal did not go unnoticed, either. How to avoid that possible future is worthy of serious reflection.
  3. Why should we stop to reflect on such inhumanity and brutality, an episode that evokes shame, despair, and revulsion, now decades behind us, when current global problems abound and hope already often seems in short supply?

This small, privileged group first set the majority against the minority to counter a growing political opposition within Rwanda. Then, faced with RPF success on the battlefield and at the negotiating table, these few powerholders transformed the strategy of ethnic division into genocide.

They believed that the the issue of the rwandan genocide and its history campaign would restore the solidarity of the Hutu under their leadership and help them win the war, or at least improve their chances of negotiating a favorable peace.

They seized control of the state and used its machinery and its authority to carry out the slaughter. Leave None to Tell the Story; Genocide in RwandaHuman Rights Watch, March 1999 Richard Robbins, professor of anthropology at the State University of New York also agrees, saying If we examine cases of purported ethnic conflict we generally find that it involve more than ancient hatred; even the hatreds we find are relatively recent, and constructed by those ethnic entrepreneurs taking advantage of situations rooted deep in colonial domination and fed by neocolonial exploitation.

The case of Rwanda is instructive he adds. Perhaps there is no better case than Rwanda of state killing in which colonial history and global economic integration combined to produce genocide. It is also a case where the causes of the killing were carefully obscured by Western governmental and journalistic sources, blamed instead on the victims and ancient tribal hatreds. A country the size of Belgium, with a population of 7 million people overpopulated according to most reports but Belgium supports over 10 million peopleRwanda experienced in 1994 one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century.

Some 800,000 people, mostly but not exclusively Tutsis, were slaughtered by the Hutu-run state. It involved such monetary factors as its colonial history, the price of coffee, World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies, the global interests of Western nations, particularly France, the interests of international aid agencies, and Western attitudes towards Africa Shalom 1996.

Hutu speakers began to settle in the area, with farms and a clan-based monarchy that dominated the Twa. Around the sixteenth century, new immigrants from the Horn of Africa, the cattle-raising Tutsi arrived and set up their own monarchy. Hutu and Tutsi were a type of class distinction, rather than based on physical differences. Tutsi were typically more dominant and controlled wealth such as cattle, while Hutu were without wealth and not tied to the powerful.

  1. The US, for example, stubbornly skirted around the one label that was rapidly revealed to be appropriate. At least half a million people perished in the Rwandan genocide, the report notes.
  2. The consequence for the Rwandan state elite was just as devastating; the money required to maintain the position of the rulers had come from coffee, tin, and foreign aid. Anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 Tutsis were killed in violence preceding independence, while some 120,000 to 500,000 fled the country to neighboring countries such as Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo DRC.
  3. As long as the killing could be characterized as interethnic violence, the core states, whose actions had created the situation for the killings and whose economic policies precipitated the violence, could distance themselves from the conflict.
  4. Leaders of the political opposition were murdered, and almost immediately, the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began.

But, people could move from being Hutu, to Tutsi, and the other way round, depending on their wealth and status. In addition, inter marriage was not uncommon, and power was attainable by both groups.

When the Germans assumed control of the area after the Berlin Conference of 1884 as Robbins goes on p. Consequently the Germans increased Tutsi influence.

As Human Rights Watch also detailed, revisionist history was written by the Europeans: Because Europeans thought that the Tutsi looked more like themselves than did other Rwandans, they found it reasonable to suppose them closer to Europeans in the evolutionary hierarchy and hence closer to them in ability.

Believing the Tutsi to be more capable, they found it logical for the Tutsi to rule Hutu and Twa just as it was reasonable for Europeans to rule Africans.

  • In a similar vein, an adviser to French President Francois Mitterrand suggested that brutal slaughter was a usual practice among Africans and could not be easily eradicated;
  • Encouraged by the presidential guard and radio propaganda, an unofficial militia group called the Interahamwe meaning those who attack together was mobilised;
  • They knew, but they did not say;
  • If the absence of a resolute commitment to reconciliation by some of the Rwandan parties was one problem, the tragedy was compounded by the faltering response of the international community.

Unaware of the Hutu contribution to building Rwanda, the Europeans saw only that the ruler of this impressive state and many of his immediate entourage were Tutsi, which led them to assume that the complex institutions had been created exclusively by Tutsi. Not surprisingly, Tutsi welcomed these ideas about their superiority, which coincided with their own beliefs.

In the issue of the rwandan genocide and its history early years of colonial rule, Rwandan poets and historians, particularly those from the milieu of the court, resisted providing Europeans with information about the Rwandan past.

But as they became aware of European favoritism for the Tutsi in the late 1920s and early 1930s, they saw the advantage in providing information that would reinforce this predisposition. They supplied data to the European clergy and academics who produced the first written histories of Rwanda. The collaboration resulted in a sophisticated and convincing but inaccurate history that simultaneously served Tutsi interests and validated European assumptions.

According to these accounts, the Twa hunters and gatherers were the first and indigenous residents of the area. The somewhat more advanced Hutu cultivators then arrived to clear the forest and displace the Twa. Next, the capable, if ruthless, Tutsi descended from the north and used their superior political and military abilities to conquer the far more numerous but less intelligent Hutu.

This mythical history drew on and made concrete the Hamitic hypothesis, the then-fashionable theory that a superior, Caucasoid race from northeastern Africa was responsible for all signs of true civilization in Black Africa.

This distorted version of the past told more about the intellectual atmosphere of Europe in the 1920s than about the early history of Rwanda. Packaged in Europe, it was returned to Rwanda where it was disseminated through the schools and seminaries. So great was Rwandan respect for European education that this faulty history was accepted by the Hutu, who stood to suffer from it, as well as by the Tutsi who helped to create it and were bound to profit from it.

People of both groups learned to think of the Tutsi as the winners and the Hutu as the losers in every great contest in Rwandan history. The polished product of early Rwando-European collaboration stood unchallenged until the 1960s when a new generation of scholars, foreign and Rwandan, began questioning some of its basic assumptions.

They persuaded other scholars to accept a new version of Rwandan history that demonstrated a more balanced participation of Hutu and Tutsi in creating the state, but they had less success in disseminating their ideas outside university circles.

Even in the 1990s, many Rwandans and foreigners continued to accept the erroneous history formulated in the 1920s and 1930s. Bullet-pointing Robbins mostly p.

BBC Sport (International version)

They replaced all Hutu chiefs with Tutsis and issued identity cards that noted ethnic identity, making the division between Hutu and Tutsi far more rigid than it had been before colonial control. Human Rights Watch also noted this: The very recording of the ethnic groups in written form enhanced their importance and changed their character. No longer flexible and amorphous, the categories became so rigid and permanent that some contemporary Europeans began the issue of the rwandan genocide and its history to them as castes.

The ruling elite, most influenced by European ideas and the immediate beneficiaries of sharper demarcation from other Rwandans, increasingly stressed their separateness and their presumed superiority.

Meanwhile Hutu, officially excluded from power, began to experience the solidarity of the oppressed. The Tutsi chiefs used this new power granted them by Belgian rule to gain Hutu land. However, excluding the wealth and status of Tutsi chiefs, the average financial situation of Hutus and Tutsis was about the same. Both groups were subject to the harsh colonial rule of Belgium in which forced labor was common, taxes were increased, and the beating of peasants by Belgian colonists became standard practice.

Furthermore, the colonial rulers transformed the economy, requiring peasants to shift their activities from subsistence or food crops to export crops, such as coffee.

Coffee production had the effect of extending the amount of arable land, since it required volcanic soil that was not productive for other, particularly food, crops. As we shall see, this had far-reaching consequences and would contribute to the conditions that precipitated the genocide. The colonial break for freedom also had its effects as former colonial powers played off Hutus and Tutsis between each other: Tutsis campaigning to break from colonial rule in the 1950s meant that Belgium started to favor Hutus more so because Belgium believed they would be easier to control.

The Belgians began replacing Tutsi chiefs with Hutu. In 1959, when clashes between Hutu and Tutsi broke out, Robbins writes, the Belgians allowed Hutus to burn down Tutsis houses. Anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 Tutsis were killed in violence preceding independence, while some 120,000 to 500,000 fled the country to neighboring countries such as Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo DRC. From there, Tutsi guerillas engineered raids into Rwanda.

Within Rwanda, Hutu rulers established ethnic quotas limiting Tutsi access to education and government employment. He did this by establishing a one-party state, totalitarian in nature. Yet, foreign powers appreciated the fact that Habyraimana ran a tight ship, even requiring all Rwandans to participate in collective labor on Saturday.

Many reforms were also put in place, such as modernizing the civil service, making clean water available to virtually everyone, raising per capita income, and seeing an inflow of money from Western donors. Some projects, however, often imposed by multilateral organizations, were fiascoes and probably contributed to Hutu-Tutsi enmity Robbins adds.

  • In the early years of colonial rule, Rwandan poets and historians, particularly those from the milieu of the court, resisted providing Europeans with information about the Rwandan past;
  • History of violence Ethnic tension in Rwanda is nothing new.

For example, In 1974 the World Bank financed a protect to establish cattle ranches over an area of 51,000 hectares. Soon, whatever progress Rwanda was making to climb out of the pit of its colonial past was undermined by the collapse of the value of its export commodities—tin and, more important, coffee.

Until 1989, when coffee prices collapsed, coffee was, after oil, the second most traded commodity in the world. In 1989, negotiations over the extension of the International Coffee Agreement, a multinational attempt to regulate the price paid to coffee producers, collapsed when the United States, under pressure from large trading companies, withdrew, preferring to let market forces determine coffee prices.

This resulted in coffee producers glutting the market with coffee and forcing coffee prices to their lowest level since the 1930s.

While this did little to affect coffee buyers and sellers in wealthy countries, it was devastating to the producing countries, such as Rwanda, and to the small farmers who produced coffee. If you are a coffee consumer, continues Robbin, especially one who likes the new premium, freshly roasted varieties, you will pay between eight to ten dollars per pound.

Of that, fifty to seventy cents represents the world market price of which thirty to fifty cents goes to the farmer who produced the coffee. The remainder goes to mid-level buyers, exporters, importers, and the processing plants that sell and market the coffee. For Rwanda, the consequences of the collapse of coffee prices meant a 50 percent drop in export earnings between 1989 and 1991.

The elite suffered from this too, which required additional means to maintain power. The sudden drop in income for small farmers resulted in widespread famine, as farmers no longer had income with the issue of the rwandan genocide and its history to purchase food. The consequence for the Rwandan state elite was just as devastating; the money required to maintain the position of the rulers had come from coffee, tin, and foreign aid.

With the first two gone, foreign aid became even more critical, so the Rwandan elite needed more than ever to maintain state power in order to maintain access to that aid. Maintaining access to aid, however, particularly from multilateral organizations, required agreeing to financial reforms imposed by those organizations.

In September 1990, the IMF imposed a structural adjustment program on Rwanda that devalued the Rwandan franc and further impoverished the already devastated Rwandan farmers and workers. The prices of fuel and consumer necessities were increased, and the austerity program imposed by the IMF led to a collapse in the education and health systems.

In 1992, the IMF imposed another devaluation, further raising the prices of essentials to Rwandans. Peasants up-rooted 300,000 coffee trees in an attempt to grow food crops, partly to raise money, but the market for local food crops was undermined by cheap food imports and food aid from the wealthy countries.

While the economy was collapsing, the RPF … invaded the country to overthrow the Habyarimana regime. Thus the state was confronted with crisis from two directions: The Habyarimana regime was able to parley the invasion by the RPF into more foreign aid. Former colonial powers were to still have a part the issue of the rwandan genocide and its history play in the events that then unfolded.

The French, anxious to maintain their influence in Africa, began providing weapons and support to the Rwandan government, and the army grew from 5,000 to 40,000 from October 1990 to mid-1992. A French military officer took command of a counterinsurgency operation. Habyarimana used the actions by the RPF to arrest 10,000 political opponents and permitted the massacre of some 350 Tutsi in the countryside. However, he also authorized the establishment of death squads within the military—the Interahamwe those who attack together and the Impuzamugambi those with a single purpose —who were trained, armed, and indoctrinated in racial hatred toward Tutsi.