One of the most harrowing examples of modern-day genocide was the Rwanda genocide of 1994. The 1994 Rwanda genocide was a planned mass murder campaign which took place during the period of over 100 days in spring of 1994. The mass murder of the ethnic Tutsi population was executed by the dominant ethnic Hutu group. Spurred on by aggressive anti-Tutsi media propaganda, 200, 000 of Hutu killed 800,000 of the minority Tutsi and moderate Tutu, who opposed the intentions of the genocide. The genocide resulted in extermination of the three quarters of the Tutsi population in Rwanda whereas as many as 2,000,000 Rwandan citizens fled the country.
THESIS STATEMENT: Whereas the general opinion of the Tutsi genocide has related it to the ethnical, racial, or cultural differences, the truth seems to be that the genocide was caused by the economic reasons where historically less well-off Hutu wanted to possess all wealth of once aristocratic Tutsi.
Genocide is defined as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” Historically, well-known genocide examples have been the Holocaust of 1941-1945, when the Nazi killed around 6 million Jews, and the Armenian genocide, when up to 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman government back in 1915.
In Rwanda, the Tutsi genocide of 1994 was the result of long-term, historical confrontation between the Tutsi minority (at the time, 14%) and the Hutu majority (85%) in Rwanda. Prior to Rwanda’s independence, Tutsi has been the wealthier, aristocratic part of the society. For example, the German colonial government, in the period between 1898 and 1916, strengthened the dominance of the Tutsi ruling class, emphasized their racial superiority, and supported the absolutism of the Tutsi monarchy. Under Belgium, the same approach persisted, when Belgium took control of the colony after the end of World War 2.
Although in the mid-twentieth century, the Hutu, through a coup, established their political rule, they continued to use violence and mass killings against the Tutsi throughout the 1960s-1970s. After the 1990 invasion of Tutsi-led RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front ) from Uganda, the tensions flared again. Just as the elite continued to blame the Tutsi minority for the ongoing social, political, and economic problems, they increased the divide between the two ethnicities even more. One of the mottos of the genocide was to kill Tutsi and “eat their cows.” Although Tutsi no longer held the position of power, they still possessed something, so the elites bribed people into killing their neighbors for the purposes of looting their homes, churches, offices, etc. As a result, the Tutsi minority was almost fully exterminated through the 1994 genocide.
Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 film which focuses on the historical tragedy of the Tutsi genocide telling its events from a perspective of a moderate Hutu protagonist Paul Rusesabagima, married to a Tutsi woman Tatiana. Through the events described in the film, it becomes clear that greed and desire of Tutsi’s possessions were driving the mass killings to a much greater extent than it may be thought.
One persuasive example is the bribing sequence in the film. Here Paul is able to save over a thousand of Tutsi including the members of his own family by giving a bribe to a captain of interahamwe, Hutu militia death squad. After the Captain receives the money Paul takes from the hotel’s safe, he orders his people to let the poor prisoners go. Here, it is important that the Captain is obviously capable of overcoming his ethnic hatred for a good sum of money.
Overall, the historical accounts and the portrayal of the genocide events in Hotel Rwanda point out at the fact that the mass murder of Tutsi was rather caused by the economic rather than cultural reasons. In this way, it reminds of the Jews’ genocide Holocaust.
- George, T. Hotel Rwanda. United Artists-Lions Gate, DVD.
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