Genocide definition according to the UN is stated as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group. In addition, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. Also imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” This is according to the Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (48).
Jonesm and Adam (78) assert that the Rwanda mass killings that occurred from April 7th to July 4th of the year 1994 are considered genocide according to the above definition because most of the requirements for one to name something genocide were all met. Throughout this paper, why this is termed so will be proven by stating out the necessary details that occurred to back up this tragedy that faced the country and crippled its people and economy bringing it to its knees.
Prior to all these killings, Rwanda was a country that lived by itself with a population of roughly seven million inhabitants. The problem began since a while ago especially given the fact that the country’s ethnic group made up of two rival communities the Hutu and the Tutsi (Clark, Philip, and Zachary 119). Despite the Hutu being the biggest lot of them all, being up to 85 % of the population, the Tutsi considered to be filling a higher class in the republic’s social system compared to the Hutu. This was not set in stone as one had the opportunity to move up the social ladder if one amassed enough cattle and wealth. A process of assimilation into a Tutsi commenced and this person from then on would be fully referred to as a Tutsi, attributed to the clan system that already existed by then.
When one looks at the history of the country, tensions began running high after Rwanda was placed under the Belgian power after its previous administrator lost its ownership of the country. The Hutu Political Movement fact that they were meant to benefit from the decolonization process that was plaguing the country at that point in time appeared to rub the Tutsi establishment the wrong way as this meant that they would lose their previously attained privileged that they were used to. In 1959, the tide hanged when hundreds of Tutsi’s were killed marking the start of Hutu Peasant Revolution. This revolution mainly played the role of a symbolist act to show that the Tutsi domination had ended. By the time the country gained independence, a large number of Tutsi’s had fled the country seeking refuge in neighbouring countries with the example of Tanzania (Clark, Philip, and Zachary 89).
According to Clark, Philip, and Zachary (89), the Rwandan patriotic front (RPF) founded in Uganda and these people continued fighting for their rights as true members of the Rwandan community through instigating raids on the country people over the years leading to a number of killings. This major attack caused heightened tensions as all Tutsi’s in the country were labelled accomplices while the Hutu’s labelled as traitors who betrayed their country when it needed them the most. This led to holding of peace talks to try to rectify the major problem in the country; Peace.
The worst happened on 6th April in the year 1994 where the president of Burundi and Rwanda were both killed in a plane crash that occurred during take-off as a result of a rocket launched into it. These deaths acted as a push from the mostly wordy hate between the two communities to the outright systematic and intense killings that unfolded after that. According to the UN definition that any sort of harm that befalls a specific group of people with the intent to kill and eradicate them, this very well describes exactly what happened in this country as people as many as a million were estimated to have died during this battle therefore terming it a genocide (Thompson and Allan 67).
The worst part was the fact that it stemmed from the fact that members of the presidential guard started killing Tutsi unarmed civilians around the airport area that this incident had occurred. This was achieved through setting of roadblocks and identifying of people from the Tutsi tribe before they were ruthlessly massacred (Clark, Philip, and Zachary 134). The power of the media was felt the next day when a radio television station aired a broadcast that had the RDF taking responsibility for the plane crash as well as spewing incitements to the mass stating that the people should finally rise up and start eliminating the Tutsi cockroach manifestation that has been infesting the country and its people.
The death of the prime minister and her protection in her home on the very same day in the hands of the Rwandan government soldiers catapulted the entire country into killings of the masses, each person justified in their cause to harm. The number of women raped was also astounding a figure close to a quarter a million. The retraction of the Belgium troops from the country led to the lack of any administrative figure in the country, this being made worse by the faltering response from the international community. On 22nd June, the turquoise operation brought about a sort of reprieve by providing protection for hundreds of civilians in the southwest region of Rwanda. Inconsequently, it was viewed as the path that most of the people involved in the genocide took to flee the country they had in their own way dragged through the mad. The only way the killings totally stopped in the entire country is when RPF took over the country in a military control militia (Waldorf and Lars 178).
Many Tutsi’s were killed by their own neighbours, some husbands killing their own wives claiming that at that specific time they did not have a choice. The civilians that were brainwashed to the ideologies of the anti-Tutsi movements were the worst. These people brought forth more harm to the common country person than the militia given the fact that they knew the people in the community by name. Anyone who did not fit their criteria, they gave out their names. Some even participated in the rounding up of these individuals (Agüero, Jorge and Anil (143).
There were different ways the people practiced so as to ensure safety of themselves and that of their families which included fleeing to other neighbouring countries causing the flooding of refugees into the Congo republic. Those who were able to secure themselves bought their protection from the on-going mass killings while others just opted to dig holes in the ground and survive there. People lived in ceilings, other fled into the forests to ensure safety of their families and to top it all up all these killings were being aired in the media from the beginning to the end of the war (Cohen and Jared 111).
Cohen and Jared (11) argue that all those deaths, defilement of human rights, blatant disregard for the human life were all done because the masses were divided into two different tribal phases. The people who sympathized with the group being killed showing any sort of humanity were killed together with the ‘filth’ they were protecting. Such abhorring acts happening in this day was a blow to Africa’s peace stance and after that many regulations and acts were put in place to ensure such an atrocity does not occur again in the near future.
- Agüero, Jorge M., and Anil Deolalikar. “Late bloomers? Identifying critical periods in human capital accumulation. Evidence from the Rwanda Genocide.” Unpublished manuscript (2012).
- Clark, Philip, and Zachary Daniel Kaufman. After genocide: Transitional justice, post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation in Rwanda and beyond. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
- Cohen, Jared. One-hundred days of silence: America and the Rwanda genocide. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
- Jones, Adam, ed. Genocide, war crimes and the West: history and complicity. Zed Books Ltd., 2013.
- Waldorf, Lars. “Revisiting Hotel Rwanda: genocide ideology, reconciliation, and rescuers.” Journal of Genocide Research 11.1 (2009): 101-125.