“If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.” – Aristotle

17 Nov

Perhaps a little background on the genocide might be nice. I haven’t put too much of the history of the genocide up here, and it is entirely relevant (and not at all boring, so stick with me on this). The Tutsi Genocide was not just a random event that happened to wipe out almost an entire population of people; it was a carefully calculated, astonishingly efficient, ruthlessly executed plan that had been in place save for a start date for years leading up to the killing. In fact, this genocide was not the first, not the second, and not the third time that Tutsis had been slaughtered for the simple fact that they had “Tutsi” stamped on their identification card. How did those stamps appear? Well, my friend, the answer to that is where we begin our quest for our answers to all of the “But, why?” moments that this situation has fostered.

The answer? Belgians. I know, you’re probably thinking, “But Brynn! How can Belgians be bad? They have a cool shape, they’re great with syrup OR fruit and thus quite versatile, not to mention they are served at IHOP, which is an international organization!” Got me there. However, there is more to Belgium than its waffles. In fact, Belgium’s main contribution that we are concerned with today has less to do with breakfast glory and more to do with colonization.

When the Belgians arrived in Rwanda, there were three groups of people: The Tutsi, the Hutu, and the Twa, which is really the only group that can even be remotely classified as a tribe or race of people. The Tutsi and the Hutu were not ethnic groups, but were instead economic classes and were associated loosely with profession. The Hutu were crop farmers who tended to be poorer and the Tutsi were cattle farmers, which resulted in a wealthier place in society. Hutu and Tutsi were never tribes. Ever. That is, until Belgium came and revealed to the Rwandese people the fact that they were, in fact, different ethnicities. Imagine not knowing your own identity until a nice European enlightened you to it only moments after the first time they set foot on your continent! They measured the dimensions of people’s noses, looked at wealth as they perceived it, and decided that based on appearances there were two distinct races apart from the Twa. (If I’m being unclear, this is all Belgian fairy tale. In no way is the Belgian assessment legitimate.) Some characteristics of the Hutu, according to the Belgians: Short; ugly, big head; thick-set; flat nose; thick lips; low forehead; rough; nose with a width of 43.16mm; inferiority complex; simple; childlike; passive; less intelligent; spontaneous; shy; lazy; dirty. In contrast, some characteristics of the Tutsi, according to the ever-observant Belgians: Beautiful features; intelligent; refined feelings; natural-born leaders; polite; clean; diplomatic; clever; hard-working; light color; tall; well-proportioned; fine lips; thin nose; wide brow; beautifully shining teeth; nose dimension of less than 38.71mm. Some characteristics of the “pygmoid Batwa” according to the Belgians: a quickly disappearing race; monkey-like face; “not different from apes, they hunt in the forest;” very big nose with dimensions of 45.56mm. The Belgians registered and recorded who was in which group and issued identity cards which were to be carried on one’s person at all times.

Wow. Now if that weren’t enough to create some hostility, the Belgians made sure there would be division by offering the Tutsi minority all of the employment and educational opportunities, as well as governmental leadership positions. When the Tutsi leadership eventually tried to get more independence, Belgians retaliated and mobilized Hutus to take power from the Tutsis. The Belgians encouraged political parties based on ethnicity and groomed the Hutu through propaganda and even church sermons that the Tutsi were the ones who were oppressing and exploiting them, not the Belgian leadership itself. Tutsi children were even asked to identify themselves in classrooms and publicly shamed by Hutu teachers in an effort to dehumanize them. Clever strategy, and something we’ve seen before in every instance of the classic divide-and-rule strategy. When the Hutu oppressed majority began to become embittered by their circumstance, they proceeded to mobilize into political parties and foster a genocidal groupthink.

There were several times from the 60’s after control was grasped by Hutu extremists until 1994 in which Tutsis were slaughtered for no reason other than what seems to be economic retaliation as a result of Belgian manipulation. (It should also here be noted that most Hutu people are not extremists with genocidal ideology, and that there were several of what are called “moderate Hutu” killed in the ‘94 Tutsi genocide. Extremists are loud and tend to brand an entire group, and here, as anywhere, the “Hutu” subgroup is not homogenous.) The genocide was being practiced under several different Hutu regimes, and the government did nothing but support the efforts. Many Tutsi families fled to places like Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and the DRC. When the exiled Tutsi forces had organized into a rebel group and had attempted and failed a few times to reinvade Rwanda, they got themselves under control and were led by Paul Kagame (current Rwandan president for the second time and former acquaintance of Ugandan president Museveni during his campaign in the Ugandan bush – I know, it’s a lot of info and it’s all very confusing, but this little tidbit merely serves to show connections between the conflicts in the region). In 1990, the newly formed Rwandese Patriotic Front under Paul Kagame invaded Rwanda.

Four years later, after fighting and tension and a clamp-down by the government on Tutsis had resulted in some peace talks between the then-President Habyarimana and the RPF leaders including Kagame. For the previous few years, some pretty intense “Hutu Power” stuff was being propagated. One example of such shenanigans is manifested in The Hutu Ten Commandments, which are as follows:
The Hutu Ten Commandments
1. Every Hutu should know that a Tutsi woman, whoever she is, works for the interest of her Tutsi ethnic group. As a result, we shall consider a traitor any Hutu who
-marries a Tutsi woman
-befriends a Tutsi woman
-employs a Tutsi woman as a secretary or a concubine.
2. Every Hutu should know that our Hutu daughters are more suitable and conscientious in their role as woman, wife and mother of the family. Are they not beautiful, good secretaries and more honest?
3. Hutu women, be vigilant and try to bring your husbands, brothers and sons back to reason.
4. Every Hutu should know that every Tutsi is dishonest in business. His only aim is the supremacy of his ethnic group. As a result, any Hutu who does the following is a traitor:
makes a partnership with Tutsi in business
invests his money or the government’s money in a Tutsi enterprise
lends or borrows money from a Tutsi
gives favours to Tutsi in business (obtaining import licenses, bank loans, construction sites, public markets, etc.).
5. All strategic positions, political, administrative, economic, military and security should be entrusted only to Hutu.
6. The education sector (school pupils, students, teachers) must be majority Hutu.
7. The Rwandan Armed Forces should be exclusively Hutu. The experience of the October 1990 war has taught us a lesson. No member of the military shall marry a Tutsi.
8. The Hutu should stop having mercy on the Tutsi.
9. The Hutu, wherever they are, must have unity and solidarity and be concerned with the fate of their Hutu brothers.
The Hutu inside and outside Rwanda must constantly look for friends and allies for the Hutu cause, starting with their Hutu brothers.
They must constantly counteract Tutsi propaganda.
The Hutu must be firm and vigilant against their common Tutsi enemy.
10. The Social Revolution of 1959, the Referendum of 1961, and the Hutu Ideology, must be taught to every Hutu at every level. Every Hutu must spread this ideology widely. Any Hutu who persecutes his brother Hutu for having read, spread, and taught this ideology is a traitor.

Children were asked to stand in classrooms if they were Tutsi and were shamed and humiliated by their teachers and fellow students, and more importantly, were led to believe that being a member of their own ‘ethnicity’ was a negative thing. People were disgusting simply because they were born to parents whose own ethnicity had been created on the basis of nose shape and size. Not to state the obvious, but this is absolutely deplorable.

The “Hutu Power” extremists had been preparing for some time, and violence was inevitable. It was only a matter of time until this hatred came to a head. While propaganda was being spread and machetes were being purchased and support was pouring into the Hutu army and Interahamwe (army of young men trained specifically to kill Tutsi) militia from France, ideology was being spread to make common Tutsi people believe that they deserved to die. When the genocide did finally begin, some Tutsi even accepted death without much of a fight. The odds were stacked against them, and it was no surprise to many when death came for them at last.

The genocide lasted from the beginning of April until mid July, 1994. A minimum of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered. Recent figures have even claimed that it was actually 1,074,000 people who died in 100 days. The remarkable thing about this genocide in comparison to other events of a similar nature is the efficiency of the killing, as well as the fact that the organizers of this genocide made sure to implicate as many people in the killing as possible. They knew that if they killed every Tutsi (as was the goal) and left no witnesses, not to mention implicating every single person in the atrocities, there is no way they would be able to be punished. In some ways, they were right. Tomorrow I’ll post on the justice systems that took care of the killers of the Tutsi genocide, numbering well over one million.

This genocide was carefully crafted, meticulously planned, and executed with shocking speed. Let us take care to remember that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it. We need to pay attention to current headlines and know that our attention to these events does matter – our attention as Americans, as Westerners, as people of influence, as fellow human beings, can do so much. If we are to make any sort of difference, however, we need to first open our eyes to the realities of this world, and as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.”


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