The Rwandan Genocide was a very heartbreaking and mournful event in history, which left thousands of people devastated. As stated on United to End Genocide, “The Rwandan genocide is one of the heaviest moments in human history. An airplane crash in 1994 carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi provided a spark for an organized campaign of violence against the Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians across the country.” The genocide took part during April 7, 1994 through July 1994. The first events leading up to the major genocide was the revolution in 1959. In Rwanda, three tribes make up the population including the Hutu, Tutsi and the Twa. The goal of this paper is to describe the timeline of the Rwandan Genocide and what the victims endured.
The Belgians started taking over and colonizing Rwanda. Also, they gave the Tutsi’s more power, even though the Hutu’s were the majority population. The Hutu’s tribe made a breakthrough as they were higher in the Catholic church. “In 1961, Rwanda gained its independence and the Hutu majority took power. The Hutu began persecuting all Tutsi, not just the elite class, confiscating land and wealth and driving many out of the country (Tim Anderson.” The Hutu tribe had hatred towards the Tutsi because when the Belgians took over Rwanda, they colonized it and wanted the Tutsi to gain power, so this drove the Hutu mad. The Hutu gained their power once again but killed a lot of Tutsi people and caused many of them to move to Uganda.
Symbolization was often used by the Hutu, otherwise known as “the pure people,” to oppress the Tutsi people. The Tutsi people were frequently referred to as “cockroaches” or “tall trees” on radio broadcasts or newspapers. Media messages encouraged the Hutu to “cut down the tall trees,” which meant to kill the Tutsi people. Symbols such as trees and cockroaches were used because the Tutsi were usually taller than the Hutu and seen as pests by the Hutu majority. Other symbols consisted of machetes, the main weapons used to kill the Tutsi, and multicolored Hutu flags. The Hutu forced all individuals to carry proof of identification revealing their ethnicity. Moreover, physical characteristics such as skin color, neck length, and nose size were used to identify the Tutsi people. The Hutu went as far as taking measurements of these characteristics to tell the Tutsi apart from them.
As the years went by, the death toll was rising of the Tutsi. The preparation phase began as the Hutu tribes started to get rid of the Rwandan government and foreign opposition within the country. They even killed the prime minister on April 7th, 1994. Preparation of the genocide also took place through the media. “Two major radio stations transmitted hate propaganda to the illiterate masses--Radio Rwanda, and Radio T©l©vision des Milles Collines (RTLM). Radio Rwanda was the official government owned radio station. Under the second Arusha Accord it was barred from continuing to disseminate hate propaganda. This led the Hutu Power circle around President Habyarimana and his wife to found RTLM as a private radio station. RTLM became immensely popular as a young, hip alternative to the official voice of the government.” (Universite Concorde University) Women experienced dehumanization through rape and thousands were sex slaves. Some contracted sexually transmitted diseases that caused them to pass away. Tutsi people were also dehumanized and treated like animals or pests by the Hutu tribes.
In 1986, the Tutsi’s felt unprotected and formed a group called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). When the major genocide was occurring, the key parties involved were the RPF, the Hutu’s, and U.N. “President Habyarimana and the president of Burundi, Cyprian Ntaryamira, are killed when Habyarimana's plane is shot down near Kigali Airport. Extremists, suspecting that the president is finally about to implement the Arusha Peace Accords, are believed to be behind the attack. That night the killing begins. (PBS)” The Hutu were affected by the crash, so they wanted to hurt the Tutsi as they felt had been done to them. Rwadian Air Force (RAF) went from house to house killing innocent people.
There were not specific laws governing the genocide that occurred. As mentioned, the genocide began after the President’s plane was shot down. The Hutu people blamed his death on the Tutsi which led to genocide. Although laws were not put in place, media outlets including newspapers and radio shows spread hate propaganda and they even provided specific instructions on how to kill the Tutsi people. The radio had so much influence on polarizing the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, it became one of the most important factors in organizing the genocide.
Preparation took place as the Hutu used the media to brainwash people to kill the Tutsi tribe. As stated on BBC News, “The then governing party, MRND, had a youth wing called the Interahamwe, which was turned into a militia to carry out the slaughter. Weapons and hit-lists were handed out to local groups, who knew exactly where to find their targets.” The death toll at the end of the genocide rose to 500,000-1,000,000 people. The public were shocked of the atrocities that were taking part in Rwanda. The Hutu tribe used many weapons and even machetes to kill people. Rwanda has been in a state of war since the 1950’s and as soon as the U.S. found out about the genocide in 1994, they evacuated all U.S. citizens.
One of the most devastating aspects of the Rwandan genocide, was that no one intervened to stop it. This form of denial led to many deaths that may have otherwise been prevented. The United States of America did not know about the slaughters soon enough to save many lives. Shockingly, the United Nations was trying to coverup the genocide. The Hutu was held responsible for the Genocide as they almost killed the entire Tutsi population. Since the United Nations did not do much for Rwanda, France helped Rwanda and the RPF forces obtained the Hutu government. As stated on PBS, “On July 17, Tutsi RPF forces captured Kigali. The Hutu Government flees to Zaire, followed by a tide…”
To sum it all up, the Rwandan Genocide was a horrible event in history that caused great suffering and led to the deaths of many helpless people. When massacres like this happen and we fail to respond to them, the consequences are worse, and many lives are lost. Therefore, the world bears the responsibility of helping people in these circumstances who are unable to help themselves. The victims that experienced this genocide can attempt to cope by speaking out, connecting with nature, religion or spirituality, and/or maintaining a sense of community. We must continue to educate ourselves and others about this tragedy in order to prevent another one from happening in the future.
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