The Rwandan Genocide

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The Rwandan Genocide 1994

Evaluate the causes and significance of the Rwandan Genocide war

“During the one hundred days that began on April 6, 1994, Rwanda experienced the most intensive slaughter in this blood-filled century. It is important that the world know that these killings were not spontaneous or accidental … These events grew from a policy aimed at the systematic destruction of a people.”

Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Central Africa, with a population of just seven million people that is predominantly comprised of two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and the Tutsi. Although the Hutu account for 90% of the population, historically, under Belgian rule, the Tutsi minority was considered the aristocracy of Rwanda and dominated Hutu peasants for decades. Following independence from Belgium in 1962, the Hutu majority seized power and began to reverse the traditional roles, oppressing the Tutsi through systemic discrimination and acts of violence.

This essay attempts to discuss the causes and significance of the Rwandan Genocide war. It will examine the social, political and economic contexts of Rwanda and the response by the international community through the role of the United Nations and give an analysis of how these contributed to the 100 day war. An evaluation of the significance of the war for Rwanda today and of the role of United Nations will be made, in summary.

Traditionally, Tutsi were Rwandan’s ruling class characterised by having access to high levels of education, health, land ownership, social status and wealth. The Tutsi have been described as “a superior caste of aristocrats and the Hutu as their vassals” . This superior social position of the Tutsi was challenged by the Hutu when they came into government after independence from Belgium. This brought about a social behaviour amongst Rwandan Hutu society, which led to formation of extremist groups leading up to the national genocide.

Political tensions were evident prior to the genocide. From the 1960s until 1994, the ideology promoted by the Hutu ruling elite was that the “Tutsi were foreign invaders, who could not really be considered as citizens” . The Hutu had been the “native peasants” , enslaved by the aristocratic invaders. After 1962, the Hutu were the only legitimate inhabitants of the country. A Hutu-controlled government was considered not only automatically legitimate, but also “ontologically democratic” . This political ideology validated both the persecution of Tutsi and the autocratic rule by some elite Hutu.

This resulted in over 200 000 Tutsi fleeing to neighbouring countries and forming a rebel guerrilla army, the Rwandan Patriotic Front. In 1990, this rebel army invaded Rwanda and forced Hutu President Juvenal Habyalimana into signing an agreement that mandated that the Hutu and Tutsi would share political power. The Hutu extremists violently opposed sharing any power with the Tutsi. Among these extremists were those who desired nothing less than the actual extermination of the Tutsi. On April 6th 1994, “amid ever-increasing prospects of violence” , the genocide was sparked by the assassination of Rwandan President Habyalimana, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport. Rwanda plunged into political violence (as Hutu extremists believed that it was the Tutsi who killed the Hutu President) and began targeting the Tutsi.

The economic context in Rwanda leading up to the Rwandan genocide war was one of extreme poverty, largely caused by the world’s economy combined with Rwanda’s growing imbalance in land, food, and over population and history of internal conflict that led to malnutrition, periodic famine and fierce competition for land to farm. In these impoverished economic conditions, the poorer class, the Hutu, was greatly affected. These conditions contributed to the continual unrest and feelings of hatred towards the Tutsi among particular sectors of Hutu society.

The context of...
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