Social and Political Impact in the 100 Days of Genocide
by Ernest Rugwizangoga
It would be confusing, unfair, and overly presumptuous for anyone to say that he or she clearly understands the Rwandan genocide that began in April of 1994. I have chosen the title wanting to focus on social aspects of the Rwandan genocide but I find it hard writing about it without mentioning political aspects. From my experiences and perspective they are strongly connected.
As a child, I saw myself first as a Rwandan because I shared language, culture, and even religion with my neighbors. In Rwanda, everybody speaks the same language called Kinyarwanda. The majority of Rwandans, where I lived in central Rwanda, were Christians. We all liked and ate the same kinds of food. At least 95 percent of my village was farmers. I would never know the difference between Hutu and Tutsi if I did not learn it from school, family and peers.
School was the first place that taught me the concept of Tutsi and Hutu. I attended a Catholic school but the national Rwandan Board of Education set the curriculum. During the first week of the school year, there was what I call the census of Hutus and Tutsis. They asked Hutus to go on one side of the room and Tutsis on the other side. The majority of students was confused and had to ask their parents. That was our assignment one day before the census.
My parents told me that I was a Tutsi. I asked them why? They explained to me by telling me about events that happened in 1959 and 1973. Tutsi houses had been burned, some Tutsis were killed and Hutus kicked others out of school. My parents also told me that at any time this could happen again because Hutus were still in power. That’s how I learned that I was a Tutsi. It meant I was a victim, a powerless person. The Hutu students were learning about the same divisions, but in a different context of history. Their parents taught them the meaning of being Hutu by describing events before 1959 when...
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