The Rwandan Genocide
During the summer of 1994, in the eastern African country of Rwanda, ethnic and class tensions which had been building up over decades finally reached its peak. In this small country, one of the largest genocides in history took place. In a country roughly the size of Massachusetts, nearly one million people were killed over the course of one hundred days. In the aftermath of the slaughter, scholars were left to analyze the history of Rwandan ethnic violence and the sociology of those responsible for these crimes. This conflict is noted for how quickly it happened, how deeply it affected both the aggressors and the victims, and how the rest of the world turned a blind eye to the atrocities being committed.
In order to understand the Rwandan genocide, it is necessary to understand an overview of Rwandan history. Rwanda was originally colonized by Germany, who turned over control to Belgium in 1918 after World War I. In Rwanda, there were three ethnic groups: the Hutu, who made up about 85% of the population; the Tutsi, who made up around 15% of the population, and the Twa, who made up the remainder. These “ethnic groups” had no actual genetic distinction from one another, they were more like separate tribes and family groups. Tutsis had traditionally been cattle farmers, and therefore wealthier than the Hutus, who were farmers and servants, and the Twas, a pygmoid group of hunter-gatherers living in the mountainous regions. Supposedly, Tutsis were taller, more slender, and had more angular faces, while the Hutus and Twas were shorter, darker, with wide noses. The Belgian colonists exacerbated these differences, classifying a genetic hierarchy, with Tutsis on top, and Hutus and Twas on the bottom. The Belgians installed a Tutsi monarchy, and issued identification cards which specified ethnicity. The Hutus were treated as lesser human beings because they supposedly looked “more African” than the Tutsis. This systematic subjugation and...
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