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The Genocide in Rwanda 1994


The genocide concept comprises two words, genes, a Greek word meaning tribe or race, and cide, a Latin word meaning the killing of pointed out by Polish Jurist Raphael Lemkin. According to the definition agreed upon on the United Nations Genocide Convention, the term means “Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, national, ethnical, racial or religious groups, as such: Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (Hinton 3). The Rwandan genocide involved group killings and physically harming individuals in a specified ethnic community. It is the worst occurrence in modern history.

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Rwanda, a colony of Belgium, is approximately a third of its size. Rwanda acquired independence in nineteen sixty-two. The 1994 Rwandan massacre, which happened in a span of a hundred days where about eight hundred thousand Tutsis were murdered, happened from around April to June. This number adds up to approximately ten percent of the entire Rwandese population. The catalysts of the violence were the Hutus, who also died but in a lower number.

This happened while the international community chose to ignore the issue. The most astonishing thing is the number of lives that were lost in such a span of time (Akash 4). What triggered the genocide is when Juvenal Habyarimana, the Rwandan President, was assassinated on sixth April nineteen ninety-four in a shooting that happened in Kigali Airport. This wave of violence spread drastically in all places in the country. The Hutus being the perpetrators of the massacre, wanted to wipe away the Tutsi (Mamdani 3). However, could the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana be the cause of such a dreaded massacre? This paper will explore the historical rivalry of the Hutu and Tutsi communities, the motive of the genocide, the role of the media and the international community, and the aftermath of the massacre. In my opinion, I must declare that it is unavoidably difficult to discuss the Rwandan genocide without raising the deepest emotions, a cry for humanity.

The Historical Rivalry between Hutu and Tutsi

The ethnic rivalry that existed in Rwanda before the genocide between the majority who are the Hutus and the minority as the Tutsi was evident since colonial times. Traditionally, the Hutus were farmers, while the Tutsis were herdsmen. However, the distinction between the two tribes is not very clear since they are hard to distinguish as their culture and language are the same. There have occurred intermarriages between the two ethnic tribes, and this also makes them hard to distinguish. Tutsis valued land for the sake of their livestock while Hutus worked in the farms, a scenario that caused the Hutus to become more than Tutsis. Significantly, the Tutsi are slender and tall and are believed to have come from Ethiopia, a reason why they were discarded into the river during the massacre to symbolize they’re returning home in Ethiopia (Mamdani 86).

Rwanda is a colony of Belgium, the people who divided the Rwandese with respect to their ethnicity. The European colonialists introduced a class system or aristocracy in which regarded the Tutsis as the superior ones making them feel more significant than the Hutus. This was marked by their employment and education preference. The colonist fashioned the right weapons for violent attacks that erupted during the 1994 genocide.

In addition, the missionaries had their contribution as well. They incited Hutus and warned them against oppression planting a seed in which revolution would occur (“A People Betrayed” 10). Hutus armed themselves and began to rebel in nineteen fifty-six, and this continued until nineteen fifty-nine where a riot occurred. This natured feelings of resentment, which were marked by riots as those occurred in nineteen fifty-nine where over twenty thousand Tutsi died while others sought refuge in other East African countries (“Conspiracy to Murder” 10).

After the independence of Rwanda in nineteen sixty-two, the Hutus took the leadership position in which the Tutsis suffered in return. There occurred provincial factions, and things were getting out of hand for Hutu. The economy deteriorated under their leadership of President Juvenal Habyarimana. Tutsis, who had sought refuge in Uganda, led by Paul Kagame, established the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) geared at overthrowing Juvenal Habyarimana’s government for them to safely return home.

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The President put the blame on the Tutsis in Rwanda, pointing that they were collaborating with RPF. This sparked negotiations, and a peace treaty was signed in 1993. This did not help the situation, and in nineteen ninety-four, Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane mysterious shooting and his eventual assassination worsened the already tensed situation into a catastrophe (“Conspiracy to Murder” 8).

The Massacre

In the capital Kigali, the presidential allies began retribution and killed opposition leaders, and this initiated the killings of Tutsis and some Hutus. As a result, mass killings occurred in Rwanda under the aid of politicians, the military, and prominent people. This is where the media came in, spreading lies and mobilized the Hutu to eradicate the Tutsi since they were accused of killing the President. The military facilitated the slaughtering of Tutsi by their rivals through funding and promises of land. The international community did nothing about the situation, and to make matters worse, the UN troops left after ten of them were killed.

The UN troops, under the commander General Romeo Dallaire, withdrew their aid while the Rwandese ware in dire need of it; Dallaire warned the perpetrators that they would have to answer for their actions and that one day, justice would occur, which in fact has proven true today (Dallaire ix). Journalists had captured the whole event, and they were watching as people died through guns and crude weapons like clubs and machetes under the incitement of the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). Largely, the genocide involved man to man killings, especially from a squad referring to itself as the Interahamwe meaning, those who fight together (Thompson 44).

The squad was being funded largely by state, politicians, and the military to practice the massacre even in remote regions of the country. The killers did not discriminate either a woman, a man or, a child. School kids were slaughtered, and clergies in churches also colluded in the killings. These killers were neighbors who evolved into cold blood murders. The mass killings became uncontrolled and only what worked is “Survival for the fittest.” This called for people to run away by whichever means, be it walking or what. The Whole of Rwanda emerged in fear of cold blood, which suffocated the whole country, and the corpses being concealed with banana leaves to block the cameras.

Tutsi women were sexually violated and were equally murdered. This could be due to the fact that the Hutus were to cleanse the country of impure people. The many women who were raped report having brutal experiences of sexual mutilations, slavery, gang-raping, and some were eventually murdered. This translated in not only the degradation of individual women but disrespect for the entire community (“Human Rights Watch” 1).

All this time, no international intervention was experienced even with the mass killings taking place and with the death toll beyond a six-figure a time when it dawned on the international community and the global media that indeed, it was genocide. Power extremism led to a sought for craving or insanity to satisfy their desires. The sadists were carrying their extermination while the eyewitnesses thought it was a mere dream. As Barnett states, “They believed that the high-pitched screams they were hearing were wind gusts, that the pack of dogs at the roadside were feeding on animal remains and not dismembered corpses, that the smells enveloping them emanated from spoiled food and not decomposing bodies…..Things whose existence is not morally comprehensible cannot exist.” (1).

The Aftermath

Eventually, In July 1994, a ceasefire was declared by the RPF, and the party captured the capital marking their victory where Hutus moved to Zaire for safety and resided in refugee camps. There was set a new government that included the two ethnic groups under the leadership of President Pasteur Bizimungu and Paul Kagame as his vice president. Pasteur Bizimungu was charged with ethnic incitement, and this opened a doorway for Kagame to become the President.

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After the genocide, there is still a militia group belonging to Hutu in Congo, and this has facilitated violence in Congo, and millions of people have died. Hutus in Congo are known to recruit militias, some of whom took part in the 1994 genocide. The refugees were demanded to leave the camps in nineteen ninety-six, some of whom went back to Rwanda while others had nowhere else to go to, especially the vulnerable ones (Mamdani 237).

Several individuals who participated in the massacre have been being found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), while others such as Felicien Kabuga have still not been found. On first May nineteen ninety-eight, Jean Kambanda, the prime minister, pleaded guilty to having participated in the massacre and was condemned to serve life imprisonment. He admitted to having controlled the massacre and demanded those who failed to participate to be killed and incubated an atmosphere of paranoia and prejudice to facilitate mass murder (“Conspiracy to Murder” 1).

The Tutsi leadership that is now at hand in Rwanda, although there has been tension between the Hutu and Tutsi forces, which unfortunately may trigger a future occurrence of genocide. The economy suffered a blow; people lavished in poverty, the education sector became inadequate with facilities, and everything was to be started afresh after the genocide. However, the country under the leadership of President Paul Kagame is making huge steps toward economic recovery and in seeking that justice will be done. Today, many witnesses and survivors of the genocide are confronted with not only physical but also psychological marks that cannot be deleted whatsoever.

Thousands of children are orphaned, women who were victims of sexual harassment and mutilation are now suffering from HIV/AIDS and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, while others have born children who remind them of nothing else other than the awful experience they had. The first-hand confrontation of the true meaning of animosity, not from their enemies but from their close friends and even relatives. Another impact of the genocide is the demographic inequality in that many women remain socially inflicted, with so many of them being widows. This calls for polygamy in Rwanda since women outnumber the men, which is causing rivalry and accelerates the transmission of AIDS (“Human Rights Watch” 3).

The impact of genocide on education is huge. The violence that filled the whole country disrupted everything in that teachers and their students were murdered, children were orphaned, the facilities were destroyed, and others who managed to escape became refugees. Children who survived the genocide have reflected a declining performance in school, with those areas in which the genocide was extremely being the most affected.

This could be due to the fact that first, the genocide resulted in murders of educated people in the country, which shows disregard for education. Secondly, many children became orphaned, which is implicated in declining academic performance. Third, poverty arose after the genocide since economic activities such as businesses and agriculture were negatively affected. This was a source of livelihood, and it directly affected children since there were no enough resources to school them. Finally, school facilities were destroyed, which meant that children were to stop schooling until the facilities were available for them (Akash 20).


The brutality that occurred in the African country Rwanda has resulted in a generation of individuals that are haunted by the ugly memories of the war. Recommendations on the Rwandan genocide involve critical investigation by the Rwandan government and ICTR with the help of eyewitnesses and surviving victims. Those found guilty should face the required punishment in accordance with the ICTR legal system. This cannot be accomplished without proper coordination by the government to meet the psychological and physical needs of the survivors of the genocide. The Rwandan government should avoid discriminating against any person with regard to ethnicity or gender (“Human Rights Watch” 8).

What could an explanation be given in modern times of the choice to kill, the animosity shown by Hutus in a desire to annihilate another community in overwhelming killing campaigns? The modern elites’ desire to maintain power created hatred among the communities in Rwanda. It made a setup in which the two communities would rise against one another but little did they know that they were nurturing grounds in which genocide would thrive.

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The two communities are not at peace with one another since the Tutsis think they have to repress their counterparts for them to survive. On the other hand, the Hutus know that they are recognized as evil by not only the current government but also by the international community; hence are disadvantaged. Thus, the two communities’ extremists are convinced that they have to annihilate each other and are armed in case of a future occurrence of violence. The killers only choose to act entirely guided by free will and by ethnic ideologies. As Rwanda commemorates the event on April 7, the human race should remember that it did nothing to save the victims. However, it is a lesson well learned that if such an occurrence ever repeats itself, the moral beings will do anything in their power to prevent further insults to humanity.

The nation is in the pursuit of healing the wounds, although the scars are there to remain forever. Victims of genocide could possibly become future killers in a revenge mission, but it is with sincere hopes that such a case will never ever happen again in the future.

Works Cited:

Akresh, Richard. Armed Conflict and Schooling: Evidence from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Washington DC:.Research Support Team. 2008. Print.

Barnet, Michael. Eye Witness: The United Nations and Rwanda to a Genocide. New York: Cornell University Press. 2002. Print.

Cook, Susan. E. Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. 2006. Print.

Dallaire, Romeo. Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. New York: Carroll & Graft Publishers. 2005. Print.

Hinton, Alexander. Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide. London, England: The Reagents of the University of California. 2002. Print.

Human Rights watch. Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence during the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath. New York: Human Rights Watch. 1996. Print.

Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and the Genocide in Rwanda. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 2001. Print.

Melvern, Linda. A People Betrayed: the Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. London: Zed Books Ltd. 2000. Print.

Melvern, Linda. Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwanda Genocide. London: Verso. 2004. Print.

Thompson, Allan. The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. London: Pluto Press. 2007. Print.

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