The Tribal Rwanda Genocide

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Between the dates of April 6 and July 1994, nearly one million citizens of Rwanda’s seven million population were massacred in an effort to exterminate Rwanda’s Tutsi population (Klinghoffer 3). Neighbors killed neighbors. Torture, rape, looting, and exile ensued. People who had been living together for decades, sharing the same language, culture, and religion became enemies. The violence was genocide-- a deliberate, systematic annihilation of Rwanda’s racially-defined Tutsi group (Straus 1). In the words of current Rwandan President Kagame, the genocide was “an explosion resulting from a process that lasted years” (Nyirubugara 33). Three key factors incited the genocide: the history and origins of tribal Rwanda, the influence of imperialist …show more content…
From its earliest traceable roots, three main indigenous ethnic groups inhabited Rwanda: Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. These three groups shared the same religion and language and mythologized themselves to all share a common divine ancestor who had three sons: Gahutu, Batutsi, and Batwa. The three sons were the mythic ancestors of the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa tribes (Semujanga 15). Rwanda’s population prior to the 1994 genocide was approximately 85 percent Hutu, 14 percent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa (Klinghoffer 6). The major divisions between the tribes are related to caste and determined by occupation. The Hutu were primarily agriculturalists and the Tutsi herdsmen. Early Rwandan government functioned on traditional trinity of chiefs with a Hutu as “chief of the pastures” and Tutsis as both “chief of the land” and “chief of the men” (Mamdani, 90). Pre-colonial Rwanda was a harmonious society in which each tribe confined themselves to their respective traditional roles with little willingness to shift status. Hutu and Tutsi intermarried, and re-identification from one tribe to another was not uncommon before the Belgian colonization imposed the 1933 census, which solidified one’s ethnicity based on tribe through identification …show more content…
Looting, burning, torture, and sexual violence were also rampant. For 100 days, nobody was safe. Not only were Tutsis victims, but also all Hutu political opposition and those Hutu who showed reluctance to partake in the violence. The horrors were unimaginable. A male survivor of the genocide recalls, “The administration forced Hutu men to kill their Tutsi wives before they go to kill anyone else-- to prove they were true Interahamwe” (Mamdani, 4). The violence was between neighbors and friends-- untrained perpetrators of all ages and genders using farm tools, machetes, hoes, and clubs to kill. The RPF mobilized and called on more troops with assistance from Uganda. In July 1994, the RPF took the capital of Kigali, signaling the end of the genocide and civil war. On July 18, a new government was put in place by the RPF with rule by both Tutsi and Hutu on the basis of the original 1993 peace agreement (Klinghoffer,

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