Asia, Africa And Mideast History

Causes of the Rwandan Genocide

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The circumstances that lead to genocide in any part of the world are rarely simple, the circumstances usually involve very complicated histories, and the genocide in Rwanda is no different. Rwanda is a country that has three ethnic groups, the Hutus, Tutsis, and Twas; the Hutus being the majority group.

Most accounts of the conflict in Rwanda do not implicate religion or ethnicity as the culprit or root cause of the conflict. The two groups in contention, the Tutsis and Hutus speak the same language and both groups up until the unset of the conflict were majority Christians. The conflict started after the Belgian colonialist left Rwanda.

Rwanda was colonized at various times by the Germans and the Belgians; prior to the arrival of the Belgians, the Tutsis who were the minority group at the time, were the feudal leaders, dating all the way back to the 15th century. From the time of the colonization of Rwanda in the 1880's, the Belgians favored the Tutsis over the Hutus. As a result, the Tutsis had better access to education and also to economic opportunities, while the Hutus were relegated to the more mundane and manual type of work in the economy, such as farming.

In 1962, after Rwanda became independent from Belgium, the Hutus, the majority group, seized power in the country. However, they did not succeed in taking over Burundi in the south, and as a consequence, Burundi remain in the hands of the Tutsis. Many Hutus saw this as an opportunity to gain revenge against the Tutsis for the centuries of subjugation that they had endured under the Tutsis rule. Hence, the Hutus did everything possible to sabotage the Tutsis remaining stronghold in Burundi, further escalating the feud.

In 1972, a monarch, kind Ntare, returned to Burundi. The president of Burundi, Michel Micombero assured the monarch of his safety upon his return to Burundi. The returning Monarch immediately faced a trial and execution. Many exiled Hutus who returned to Burundi to attend King Ntare's funeral were slaughtered. The carnage did not end there; it progressed into an annihilation of between 80,000 and 200,000 Hutus. Numerous coups followed, eventually leading to the election of Burundi's first democratically elected leader Melchior Ndadaye in 1993.

A number of conflicts occurred over the years leading up to the climatic conflict in April 1994. In April 1994, a simultaneous assassination of two Hutu presidents, the president of Rwanda and the president in Burundi led to one of the most devastating human carnages in history to date. The Hutus blamed the Tutsis for the killings and in retaliation, Hutu militias embarked on a 100 day extermination of approximately 1 million Tutsis. All of this happened as the world watched in silence.

Fifteen years after the last major carnage in Rwanda, all indications are that the country is improving. Rwandans that fled to neighboring countries are returning in large numbers. Essential infrastructure is being put in place and both the Rwandans and the rest of the world are optimistic that the future of Rwanda will be bright. All Rwandans have experienced the very negative effects of the genocide and hopefully have learned some lesson from the very sad history.

More about this author: Kodjo Adadevoh

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