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The concept of genocide


The concept of genocide has not escaped the contemporary world. It is still a prevalent feature of a global community. Nearly all parts of the world have known and witnessed genocide (Jones, 2006). Genocide brings into focus questions of power, humanity, identity and morality. The 20th century has seen its potential reach new levels with new methods and motivations for killing on the increase. With events such as World War I & II and many other examples of civil wars and mass killings, we have to question how and what has lead to human beings becoming such lethal weapons. The roots are often believed to lie in politics and society (Shaw, 2003). There are many definitions that can be seen to constitute genocide which are in turn surrounded by debate but for the clarification of genocide in this piece of writing, this definition will be seen as the foundation of the concept. One characteristic the UN failed to include as a defining feature is that the violence that takes place is often strategically organised.

The United Nations genocide convention 1948 described genocide as having 3 main characteristics;

  • A social group is identified as the enemy
  • There is intention to destroy the real, or imputed power of this enemy whether it be political, economic, cultural or ideological power
  • There is an actual deployment of violence to destroy this social group
  • During analysis it is important to use parallels to other atrocities in order to identify the particular dynamics of genocide (Hintjens, 1999). There are three main explanations throughout the literature, those being; external forces such as colonialism, domestic causes such as ethnicity and psychological causes such as obedience to power. Hintjens (1999) claims that each one of these explanations has a basis in reality but all show some weaknesses.

    During analysis it is important to use parallels to other atrocities in order to identify the particular dynamics of genocide (Hintjens, 1999). There are three main explanations throughout the literature, those being; external forces such as colonialism, domestic causes such as ethnicity and psychological causes such as obedience to power. Hintjens (1999) claims that each one of these explanations has a basis in reality but all show some weaknesses.

    The small, central African country of Rwanda was the victim of one of the most atrocious events witnessed throughout the history of man. Between April and July 1994 a whirlwind of death wiped out almost 80% of the Tutsi population. Rwanda was left with nothing but its blood stained soils and a broken society. The daily killing rate "was at least five times that of the Nazi death camps" (Prunier, 1995, pg 39), which gives the reader some kind of idea of the scale of this mass killing spree. It is estimated that approximately 800, 000 to 1 million civilians were killed during the Rwandan genocide, all in the space of little more than 100 days. Men, women and children were recruited to carry out these horrific acts. Hutu civilians made up the bulk of the murderers, coerced through the use of propaganda and hate campaigns, but also with many willing to kill. A whole population were brain-washed and manipulated into bloody-thirsty murderers. In comparison to Nazi Germany, Rwanda saw killings happening not only at a much faster speed but also with greater efficiency. Through the speed and efficiency of the killings it could be argued that there is evidence for an advance in strategy but Rwanda also showed a more simple technology in the intimate use of machetes as a choice of weapon. The Nazi's developed gas chambers and Zyklon B crystals to create a bureaucratic efficiency (Mamdani, 2001) but in contrast, the use of the machete made killings more personal, with hard work involved to prolong the pain inflicted. The Hutu's did not lock away groups in specialist, remote camps outside of the glare of society, killings were public and for all to bare witness to.

    In aiming to understand what happened in this country, time must be taken to consider the social, political and historical factors that may have led to this catastrophe.

    Adam Jones states these to be some of the contributing factors:

  • The effects of colonialism, especially the politicization of Hutu and Tutsi ethnicities under the Belgian rule and the post-independence era that followed
  • The post-independent rulers who installed a strict political system which included naming Tutsis as second class citizens
  • The role of other international forces such as France who are believed to have fuelled and finances Hutu extremism
  • An ongoing economic crisis in Rwanda as it is one of the poorest countries in the world and also one of the most densely populated
  • These factors will now be discussed in further detail.

    History of Africa and Rwanda

    In the compelling book 'The Fate of Africa', Meredith (2005) gives a detailed account of the historical, political, social and economic factors that have led Africa to see some of the most unimaginable crimes against humanity. He claims that the end of nineteenth-century European colonialism in Africa led to new territories and boundaries being created throughout Africa. Wilmsen et al (1994) present evidence for this in their study of South Africa, showing how colonial administration employed new boundaries and divisions that did not previously exist. This was a contributing factor to the emergence of apartheid. Chiefdoms and traditional tribes were split and new groups thrown together which resulted in a division of Africa into states combining previously independent sections into new collective formations. (Meredith, 2005), some of whom were even at war with each other. Problems arose when colonial powers soon realised how little Africa offered in immediate economic wealth, so many started using a technique of indirect rule, which was used to reduce the cost of governing a colony. Indirect rule meant that the colonisers empowered local authorities with authoritative status. Power was redistributed to local chiefdoms but due to colonial favour this led to a situation in which Hutus were being ruled by Tutsi chiefs, which created underlying tensions.

    After years of colonial rule, Africa finally achieved independence. World Wars and global developments had, over the years brought about profound changes in Africa which also brought shifts in power. The African independence honeymoon period was short lived (Meredith, 2005) and the reality was more that of uncertainty, instability and a thirst for power. Times of uncertainty create changes to every aspect of society and on a micro, individual level can bring about questions of survival, identity and belonging. At the 'Congress of Black African Writers' (1959) Franz Fanon argues that economic instability, high illiteracy, poor education and areas of severe poverty meant Africa was still reliant on international market and international aid. The aftermath of colonial rule still prevailed through the political and economic structures. With no experience of such systems and no international support, Africa faced a huge challenge of trying to stay on its feet.

    Looking at Rwanda in specific, independence created a government focus on development and an aim to attract aid funds so the future looked promising but Meredith (2005) claims "there was an ugly streak that ran through Rwandan politics" (Meredith, 2005, pg. 485). Pre-colonial Rwanda showed differentiations between Hutu and Tutsi based on labour and subsistence strategy. The Tutsi were linked to cattle herding whereas the Hutu were associated with agriculture (Taylor, 2001). This created a degree of categorisation, but categories were not set in stone and boundaries were permeable. Although pre-colonial Rwanda was never a utopian, harmonious country, there is "no evidence of systematic violence between the Tutsi and Hutu" (Prunier, 1995, pg. 40). They lived side by side in the undulating Rwandan hills and often even inter-married. This makes us question the role of external interference. Rwanda was also seen to be one of the most efficient and organised of the African countries but post-genocide it was labelled with an image of failure (Hintjens, 1999). This is true to a point but also it can be argued that it was this efficiency and organisation that back fired on Rwanda and it actually became too powerful.

    Tutsi and Hutu Origins

    There are many conflicting theories over Tutsi and Hutu origins, mostly relating to class, race, ethnicity or some people suggesting that there is no difference between the two. These two approaches of difference and no difference are the basis of the literature. Some suggest that Tutsi migrants came into Rwanda and became dominant, reducing the Hutu population to a subordinate position. This is reinforced by ideas of Speke's Hamitic Hypothesis. The Hamitic hypothesis emerged in Europe during the nineteenth century, in which Ideas based on myth and half-truths emerged, creating a weapon for propaganda. The Hamitic Hypothesis claimed that the Tutsi were a sub-group of the Caucasian race and named them the Hamite Race, which was viewed as being superior to the Sub-Saharan Africa Negro race. Although both Tutsi and Hutu were Bantu speaking, the Tutsi became labelled to be this Hamite race due to physiological features, such as height and Caucasian facial features. These ideologies of origins then reached the work of Seligman (1930) who suggested that the migrant Hamitic race had brought with them advances in technology and more advanced social and political structures (Seligman, 1930). The Tutsi were not the only ethnic group who were labelled as Hamites. A group known as the Bahima were also labelled in the same way but did not get ascribed superior status (Mamdani, 2001). This was unique to Rwanda and can often be seen as the foundations of the relationship between the Tutsi and colonial state and the beginning of a long future of power struggles. Like in Hobsbawm's 'The invention of Tradition', these myths of origins were acted upon as if they were reality. Exaggerations of the truth became historical fact (Hintjens, 1999).

    Tutsi and Hutu categories became "value-laden stereotypes" (Prunier, 1995, pg.9). Prunier (1995) shows how this created pre-conceived attitudes of Europeans towards these groups. Not only did it affect attitudes of outsiders but also the Rwandan people themselves. The "Tutsi ego inflated whilst the Hutu population became crushed" (Prunier, 1995, pg. 9), creating an inferiority complex. This complex combined with Belgian colonial favour towards the Tutsi proved to be very dangerous. Taylor (2001) claims that the prime mode of transmission for this hypothesis was the Catholic Church. The Church possessed a monopoly over education and soon began including ideas of ethnicity and origin within its curriculum. The Church saw the Tutsi as being 'supreme humans' (Mamdani, 2001:87) so these ideologies that were adopted soon became and institutional fact and recognised as official and legal identities. The fluidity of Tutsi and Hutu boundaries was impeded and through the introduction of identity cards by the Belgians in 1933, ethnic differences became legislated. This method of attributing identity with a single ethnic label contradicts the ways that actually social identities are created. Symbolic Interactionists believe that identity is created through social interaction and are constructed over time. Identity was simplified by the Belgians to become one single label. The Tutsi label became one of power.

    This migrant hypothesis also suggests that the Tutsi population were foreign to Rwanda and had origins in the descent from Noah's son Ham. Hutu began to believe that the Tutsi had invaded their country. This approach supports the theory that the genocide was not ethnic conflict but was in fact native violence (Fanton cited in Mamdani, 2001). Fanton (2001) suggests that the Hutu were claiming what they believed was rightfully theirs as they were native to Rwanda which sees the genocide as an act of vengeance. If we accept this idea then we must question why the world does not bare witness to more events reflecting that of the Rwandan genocide. Migrants and immigrants are prevalent in most countries around the world and are involved in national inequalities as seen in Rwanda. But we do not see genocide erupting in every country that possesses migrants. Vengeance alone is not enough to trigger the scale of the event of genocide.

    Other hypotheses later started emerging based on class struggles (Longman, 1995) and land ownership in which dichotomies between the rich Tutsi, and slave like Hutu appeared. This approach saw Hutu and Tutsi as polarised market identities. Propaganda and media representations emphasised the division and the term 'ethnicity' prevailed at the front of many of these campaigns. Another hypothesis that could be used to explain the Tutsi and Hutu divide is based on a Marxist approach. Marxist ideas come into play when ethnic groups show a hierarchal formation, as seen in Rwanda. Marxist ideologies emphasise alienation and exploitation. There is evidence of differences in economic opportunities between Tutsi and Hutu seen through differences in subsistence strategies. The organisation of Hutu and Tutsi groups does somewhat echo Marx's ideas of the bourgeoisie and proletariat. The Hutu could be seen to be faced with exploitation and class struggle, leading to class tensions. Marx claimed that the proletariat would rise against this capitalist mode of production and revolt (Bottomore & Goode, 1983). The Hutu rise against oppression could be seen to mirror this. This mono-causal approach limits the influence of other factors.

    Each approach to Hutu and Tutsi origin reflects specific political tendencies. For example those who are swayed towards Tutsi power may put the claim there to be no specific differences between Tutsi and Hutu but rather there just being socioeconomic or natural class differences. Hutu extremists on the other hand, could claim that there are differences in origins and may support the separate migrations theory, claiming the Tutsi to be alien to Rwanda. This anti-Tutsi focus was often more important when there were fears of political instability and threat to those in power. This targeted hatred was often used as a justification for the violent events that arose.


    Social divisions such as; gender, class, ethnicity are natural of society but under some contexts can be lethal. Ethnicity has gained political significance and seems to be growing alongside modernisation which contrasts the Weberian view that cultural differences would filter out and a global monoculture will remain. Many conflicts seen world wide are now attributed to underlying roots of ethnic tensions. Eriksen, (1993) even claims that "thirty-five of the thirty-seven major armed conflicts up to 1991 could plausibly be attributed to ethnic conflicts" (Eriksen, 1993, p3).

    The term 'ethnicity' is a social construct and creates ideas of 'us' and 'we'; insiders and outsiders; through boundaries. Ethnogenesis occurs from an initial split within society. Barth (1969) suggests labour specialisations as the starting point, such as the Tutsi and Hutu divisions through agriculture and pastoralism. Eriksen (1993) supports this and specifies a political context for this emergence; colonialism. Pre-colonial social differentiations did exist but colonialism reinforced and institutionalised them. Wilmsen (1994) claims that ethnicity comes into play when individuals are influenced into thinking that they need to conform to a collective identity. This is more profound in times of threat. This could help explain why ethnicity in Rwanda seemed to suddenly gain importance. The constructivist debate asks whether ethnic identities are consciously created or whether they grown through changes to society?

    Many anthropologists place the idea of culture being at the forefront of defining an ethnic group but this is highly contested by writers such as Barth (1969) and Cohen (1974). Ethnicity was seen to be a term that was introduced after WWII to replace the concept of race and move away from a biological and genetic categorisation. It is therefore seen to relate more to cultural differences. Barth (1969) aims to divert focus from the idea of culture as the main characteristic of ethnicity. Instead, he places emphasis on boundaries and the idea that the function of ethnicity is social organization, even referring to ethnicity as an "organisational vessel" (Barth cited in Eriksen, pg. 44). Through his attempt to diverge from the criterion of culture, Barth (1969) suggests that biological factors get overlooked and that culture may actually be an outcome rather than a cause of these social groupings (Barth, 1969). Abner Cohen (1974) supports Barth and suggests ethnicity does not need an historical or cultural explanation but instead it is constructed through a political approach (Cohen, 1974). We need to resist the temptation to attribute the majority of world wide conflict to the concept of ethnicity and see that ethnicity is socially constructed, mainly for political gain by a dominant group. It must also be remembered that the concept of ethnicity is relational and situational. Ethnicity can only exist in relation to another ethnic group and it only gains importance in specific contexts. It is therefore not inherent (Eriksen, 2001).Barth (1969) also suggests that ethnic boundaries can lay dormant for years then get reactivated, usually for political gain. Examples of this are seen in Yugoslavia (1991). In Yugoslavia ethnicity was often seen to have no political importance but it still prevailed as an individual's main form of identity. Conflict between the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats were almost always over property, resources and political influence but these conflicts became framed in ethnic terms (Eriksen, 2001). Ethnic identity acted as a kind of fictive kinship and was kept alive through socialisation and the domestic sphere. Individuals share a social connection and experience which explains why ethnic identity is so strong.

    The conceptualisation and significance of ethnicity is dependent on the society and individuals involved. For example, in the UK, ethnicity for many is not usually of prime importance for an understanding of the 'self', whereas in the example of Rwanda, an individuals' ethnic group became that of their primary identity. People often do not give up these primary identities easily. For example when the Soviet Union collapsed, many people reverted back to ideologies of ethnic identities even though they may have lain dormant for years (Cohen, 1969). These ideal type models of ethnicity, with everyone belonging to a distinct group reinforce ideas that make us "assume that boundaries are unproblematic" (Barth, 1969, pg. 11). Reality proves to be quite the contrary. Due to constructions of ideal Hutu and Tutsi models, the boundaries seemed organised and simple. The problem is that many individuals were hybrid or even just happened to possess some features that may be viewed to constitute specifically as Hutu, when in reality they were Tutsi. When human beings are the subject of analysis, unproblematic categorisation is unrealistic. Through the creation of boundaries, inequalities that may have existed for years suddenly become visible and cross-comparable.

    Eriksen (2001) uses the example of political instability and conflict in Fiji to try and show the lac of importance of cultural difference. Fiji is made up of the native Fijians and the migratory Indians. They are two very distinct groups and much of the conflict that has arisen has been over struggles for political power and ideologies of the Indians as being alien to Fiji. The differences between the two groups were present for many years but it was through British Colonial indirect rule that cultural differences were invoked to mobilise support. Like in Rwanda, the differences were already there but were exploited for a specific political end. Eriksen (2001) claims that the "social complexity of the society was reduced to a set of simple contrasts" (Eriksen, 2001: 54). He also goes on to suggest that many of the supposed ethnic conflicts that we see throughout history are not ethnically based at all. The Sudanese Civil War is often attributed to ethnic conflict whereas in reality it is also based on religious differences as well as geographical and cultural difference. The label of ethnic conflict seems to be an easy way out and is often misleading. Conflicts are usually over resources, whether they be political power, recognition or economic gain (Eriksen, 2001). What all these examples of conflict have in common is that those enforcing ideologies always appeal to a collective identity such as religion, regional or ethnic. Each individual possesses many potential identities but they only become significant if some external force engages them.


    Jones (2006) puts forward many ideas of what drives people to this extreme violence. He looks at psychological concepts of humiliation, narcissism, greed and fear. In Shaw's book 'War and Genocide' (2003), examples from Nazi Germany show that many civilians were actively willing to kill and eagerly participated. He claims this eliminationist anti-semitism had become part of everyday life and a social norm. To veer away from the social norm would create a label of deviance. This stems from ideas from Goldhagen in his book 'Hitler's willing executioners' (1996) and forms the basis of the so-called 'Goldhagen debate' which claims citizens actually supported the Holocaust due to this eliminationist anti-Semitism that had existed for centuries. We cannot forget that even with the existence of propaganda and state coercion, genocide and the act of killing is a conscious act, and is ultimately based on individual choice. Whether or not that individual holds full responsibility for their actions is debatable. It is those in power that make wars and genocide. Ordinary citizens must first be stimulated with hatred and fear, then organised and controlled. A quote from a German Jewish emigrant in relation to the Nazi Holocaust states that: 'It dawned on me that if I looked into my own heart I could find seeds of hatred there,too. I realised that they are there in every human being' (, accessed 26/01/2010)

    Are humans born evil? There is no proof of any individual being born with the intention to kill but this statement shows how it could be argued that we are born with the potential to do things we never imagined that we could. With the pressures of fear and threat, the example of Rwanda showed how a large proportion of society, were capable of becoming integral parts of this atrocity. Shaw describes how human beings are unique in the animal kingdom. This is due to the extent in which we kill members of our own species (Shaw, 2003). Homo sapiens are also seen to be the most of all the primates through analysis of social organisation, social relations and also through evidence of brain size to help explain this social advantage. Through this, the question arises, is it this advance that has caused an increase of violence and destruction towards our own kind? Shaw fails to make this connection and instead of looking at the biological, he chooses to focus more on the social and political aspects that surround war and genocide. Hegel (1975) distinguished human beings from animals through the idea that humans are willing to give a life for a reason higher than life. This statement could also be used to suggest that human beings are different because they are "willing to take a life for a reason higher than life" (Mamdani, 2001:191)

    Lukes' (1986) book is based on theories of power and he uses examples of animals to reflect his ideas. He compares the Nazi programme to that of the donkey and carrot scenario. The donkey follows the carrot and the controller can "induce the donkey to act as he wishes by persuading him that it is in his interest to do so" (Lukes, 1986. Pg 20). Conformity is met by reward which could be such things as the sparing of your own life or communal solidarity and security. Solidarity was also found through communal hatred. It is the idea of allegiance Vs isolation. In contemporary society, parallels can be seen in the approach to crime. Durkheimian functionalist ideas suggest that crime and punishment is necessary in society as it creates solidarity through communal hatred for the offender. For example, with the subject of moral panics, society is always looking for someone to blame; a scapegoat to blame for these rare, horrific events. Political authorities use these incidents to promote ideologies. They exploit public fears. This parallels the strategies of the Rwandan Hutu extremists. Theories from Kohler (1997) suggest that human action is not an independent act but rather is embedded within the social. So when making decisions, individuals draw on knowledge and influence of the environment that surrounds them (Kohler, 1997). With the Hutu promotion of strong ethnic bonds, civilians could base their decision to participate on the basis that those around them are participating and their environment is promoting it.

    Durkheim's study on 'Suicide' is also relevant. His study showed the most individual act of killing oneself as actually being a product of an individual's social environment. He tries to explain why some individuals go down one route of suicide whereas others opt for a different route of life. According to Durkheim, degrees of social integration can determine these choices (Lukes, 1973). Those who were less socially integrated into society, were more likely to commit suicide. In relation to the genocide, this theory could help explain why people participate in the killings. Social attachment could coerce individuals into compliance, whereas excluded individuals may possess built up hatred or anger at society leading them to participate.


    Identity is often seen to have positive associations (Hintjens, 2001). Psychologically it may be there is "security to be derived from sureness about one's ancestry" (Fox, 1983 p.13), so it can provide stabilisation. This knowledge rids us of anonymity and creates an identity. It provides immediate answers to questions about life; origins, group membership and place within society. Individuals know how to behave and relate to each other so they know their place within society. Eriksen claims identity is of higher significance "in social contexts where cultural difference can make a difference" (Eriksen, 1993, pg. 32). Identity also has the potential to be lethal. In post-colonial Rwanda, identity was the difference between life and death. Social identity is most significant if it is under threat (Eriksen, 1993). When boundaries come under strain, people work hard to reaffirm and maintain them by any means possible. The concept of identity boundaries is complex and ever changing but due to colonialism, they became simplified and identity became a vehicle for power.

    Post World War II saw colonial claim over Rwanda passed from Germany to Belgium. Like the Germans, the Belgians came with a huge lack of understanding about Rwanda and its history. Throughout the literature we have seen a focus on what it means to be Tutsi and what it means to be Hutu. Mamdani (2001) focuses on the changes that have occurred to these identities from a cultural approach to a more political one. Identities in Rwanda were not just Hutu and Tutsi, as through colonialism new identities emerged, such as; the native and the settler. Mamdani (2001) argues that identity is not just a social certainty of the 'self' but it is context specific. He claims that three main identities exist; social identity, political identity and market-identity (Mamdani, 2001). It is through this approach that new light can be shed on the role that identity played in Rwanda. Political identities emerge through how power is distributed and organised. The distinguishing feature of political identity is that it is based on a "common project for the future" (Mamdani, 2001: 23). Mamdani (2001) claimed that Hutu and Tutsi identities became politicised through colonial rule and failed to be erased once independence was achieved. Political identities are also dependent on the type of colonial governance. Through in-direct colonial rule Rwandans became categorised into separate, self-governing groups that followed 'customary laws'; which in turn politicised ethnic identity. Hutu were seen as the native and Tutsi as the alien. Hutu became viewed as second class citizens and the Belgians promoted the Tutsi as somehow natural rulers. Violence was the outcome of the Rwandan states failure to transcend these colonially constructed political identities.

    A pinnacle moment of change was that of the 1959 Social Revolution in which we saw the first incident of systematic killing of the Tutsi. The Hutu were seen to rise up against their (supposed) oppression and took over the governmental role whilst thousands of Tutsi fled to neighbouring countries and began to form the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front). Unfortunately this only reaffirmed the political identities that had already been created. It was time to take sides as Rwanda bore witness to the birth of Hutu power. This not only satisfied the Hutu's want for power but it gave them the opportunity to create a Hutu nation. Colonial constructs became replicated in Hutu nationalist ideologies and also later became the foundations of Hutu propaganda. Einstein once described nationalism as being like a disease that ate away at its target until it existed no more. Campbell's (1997) book has an underlying Machiavellian view of western involvement with Africa and blames colonialism for putting ideas of ethnicity and nationalism into the heads of some very powerful individuals. Hutu promoted hegemony and were willing to exterminate all that got in its way. Many societies are multi-cultural and maintain balance and order so this suggests that either the idea of ethnicity is somehow distorted and manipulated or it is other factors, in relation to ethnicity (or even independently) that escalate to genocide. Ethnicity alone is not capable of invoking genocide; it is the relationship of power and identity that can combine to set in motion the process leading towards genocide.

    Rwanda then fell quiet for many years and from the outside, all seemed well. Juvenal Habyarimana (Hutu) seized power in 1973 (known as the Second Republic) and appeared to promote ethnic reconciliation but this soon seemed unlikely. Soon Rwanda hit economic instability, with coffee prices falling and debts rising, and a panic stricken government needed a scapegoat, which became the Tutsis. On April 6th 1994 President Habyarimana's plane was shot down and the ideologies of ethnic reconciliation died with him. Hutu Power used newspapers and radio stations to widen the Tutsi/Hutu gap. The Hutu 10 commandments were introduced which forbade Hutu having any relations to the Tutsi and they were urged to show no mercy towards them (Mamdani, 2001). By depicting the Tutsi as power hungry savages, the Hutu pumped fear into civilians. It soon came down to; Kill or be killed. Mamdani (2001) speaks of Rwandan culture as showing attributes of obedience to authority and custom. Killing soon became a customary obligation (Mamdani, 2001) and Hutu were promised more land so was also fuelled by economic gain. With the majority of the country being illiterate, very few would question what they were being told and very few did. The genocide began.


    The literature shows that there are very few theorists who recognise that all of these different theories are entwined, and come together and all act as and ingredient towards the cause of genocide. Whether it be ethnicity, identity, tribal conflict, political power struggles or economic factors, it is clear that they all play some part in the Rwandan genocide. The question is of the extent and the influence that they had.

    Ethnicity seems to be the favoured explanation but I fear that it has snowballed to a point in which it starts to ignore and reject any other theories. Through media representations and public ignorance to deep rooted African and Rwandan politics, ethnicity is often the adopted concept by many. Media representations influence a specific argument and due to a lack of ethnographically based studies, it is hard for us to understand exactly what happened in Rwanda. This is something we may have to accept. The United Nations and other international agencies may also distort many accounts of what happened due to criticism of their own roles. Broch-Due (2005) criticises the literature for promoting ethnicity as a primary identity "at the expense of other identities" (Broch-Due, 2005, p.2) such as gender for example. She claims that ethnic identity is not independent of other social phenomena and they are all in fact entangled and deeply embedded within each other (Broch-Due, 2005). She claims that people forget that some of these victims are mothers, tribe members, sisters, Muslim for example. Through ethnic identity we are losing the sense of other identities and forget these are real human beings. To say that genocide occurred just because of ethnicity is almost an insult to anthropological understanding and to those victims involved. It is naïve to brush over the real complexities that underlie genocide. Africa and ethnic identity have always been inextricably linked throughout the media and public perceptions so we have to question, was the genocide inevitable? And do other countries also face the possibility? There are many countries around the world that recognise ethnicity and show features of the identities that were present in Rwanda. With this in mind, we can conclude that it takes a specific environment for genocide to unfold. It is irrefutable that the Rwandan genocide was pre-planned, meticulously organised and state sponsored. There is also evidence for groups striving for power and hate campaigns coercing citizens to join. Lethal political identities were colonially created that eventually undermine social solidarity (Hintjens, 2001). Mamdani (2001) also claims that through the creations of differences in origins and the creation of the Hutu and Tutsi divide that Rwanda possessed deep rooted racism that stood as a foundation for much of the propaganda and hate campaigns.

    In relation to the proposed question and the role of identity an argument has been presented to suggest that there we cannot speak of one prevailing 'identity', moreover there are many forms of identity that are created socially, politically and economically. If we accept the idea that 'identity' incorporates all three of these branches then I feel it is fair to say that identity did play a major role in the Rwandan genocide but it did not stand alone. Identity became a knife that severed the social ties between Tutsi and Hutu (Hintjens, 2001). Identity is unchangeable and it is an ascribed status; you are born into it. In many western countries such as the USA and the UK, identity is built up through socialisation and the environment you are surrounded by. Status is achieved by an individual and there are many opportunities to move up or down the social ladder so boundaries are impermeable. Ethnicity and identity dominate perceptions of conflict but they are not the sole root cause. It is the politics behind the concepts of ethnicity and identity that are central to the causes of genocide. It is their relationship to power that creates this ticking time bomb with dangerous potential, something that hopefully the world will never have to bare witness to again.

    Understanding why they dies is the best and most fitting memorial we can raise for the victims. Letting their deaths go unrecorded or distorted by propaganda, or misunderstood through simple clichés would in fact bring the last touch to the killer's work in completing the victim's dehumanisation