The conflict between the tutsis and the hutus
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
“The most horrible and systematic human massacre we have had occasion to witness since the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.”
(Bertrand Russell, 1964)
In this essay I am going to discuss the conflict between the Tutsis and the Hutus. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the Tutsi are “a member of a people of Rwanda and Burundi probably of Nilotic (Nile basin) origin”, while Hutu are “a member of a Bantu-speaking people of Rwanda and Burundi”. I have chosen this topic because I think it is very interesting and such a horrible incident (as philosopher Bertrand Russell states in the quote above) cannot be left out and not be discussed and shared with other people. Besides, due to the fact that this event was and is totally disregarded by the publicity – on top of that, it is actually almost fully forgotten – not many people know a lot about what happened in Rwanda/Burundi and especially what the reasons were, that took place prior to the genocide (according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a genocide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group”). Through this in-depth study I hope that the reader will know and understand more about this shocking incident and also its origins that took place prior to this event. To make the topic more specific I have narrowed it and I have come out with a specific research question which is ‘To what extent were the consequences of the genocide brought about by the differences and difficulties between the Tutsi and the Hutu?’. To answer this question successfully I am going investigate what events took place in the beginning which eventually caused the civil war and genocide between the Tutsi and Hutu, two ethnic societies living in Rwanda/Burundi and other areas around. Also, what makes it so interesting is the fact that there is not just one piece of history of the gathering of Tutsi and Hutu, but several “histories”, or rather several facets of history. This is because not only did one single event happen in the past, but, in contrast, many different events, as will be discussed later.
The conflict between the Tutsis and the Hutus
History of the Tutsi and the Hutu:
In order to comprehend the genocide it is necessary to examine its causes and hence the history of Rwanda. This is due to the fact that the incidents, all the differences and difficulties that occurred in the past are the bases of what eventually happened between these Tutsi and the Hutu. Gerard Prunier, author of the book ‘The Rwanda Crisis’, once stated in an interview that what happened in Rwanda is very closely related to the history of both groups, as he articulates that the destruction of other human groups has something to do “with history, with culture, with past experiences, the more or less distorted rewriting of history, with the way it fits into present day experience. For example, it is sure that the notion that hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were going to come back was presented by the Hutu government during the early ’90s in Rwanda as a land grab attempt, these people are going to come back and take their land. And since a lot of the land that was–you have to see the demography, and the number of people who lived in Rwanda in 1959-60”. Hence, according to him the cruel actions of the Hutu were due to acts of revenge based on past experiences.
According to history researches there has been a large-scale colonization of the area between Lake Albert, Lake Kivu, Lake Tanganijka and Lake Victoria between the 13th and 15th century. During this time nomads who were breeding cattle and also hunted for a living, immigrated and settled down in and around Rwanda, a country almost as big as Switzerland, and it is quite likely that those people have been the ancestors of the Tutsi (it is possible that these people came from Ethiopia). On the other hand, there was already a group living in that area, known as the Hutu (most likely these people came from Chad long before the Tutsi immigrated). These people were already sedentary and had a rural culture. Nonetheless, in the 17th century there have been three population groups in that area who colonized Rwanda. These were, as already mentioned, the Hutu, the Tutsis and, in addition to these, the Twa (the Twa, however, were the smallest group and irrelevant in the genocide) All the groups were all seen as the same folk with the same king (who was Tutsi). Moreover, they all lived under the same conditions. They all spoke the same language, believed in the same god (Imana) and were socio-cultural identical (e.g. Legends, dancing, customs…). In addition to that the large majority of the Rwandan population, regardless of being Tutsi or Hutu, was catholic.
From the socio-politic point of view the Rwandans were highly organized; The Hutu, Tutsi and Twa were more different in terms of social groups than ethnic groups, for instance, that the Hutu carried out agriculture and the Tutsis did livestock breeding. Moreover, these groups didn’t have a fixed social order, which means, that a Hutu could change to being a Tutsi through giving up agriculture and starting to breed livestock, and vice versa. Also as well, marriages between the different groups were usual. On top of that, due to a temporary mobilization the Rwandan empire had the ability to beat any attackers off with a Hutu/Tutsi army, and hence didn’t have any real competitors from outer regions.
The Tutsi king was sustaining his authority on powerful Hutu who controlled large amounts of territory. This was also due to the fact that the Hutu made up the large majority of the Rwandan population and also steadily increased in numbers (in the 90s 85 % of the Rwandan population were Hutu). Nevertheless, the relationship of the Hutu and the Tutsi was traditionally molded by suspiciousness and continuing tensions that consistently led to, often excessive, outbursts of violence. These actions were always based on the fear of the other group gaining economic advantages and political power. These conflicts often made a direct or indirect impact on the intergovernmental contacts of the close neighbor countries. As Prendergast/Smock once said, „When Rwanda sneezes, (…) Burundi catch[es] a cold.“(1999), meaning that if something happened in Rwanda, neighbor state Burundi was influenced by these actions.
Influences from other countries:
At the end of the 19th century Rwanda was initially colonized by the German empire, later then, from 1916 on, of Belgium. With it the issues of Rwanda were caused. German colonial scientists developed a stereotype for the population, inspired by a “Race theory” which was designed at that time. The stereotype indicated that the Hutu, who were small, muscular and had big noses, were inferior to the Tutsi, that were tall, slim and had a lighter skin color. Therefore, Tutsi were seen to be superior. With this view declared was the Rwandan ruling system (Tutsi-King), so that the colonial rulers thought to sustain their power on the, from their point of view, “reigning caste” of the Tutsi. This system functioned quite well, firstly under the Germans and later then under the Belgiums. As a result of that, the children of privileged Tutsi had better chances for their education and jobs, as well, which also helped them to get positions in the Belgium colonial management, study visits in Belgium, access to modern techniques and other advantages.
Parallel to that, between 1920 and 1930, Belgium missionaries, inspired by a Christian social teaching, also began to alphabetize the broad mass of the Hutu and enabled them the access to missionary schools. However, leading positions in the business branch or in the area of management were still reserved for the Tutsi.
We reach the year 1959; the African continent was molded by the de-colonization, of which the Belgiums couldn’t elude as well. Nevertheless, they still sought to maintain the control over Rwanda. After several discussions they eventually came to a simple, yet perfidiously artifice. At the same time the de-colonization was conducted by the Belgium colonial rulers as a “democratization“ in terms of a transfer of the power on the population majority of the Hutu. Hereof the “old” colonial rulers promised themselves further influence on the now from them favored “Hutu-Elite”. As a result of this, the first president of Rwanda (Jean Kabirinda) was a Hutu.
However, the political landscape in Rwanda only changed very slowly. Besides a (small) radical Hutu-party there was merely a large, rather moderate Hutu-party, and a slightly smaller liberal party, consisting of Hutu as well as Tutsi and that was predominantly composed out of business men, intellectuals and administrative officers. The president relied on the two lastly named parties primarily. In 1957, a radical Hutu published the Parmehutu-Manifest, in which had been stated that the Hutu are not free until the Tutsi disappear from Rwanda. At the same time the pressure on the president was reinforced from the liberal party, to allow the Tutsi more political speaking rights. Kabirinda hence opened himself up to the Hutu radicals, to gain his power. Attacks on political enemies began to occur and first pogroms against Tutsi commenced who hereupon predominantly fled to Uganda.
Kabirinda lost control quite fast and was, as a result of this, brought down by his own army chef Juvénal Habyarimana. Hereof the Tutsi promised themselves an improvement first of all, but soon they had to accept that Habyarimana too got under the influence of the radicals (to whom his wife and her brothers were amongst primarily). Thereupon up to a million Tutsi abandoned Rwanda in the early 70s and moved to Uganda. There, a political exile movement was founded which demanded the recurrence to Rwanda as well as political speaking rights and this process lasted for the next several years. In the exile in Uganda, many Tutsi joined the Ugandan army.
After all political attempts had failed, the Tutsi ultimately invaded Rwanda in spring-time of 1990 and attempted to reach their goal with military aid. In the North of Rwanda war ruled, in which Habyarimana was supported by France. France did not want any (English speaking) Tutsi in Rwanda, because its goal was to avoid an extension of the “Anglo-Saxon” influence in that region. Nevertheless, under the lead of the United Nations (UN) an armistice agreement was reached with the goal to achieve a peaceful political solution. In this process the Belgium’s were arguing with Habyarimana and other politicians (for instance Mwinyi from Tanzania) about how this peace assignment should be reached and from their point of view this should be achieved by military aid. Through this they demonstrated their participation in Rwanda as a former colonial power once again. However, the parliament rejected this suggestion and instead, they aspired to accomplish this in a peaceful and diplomatic way. In 1993 an UN-military mission (UNAMIR – United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, also referred to as the blue helmet troop), whose commanding officer was the Canadian General Roméo Dallaire, acted with the goal, to assure the armistice. Peace negotiations under the lead of the UN and neighbor states of Rwanda were being held in Arusha (Tanzania). Habyarimana was forced to entertain compromises. However, this was clearly too much for the radical Hutu and the first overthrow plans were prepared, which also comprised a mass murder of the Tutsi. General Roméo Dallaire, however, achieved acknowledgement of the overthrowing plans and demanded strengthening of his troops, which, nevertheless, was unsuccessful. Moreover, his suggestion to arrest the known leaders was being opposed.
At the end of March 1994, the treaty of peace was signed in Arusha, which composed the Tutsis numerous concessions and (on political, as well as military domain) and arranged for a separation of the democratic power in Rwanda. For the Hutu radicals the moment had come to conserve the power in Rwanda at any cost. On the evening of April 6th 1994, the airplane in which president Habyarimana, who, from the radicals point of view, was considered of being a traitor, was shot down with two missiles as it was approaching for landing on the international airport of Kigali. The airplane went down into the garden of the president’s residence. Habyarimana and the president of Burundi, who travelled with him, were both killed in the incident. In the same night devastating massacres in Kigali began. On the morning of April 7th the radical Hutu, led by army chef Bagosora, murdered the Rwandan prime minister (who was a female Hutu!) and ten more Belgian blue helmet soldiers who were arranged to protect her. In Kigali, road barriers were instituted on which radical Hutu-militia implemented surveillances. In the Rwandan pass boards there were records which indicated whether the concerned person was Hutu or Tutsi. The record “Tutsi” implied immediate execution.
The UNAMIR-mission could not anticipate the expansion of the genocide across almost the whole country. Nevertheless, not only Tutsi became victims, but also Hutus, whom marriage partner were Tutsi. Exceptions of sparing them were only made if they killed their marriage partner as well as the shared children (from the radical Hutu’s point of view these Hutus were no “pure-blooded” Hutus). Most victims were stroke dead, only those who had enough money could afford to get shot instead; the children were thrown into sumps. Later then, after an estimated half-million Rwandans had already been slaughtered bestial, Tutsi women were also raped and abused in the most gruesome ways, because they had already lost their husbands that could have protected them. Furthermore, every Hutu who had experienced a better education was a suspected oppositionist (a member of the opposite side),who sympathized with the Tutsis, and hence was also killed. The fact that normal Rwandan citizens who were living a basic and normal life, turned into brutal murderers and acted as they were told, seems to be quite incomprehensible for people that live in countries where there are no such political problems. Many experts differ in their reasoning about this “phenomenon”. Gerard Prunier once said in an interview that “in some ways I think it’s a basic human tendency–a lot of people would love to kill their neighbors. Usually they don’t act on that impulse unless a whole number of other circumstances somehow makes it seem both easy and civic.”Those circumstances are also related to the history of Rwanda. Due to all the disputes between the Tutsi and the Hutu in the past the citizens have become used to these conditions. This has led to the fact that people who are living in the same society affect and influence each other and hence bring them in the situation to kill. Important in this context of killing was also the role of the media. Since the majority of the Rwandan population was illiterate, messages for the citizens were delivered by the radio. The radicals had a hunting broadcast station, called Radio-Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) (which was countrywide good to receive and it was made professional through playing the newest pop music) which called on all well-behaved Hutus to “kill all the cockroaches”(with cockroaches meaning the Tutsi), or instead of cockroach they used the word inyenzi, which meant the same in their language. Moreover, as one politician speaking to the Hutu via radio said, the Tutsi were going to “exterminate you (the Hutu) until they are the only ones left in the country so that they can keep for a thousand years the power that their fathers had kept for four hundred years … You must not let up in your efforts (with this he referred to the killing of the Tutsi)”. Through this persuading actions of the media “a lot of people in Rwanda felt that they were deeply persuaded that the Tutsi were evil.”, as Gerard Prunier said in the same interview mentioned before.
Also as well, another important factor was the role of the catholic churches. They didn’t provide any protection for Tutsi who fled there; in contrast they were a death trap. Catholic priests were in cohorts with the murderers and the refugees were killed in the chambers of churches or they were shut away in the churches, which were then set on fire. Between April 7th and July 4th 1994 around 1 million people were killed, and the incident is seen as the fastest genocide in the history of mankind. The genocide was brought to an end through the advancement of the Tutsi-army Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) under the lead of Paul Kagame (the current president of Rwanda), which was lingering in the North of Rwanda due to the armistice agreement and that had marched down to the South of Rwanda after the genocide had started. The murderers and a large part of the Hutu population (around 2 million) fled into the Congo (at that time called Zaire), Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. Of these 2 million Hutu people, around 500,000 were deported by the government later.
Summer 2004: Apart from a few thousand the Hutu who fled into Congo have returned. The Rwandan government under president Kagame prosecutes quite successfully a policy of conciliation and national unity. The economic situation of Rwanda has improved immensely, but is still very critical. As measured by the African standards, reasonably free and fair presidents and parliaments elections have taken place. Moreover, an international criminal division for Rwanda has been instituted by the United Nations in Arusha/Tanzania. There, trials against the 200 main leaders of the genocide shall be made, whereas in some cases, there have already been sentences.
Nevertheless, the aftermath of the genocide can still be sensed everywhere, even though it is quite concealed. What this means is the fact that Rwandan citizens are still being observed very closely by the government. If they speak up against it (this action was termed as ‘divisionism’, meaning disagreeing against someone or something) and get caught, it is possible that these people get imprisoned or, in the worst case, even killed. Rwandan people have to keep their thoughts and beliefs to themselves. As a Rwandan woman said in an interview taken in a research of Elisabeth King, who is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, “Rwandans have become liars. We can’t say anything because they’ll imprison us or kill us” (March 21, 2006). This does not only include being in disagreement with the government, but also speaking about the ethnic information of someone in public areas. In the same research program just mentioned, a Rwandan boy was interviewed and he said “we know [people’s ethnicities], but if you speak of that, they put you in jail. Yep. If they catch you, you have to go directly to jail. . . . So today you hide that, because if they hear you say it, they can punish you”(February 14, 2006). That also demonstrates the forced silence of the Rwandans and the consequences a person can have in case he speaks loud.
There are also other issues happening at this time. In some areas of Rwanda acts of revenge and violence are being performed, and due to a lack of criminal prosecutions these acts are often remain undeclared and the people involved do not get punished. Moreover, there are huge numbers of orphans (in 1998 there were around 65000) which have to be taken care of. However, these children rarely get enough attention due to other problems in the country, but they are now living together in big groups, only consisting of children.
In this essay the question ‘To what extent were the consequences of the genocide brought about by the differences and difficulties between the Tutsi and the Hutu?’was investigated. Firstly, the origins of both ethnical groups were discussed, secondly the political influences from other countries were analyzed and in that particular section, the first real problems between the Hutu and the Tutsis were explored, which were accelerated by the Parmehutu-Manifest. Then, in the third part the occurrence of the massacre in 1994 was described. Finally, in the last part of the essay the aftermath was discussed to demonstrate what consequences resulted from the genocide. Due to the exploration of the history of Rwanda it has become clear that this part has played a major role in the genocide, since there have always been issues between the Tutsi and the Hutu, whether be it of political or economical bases. As time went by, these problems have accumulated and intensified and eventually ended up in the fastest and probably most atrocious genocide in human history. Even though the preposterous murdering finished, the consequences brought about by the genocide are still present in today’s Rwanda. Hence it is plausible to say that the differences and difficulties of the Tutsi and the Hutu had a major impact on how Rwanda is today and also how people living in this country are forced to behave in order to stay alive. On top of that it is very likely that the future will also be affected by this conflict. Already these days, but especially in the coming years it is predicted that, due to economical and territorial reasons, perpetrators and victims will be living together in the same villages. It is possible that this, after another period of time, could then result in further issues between the two groups and may eventually accumulate afterwards, so that another genocide develops, based upon the enduring conflicts between the Tutsi and the Hutu.
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