The Rwandan genocide, which involved the slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu, was carried in a span of three months of April-July, 1994. Such an act of mass murders that stands out among the gravest acts in the post-World War II period had many underlying causes and sources. One of the most prominent causes of this genocide was Rwanda’s political and cultural heritage since its colonial era. Rwanda’s colonial experience was conspicuously a major catalyst of the genocide through the errors of commission and omission of the colonialists. After analyzing some literature, Magnarella (2001) explains that Rwanda, Burundi and modern Tanzania were under German rule from 1984 to World War I. However, Belgians took over from 1924 to 1962 and ruled Rwanda through the chiefs and Tutsi monarchs (Magnarella, 2002).
The underlying causes of the genocide springing from this colonial era arose from the colonial hypothesis that inculcated a deep-rooted ethnic division that Tutsi (12% of the population) were superior to Hutu (over 80% of the population) and Twa (about 3% of the population). Thus, apart from inflating Tutsi’s ego, the colonialists planted cultural hatred through resentment of the Hutu people, inferiority complexes and racial division, which gradually developed into an aggressive massacre. Thus, it is clear that despite the Hutu and Rwandan governments’ failures, the Rwandan genocide had its underlying sources in the colonial era. Through prejudicial fabrications of community superiority or inferiority for over 60 years of colonial rule, the foundation for the gravest human act was made.
In addition to the colonial seeds of mistrust and hatred, the political history and the legacy created in Rwanda indicates a continual erosion of nationhood or frameworks that would have reconstructed the broken trust. For instance, it is notable that Belgians created ethnically designed identity cards after the 1933-34 census. This practice was not abolished but retained by both President Gregoire Kayibanda and President Major Juvenal Habyarimana. However, these ethnic identity cards have only institutionalized racism. It is notable that the Rwandese community in previous years did not regard the Tutsi, Hutu or Twa as different races or tribes. However, after the appearance of identity cards, the Hutu Manifesto referred to them as races. It is this political heritage allowing the continual existence of ethnic hatred within the government structures and legal systems that contributed to the genocide (Magnarella, 2002).
It is also worth noting that Rwanda’s political history was marked by few stints of democracy or rule of the majority. The political system before and after independence allowed the creation of the sub-national identities. For instance, the Belgians allowed and supported the creation of a pro-Hutu party called the PARMEHUTU that led a revolt to topple King Kigri V. However, President Kayibanda, who ruled the nation after the 1962 Declaration of Independence, was the author of the “Hutu Manifesto”. A manifesto that deeply supported the racialist tendencies and declared national identities as races (yet did not abolish them). Thus, since the government was pro-Hutu, it was clear that such a progression of political system was headed towards anti Tutsi aggression.
It is also imperative to note that the Rwanda’s political culture indirectly formed an underlying cause of the genocide. The PARMEHUTU revolt of 1959 had already caused the deaths of thousands of Hutus and displacement of over 130, 000 people. Thus, there was a culture of impunity that encouraged the mass murders and made such acts seem acceptable, hence fuelling the evident outburst later. In addition, a political culture of dictatorship was rampant given that before the assassination of President Habyarimana in 1994, he had overthrown President Kayibanda in 1973 and made the country a single-party state. He had allowed Hutu to grab the land left by fleeing Tutsi and surrounded his government with Hutu extremists and family members. Habyarimana’s policies included refusing the return of the displaced Tutsi people back to the country, his political policy of retaining the colonial identity cards, and prevention of army members from marrying Tutsi women (The Economist, 2009).
Thus, this study notes that underlying causes of the genocide were both political and cultural. The colonial legacy polarized the country and did not conceal a racial tension. Successive governments came into power through non democratic means and entrenched the anti-Tutsi spirit. The genocide had its foundations strengthened politically and culturally with such notable events as assassination of Habyarimana. Although it was not the reason of the genocide per se, it served as a trigger to a previously planned event. In addition, the instruments such as Radio Milles Collines preached anti-Tutsi and anti-Arusha accords in the local dialects. Additionally, the Hutu Manifesto in 1957 and the Hutu 10 Commandments in 1990, prior to the genocide, indicated systematic planning. The commandments prevented marrying, befriending or employing of Tutsi women. It indicated that all strategic positions should be Hutu’s, which called for no mercy towards Tutsi. Thus, the above mentioned facts indicate historical evidence of underlying causes that led to the genocide (Southgate, 2011).
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Apart from focusing on the underlying causes and sources of the genocide, the given study also points out to a number of particular persons. It indicates that the individuals involved in actual genocide were the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi radical militia groups. What is more, the Interahamwe were the main drivers of the genocide comprising of young Hutu men who had the backing of the government. On the other hand, the Impuzamugambi were more anti-Tutsi; they applied severe killing methods, though they were less widespread and disorganized. Other players that were identified are regional governments that are guilty of their acts or omissions. Evidence shows that machetes were brought into the country prior to the genocide. However, the colonialists, i.e. German and Belgium colonialists, played a major role in laying ground as indicated above. They were not the perpetrators per se but they contributed a lot to this horrible event (World without Genocide, 2012).
Apart from interrogating the underlying causes and the main actors, this study considers Rwanda’s challenges in the present day on the quest for justice and national healing. According to International Panel of Eminent Personalities (IPEP) (2000), Rwanda has to deal with a number of genocide victims, who are still in the refugee camps in Uganda and neighboring countries. The regional strife in Uganda and Congo, which may have supported the genocide, reminds that Rwanda has to be sure that it can prevent such terrifying events in the future (Adelman, 2002). The notable challenge of the genocide influence on the national healing is the visual remainder of the 1994 experience. It should be mentioned that only the key perpetrators were tried, and most executor gangs can be still seen locally by the survivors. The Hutu extremists, who have been in Congo, are also returning to Rwanda under President Kagame’s policy; this is also a big challenge for the Tutsi people. All in all, Rwanda is up against a hard task, namely an attempt to compound the killers with their victims (Longman, 2012).
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Rwanda is also facing a challenge of partial justice and misuse of anti-genocide law. It was reported that President Kagame’s RPF was involved in killing over 45,000 people, but the severe crimes were not investigated. In addition, the still penalties and requirements imposed under the new laws on the genocide ideology are misused. Besides, the government is already authoritarian, but there are issues on democratic principles, such as previous elections, that need addressing. Additionally, with over 1300 cases (2007-08) on the anti-genocide law, the country will probably have to pay a high price for recovering, since this anti-dissent law that allows the prosecution of even minors that might actually lead to dissent (The Economist, 2009).
Another prominent challenge is the persistence of tyranny and crimes against women. The worst is that the genocide involved gang raping and that most of women contracted HIV/AIDS. As a result, there is a big number of HIV positive children. Unfortunately, such horrible crimes are left unpunished due to cultural norms that prevent women from speaking on sexual issues publicly. It is also notable that the majority of rape victims was below eighteen years old and was accused of fabricating stories when giving evidence. There are still a lot of mutilated individuals and lives in Rwanda, and Kagame’s RPF soldiers are also responsible for some rape incidences but, of course, they are left unpunished. The main consequences of this horrible disaster are demographic imbalance, health challenges, continuous oppression towards women, partial justice and many others challenges (French, 2013).
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However, Rwanda has been able to rebuild its economy and now it continues to stretch the limits of accommodating perpetrators in the nation building. The economy is recovering; moreover, Rwanda is among the most law abiding countries in Africa. However, political system is yet to be constructed in a way that prevents such a disaster, and Kagame’s government is yet to come clean on many issues (French, 2013). However, the study concludes that the gains made are substantial, but the challenges of the genocide are far from being over since some its consequences entrenched deeply into the country’s identity (Ruxin, 2010).