The Rwanda Genocide occurred despite theinternational outcry of “never again” which began after the end of theHolocaust. Even though developed countries promised that they would not allowthese types of atrocities to ever occur, they still did.
The Rwanda Genocidelasted three months from April 1994 to June 1994, it was within these threemonths that an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in a systematic fashion.The mass killings were orchestrated by the Hutu controlled Rwandan government,shortly after Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, who happened to be a Hutu,died after his plane was shot down. This therefore angered Hutus because theybelieved that the Tutsis were responsible for this atrocity which sparked akilling campaign that immediately turned into a genocide (BBC, 2011). But theseevents where not the sole cause of the genocide. This essay will explain howthe Hutus perpetrated the Rwandan genocide by using Dr. Stanton’s eight stagesof genocide, this will be done by using historical context to explain anddescribe the eight stages that led up to the genocide. This essay will alsoexplain and analyze how foreign factors contributed to the escalation of the genocide.
But first it is important to analyzethe historical context leading up to genocide and to explain the 8 stages ofgenocide. The genocide and mass killings in Rwanda had already occurred in thepast. Therefore, in order to understand this, it is important to look back atthe Tutsi and Hutu tribal relationships. The Tutsis are historically a cattleherding tribe which several hundred years ago migrated south into the EastCentral African region that is today made up of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and EasternZaire. This region had been already settled by the Hutus which are historicallyfarmers. Over time the Tutsis and the Hutus began to intermarry untileventually both tribes began to share common cultures, religion, and language.
But despite these shared characteristics these two tribes would eventually havedeep divisions that would lead to violent consequences. Part of the reason forthis lies within European Imperialism. These divisions were created during theGerman rule (1889) and Belgium rule (1916-1961) when the Tutsis being aminority were put into the upper class which would eventually rule over theHutus (Dekmejian, 2007). Therefore, since the Tutsis belonged to the upperclass they were allowed to access higher education and were allowed to holdauthority over the Hutus therefore, turning the Hutus into serf.
This createdprofound resentment and hate among Hutus towards the Tutsis which began an eraof intransigent violence among both tribes. During their mandate over Rwandathe Belgians governed the territory with the help of Tutsi kings but since theTutsis demanded independence the Belgians decided to hand over the power to theHutus. By consequence this sparked violence that led to the killing of 100,000Tutsis in 1961, 20,000 in 1963, and to the killing of 100,000 Hutus by Tutsis.Eventually all these killings would take a toll and lead to the genocide of1994.
The historical context previouslymentioned helps in understanding why there existed so much resentment and hateamong the Hutus and the Tutsis, but what does it take to unleash a genocide?That’s why it’s important to look at the eight stages of genocide in order tounderstand what it takes for a genocide to occur. The eight stages of genocideare classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization,preparation, extermination (actual genocide), and denial. The first six stagesclassification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, andpreparation serve as early warning signs of a genocide. The first stage classification ischaracterized by the “us versus them” attitude and it is in this stage whereindividuals are separated and distinguished along the lines of race, religion,nationality, or ethnicity. It is in this stage that a society becomes dividedand a power struggle between groups is created. An example of classificationoccurred in 1916 when the Belgians began creating identification cards in orderto classify and differentiate Tutsis from Hutus. This was because the Belgiansconsidered the Tutsis more superior than the Hutus (BBC, 2011). The Belgiansused traits like nose size, height, and eye type (Stanton, Lecture Notes).
Thesecond stage is symbolization, it is in this stage when Belgian colonist beganusing the identification cards to symbolize status among the groups. Those whowere classified as Tutsis had access to education and those that wereclassified as Hutus did not have access to any type of assistance or education.But later these identification cards would prove to be deadly because theywould eventually be used in the genocide. The third stage of genocide isdehumanization. In this stage one group takes away the humanity of the other bymaking the other group seem subhuman. In Rwanda, this occurred when the “Huturegime subjected the Tutsis, moderate Hutus, and citizens of mixed percentageto brutal propaganda attacks accusing them of being collaborators” (Dekmejian,2007). Another example of the dehumanization is when Hutus began describing theTutsis as “cockroaches”. This therefore began to give an excuse ofjustification to call the genocide as an “ethnic cleansing” (Stanton, LectureNotes).
The fourth stage is organization which is when the state or governmentbegins to assemble “kill squads “like the secret police, or military groupswith the sole purpose of organizing and conducting the genocide. In Rwanda,this was evident when the Hutu controlled government began to train thenational police, the presidential guard, and other Hutu militias like theInterahanwe and the Inpuzamugambi for systematic mass killings despite theUnited Nation’s UNAMIR’s mission of peacekeepers. The fifth stage of genocide ispolarization. The stage of polarization occurs when extremist groups begin todrive groups apart, laws are created to forbid intermarriage and socialinteractions among groups, and those that are political moderates areintimidated and murdered.
In Rwanda, the stage of polarization can be seen whenmilitia forces begin to kill moderate Hutus (BBC, 2017) shortly after thegenocide begins. The sixth stage of genocide is preparation, this is whenvictim groups begin to be relocated to other regions where they will sufferhunger and famine. This stage is also characterized by the creation of deathlist by the government or group in charge (Stanton, Lecture Notes). Anothercharacteristic of preparation is the stockpiling of weapons. In Rwanda, thereare three clear examples of this. The first example occurred in 1959 when20,000 Tutsis where killed which forced many more to flee the country and seekrefuge in Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The second example occurred when Hutumilitias used identification cards to single out Tutsis. The third exampleoccurred with the distribution and stockpiling of 500,000 machetes to militantsby the government in order to kill Tutsis. The last two stages of genocide arestage seven and eight which are extermination (the actual genocide), anddenial. The seventh stage extermination is when mass killings begin and thegovernment officially legitimizes mass killings in a genocidal fashion. Thosethat commit genocide call it extermination because they believe that thevictims are subhuman and therefore by exterminating the victim they arepreforming an ethnic cleansing. This was evident in Rwanda in April 1994when the Rwandan government along with militant groups began the systematicmassacre of Tutsis. This killing rampage lasted 100 days and ended with a deathtoll of 800,000 Tutsis.
The eighth and final stage of genocide is denial. Duringthis stage state actors and perpetrators attempt to deny any fault orinvolvement in the genocide. Those involved in the Rwanda genocide attempted todeny being part of the genocide when shortly after “the RPF was victorious, anestimated two million Hutus fled to Zaire” (BBC, 2011) and among them were manywho were implicated in the massacre. The eight stages of genocide serveto help understand the steps that state actors take to eventually legitimizeand convince a population to systematically kill. But in most cases a genocideis not solely caused by internal factors it is also instigated or provoked by foreign factors.There are two types of foreign factors which instigated the Rwandan genocide,these factors are imperial aide to rebels and inaction from the internationalcommunity. When the Belgians granted Rwanda its independence in 1959, thissparked a violent uprising that forced 10,000 Tutsi into exile in theneighboring country of Uganda (Cameron, 2012). Therefore, within the 30 yearsof post-independence about half a million Tutsi left the country and of thosehalf million about 80,000 took refuge in Uganda.
Among those displaced Tutsisincluded many who previously were in the Rwandan military which helped fomentthe desire to return to invade Rwanda. Therefore, this interested the Britishdue the fact that the UK held important economic interests in the neighboringcountry of Uganda. So, in order to advance their interest in Uganda the Britishcapitalized on Rwandan refugees resentment by supporting the creation of the”Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), “a small but highly effective military andpolitical movement capable of engaging with Rwandan Government Forces (FAR)with political wing of the guerrilla movement as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)”(Cameron, 2012). The British support of the Rwandan Patriotic Front becameevident in October 1990 when thus group invaded Rwanda. Even though the RwandanPatriotic Front was defeated during this attack it eventually lead to thegenocide because it further deteriorated Tutsi and Hutu relations since theRwandan government was controlled by Hutus who distrusted the Tutsis. Evidencewould later show during the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that”the order for the October 1990 invasion…could not have happened without theknowledge, approval, and active assistance of…Britain’s Secret IntelligenceService (SIS) commonly referred to as MI-6” (Cameron, 2012). The second foreign factor thataggravated and allowed the Rwandan genocide was the inaction and idle standingof the international community. The genocide in Rwanda was atrocious andhorrible but more horrible was the reaction of Western powers.
In the timeperiod between February 1994 and April 1994, “tensions in Rwanda intensifiednoticeably as the paralysis in the government dragged on” (Newbury, 1995).During these three months, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) waskilled, in retaliation PSD supporters then killed the leader of the Coalitionfor the Defense of the Republic (CDR). Therefore, this sparked a wave ofviolent killings, burnings, and looting throughout Kigali. Meanwhile this washappening the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), which wascreated by United Nations Security Council on 5 October 1993 to end the RwandanCivil War, remained idle and did nothing to halt the onslaught. Which thereforegave militants a practice run for the genocide and further encouraged suchgroups to continue with the slaughter.
But the biggest crime was not the UNAMIR’sinaction, it was the actions taken by Western countries and the Western media.During the genocide, Western countries actions appeared “almost to acquiescein-and perhaps even further-the killings” (Newbury, 1995) because westerngovernments like the United States, England, and France only sent troops in tosave whites but not to stop the genocide. To even further the indifference ofthe West towards the genocide, media outlets in the U.S. like Nightline andSixty Minutes “persistently portrayed” the genocide “as simply the continuationof ancient tribal animosities-in spite of the empirical record” (Newbury,1995). Therefore, taking away any hope for intervention to stop the massacre.
The Rwanda Genocide occurred despitethe international outcry of “never again” because the international communityfailed to intervene or provide any form of protection to the thousands ofvictims of such atrocity. Maybe it was imperialism, international inaction, or intransigentethnic conflicts. But the truth is that the Rwandan genocide was caused by allthese factors. That is why it is important to analyze the historical contextleading up to genocide and to explain the 8 stages of genocide in order tobetter understand why these crimes on humanity occur because only by understandingthis and by having tolerance towards diversity can humanity truly say, “neveragain”.