Genocide In Rwanda And Burundi Essay, Research Paper
Between April and July of 1994, more than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsi civilians, were slaughtered in a genocidal campaign organized by the Hutu hard-liners. By educating myself as well as others, I hope that we can prevent genocide organizers from eliminating the minority, Tutsi, and remove the tensions between these two groups. Pressure must be placed on the government to put the 120,000 suspected genocide criminals on trial .
This topic is one of the most compelling human dramas of the century. Additionally, I am very interested in human rights violations that are occurring around the world and genocide seems to be the most extreme form of infringement.
By studying the history of Rwanda and Burundi I hope to understand the ethnic conflicts that are occurring. I would like to find more information about their local governments and why they supported the slaughtering of so many people. It is very important that problems such as these are not left ignored, but dealt with accordingly.
Rwanda and Burundi history is marked by the continuing and constant battling between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Although the Tutsi are the minority tribe within central Africa, they were traditionally the leaders with power over the Hutu in Rwanda and Burundi . The Tutsi and Hutu tribes, therefore, are highly significant actors for the genocide that took place in Rwanda and Burundi.
The people of Rwanda and Burundi are divided into three distinct and specific tribal groups, all which share a common language. The pygmoid Twa constitute for less than one percent of the population and are hunters and forest dwellers . Their significance is minimal regarding the genocide that affected the Hutu and Tutsi tribes.
Another tribal group are called the Hutu. The short, stocky, Hutu represent 85 percent of the population. They never organized a centralized political system, and their alliance is based on small units formed around clans. Furthermore, their head chiefs have made them very vulnerable. The Hutu’s race is Bantu, and therefore their ancestry is located somewhere in central or southern Africa.
The third group the Tutsi’s, entered and conquered Rwanda through a combination of force and persuasion. The Tutsi represent a little more then 15 percent of the population and were militarily advanced compared to the Hutu. The Hutu come from Ethiopia, and became the most powerful tribe in Central Africa. The Tutsi’s acquired culture and beliefs from the Hutu’s. This aided in their assimilating and eventual success of tribal domination throughout Rwanda and Burundi .
The Tutsi were clearly a minority in the region. However, to say that this minority dominated over the majority Hutu is too simple. The Tutsi were more numerous and dominant in some areas than others. The Tutsi adopted the Hutu language, customs and traditions.
The Hutu and Tutsi still battle today as both groups fight for land, freedom, and power. Another significant actor involved with the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi is the east African neighboring nation of Tanzania. Tanzania has served as a place of safe refuge for the fleeting people of Rwanda ad Burundi. One example of Tanzania’s “Open Arm Policy” was in 1993, when they accepted nearly 300,000 citizens of Burundi who fled for their lives crossing the border to escape the bloody coup. A second example of their humanitarian efforts was in 1994, when over 500,000 people of Rwanda escaped the massacres of their homelands and retreated to the comforts of the neighboring nation, Tanzania .
While there are many problems that in some way led to the genocide that occurred in Rwanda and Burundi, it is my contention that the dominant problem was the complete social division within the two countries. The division between the Hutu and Tutsi cuts through all aspects of life. The division that exists has defined life in these two volatile countries for generations.
For many years, the Hutu and Tutsi tribes lived in an unstable peace with one another. The Tutsi acted as feudal lords over the nation, equipped with their own monarchy and ruling elite. The Hutu served as serfs for their Tutsi lords. This arrangement provided an uneasy security for both parties. The majority Hutu population was governed and protected by the Tutsi, who in turn prosperity for themselves through the Hutu’s labor .
This original arrangement was changed with colonialism by Germany, and following the First World War, Belgian colonial occupation. The Hutu under colonial administration were exploited as slave labor. The existing Tutsi hierarchy was used by the colonial powers as an administration for monitoring the slave labor. Therefore, the Tutsi came to act as local representatives of the colonial power .
The result was a complete breakdown of traditional respect and contractual relationships between the Hutu and Tutsi. As the Hutu came to resent colonial rule, the Tutsi became the focus of much of their anger. The Tutsi carried out the orders of the colonial power. By the late 1950’s, the Hutu had organized opposition to colonial rule and to the Tutsi monarchy. In 1959, this resulted in a revolution among Hutu that forced the Tutsi monarch to flee the nation. The Hutu proclaimed a democratic republic in its place. A United Nations supervised referendum confirmed the abolition of the monarchy in 1961, with 86 percent (obviously Hutu) approving the measure .
The Tutsis in exile did not rest. They organized in neighboring African countries, specifically Uganda, where a Tutsi backed coup-de-etat took over the nation in 1986. It was in Uganda that the children and grandchildren of the Tutsis exiled in the sixties organized the Rwandan Patriotic (RPF), an army of mostly Tutsis prepared to “take back” their homeland. They made their move in on October 1, 1990 when they launched a full-scale invasion of Rwanda from Ugandan territory. They sincerely believed that not only Tutsi, but Hutu as well, would welcome a return to Tutsi rule .
Thousands fled Rwanda in advanced of the fighting. It was fear of a return to Tutsi minority rule that prompted the Hutu genocide of the Tutsi, and more important the loss of free power. Shortly after the downing of the (Hutu) Rwandan president’s plane on April 6, 1994, the Hutu extremist government began the mass killing of all Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The RPF found that it had to fight harder than in had originally expected, but eventually it secured military “victory” over the Hutu in July of 1994, but not before thousands were slaughtered on both sides .
The modern history of Burundi shares similarities with that of Rwanda. It too was originally a society of coexisting Hutu and Tutsi. It was subsequently made a colony of Germany, and then Belgium as well. The evacuation of Belgian colonial rule in Burundi occurred in 1962, around the same time as Rwanda. What differed between the two nation’s histories was that Burundi retained Tutsi minority rule after independence. In the 1970’s, the Hutu attempted to challenge that, but their efforts resulted in 10,000 Tutsi and 150,000 Hutu deaths with no change in the political make-up of the nation. When Burundi did finally allow for democratic elections in 1991, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, won and secured power peacefully. Once again, the sheer numbers of Hutu ensured their victory in a democratic forum .
The transition to democracy, however, meant heightening tensions because of the division of the nation into specifically ethnic political parties. In 1993, Tutsis killed Ndadaye in a violent coup; the Tutsis have still retained their positions of power in Burundi’s military. Thus although the Tutsi are a distinct minority, they have the advantage of superior military training .
Since then, a civil war has gripped Burundi; and what has happened there has only made things worse for Rwandans. This is due to the fact that many Rwandan Hutu have been exposed to Burundi Hutu’s horror stories about the atrocities committed by the Tutsi army in Burundi, thus heightening Rwandan Hutu paranoia .
In Rwanda and Burundi, a genocidal campaign murdered more then a million people purely because of their social identity. The conflict over ethnic groups was brought into affect because of the social division that existed. In Rwanda, the main actors of the genocide that took place in April of 1994 were Hutu extremist militias, members of the former military, and innocent citizens .
In Burundi the social division, like in Rwanda, is very evident. The Tustis in Burundi, although an overwhelming minority, have advanced training, skills, and overall knowledge. With advanced knowledge and skills the Tutsis were able to hold better paying jobs and positions of authority. Tutsi extremists took violent actions against the Hutu civilians. To combat this, Hutus extremists armed themselves and fought the Tutsis. The minority has been able to overcome the majority, and flourish because of their distinct advantage .
This division of power between the minority and the majority is not a problem by itself. It is when this power becomes corrupt and, or oppressive that a problem arises. When a group feels that they are being mistreated, left out, or oppressed they will revolt for freedom. It is my opinion that this is what occurred in these countries and that the genocide was a result.
The economic division within these two countries dates back to pre-colonial periods. The Tutsi have long controlled the economy of Burundi, while in Rwanda the Hutu have been in control since Independence. In Burundi the Tutsis controlled the entire economy structure, while in Rwanda the Hutu were able to take over when they overthrew the Tutsis in 1959. The economic disparities between the Hutus and Tutsis aided to the already volatile and hostile situation .
Neither Rwanda nor Burundi has ever been economically successful. Both of these countries depend on predominantly on agriculture. Around 90 percent of the export revenues of these countries come from the production of coffee and tea. Both of these nations have huge financial debts and outrageously high poverty levels. In the early 1990’s, there was a worldwide recession and as a result the profits from coffee and tea sales fell. The falling profits and the loss of wages only heightened the already tense situation. In Burundi, the Tutsi minority who controlled and owned most of the countries plantations were resented by the working class Hutu. Although not all Tutsi’s were wealthy and not all Hutu were poor, the dire economic environment only magnified the situation. The Tutsis in Burundi, fearful of a Tutsi lead Rwandan Patriotic front (RPF) take over murdered hundreds of thousands .
Up to this point I have not explained why I am classifying this as a social problem rather than ethnic problem. This is not the latter because in Rwanda, along with the thousands of Tutsi’s that the extremist Hutu slaughtered, were many moderate Hutu. The genocide that occurred was not an ethnic conflict but a social-political conflict. The Hutu who ere killed by the extremist militias were slaughtered because they did not share the same political views.
During the Rwandan genocide, fear and insecurity promoted violence. Ethnic consciousness, created by the existing government, and hunger for land led peaceful Hutu farmers to participate in the massacre of their neighbors. This caused the Tutsis to act violently in response. In 1994, 10,000 persons a day were murdered. In Rwanda the threat of losing control is what sparked the genocide .
In Burundi, violence has increased with intensity. As in Rwanda the armed forces have turned on the civilian population. They have indiscriminately killed civilians without regard of ethnicity, many of whom were women, children, and the elderly. Aid workers, including UN and NGO staffs have become prime targets. Insecurity has been increasing as the armies lose control. The troops are underpaid and are under severe strain. The Hutu rebels in Burundi are gaining increasing cooperation from the civilian population and have increased the intensity of their activities .
As the army loses control the violence increases. In Burundi the Tutsi led government has been in control since the countries independence and fear of losing power is the direct cause for the genocide which was unleashed .
It is hard to see any major global problems arising from the genocide that occurred in these countries. These two countries have always been small actors, at best, on the global scale. Rwanda and Burundi are more easily influenced by the global community than they are an influence on the global community. If these genocide’s had occurred in a more powerful country, the repercussions on the global level would have been much greater (Carter) .
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) entered Rwanda in October of 1993 and left in March of 1996. Along the way, the United Nations spent nearly $450 million and sent some 5,500 military personnel into the region (UN org.). Initially the peacekeeping force was sent into Rwanda in order to establish the Arusha Peace Agreement, which the warring factions signed in August of 1993. In April of 1994 when the fighting renewed, the UNAMIR’s mandate was altered. This made the UNAMIR the intermediary between the two sides. When the situation worsened they became the security forces for refugees and civilians at risk. The eventual cease-fire was UN-brokered and established a new government. Once the violence stopped, the UN was able to stop their role as security and begin prosecuting those accused of war crimes, especially violators of crime of genocide, although up until now only one person has been convicted by the UN war tribunal .
In Burundi, the UN has not been a major force, as of yet. But if the pattern continues like that of Rwanda, the UN will become a quick and decisive influence. Now
that the genocide in the two regions has been recognized, genocide in Burundi will not be allowed to go unpunished .
An effect of the genocide’s that occurred, an affect which is just now coming to light, are the international war tribunals that are currently underway. The first person was convicted of war crimes and brought to justice only recently. The prosecution of those who committed the horrific acts of genocide seems to be taking a long time. Although it has not been a speedy process the UN has had to deal with many obstacles in the process of taking the accused to trial. Now that they have conducted the first trial, and punished the guilty party, hopefully things will move more rapidly .
In 1945, the Second World War came to an end. Although the axis powers were crushed with defeat, Hitler was still successful in exterminating six million Jewish people. This horrific form of genocide was supposedly learned from, as world leaders pledged not to allow it to occur ever again. This promise was further emphasized on December 9, 1948, when the United Nations adopted a definition of genocide in the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Since the meaning of the world genocide was established, the UN has tried to contain this type of murder in other countries throughout the world. AN example of this has been seen in both Rwanda and Burundi as well as other countries, which unfortunately have not been as publicized as the war crimes committed in World War II. The caliber of the Holocaust was so intense that many people refuse to admit that other forms of genocide are still occurring. Although they are not as dramatized or as big, they are just as inhumane and have to be stopped.
In order for this to be accomplished, we all have to play a helpful role. Obviously, we can not all fight in a direct manner, but we are able to speak out and let those involved in murder know, that their actions will not be tolerated. People have to learn to overlook others differences. Discrepancies such as, color of skin, ethnicity, religious background, sex as well as sexual orientation should be irrelevant in our species. We all have one common similarity, and that is we are all human beings who have the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are all responsible for everyone else in the world.
Carter Center, The. Office of Public Information. “State of World Conflict Report: Rwanda.” Carterweb@emory.edu. June 2, 1996.
CNNIN Interactive. “Rwanda Denies Involvement in Congo’s 1996-1997 Massacres.” www.cnn.com. 1998.
Coalition for International Justice. “Suspects Indicted by the Rwandan Tribunal.” http://persoweb.francenet.fr/~intermed. Or firstname.lastname@example.org. July, 21 1998.
Encarta Encyclopedia. “Burundi.” Microsoft Corporation. 1993-1995.
Encarta Encyclopedia. “Rwanda.” Microsoft Corporation. 1993-1995
Joseph, Paul. “Rwanda: Its Political History from Pre-colonial Times to the Present.”
Introduction to Comparative Politics. Slippery Rock University. Dec. 1997.
Kay, Reginald. Burundi Since the Genocide. The Minority Rights Group. Report#20. 1982.
Louis, WM. Roger. Ruanda-Urundi: 1884-1919. Oxford: Clarendon, 1963
Time Daily. “More Killing in Rwanda.” www.time.com. Dec 11, 1997.
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