Imagine a world where there is constant conflict. There is no room for peace and a civil society. This is what it was like in Rwanda. Whenever there is constant conflict in a country, it hurts the people. While that is a negative affects of conflict, there are also lessons that can be learned as well.Rwanda was not always this way. At one point they a united country. The tension eventually boiled over and it turned into what we know as the Rwandan Genocide. While discussing the Rwandan genocide and bring forth it’s negative affects, also pointed out will be three lessons that could be learned from it. There is so much that can be learned from an event of so much and tolerance and injustice to humanity. The first lesson learned is that hatred can lead to genocide of minorities. The second lesson is that remaining silent in the face of such crimes makes them worse. The third lesson is how important it is to remember those affected by the genocide. The past cannot be changed but there is so much we can learn from it.
Rwanda is located in the Central African Great Lakes Region, which is close to the equator. It was considered a lush country and is considered quite fertile. Early on both the Hutus and the Tutsis had their own leaders (Haperen,,2009). At some point that all changed. Tension in Rwanda was not something that will on common. There were constant disagreements between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The Tutsis were considered the minority.The Hutus or consider the majority. Both at the groups spoke the same language, lives in the same areas, and follow the same traditions (Rwanda: How the Genocide Started, 2011). In 1916, the Belgian colonist considered the Tutsis to be superior to the Hutus. This naturally cause resentment to grow among the Hutus. It all came to ahead and 1959 when there were a series of riots that resulted in more than 20,000 Tutsis being killed in mini fling to nearby countries.
Ultimately Belgium relinquished its power and Rwanda was granted its independence in 1962. From that point the Hutus took over. Once they took over they begin to create a list of potential Tutsi targets. They also begin stockpiling weapons. They also launched the radio channel used with the intent of inciting hatred towards the Tutsis. According to Reid (2014), there were peacemaking attempts in 1993 but they were unsuccessful. Not only was Rwanda dealing with ethnic tension, they were also dealing with a poor economy under the leadership of president Juvenal Habyarimana. Meanwhile, the Tutsis that had fled formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front. The government made attempts to diffuse the hostile climate. However, “in the early parts of 1994, it became clear that the government of Rwanda had not acted in good faith in signing peace treaties with its adversary, the Rwandan Patriotic Front” (Taylor, 1999).
On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying the then president Habyarimana was shot down. The day after, the genocide began. One of the soldiers that took place in the genocide stated, “ after the airplane crashed, we no longer asked ourselves who supported the program of the president’s party or that of an opposition party. We only thought about one thing. Questions were no longer asked about who was handling guns, who had experience with this or that militia, or who had never let a machete fall from their hands. There was work to be done, and you did it as well as you could” (Haperen, 2009)..Soldiers began to execute Tutsi leaders. They also began to setup checkpoints and barricades to screen IDs. Anyone identified as a Tutsi was killed. “They also recruited and pressured Hutus civilians to arm themselves with machetes and other weapons and encouraged them to rape, kill their Tutsi neighbors and to destroy or steal their property” (Rwandan Genocide, n.d). For the next 100 days, April 7 to mid July, there was a mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda. It was estimated that about 1 million Rwandans were killed. 70% were said to be Tutsi.
Initially, there was no real attempt to stop the killings. According to BBC.com, “ the UN and Belgium had forces there in Rwanda but the UN mission was not given a mandate to stop killings. The conflict was about a year after US troops were killed in Somalia, so the US decided not to become apart of another African conflict” (Rwanda genocide: 100 days of slaughter, 2014). There were many effects of the Rwandan genocide. There was a large amount of destruction which caused a negative impact on the economy. There were also lessons that could be learned from this.
The first lesson learned is that hatred can lead to genocide of minorities. The Hutus were feud by hatred to act. There was already so much tension. When the Belgium colonist deemed the Tutsis superior it forced the Hutus to become jealous. From that point it build up to become what we know as the Rwandan genocide. “ poison is not always something to eat or drink, it could be an emotion” (Sklare, 2017). This is the level of hatred that cause so many people to act on impulse. Nobody took the time to identify who actually shut down the plane, they simply responded. “All of a sudden, Hutus became patriotic Brothers, and there was no political differences of opinion between them. We assembled on the football field and I trust a group and set off together, united in our hunt (Haperen, 2009).
Imagine being fueled by so much hatred that you were willing to put aside any personal agenda to kill people This should help teach people to love and respect others no matter the differences. The Rwandan genocide to prove the hatred is strong emotion. We should allow this to teach us not to be lead to action from hatred.
Clare Short (2003) states, “ the ethnic hatred that made the genocide possible was generated by Belgian colonialism. Rwandans had one shared language in a long history as a united country. But some people were cattle owners and others tilled the land. Some were tall with thin features like Ethiopians and others were more stocky, with broad features, like the majority of Africans. The Belgians based their power on divide and rule. They embellished a racial myth that the tall, thin Tutsi minorities were descendants from Royal lineage and the stocky Hutus were inferior people.” The government that was over the people played a part in creating the hatred that caused the event. By using the divide and rule method, they caused people who were once united to become adversaries.
The next lesson that could be learned is that remaining silent in the face of such crimes make things worse. There had been many attempts at peace making prior to the genocide taking place. However, once the genocide begin there was not a rush to action to stop it. According to thefactfile.org, there was not a timely response to the genocide. They even went as far as to blame the lack of a timely response for the scale of the Rwandan genocide(2017). There were many organizations in several countries that did not make an attempt to stop the killings.The United Nations has people there but made no attempts to end the violence. The United States even decided to stay out of it.
There is a Latin proverb that says “he who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree” (Silence and Consensus, n.d). It is often said that if some type of injustice is happening and you are silent about it, it is as if you are giving your consent. There were even countries that had soldiers present that opted not to take part. The situation could have ended sooner or it could have been a better outcome if someone had stepped in sooner than they did. In an article written by Nancy Isenson (2009), it talks about how the world literally stood still and did nothing while corpses began to fill the streets in Rwanda. The UN had troops there but did not allow them to get involved.
There was also information that pointed out that there was previous knowledge that something really bad could happen. “The Belgian government was well aware of the risks in Rwanda, and, in the weeks beforehand, pleaded with the US and UK diplomats at the United Nations to reinforce the pathetic, ineffectual peacekeeping mission they’d mandated for Rwanda. The US and the UK refused to help and sent the message to those planning the genocide that they could continue, knowing that the world would fail to react” (Isenson,2009). This shows how being silent could have given the idea that this type of behavior would be okay. This would have made the perpetrators feel that it was okay to do this as nobody would step in to stop them. In this case they were correct.
The next lesson that could be learned is that it is important to remember those affected by the genocide. It is always a good idea to remember those that were affected by such heinous acts. Not only is it important to remember those people, it’s also important to remember the lessons that could be learned from such an experience. It’s important not to simply learn from the experience but to act on what was learned as well.
One of the survivors of the event was quoted, “ When the perpetrators started burning people’s houses, we ran to the parish church.Mayor was with the soldiers. He told them, “Take your tools and get to work. You hit snakes on the head to kill them.” They started killing… I lay among the corpses and tried to hold my breath. They would throw rocks or pick up kids and throw them in the air. They threw a stone at me and I screamed for mercy. He kicked me and spat on the ground saying that he wouldn’t splash my blood onto him. Then he cut my head with a machete. I don’t know what happened after that (Haperen, 2009). It is important to have that glimpse into what those people must have felt in those moments, the 100 days of nonstop killing. It is a valuable lesson to remember what they endured. It is important to use that lesson so that we are able to prevent something like this from happening again.
Going back and changing the past is impossible. What we can do is move forward in a way where such an event doesn’t happen again. Nearly 1 million people loss their lives due to people acting out of hatred. It is important that we grab a hold of the lessons that have been learned and strive to be better people to one another. We all have our differences and that’s what makes us all special. At no point should we sit and watch something like this happen again. If we do, we should speak up, take action and hope that it helps to lessen the effect of it. There is so much that can be learned from the Rwandan Genocide. Hopefully the greatest lesson is to make sure that something like this never happens again.