Saturday, 3 November 2012

Rwanda - Genocide

What was the Rwanda Genocide?

The Rwanda genocide occurred in April 1994 and resulted in the deaths of over an estimated 800, 000 Rwandans, mainly Tutsi's and Hutu moderates.[1] Approximately 20% of Rwanda’s population lost their lives in the genocide and three-quarters of the Tutsi civilian population.[2] Most of these deaths occurred in a period of just 100 days.[3]

Where is Rwanda?

Why Did the Rwanda Genocide occur?

The Rwanda genocide was a result of tensions between Hutus and Tutsis (the two main tribes in Rwanda) that stemmed from Colonial rule. Belgium colonisers had left power to the Hutu but had previously given the majority of the high status posts to the Tutsi. Many Hutus blamed the Tutsis for being responsible for Rwanda’s economic and political problems and bitterly remembered past centuries of Tutsi rule and oppression. Tensions were sparked when the plane of President Habyarimana was shot down on 6th April 1994. Although there was no clear evidence of who was responsible for this, Hutu extremists blamed the Tutsi and used it as an excuse to start a civil war targeting the Tutsi and their sympathisers.[4] Within just two hours of the plane being shot down,  roadblocksappeared on the streets of Kigali. The perpetrators' aim was to exterminate all of the Tutsi population, regardless of sex or age.  The genocide originally started in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, but quickly spread to the rural areas, fueled by RTLM radio.

Who was involved in the Rwanda genocide?

Around 200, 000 people were involved in the killings, including many Hutu members who were high up in the national government, military and media.[5] The media played an important role in inspiring hate against the Tutsi and failing to report the events that were occurring accurately. Hutu civilians were also involved once the violence became widespread.

Whole families lost their lives in the genocide. Many people were tortured before they were killed and women were often brutally raped before they were murdered, which led to the spread of HIV.
Many people tried to seek refuge in churches and schools in an attempt to escape from the horrific slaughter. However, the Hutu extremists just used them for committing mass murders.  The enforced carrying of identity cards detailing whether people were Tutsi or Hutu (put in place by colonial rule) made is easier to identify potential victims.

Thankfully now, Rwanda avoids using tribal distinctions and most these days call themselves Rwandese.

What can you do to help genocide survivors?

There are a number of ways you can support the survivors of the Rwanda genocide. One excellent way is by buying beautiful Rwandan gifts from organisations such as Kigali Crafts, which helps to support genocide survivors through fair trade. Kigali Crafts now financially supports over 100 Rwandan families.

You can also volunteer or sponsor a child through a charity such as Faith Victory Association.Faith Victory Association helps genocide survivors to get the essential trauma counselling they need and the support to raise families as lone parents.

Follow this link to do something positive about the Rwanda genocide.

Further Reading

For further reading, I recommend We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. It gives an excellent and easy to read historical and political context to the Rwandan genocide.

You can also read my next blog, which will focus on the intervention of international governments (or lack of) during the Rwanda genocide.

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