Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa: Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War

Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa: Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War

Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa: Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War

Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa: Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War

Synopsis

Scherrer examines the ethnicized conflicts, periodic war, and genocide in Rwanda and Burundi. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda may have resulted in the murder of a million Tutsi and moderate Hutu, while the mass killings in Burundi, especially in 1993 when some 200,000 Hutu and Tutsi were killed, and the current ongoing war in the Congo appear to have the potential to escalate into another round of genocide in the region. Scherrer explores the background to the conflicts as well as what the international community might do to break this tragic cycle of violence and despair.

Excerpt

I first met Dr. Scherrer at a conference on comparative aspects of genocide in Stuttgart in 1997, where we were both participants. In our conversations I was impressed by his wide-ranging interests and moved by his firsthand intimate knowledge of Rwanda. He described how as a young researcher for the United Nations he had witnessed the legacy of mass death and what an indelible impression that experience had had for him. Since then we have met again at the Association of Genocide Scholars conference in Madison, Wisconsin (June 1999) and at the Stockholm International Conference on the Holocaust (January 2000). Dr. Scherrer combines a keen analytic intelligence with a sensitive regard for human beings and human life, which makes him an especially compelling scholar of contemporary genocide.

Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa is aptly titled because he calls attention to the processes whereby the Hutu and Tutsi strata (castes or classes) were actively transformed in Rwanda and Burundi first into competing ethnic groups and then into irreconcilable races by the experience of colonialism and state formation (the process of ethnicization). When in the nineteenth century the German and Belgian colonialists came upon the two kingdoms, they were struck by their wealth, power, and social organization. Both Rwanda and Burundi were ruled by kings and by a “Tutsi” aristocracy of pastoralists that dominated a “Hutu” peasantry. Though both groups were African, it seemed to the Europeans that physically the Tutsi resembled Europeans and thus were “racially” distinct from and superior to the Hutu. Searching for a way to understand what they experienced in Rwanda and Burundi, the colonialists invented the Hamitic hypothesis whereby the Tutsis were cast as a superior race of conquerors from “Ethiopia” that had subjugated the inferior native Bantu Hutu some hundreds of years prior to European colonization.

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