Academic journal article Military Review

Amnesty Reintegration, and Reconciliation in Rwanda

Academic journal article Military Review

Amnesty Reintegration, and Reconciliation in Rwanda

Article excerpt


IMAGINE EVERY MAN, woman, and child in an American city of 781,000 brutally murdered in four months, the victims mostly hacked to death with machetes. In 1994, Rwanda, which lies at the crossroads of the Great Lakes Region of central Africa, experienced murder on such a scale--a genocidal frenzy. The following discussion examines what conditions could possibly set off such a horrific slaughter and how the country has attempted to recover from the calamity.

Until 6 April 1994, few people in the world knew about Rwanda or its rich history. Even as the slaughter occurred, the world knew little of the event, or that the major players in Rwanda's internecine holocaust lived well beyond Rwandan borders. The country's colonizers, Belgium and Germany, and world powers such as the United States and France helped create the conditions for genocide as much as the Hutus and Tutsis themselves did.

A Legacy of Hatred

Rwanda was born of European colonialism. The calculated policies of Belgium, Germany, and France divided Rwanda against itself for easier colonial rule. These policies of 19th century rule had a lasting effect and are currently the major reasons for obstacles to 21st century reconciliation and stability.

Different theories suggest origins for traditions that divide the Hutus from the Tutsis, but discernable facts prove that Hutus and Tutsis are ethnically and anthropologically the same. They have always shared the same language, territories, traditions, and taboos. Moreover, Hutus could (and still can) become Tutsis by marriage or the procurement of wealth. The arbitrary identity of Tutsi or Hutu could change based on the number of cattle a person owned. Classically, Hutus have been farmers and Tutsis have been herdsmen, a divide as ancient as the mythology of Cain and Abel. (1)

This Hutu-Tutsi societal division thrived as a colonial caste system based on folklore and perpetrated through political policies. (2) Every European country responsible for the colonial rule of Rwanda exploited the so called "anthropology" of Hutuism and Tutsism for economic purposes. The Belgians, for instance, designated Tutsis as the administrators and Hutus as the workers under their rule. (3) Two other factors accentuated this artificial distinction: the Belgian requirement that Hutus and Tutsis carry identification cards denoting them as such and the "Hamitic Theory" emphasized by the Hutus when they subsequently came to power in 1959. (4)

These societal distinctions led to official and unofficial bigotry before and after Rwandan independence. Before independence, the colonial departments governed through a Tutsi hierarchy. After independence in 1959, international support switched to the Hutus. During the entire period of Hutu governance, Tutsis became the scapegoats for all failed policies and suffered decreased educational opportunities, segregation from government positions, removal from positions of influence as teachers and judges, and massacre at the hands of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR). (5)

Resentment from the societal divide has always threatened Rwanda's security environment with instability. From a political standpoint, the rift has led to the perceptions of nepotism in government positions, biases in the adjudication of justice, and divisive attitudes about governmental re-education of both Hutus and Tutsis. These conditions undermined efforts of any tribe or party that came to power. War and the cataclysmic genocide subsequently had a devastating effect on the Rwandan economy, totally destroying the country's basic industry, civil services, and key infrastructure.

Only by overcoming segregation and its humiliating effects will Rwanda become a functional, stable country. Progress will require internal and external security from a functioning government not based on a caste system. …

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