Rwandan Genocide Essay

Submitted By Frederickchall1
Words: 1809
Pages: 8

Frederick Hall
Colonial Genocide

Conflict is an entity that appears in many different forms, each depending largely on the influential factors. The region of Sub-Saharan Africa is host to a long list of embedded strife. Most of these countries have been disjointed from the domineering rule of European colonialism. And although Rwanda’s bout with colonialism may have been short in duration (1890s-1960s), its impact on the subsequent political environment was significant. Some of these inherited colonial problems include: the imposition of arbitrary boundaries, reinforcement of a non-hegemonic state, weak links between state and civil society, the promotion of an African elite, the construction of a specialized export economy, and the absence of stable political institutions. Each of these problems has caused, in one way or another, instability to the pre-genocide nation of Rwanda, and indirectly links the genocide to the colonial rule of Germany and Belgium. However, there are other direct factors that must be pondered. For this, a look at the effect of colonialism will begin first, followed by an assessment of the political events (domestically and internationally) leading up to the genocide. Rwanda is a state whose boundaries are a product of external European logic and fit terribly with regard to political, social and economic divisions. Going back the 18th century, Africa was carved and claimed by Europe’s elite nations. These ill-fitting boarders that remain today are a product of European imperialism. The 14 landlocked countries and upwards of 30 civil wars are testaments of the colonialists failure at mapping. Rwanda specifically is a landlocked country containing two rival tribes: the Hutus and Tutsis. Amidst the time of independence (1959-1962), Rwanda was split from Burundi, causing more Hutu and Tutsis to become grouped together. Because of this, many Hutus developed the notion that Tutsi had come down from the north to enslave them. Thus, this turmoil was greatly irritated by the European boundaries. The Germans and Belgians viewed colonialism as a short-term economic opportunity. Their intentions were to replicate that of a vampire state, putting little effort into developing infrastructure and political institutions, but focusing economic development solely in profitable regions. Because of this focus on the raw materials of coffee, potatoes, and other crops, a specialized export economy was constructed. Lacking economic diversity, Rwanda has been subject to the volatility of the market and dependent on each year’s harvest. Even a small drought or price reduction can have serious effects on economic and societal welfare. The other detrimental effects from the continuation of a non-hegemonic state are the lack of human resources and public services. This has caused continued poverty and desperation for change. As seen in Germany with the rise of fascism, desperation can often fuel radical uprisings. Similar to many other colonies, Germany selected the Tutsis (a select tribe in Rwanda) that was deemed above the rest. By empowering these select few, the colonialists had averted the problem of communication and policing the country. These people were initially distinguished from the Hutu peasantry by a taller build and a thinner nose.[1] However, years of intermarriage between the groups made the physical distinction undetectable. Instead, the Tutsi class was denominated by status and wealth, allowing for movement between the groups. After Germany relinquished imperial control of Rwanda in 1916, Belgium stepped in and continued indirect rule through the Tutsis. Under this new administration, the class divide grew tremendously. While the Tutsis were educated and appointed higher office positions, the Hutus were denied access to education, continuing their peasantry status.[2] What later became an important factor for the genocide was the issuing of identity cards, often compared to the “Star of David in