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Causes and Effects of the Rwandan Genocide
The word ‘genocide’ originates from the Greek word ‘genos’ meaning tribe or race, and the Latin word ‘cide’ meaning killing (Cook 4). The Rwandan Genocide stands one of the worst massacres of its kind and one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the world (Cook 88). The genocide predominantly involved the slaying of the people of the Tutsi ethnic tribe. In just one hundred days, an approximately 800,000 Tutsis had been killed by people of the Hutu ethnic tribe (Barnett 4). This portion accounted for about a tenth of the population the East African nation. The Hutu also died during the genocide, but the number of them who died was far less than that of the Tutsis.
The crude killing spree began after the assassination of the then president of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down at the airport in the country’s capital, Kigali, killing him and everyone else aboard (Mamdani 3). The date was 6th April 1994, and the wave of brutality spread rapidly to all regions of the nation. The Hutu seemed determined to wipe out the Tutsis from the face of Rwanda because the earlier blamed the latter of the assassination (Mamdani 3).
Causes of the genocideOne interesting aspect of the Rwandan genocide is that the two opposing groups have a lot in common. In fact, the Hutu and Tutsi people speak the same language, Kinyarwanda, and have almost similar cultures (Mamdani 73). That the two groups would fight so badly was unimaginable.

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The only difference between them is physical, with the Tutsis being taller and more slender than their Hutu counterparts. The Tutsi are believed to have originated from Ethiopia. For this reason, during the massacre, many of the Tutsis murdered were thrown into the river so that “they could return to their homeland” (Mamdani 86).
The colonizers of Rwanda, to some extent, are to blame for the 1994 genocide. During their rule in Rwanda, the Belgians introduced an aristocratic system of leadership and placed the Hutus a notch high above the Tutsis (Melvern 174). The colonialists favored the Hutu in the awarding of opportunities in education, employment, and leadership. This preferential treatment by the Belgians planted the seed of antagonism between the Hutu and the Tutsi.
In 1956, with the Tutsis in the leadership of Rwanda, Hutus began to stage rebellions against the leadership. This rebellion continued to swell up; in 1959, major riots broke out in the country, eventually resulting in the death of about 20 Tutsis. Some Tutsis were forced to flee Rwanda and seek refuge in neighboring countries (Melvern 173).The violence marked the beginning of a bloody rivalry between the Hutu and the Tutsi.
The Hutu took over the leadership of Rwanda after the country’s independence in 1962, with President Juvenal Habyarimama at the helm. The Hutu went on a revenge spree, oppressing the Tutsi as a way of avenging for the injustices they (Hutu) suffered under the rule of the Tutsi. Things did not go well during the reign of Habyarimama. The economy of the country deteriorated. The Tustsi, who had fled to the neighboring Uganda, formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), with the aim of ousting the government and forming one that would rebuild the ailing nation. Paul Kagame steered the agenda of RPF to enable Tutsi refugees to return to Rwanda safely.
President Habyarimama started to blame the Tutsis left in Rwanda with supporting RPF and its agenda. With fears of a war erupting, negotiations were conducted, leading to the signing of a peace treaty in the year 1993. The peace treaty, however, did not extinguish the raging animosity between the two groups, especially among the Hutu, who felt threatened that the Tutsi intended to overthrow them. The assassination of President Habyarimama in 1994 served as the spark needed to blow off the ticking time bomb. Suddenly, tension turned into a catastrophe.
Effects of the Genocide
After three months of bloody war, a ceasefire was declared in July 1994. RPF had succeeded in ousting the government and capturing the capital city of Kigali. Hutus were forced to seek refuge in Zaire. A government comprised of both ethnicities was formed with Pasteur Bizimungu becoming the president and Paul Kagame, his deputy. Bizimingu later faced charges of political and ethnic incitement, opening the door for Kagame to take his place as president.
Kagame restored the calm the country needed so badly. Those who had fled to neighboring countries returned, apart from a few who still felt vulnerable (Mamdani 201). Those involved in the killings were charged and some like Jean Kambanda convicted to life sentence after admitting to charges of planning, perpetrating and funding murders (Melvern 204). Others like Felicien Kabuga have since gone into hiding in fear of conviction.
The economy of Rwanda was adversely affected. The people of Rwanda suffered in poverty. They systems of economic production had been shut down by the war. Agriculture- the main economic activity of the country- had stalled (Thompson 30). Infrastructure was damaged, and trade suffocated by the unrest. The Rwandans had the task of rebuilding their nation from scratch- so much had been lost (Thompson 41).
Even today, the shadows of the 1994 Rwandan massacre leave on. Close to a million lives were lost, children were orphaned, women raped and men mutilated. The children live without the guidance and support of parent figures. Some women suffer HIV/AIDS while others bore children who remind them of the dark times. Many men live without their limbs, eyes and other parts of their body that were removed. As much as victims would want to forget the events of April to June 1994, there are constant reminders of the same (Dellaire 112).
Men were the main targets in the killings. Therefore, the massacre altered the demographic pattern of Rwanda, leaving more widows and may women without suitors for marriage. For this reason, polygamy is widely accepted in the Rwandese culture. For the same reason, the rates of HIV transmission in the country are high (Human Rights Watch 59).
The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 is an occurrence that will hardly leave the hearts and minds of the Rwandese people. Every day the events of the massacre, they remember that the cruelty was done by the very people they had been living with, long-time friends, and even relatives (Dellaire 116). The memories are ugly and scary. Nobody would dream of a repeat of the massacre.
Works Cited
Barnett, Michael N. Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. Internet resource.
Cook, Susan E. Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: New Perspectives. New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Print.
Dallaire, Roméo. Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2005. Print.
Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence During the Rwandan Genocide and Its Aftermath. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996. Internet resource
Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2001. Print.
Melvern, Linda. Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide. London: Verso, 2004. Print.
Melvern, Linda. A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. Cape Town: NAEP, 2000. Print.
Thompson, Allan. The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. London: Pluto, 2007. Internet resource.

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