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Rwandan Genocide Background & Questions

Rwandan Genocide: Summary
Located in Central Africa, Rwanda has a
population of seven million people comprised
of two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and the
Tutsi. Although Hutus account for 90 percent of
the population, the Tutsi minority was given
power while Rwanda was under Belgian
colonial rule. Following independence from
Belgium in 1962, the Hutu majority seized
(took) power and reversed the roles,
oppressing the Tutsis through systematic
discrimination and violence. Over 200,000
Tutsis fled to neighboring countries and formed
a rebel guerrilla army, the Rwandan Patriotic
Front (RPF).
Beginning on April 6, 1994, and for the next
hundred days, over 800,000 Tutsis were killed by
Hutu military. The small United Nations
peacekeeping force was overwhelmed. The
United States, France, Belgium, and Italy all began
evacuating their own personnel from Rwanda,
leaving behind the people being massacred. Both
the UN and the US didn’t label the killings as
genocide, which would have necessitated some
kind of emergency intervention. The remaining
UN peacekeeping troops were pulled out, leaving
behind only a small force of about 200 soldiers
for the entire country.
Just last weekend, four more mass graves were
discovered in a province in Rwanda. Families
have been trying to identify the bodies by the
clothing to see if they know any of the victims.
Finding unmarked graves like this is not
uncommon in Rwanda, but it does make some
Rwandans wonder, “‘Those who participated in
the killing of our relatives don't want to tell us
where they buried them. How can you reconcile
with such people?’” – from an NPR article.
In 1990, the RPF invaded Rwanda and forced
the Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana into
signing a peace treaty, which mandated that the
Hutus and Tutsis would share power. It didn’t
work. Ethnic tensions in Rwanda were
heightened in October 1993 upon the
assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, the first
neighboring Burundi. In April 1994, Rwandan
President Habyarimana and Burundi’s new
President, Cyprien Ntaryamira, held several
peace meetings with Tutsi rebels. On April 6,
while returning from a meeting in Tanzania,
a small jet carrying the two presidents was
shot down and the two men were killed.
This sparked anger among the Hutu majority.
The Hutu, now without opposition from the
world community, engaged in frenzied
killing. The Rwandan state radio, controlled by
Hutu extremists, further encouraged the
murders by broadcasting non-stop hate
propaganda (calling them cockroaches) and
even pinpointed the locations of Tutsis in
hiding, where militia members were
encouraged to kill the Tutsis with machetes.
Even members of the Hutu professional class,
including journalists, doctors and educators,
along with unemployed Hutu youths and
peasants killed Tutsis to steal their property.
The killings only ended after armed Tutsi rebels
invading from neighboring countries managed
to defeat the Hutus and halt the genocide in July
1. Based on the reading, what is the name of the tactic (strategy) the Belgians used to rule over their
colony of Rwanda?
a. Home Rule
b. Divide and Rule
c. Assimilation
d. Apartheid
2. Finish this statement: The Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana (a Hutu) tried to make a
peace agreement with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsis), but…
3. Why did the United Nations and other strong western powers leave Rwanda at the first sign of
4. How did the Hutus carry out the genocide? Why did it finally stop?
5. Think: Why would it be difficult for a nation to return to normal after something like this?
Guiding Questions: Hotel Rwanda
What caused the genocide?
What perpetuated the genocide?
How were Rwanda and the Rwandan people impacted?
"Hotel Rwanda" hero in bitter
Arthur Asiimwe
KIGALI (Reuters) - To much of the outside world, Paul Rusesabagina is a hero who saved 1,200 people from
genocide in events depicted in the Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda”. But as the genocide’s 13th
anniversary approaches in his native Rwanda, a bitter fight has erupted between Rusesabagina and critics,
including President Paul Kagame, who say Rusesabagina is profiting from the victims’ misery and rewriting
Rwanda’s history for his own gain. Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered in 100 days in the
central African nation from April 6, 1994. Soldiers of the then Hutu-led government and ethnic militia allies
orchestrated the genocide in which victims were hacked to death with machetes, burned alive or shot.
The 2004 movie depicting Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who used his connections with the Hutu elite to
protect Tutsis fleeing militiamen, echoed Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”, the story of a businessman
saving 1,100 Jews from the Nazis. Rusesabagina received the United States’ highest civilian award, the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, for heroism during Rwanda’s dark days.
But back home, he has sparked outrage with warnings of another genocide, this time by Tutsis against Hutus,
and for claims that war crimes by Tutsis during the 1994 conflict were being overlooked by biased traditional
courts. “Rusesabagina is no Schindler,” columnist Job Jabiro wrote in Rwanda’s New Times daily in February.
“Publicity hound, genocide revisionist, promoter of ethnic hate speech ... shamelessly banking on the genocide
and endangering the survivors.”
Rusesabagina, who lives in Belgium with his family and tours Western countries lecturing, says critics are
waging a campaign against him for airing what he calls uncomfortable truths.
Many events in the film directed by Terry George and starring Don Cheadle were based on Rusesabagina’s
memoirs, yet survivors of the Hotel des Mille Collines have disputed Rusesabagina’s version of events.
Pasa Mwenenganucye was a receptionist, portrayed in the film as Gregoire, a hedonistic worker who occupies
the presidential suite and sips champagne as killings escalate. “The movie is Hollywood fiction. If it’s
(supposed to be) a true story, then it’s a basket of lies,” he told Reuters. Mwenenganucye, furious at the way he
was portrayed, accused Rusesabagina of kicking out refugees who failed to pay their bills, a charge
Rusesabagina denies.
“To such people I tried to be fair,” Rusesabagina told Reuters in a phone interview. “But they were celebrating,
serving themselves from the cellar. No survivor has said ‘he charged and kicked me out for not paying’.”
Shortly after the premiere of the film, which was shot in South Africa, Rwanda’s President Kagame, a Tutsi,
called it a “falsehood,” saying Rusesabagina was not an appropriate symbol of heroism. The killings ended
when Tutsi rebels, led by Kagame, seized control and triggered an exodus of more than 2 million Hutus.
Rusesabagina, whose father was Hutu but mother and wife were Tutsi, said Kagame was jealous of the
limelight: “He has taken himself to be the only hero.” Tempers boiled over last January when Rusesabagina
warned in a Reuters interview that Rwanda could be headed for another round of bloodletting unless Kigali
stops punishing killers from “only one side” of the deadly conflict. Rusesabagina said justice for the 100,000
mostly Hutus tried in traditional Gacaca courts had been “slow and biased”, punishing Hutu killers but
overlooking Tutsi war crimes.
Critics have since spewed vitriol at Rusesabagina, accusing him of voicing the anti-Tutsi hate that fanned the
genocide. Rusesabagina shrugs off such charges: “If I really wanted Tutsis killed, I could have done it at the
time.” Others accuse him of creaming money from the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation charity.
“Ask him what he has done for survivors from whose story he’s making that money,” said Odette Nyiramirimo,
who survived the genocide at Rusesabagina’s hotel. “I’m helping other humanitarian organizations with it,”
Rusesabagina replies. “I can’t go to Rwanda personally because of my own security. There’s a government
campaign against me.”
Rusesabagina accuses Kagame of secretly arming Tutsi militias, set up for community policing, against Hutus.
“Before 1994 it was a Hutu militia group — today it’s the local defense forces, a Tutsi militia, which is
intimidating and killing people on hills of Rwanda,” Rusesabagina told Chicago public radio last month. This
criticism most deeply stings the government, which sees its crowning achievement as bringing stability and
ethnic reconciliation to the war-ravaged country.
“Whoever says Tutsis are killing Hutu or Hutus are killing Tutsis is trying to divert us from a good process we
had started,” Fatuma Ndagiza, head of Rwanda’s Unity and Reconciliation commission, told Reuters.
1. Identify 3 points of view in this article:
2. Which do you agree with more? Why
3. Who can we blame, chastise, or glorify in the face of tragic events like this? Is it ever ok for
outsiders to judge the actions taken by those living in a crisis situation?
4. How do you think we can prevent genocides like the one in Rwanda from happening?
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