✎✎✎ Why Is Rwanda Historically Marginalized

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Why Is Rwanda Historically Marginalized



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The Rwandan Genocide - 100 Days of Terror

So, to get the ball rolling, I'll briefly discuss the role that dehumanization played in what is rightfully considered the single most destructive event in human history: the Second World War. More than seventy million people died in the war, most of them civilians. Millions died in combat. Many were burned alive by incendiary bombs and, in the end, nuclear weapons. Millions more were victims of systematic genocide. Dehumanization made much of this carnage possible. Let's begin at the end. The Nuremberg doctors' trial was the first of twelve military tribunals held in Germany after the defeat of Germany and Japan.

Twenty doctors and three administrators — twenty-two men and a single woman — stood accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They had participated in Hitler's euthanasia program, in which around , mentally and physically handicapped people deemed unfit to live were gassed to death, and they performed fiendish medical experiments on thousands of Jewish, Russian, Roma and Polish prisoners. The defendants in this case are charged with murders, tortures and other atrocities committed in the name of medical science. The victims of these crimes are numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

A handful only are still alive; a few of the survivors will appear in this courtroom. But most of these miserable victims were slaughtered outright or died in the course of the tortures to which they were subjected To their murderers, these wretched people were not individuals at all. They came in wholesale lots and were treated worse than animals.

He went on to describe the experiments in detail. Some of these human guinea pigs were deprived of oxygen to simulate high altitude parachute jumps. Others were frozen, infested with malaria, or exposed to mustard gas. Doctors made incisions in their flesh to simulate wounds, inserted pieces of broken glass or wood shavings into them, and then, tying off the blood vessels, introduced bacteria to induce gangrene. Taylor described how men and women were made to drink seawater, were infected with typhus and other deadly diseases, were poisoned and burned with phosphorus, and how medical personnel conscientiously recorded their agonized screams and violent convulsions. The descriptions in Taylor's narrative are so horrifying that it's easy to overlook what might seem like an insignificant rhetorical flourish: his comment that "these wretched people were But this comment raises a question of deep and fundamental importance.

What is it that enables one group of human beings to treat another group as though they were subhuman creatures? A rough answer isn't hard to come by. Thinking sets the agenda for action, and thinking of humans as less than human paves the way for atrocity. The Nazis were explicit about the status of their victims. They were Untermenschen — subhumans — and as such were excluded from the system of moral rights and obligations that bind humankind together. It's wrong to kill a person, but permissible to exterminate a rat. To the Nazis, all the Jews, Gypsies and others were rats: dangerous, disease-carrying rats.

Jews were the main victims of this genocidal project. From the beginning, Hitler and his followers were convinced that the Jewish people posed a deadly threat to all that was noble in humanity. In the apocalyptic Nazi vision, these putative enemies of civilization were represented as parasitic organisms — as leeches, lice, bacteria, or vectors of contagion. It will remain that way as long as peoples do not find the strength to get rid of the virus. Sometimes the Nazis thought of their enemies as vicious, bloodthirsty predators rather than parasites.

When partisans in occupied regions of the Soviet Union began to wage a guerilla war against German forces, Walter von Reichenau, the commander-in-chief of the German army, issued an order to inflict a "severe but just retribution upon the Jewish subhuman elements" the Nazis considered all of their enemies as part of "international Jewry", and were convinced that Jews controlled the national governments of Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Military historian Mary R. Habeck confirms that, "soldiers and officers thought of the Russians and Jews as 'animals' Dehumanizing the enemy allowed German soldiers and officers to agree with the Nazis' new vision of warfare, and to fight without granting the Soviets any mercy or quarter.

The Holocaust is the most thoroughly documented example of the ravages of dehumanization. Its hideousness strains the limits of imagination. And yet, focusing on it can be strangely comforting. It's all too easy to imagine that the Third Reich was a bizarre aberration, a kind of mass insanity instigated by a small group of deranged ideologues who conspired to seize political power and bend a nation to their will. Alternatively, it's tempting to imagine that the Germans were or are a uniquely cruel and bloodthirsty people.

But these diagnoses are dangerously wrong. What's most disturbing about the Nazi phenomenon is not that the Nazis were madmen or monsters. It's that they were ordinary human beings. When we think of dehumanization during World War II our minds turn to the Holocaust, but it wasn't only the Germans who dehumanized their enemies. However, the presence of wealthy Hutu was problematic. Then in , the colonial administration institutionalized a more rigid ethnic classification by issuing ethnic identification cards; every Rwandan was officially branded a Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. One theory suggests that Belgian promotion of Tutsi political domination served as a prime catalyst of growing ethnic resentments. The Belgians dismantled Hutu kingdoms that had maintained local control in the northwest.

In the Belgians abolished the local posts of "land-chief," "cattle-chief" and "military chief," and in doing so they stripped the Hutus of their limited local power over land. Hutu officials were excluded from local administrative structures while Hutu chieftains were systematically denied from ruling their own people as they had done for centuries before. The establishment of Tutsi minority rule created much bitterness among the Hutu majority who felt disenfranchised and politically repressed. This political resentment fueled the development of an ethnic gulf between the Tutsis who wielded political power, and the Hutus who were locked out of power. Belgian economic policies also further increased the ethnic divide between Tutsis and Hutus.

Colonial elites appropriated large land grants to Tutsis, and displaced formerly wealthy Hutu landowners. The Belgians strengthened the feudal arrangement of Rwanda's pre-colonial past by forcing Hutus to work on lands owned by Tutsis. Moreover, Tutsis were appointed as trade officials and tax collectors, further reinforcing Tutsi economic hegemony over the Hutus. These deep class differences provided a framework for mapping ethnic identities on top of them: class-hatred was a prominent tool for fueling divergent ethno-nationalist ideologies.

Lastly, the education system reinforced the bifurcation of Tutsi and Hutu ethnic identity. The Roman Catholic Church , the primary educators in the country, subscribed to the differences between Hutus and Tutsis by developing separate educational systems for each. Current anthropologists argue that the sum totality of these colonial measures fashioned a resentful inferiority complex among the Hutus. Although the Hamitic theory was jointly utilized by the Belgians and the Tutsis to systematically oppress the Hutu, the Hutu themselves internalized the hypothesis and flipped it around as a framework for viewing the Tutsi. Hutu intellectuals re-framed the race theory as a defense mechanism: Hutu inferiority evolved into rightful supremacy in Rwanda, while Tutsi superiority evolved into an illegitimate foreignness to rule in Rwanda.

This Hutu reconstruction of the myth of Tutsi foreignness was disseminated and propagated as a reaction to "unjust" Tutsi rule. Other theoretical frameworks can also explain the construction of ethnic divergence between Tutsis and Hutus. First, the creation of salient ethnic identities can be seen as a better mechanism of capturing class resentment on the part of Hutus; layering an ethnic dimension over class identities was a better strategy for mobilizing the masses and legitimizing resistance against upper-class, ethnically different Tutsis.

Whether or not this perception was true, as Mann's classic security dilemma maintains, Hutus responded to this supposed "ethnic attack" by forming their own ethnic identity. In reaction to being labeled the superior ethnic group by the Belgians and in the face of rising Hutu ethnicity, the Tutsis actually accepted and internalized this ethnic label, promoting Tutsi ethnic identity as a defense. Identifying when in historical time these social group differences became ethnic differences is hard to pinpoint. There was no one crystallization point. The long process of constructing ethnicity, however, continued and strengthened in post-colonial years. The predominant American theory regarding this period is that as Belgium's era of colonial dominance over Rwanda drew to a close during the s, the Hutu and Tutsi, as racial identities, had been firmly institutionalized.

And in the following decades, regimes under both Hutu ultra-nationalists and moderate conciliators would demonstrate how the labels of Hutu and Tutsi could be molded and twisted to fit political expediency. Communist intellectuals argue that despite their systematic oppression, a class of Hutu political intelligentsia influenced by contemporary communist thought emerged, forming a stance against elite rule of the proletariat masses, which was reinterpreted as Tutsi rule over the Hutu. The emerging Hutu counter-elite provided a voice to the majority "Hutu" people, via a series of political proclamations and, later, sweeping electoral victories.

Yet the voice that emerged was one embittered by decades of subjugation; one which championed Hutu nationalism and anti-Tutsi sentiment. In , these Hutu nationalist elites made their political debut when a UN mission to the region was greeted with two declarations of independence by the Rwandan people. The first, a proclamation by the Mwami's king's high council proposed a rapid transfer of power from the Belgians to the Tutsi royal leadership. Called Mise au Point, the document emphasized the importance of ending racial tensions between white colonizers and black colonials.

One month later, the Hutu political elites responded with their own declaration, the " Bahutu Manifesto ". This document called for a double liberation of the Hutu people, first from the race of white colonials, and second from the race of Hamitic oppressors, the Tutsi. The document in many ways established the future tone of the Hutu nationalist movement by identifying the "indigenous racial problem" of Rwanda as the social, political, and economic "monopoly which is held by one race, the Tutsi. This marked the first time in Rwandan history that such stark party identification had emerged along exclusively ethnic lines.

Not all parties championed segregation of the Hutu and Tutsi people, yet the divide ensured that the socio-political differentiation pioneered under colonialism would continue to flourish in independence. In November and December , a series of small cross border raids were carried out by expatriated Tutsi who had fled Rwanda between and , during the tumultuous rise of Hutu nationalist politics. These exiles, publicly termed the inyenzi , "cockroaches" by Kayibandi, were portrayed by the Hutu government as different from the domestic Tutsi only by the extremism of their political beliefs, and thus domestic Tutsi were often suspected of being collaborators in the raids.

Disorganized reprisal killings against Tutsi were carried out at the local level, with minimal government intervention. This left the extremist Tutsi in exile as the only remaining Tutsi political force in the region, and prime targets for future demonization. Also established, in the public view, was the ever-present threat of external Tutsi invasion, the suspicion of which often translated to reprisals against the domestic Tutsi population. Under the ensuing decade of PARMEHUTU rule, all Tutsi were removed from public office, their enrollment in the public education system was curtailed, and they were relegated to second-class citizen status. The purpose of this distinction was that, via a "racial" differentiation, Tutsi could be characterized as alien, non-indigenous, and thus not genuine Rwandan nationals; whereas ethnic differentiations could perceivably exist within a single national identity.

In July a Tutsi massacre of Hutu elites in neighboring Burundi triggered another flare-up of domestic racial tension in Rwanda, in which domestic Tutsi were again blamed for the actions of their foreign "counterparts. In this case, however, participation for the historically better educated Tutsi remained inflated. Some vestiges of the old regime remained codified as well, such as the law that Hutu military officials were not allowed to marry Tutsi women. As well, Habyarimana assured the Hutu majority that a Hutu leader would always be the "leader and protector" of the republic. Despite years of relative peace following the formation of the 2nd republic, Habyarimana's goals of reconciliation ultimately failed. As well, popular Hutu resentment at the disproportional representation of Tutsi in the quota system meant that friction between the groups never truly dissipated.

Some political scientists credit these failures as a few of the reasons why Rwanda so quickly slipped back into political turmoil along ethnic lines in the years immediately preceding the genocide. In [23] Rwanda's Belgian administration issued identity cards—a policy that would remain for over a half-a-century and one that would not create ethnicity, but instead would ensure its proof and social salience. Under an imposed order to democratize, Habyarimana rallied the majority Hutus against what he depicted as their racial enemy—the Tutsis—in a measure to prevent both regional and class division from becoming politically relevant issues. The tense situation became inflamed with Habyarimana's mysterious death in Quickly, Hutu administration implemented a policy to kill any and all Tutsi—a process believed to be simplified by identity cards.

Identity cards became the subject of paranoia as this form of identification allowed the reinvention of personal identity through illegal forging; during the genocide, "mistakes" were often made because of this flexibility in identity. In particular, because a Rwandan's ethnic identity was solely traced through paternal lineage, there was considerable difficulty in establishing true paternity. Furthermore, inter-marriage particularly in the Southern region of the country furthered suspicion over Hutu or Tutsi paternity. This shift in power provided the minority Tutsi with access to power and privilege, completely shifting social conceptions. Attempts to re-build the war-torn country focused on eclipsing identity for fear that retaliation and punishment towards the Hutus would occur.

The government's agenda thus was to reduce identity to that of just being "Rwandan". In this post-genocide society, identity was supposedly re-conceptualized to divert the emphasis from ethnicity to a division of the population into categories of victim, victors, survivors, and perpetrators. However, in identifying victims and survivors, some Rwandans are left to be identified as perpetrators. This becomes increasingly problematic as all Hutus are deemed perpetrators—where their survival of the genocide seems to imply some form of complicity with the former government.

Thus, in this process of rebuilding and bringing guilty parties to justice, the current government is providing dangling linkages back to the very ethnicities they wish to abolish and is risking further entrenching supposed "past" ethnic divisions. Furthermore, government policy to reduce identity to "just a Rwandan one" has only "been successful in the public sphere of government rhetoric and bureaucracy. Its salience however has been transferred into the private sphere—a space that may make the divisions even more destructive.

Thus, the concept of "eliminating" ethnicity is problematic in both concept and reality—as it is unreasonable to expect such a drastic change in the Rwandan perception. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Flag Coat of arms. Further information: Origins of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. United Nations. Retrieved 4 April American Journal of Human Genetics. PMC PMID Genome Biology and Evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Bibcode : PNAS..

BMC Evolutionary Biology. Miller ed. Campbell, Sarah A.

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