History of Conflict
The very roots of the conflict extend back to the decolonization of Africa in the Berlin Conference of 1884. As the Belgians, who were in control of Rwanda and Burundi, began to decolonize Rwanda in the early 1900s, they decided to delegate their governing powers to the Tutsis in Rwanda due to their more “Western” complexions and lighter skin. Because of this Tutsi supremacy, the Hutus, who were the ethnic majority in Rwanda, were discriminated against and subjected to hard labor. As the Catholic Church began to gain power in Rwanda, it favored the Tutsis for civil and leadership positions, further disenfranchising the Hutus. However, after World War II, a Hutu emancipation movement gained momentum because of rumors that a Hutu chief had been murdered by Tutsi activists, marking the beginning of the Rwandan Revolution, which took place from 1959 to 1961. During the revolution, Hutus targeted Tutsi and began mass murdering them. In 1961, the last reigning king of Rwanda, Kigeli V, was deposed, and the Hutus seized power of the government. Since then, there has been oppression of Tutsis in Rwanda as a form of revenge for the past pro-Tutsi and anti-Hutu laws. Thousands of Tutsi refugees were displaced from their homes in Rwanda. The Tutsi refugees posed no threats until 1990, when the Tutsi refugees of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) forced the Hutu-led government into negotiations. This move initiated the Rwandan Civil War, which started in 1990 and ended in 1994 with a short break between 1993 and 1994. Many thought the Civil War had ended in 1993 with the signing of Arusha Accords, which promised a power-sharing government. However, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 reignited the Civil War. The catalyst for the genocide was due to the assassination of Hutu President Habyarimana when his plane was allegedly shot down by the RPF. The very next day marked the beginning of a genocide of Tutsis that would take more than 800,000 lives.
As was mentioned before, the Hutus believed in the redemption of their ethnic group. The Hutus believed that they had been oppressed and disenfranchised by the pro-Tutsi policies for too long, so they decided to fight back against the oppressive Tutsi government. The Hutus’ earlier resistance toward the Belgian anti-Hutu policies were brutally suppressed by the Tutsi-led government by means of violence and manipulation of power. When the Hutus believed the establishment of the Catholic Church in Rwanda would provide them a means of escape from their social caste, they too were met with Tutsi elitism and anti-Hutu policies. This much oppression greatly angered the Hutus who were determined to take back power, as they were, by far, the majority ethnic group in Rwanda. There were moderate Hutus who did not believe in the extremist policies of the Hutu-led government after 1962, but they were killed along side the Tutsis because they were “Tutsi sympathizers,” and that went against the “Hutu Ten Commandments” published in 1990 as anti-Tutsi propaganda. Many moderate Hutus were forced by the Hutu-led government and militia to be violent against Tutsis out of fear that they themselves would be killed.
The Tutsis had long led the government of Rwanda, beginning in the delegation of powers from the Belgian government to local Tutsi authorities. Before European intervention in the region, the Tutsis and Hutus got along well; there were intermarriages between the two ethnic groups. During the reign of their pro-Tutsi government, most Tutsis enjoyed the benefits and special privileges brought to them by their own government. Tutsi elitism was widespread across the country, with discrimination against Hutus ranging from employment, to healthcare, to housing preferential treatment. During the genocide, more than 70% of the country’s Tutsi population was murdered, accounting for more than 20% of Rwanda’s total population. Many Tutsis simply wanted to live in peace with the Hutus, claiming they had no control over the actions of their government. During the genocide, thousands upon thousands of Tutsis escaped Rwanda and became refugees in neighboring countries. Although peace negotiations are in place, there are still high tensions between the two ethnic groups, as the current president, Paul Kagame, is a Tutsi and is a member of the RPF.
Suggestions for Peace
Many people criticized the delayed and lackluster military intervention and aid by the United Nations. Although the genocide of Tutsis were known and many cries for help were heard, many countries did little to nothing to help the Tutsis. Not even the Belgian government, who essentially created these tensions, did anything remotely close to helping the Tutsis. In 1994, the RPF military, led by the current president of Rwanda Paul Kagame, defeated the MRND Hutu government to establish a constitutional republic. The Arusha Accords, which promises a power-sharing government, is currently still in place. The current government prevents discrimination based on ethnicity, race, and religion, establishing special emphasis on discrimination against Hutus and Tutsis. The genocide sparked the creation of the International Criminal Court which has tried and convicted many wars criminals not just during the Rwandan Genocide, but also in several other cases of human rights violations. Additional suggestions for peace include an actual treaty to further enhance the normalization of relations between the Hutus and Tutsis and further reinforcement of the Arusha Accords.