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    Causes and Impact of Rwandan Genocide

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    Genocides date back to 149 BC when the first recorded genocide took place in Carthage. Genocides target a group of people that may share the same race, religion, nationality or common grounds. The most known genocide of the 20th century is the Holocaust that occurred in 1934 when Adolf Hitler became the dictator of Germany. Killing around six million people in only six years. (Hitler aimed to kill Jews…why were they targeted) Another example of genocide that recently occurred was in Rwanda in Central/ Eastern region of Africa, lasting only 100 days from April 7, 1994- July 1994.  The decades of oppression against the Hutus and the assassination of President Habyarimana in 1994 led to the genocide in Rwanda.


    Social/ Cultural Cause

    The oppression of the Hutu towards the Tutsi was the social/cultural cause of the genocide and began after the death of president Juvenal Habyarimana. Even before the genocide, the rivalry between both ethnic groups was tense. When the Tutsi migrated from foreign lands they “settled amongst the Hutus – adopting their language, beliefs and customs” and the Tutsis were always above the Hutus, economically” (PBS). They were always the wealthiest, and once Belgium colonized the area that is now present-day Rwanda Tutsis rose to powerful positions throughout the government leaving the Hutus at the bottom of the social ladder. In 1962, Rwanda gained independence from Belgium which allowed the Hutu to cease power and switch their roles in society.

    The Hutus started to terrorize the Tutsis by threatening and killing them, and anyone who opposed them. This resulted in many refugees who fled to neighboring countries leaving their homes, jobs and lives in Rwanda. In 1990, Tutsi refugees and Tutsis from Uganda initiated the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to protect themselves from the Hutus in hope of getting their homes back. The RPF declared war on the Hutu lasting about three years. This made problems worse, angering the Hutus and government officials. In their eyes the main problem was the, Tutsi minority. The Hutus started to set up armed “gangs” that were made up of people the anti- Tutsi or participated the genocide and prepared them to eliminate all Tutsi civilians. The genocide was in the makings for several years in the Hutus’ minds and how they would kill as many Tutsi systematically. The killing spree began following the president’s death on April 7.

    Historical Cause

    The historical cause of the Rwandan Genocide was the assassination of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, which was the last event that ignited the genocide. On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying the President Juvenal Habyarimana and the leader of Tanzania, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down by ground fired missiles leaving no survivors on the plane, it landed adjacent to the Kigali airport. Many conspiracies arose of why attempts were made to kill the president. An “assumption is that extremist Hutu killed the President because he was about to bring the Patriotic Front into the Government, as required by a peace plan” (Bonner).

    Authorities still are unsure of who is responsible for the horrific incident. One theory of the president’s death that it was an attempt to stopping him from activating the peace plan and to calm the rivalry of the Tutsis and the extremist Hutus. Hutus revolted and took matters into their hands and, “several hundred thousand people, most of them Tutsi, were slaughtered, mostly by Hutu soldiers and militia” (Bonner). The president’s death was planned to stop him from moving forward with his agreement and was killed which allowed the Hutu rise to power and overthrow the government.

    Facts and Statistics

    The Rwandan Genocide reveals its cruelty through its facts and statistics. This brutal event “was the most efficient genocide of the twentieth century… at least half a million ethnic Tutsi were dead in the fastest episode of mass political violence since the Holocaust” (Thomson). Seventy- five percent of the Tutsi population was eliminated. The Hutus used farming tools such as: machetes, hoes, shovels to slaughter the Tutsis killing them in mid-day. The Hutus murdered them in “churches, hospitals, schools, stadiums, and other everyday locales” (Thompson). Men and women killed out of hatred and established a routine every day. Even Tutsi killed Tutsis just to survive and show their loyalty to the Hutus for their families to live. Men and women died with the guilt of killing their own blood and their kinship just to survive. “Six men, women and children slaughtered every minute of every day for 100 days” (World Vision).

    Corpses laid littered on sidewalks, streets, traffic circles, churches, stadiums, parks, gardens and even in waterways. The economy began to plummet, cities and homes were being destroyed beyond repair, and electricity and water was scarce. Millions of civilians fled the country to Uganda and Tanzania in fear that their families were next. Survivors and witnesses were physically and emotionally scarred because death constantly surrounded them and loomed over their shoulder. Fear was a constant feeling for themselves and for their loved ones not knowing when the Hutu would strike where they were hiding.

    The number of casualties grew every day by around 10,000 deaths. “75,000 were children who lost one or both parents” (World Vision), they began to live on the streets and feared the Hutus. Men, women and children saw the evilness of the world first hand and put their loved-ones into graves. Poverty and homelessness began to rise rapidly because people were left without a home, family, food or water. Everything was broadcasted over the radio for everyone to hear the suffering of the Tutsis and build fear for the other civilians.


    Impacts of Propaganda

    Hutus and Anti-Tutsis used the media to broadcasts the killing of the Tutsis throughout Rwanda. There were two main radio stations used in the genocide and one being directly controlled by the government itself. This allowed the Hutu to take control of one of the most influential stations that people constantly used. Propaganda was intended to accomplish three goals, “it was intended to cast Tutsis as the enemy; second, to dehumanize the enemy; and third, to convince the Hutu population that killing the enemy was the only option for survival” (Stevenson). It was purposefully built to develop fear in the Hutus and warn them about the RPF and to advance the message of the purpose of the genocide. They would broadcast specific targets and locations where Tutsis were hiding.

    Hospitals became a main and constant target for the oppressors. The Hutus constantly repeated over the radio,“ the graves were not full yet” (Beauchamp), intended to keep motivating and brainwashing the anti-Tutsi people to keep killing any Tutsi they saw. They instructed them in how to kill the Tutsis and awarded them for their hard work and dedication to the cause. The Tutsis were seen as an infestation and something that must be killed. They dehumanized them by calling them names, torturing them and treating them like something worthless that only caused harm in the world. The oppressors preferred killing them with machetes and clubs that were slower and more painful. If Tutsis did not comply in killing Tutsis than they waited for their own death. The Hutus had a motto “to kill or die.” Once the killing spree began there was no way back but to kill or be killed, “survival dictated they participated in the genocide” (Stevenson).

    Propaganda made a huge impact on the Rwandan Genocide, it allowed the Hutus to brainwash the rest of the population into killing all Tutsis and end the inequality between both ethnic groups. The use of media increased the death toll by Impacts of Death Toll. The death toll made a big indentation on the population of Rwanda killing 75 percent of the Tutsi population. It rose by 10,000 people per day primarily because of the use of media. Many soldiers carried machine guns, hand grenades and grenade launchers to use in crowded places. They broadcasted, “the names of those to be killed and read out on radio. Even priests and nuns have been convicted of killing people, including some who sought shelter in churches” (BBC).

    The announcers included information like addresses and license plates for them to be targeted specifically. At the end of 100 days over a million were estimated dead, receiving the title of the fastest and most systematic killing spree in history. Women were taken as sex slaves and brutally tortured and threatened them if they disobeyed their demands. One of the causes of death for women was rape, “estimating between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped” (United). They could not withstand the pain afterwards and often died of diseases and sadness. Hutus and Anti- Tutsis encouraged people to exterminate anyone that was named or that had the same features as a Tutsi. Many mistaken Hutus for Tutsis and accidently killed them.

    Later all citizens wore ID cards that stated their ethnic group so militias and gangs then “set up roadblocks where Tutsis were slaughtered, often with machetes” (BBC). Neighbors killed neighbors, spouses killed spouses and even slaughtered their own families to spare their own life or to save them from rape or torture.


    Resolution and Current Situation

    The impact of the Rwandan genocide impacted the country as a whole and it tested the limits of the strength of the people. They not only surpassed a genocide but a civil war, immigration of millions, illnesses, economic struggles and destruction of cities and places. The people were affected by disease, poverty, incarceration and post-traumatic stress. They never again put a line between ethnic groups but united themselves under one name, patriotic Rwandans (Thompson). No more differences or outcasts but one united country.

    Unfortunately, now the victims live with the side effects of the severe trauma they were exposed to, “ 95% of the Rwandans living in the country during the genocide witnessed, experienced or participated in extreme acts of violence” (Thompson). Many of the diseases that were brought out because of the genocide was HIV, depression and insomnia. “Twenty- six percent of the Rwandan population still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder today” (Roth). Studies show that depression can pass through generations, so it could take a longer time for Rwanda to recover from this setback.

    Several people feel ashamed or guilty of their past because of the actions they made of killing their own blood (Tutsis to Tutsis) or being an unwanted birth because of rape. Poverty followed the genocide leaving many families without a home and food. The surviving victims were extremely malnutrition and many children underdeveloped. There was no one to harvest or manufactured anything because worked stopped during the 100-day period resulting in the economy dropping. It has also brought renewal to Rwanda and President Paul Kagame has done major advancements to the country economically and physically.

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    Causes and Impact of Rwandan Genocide. (2022, Feb 16). Retrieved from

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