Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” in 1944. According to Lemkin, genocide signifies the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group and implies the existence of a coordinated plan, aimed at total extermination, to be put into effect against individuals chosen as victims purely, simply, and exclusively because they are members of the target group. This coordinated plan is committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. According to the United Nations’ definition of genocide in their 1948 declaration of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide is a crime under international law and classified as such:
2.Causing severe bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
4.Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
5.Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Because a particular group is exterminated for existing on earth, genocide can also be classified as a crime against humanity. Men, women, and children are killed because of their specific bloodline. It does not matter if you are a frail elderly woman, newborn infant, or pregnant woman.
All these people would be killed, and the pregnant woman would also be disemboweled to make sure that the fetus in her womb is dead as well. The idea is that anyone who carries that blood is eliminated. All in all, the specificity of genocide does not arise from the extent of the killings, nor their savagery or resulting degradation and infamy, but solely from the intention: the total destruction of a particular group.
Racism, power struggles, and violence combined are all explanations for the occurrence of genocide. For instance, genocide has the tendency to occur in rural societies that are communal, divided, and in the mode of inequality and problematic issues. It also has the tendency to occur when the government says that it is okay to resolve those problematic issues using violence.
An example in which there was a combination of racism, power struggles, and violence that all led to genocide is in the specific case of Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi populations. Before colonial rule, the Tutsi were herdsmen and came from the Nile Valley. They brought concepts of power, monarchy, and kingship to Rwanda. The Tutsi took grazing lands from the Hutu, who were farmers, and lived among them. Gourevitch states that this was the original inequality: cattle were a more valuable asset than produce…and the word Tutsi became synonymous with a political and economic elite (p. 48).
The Tutsi, who were the powers of Rwanda, also became the protectors of the Hutu because they were armed with weapons and spears. Rwanda was certainly an unequal society, but the ethnic boundary was permeable. Overtime, some Tutsi married Hutu. Also, Hutu farmers could, and did, become wealthy Tutsi and acquired cattle as chiefs were incorporated into the ruling elite. Much authority was given to Hutu chiefs and certain obligations were imposed on Tutsi administrators as well.
Colonial rule, however, transformed this pattern.
The Belgians moved in and made the Tutsi the privileged group through indirect rule. The Tutsi were the privileged group because in 1932, the Belgian governor stated that the Tutsi were the master race and born to rule. This was so because the Belgians felt that the Tutsis were more “European-looking”—Tutsis were lanky and long-faced, not so dark-skinned, narrow-nosed, thin-lipped, narrow-chinned, while Hutus were stocky and round-faced, dark-skinned, flat-nosed, thick-lipped, and square-jawed (Gourevitch 50). Under the Belgians, Tutsi dominance was extended. Tutsi powers and privileges intensified, and the entire population was required to be registered as Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa. The single basis of this racial classification that the authorities were obliged to use was cattle ownership—people with ten or more cows were Tutsi, those with fewer were Hutu.
A form of identification card was distributed to each person marked with his or her designated group. The identity cards made it virtually impossible for Hutus to become Tutsis, and permitted the Belgians to perfect the administration of an apartheid system rooted in the .